Montcalm County drain commissioner to reorganize office

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:33 am on Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sandy Raines

STANTON — The Montcalm County Drain Commissioner’s Office is about to be reorganized with old positions leaving and new positions being brought on.

Drain Commissioner Sandy Raines, who was elected in November, approached the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Finance and Personnel Committee Monday to explain her reasoning for bringing changes to her office.

“I’m trying to reorganize the office,” she said. “Basically I’m going to be hands on with everything. I will be in the field and in the office and I want to be more proactive. I want to expand our maintenance and I don’t want this office to be complaint driven.”

Raines said she wants to move forward with a proactive mentality, especially within the community.

“I want to improve the public relations with townships and the public,” she said.

Part of Raines’ efforts include the removing of former positions, and the introduction of new ones.

Raines said she originally attempted to fill the position of Deputy Drain Commissioner, which was previously held by Raines until she was elected as Drain Commissioner, but after 19 applicants came forward and four of those were interviewed, she said she and her interview panel “did not feel comfortable” with any of the applicants because none of them were qualified to take over the position of Drain Commissioner in Raines’ absence.

Raines then told county commission members that she believes she could move forward without replacing the position of Deputy Drain Commissioner, while creating a new position of drain inspector, starting at an hourly wage of $18.01 per hour.

Raines previously made $19.97 per hour serving as deputy drain commissioner.

Raines said she would also like to reclassify the position of administrative aide to the drain commissioner, currently held by Carrie Wills, giving the position more responsibility and raising the hourly wage from $18.01 to $18.44 per hour.

According to Raines, after no qualified applicant came forward for the position of deputy drain commissioner, she then received 15 applicants for the position of drain inspector.

“I was still disappointed in what I received,” she said.

The scenario of having no qualified applicants for the position is what Raines said brought her before county commissioners during Monday’s meeting.

“There is one applicant who I feel is qualified, my husband,” she said.

According to Raines, her husband, Veldra Raines, currently works on the road commission and has done so for 13 years. Rains said her husband has “extensive experience in management and organizational skills and with a wide experience on heavy equipment.”

Knowing concerns of nepotism may come up in discussion, Drain Commissioner Raines highlighted the county’s hiring policy in a letter to committee members, which states “selection of employees is solely on the basis of qualifications for the position. Relatives of employees may be considered for and selected to fill vacancies; provided, however, that all County requirements with regard to recruitment and selection procedures have been strictly observed.”

“I feel that we have a proven work record of working successfully together,” she said. “Don Cooper (former drain commissioner) supports my decision. I didn’t take this lightly and I weighed the pros and cons.”

According to Finance and Personnel Committee Chairman Ron Baker of Howard City, being that Raines is an elected official, she does not need board approval to move on with her decision of hiring Veldra Raines.

“According to the rules of the road, we have an elected official (Raines) who has the authority to hire personnel herself,” he said. “I think she’s eligible to move forward with this anyway.”

Raines, however, said she still wanted approval from the board of commissioners.

Raines also requested that her husband be hired at the two-year wage level, based on his experience.

According to Raines, the combined decisions would be a cost-savings measure for the county.

Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer confirmed the new scenario would be less expensive to the county than the previous arrangement.

“There would be a savings to the county if I’m allowed to put him in this situation because (my husband) would not be taking health insurance,” Raines said.

According to Raines, that savings is approximately $14,862.28 per year.

Members of the Finance and Personnel Committee then made a motion to change Carrie Wells’ position. The motion was passed unanimously.

A motion was then made to support the creation of the drain inspector position, with Veldra Raines being hired for the position.

The motion received no support from the committee.

“I will not support it because of the close relationship,” Commissioner Tom Lindeman of Greenville said.

County Commissioner Betty Kellenberger of Carson City asked Raines if she believed this would be a permanent change for the office.

“I don’t think I need a deputy drain commissioner,” Raines said. “I think my people can make those decisions (for the next four years). I see this as a good move. I’ve been in the drain office for 34 years. I was only deputy drain commissioner for 16 of those.”

Raines said if she hired someone without the experience that her husband has, she’d be “starting at ground zero.”

A motion was then made and passed with County Commissioner Ron Retzloff opposed to approve the position of drain inspector to start at the second-year wage level of $18.01 per hour, as opposed to the starting rate of $16.15 per hour.

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