Commissioners set public budget hearing for Oct. 20

OSCEOLA COUNTY — It's budget time for the Osceola County Board of Commissioners, and each commissioner took a look at the proposed 2016 budget at their Oct. 6 meeting.

County documents project revenues and expenditures to total approximately $20.6 million, with some of the largest line items including capital projects, the commission on aging and meals on wheels, Osceola County Emergency Medical Services and the county's road fund.

Susan Vander Pol, Osceola County coordinator, said the general fund's appropriated fund balance was increased to $999,000 for 2016 and the 2015 amended figure is $992,000 — a difference of $6,800. Also, an additional $37,000 was requested because of the election year and more capital projects have been requested for 2016 such as boiler changes in the jail, the addition of the Veterans' Services Department, computer and equipment upgrades and the paving of the parking lot at the courthouse.

In addition, there is $2,000 appropriated for the Marion Fair, as the county always supports its local fairs. The funds could change depending on the outcome of the fair following the police investigation of the board, she added.

A public hearing on the budget will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the courthouse board of commissioners room.

In other business, staff from Michigan State University Extension addressed the commissioners regarding an issue about office space in the basement of the courthouse building. Shari Spoelman expressed the desire for either an office renovation or complete move, as the space is too small to fit the needs of the department.

"It's not just a space issue," Spoelman said. "It's difficult to do business."

She said the area is completely open with two people per cubicle area without dividers, one small area for meetings and no way to prevent noise when speaking to an individual in person or on the phone. There are no doors and no walls to contain sound, which can be very distracting, Spoelman said. The problem also means there is no private area to speak about sensitive matters away from others. Additionally, the small area makes it hard to host large groups of people at one time and there is no extra space for additional staff.

Other staff members also spoke up, agreeing the small office makes it difficult to be productive, especially when there is background noise. A lack of storage space is an issue as well, they said.

Commission Chair Larry Emig responded, saying he agrees the environment is not the best it could be. One possibility for MSU Extension could be moving into The Annex building once the Reed City Area District Library moves out next year, but he cannot say for certain it will be available to them first.

"We do obviously need to do something and if we do it, we need to do it right," Emig added.

In other business, the commissioners:

  • approved a motion providing restitution for two animal damage claims submitted by Osceola County Animal Control. One claim for $40 was to reimburse a property owner for the loss of 11 adult chickens killed by a stray dog and the second claim for $142 was to reimburse a property owner for the loss of 12 adult rabbits killed by two dogs at large.
  • approved a lease agreement between Osceola County EMS and the Evart Fire Department for $900 a month for an additional year beginning Jan. 1. The department leases a portion of its fire hall building to EMS personnel.
  • approved a motion to allow the new Tustin EMS station to store the Tustin Fire Department Jeep used to extinguish grass fires during summer months. EMS Director Jeremy Beebe said the new building will have room for the vehicle and EMS would like to be a good neighbor for the department. The motion was approved with the agreement the Jeep would be removed by April 1.