Potvin opposes potential end of road commissions

LANSING – When Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing counties to absorb road commissions he claimed the move would allow for “ ... greater accountability and efficiency to local government.”

House Bills 5125 and 5126, sponsored by state Reps. Jon Switalski and Dale Zorn, respectively, allow county boards of commissioners to dissolve appointed road commissions, or to ask voters for dissolution of elected road commissions. The method of dissolution depends on whether the road commission originally was created by a resolution or a public vote.

The boards of commissioners then would assume the road agency duties.

It is a measure Snyder proposed in his October special message on infrastructure.

“I appreciate the Legislature’s support in seeking effective delivery of county services and savings for local government,” Snyder said. “We must modernize the way we administer transportation programs and do business in a streamlined, transparent manner.”

While the bill passed the House, it did not pass with the support of 102nd District Rep. Phil Potvin, (R-Cadillac), who said emphatically that this was not the right move for his district.

“I voted no,” Potvin said. “I discussed the issue with road commission chairs in Mecosta, Osceola, and Wexford counties and realized that this was not the right thing for us to do.”

Potvin said during discussions with officials in his district he learned that the money the governor suggested could be saved with a absorption of duties by county commissions might happen in downstate counties, but there likely would be little or no such savings in more rural northern counties.

“In our three counties, we couldn’t pave a quarter mile of highway with any potential savings generated from this bill.”

Potvin also pointed out that among the county commissioners with whom he discussed the matter in his district, he could find none who were interested in some form of take over of the road commission — not in day to day activities and not through oversight responsibilities.

“Frankly, I told the governor that one size did not fit all,” he pointed out. “Many of the Republican representatives in the northern districts voted “No” on this bill. There was a lot of discussion on this topic, but at the end of the day we simply got out-voted.”

Michigan is the only state that has county road commissions.

According to the governor’s office, the commission system has outlived its usefulness.

Only the largest counties are allowed to incorporate their county road commissions into their general government. Macomb and Wayne counties already have done so.

The bills now are Public Acts 14 and 15 of 2012.