Stipend and reimbursement face budget ax for new county road commissioners

Five people are vying for two new seats on the Crawford County Road Commission and those who are appointed will do so without a stipend to pay for healthcare insurance.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its ways and means committee meeting held on Thursday, April 11, voted to eliminate a stipend paid to county road commissioners. The recommendation will go before the board again at its next meeting, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 25.
Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said that road commission employees and board members were once under a county policy to receive health insurance. That changed since county employees and road commission employees are paid through separate payrolls.
The road commission board members, at one time, were entitled to receive healthcare plans offered to road commission employees. That benefit was eventually eliminated. Instead, road commissioners received a stipend to cover the cost of health insurance or received payments if they opted out of the health insurance benefit.
“They ended up without healthcare, but they kept the payment in lieu of receiving health insurance,” Compo said. 
In February, the Crawford Board of Commissioners voted to increase members on the road commission from three to five members. 
The option was brought forward in an effort to bring better representation from outlying areas in the county. There was also a concern about board members’ attendance at meetings to handle the official business for the road commission. A quorum on the road commission can be met with two members in order to hold a meeting.
Last year, representatives from outlying townships attended a road commission meeting to voice concern that projects weren’t taking place in their jurisdictions.
A formula has since been developed by road commission officials to assist townships with local road projects.
While considering appointing the two new road commission members, Compo said that county officials can only lower the salary they receive prior to beginning of a term, but could not lower the salary during the term. County officials, however, can  increase the salary and reduce benefits at any time.
Although the county board made the decision to increase the members on the road commission, the road commission will have to incur the costs for new members in upcoming budgets.
County Commissioner Sharon Priebe estimated it would cost thousands of dollars if the road commissioners retained the stipend or reimbursement for healthcare.
“That’s a fair chunk of change, when the truth is insurance is changing constantly. We don’t know how that is going to work,” she said. “Once again, I think we should be out of that business even with the reimbursement.” 
The board opted to eliminate the stipend and reimbursement for healthcare at its meeting last week.
Compo was directed to gather information from surrounding counties to determine how much those counties budget for salaries for road commissioners.
“That gives us the time to a little more homework, which I would be in favor of quite frankly,” Priebe said. 
Thirteen county residents applied for the new road commission seats. One withdrew prior to the interviews, which were scheduled with the county board. 
Chris E. Jones, Roger Popp, Mark Swiercz, and Russell H. Strohpaul Jr. interviewed to be appointed to the open road commission seats last week.
Scott Hanson is slated to interview for the appointment on April 25.
Compo said the salary for road commissioners will be tied to the time when their term begins after being appointed or elected into office by county voters.

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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