A 2014 allocation for the St. Joseph County Conservation District appears to be secured, as agency supporters successfully pleaded their case to county officials Monday.
The district was at risk of losing its annual $14,000 allowance after county commission members last week unveiled St. Joseph County’s proposed 2014 fiscal year budget.
Monday’s appeal included nearly an hour of discussion centering on the proposed budget and its ramifications on the Centreville-based conservation district.
Carol Higgins, chair of the five-member Conservation District Board, said the agency’s river cleanup annual tree-seedling, erosion-control education program Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assistance Program and duties related to the National Resources Conservation Service all hold equal weight in what the district provides St. Joseph County.
Sherman Township Supervisor Bruce Bart and a handful of other residents attended Monday’s session and indicated support for the agency, which earned the reprieve after an informal poll of county commissioners.
A public hearing on the county’s proposed 2014 budget takes place Nov. 19.
Seventeen St. Joseph County employees were recognized Tuesday for reaching milestone years of service.
The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners acknowledged employees who had reached the 10-, 15-, 20- and 25-year plateau. The 25-year category featured three recipients: Det.-Sgt. Jim Hart, patrol officer Pete VanCamp and IT director Dan Wing.
The group of 20-year employees consisted of Mike Minger, Brad Balk, Sally Wickum, Vicky Anders, Lonnie Palmer and Kitty Buchner.
Concerns about the potential demise of the St. Joseph County Conservation District were raised during Tuesday’s St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners meeting.
In light of Monday’s 2014 budget work session, during which commissioners proposed not funding the conservation district, John Nelson addressed the five-member commission.
Nelson, vice-chair of the Conservation District Board, questioned why the district is also possibly being stripped of the seven annual river cleanup events and countywide irrigation assistance. If the budget is approved, the duties questioned by Nelson would fall to the county’s Parks and Recreation Department and MSU Extension office, respectively.
Commission Chairman John Dobberteen invited Nelson to attend an appeal session at 3 p.m. Monday at the courthouse.
Under the proposed budget, the $14,000 previously allocated to the district would go to the parks and recreation department to offset costs associated with the river cleanup.
The county’s 2014 fiscal year starts Jan. 1.
Details related to a potential misdemeanor charge against St. Joseph County Commissioner Don Eaton are expected to be yielded today by Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz.
Fitz was designated to handle the case against Eaton, who faces a charge of possession of a firearm while intoxicated, stemming from a late-July incident at Appplebee’s in Sturgis.
Fitz declined to elaborate on the situation before a warrant is issued for Eaton. He did note, however, that the warrant was expected to be authorized today.
Eaton, 52, said he briefly had a pistol in his pocket when he entered the restaurant’s bar area to retrieve his wallet and keys.
According to state law, Eaton could be sentenced to 93 days in jail and imposed a $100 fine. He also risks permanent revocation of his Concealed Pistol License, as his blood-alcohol content was in excess of 0.10 percent.
A three-year county commissioner, Eaton said he returned the pistol to his vehicle before Sturgis police arrived, he said.
A township official in St. Joseph County has asked the county’s board of commissioners for financial help to rebuild a portion of a major north-south roadway in Florence Township.
During Tuesday’s St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners meeting, Florence Township Supervisor Gordon Evilsizor said the deteriorating condition of Constantine Road is a concern that needs attention.
Evilsizor said the three-mile stretch between Dickinson and Featherstone roads is especially bad and not safe to drive on. Meanwhile, the northern portion between Featherstone and Fairchild roads is only slightly better, but not by much, he added.
Evilsizor said people tend to drive in the middle of the road, as the west and east edges of the roadway are too bumpy from repeated patching attempts.
Board chairman John Dobberteen said the five-member board can talk about the issue in the future. The board’s next Executive Committee meeting is Oct. 11.
St. Joseph County government will benefit from fiber-optic connectivity, following action taken by the county’s board of commissioners Tuesday.
The county’s deal with Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc. covers a five-year period and provides service at 20 mega bites per second. The agreement means the county courthouse and courts buildings will connect to Merit’s network and have faster service than it currently has with Comcast.
The county’s working relationship with Comcast will remain in place, however, as the company’s service is essential to telecommunication operations at the sheriff’s department, county administrator Pat Yoder said.
The deal with Merit Network is almost $21,000, and includes a one-time fee of about $11,000. Its relationship with Merit also puts the county in position to establish WiFi service inside its courthouse and courts buildings.