COLDWATER — With four months remaining before they take office, two of the three newly elected Branch County commissioners sat through the 13 minute regular commission meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Ted Gordon, who defeated Jon Houtz in District 4, will return to the commission where he served before the board was cut from eight to five members. The former sheriff is experienced in county government.
Leonard Kolcz will replace Dale Swift in District 2 after Swift decided not to seek re-election. Kolcz, a retired funeral home owner, is a former Bronson Mayor and councilman.
They, along with Union City attorney Terri Norris, who defeated incumbent Rod Olney in District 1, will take office in January, 2017.
All ran on campaign to try to return more sheriff road patrol after the 2012 layoffs of 11 deputies.
The new commission will operate with a 2017 budget passed by the current commission. County Administrator Bud Norman has begun that budgetary process, hearing requests from all elected officials, managers, and department heads as to what they feel is needed in both personnel and capital outlay for next year.
Norman will then cut, what he feels can be cut, to get inside the estimated county revenues. The final presentation to the commission comes with a formal final hearing in December.
It has been the practice that Norman reports back to commission work sessions, on the first and third Thursday of each month, shifts in revenues and expenditures in various revisions without going into details with the commission.
These work sessions, where the commission acts as a committee of the whole, are where the presentations and discussions take place before motions are made to take action. They are then passed with little comment at the following Tuesday’s official commission meeting.
One major capital issue facing the county for 2017 is the Branch County Jail. After failure of the millage election to build a new jail in August, the county must face a deteriorating 1950s nursing home converted into the jail in the 1980s.
Some preliminary estimates indicate there is over $1 million in required work needs to be done soon. A special work group of staff and county officials meet regularly to review the condition of the jail.