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Calhoun County Public Health Department Recognized for Preparedness
The Calhoun County Public Health Department was recognized in a recent monthly newsletter by the Bureau of Emergency Management Services, Trauma and Preparedness for continuing to demonstrate the ability to plan for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies. This achievement is part of Project Public Health Ready, which is a set of nationally recognized standards for emergency response capacity. Our Public Health Department applies every five years to maintain this recognition status, and is one of only five health departments identified for this achievement.
This recognition is earned in the regular trainings the Public Health Department has always done for emergency situations, but especially in the real-time emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly in recent weeks, as the number of daily positive COVID-19 cases is increasing, the Public Health Department staff competently manages contact tracing, epidemiological work, and the barrage of questions we all have for them at this time. Using their training and know-how, the Public Health Department staff has sustained this emergency response through the months its been ongoing. Please join me in thanking the Public Health Department nurses and staff who have shown tremendous dedication to their roles at his time and actively make Calhoun County safer and healthier as a result.

Here is what else is going on in Calhoun County:
At the Sept. 17 Beyond the Cereal Bowl community leaders event convened by Harper Creek School District Superintendent Rob Ridgeway, which took place virtually, I was one of five guest speakers, providing an update about the county, alongside Commissioner Derek King and Health Officer Eric Pessell.
Also on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Sept. 30, we continued negotiations with employees within the Road Department represented by the Teamsters Local 214 Union. Their contract expires at the end of October, and we hope to recommend a new contract to the Board of Commissioners before that time. Negotiations are ongoing.
On Monday, Sept. 21 I met with City of Marshall and Kellogg Community College officials regarding the Marshall South Neighborhood Improvement Authority (NIA) to hear updates on this proposed residential development project. The NIA Board has approved a Tax Increment Financing Plan, which includes a proposed county tax capture agreement, requiring the County’s approval in accordance with our Board Policy 291-Tax Sharing. This NIA was created earlier in 2020, and we expect the Board of Commissioners will vote on the TIF Plan at the next meeting on Oct. 15.
The Audit/Finance Committee for the Summit Pointe Board met on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and approved for recommendation to the full Board changes to the organization's procurement policy, as well as its FY21 budget. I serve as chair of this committee because of my role as Board treasurer. Commissioner Kathy-Sue Vette is the Summit Pointe Board chair and serves as ex officio on all committees.  
On Monday, Sept. 28 there was a Calhoun County Planning Commission meeting, at which we recommended for approval PA116 farmland preservation applications for properties within Newton, Clarendon and Homer Townships. The Commission also voted to support reappointment of Dr Terance Lunger and John Sackrider, whose terms recently expired. Commissioner Gary Tompkins and I serve on the CCPC on behalf of the County.
Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, we have scheduled live Calhoun County Joint Information Center (JIC) Briefings every other week, and one was held yesterday, Sept. 30. At this briefing with elected officials and local media, Deputy Health Officer Brigette Reichenbaugh explained that recent outbreaks are from gatherings, such as weddings, funerals, or birthday parties. Updates were also provided about flu vaccinations, recent executive orders on gatherings, Full Blast in Battle Creek, and Halloween resources. Click here for the slideswatch a recording of the briefing on Youtube, or visit for all Joint Information Center Briefings.
Regarding Calhoun County's budget process: Last week, we held budget meetings with the internal and Board of Commissioners budget teams, reviewing General Fund budget requests for 2021 and assessing how we can close a potential $5M shortfall, caused mainly by flat levels of local revenues coupled with inflationary levels of expense increases. The State’s budget for FY2021 brought good news as it spares County revenue sharing from cuts we originally were expecting. And property tax revenues look stable, providing a small increase to our largest operational revenue source. But other revenues that rely partly on economic conditions, such as court fines and fees, boarding of jail beds and other departmental revenues have been reduced for a few years and are especially vulnerable as we emerge from COVID-19 and its restrictions on activity. Countywide leaders have been asked to examine ways to reduce their required General Fund appropriation, such as keeping current vacancies unfilled, and in fact our judiciary, elected officials and department heads have done a phenomenal job in recognizing the need for such reductions.
More work is ahead to solve the difficult challenge of how to provide mandated services at quality levels, with a shortfall equaling about 10% of our total revenues. The County is required to present a balanced budget by December and we’ve done that each year within my 11 year tenure as Administrator/Controller. Over the next month this work will include revisiting key budget assumptions and factors, including employee health insurance and pension costs, potential opportunities for increased revenues, technology solutions and personnel efficiencies. One hope is that changing normal operations during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has given the County many opportunities to deliver exceptional services to our residents in new ways, some of which could cost less to taxpayers.

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