The Ionia County Board of Commissioners have voted to take over oversight of the County Road Commission thereby removing all five appointed Road Commissioners of their authority. The Ionia County Road Commission who were all originally appointed by the County Board of Commissioners included Charles Minkley, Robert Dunton, Nick Bowerman, Karen Bota, and Ken Gasper. In a subsequent action the Ionia County Board of Commissioners passed a motion to not renew the employment contract of Dorothy G. Pohl, Managing Director of the Road Commission. Pohl, who has managed the County Road Commission for the past 27 years, agreed to serve out the remainder of her contract which expires on December 31, 2019. Pohl’s annual salary is $102,000. Pohl did not return the Beacon’s request for comment.
The Road Commission has a current annual budget of $13 Million.
Georgia Sharp represents the City of Portland, Danby and Sebewa townships as the District 7 County Commissioner on the Ionia County Board of Commissioners. Sharp provided The Portland Beacon with a detailed explanation of the County Commission’s decision to eliminate the Road Commission and take it over as a County Department. “We gave this matter cautious consideration”, Sharp said. “Essentially, State Legislator Tom Albert, of Lowell, whose district covers part of Ionia County, brought the status of the Road Commission’s Pension funding to our attention with deep concern. The pension plan has about 80 retirees many of whom are covered by a defined benefit (MIRS). However, less than 40% of the funds necessary to cover their retirement has been contributed by the Road Commission. Albert told us that anything less than 60% is very concerning. Right now, the fund is about $12 Million short of what is necessary and then there is an additional amount of about $14 Million that is needed to cover retirement health care agreements.” Sharp said that the County Board of Commissioners conducted public hearings, consulted with the County’s Attorney and researched other counties that have eliminated their independent Road Commissions, specifically Ingham, Jackson and Calhoun. “The issue we have to resolve now is how to make sure these retirees receive the retirement benefits that they were promised.”
Moving forward Sharp stated the County Board of Commissioners will form a county-wide Ionia County road advisory committee to replace the Road Commission. The new advisory committee will report to the County Board of Commissioners. The five current (now former) Road Commission Board Members will be invited to participate on the new advisory committee. The advisory committee will also include three County Commissioners, two at-large township supervisors and hopefully the City Managers of Ionia, Portland and Belding.
Commissioner Sharp welcomes additional resident input on this issue and may be reached at # 517-490-9895 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or additional information.