County considers increase to Road Commission size

A Road Commission truck is seen outside the building in this file photo.

CORUNNA — The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners Wednesday advanced a motion to set a public hearing on increasing the number of county road commissioners from three to five.

Following a discussion, the panel voted 6-1 to move the motion forward to tonight’s regular commission meeting. Commissioner Gary Holzhausen, R-District 3, voted against the proposal.

If the motion is approved tonight, a public hearing on an expanded Road Commission will be set for 5 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Surbeck Building during next month’s regular county commission meeting.

Chairman Jeremy Root, R-District 5, said the public hearing would allow time for commission members to talk to residents about an expansion of seats, which Vice Chairman Brandon Marks has argued would add an extra layer of accountability and transparency to road commission decisions.

“I would be interested in setting a public hearing in October,” Root said. “We go through the process. If it fails, it fails, and we can move on and stop talking about it.”

In July, some county commissioners expressed concern about a $10,000 annual salary increase given to road commission Managing Director Brent Friess, taking him from $89,513 up to $99,513. Some county commissioners reported constituents complaining about the road commission. The idea of possibly expanding the road commission from three to five also came up.

Road commissioners subsequently responded, essentially saying they had brought Friess’ salary up to where a wage study said it should be, following several years of him receiving no salary hikes.

Commissioner Dan McMaster, R-District 2, said he hopes the public hearing will draw residents and government officials, including road commissioners, to state their views on an expanded panel or any other concerns related to the road commission.

“I want real input from everybody,” McMaster said. “If people feel they’re being disenfranchised, bring your figures.”

If an expansion is approved, a number of ancillary issues must be addressed, McMaster noted, including setting elections of two new road commissioners, and deciding whether the panelists would serve at large or represent particular districts.

Holzhausen said he has had only heard about a single minor problem with the road commission in his district.

Marks noted the three road commissioners make decisions on a $13-million budget, while the county commission’s seven members manage a $16-million budget.

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