Letter to the editor

I would hope every elected and non-elected official in Shiawassee County will be contacting the Shiawassee County commissioners to express their immense displeasure regarding the brouhaha they created July 15.

In addition, I would hope they’d ask for the resignations of Chairman Jeremy Root, R-District 5, and County Coordinator Brian Boggs, who I’m sure has played a major role in the matter.

While I may not always agree with decisions elected officials make, I expect them to be done in an honest and honorable manner. The public deserves better than what they have gotten in this case, especially with the possibility of underhanded or illegal activities.

What future financial impact will this event have on our local governments that are all trying to return their communities to a sense of normalcy and growth? Will businesses want to locate in the region if they see irresponsible and potentially shady behavior exhibited by our leaders? This could have a long-lasting effect on our area.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was created to allow governments to spend funds to respond to the pandemic and its negative economic impacts; restore cuts in public services caused by pandemic-induced revenue losses and avoid additional cuts; and invest in water/sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Cities can use the funds to support public health expenditures; address negative economic impacts; replace lost public sector revenue; provide premium pay for essential workers who faced greater risk of exposure; invest in infrastructure; provide assistance to small businesses, households and hard-hit industries; and economic recovery.

Guidance from the state and federal governments as to how the money, which will be split over a two-year period, could be spent by smaller (non-essential) governmental bodies has been pending. The money needed to be applied for by July 27.

Preliminary ARPA financial information was provided to larger (essential) governmental bodies June 17. Since that date, the county hired an outside firm to calculate its lost revenue and apparently learned it can use the majority of those funds without the required restrictions. Via this “loophole,” Boggs recommended the county pre-pay its yearly contribution to the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, free up budget money to spend on other things, to pay other obligations and take the burden off the general fund plus pre-pay some retainer fees to county attorney Ryan Painter.

Boggs and Root had plenty of time to come up with a very calculated plan to use the funds for the outrageous payouts and also use the diverted funds. “Willy-nilly manner” — I don’t think so. I figure they decided the amounts for the top-dollar payouts before calculating what the rest of the employees would receive less monies received from the Work Share Program and HEROES Act.

Durand City Council council member Boggs told his fellow members at the July 19 (off-the-record) pre-council meeting about the “loophole.” To their credit, Durand, Vernon Township and most other municipalities are awaiting further guidelines before making a final decision on how to use their funds.

Any money not spent by 2024 will have to be returned to the federal government; so I don’t understand why the county was in such a huge hurry to spend its portion.

What is now left for the residents of Shiawassee County is to try to recover from this fiasco while paying a consultant for their advice on how to spend the ARPA funds, as well as lawyer fees from a Detroit/Lansing law firm to defend this matter. This nightmare is a long way from being over.

Paula Brooks

Vernon Township

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