2018-08-09 / News

Chamber hears state of the county address from Mark Young

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

Shown are artist renderings of possible development along the Flint river near downtown Flint. 
Photo provided Shown are artist renderings of possible development along the Flint river near downtown Flint. Photo provided GRAND BLANC TWP. — Commissioner Mark Young was present for the Grand Blanc Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting last week and updated attendees on where the board of commissioners is presently and its’ plans for the county’s future.

Young has served as chairman of the board since 2017 and said since the financial downturn in 2009, they have had a loss of about 30 percent of their revenues and one of the main ways they cut costs was to cut staff. They lost about 35 percent, primarily through attrition such as retirements and resignations but since then have focused on becoming financially stable and by end of 2017 had a $32 million fund balance—achieved he said by setting balanced budgets. Their current operating budget runs about $2 million and they continue to estimate revenues conservatively and within standard government accounting guidelines and intend to remain vigilant about expense oversight to maintain their A rating with bond rating companies such as Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s.

Young also reported they board is trying to focus their efforts on community capital improvements and investment and discussed a few of those projects which are completed or ongoing. He said there are $141 million in projects currently funded in this budget cycle, one of the former being able to bring the Firebirds hockey team into the county, and the $72 million water treatment plan which was completed on time and on budget.

The plant has been delivering water since December 2017 and will be paid for by users whose water bills will go towards the bonds approved for the up-front costs of construction. The county also recently upgraded the Medical Examiner’s office which had been squeezed out of space with renovations at Hurley Medical Center and now boasts a state of the art $1.6 million morgue. The demolition of the 67th District Court parking ramp was completed and a flat lot was put in with 300 parking spaces.

Also in Flint they consolidated Friend of the Court offices and are in the process of remodeling and expanding Animal control. He explained while they aren’t adding to the number of cages they are making the cages bigger and have transition to a ‘no kill’ shelter (required to euthanise less than 10 percent) and work with different rescues to rehome animals.

The Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission as oversight on the upcoming Dort Highway extension which is expected to start at the end of this year. They are also overseeing the Flint riverfront restoration project which involves several partners including Consumer’s Energy and a projected cost of $36 million in grants and private donations. The project will be done in phases and began with the demolition of the Hamilton dam this summer. The plan includes the creation of a disabled accessible beach and a whitewater area of the river.

Atlas Township reaped the benefit of their assistance with a new county park paid for primarily with Department of Natural Resources grants but netting county residents 155 acres of natural habitat.

“We want to create areas people will want to come to,” Young said. The riverfront area will connect to the Iron Belle Trail as does the Atlas County park and help improve their ability to sell the county as a whole to tourists.

They are also working on improving their brand recognition so people recognize the programs they are involved in such as the GCCARD Meals on Wheels program. Part of that will include making sure the county logo is used instead of having separate programs create their own.

He said they are trying to get more involved in the accountability of the Genesee County Road Commission but they are limited as it is a state department.

“We have a really positive outlook for county,” Young said. “The board is committed to best fiscal practices.” He said people calling for a forensic audit seem to overlook they have an annual audit which has been successful for the past 56 years and their accounting practices have been recognized and awarded certificates of their excellent accounting practices from the Michigan Government Finance Officers Association (MGFOA.

One of the next projects they are eyeing is the juvenile jail which they anticipate will cost about $20 million to replace. They are also working with the Flint and Genesee Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to create business card sized ‘cheat sheets’ which list positive talking points that people can use to promote the positivity of the county.

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