2017-01-19 / Front Page

Township approves billion dollar savings plan for retiree health care

Board honors Eagle Scout, Szostak
By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

Resident Aaron Hoffman was recently honored by the township board for his accomplishment of earning the Eagle Scout badge from the Boy Scouts of America. 
Photo provided Resident Aaron Hoffman was recently honored by the township board for his accomplishment of earning the Eagle Scout badge from the Boy Scouts of America. Photo provided GRAND BLANC TWP. — Grand Blanc Township is no exception to the many municipalities across the state who are struggling with the high cost of employee benefits, but the board of trustees made a move which will help get them more financially prepared to deal with the current $35 million liability.

Currently, the township pays for retiree health care but new hires to the township will now participate in what is known as a Health Savings account (HSA) with the Michigan Employees Retirement System (MERS).

“The result is that it saves us billions of dollars long-term,” said Superintendent Dennis Liimatta who negotiated the move in recent contract talks with the union, adding they still have obligation to the retirees currently in the system.

The firefighters, who previously had no retiree health care, were also brought on board in this negotiation. Both the employee and the township will contribute to the account but the township will have no financial obligation for employees once they leave the township.

In addition the Board of Trustees also presented two awards to people for their contributions to the community.

The first was a Resolution of Accomplishment for Eagle Scout Aaron Hoffman, who helped out the Grand Blanc High School band by creating a custom built storage unit for their band uniforms

Hoffman earned a total of 34 merit badges and is currently pursuing a degree in environmental science at Eastern Michigan University.

Additionally, as they have for the last eight years, the board congratulated the township finance department, under the leadership of Finance Director Cathy Szostak for receiving a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2015.

The department has obtained this award for more than 8 years and is presented by the Government Finance Officers Association.

In other business, the board approved a 20-foot wide sanitary sewer easement to the developer of Bella Vita Senior Living being built on Hill Rd. The easement crosses a narrow piece of property which the township owns, bordering Concord Green subdivision.

Township Attorney David Lattie also said recent changes to amend specific sections of the Zoning Ordinance from a previous criminal offense to now be punished as Municipal Civil Infractions, is already making a difference in cleaning up violations. The Planning Commission at their Nov. 3, meeting recommended approval of this amendment.

When asked for clarification of the change by newer board member Joe Massey, Lattie detailed the advantages and also the disadvantages of the policy. The attorney did not anticipate, but said it was possible, for violations to be ignored by a resident and it would then be up to the township to track them down via a financial ‘bad debt’ scenario.

Lattie and township officials hoped to obtain compliance before actually pursuing financial remedies as such debts could not be added to the tax bill.

Department of Public Works Director Jeff Sears will be attending a two-day class on “Advanced Asset Management for Water and Waste Water Utilities” at the University of Wisconsin in March with funds from the department budget. Out of state travel is not a typical expense for the township but in this case there is only one source for the specialized training.

Asset Management plans are now essential for local municipalities to seek grant or state-sourced financial help for improving infrastructure. Multiple appointments to various boards were approved as well, and assigned Supervisor Scott Bennett and Superintendent Dennis Liimatta (as Alternate) to the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Water and Waste Advisory Board, appointment of Clerk Cathy Lane, and Trustees Joe Massey and Ken Thomas to serve on the Election Commission from January 2017 through November 2020.

In addition the board adopted the Michigan Townships Association Principles of Governance Resolution which mandates “high standards of ethical conduct, cooperation, and education” for local officials with the reasoning being to further the Township’s well-being.

The Board also approved the creation of a Senior Mechanic position following the loss of their Assistant Mechanic to a transfer within the township. The candidate found to fill the position was too experienced for that position and Liimatta said it was only a matter of time before Senior Mechanic Steve Chilcutt retired which would make the candidate a perfect fit for that scenario.

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