|The Macomb Daily|
|Monday, April 13, 2009|
Macomb Daily staff photo by Ray J. Skowronek
Charter Commissioners James Maceroni, right, and Cynthia Konal, both St. Clair Shores Democrats, discuss the new organizational chart for Macomb County government.
Charter panel thinks lean
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
The Macomb County Charter Commission has taken to heart its mission of overhauling county government, with plans for consolidation of much of the county bureaucracy into just four departments.
The slimmed-down structure is expected to be part of the charter — Macomb's first county constitution — when it's presented to the public later this month.
The plan calls for four basic departments — Planning and Economic Development, Finance, Health and Public Services, and Human Resources and Labor Relations. Each of those departments would be under the jurisdiction of the elected county executive.
Under the current system, more than 20 departments and agencies report to one of 14 separate committees created by the Board of Commissioners. Charter Commissioner James Maceroni, who is overseeing the consolidation process, said the new system will be more sensible and more streamlined.
"It's a little bit of both. What we've had in Macomb County is piecemeal changes, with a department added
here, and a department added there, without any vision" said Maceroni, the St. Clair Shores Democrat who chairs the Charter Commission's Departmental Committee. "The idea is to streamline things and to create a more organized process in the county's organizational structure."
Advocates also hope the changes will keep costs and taxes down.
Details have not been finalized by the 11-member committee but Maceroni said a consensus has been reached to limit county government to four core functions.
The elected county executive, at the start of a 4-year term, would be required to present an organizational plan to the county board for approval. That executive branch plan would decide which of the previous departments and agencies should be placed under which of the four "umbrella" departments. It could also eliminate some county agencies and services.
Meanwhile, Maceroni's committee, in its ongoing deliberations, has suggested who belongs where. The four departments shape up this way:
Health and Public Services — The new department could include the Health Department, the Environmental Health Division, Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility, the Senior Citizen Services Department, the Michigan Works job training agency, the Workforce Development Board, MSU Extension, the Medical Examiner, the Animal Shelter and the former county library, now the Research and Reference Center.
Planning and Economic Development — The department would continue its current mission of attracting businesses to Macomb and assisting local communities with land-use issues. The agency could also include the Solid Waste Planning Committee and may place a special emphasis on companies that specialize in "green" technologies and alternative energy.
Finance — The department would continue to handle all financial and budget matters and could include the purchasing agency and the property equalization functions.
Human Resources and Labor Relations — The department would handle all personnel matters, labor contract negotiations, hiring and firing, and promotions. The department may also establish a uniform employee evaluation system.
By law, the county must maintain its existing judicial system, with separate agencies for Circuit Court, District Court, Friend of the Court, Probate Court, Family Court and Probation.
State law or the state Constitution requires that the "Big Five" offices — sheriff, clerk, treasurer, prosecutor and public works commissioner — must be retained. In addition, the Community Mental Health Department and the Veteran's Affairs Department are funded mostly by the state and will maintain their separate status.
The Charter Commission has concluded that prior information indicating that the public works office can be eliminated was incorrect, based on previous court rulings.
The office of Corporation Counsel, which provides legal services to all departments, will keep its independent position on the county's organizational chart.
In addition, the Departmental Committee, in conjunction with the Executive/Commissioner Committee, is working out the details of appointments and removals for the deputy county executive, department directors and members of the numerous county boards and commissions.
Each of those positions will be filled by the executive, with confirmation by the Board of Commissioners, and serve at the pleasure of the executive.
Much of the charter language in this area is inspired by counties in Maryland and New York that have been overseen by elected executives for many years.
As deadlines approached, Maceroni's committee and the Executive/Commissioner Committee chaired by Tom Rombach, a Clinton Township Democrat, scheduled additional meetings on Saturdays.
Under the current timeline, all of the committees' recommendations will be approved on April 22 and 29 and then submitted to the Charter Commission's lawyers to clean up the language in the draft document.
Five public forums on the proposed charter, which faces voter approval in November, will be held in the coming weeks: April 27 at Anchor Bay Middle School South in New Baltimore, May 4 at Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, May 5 at the Sterling Heights Public Library, May 7 at Warren City Hall and May 11 at Romeo Public Library.
All of these sessions will be held at 7 p.m. and will feature an overall presentation plus questions from the audience.
For more information on the Charter Commission process, log onto macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice and click on the Macomb County Charter Commission.