County Board honors ES Director, hears from auditor
By Charles Chandler
On March 14th the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners of the County of Newaygo, State of Michigan was called to order, all commissioners were present and Chair Patrick Gardner stated that this would be the “Abby Watkins Award Show. The meeting agenda was quickly amended to facilitate the presentations and recognition of the outstanding work being done by Abigail Watkins, Director of the Newaygo Emergency Services Department.
First up were District Ranger Jake Lubera, Forest Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo and other members of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, Baldwin-White Cloud Ranger District staff. Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo presented Abby with the Forest Service 2018 Wildfire Mitigation Award, the highest national honor for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation, from the National Association of State Foresters, National Fire Protection Association, USDA Forest Service and the International Association Fire Chiefs.
They were followed by Mr. Jon Bumstead recognizing Abby for all the important work that she does for the citizens of Newaygo County and presenting her with a tribute from Representative Scott VanSingel.
Next were congratulations for a job well done by Mr. Matt Kooiman Public Policy Manager for Congressman Bill Huizenga.
Then the Newaygo Board of Commissioners approved and presented Abby with Resolution #03-006-18 so Honoring the Accomplishments of Abigail Watkins, Newaygo Emergency Services Director. After Chair Patrick Gardner presented and read the resolution, Administrator Wren and the Commissioners thanked Abby for her professionalism, dedication, and a job well done. After the presentation of the Resolution, there was abundant applause, many group photographs with Abby, congratulatory handshakes and hugs from friends and family.
The meeting continued with a presentation of the FY 2017 Financial Statement and a summary of Audit findings by Mr. Stephen W. Blann, CPA, CGFM, CGMa, and Director of Governmental Audit Quality. The assets and deferred outflows of the County exceeded its liabilities at the close of the 2017 fiscal year by $34,748,689.
Mr. Blann thanked the County Management and Financial team for providing all the financial data necessary for a thorough and efficient audit. Administrator Wren also pointed out that the State of Michigan had recently published a listing of those municipalities that had underfunded pension plans, health care plans or both. These municipalities will have to present a corrective action plan to the State showing how they would improve their pension and healthcare liabilities. The County of Newaygo was not on that list.
Mr. Blann concluded that the County’s finances were in good shape and systems and the staff are in place to ensure continued improvements through the coming year.
This N3 correspondent being a Liberal Arts and not a Finance Major took that as an auditor’s equivalent to a backflip with high fives. For those that need more information the Newaygo County 2017 Financial Statements and INDEPENDENT AUDITORS' REPORT March 9, 2018, is available on the Finance Department’s home page.
Administrator Wren responded to the report by thanking the Finance Department Staff and Treasure Holly Moon and her staff and others that assisted in preparing the 2017 Financial Statement and supporting the Audit. He said that he would take zero credit for the job well done and that the successes are due to the decision making and efforts of the department staff. This was another demonstration of the value of having dedicated employees.
A motion was made to implement a SmartDollar program for all full-time County Employees. This program is designed to assist County employees and their families in finding ways to stabilize their finances. The program would be paid from 677-860-9565 (Health & Wellness Initiative). Administrator Wren spoke in favor and listed the benefits of the program. He suggested that it would be a direct benefit to the employees by helping them achieve a level of financial security and not having to live from payday to payday. Also that it would benefit the County by having employees that had higher job satisfaction, improved morale, and attitude which would improve productivity and reduce turnover. Data from the MEDC suggest that it costs around $14,000 to recruit, replace and train an employee.
During the Administrator Comments, Mr. Wren again thanked Abby and suggested that a mark of a leader in any organization is that they hire employees that are stronger, smarter than they are. In his opinion, Abby is a true representative of a perfect department head.
Administrator Wren announced that the next budget cycle is starting. The tentative 2018-2019 Fiscal year Budget Calendar has been published.
The County Offices will be closed on Good Friday, April 1.
During Public Comment, Newaygo City Manager Jon Schneider and Businessman Del Hirdes took an opportunity to thank the County and the Sheriff Department for their services and presented arguments against the Proposed Road Patrol millage. They suggested that the Sheriff Department and County look for other funding sources before campaigning and implementing another County-wide millage. The Commissioners responded that there would be additional analysis and discussion regarding this issue before a proposed millage was placed on a ballot.
After The Board of Commissioners Meeting was adjourned the meeting room was quickly transformed into a more informal arrangement and a reception was held. The Commissioners, County Staff and friends, and family joined Abby for celebratory cake, coffee, and congratulations.
The next meeting of the Board of Commissioner is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28 at 9:30am. Please check meeting schedule for possible changes.