CADILLAC — The New Year may have just started, but Wexford County Administrator Janet Koch is looking toward 2022.
Much like the previous year, there is much uncertainty in 2021 and beyond. COVID-19 continues to be an issue. It continues to impact how the county does business and, more importantly, how the county can stay financially solvent. With that in mind, the current 2021 budget and the not yet drafted 2022 will likely be the top concerns Koch works through during the current calendar year.
Koch said there is a lot of concern that revenues for the county will get tighter due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has on local assessments. With the calendar flipped to January, Koch said it is too early to tell what that could mean to the county, but to think there won't be some impact would be foolish.
"It is hard to tell right now. It is a wait and see game. We can't assume that it is going to be a good thing, but nobody knows," she said. "Maybe it will be fine, but no one knows."
Last month, the commissioners passed the more than $14.3 million general fund budget. The 2021 budget included funding for several smaller capital improvements, including hot water in the Wexford County Courthouse third floor bathrooms, new aerial photography, additional security cameras in the courthouse and connecting the security cameras to dispatch. It also includes a final lease payment for sheriff’s vehicles, two new sheriff’s road vehicles, a fourth attorney in the prosecutor’s office and a part-time employee for maintenance.
Koch said another concern she has with the budget is what will happen at the state level.
"What will happen at the state level? We get a huge chunk of revenues from the state and it goes in different ways," she said.
Despite the concerns with the budget, Koch said the No. 1 goal has been and will continue to be ensuring county employees and residents doing business with the county remain safe.
While the budget will be a top concern, there also are other issues the county will have to work through during 2021.
One such thing is the three union contracts. The contracts are for the general courthouse bargaining unit, the corrections bargaining unit and the supervisors bargaining unit, according to Koch. She said the last time they had negotiated these contracts was three years ago.
One of the largest undertakings cosmetically at the Wexford County Courthouse in 2021 will be window installation.
The project will help the courthouse to be more efficient in heating and cooling, according to Koch. The process started last summer but was delayed because of the pandemic. The cost was less than $200,000, Koch said.
"We have some windows that have arrived for the attic but now that it is January we will wait until spring to get them all done at once," Koch said. "They came in right before Christmas."
The process of getting teleconference technology for the Commissioners Room also will be an endeavor Koch will undertake in 2021.
The commissioners have been streaming their regular board meetings and committee meetings using the 28th Circuit Court's system. While that has worked, Koch said the commissioners need to have the ability to stream from their meeting space. While it is not a large project to undertake, Koch said it will be convenient to have the capability.
As part of the 2021 budget, Koch said the county also will get new aerial photography in 2021 for its geographic information systems.
The update to the GIS photography is overdue, Koch said. The last time it was updated was 2011, according to Koch.
The goal is to have the new pictures taken in the spring after the snow has melted, but before the trees get their leaves. If that is done, the county should have the photography ready for use by the fall. The cost will be split between the Wexford County Road Commission, Wexford County Central Dispatch and the county's general fund budget.
Koch said the commissioners haven't approved the process, but it was part of the 2021 budget. She anticipates it will come before the board soon.
"Some of it was last done in 2009 and some was last done in 2011. It is due," Koch said.
Finally, Koch said there likely will be some news shared regarding the octagonal building. An agreement to have the structure moved was signed last August.
While it could take up to two years from last August before the building is moved, the idea is to have it be part of the Veterans Community Park. The plan is to do fundraising through the umbrella of the Cadillac Area Community Foundation and seek grants through various historical societies, veterans, and agricultural programs. The plan also includes holding fundraising events, which could be limited this year due to COVID-19.
Once moved, goals for the building include holding historical tours, having various 4-H community projects, and Michigan State University Extension programs as well as local gardening and community programs. In the future, the hope is the Veterans Park and the octagon building will have expanded community involvement including, weddings, gatherings, and even small concerts/performances.