CADILLAC – A decision to continue the course or go in a different direction with respect to community mental health services is up for discussion Wednesday by the Wexford County Board of Commissioners.
At the meeting, the nine board members are scheduled to discuss a Memorandum of Understanding with Grand Traverse County and other members of the North Lakes Community Mental Health. This multi-county agreement will allow the County of Wexford to continue to consider improving the services and resources that Northern Lakes provides.
A recommendation from the county executive committee is to approve the memorandum approved by attorney and authorize President Gary Taylor to sign it on behalf of the county.
Wexford County Administrator Joe Porterfield said the county attorney had not recommended any changes to the document that Grand Traverse County gave to the county. The county attorney, Porterfield, said the manner in which it was written did not imply any financial obligation to Wexford County. He also said that the attorney’s recommendation indicated that the signing would allow the county to continue to be part of the work process to keep the Northern Lakes region intact.
Despite this, Porterfield said there is still skepticism by some board members regarding Grand Traverse County’s intentions.
“I would say that some of our board members are skeptical and concerned. I don’t know if the MOU will end as it is now,” said Porterfield.
If that proposal fails, Porterfield said the issue will likely be discussed at a future meeting. Ultimately, Porterfield said the county needs to be part of the process, but some commissioners have concerns about how all this might happen.
On May 4, Grand Traverse commissioners voted to pursue ending its relationship with the Northern Lakes. If the action continues, the authority will cease to exist as an entity and all six counties will have one year to build new mental health systems, including new agreements and legal structures to provide behavioral health services as required by law.
The dissatisfaction with the Northern Lakes Region expressed by Grand Traverse County is mostly related to the services provided to Grand Traverse County Jail inmates and a feeling of the need for more services.
If Grand Traverse County or any other CMH county chooses to leave power, all six counties will have to find a new way to provide the mental health services for which they are responsible. They can do this on their own or they can share with any other neighboring counties.
Officials from Wexford, Missaukee, Crawford and Roscommon counties met to discuss steps to take if another CMH member, Grand Traverse County, decided to withdraw from the partnership.
At the same time, all six districts currently on the Northern Lake Community Mental Health Authority have come together to try to get things done.
This issue that led to the departure of Grand Traverse County is related to a CMH employee. The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners does not want Joan Plummer to become the new CEO of CMH. Since the retirement of former Northern Lakes CEO Karl Kovacs, Blamer has served as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found.
While the Grand Traverse Board of Directors’ feelings about Blamer taking the position may have been something many were aware of as the county is considering leaving the Six County Cooperative, this was made very clear after their July 12 special meeting.
The Grand Traverse Board of Directors has voted to remove two appointments to the Northern Lakes Board of Directors for possible dereliction of duties. The Grand Traverse’s board of directors cited two previously voted resolutions that asked the Northern Lakes Board to consider a potential breach of board rules by Blamer where she allegedly spoke to board members outside of a board meeting. The board also noted that two Northern Lakes District board members appointed to Grand Traverse did not vote to rescind an offer to make Blamer the new CEO of CMH, which they believe conflicts with the board’s remit.
Also during the meeting, the Board of Directors is set to discuss a request to increase the rate of pay at the Wexford County Sheriff’s Office.
The order is asking for a $3 hourly rate increase for MPs and command staff to bring it in line with other local law enforcement agencies. It is also asking for a $2 per hour increase in the rate of pay for corrections officers and $1 an hour for animal control officers and administrative assistants.
The money that will be used to finance the cost of the wage increases will be obtained through the abolition of the position of Deputy and Corrections Officer. The 2022 budget also contains additional funds that can be used due to the number of vacancies in the mayor’s office, according to correspondence in the meeting agenda package from Wexford County Sheriff Trent Taylor.
The proposed pay increases will make the mayor’s office more competitive with surrounding law enforcement agencies, and hopefully help retain current staff and hire new staff, according to Trent Taylor.
The commissioners are also slated to consider an amendment related to the contract with the veterans’ pool and the octagon building.
The veterans organization has asked the Board of Directors to amend the existing agreement and to extend the time allotted to remove the Octagon Building from the Wexford County Fairgrounds until the end of 2022. The county executive committee recommended the full board to approve the amendment.
The commissioners are scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the commissioners’ room on the third floor of the Wexford County Courthouse, 437 E. Division St. The meeting should be streamed via YouTube, but the boycott is working through some technical difficulties that may have prevented the stream of that meeting.