A motion was passed at the June 19 Macomb County Board of Commissioners meeting to forward consideration of a resolution authorizing millage election for a new county jail to the July 18 Records and Public Safety Committee meeting.

A motion was passed at the June 19 Macomb County Board of Commissioners meeting to forward consideration of a resolution authorizing millage election for a new county jail to the July 18 Records and Public Safety Committee meeting.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Millage verbiage raises questions

Decision to be made July 25

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published July 8, 2019

Advertisement

MACOMB COUNTY — How should a millage proposal be worded?

That question was brought up at the June 19 Macomb County Joint Records and Public Safety/Government Oversight Committee meeting in Mount Clemens.

The agenda item in question was a resolution authorizing a millage election for the construction, equipping, operating, maintaining and financing of a new county jail and expanding correctional programming and certifying ballot language.

A motion passed 12-1 to forward the consideration of the resolution to the July 18 Records and Public Safety Committee meeting. Macomb County Commissioner Rob Leonetti, who represents District 10 including Harrison Township, said the board will make a decision regarding the millage July 25.

Macomb County Finance Director Steve Smigiel said ballot language must be approved by Aug. 13 for the Nov. 5 general election.

Commissioner Leon Drolet believes that ballot language “contains advocacy,” and he presented alternative language.

Drolet, a Republican, represents District 13, which includes most of Macomb Township.

Currently, language states that the jail would benefit residents, businesses and communities of Macomb County. Drolet asked why it doesn’t include jail inmates.

His draft of suggested alternative ballot language includes a statement saying that a jail and expanded correctional programming would benefit arrested persons, incarcerated persons, and residents.

“Won’t it benefit them?” he asked.

Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka said of course it would benefit inmates.

“They are residents of our jail. It benefits businesses by making the community safer,” he said. “It’s for the safety of the community.”

Drolet also had an issue with the word “efficient.”

The current proposal states that it would be a more modern, efficient, safe and humane county jail.

“We’re raising the amount of money to run the jail and adding more people. Why didn’t we just put costlier?” he asked.

“It makes the jail more efficient,” Schapka said. “Everything is costlier. A loaf of bread will be costlier next year. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.”

Drolet argued that any new building will be more modern.

“We’ve chosen to use words like efficient, even though we know a more modern building will be more efficient. We leave out the word costlier, even though it will be more costly,” Drolet said.

Language also includes “provision of adequate medical services,” which is something the county already provides at the jail.

Leonetti said proposal language can’t include propaganda.

“If it’s interpreted that way, it could be challenged,” he said.

Schapka indicated that the language comes from a similar proposal in Shiawassee County.

Since this millage is proposed to be voted on in an odd-year election, typically with less voter turnout, Commissioner Rob Mijac said it would make sense to place this issue on the November 2020 ballot.

“It’s a high turnout and a presidential year,” he said.

Leonetti mentioned that his constituents in Harrison Township have nothing to vote on this year.

Drolet said the Macomb County clerk estimates placing a countywide proposal on this year’s ballot would cost $400,000. He then asked for up to $20,000 for a poll to gauge public opinion prior to November.

At the June 20 full BOC meeting, a resolution was approved to conduct a poll of electors likely to participate in the November election.

The funding mechanism recommended for the new jail is a 20-year 0.98 mill county tax: 0.78 mill would fund the $375 million proposed new jail, and 0.2 mill would support the operation and personnel costs associated with it.

For a home worth $150,000, 0.98 mill would cost $73.50 per year for two decades.

Advertisement