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Gratiot agrees to go ahead with tax fight  

Credit:  By LINDA GITTLEMAN | Morning Sun | 02/21/13 | www.themorningsun.com ~~

With three of the four other counties committed to the wind turbine tax fight, the Gratiot County Board of Commissioners agreed to sign on the dotted line to continue the fight.

That action stems from the state tax commission’s sudden decision to lower the tax rates just as the county’s wind turbines were going up.

Four counties joined with Gratiot in the battle, setting a cap on the spending. Now, however, an assessment will be needed, which will cost more money, so a review of the agreement was also needed.

So far, only Sanilac County is waiting for its lawyer to review the revised plan, said County Administrator Nicole Frost.

That money is not coming only from the Gratiot board of commission’s general budget. Gratiot’s departments and agencies that are also losing money are likely to share in the county’s share of the expense.

Because Gratiot has the most turbines in the state, it pays the most in the five-county local agreement, but not by a lot.

“I’m requesting the board to take action,” Frost said, pointing out that she couldn’t easily ask the others in the county to participate if the Gratiot board hadn’t yet agreed.

Parks and Recreation, the Gratiot Commission on Aging, the sheriff’s department and the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District have all lost funds, due to the state’s decision.

The Gratiot board’s PA 88 millage has lost money as well.

Frost said she asked attorney Tony Costanzo to make sure that those agencies and departments dependent upon a millage could legally do so and he said yes, since the money is being spent on the furtherance of the funded program.

Two of Gratiot’s townships – Bethany and Wheeler – are the parties who have filed suit against the state.

The inter local five county agreement is now in phase 1 with a limit of $50,000. A phase 2, with another $50,000 limit is also possible, Frost said.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to approve the phase 1 agreement.

In another matter, Veterans Affairs Director Rodolfo Diaz-Pons provided an overview of his department.

Diaz-Pons, a part time employee of the county, said he was planning to retire in five years. He urged the board to consider to hiring his replacement two years before he retires so that he or she could be properly trained.

After the World War II veterans have died, his office will still be busy with veterans with disabilities of the subsequent wars, he said. Agent Orange is a particular problem for Vietnam vets, especially since the illness had been broadened by the government.

“(Before coming to work for the veterans) I had never heard of post traumatic stress disorder but it’s real,” he said. “There are a lot of secondary effects. I have an average of 16 new clients per month.”

Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are filling up his office.

Appeals for disability decisions, he pointed out, are common and can take years, and just getting through the paper work at the Veteran’s Administration have become increasingly difficult and very long delays have become routine in just the last year.

He suggested that when he retires, the board may want to hire a full time director, a part time assistant and a secretary.

He also suggested that the board may want to consider a veteran’s millage to pay for that.

His department, he noted, is an unfunded mandate.

Because Diaz-Pons provided an informational presentation, the board took no action.

In still another matter, the board discussed the pros and cons of a tablet for board members suggested by the county’s IT director Aaron Hubbard.

The board agreed to allow Chair Laura Benitez to be the guinea pig and try it out. She will then report her experiences to the board.

Source:  By LINDA GITTLEMAN | Morning Sun | 02/21/13 | www.themorningsun.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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