Letter to the Editor: Drain commissioner should remain full-time.

May 7, 2016
Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon

Dear Editor:

On May 3, 2016 a letter to the editor was published in support of Lori Green for Drain Commissioner. One commenter inquired as to what the Oceana County Drain Commissioner does. I would like to make an attempt at answering this question.

The Office of Drain Commissioner is a statutorily created County Officer. This official is responsible for the administration of over 200 statutory duties. Those duties include administrating, maintaining and improving any drain authorities within their jurisdiction and overseeing certain dams, and inland lakes. In addition to these duties, the drain commissioner may be asked to take on certain other duties and responsibilities such as Soil Erosion and

Sediment Control (SESC). The duties and compensation of the Drain Commissioner are established by the County Board of Commissioners, not the Drain Commissioner.

The purpose of having a drain commissioner is as old as the great State of Michigan itself. The need for the Drain Commissioner dates back to at least the 1830s. Much of our great state was covered in water and unusable land. Our greatest blessing can also create obstacles.

The moist swampy landscape presented great barriers to much of our exposed land and people wanting to come settle here. Mosquitos and other pests presented a deterrent to possible settlements. The legislature established the office of Drain Commissioner to create a drainage system that would alleviate the swampy nature of much of our land and create land fit for settlement and farming.

Specifically, the Oceana County Drain Commissioner, and his Deputy Drain Commissioner Michelle Martin, manages over 100 drains in Oceana County. In addition, they are also currently assigned the responsibility of SESC ()Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control), and can process on average approximately 100 SESC permits a year, this includes new applications and renewals.

The May 3rd letter indicated that Oceana County could have a part time office similar to Manistee, Benzie and Osceola counties. It is very important to note that those offices are very different than the one in our county. Manistee oversees 16 drains. Benzie oversees less than 10 drains. Osceola County oversees less than 20 drains. None of the three offices mentioned oversee SESC duties, other departments handle this obligation for those counties. SESC is a significant portion of the responsibility placed on the Oceana County Drain Commissioner.

In speaking with the Manistee Drain Commissioner office, they work on average three or four days a week, so approximately 30 hours. They would like to be full time to meet all the obligations of their duties. While it is wholly appropriate for the County Commission to consider the duties and responsibilities of the Drain Commissioner, it is important to note that the Drain Commissioner and his Deputy Michelle Martin have been responsible for a considerable workload over and above that which they are being compared to. Ms. Green’s supporter does not appear to address how our Drain Commissioner is expected to oversee five times the number of drains and extra responsibilities.

Reducing a position’s status to part time without proper consideration will reduce the level of service offered to the people of Oceana County. The Drain Commissioner is an important position which performs important service to the public. Michelle Martin has been working at this job for years and has done a wonderful job doing so. I am supporting Michelle Martin for Drain Commissioner.

Very truly yours,

Joseph J. Bizon

Editor’s Note: Six Republican candidates vying for the drain commissioner position include: Anthony Collins, Chris Crosby, Geoffrey William Gowin, Lori Green, Jerry Kroll and Michelle Martin. The primary election is set for Tuesday, Aug. 2.

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