2012-11-29 / Front Page

Senior center issue back

County questioning role in center affairs

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners continues to question their role in the operations of the Manistique Senior Citizen Center. Commissioners expressed their uncertainty during a recent meeting of the board.

According to Manistique Senior Citizen Center Director Connie Frenette, the Commission on Aging, the board directly overseeing the center, recently voted to allow the center to advertise for a part-time employee. During the meeting, Commissioner Craig Reiter, who also serves on the Commission on Aging board, suggested that Frenette also bring the request to the county board for final approval.

“They asked that I come here to get it approved to do so,” she said Thursday. “It (the part-time position) is in our budget this year to do so.”

Reiter made the motion to allow the center to advertise the position and Commissioner Dan LaFoille seconded, noting he was only doing so to allow for further discussion on the matter.

“I would say that if we had to hire a part time person for every department, our county would go broke. I would just like the senior center to know and understand that,” he said. “If Dan (McKinney, county clerk) needed an extra person, or Julie (Roscioli, treasurer), or Paul (Wood, tax equalization) or any of them, we couldn’t do that.”

He noted that the county prosecuting attorney, Tim Noble, is still investigating the county’s jurisdiction over the senior center.

“I’m not even sure this board has any jurisdiction over this at all, because it’s really been the voice of the Commission on Aging to do that,” he said. “So, ultimately, I think it is theirs to decide.”

However, LaFoille noted that the center should take into regard how the county has been handling raises and hiring issues before pursuing an additional employee.

Frenette pointed out that many of the county departments have more than two people working within them – the senior center currently only has two employees. Because of this, she explained that if either employee takes advantage of vacation time, they will be leaving the other to run the center alone.

Reiter pointed out that there is a county-wide freeze on hiring, which is why he recommended Frenette come to the board. Commissioner Jerry Zellar questioned how the center had the money in their budget to hire a part-time person, to which Frenette answered the center would be using money from the recently passed county-wide millage.

The Commission on Aging is responsible to overseeing the millage money and how it is spent, she explained.

LaFoille noted that the center should be especially weary of allowing the part-time position to morph into full-time.

“I would strongly suggest that we also make sure that the Commission on Aging realizes that we would definitely be against a full time worker that would receive benefits, because, down the road, we could become responsible for that,” he said. “God forbid that millage went away and we had employees over there – extra employees; guess who becomes responsible for those benefits?

You’re saying you’re not going to allow all that to happen, so we’ll take you at your word for that,” he added.

Reiter rescinded his motion for approving the center’s part-time position, following LaFoille’s remarks about the county’s undetermined role in the center’s operations. LaFoille pointed out that he wanted the meeting minutes to reflect the board’s non-action and that the Commission on Aging received those minutes.

“I think that’s a little bit of the problem is I’m going to different people, and I’m getting different answers, so I guess that’s a little bit confusing for me also,” said Frenette.

LaFoille agreed, noting that he would like to see the question of control answered.

“That’s why I would like to see it resolved, once and for all, so that everybody is clear, and it’s in writing, and we all know what are responsibilities are,” he said. “We don’t have a choice; we certainly don’t have a say in it – apparently, at this time.”

In other business, McKinney explained that the Schoolcraft County Register of Deeds office would be replacing a recently retired employee. The new employee will be starting on Jan. 1.

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