2017-01-12 / Life in Leelanau

Road Commission shies away from vote on membership

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Leelanau County Road Commission members voted 2-1 at last week’s regular meeting to retain the present compensation for themselves.

Commissioner John Popa cast the “no” vote.

Popa had recently gone to the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners meeting, where he told the board that compensation should be adjusted and that health insurance benefits for Road Commission board members should be eliminated.

If health benefits were eliminated, compensation for meetings should be adjusted up, Popa suggested.

Road Commission members are paid $2,500 per year, plus mileage and a stipend for extra meetings.

As for health care, members can be partially reimbursed for their health coverage through another source, be covered by a policy or be given an opt-out payment.

Calhoun and Popa are both above retirement age and receive opt-out payments of $4,500 per year because they are on Medicare; Bob Joyce, who has a policy through his employer — Suttons Bay Village — is given a $6,000 stipend per year.

“I’m concerned that our citizens are paying too much to have road commissioners have health insurance,” Popa said.

Popa also wants the size of the Road Commission board to be increased from its current three members to five, an idea that has been bandied about for several years. The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners asked for a recommendation from the Road Commission — but commission members didn’t give one at their meeting, saying that their views are on record.

Popa and Joyce have said in the past that they prefer a five-member commission, while Calhoun would prefer to keep it at three.

The final decisions on both issues are up to the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners.

In other action, commissioners at their Jan. 3 meeting adopted a sign policy directing where political and other temporary signs may be placed.

The policy was prompted by an increase in the number of political signs in road rights-of-way for 2016 elections. Its wording is consistent with Michigan Department of Transportation regulations, the policy states.

The policy formalizes rules that have been in place for many years and is meant to prevent signs from impeding vision or otherwise creating hazards for drivers.

Temporary signs are not allowed in the rights-of-way of roads measuring 66 feet wide, which is 33 feet from either side of the centerline. If a larger right-of-way exists, signs must be more than 30 feet from the white line at the edge of the road.

Property owners must give permission to place signs on their land, and signs can’t be placed where they interfere with a driver’s line of sight at intersections or commercial driveways.

They must be removed within 10 days after an election or event. Illegally placed signs may be removed by Road Commission crews, kept for 14 days at a maintenance garage, and then thrown out.

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