2019-01-10 / Front Page

County board fails to approve SMH recommendations

Two members vote against board appointment

MANISTIQUE – What is typically a routine confirmation of board appointments caused a slight stir during a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. All but one applicant interested in seats on the Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees were approved – the final considered applicant causing a split board vote and no action taken.

In a letter submitted to commissioners by SMH Board of Trustees chairperson Donald Perigo, it was requested that three applicants be approved to fill three upcoming vacancies.

“As provided in Public Act 230, as amended Oct. 18, 2011, the Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees has elected Donald Bedwell, James Blanchard, and Russell Poole to fill the board seats of Donald Bedwell, Marcia TeVelde, and Jennifer Watson that expire Dec. 31, 2018,” wrote Perigo. “We request your confirmation of these names at your Dec. 27, 2018 board meeting.”

Along with his letter to commissioners,

Perigo also attached the letters of interest from the three applicants. As part of the SMH board application process, applicants are asked to answer 10 questions, including: how much involvement have you had in the management and oversight of a business or in making business decisions; what kinds of financial data or other data do you use to make your decisions; what experience do you have in working in a collaborative setting; have you served or do you currently serve on any other boards; do you currently hold any appointed or elected positions in any group or organization that receives federal or state funds; do you currently have a contractual agreement, financial relationship or do you currently provide a service to SMH; do you currently have a family member or relative employed at SMH; what is your vision of SMH; what life experiences have you had that may help you with being a member of the board; and why are you applying for a position on the SMH Board of Trustees?

The first and second names considered – Bedwell and Blanchard – were approved by commissioners. Commissioner Dan Hoholik abstained from both votes, as he is an employee of SMH.

When it was time to approve the final applicant for a six-year seat on the SMH board – Poole – Commissioner Chris Rantanen made the motion to approve his placement, with support from Commissioner Larry Mersnick.

Prior to voting, Mersnick explained that other Upper Peninsula hospitals, such as the one in Iron Mountain, are currently experiencing financial difficulties and that SMH board appointments are vital to keep the hospital on track.

Rantanen noted that she and Commissioner Allan Ott have served as county commission liaisons to the SMH board for the past four years.

“They’re a very impressive board,” she said. “The process that the hospital board … goes through for new board members – it’s a pretty extreme vetting process. The positive thing is the hospital is in such a positive, forward position right now, we’re very, very lucky to have it.

We have a very … efficient, hard-working board that’s over there – they stay on top of things,” Rantanen added. “I am very comfortable with the three names we have in front of us.”

When asked if there was any further discussion on Poole’s appointment, no other comments were made. However, while Rantanen and Mersnick voted “yes”, commissioners Ott and Craig Reiter voted “no”. Hoholik again abstained due to his SMH employment. Due to the split vote, no further action could be taken on Poole’s appointment.

Following the vote, Rantanen expressed concern that neither Ott nor Reiter had commented on Poole’s appointment and voted “no” without explanation or input.

“If there was a problem, and you guys had a problem with one of the names that were put out there, as respect to this board … I wish you would have … come forward with your concerns,” she said. “Or if it’s just because you’re saying no because you can, you could have let us known that, too. Especially when you knew Commissioner Hoholik has to abstain with something like that.”

Rantanen, who did not seek reelection in November, took time to convey her hope for the board of commissioners in the coming years.

“Moving on for the future board coming in … this is the kind of stuff that we have really tried to not have happen, and once again it happened,” she said. “For you guys to sit there with your mouths shut and not say anything and not say a word one way or the other and then all of a sudden just vote ‘no’ because you can – that’s one of the reasons I’m not on this board anymore.”

Mersnick noted that it will be up to the incoming board, which consists of Hoholik, Reiter, Ott, John Shiner, and Corey Barr, beginning in January, to consider the SMH appointment.

In other business, commissioners:

-Approved new Schoolcraft County Economic Development Corporation by-laws pending the approval of the Schoolcraft County prosecuting attorney.

-Approved the agreement between the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union.

-Approved a full time position in the Schoolcraft County Treasurer’s Office, pending available funding from the county’s foreclosure fund.

-Approved a snowmobile grant for the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department.

-Approved the update of the Schoolcraft County Courthouse’s phone server at the cost of $3,978.

-Approved the reappointment of Ann Harrington to the Upper Peninsula State Fair Authority Board.

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