WILMINGTON — Much of the county commissioners’ discussion Wednesday revolved around a question of the extent of their control over $3 million once they transfer those dollars to the Clinton County Foundation.
Commissioners continue to draft a donor agreement that ultimately will transfer the money to the not-for-profit Foundation. On Wednesday, they heard the views of a resident who thinks the priority in distributing the money should be for the benefit of taxpayers and their concerns.
“And what’s the one thing that taxpayers complain about that anybody can remember? Potholes, bridges, the rusty plow, the broken dump truck, and ‘my wallet’,” Michael Mandelstein said.
In preparing for the transfer of the former hospital funds, commissioners have talked about a five-person board that would review applications for the funds and then choose which applicants will receive grants.
But while permitted uses for the funds range over health, safety and welfare, the commissioners expect to adopt a spending plan that might point to the specific types of projects they want the grant-awarding board to focus on.
Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said, “I do want to make sure, if we can, that there is some control resting with commissioners.”
He added, “I want to have some assurance as best we can that this money is not going to be put into projects that I [philosophically as a county commissioner] don’t approve of.”
Commissioners’ legal counsel, Andrew McCoy, spoke about the options for the degree of control the commissioners could have toward the grant-awarding body.
The minimum level of control, McCoy thinks, would have commissioners appoint the members of the board that makes the award decisions. Moreover, commissioners might wish to specify that commissioners have a veto power over certain expenditures, something that probably should be discussed with state auditors to make sure they don’t have issues with it, said McCoy.
Clinton County Auditor Terence G. “Terry” Habermehl, who is running for county commissioner in the Republican Primary, was at the Wednesday discussion. He said as he drives around the county and talks about the leftover CMH dollars, “The people are not in favor of a board that’s unaccountable to the people.”
“To the extent you gentlemen can maintain some control, I would look that direction,” added Habermehl.
In speaking out in favor of the funds being used to benefit taxpayers and their families, Mandelstein asked how many Clinton County townships have issues with infrastructure that they would love to address.
People with “pet projects,” he suggested, should “go out and beat the bushes. If you can’t find enough support for the project, then I guess it isn’t such a wonderful endeavor in the eyes of the people that you’ve been to see, especially if it’s been a large majority of people.”
Habermehl gave the news media a copy of a Jan. 19 letter he wrote to commissioners on the topic. In it he urges them “to take a broader view by developing and implementing a comprehensive, long-term plan that will guide the preservation and use of all of the money the county will receive from the sale of Clinton Memorial Hospital rather than spending it piecemeal.”
In addition to the $3 million remaining from the former county-owned hospital’s business operations, there will be millions more to come to the county from the actual sale of the CMH Regional Health System’s facilities, real estate and equipment.
Habermehl stated in the letter, “You could have considerably more than $3 million to invest in the people of Clinton County when all proceeds from the sale of the hospital are received. You gentlemen have an opportunity to create a legacy that will help our county for a very long time by creating a fund that provides grants to charitable organizations and local governments.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, the county auditor said the county would receive another $11 million during the next five years from the sale of the hospital.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.