County subcommittee fills consolidation panel

November 20, 2011
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The Kent County subcommittee looking into One Kent Coalition’s proposal to merge the county with the city of Grand Rapids, and into other collaborative efforts, completed filling the open seats of a new committee last week by adding three women to the panel.

Hispanic Center of Western Michigan CEO Martha Gonzalez-Cortes was named the group’s nonprofit member, while The Right Place President & CEO Birgit Klohs was chosen to fill the business-development seat. County Commissioner Carol Hennessy also was added to the 13-member committee.

“We now have our full committee,” said Commissioner Dan Koorndyk, who chairs the subcommittee.

The committee will try to determine the best means to achieve effective and efficient government and whether consolidation or collaborative efforts will help reach that goal. The group will be asked to consider what collaborative actions have worked in the past, what opportunities exist today, and what the consequences of each might be in making its determination. Six of the 13 members are from the private sector and each is considered an expert in his or her field.

The subcommittee intentionally made the mission for committee members a broad one.

“I would like them to focus that charge,” said Commissioner Jim Saalfeld, vice chairman of the subcommittee.

The committee, which will be named at a later date, is tentatively set to meet Jan. 10 for the first time in the county administration building. The committee is expected to operate for about six months.

“I think the goal should be to have it done in 2012,” said Saalfeld.

The subcommittee is having the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research conduct a two-part study related to One Kent’s proposal. The institute will first look at the outcomes of similar county-city mergers and the subcommittee felt that report will help the new committee in its work. The second part of the study will try to determine the economic impact the One Kent consolidation proposal will have for the county.

Joining Gonzalez-Cortes, Klohs and Hennessy on the committee are county commissioners Koorndyk, Saalfeld and Michael Wawee; Grand Rapids city commissioners Rosalynn Bliss and James White; GR Township Supervisor Michael DeVries; Walker City Manager Cathy Vander Meulen; GR Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Baker; GVSU economics professor Paul Isely; and attorney Jim Brown.

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