Government and Real Estate

County to issue property RFP soon

New commission chair makes meeting attendance first issue.

January 25, 2013
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Kent County Assistant Administrator Mary Swanson said a request-for-proposals for a trio of adjacent riverfront parcels the county owns will be going out soon.

The three properties total 1.28 acres and are located in the 500 block of Monroe Avenue NW on the east bank of the Grand River. The county bought the parcels for $2.4 million in 2004. Kent decided to solicit bids for the land when an unidentified party inquired about the availability of the property a few months ago.

American Physical Capital Inc. of East Lansing sold the land to the county. At one time, a medical office building was reportedly going to go up on the property. The county also owns a 90-space parking lot across Monroe Avenue from the property. Kent bought the lot before it purchased the land.

On another matter, County Commission Chairman Dan Koorndyk recently led his initial meeting of the Executive Committee and made meeting attendance his first issue. Koorndyk felt the commission should do away with giving commissioners an “excused absence” when they miss a scheduled meeting. Instead, he said, they should be marked “absent.”

The county traditionally has excused commissioners from meetings for legitimate reasons, such as for being away on county business or for a medical ailment. Commissioner Ted Vonk was seriously hurt when his motorcycle was hit by a car several years ago and all his absences were excused. “I was off for four months and I didn’t take a salary for three months,” he said.

But both Koorndyk and Vonk said they’ve noticed that some commissioners have missed a number of meetings without having a good reason and have been excused. Koorndyk said voters, not the commission, should make a decision about a commissioner’s attendance. He also said an “absent” mark could be noted for the record if a commissioner had a legitimate reason for missing a meeting.

Koorndyk asked Commission Vice Chairman Jim Saalfeld to take the “present or absent” issue to the Standing Rules Subcommittee that he chairs for further clarification. “It will be present or absent,” said Koorndyk.

County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio told the committee he was looking into the county’s possible need for a communications specialist, a request past commission chairwoman Sandi Frost Steensma made at the committee meeting last month. Steensma said Kent needs to find a way to respond in a quicker fashion to what she considers false information that is released to the public about the county.

Currently, administrative personnel respond to such matters. Steensma felt having administrators continue to do that increases their workloads and makes it more difficult for them to meet their deadlines.

Delabbio said he has begun trying to determine the type of person that could be hired and whether the hiring should be full- or part-time. He also said the county could get some help from the staffs at the airport and health department, which have communications personnel on board. Delabbio plans to bring a recommendation to the commission by the end of March.

“I think that would be very helpful,” said Saalfeld.

Saalfeld also said the County Community Collaboration Work Group he chaired last year would start reviewing its final report next month and will likely issue it in March.

Steensma organized the panel, which consisted of 13 public and private individuals, in response to One Kent Coalition’s call to merge the county with the city of Grand Rapids. The coalition agreed to put its effort on hold until the work group released its findings.

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