Consolidation group is without facilitator

July 8, 2011
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Steve Crandall has resigned as facilitator of the study group that is looking at the consolidation of Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids, an effort being driven by One Kent Coalition.

In an e-mail to the group’s members, which the Business Journal obtained last week, Crandall said he was leaving the position due to the time constraints and business commitments he is facing. He also said he felt the group needed a “different kind of guidance or leadership than I can provide.”

The group’s second meeting became a bit divisive when Crandall ruled that the only point for discussion was how the two governments should be merged, which was the reason he said the group was formed, rather than whether a merger was necessary. His decision wasn’t received very well by the members who represent the city and county.

Crandall is president of Crandall/Partners LLC, a Grand Rapids firm that assists businesses with mergers and acquisitions.

In his parting message, Crandall suggested the group should develop specific goals, assignments and topics of discussion for future meetings, and that members should create some type of organizational structure for the group.

Crandall also told members that if they want to influence the merger legislation One Kent is writing, they “need to keep some kind of alliance” with the coalition. Having some kind of alliance means the group needs to look at certain issues, such as whether the new metro government should be partisan or non-partisan and be led by a chief executive or another type of manager.

“Perhaps you do not intend to pursue any of these items and focus on other collaborative issues instead — which of course is your option — but if the topics you focus on are not relevant to the legislative content, then those topics won’t influence it much,” he wrote.

The study group was initially comprised of members appointed by the county, the city and One Kent, until the county withdrew from it late last month. The biweekly meetings began in June and are scheduled to run through August. Crandall was initially hired by the city, the county and One Kent to facilitate the meetings.

The county’s Executive Committee is expected to meet this week and discuss the possibility of creating a new committee to look at consolidation. This group would include representatives from the townships and other public agencies, such as the Kent County Road Commission. Should a decision be made to do that, the county’s Legislative Committee would appoint members to it.

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