By, Michelle Hazekamp
November 22, 2021
Motion to eliminate and liqufy assets of Muskegon County's Hazmat Team fails
Over the past couple months there has been a heated debate between Muskegon County Commissioners. Commissioner Zach Lahring made a motion to eliminate the Muskegon County Hazmat team and liquidate its assets, and while commissioner Malinda Pego seconded the motion. It was ultimately defeated by a 6-2 vote.
Commissioner Pego Under Fire
During the Board meeting Tuesday the 16th, Commissioner Pego expressed her thoughts on the issue, ending with "We are not in the business to save lives." She is now under fire in the main stream media and social media for this comment. The truth is, Commissioner Pego is accurate. A county commissioner's job responsibility is managing tax payers’ hard earned money and being fiscally responsible for county finances. In fact county law enforcement, and fire department responsibility isn't even to save lives. They do it out of their courageous bravery. Commissioner Pego did not intend to give the impression she does not care about human life, and she does support Hazmat and law enforcement. She strongly supports all life saving services and regards them all as heroes. And she cares deeply about all lives. She could have said it differently, however, Commissioner Pego is passionate and boldly speaks with her feelings; this statement was truly mis-interpreted and taken out of context by the media. Anyone who knows her on a personal level knew what she meant, which is most certainly not being against any sort of safety measures for county citizens. I, myself, was listening in on the meeting via zoom and did not put any thought into it until it exploded all over the media.
What was not mentioned was that Commissioner Pego made a motion to discuss alternate options concerning the Hazmat team. Commissioner Kim Cyr seconded Pego's motion but it failed in a 4-3 vote. Commissioner Charles Nash became irate and left in the middle of the meeting before it was even adjourned and missed the opportunity to consider an alternate option. The other commissioners were not interested in hearing alternatives that could benefit all parties involved. Along with eliminating the Hazmat team and liquidating assets, other suggestions included placing the Hazmat team under their own authority which would release the county from being responsible for its budget, having municipalities vote for a millage, or utilizing private Hazmat companies in the area.
But no, the county commissioners are not personally responsible for saving lives themselves. They ARE responsible to figure out a reasonable solution to maintain the services while preventing the county from continuing a growing bloated budget and potentially going bankrupt.
The Real Issues at Hand
The real issues behind this is transparency, storage facilities and the county deficit. The job of the county commissioners is to be fiscally responsible for tax payer dollars "responsibly" and maintain a balanced budget. Muskegon County currently has a $250,000 deficit. Where transparency is concerned, the Muskegon County Sheriff, Michael Poulin, has not been transparent with equipment the sheriff's dept. has accumulated over the years, such as the two military Humvees. The possession of these vehicles came to light when the sheriff asked the county commissioners for $3.1 million dollars for a storage building; the county simply does not have these funds. The airport currently holds all the equipment free of charge in one of its hangars. The airport is also financially un-stable and cannot support itself, as the county is also keeping that afloat with general funds. Commissioner Lahring has asked for the sheriff's dept. to pay a "fair market value" rent to the airport or somewhere else, since the airport does have clients interested in renting the hangar which would provide much needed revenue.
Muskegon County has a $250,000 deficit
Cuts in budget need to be made somewhere
Airport deficit is being paid by county general funds
The county does not have extra funds to meet the sheriff's current storage needs
Eliminating unnecessary equipment will help cut down cost of rental fees by allowing for a smaller storage building
Discussions are on-going whether the sheriff pays fair market value rent either at the airport or somewhere else
Commissioner Pego's Goal is to Always Do What is Right For Muskegon County
Commissioner Pego is a dedicated Christian, Conservative Constitutionalist. She puts in a lot of effort to make sure things are done right, according to law, even when it may seem otherwise. She has a huge heart and is passionate about people, her country and maintaining the principles upon which this country was founded. Other commissioners have accused her and Commissioner Lahring of bringing drama [going against the accepted narrative] into the commission, but people should ask why. These patriot commissioners have been exposing the mis-use of county funds which has been on-going for decades and are dedicated to reclaiming our local government's integrity while making sure your tax dollars are being spent responsibly. Unfortunately, when the county budget has and continues to be in the negative, cuts have to be made somewhere. Not everyone will be happy, however, I am glad that Commissioner Pego will listen to the people and try to find solutions that can work for all parties involved, even when she is ignored and defeated. No matter what negativity ensues her, she truly is a patriot and fighter for the betterment of Muskegon County.
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