Road Commissioners' Benefits Could Be Cut

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

The three men in charge of building, fixing and plowing roads in Jackson County get some benefits along with their annual salary.

Among them: healthcare that extends into retirement, a pension and a car.

The benefits don't strike Karl Schmidt as out of the ordinary. The chairman of the full-time Jackson County Road Commission says he's been getting them since he first started serving in 1991.

And as best as he can tell, they've been around for a while.

"Back since at least 1957," Schmidt told us.

As long as they've been around, some on the county Board of Commissioners didn't know they had the power to set them until a statewide meeting of county leaders.

"Our commissioners came back and said, 'Oh, did you know that we're supposed to be setting the benefits as well?'" said Randy Treacher, the interim county administrator.

Some on the county board say those benefits need to be scaled back.

"They're the highest paid in the state of Michigan," Commissioner Todd Brittain said. "I think they do do a good job, but I feel that they're way overpaid for what they do."

Brittain wants to cut the benefits as soon as possible. But board Chairman James Shotwell says he'd like to wait until the board gets the results of an ethics investigation into the road commission.

Then he says the benefits should be looked at.

"They were awarded in the past by responsible commissioners," Shotwell said. "But we need to re-examine that today in the tough economic times in the state of Michigan."

Back at the road commission, Karl Schmidt says his $35,000 a year salary and benefits -- paid for by gas taxes -- are not extravagant.

"This is nothing we set up for ourselves. It was in place before I came here," he said.

But it could be gone when the county board takes up the benefits issue in the coming weeks, likely not until after the ethics investigation is completed.


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