3/8/2023: Treasurer under oath again

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

High 45°/Low 28° Partly cloudy

Kalamazoo County’s treasurer went under oath again last night as county leaders seek assurance that his department is running as it should. Also: The City of Kalamazoo got unexpected funding from the U.S. government to clean up lead paint in homes with small children. And the City of Portage is holding a public workshop to help envision its future.

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County treasurer questioned under oath again

Kalamazoo County Treasurer Thomas Whitener faced questioning under oath last night for the second county meeting in a row. The treasurer has faced repeated criticism from county leaders for mistakes made in regard to investments and financial reporting over the past few months. Commissioner Jen Strebs said she still has concerns surrounding Whitener’s processes. She called out one particular expenditure: “over $2 million of electronic funds transferred or already issued by your office before approved by this board.” Whitener didn’t have an answer on that subject, saying he was prepared only to report on county investments.

County Administrator Kevin Catlin said the spending in question did happen in the wrong order. He said the bank got the transfer order, but the transfer was placed on hold while awaiting board approval. So far, Whitener has not been accused of any illegal actions while treasurer, just mistakes. But county leaders are looking closely into his operation of the department. The county is currently undergoing its annual audit and any mistakes could affect the county’s credit rating.

Kzoo city receives millions for lead abatement

The City of Kalamazoo continues to spend millions of dollars replacing lead pipes throughout its water system. But another threat remains – one that may be just as difficult to remove. Lead paint in old homes poses a hazard especially to children and pregnant women. Monday night, the Kalamazoo city commission learned that the city has received nearly $4.7 million to remove lead and other contaminants from low-income households. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rachael Luscomb is a code compliance inspector for the City of Kalamazoo. She said the funding will allow them to clean up an additional 126 houses in the city. Removing lead paint safely takes time and is expensive. Luscomb said it can cost as much as $36,000 per home. Homes that qualify for the program must have been built before 1978 – that’s when lead paint was banned for residential use. The homes must also be occupied by a child under the age of six or a pregnant woman. “That is the time that you absorb the lead most into your body, that is when you’re at the most risk for that,” she said. Besides addressing lead paint, the city will also clean out allergens and test for radon, two other contaminants that can have impacts on residents’ health.

More News You Need To Know

Portage residents asked to weigh in on city’s future

The City of Portage wants to hear from the community about what they envision for the future of their city. To help jumpstart that effort, the city will hold an interactive community visioning workshop on March 20. Those who participate will be asked to work in groups to make up their own maps of the city, identifying future city planning priorities in the process.

All local governments in Michigan are required to reassess their master plans every five years. Portage’s master plan was last revised in 2014. In a press release announcing the planning workshop, the city said the results of public input will help inform future growth and development in Portage. “The city’s new Master Plan will be a blueprint for the future, establishing the community’s vision for the next two decades,” it said. The visioning workshop will be held at the Charles & Lynn Zhang Portage Community Senior Center from 6 to 8pm on March 20. [MLive]

Governor signs tax relief bill

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed a bill that will restore a tax break on retirement income and boost the Earned Income Tax Credit. She called it the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax rules in twelve years. The law amounts to about $1 billion in annual tax relief for lower-income workers and retirees. It restores a tax exemption on pension income that was repealed by the legislature in 2011. It also boosts the EITC from 4% of the federal level to 30%, potentially benefiting 738,000 Michiganders. Another provision would put some money away into a fund the state can use to lure business investment.

What the bill did not include was a $180 rebate check for all tax filers. The governor had promoted the move as a way to help residents struggling with inflation. But opponents said it was merely an effort to stave off statutory tax rate cuts. The state’s income tax rate is expected to drop due to a 2015 law that requires the state to lower the tax rate when revenue outpaces inflation. The $180 checks could have lowered revenue to below that trigger amount. [Bridge Michigan]

Editor’s Note: On March 6, we published a story regarding the pressure on County Treasurer Thomas Whitener that said the county board of canvassers rejected two recall petitions against him. County Clerk Meredith Place contacted NowKalamazoo to clarify that it was the state board of canvassers that rejected the recalls, as “the county board of canvassers does not review recall petitions.”

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

The Rainbow Fish Musical – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
10am 3/8-9; 7:30pm 3/10; 2pm 3/11-12

Phil Allen: A Search for Meaning – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
10:00AM 3/8

“The Right to Read” documentary screening – Right to Literacy Collaborative
5:30PM 3/8

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 3/8

Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life – Richland Community Library
6:00PM 3/8

Acoustic Roulette with Dean Madonia – ThunderBird Kalamazoo
7:00PM 3/8

Moon Hooch – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 3/8

MIX Pop-Up – Kalamazoo State Theatre
4:30PM 3/9

Anne Capps & a Badass Band of Women – The Clover Room
7:00PM 3/9

Becoming Dr. Ruth – Farmers Alley Theatre
7:30pm 3/9-11, 3/16-18; 2pm 3/18

Karaoke – Shakespeare’s Pub
8:30PM 3/9

Comedy Open Mic – Valhalla Kalamazoo
9:00PM 3/9

Documentary and Donuts: “For Sama” – Portage District Library
10:00AM 3/10

Kalamazoo Home & Garden Expo – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
12pm 3/10, 10am 3/11, 11am 3/12

Hip Hop with Speak It Forward – Kalamazoo Public Library, Alma Powell
3:30PM 3/10

Board Game Night – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
5:00PM 3/10

Skinny Hodge – The Distant Whistle Brewhouse
6:00PM 3/10

Alano Club Kalamazoo Comedy Show Fundraiser – Alano Club
6:30PM 3/10

OCD/C with Van Go Go – Rugger’s Up and Under
7:00PM 3/10

Hot and Delicious Improv Show – Dormouse Theatre
7:30PM 3/10

See more upcoming events here.

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