County critical of MSU plan
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 7:00 PM
HERMANSVILLE - The third time was not the charm for MSU-Extension specialist Doug Brahee, who faced questions yet again from a number of unhappy Menominee County commissioners.
Brahee made his third appearance before the board Tuesday evening when the commissioners traveled to the Meyer Township Hall for their first county board meeting of June.
Brahee also attended both May meetings in Menominee.
Again, he was asked to explain how MSU-Extension plans to fill the open educator position in the county after the retirement of Mike Erdman, who held the position of Extension director and later, educator, for more than 25 years.
Brahee was sent away after the May 28 meeting to "get solid answers to their questions" and return Tuesday.
Most of the commissioners were concerned that the new educator being assigned to Menominee County would not fulfill the contract terms for full-time representation.
Brahee told commissioners Tuesday that the educator, Warren Schauer, would now make Menominee County his home office. While it means that he will consider the office at the Stephenson annex building his main location, Brahee said Schauer's role as an educator for the entire Upper Peninsula would take him away often.
"The Upper Peninsula is his delivery area, and he has statewide responsibilities," Brahee said.
He listed some of the programs Schauer is involved in locally and regionally.
"How many days a week will he be in Stephenson?" asked Commissioner John Nelson, stating that Menominee County is the largest agricultural county in the U.P. "Two, three?"
"Two, maybe," Brahee answered.
"Then he's part-time," Nelson said.
"He is not part-time," Brahee said, adding that what Schauer does is "not different than what any other educator does in the state of Michigan," meaning that he has responsibility for all U.P. counties in his role as a business management educator.
"That's the same answer we got two weeks ago," Nelson said.
Brahee said that every week would be different, and that there would be times when Schauer may be in the Stephenson office more than two or three days, possibly all week.
Commissioner Jan Hafeman, referring to the Memorandum of Agreement which calls for a full-time educator located in the Stephenson office, said, "If the terms of this can't be met, then maybe the agreement has to be changed."
Nelson, going back to his statement about Menominee County's agricultural status, said, "It doesn't make sense at any level."
County Board Chairman Charlie Meintz said "I'm not entirely satisfied with the answers so far ... I understand how you talk about our expectations and statewide and everything, I kinda see that as a good way for these educators to be lost out in the clouds somewhere and seriously take advantage of their ability to go anywhere, any time, do anything, make up whatever story they want to be somewhere else to not be responsible."
He asked Brahee if he knew what everyone was doing, and Brahee said that he doesn't, but that they are responsible to their statewide work team.
Brahee said "there are less and less folks working and we have less and less time."
Commissioner James Furlong said that Menominee County was given "a carrot" in 2011, when the educator program was created and promised that a full-time person would be in place in Stephenson.
"My feeling is now that our educator retired, MSU should live up to its agreement and put a full-time educator back here in Menominee County, located in that office."
Furlong suggested later that the county give MSU a chance to follow through with the agreement by putting Schauer in Stephenson, but ask for time sheet verification.
"We have to trust, but still would like to verify - give it a couple of months and see what happens," Furlong said.
Both Meintz and Nelson agreed with him, with Nelson saying he was agreed because he knows Schauer.
The board consensus was to try it on a trial basis, but nothing was said about approving the 2014 contract with MSU.