Spark Economic Development

Every year the county board reorganizes to shift responsibilities and give a new appearance and fresh
goals. Don Parker was chosen as the new chairman and Dennis Dolan as the vice chair. I kept my
assignments on the construction, parks, and public safety committees. I represent the county on the
OLHSA board and the Fowlerville LDFA board. I was assigned to the office of vice chair of the finance
committee. I am looking forward to another year of service for our county and the 4 th district on west
side of Livingston.

Handy Township has contracted with Spark to help with economic development that is coming to the
area. The LDFA has voted to pay for the services of Spark. DDA and the Village council will also need to
approve their part of this agreement to finalize it. Without Fred Dillingham, this area is in need of help
to retain the businesses already providing jobs and tax base for our community. There is potential for
new companies to locate here. This makes it imperative that we have a person or company like Spark
that helps to maneuver all of the necessary steps to finalize the vision of new business.
Across the county, each township and municipality has a different view of economic development.
Conway, Iosco, and Unadilla Townships have shown no interest in the services supplied by Spark.
Brighton and Putnam Townships have recently rejected resolutions to support Spark’s mission.
However, many other townships and municipalities have found partnership with Spark very beneficial.
If you have any comments or concerns, I would be happy to hear from you. 517 540-8717 or

Livingston County Public Servants

Livingston County is a good place to live for a whole variety of reasons. Some prefer a small-town feel, some a rural setting, others come for recreation. Low crime, strong education, close proximity to work, and community programs may be some of the many reasons why people choose Livingston county as home. Recently a series of short videos have been developed to attract more good jobs and freedom loving people to live here. These videos are available for viewing and distribution at the home page of  Livingston County’s web site (

Roberta Bennett has been purchasing agent since 2001. Recently she was selected to receive the Marvin F. Klang Award.  This award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to procurement in government agencies in the State of Michigan. It has been given once a year since 1976 and is a travelling plaque that will be kept by Roberta until it is given to the next worthy recipient. Roberta has overseen the development and improvement of a very efficient and professional purchasing and inventory system for the many departments in this county. Beginning with a manual system, she and her team have chosen and implemented computer systems that help departments keep track of their purchases to make sure they are in line with the budget amounts, existing contracts, and insurance requirements. This helps to control spending. She has also used the modern concepts like just-in-time delivery and FIFO (first in first out) inventory to increase efficiencies.  

The Livingston County 911 dispatch center has received special honor from the Michigan Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. The Team of the Year Award was given to Chad Chewning and his team for their “impressive amount of dedication, teamwork, knowledge, and efficiency handling an extremely large-scale event, in addition to almost double the normal call volume of a typical day.” This is referring to the 53 vehicle pileup on December 8, 2016 on I-96 west of Fowlerville in Livingston County. This involved multiple departments and coordination of many responders from within and outside the County’s usual scope of responsibility. This could easily be the largest single event that the Livingston dispatch has ever handled. “Along with fielding calls for this event, dispatching a variety of responders to the scene, and following up with additional resources as requested, there were many other high-priority calls such as additional injury accidents, domestic issues, and medical emergencies, occurring simultaneously within the county that were unrelated to the accident.” The length of the event involved two shifts of dispatchers using a number of channels making the emergency even more challenging. Director Chewning commented, “The staff working that day went above and beyond, making sure to attend to all of the patients, callers, and responders involved. We are very proud of our staff and thankful for their services every day.” (the quotes indicate quotes from the county news release)

I want to let you know some of the quality people that we have serving us in the county we call home.

If you have any comments or concerns, I would be happy to hear from you. 517 540-8717 or


District Courts and Building Permits

This summer has given us at least four reasons for humility. The eclipse of the sun, two strong hurricanes that hit the mainland of our county, and the earthquake in Mexico. These put our existence and our place in life into a true comparison to the immutable forces we see in the universe. There are many things that one person, a group of people or the whole of humanity has no power to change. Many say these are only random occurrences. It makes more sense to me that an all-powerful God alone has the ultimate ability to control such events for purposes that we do not always understand.    

The constitution and the character of the American people have been blessed by God to give our country the greatest expression of liberty known in the world. Part of my goal in the office of Commissioner is to find ways that we can sustain liberty in our country not only now and in the near future, but also in perpetuity.

Livingston county has approved a request by the county courts to reconfigure the distribution of the courts. The request would change the present arrangement of two district court judges and two circuit court judges. The study indicated that the need in our county would be best met by having three circuit court judges and only one district judge. These type of changes are usually made only when a judges are “age limited” out of a position. Judge Carol Reader will not be able to run for her present position in November 2018.  There will need to be another level of approval, and we are anticipating it to be set in time for people to sign up to enter the race for the “new” position.

The commission has given our building department the green light to revise the fees charged for building permits. Because of the recovery of the economy, the funds received from permits has exceeded the amount of money needed to run the department. By law this excess cannot be transferred to other county needs. The only (and best) option is to lower the rate charged to permit recipients. There will be a decrease by a 25 per cent factor. Other individual rates have been adjusted (mostly downward). Some permits that are considered to be unnecessary will be eliminated.

Recently, the Sparrow Hospital announced that their charges for our medical examination and forensic pathology service would increase considerably. We chose to contract with the University of Michigan Department of Pathology for these services. This new contract is significantly more than we had been spending but considerably less than what we would have spent without this change.

If you have any comments or concerns, I would be happy to hear from you. 517 540-8717 or

Ride-Along with Livingston County Sheriff

This month some of my time has been spent experiencing services provided in Livingston County.  One morning I did a “ride along” with Deputy Davis in an attempt to “walk a mile” in a policeman’s moccasins.  We responded to several calls: a customer complaint at a local restaurant that had the potential to become violent; the stopping of a speeding vehicle going 70 mph on a back road; an investigation of a report of a couch left beside the road; and finally an answer to a call from a home where a young person had died of a drug overdose.  Deputy Davis is a product of the comprehensive training and dedication of our local sheriff’s department.

I was invited to visit the jail to observe first- hand the operations and improvements along with the new addition.  The new setup allows the county to properly separate inmates according to risk and to provide further services and support to prepare them to become productive citizens.

The board of commissioners has passed a resolution encouraging the development of broadband access for rural Livingston County.  This was a necessary step in the qualification process so that we may receive state and federal grants for that purpose.

This week the 911 Dispatch Center was on my agenda.  The Deputy Director, Chad Chewning, gave me a tour of the facility, acquainting me with the new system and the protocols used nationwide.  He also shared his vision for the future.

As your county representative, I look forward to your input.  You may email me at

Doug Helzerman for Livingston County

Douglas Helzerman, a candidate for Livingston County commissioner of District 4, has a vision of what the rural western side of the county could be like in 50 years.

The Republican candidate said future development should be a balance two things: maintaining rural character and changing with the times.

“I would encourage development of what I would call the Gregory Road project,” Helzerman said.

He said Gregory Road could be “developed into a big road,” which could involve building Interstate 96 ramp exchanges.

“Then each township could develop a village along it for stores and industry, and you could retain the rural flavor. Development has been discouraged by dividing it into 5-acre plots. It eats up the farmland. I favor developing villages and you can still keep large farmland,” he said.

The District 4 county commissioner represents all of Conway, Handy, Iosco and Unadilla townships; the village of Fowlerville; and a portion of Putnam Township.

He will be running against fellow Republican Mary Helfmann and Democrat Dennis Lee Andrzyczak, who have also filed as candidates.

Current District 4 County Commissioner Ron VanHouten — Helzerman ran against him twice in close races — is running for a trustee position in Iosco Township.

“My family moved to the county when I was in kindergarten before the expressway. My dad was one of the first people out of Detroit in the 1950s, and he wanted to move out of Detroit because he saw the moral decay. And he moved out of Detroit as the Democrats took over and the population decreased. … I always hope for western Livingston County we would be smarter than other people who handled the influx of people from Detroit,” he said.

Helzerman said things could start today.

“It could be 50 years down the road, but if we don’t start today, it would be more expensive to buy the right of ways,” he said.

The former Fowlervile village councilman has a background in religious education. He was a principal at Fowlerville Baptist School and taught at Wixom Christian School. He is also a deacon who attends Antrim Baptist Church. He said he started getting involved in the community through the church he was brought up in, Fowlerville Baptist Church, after returning from Korea where he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.


Helzerman, who is retired from other jobs he has had since stepping away from teaching 10 years ago, said he intends to be “a full-time commissioner” if voters elect him.


He said roads, sewer and water infrastructure should be priorities.


Preparing for changes in Internet technology and communications is also needed, in his opinion.


“One of the things that rural American will be dealing with is the removal of phone lines. From what I understand, that is coming, and if the county and townships are not in front of that and provide high-speed Internet, there is going to be a train wreck,” Helzerman said.


Written by

Jennifer Eberbach

Appeared in Livingston Daily

May 8, 2016