CRYSTAL FALLS—Trying to balance the cost vs. benefits question, County Board members took no action on a proposed agreement with the Michigan State University Extension office during its monthly meeting Nov. 14.
Board members said they want more information before deciding whether to renew a memorandum of understanding with MSUE for Extension services provided to the county.
The cost to the county would be $34,545, the same as it has been since 2011. But, as Finance Committee Chairman Jim Brennan noted, that assessment will rise in 2015 and again in 2016.
Doug Brahee of the MSUE Marquette office said the increase is because MSUE has been covering 3 percent increases every year without raising its rates. Starting in 2015, he said, Michigan State plans to pass along the increases and make up the funds lost.
The main issue in the discussion was the fate of the 4-H program. In answer to Board Chairman Carl Lind, Brahee said the 4-H program “cannot stand by itself” without MSUE. “What you pay for in this program is for 4-H; for the program coordinator.” It’s a half-time person—Iron County shares its coordinator with Dickinson County.
Brahee noted that Michigan State also provides other educators. Since MSUE has been taking state budget cuts, there are fewer educators in the U.P. Can 4-H survive without MSUE? “I don’t think so,” Brahee said, “because there has to be a link to a land-grant university.”
“It just mystifies me,” Lind said, “that we have to get Lansing to come up here and teach us how to do 4-H.”
Commissioner Patti Peretto said she recently attended a Michigan Association of Counties meeting in Escanaba. “Most of the counties are quite upset with Michigan State,” she said.
“We need the 4-H program. We like the 4-H program. Does it cost us $34,000 a year to run it? I don’t think so. It would be nice if Michigan State would work with us to keep the 4-H program here. We would help. But that’s an awful lot for just a 4-H program.”
When Brahee said the county is getting more than 4-H, Peretto said, “We don’t feel we are.” There used to be a full-time Extension person in Iron County; now it’s a half-time person. “We just don’t feel we are getting a lot for the money we are paying.
“We’re strapped for cash. We just can’t continue to run some of our programs.”
“I don’t think it will happen,” Finance Chair Brennan agreed. “We’re cutting and cutting [the county budget]. This won’t fit.”
Brahee said he would pass along the message. “I think it is going to be a challenge,” he said. “If we can’t get that half-time person, there may be some room there, but I’m not sure what kind of room there might be.”
But without a half-time 4-H person, “I don’t think any of you nor our clientele would be happy.”
In the end, Peretto made a motion to table the MSUE request for more information, and the rest of the board agreed.
Earlier, Brahee had presented the MSUE annual report. The numbers, he noted, are for 2012—the 2013 figures won’t be available until the new year.
He spoke about the 35 adult leaders; about the 13 Iron County youths who attended Exploration Days at Michigan State; and programs the Extension is working on expanding, such as consumer horticulture.
He noted that MSUE is looking for a new 4-H program coordinator for the Dickinson-Iron area, with interviews set for later in the month.