Last Tuesday County Administrator Alan G. Vanderberg delivered his State of the County Address. Based on his speech and the Holland Sentinel’s reporting of it, here are three issues to watch in the coming year.
Diversity: On Dec. 11 the Board of Commissioners voted to establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office. If the Board approves the funding plan to implement it next month, the office will serve as a resource to identify and eliminate biases and barriers in the county government’s policies and practices. Vanderberg says that this will be an important step toward making sure that “there are no implied or unconscious barriers to anyone who wants to work and grow as an Ottawa County employee.”
Water access: Early in 2018 scientists completed a seven-year study of the region’s groundwater, a key source of freshwater for the county that’s being depleted faster than it can be replenished. Based on their research, a coalition of experts will release plans to better manage the area’s water resources later this year. This has been an ongoing environmental concern for the county, and a sustainable solution might require significant changes to the way new development is approved and the amount of water residents use for nonessential purposes.
Mental health: The county has struggled in the past with decreases in Medicaid funding for mental health services even as the demand for these services has been on the rise. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has begun to make efforts to address problems in the way it allocates funding, but Vanderberg says that major reforms are necessary to ensure the county has the resources to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable residents of the community.