By Mike Kruzman /

A grant application that would help with building Livingston County Meals on Wheels a new home appears to be dead in the water.

Livingston County Meals on Wheels has been in the community for 30 years, but has never had a building of their own. Currently they are leasing and operating out of 750-square feet of kitchen space in Hartland schools. A site in Hartland Township had been identified as a candidate for a new building to be built with funds from a cost-sharing Community Development Block Grant. The grant would be for $1-million, with Livingston County and Meals on Wheels each contributing $500,000. The majority of Livingston County Meals on Wheels recipients reside in Oakland County. Oakland County would not be contributing to the cost-sharing.

County Commissioners previously approved a resolution that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation wanted changes made to because of contingencies put in place to recover the county’s money should the project go south. That resolution had also since passed the 6-month window of eligibility, with a new deadline set for the end of this month.

A sub-committee was recently formed to look into the charity that would be receiving the grant money which would then pass it on to Meals on Wheels. That charity is Community Outreach Services Corporation (COSC). Commissioner Jay Gross said during the County Board’s Monday meeting, that subcommittee was less than impressed. He said that, with the help of auditors, they still had a long list of questions and answers. Gross said that as they worked their way through the responses, many were evasive and raised additional questions. He said, “It appears to me that going forward with this proposal is fraught with peril.” Gross added that he doesn’t think any of the commissioners deny that Meals on Wheels is a good program, but that he didn’t think they should be going forward with $500,000 of support.

Commissioner Wes Nakagiri said that in 5 years of tax returns, COSC had never been audited and were “unrated” on a site that checks charities. He also had concerns of a loan made from COSC to a private entity for $300,000 in 2016 that a CPA described as extremely unusual.

Commissioner Doug Helzerman said that while this was probably one of the best projects they could have, he had a hard time putting county taxpayer dollars in jeopardy without assurances it coming back if they project stalls out. Commissioner Bob Bezotte also said the removal of contingencies was a deal breaker.

Chairwoman Carol Griffith thanked staff for working on the application and said that while she doesn’t feel any commissioner feels Meals on Wheels isn’t a good program, they’ve come to a point where they have to make a decision. She said that if the economy looks different next year, there could be another opportunity. Commissioners voted 7-1 against the resolution to apply for the grant. Bill Green cast the only vote in favor.