GT Board of Commissioners Meeting June 19, 2019
The June 19th Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners Meeting started, unsurprisingly, with urges to move the meeting back to its original time of 5:30 pm. During the first public comment period, Carol Schukra, from East Bay Township, pointed out that 8 am meetings (later echoed by Ann Rogers, Traverse City) exclude the 9-5 workers and those who must get their children off to school. While the morning meetings have had decent turnout, as previously pointed out by Commissioner Clous, Carol said that the concern citizens have over the time change is that the majority of people attending the meetings are by and large retired citizens. This sentiment was echoed in later public comments, as well.
Another topic was the clear-cutting of trees near the airport. Carol asked that the board do what they can to assure that the recently cleared ground not be covered with impervious surface (blacktop, concrete, etc), as open soil is necessary to filter out pollutants before rainwater/runoff reaches groundwater. Adding more impervious surfaces can reduce necessary filtration, while increasing intensity of runoff during rain events. Later in the meeting, Commissioner Wheelock said the Federal Aviation Agency had identified points of obstruction and suggested that that the public had a right to be made aware of these points before they were taken care of. A motion was proposed to provide the board with a map of the total list of obstructions, so they can schedule a study session. Commissioner Betsy Coffia asked that there be a friendly amendment asking for the Airport Director to be present for the discussion.
Rick Brown, from Traverse City, the next commenter, urged the board to show support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was later proposed by Commissioner Coffia. Unfortunately, the initiative has been a target of federal budget cuts throughout the Trump administration, but strong opposition to funding cuts has won out thus far. Both Rick and Coffia advocated supporting the initiative, which has bipartisan support federally, state-wide, and locally. The measure to show support for the initiative was brought to a vote, and passed with unanimous support by the board. It was not specified what action would be taken.
Along with advocating to move the time of the meetings back to 5:30, Ann Rogers suggested that the invocation to bless the beginning of the meeting is offensive to non-Christians. Ann also said that the minutes are not published in a timely manner, and stated that if you can’t attend the meetings, it’s hard to know what is going on. During the second public comment period, Ann spoke about her support for Grand Traverse County Drain Commissioner, Steve Largent, who spoke about his job and the struggles he has faced, it being a part-time position, and his difficulty in getting to 8am meetings because of his job. He also urged the BOC to return the meeting time to 5:30 when he and working citizens can more easily attend.
During Largent’s presentation, it was clear that he did not feel there was enough time allotted to him to successfully complete all the necessary work that goes with the title of Drain Commissioner, as it is considered to be part time. Largent also mentioned his support for having more information about his job duties being made available for the public. Commissioners LaPointe and Jewett expressed concerns over the large budget, and inability to maintain the current Cass road drain system in place. Largent talked about the importance of having a working system, both for the environment and for local businesses, and he, along with the board, will be exploring options for him, in order to take the next necessary steps. This conversation will be revisited at a later BOC meeting.
Matthew Scheck, from Traverse City, spoke about the availability of watching the meeting online at this link http://www.tacm.tv. He also wanted to commend Grand Traverse County Clerk Bonnie Scheele and her staff for making minutes of the meetings available.
The last member of the public to speak during the first session was Tim Hinkley, from Maple City, who advocated for funding for the Boom Boom Club fireworks display, an item that was on the agenda. While Commissioner Hundley put forward a motion allocating $2,000 to the Boom Boom Club and $1,000 for Fife Lake’s fireworks display, the motion failed. There seemed to be some confusion on whether it was appropriate to set aside funding for the fireworks display, because of the potential liability concerns
The rest of the meeting mainly consisted of reports and discussion of three topics:
The first being the economic impact report of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. Karl Kovacs, the CEO of NLCMH provided information to the group. If you are interested learning more about NLCMH’s economic impact, including the breakdown of what the counties pay for this service, you may use the link above, or skip to the 56 minute mark in the video.
The second topic centered around the Commission on Aging’s request to reclassify a position that has proven difficult to adequately fill. COA director, Cynthia Kienlen spoke about the difficulties in finding qualified people to fill this important position of Assessment and Scheduling Specialist. Ultimately, the commissioners voted to approve the reclassification and increased pay structure.
Lastly, the board heard from the Office of the Medical Examiner, Dr. Joyce DeJong. The discussion centered on their annual report. If you’d like to learn more about it, Dr. DeJong’s presentation begins at the 2:12:30 mark in the video.
The meeting lasted just over 4 hours total.