Salted with Sharks

Archive for the ‘E Beach’ Category

Elberta Summer Solstice Festival no. 12: Wilder Than Ever

In Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Water on June 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Elberta Solstice Festival_Poster_2014WITHLOGOSmaller

The Elberta Solstice Festival is back for its 12th year, Saturday June 21! Join the teeming masses of music and food buffs descending on our magical Village amid the dune bluffs of Lake Michigan for live music, local food, beer, games, Michigan’s best beach, and other attractions to amaze and astound you, all capped off with one of the premier fireworks displays in the region.

Benzie County’s number one music festival is family friendly, quirky, cutting-edge, and eco-conscious, with some of the best bands, craft beverages and artisanal food around. Up until this year, admission to Solstice has been totally free, with guests paying as they go for food and beer. This year, because of the Village’s dire deficit situation, a fee of $5 will be charged for entrance to the beer tent, starting at 8 pm. It’s still possible to hear and even see the bands from outside the beer tent (but you can’t buy beer outside the beer tent). The Solstice Committee and P&R regret the change but hope everyone will still crowd the beer tent and help the Village get back on its feet.

Our Solstice Queen Jennifer Wilkins and other volunteers from Parks and Recreation and the Solstice Committee have prepared some special new treats this year. Coming all the way from Detroit are Magician Keith Stickley, Wood-E the Clown, and Animal Encounters with the infamous “Ghetto Gators”—large and scary scaly creatures recovering from shady servitude in the Motor City. While your reptile brain is turned on, stuff a bunch of food in you, from TuGo’s Egg Roll Co., Elberto’s Taqueria, Conundrum Café, The Lions, Cabbage Shed, Frankfort Takeout, Louie’s Burgers, Why Knot pretzels, and A.Papanos Pizza, plus bebidas from St. Ambrose, Acoustic Mead, and your favorite beers in the beer tent. You’ll be glad to know that this year, for the first time, you can catch a free Benzie Bus shuttle between our Waterfront Park Pavilion and the Antique Car Show and Art Fair in Frankfort. Call or text 231-930-8100 for pickup at one of the stops (see photo below).

Oh, you want to know about the *bands*? But of course: THE ACCIDENTALS, ALFREDO, MEDICINAL GROOVE, E MINOR, THE STANDING HAMPTONS, BLAKE ELLIOTT & THE ROBINSON AFFAIR, K. JONES & THE BENZIE PLAYBOYS, BLUE DIRT, SOUL PATCH, and late at night after Wolverine’s fireworks display, G SNACKS.

Don’t miss this northern Michigan hometown extravaganza on the wild side of Betsie Bay! 12 noon to 2 am, Saturday June 21st, at Elberta’s Historic Waterfront Park on old M-168.

(The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solstice Committee would also like to us to mention that the Benzie County Sheriff Department is planning extra patrols the night of Solstice, including on the beach. They’d like to remind everyone that fireworks and camping on the beach are unlawful activities. Let’s all have a safe and hassle-free Solstice Fest.)




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Road Ends Sign Gone

In Community Alert, E Beach, Environment, Green Elbertians, Open Season, Transportation on May 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm

The “Road Ends” sign the Village installed last June has apparently been removed (not by the Village). Jennifer Wilkins sent this photo yesterday, May 3.

Photo by Jennifer Wilkins

Photo by Jennifer Wilkins

Fuzz-y Math: Has the Sheriff Made the Case for the Public Safety Millage?

In Crime, E Beach, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Politics, Public Safety on November 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

By Emily Votruba

On November 5 (tomorrow), county residents will be asked to approve a funding increase for the Benzie County Sheriff’s Office. The 1.5 mill “public safety millage” will replace the jail millage (.9 mills) and is meant to allow the return of 24-hour road patrol, which proponents say is needed to “Keep Benzie Safe.”

The funding issue was raised repeatedly during both the primary and general elections in the 2012 sheriff race. While opinions vary on the need for additional financial support at the sheriff’s office, a fact remains clear: as candidate for sheriff, Ted Schendel on multiple occasions, notably during the final campaign forum held by the League of Women Voters, adamantly stated his opposition to a public safety millage. Schendel was quick to remind everyone a millage amounted to nothing more than a tax increase. So why the change of heart?

In an October 23 letter to the Record-Patriot, Sheriff Schendel wrote that after working with the county commissioners to consider “many options” to resolve the department’s financial challenges, he decided he had only two choices to provide 24-hour coverage to the county: a millage, or “(2) Sue the County for not adequately funding the Sheriff’s Office.” No breakdown of those considered and rejected options was provided, if only so we might understand what sorts of priorities we have as a county. Could funding have been found some other way? If not, why not? What we have in the paper from Schendel is a threat: “Keep Benzie Safe” by voting yes on this millage, or get sued.

Is the situation this dire? Has there been a crime surge since the election? When compared with other counties of similar size, is Benzie County understaffed with law enforcement personnel? These are important questions that should be answered before county residents vote to approve what amounts to a 60% budget increase for county law enforcement, which would place approximately $1.6 million under the direct control of the sheriff.

The county currently pays approximately $1 million out of the general fund to provide for law enforcement functions, namely road patrol, while jail operations are financed by both the jail millage and the general fund. If approved, the four-year public safety millage will finance all law enforcement functions of the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Schendel says the new millage will provide enough revenue to allow 24-7 road patrol by two deputies, a school liaison officer, new patrol vehicles, and a full-time secretary in the detective bureau. The jail millage will be eliminated and the operation of the county jail will be paid exclusively out of the general fund. Advocates of the new millage argue that the jail should be fully paid out of the general fund anyway, as maintaining a jail is one of the services the county is required to provide according to the state constitution—road patrol is not a required service. With the .9 mill jail millage gone, the 1.5 mill public safety funding amounts to a tax increase of .6 mills (or roughly an additional $60 a year for four years for a $200,000 house).

If crime in Benzie has gone up, Sheriff Schendel has not made this a big part of his case for the millage. Indeed, the premise of the millage campaign is “Keep” Benzie safe. Benzie is already safe, the campaign seems to say, but if we don’t have 24-hour patrol, it might get unsafe.… In a September 2012 interview with the Elberta Alert, Sheriff Rory Heckman said the crime rate had remained stable overall since 2011 except for an increase in illegal narcotics use (traffic accidents were down at the time). On October 19 on the Benzie Citizens for Public Safety Facebook page you could read the following exchange:

Dennis Rodzik: Could I see some crime stats for the past 5 years to justify a increase in taxes??????

Benzie Citizens for Public Safety Dennis, there was a 23.52% increase in felonies between 2009 & 2012 in Benzie County. The Sheriff’s Office has all that information on file and would be happy to provide you a copy (231-882-4484). The central point of the millage is access to service and the gain that Benzie County would have from 24 hour road patrol. Passing the millage will also ensure that we have the same hours of coverage that all of the surrounding counties enjoy.

Felonies apparently went up in the four years between 2009 and 2012, but you wouldn’t know that (or any reasons for it) from the millage campaign. Instead of claiming that a higher crime rate justifies increased expenditures, advocates of the millage rely on a vague threat of some crime-ridden future, and the idea that Benzie “deserves” 24-hour police protection just like all the surrounding counties. In addition, a strained connection is being made in the millage campaign between economic development and law enforcement protection. Those who are for the millage contend that business owners and entrepreneurs must “feel safe” before they will invest in the county. How many businesses are sitting on Benzie’s borders, wringing their hands, waiting to see whether we pass this millage or not? The campaign doesn’t tell us. A better question, also unanswered, would be: Have any businesses actually left because they felt unsafe?

In the March 27 edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Sheriff Schendel was quoted saying that in a county the size of Benzie the appropriate number of road deputies is 36. But according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the same agency cited by the sheriff in support of his claim, in 2007 sheriff’s offices in counties roughly the size of Benzie employ on average about 14 sworn police officers.* Per the 2012-2013 Benzie County budget, we had 13 sworn officers in our Sheriff’s Office. That number includes road deputies, sergeants, secondary road patrol, undersheriff and sheriff. It does not include the recent hiring of a ninth road patrolman. With that addition, we now have 14 sworn officers. The sheriff is asking for a funding increase so he can hire four or five more road patrolmen. This will bring the total number of sworn officers to 18 or 19. By national standards, in terms of population, we are on par at our current staff levels. Could those 14 officers be rescheduled to cover 24 hours?

Do more officers mean less crime? The campaign hasn’t made that case, and the facts from other localities don’t bear it out. For example, on a per capita basis, the city of Detroit has more than 5 times the number of police officers (Detroit Police, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, FBI, and ICE) as Benzie County has and it had more murders last year than at any point in the last 40 years. The correlation between more police officers and less crime has not been substantiated.

Your vote on this millage may come down to whether you feel the need for more, and more frequent, police coverage. But there’s an additional factor to take into consideration: Placing the Sheriff Department’s entire budget under a millage, as this measure does, means that every four years we’ll have a referendum on whether or not to fund the Sheriff’s office at all. In 2017, the next sheriff will have to spend time and energy fighting for 100% of the budget within the first year of his or her term. By putting the entire budget of the sheriff’s office on a millage, the sheriff’s office is running the risk of not having a budget in the future, putting the careers of every single employee at the sheriff’s office up for grabs.

The public safety millage is a sort of extortion against the voter: either approve all of it, every four years, or get no Sheriff services at all. That shouldn’t be the choice given to the voters. The sheriff’s office can be funded up to at least a minimum level by the general fund sufficient to allow the sheriff to perform his basic duties. If the current fleet of patrol vehicles is inadequate, if reinstating a resource officer at the schools will promote a good relationship between youth and the law, if Elberta residents on either side of the beach-driving issue will have their enjoyment of the beach affected by 24-7 patrol,** let’s hear the case for those items on the Sheriff’s wish list.

If there is a need or demand for any of these items, why not put them to the voters as separate issues? As it stands, a yes vote on this prix-fixe millage sets us up for a tax increase now and a possible case of severe indigestion in 2017.


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* There were 862 sheriff’s offices in the United States that served populations between 10,000 and 24,999. The total number of sworn officers employed by those agencies was 12,167.

** Regarding patrol for Elberta Beach, Sheriff Schendel did propose last year that Elberta could pay a special contract fee to ensure increased patrol of the beach.

A Soaring Letter regarding the Financial Crisis

In Alert Reader, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Historic Elberta, Soaring on October 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

The Alert received this letter and photo from Mr. Embertson on October 12. Note that Elberta does not in fact own all of the beach area in question, and so far the Village Council has not proposed to voluntarily sell any beach access to satisfy the Treasury Department.

Dear Alert and Elberta Village Council:

I am a hang glider pilot of 38 years, former president of the Green Point Flyers Association, landowner at Green Point, and have been flying with my hang glider and paraglider friends and group/club members on the Elberta ridge since 1979.  As pilots we see the Elberta area from a very special perspective, and all of us have enjoyed recreation in a myriad of other ways in the Elberta area for as many years.  We are exceptionally grateful that the village of Elberta has allowed us wonderful and easy access to the resources of the village, the land on the ridge, the woods, the beaches, the piers, and the water – all owned by the village and the public for so many years.  Thank you so much for the extraordinary beauty and natural resources that are available to all of us!  We have landed our gliders at Elberta beach for 35 years and love the place!  Some of us remember the days of our partnership with the village of Elberta and City of Frankfort during the Annual Soaring Festivals of the late 70’s.

When we land there, or recreate there, we have so many great conversations with tourists, beach goers, and visitors from out of town and out of state.  We share our love of the area with people we meet, and I want to believe that we (and those conversations) are part of the reason that people return to visit Elberta and all that it offers.

More personally, my family – my wife and four children (ages 19, 19, 17, and 14) have been blessed to have the Elberta area and Lake Michigan environment to enjoy as a family.  We have been enjoying swimming, kayaking, kite boarding, rock hounding, playing, and lounging on the spectacular beach and dune areas that Elberta has managed.  We are so grateful to your village for allowing us to enjoy these things for so many years!  We have hundreds of family memories, family videos, family pictures that have captured the days, moments, sunsets, and family togetherness that has made our family closer and stronger. My children have grown up at those places in Elberta I mentioned above. Elberta and all that is beautiful about Elberta is a part of my children’s lives. For 19 years, they have returned to Elberta with us parents every spring, summer, fall, and even in winters. We were together at Elberta and Green Point this Labor Day 2013 weekend!


Now we hear that your village is facing challenges, and considering selling properties and land, possibly and dramatically changing access to the places we love to come?

PLEASE do not do that!  Problem solve this!  Creatively find alternatives! Plan for long term impact not short term gain. Please do not take away from so many thousands, the natural beauty and places we all love dearly.


Dave (and Linda) Embertson, Isaac, Elizabeth, Joshua, and Timothy

Lake City, MI 


The Embertson Family

The Embertson Family



Village Deficit Crisis: Brief, Important Update

In Breaking, Community Alert, E Beach, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Village Money Situation, Water on October 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

By Emily Votruba

According to Reggie and Laura Manville, the state expects to see a plan that might realistically eliminate our $558K+ deficit within the next 5 years.* If the Village does not come up with an acceptable plan by October 17, it’s very likely, again according to Reggie Manville, that the state will bring in an emergency manager. The state could act on that decision, Reggie said, as soon as December.

When Bill Soper and I asked Laura if the Village’s beach property is potentially saleable, she said, “That was the first thing [the State Treasury rep] asked about, was how much beach property the Village has.” Laura said she would look into how much Village beach property is potentially in play if an emergency manager is appointed to take over the Village. It does not seem to be the intention of anyone on Council to sell our beach property.

Some possible cost-cutting and revenue-raising ideas discussed at tonight’s (October 10) meeting:
• cutting employee time across the board (office and DPW down to two or three days a week)
• reducing or eliminating employee benefits
• cutting just the office down to 32 hours total per week (16 hours per employee), with the office open four days a week; keeping DPW the same (Ken and Corey) and eliminating benefits for office
• contracting out Life Saving Station rentals to a management company instead of having office staff handle it as they do now
• charge fees and/or have donation boxes for use of boat launch, beach, trails, etc.
• sell off one or more of the following assets: Community Building, Library, Ballfield, Marina/Farmers’ Market Park, Anderson Park, Tots Park, Veterans Park
• consolidate with Frankfort or Gilmore Township
• hold a millage vote for fire department services and/or general tax revenue increase
• cut services
• raise fees for water, sewer, garbage, permits
* This deficit amount does not include the tens of thousands of dollars we owe in legal fees—an amount that keeps growing.

What Do You Think of Our Plan?

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Farmers' Market, GOOD NEWS, Historic Elberta, Infrastructure and Planning, Kid Stuff, Lakeside Shakespeare, Open Season, Transportation, Water on September 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

The final draft of the Village of Elberta Parks and Recreation Plan for 2009–14 is now up on the Village website. As soon as the official notice is published in the Record-Patriot this Wednesday, the official five-week public comment period begins. This is a very important document for the Village and the community at large. In it Parks and Rec spells out residents’ desires for improvements to all of Elberta’s many parks, including the Waterfront Park, Elberta Beach, Elberta Dunes South, and our portion of the Betsie Valley Trail. This document is the product of many hours of discussion in council meetings, Parks and Rec meetings, and the public input session we held on April 18. Please take time to read the document and offer your input and insight. We want to enhance the Elberta experience for everyone. The final public hearing on this plan will be held October 17 at 7 pm, before the regular council meeting at which it may be adopted. Download the pdf using the link below and/or get yourself a hard copy at the Village Office. Submit your comments by mail to the Parks and Recreation Commission, PO Box 8, Elberta, MI 49628 or by e-mail to—Emily Votruba, Parks and Rec member

Village of Elberta Recreation Plan 2014–2019 final draft for public hearing

Council Contemplates Selling Old Library…And Much, Much More

In Breaking, Community Alert, E Beach, Fishing, Gov't Watch, Historic Elberta, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Politics, Public Safety on August 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm

It was another nearly three hour meeting, with lots of decisions made and some deferred. President Reggie Manville was back, after a three-meeting absence. Employee benefits were discussed and a vote was taken on Linda Manville’s proposal that employees begin contributing 20% toward their health-care premiums. This motion was voted down three to two (Reggie Manville, Ken Holmes, and Joyce Gatrell voted no; Diane Jenks and Linda Manville voted yes). Absent from this meeting were Jennifer Wilkins and Matt Stapleton. The question of whether Reggie Manville, a member of the employee relations committee and the husband of one of the employees, Laura Manville, should have recused himself from the vote due to conflict of interest.

Corey Toms, the new DPW assistant, will start work on Monday. Apparently there was some communication glitch whereby no one formally told Toms he had been hired right away, so instead of starting in two weeks from the hire date, it will be three.

The safety/parking situation along M-22, especially near the Duck’s Head, was discussed. A preliminary plan was drawn up to create better visibility from side streets entering 22. Council discussed asking MDOT to reduce the speed limit to 25 through the Village and add crosswalks.

Council voted to get a commercial appraisal and survey of the Old Library Building and its lot in preparation for possibly selling it. This evening’s meeting was actually a public hearing on that subject, but no notice was posted in the post office, just in the Record-Patriot, and only the usual-suspect members of the public were present for discussion. Joyce Gatrell herself, a member of the municipal buildings committee, seemed confused at the beginning of the meeting, saying she didn’t know the hearing was tonight.

More listener notes to come …. —Emily Votruba

Blast from the Future: Clara Reed

In E Beach, Historic Elberta, Kid Stuff on July 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Alert readers love the writing of our area kids. If you or someone you know has a story to tell, send it our way!


Signs Installed to Mark Beach Road

In Breaking, Community Alert, E Beach, Gov't Watch, Green Elbertians, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, Open Season, Transportation on June 28, 2013 at 1:19 am

With authorization from Council, Ken Bonney today installed stakes and signage to demarcate the Village’s platted road, known as Lakeside Boulevard. Over the years, the undeveloped stretch has become by turns rutted and covered over with soft sand, and several byways have been cut through use. The long-standing issue of off-road dune driving, which has included frequent attempts by some people to use trucks and other vehicles to climb the bluffs on either side of the unmarked road, came to a head in early spring 2012 when several calls by concerned citizens prompted Diane Jenks to ask Bonney to install a gate just past the last house near the beginning of the (unmarked) road. That gate was removed by Eric Van Dussen, put up, removed again, put up, and removed a third time (not, Van Dussen said, by him). Since last year, a Beach Committee led by Jenks has met several times to discuss solutions to the offroading problem and address the concerns of environmentalists, property owners, and the beachgoing public.

At recent Council meetings, Ken Bonney was given the go ahead to stake out the road and apply for a permit to have the road graded and developed with gravel. How the actual development would be paid for, no one knew. At the June meeting, council heard a presentation by Cheryl Gross, a member of a group of residents calling themselves the Dunes Neighbors. Gross’s presentation outlined a plan to raise funds to develop the road and bring other amenities to the beach area. The first step in that process occurred today, June 27.

Bonney said he wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for people to park for Fourth of July fireworks, so he placed some of the “No Motor Vehicles” signs a bit wide of the actual platted roadway. Ken noted that it’s almost impossible to drive along parts of the official road area unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. He said the grading, demarcation, and improvement of the road is intended to make it easier, not harder, for most vehicles to enjoy access to the beach. There will be angled parking in several spots along the 50-foot-wide Village right of way. The road plan jogs in places, while still remaining within the platted area, to accommodate trees and other plantlife that have established themselves over the years, Ken said.

At the very end of the platted road, stop signs and a Road Ends sign were placed. Beyond this point is private property and protected dune. Fines of up to $1,000 may be levied against violators of the state and federal law against driving off-road in this natural area. Bonney said he hoped the sheriff’s department, who he said he had invited to visit while he posted stakes and signs, would apprise themselves of the location of the road. Sheriff Schendel, former sheriff Rory Heckman, and representatives from the DNR have all said at various times that the law was almost impossible to enforce in part because no one could tell where the road actually is. Ken Bonney, Village Council members, the Dunes Neighbors, and others hope this will be the beginning of the end of a contentious problem that has made it difficult and even dangerous for some residents and visitors to reach the beach.—Emily Votruba


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More Fireworks!

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Law & Order, Our Men and Women in Uniform, Public Safety on June 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 5.05.44 PM