Salted with Sharks

Archive for the ‘Public Safety’ Category

Special Council Meeting Regarding Elberta Beach

In E Beach, Gov't Watch, Law & Order, Open Season, Public Safety, Wildlife on August 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Update! Kristi Mills came through with a recording of the meeting. Thanks, Kristi! It’s a bit hard to hear and hasn’t been edited for levels and whatnot, but it’s worth a listen if you care about the beach.

 

Here are some of the officials and others who attended the meeting. We thank them! And thanks, Jon Keillor, for taking this photo.

Here are some images that were used during this morning’s special council meeting to discuss where exactly Elberta property and the public “roadway” is, as opposed to Sand Products Corporation and other private property used by Elberta beachgoers pedestrian and motorized. Thanks for the photos, Andy Bolander. I tried to record the meeting but had a tech fail. —Emily Votruba

Guest Column: Electric Skateboard Debate Ramps Up

In Activism, Breaking, Community Alert, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Environment, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Public Safety, Tech, Transportation, WTFF (What the Frankfort) on July 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Please help stop Frankfort City Council’s ongoing effort to create an ordinance banning electric skateboards citywide.

By Carolyn Thayer

July 14, 2017

I’m asking for your help to spread the news about the Frankfort City Council’s ongoing effort to create an ordinance banning electric skateboards citywide based on the potential for a public safety problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Coyote Crossing: November Council Meeting Reports

In Community Alert, Farmers' Market, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Public Safety, Village Money Situation, Water on December 7, 2016 at 2:22 am

By Emily Votruba

Regular Meeting, November 17, 2016

On the way to the regular council meeting, Linda Manville saw a coyote cross the road in front of her. The meeting was held at the Life Saving Station for the first time ever as far as anyone could remember. The room didn’t have a flag, so allegiance was pledged to an image of Old Glory brought up on someone’s phone.

A long pause was heard before the “second” on the approval of bills motion. Joyce Gatrell asked Ken Holmes if he had his hearing aid on. “Hah?” Ken said. Everyone laughed. Holly O’Dwyer said, “Ken hears better than most.”

The next quarterly meeting between Village officials and the Michigan Department of Treasury to check on the Village’s deficit elimination progress will take place Read the rest of this entry »

Lines in the Sand

In Community Alert, Crime, E Beach, Environment, Law & Order, Open Season, Public Safety, Water, Wildlife on May 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

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By Andy Bolander

Here is an annual reminder of the beautiful frailty our community possesses in the Elberta dunes and beach. It will take persistent and vocal presence for us to protect this resource.

Why is it necessary to protect the dune habitat? Well, something you may feel intuitively is actually true: Elberta Dunes are geologically unique in the world.

“Elberta Dunes lie at a latitudinal transition point between perched dunes to the north and lake-plain dunes to the south. Elberta dunes consist of five parabolic dunes perched on a glacial bluff. Characterized by stabilized dunes with overlapping arms which indicate non-concurrent periods of migration. Elberta Dunes have four distinguishable migration periods.” —Dunes in a Transitional Zone: Using Morphology and Stratigraphy to Determine the Relative Ages of Green Point Dune Complex and Elberta Dunes, Emma Fulop, Davidson College 2014

“Very few dunes in Michigan can be classed as truly migratory.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

“[T]he greatest dunes of the entire region occur along the east coast of Lake Michigan because the prevailing Westerlies gather added energy as they fetch across this unbroken expanse of lake.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

Human activity on the beach has the potential to change the shape of the dune. Vehicle tracks and the digging out of vehicles kills and/or displaces grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation that stabilizes the dunes. Removal of plant life exposes the sand to the wind and water erosion.

“Whenever plants on the foredune are injured or destroyed, the wind has access to the raw sand and creates a blowout, a saddle-shaped breach in the ridge, through which the sand commences a march inland. Many blowouts change the foredune into a very irregular feature called a dune ridge.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

Dunes along the Lake Michigan coast have vanished before because of human activity. Pigeon Hill in Muskegon was named for the massive number of passenger pigeons that roosted there up until the end of the 19th century. The hill was sold to Nugent Sand and the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1920. By 1936 Sand Products Corporation (owner of about 180 acres of Elberta sand dunes and bluffs) had erected a conveyor system to load the sand onto waiting boats. Excavation of the sand continued until 1967. The site then sat barren until 1992, when there was a change in ownership and Harbour Towne condominiums were built. (http://www.actorscolony.com/) Dune sand mining also destroyed huge dunes that once surrounded Manistee.

But you don’t have to be a large sand mining corporation or a real estate developer to do a lot of damage to these natural areas and to the birds and other creatures who make Elberta Beach their home. The beach and dunes are subject to the everyday threat of human vehicle traffic.

“People are drawn to shorelines for their beauty and recreational opportunities so the remaining shoreline areas with dune habitat are often also public use areas. Hikers and Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) trample Pitcher’s thistle [a protected species] which harms or destroys the plants. ORV traffic in dunes also causes erosion which creates unstable areas where it’s difficult for plants to take hold. Pitcher’s thistle and its dune habitat are also destroyed for the creation and maintenance of public beaches.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Pitcher’s Thistle, updated 5/2001

“Off-road vehicles, which ruin habitat, crush nests and eggs, and directly kill birds by running over them are a key threat. Chicks that move across primary vehicle paths on their way to feed are in particular danger — especially when they get stalled alongside tall tire-track edges or stuck inside ruts. To save piping plovers from vehicle mortality, the Center has been working hard to keep off-road vehicles out of precious habitat through our Off-road Vehicles campaign. We’re also gearing up to petition the Secretary of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish rules that prohibit motorized vehicle use in all designated critical habitat and on all federal, state-owned, and state-managed public lands within piping plover habitat.” — http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/piping_plover/

“The Great Lakes population of the piping plover is at a perilously low level. Since 1983, the number of nesting pairs has ranged from 12 to 32. In 2000, all of the Great Lakes pairs nested in Michigan.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Piping Plover

“Piping plovers are very sensitive to the presence of humans. Too much disturbance causes the parent birds to abandon their nest. People (either on foot or in a vehicle) using the beaches where the birds nest sometimes accidentally crush eggs or young birds. Dogs and cats often harass and kill the birds. Other animals, such as fox, gulls, and crows, prey on the young plovers or eggs.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Piping Plover

The beach and dunes are arguably the greatest asset that Elberta possesses; the village has a handful of businesses and no industry. Most of us who live here have chosen this place, or have stayed here, because we love the beach and the dunes and the forest around them. Allowing the impact of humans to change our unique natural system to a conventional mess would be a great shame. It’s up to the people who live here and the visitors who come to enjoy the beach to treat it with the respect and care it, and we all, deserve. It’s up to locals to demand that visitors behave responsibly and not destroy this amazing place.

We have been given a great responsibility. There is literally nowhere on earth like this beach and dune environment.

Driving and digging out trucks and cars on the beach and dunes not only crushes the nests of piping plovers, hurts the habitat of the Lake Huron locust, wormwood, horsetail, coreopsis, wood lilies, and other native wildlife, but it also hurts the human community. It upsets people who gently walk the beach and live through hard winters here in order to enjoy summer. It upsets people who pay taxes to keep local services running. We don’t have the manpower within local law enforcement or the DNR to deter the destructive activity that goes on down at the beach. So we need to get together as a community and protect this by demonstrating responsible behavior.

In recent years both the Village of Elberta and private citizens have spent money and time posting signs to try to cut down on off-road traffic on the beach. Vandals have removed these signs and in some cases set fire to them. Dollars have been spent and wasted on these selfish individuals, and to no avail.

I don’t have a solution today, but I hope that sharing and refreshing this knowledge of how truly special this environment is will help us keep talking until we do reach a solution.

In the meantime, if you see vehicles driving on the dunes or beach, call the DNR hotline at 800-292-7800, and/or try to get a photograph of the vehicle and its license plate.

Benzie Emergency Management Seeks Feedback on Its Natural Hazards Draft Plan

In Agriculture, Community Alert, E Beach, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Environment, Fishing, Gov't Watch, Green Elbertians, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Public Safety, Transportation, Water, Weather, Wildlife on January 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Get back to Frank Post, our county emergency management coordinator, by email or phone asap! (fpost@benzieco.net, 231-882-0567)

Read and download the draft plan here: 2015 Hazard Mitigation Plan

More information is available at the Region 7 website.

Midterm Election 2014! Wolves, Drugs, Fire

In Community Alert, Gilmore Township, Gov't Watch, Law & Order, Open Season, Politics, Public Safety, Village Money Situation on November 3, 2014 at 1:44 pm

UPDATE: View up-to the minute election results (as available) from the various Benzie townships here, and the final official Benzie County results page here.

UPDATE: From Aubrey Parker: “BENZIE COUNTY: We’re hoping to do LIVE election results again tonight like we brought you in 2013, but we need your help! All you need to do is go to your polling place at 8pm after the election has closed and get the final tallies. I can email you a link to a spreadsheet where you can input the numbers. So easy and super awesome to have LIVE data!” According to Parker, who spoke with County Clerk Dawn Olney, Benzie has added 207 registered voters since 2013. The breakdown is as follows: 58 in Almira, 11 in Benzonia, 13 in Blaine, -1 in Colfax, 12 in Crystal, 3 in Frankfort, 17 in Gilmore, 19 in Homestead, 40(!) in Inland, 11 Joyfield, -10 in Lake, 6 in Platte, 27 in Weldon. Thanks for those numbers, Aubrey. Read the rest of this entry »

Elberta Business Owners Speak! On State Proposal 14-1

In Education, Gov't Watch, On and off the Apron, Politics, Public Safety, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on August 4, 2014 at 10:18 am
Like a rock: A large Petoskey stone at the Conundrum Café, probably not subject to the personal property tax.

Like a rock: This large Petoskey stone at the Conundrum Café is probably not subject to the personal property tax.

By Emily Votruba

Tomorrow, August 5, voters will decide whether to adopt a proposal to eliminate the personal property tax. The strangely worded measure doesn’t actually mention “personal property tax,” but instead says the following:

Approval or disapproval of amendatory act to reduce state use tax and replace with a local community stabilization share to modernize the tax system to help small businesses grow and create jobs. (Read the full ballot language and more about the proposal here and here.)

If you own a business in Michigan, you pay personal property tax (PPT) every year on equipment you use (machinery, vehicles, furniture, computers, refrigerators, cash registers, kitchen appliances). You’re supposed to pay the same rate (set by your local government) every year, based on the price you paid for the item, for the life of your business or until you get rid of the equipment, even as the item decreases in value. In communities with big business and manufacturing bases, the PPT forms a large share of local revenue, used for schools, fire, police, EMT, park maintenance, and other services.

In 2010, Elberta derived 3.32% of its property tax revenue from personal property tax.* That means out of the Village’s $129,933.48 in total property tax revenue, $4,313.79 came from business owners paying tax on their various movable assets, most of which they had already paid sales tax on at the time of purchase. Businesses are in effect taxed twice—more than twice—on material regular consumers are taxed for once.

According to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan DC based think tank, seven states have eliminated PPT altogether, four states assess a very small PPT, and other states have enacted exemptions for businesses of certain types or sizes. Michigan itself has already enacted a personal property tax exemption for businesses with less than $80,000 worth of equipment. More on that below.

Some voters may be wary of taking Lansing’s word for it when it promises any local revenue lost from eliminating PPT will be replaced through the use tax, which the proposal also promises not to increase. The Senate Fiscal Agency estimates that state general fund revenues would be cut by $126 million in 2016, the first-year the proposal would begin taking effect, and by $483 million in 2023 when fully phased-in.

What is use tax? Most of us never pay it because we don’t buy goods wholesale. But if you have a state business ID, you can buy goods without paying sales tax, as long as you pay that 6% eventually—whether you pass the expense on to consumers when you sell products, or by declaring that amount to the state and paying it at the end of the year.

This use tax might be an unpredictable source of revenue. Let’s say you purchase 50 pounds of coffee wholesale with a business ID. If you don’t make cappuccinos with it, you’re supposed to pay the state 6% out of pocket on whatever you have left that isn’t spoiled. That’s to keep you from just buying all your personal groceries wholesale. You can see how abuse of the use tax might be hard to detect and enforce.

In Michigan, use tax is also assessed to lodging establishments for their rooms and amenities and in sales or transfers of recreational vehicles to nonfamily members. Wired communication services, Internet sales, and all imports of goods from outside Michigan are also subject to use tax. You can read about it in more detail here.

Use tax revenue, like that from PPT, fluctuates according to consumer activity and whether or not businesses are investing in inventory. The Local Community Stabilization Authority that Prop 14-1 creates would distribute the use tax revenue directly to municipalities and would theoretically ensure that communities receive the same revenue they’re accustomed to, and perhaps more (some argue). Proponents say eliminating the PPT will also save both businesses and local governments the paperwork headache involved in filing and adminstering the tax.

Since tax law is really confusing, and businesses are the ones who’ll (supposedly) be most immediately affected by this proposal if it passes, I asked some Elberta business owners what they think of the measure and how they’re going to vote.

Steve Hubbard, owner of Bayshore Tire & Auto, says he’s been so busy he hasn’t had time to investigate the proposal. “I’ll say any measure that’s going to cut my taxes, I’m probably for. Michigan taxes the crap out of small businesses. We lose so much money just processing that stuff.”

According to the US Small Business Administration, over 98% percent of Michigan businesses are “small”—with fewer than 500 employees. Indeed, the vast majority of Michigan businesses (670,000+) have no employees at all.

Katie Condon, along with her sister Janet Condon Whiting, has owned the Mayfair Tavern since January 2012. They pay personal property tax on kitchen equipment, TVs, their computer system, and any other tangible business assets they acquire. Condon says she’s definitely voting yes on Proposal 14-1. “[Personal property tax] is a dumb tax. It kills small business, and up here in Northern Michigan we’re all small.”

Diane Jenks, owner of A Shear Class Experience Salon & Day Spa, and also a member of the Village council, said in an email on Friday that she was still researching the issue. “I want to know where the replacement dollars are coming from and how and when it will be disbursed back to municipalities. I wonder if there will be any hidden criteria or restrictions on funding replacement of personal property tax dollars.”

Jim Barnes is a new business owner in the Village, with both Elberto’s Taqueria and Eco-Building Products opening here in 2013. He suspects that if the personal property tax is eliminated, that revenue won’t be replaced. He said he hadn’t yet been assessed personal property tax by the Village, but has paid it in Elmwood Township and Traverse City for Northern Delights and Eco-Building Products.

“In the past, our personal property taxes have been a nominal annual fee. The hassle of filling out the forms is more painful than paying the tax,” Barnes wrote in an email. He noted that the Village has “an extraordinarily high real property tax rate”—it’s the highest Village rate in the county at 16.1565%but says he will probably vote no on eliminating the tax, because he believes “federal, state, and municipal taxes are necessary to maintain infrastructure and provide valuable services to our citizenry.” Barnes says he’s more than willing to keep paying the PPT. “I just hope it isn’t too much when the Village gets around to assessing ours.”

Sheila Lafleur, proprietor of the Lighthouse Café, said Saturday that she hadn’t decided how she’ll vote on the measure and didn’t want to go on the record with her opinion of it. She said she’s had the same kitchen equipment for a long time, it’s still serving her well.

Colleen and Ed Jones acquired the Betsie Bay Marina from Kris Mills in mid-June this year. Colleen is familiar with the PPT from previous business ventures. “The existing tax law is really poorly written. It’s difficult to put reasonable values on your property, and it’s not enforceable. It’s a double tax on business owners.” She plans to vote yes on Tuesday to eliminate PPT, but concedes that the proposal “isn’t ideal—the allocation measure for replacement of revenue is kind of weird.”

Michele Cannaert of the Conundrum Café was undecided on the proposal when we spoke on Friday. She had applied for and received the new exemption, for businesses with less than $80,000 in equipment. “That’ll be $700 less that I’ll owe for next year. I can use that money to increase my inventory, or hire another person.

“I’m looking into whether that exemption will still be in effect if the proposal doesn’t pass,” she said. Cannaert, who is also an educator in the public schools downstate, is concerned about loss of revenue for schools and other services, but thinks the personal property tax is a disproportionate burden on small businesses like hers, not just in terms of money, but time and hassle. She files her taxes quarterly, and must submit a list of equipment values every time.

“It would be great if they could just keep that [small business] exemption in place even if the proposal doesn’t pass,” said Cannaert. “That would cover it. I don’t see why these larger companies need another break. But I do wonder how they’re going to offset that loss with the use tax. The use tax is unpredictable too.” Ψ

*Source: MLive report

Crystal Lake and Cold Creek

In Community Alert, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Environment, Fishing, Health, Infrastructure and Planning, Public Safety, Water on April 11, 2014 at 9:18 pm

April 15, 2014 2:30 pm

Volume of water moving through outlet is reduced, shore line lowered. Sheen still present.

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Reduced flow through outlet

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Sheen still present, note center blob appeared just before this picture was taken.

April 14, 2014 6:25 pm

Sheen oozing up from submerged shore continues to be flushed through the outlet.

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Sheen blob rises up…

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… and dissipates.

April 14, 2014 12:20 pm

A significant amount of water was moving through the pond as the inlet and outlet boards had been removed. With the high volume of water, residual sheen from a hydraulic fluid leak should have been flushed to the booms or downstream. Sheen seemed to be percolating up along the shore, upstream of the outlet water control structure.  Could the increased water flow be pulling material out of the soil?

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High volume of water through the outlet

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Sheen detail upstream of outlet

 

April 12, 2014 4:10 pm

Dan Hook, Village of Beulah reported by phone that two boards have been removed from the outlet water control structure and that the sheen seems to be significantly reduced. Current pictures should be posted tonight or early tomorrow morning.

April 12, 2104 1:50 pm

As of 11:25 pm, with removal of the first board from the inlet and outlet water control structures and the resulting increased water flow through the pond, there is still sheen on the surface, possibly more than before the boards were removed. Read yesterday’s update below for implications. Photos by Dan Kelly.

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April 11, 2014 8pm

On Sunday April 6, 2014, a chemical / oil sheen was seen flowing into Crystal Lake from the Cold Creek settling pond.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a draft report on April 7, which provides an overview of the situation. Until the situation is resolved, find ongoing updates and answers to frequently asked questions here.

Who is the dredging contractor?

The Village of Beulah’s dredging contractor is Biotech Agronomics of Beulah, and the company representative is Kevin Bonney.

The DEQ took water samples,  why aren’t the samples being tested to determine exactly what the chemical / oil is? Wouldn’t that help identify the source?

The DEQ’s priority is to determine the appropriate response, which may or may not require the samples or source to be immediately identified. The first phase was to have the contractor deploy oil absorbent booms. Preliminary inspection of the sheen samples by Greg Goundy on site and by his colleagues at the DEQ Cadillac office suggested that the sheen could be either diesel fuel or hydraulic fluid. The dredging barge did not appear to be leaking hydraulic fluid into the pond, but Kevin Bonney stated that there had been a hydraulic fluid issue prior to the barge’s launch, so the next phase was to remove the barge from the pond.

If the sheen disappears, removing the barge was the correct response and analysis of the sample is not needed – the sheen was hydraulic fluid. If the sheen persists, then the barge was probably not the source and the samples might then be analyzed to provide further clues.  Unfortunately sample analysis is expensive and may not provide enough data to identify exactly what the sheen is.

If the sheen is not hydraulic fluid from the barge, what is it?

The sheen could be 1) an oil related consumer product discarded in or near the pond, eg used oil filter or mostly empty quart oil bottle,  2) legacy contamination from 20th century industrial activity (eg trains, fuel depot) migrating towards the pond through ground water, 3) other.

Is there still a sheen on the pond?

Yes, as of 3:00 PM April 11, there was a sheen on the south edge of the pond, west against the stop logs (boards) of the outlet water level control structures and swirling just downstream of the outlet water control structures. The barge was removed on the afternoon of April 10.

What’s the next step?

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires that the boards be removed from the inlet and outlet water control structures so that fish can travel up Cold Creek. With the consent of the DEQ, the boards will gradually be removed by the contractor, starting at approximately 9:00 am on April 12. Oil absorbent booms will remain to catch sheen pulled downstream by the increased flow. Changing flow could effect the situation. If the sheen seems to persist or grow during the day, the barge may not have been the source and further action will be required. Citizens are encouraged to visit the pond and monitor the sheen during the day.

Check out these Facebook profiles for pix, comments and movies.

Lee Sprague
Robert Bushway

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.

Special Meeting Monday to Discuss Millage for Sheriff Department

In Breaking, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Law & Order, Politics, Public Safety on August 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

UPDATE: County clerk Dawn Olney sent an email today, August 26, at about noon with an agenda attached for either a continued or rescheduled meeting on the Sheriff millage issue, to be held tomorrow (Aug. 27) at 1 pm, same place.

8 am, County Commissioners Room, Benzie County Government Center, 448 Court Place, Beulah.

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