The Benzie County Record Patriot is taking a look at the top news making events of 2019. The following is part two of two.
Hubers selected to emergency manager position
Rebecca Hubers was selected as Benzie County’s new emergency manager.
Hubers comes with 19 years’ experience as a conservation officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Prior to being a Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, Hubers also worked at Benzie County Central Dispatch.
Hubers brings considerable knowledge and practical experiences regarding emergency management that comes from her experiences for the past 19 years as a conservation officer. During her career in the MDNR, she has participated in multiple incident command training sessions, has been involved in multiple search and rescue missions and has served as a valued team member for other natural disaster responses.
As a conservation officer, Hubers is also a Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards certified police officer with the State of Michigan.
Hubers holds an associate degree in criminal justice and bachelor’s degree in management, both from the University of Phoenix.
START Program graduates four students
Four students graduated from the Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Readiness Training program, hosted by the Advocates for Benzie County.
Matthew Throop, Steven Birdsley, Leah Wachlin and Chris Burley graduated from the program with a certificate from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters recognizing the skills they learned during the class.
The program gives people interested in the building trades classroom and hands-on experience.
Other portions of the hands-on experience includes building Adirondack chairs and picnic tables.
The classroom portion involves the fundamentals of the building trades, and was created by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
Group begins exploring possibility of aquatics center in Benzie
A group of Benzie County residents took the first step to see if their dreams of building an indoor aquatic facility could become a reality.
After hosting a public forum to discuss the idea with the public, the Benzie Aquatic Center took the first step towards building a pool facility by beginning a feasibility study. The group is working with the Issac Sports Group, an independent consulting firm specializing in aquatic facility needs, analysis, programming, planning and management, to conduct the feasibility study.
The assessment will include community and market analysis, program development and a program model, design concepts and site options. It also will estimate project costs and financial analysis, as well as options for partnerships, ownership and management.
Tracy said if the assessment finds an aquatics center is feasible, the organization will plan its next move.
The Benzie Aquatic Center became an organization in 2016, when a group of local residents and stakeholders formed the organization, which is a Michigan nonprofit dedicated to exploring the need, potential and feasibility of a comprehensive year-round indoor aquatic center to serve Benzie County and the surrounding area.
Townships vote on marijuana bans
Several townships looked at banning recreational marijuana facilities in August.
Crystal Lake Township held a vote on the matter on Aug.6, after a successful petition drive started by a group of residents opposed to marijuana establishments in the township after the township, and the State of Michigan, voted to decriminalize marijuana in 2018.
The ballot proposal won with 145 “yes” votes to 107 “no” votes.
However, the township later ruled the election invalid after Benzonia Township voted against allowing a similar petition to create a special election on Nov. 5 to vote on a recreational marijuana ban.
According to Benzonia Township’s legal counsel, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act states a petition drive can only bring about an election on a “regular” election date, not create a special election.
Crystal Lake Township is expected to again receive a petition to request a ballot item to ban recreational marijuana facilities in 2020.
Homestead,Inland Township hear citizens’ opinion on proposed gravel pit
The Homestead Inland Joint Planning Commission heard from residents of both townships opposing a proposed gravel pit mining operation.
The request for a special use permit was brought before the commission by Alan Leman, owner of ATP Precision Paving, in order to open the proposed gravel mining operation in an area currently zoned rural residential. The operation would take place on a parcel of land on Oakley Road, just within the uppermost corner of Inland Township’s northwest boundary. The 149 acre parcel abuts the northeast corner boundary of Homestead Township, which is part of the Pere Marquette State Forest.
According to Leman, the operation would follow all rules and regulations to operate safely and preserve the environment.
However, the majority of area residents attending recent joint planning commission meetings were not supportive of the proposed gravel mine, citing concerns about environmental damage, dust, traffic safety and road wear, noise and the impact the pit may have on property values as reasons they opposed the operation.
Also in response to the proposed gravel mining operation, three citizens came together to form the Friends of the Platte River Watershed. The group opposes the opening of the proposed gravel pit.
The planning commission has yet to approve or deny the request, and has since requested more environmental, property value and road impact studies.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosts 50 millionth visitor
On Aug. 19, the National Park Service (NPS) welcomed the 50 millionth visitor to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore).
Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich greeted Meghan Boertman and her family of Norton Shores, Michigan, with enthusiasm and gifts, at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire. Ulrich announced the occasion to a full visitor center, and park rangers and the rest of the visitors applauded as Meghan and her family walked through the door.
It was the Boertmans’ first visit to the National Lakeshore. Meghan and her husband Spencer were traveling with their two children, Jacoby and Levi.
The Boertmans were presented with a plush black bear, an annual park pass, “Beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes” and “Legend of the Sleeping Bear” souvenir books, and a DVD of the official slide show, “Dreams of the Sleeping Bear,” shown regularly at the visitor center.
Thompsonville gets grant to create mural
The Village of Thompsonville will receive a $10,000 Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) grant to create a mural.
The grant was awarded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and the Alliance for Economic Success helped village government apply for the grant.
The grant will be used to put a mural on a municipal storage building that happens to be the gateway to the village and the neighborhood. The building is at the intersection of Lindy Road and Michigan Avenue.
All traffic passes this area and it will be a source of pride with the mural and a landscaping project that is proposed as part of this project.
Citizens will help with the garden and painting to create excitement and enthusiasm for the neighborhood.
Beulah looks for solutions to storm water runoff, e.coli
Several organizations are working together to write a grant that could help the Village of Beulah reduce the amount of E.coli from entering Crystal Lake from stormwater runoff and Cold Creek.
Those organizations, which include the Village of Beulah and the Benzie Conservation District, are teaming up to write a grant in hopes of receiving funding for stormwater management from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s Nonpoint Source Polition Program.
If successful, the grant will fund projects aimed at filtering stormwater runoff on its journey to Crystal Lake. Solutions cold include rain gardens and retention ponds, where the water can collect and soak into the ground. Special filtration cylinders and trenches could also slow water down.
The project could also include keeping some sections of Cold Creek open that fill with sand and sediment, so the water flows steadily and E.coli doesn’t have the time to accumulate.
Weldon Township builds walking trail
A new walking trail along the scenic Betsie River has been opened in Weldon Township.
The trail, which is at the Betsie River Day Use Park is located on Wolf Road, just outside of Thompsonville. The trail is almost a third of a mile long, and there are many natural features to be seen on the walking trail.
Aside from views of the Betsie River, the trail is home to many native plants and animals. One of those animals is the wood turtle, which nests in the area.
The trail features benches for people to rest while enjoying trail, and there will eventually be signage, including a sign marking the Betsie River Day Use Park Walking Trail and kiosks to provide information about different areas of the trail.
The trail came about when Weldon Township was awarded the Building Healthy Communities Greenspace Improvement Projects to Increase Physical Activity Grant, up to $15,000, in February.
The township wanted to put in a walking trail at the park to encourage the enjoyment the natural area, as well as promote the healthy benefits of walking. The trail is on property that Weldon Township leases from the Department of Natural Resources. At the park is a kayak/canoe access site, as well as an ADA compliant ramp so individuals may access the Betsie River.
GTRLC purchases Woodcock Lake property
The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy acquired property in Almira Township for a proposed preserve that features not only a lake, but also frontage on the Platte River.
The proposed Lower Woodcock Lake Preserve is 230 acres, including the 22 acre lake. The lake is undeveloped and the property features an unnamed stream that flows from Upper Woodcock Lake. It also has half of a mile of frontage on both sides of the Platte River.
The proposed preserve is a mix of northern hardwood forest, conifer swamp and pine plantation. Common loons, a protected species, have been documented on the lake, and the property provides habitat for red-shouldered hawk, another state threatened species.
Around 70 percent of the parcel shares boundaries with state land, which helps create a large block of natural land.
An investment group owned the land previously, and used it for camping, fishing and hunting.
Benzie Bus serves millionth rider
A commuter from Traverse City became the Benzie Bus’ millionth rider.
Nate Ely boarded the bus at 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 8 during his daily commute from Traverse City to his job at St. Ambrose Cellars. Ely is the millionth rider since the bus began operating in 2007.
During the milestone hour, Ely was given a certificate for free rides for a year as well as a basket of goodies from many supportive merchants.
The Benzie Bus was started as a coffee table conversation between area residents, including some members of the Benzie County Human Services Collaborative.
Funds were raised for a study, which was done by a firm with expertise in transit, which indicated there was a need for a transit system in Benzie County.
The study was brought before the Benzie County Board of Commissioners, and they approved of a ballot item in the 2006 election asking residents for a millage to support a transit system.
Around 59 percent of voters voted for the millage, and Benzie Bus was started.
Woman goes missing in Honor
Adrienne Evelyn Quintal disappeared from her property in Honor on Oct. 17 after she called a friend and said she had been in a shootout with two men, one whom she thought she had shot in the face.
When law enforcement arrived at her property in the 900 block of Indian Hill Road, they observed multiple bullet holes in the cabin, and searched the surrounding area.
Officers forced their way into the cabin and found personal items belonging to Quintal, including a cellphone, a purse and a handgun registered to her.
Another search was done around the cabin with a K-9 unit and thermal imaging, but found no one.
Officers applied and received a search warrant for the cabin, and evidence was collected for the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, including shell casings, all belonging to the same type of round.
No blood or other evidence of personal injury was found in or around the cabin. Evidence suggested multiple shots were fired from inside the cabin.
The family offered a reward, which peaked at $100,000 in November, but was then lowered to $10,000.
Several elections were held in November in the city of Frankfort and Crystal Lake Township.
In Frankfort, a four person race for three seats on the Frankfort City Council ended with MaryAnn Norton Short winning a seat with 276 votes. Current council member Dan Walenta was re-elected with 183 votes. JoAnn Holwerda, who served previous terms from 2001 to 2008 and from 2009 until 2017, also was elected with 183 votes.
Council member Bob McNabb did not keep his seat, receiving 171 votes.
Frankfort also voted 216 to 102 to amend the city’s charter to create a five-member compensation commission, which will be able to evaluate and set pay for council members.
City officials say the amendment would help with stagnating payments to elected officials, which get paid $12 per meeting for up to three meetings, per month; a rate set in 1980.
The voters of Crystal Lake Township decided to renew a road millage to help repave the township’s roads.
The millage refresh and renewal renewed the .9861 mills, and restored .0139 mills rolled back by the Headlee Amendment, for five years, which will raise an estimated $173,340 in the first year. The millage will go toward improving, repairing and maintaining asphalt roads in the township.
Berns retires as central dispatch director
Ron Berns, director of Benzie County Central Dispatch, retired on Oct. 30.
A retirement party was held for him the same day in the Frank Walterhouse County Commissioners Room, where current and former staff from the county’s emergency response teams came to wish him a happy retirement and present him with parting gifts.
Berns worked as the county’s director of central dispatch for eight years.
Berns said he had plans to move Monroe, where he was previously central dispatch director for nearly 20 years.
Rebecca Hubers, Emergency Manager for Benzie County, will take on the position director of central dispatch director.
Paul Oliver opens cardiac rehabilitation center
The new cardiac rehabilitation center at Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital is open after issues with equipment kept it closed a year after its unveiling.
The center’s first day open was Oct.31.
The new center is bigger than the older one and can hold more equipment, so there is less waiting time to use the various machines. The equipment itself helps monitor a patients’ condition, and can even send information directly to the patient’s records.
It also makes it easier for staff to monitor patients conditions while they’re at the center.
The new rehabilitation center also contains a walking track, natural lighting and a view of the forest and horizon outside the hospital, including Lake Michigan.
There also is a “cooling patio” overlooking the forest.
The new rehabilitation center is an improvement over the windowless storage room the former cardiac rehabilitation center was located in since 1998.
Rosa to run for sheriff, Schendel announces retirement
Kyle Rosa has announced his desire to seek election to the office of Sheriff of Benzie County in November 2020 following Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel’s announcement that he planned to retire at the end of his term.
“After 39 years in law enforcement it is time to enjoy family and spend time with the grand kids,” Schendel said. “I have encouraged my undersheriff, Kyle Rosa, to run as my replacement. Kyle has dedicated his life to the citizens of Benzie County and has their best interest at heart. He will make a fine sheriff and has my full support!”
Rosa has been with the Benzie County Sheriff’s Office for 31 years. He started out as court officer under Sheriff Zane Gray, and has served as a corrections officer, marine deputy, road patrol deputy, detective, D.A.R.E. officer, school resource officer, road sergeant, detective sergeant and currently serves as undersheriff for Schendel.
Rosa’s desire to serve comes from a long family history of first responders, military personnel, and his great, great, great grandfather Addison P. Wheelock, who was the first sheriff of Benzie County back in 1870.
Area leaders attend Leadership Learning Lab
A diverse group of leaders from various Benzie County organizations attended the final session of an eight-month leadership course held by Rotary Charities of Traverse City.
The final Leadership Learning Lab course session was held Dec. 11 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. Josh Stoltz, executive director for Grow Benzie; Linda Farrell, county commissioner; Jessica Carland, mobility manager for Benzie Bus; Geri VanAntwerp, executive director of Benzie Area Christian Neighbors; and Jason Barnard, supervisor for Benzonia Township, attended with other leaders from the surrounding region.
The sessions were meant to bring together cross-sector leaders from nonprofit organizations, government, business and tribal government to learn about how to be an adaptive and collaborative leader.
The classes focused on adaptive leadership, time management, collaborative structures and mindsets, facilitation, cross-sector collaboration and decision making, communication skills to strengthen collaboration and bringing everything together and setting goals for the future.
Participants not only met at the eight main sessions, but also met eight times in smaller “pod” sessions.
There were 30 people total in the course.