By Benjamin J. Gohs
Three incumbents of, and one challenger to, the Boyne City Commission met on Monday Oct. 14, in the Boyne District Library to answer questions from the forum’s moderators and audience members.
Businessman Don Ryde is challenging incumbents Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch, Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom, and Boyne City Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Delbert “Gene” Towne for one of three available seats on the board.
“Boyne City’s reputation seems to have improved significantly … to what do you attribute this and what would you do to keep it going?” asked forum co-moderator and Executive Director of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Jim Baumann.
Ryde responded to the question first by saying that Boyne City is just a beautiful area with a community that cares.
“I would say that we have a really unique, special community,” said Sansom…. “People just working tirelessly all the time to keep this community going. I don’t think we have a lot of infighting or disagreements. I think everyone seems to be on the same page and going forward positively.”
Grunch said it’s a “cultural thing” and that Boyne’s many volunteers make projects their own.
“It’s a cumulative effect that this volunteerism has,” Grunch added.
Towne said Boyne City’s location, volunteerism, and governmental workers contribute to the area’s greatness.
Co-moderator and Boyne City Gazette Publisher Chris Faulknor asked the candidates which two things they would like to help change about the area.
“One of the things I’d like to see change across from Glen’s (Markets) is the private development that’s sitting there that’s an eyesore (Boyne Beach Club) and something needs to happen there,” Ryde said…. “The other thing I would love to see is to help get that marina developed.”
Sansom said the marina project is also on her list as is the proposal to turn the pavilion in Veterans Park into a year-round facility for the farmers market and other uses. Sansom said she is also a big supporter of maintaining a healthy tree population.
“First thing that comes to my mind is creating a heightened awareness off the Deacon’s Fund that is managed and supported through the Presbyterian Church,” he said…. “The primary purpose of the Deacon’s Fund is to support people in times of need, particularly homeless people.”
Grunch said he, too, favors improving the city’s municipal marina as long as it is economically feasible.
“I would like to see the Dilworth (Hotel) project completed,” Towne said. “I think that would be a great addition to that end of town.”
Towne said the marina and the paving of dirt and gravel roads is also important to him.
Candidates were asked if they thought the city erred when it originally approved Kirtland Products’ permit to operate.
Ryde said the city needs to make Kirtland comply with any laws or ordinances that exist and, if they can, put more ordinances in place in order to get Kirtland to conform.
“Possibly, in the beginning, we did need to do more research,” Ryde said.
Sansom said the Kirtland project was already in progress when she was elected to the commission but, in looking at the official procedural records, that the right questions were asked of Kirtland and research was done leading up to Kirtland receiving its operating permit.
Sansom said Kirtland needs to step up and honor the assurances it made during the permitting process.
Grunch said the Kirtland issue was primarily handled by the Boyne City Planning Commission and he believes they did ask the right questions but that he would like to see Kirtland “step up to the plate and honor their agreements.”
Towne said he believed the right questions were asked but he was not sure the planning commission received all the right answers.
The candidates were then asked about their feelings on the need for new city facilities.
“I think we should use all our available city property so we don’t take any property off the city tax roll,” Towne said. “If possible, I would like to see our EMS, fire and police in one building.”
He added, “I would also like to see maybe moving our DPW up to our north yard.”
Towne said it should be handled in phases as the budget allows.
Grunch said the city facilities need to be modernized and the emergency services need to be consolidated.
“I’m really in favor of upgrading our facilities. It’s very important to this community,” Sansom said, adding that she would like to see the police department moved somewhere more visible. And, she said the DPW equipment should not be taking up valuable space on the waterfront.
Ryde agreed that the DPW equipment should be moved off the waterfront and the emergency services should be consolidated.
Candidates were asked about their position the failed proposal from earlier this year to allow alcohol to be sold in sidewalk cafes in downtown Boyne City.
“I do understand your want but what I don’t believe is there’s a need,” Towne said, adding that he spoke to some people concerned that there would be a congestion of foot traffic on the sidewalks.
Grunch said he, too, was concerned about congestion.
“Since our last vote on it I’ve had 13 people personally thank me for voting it down,” Grunch said. “In public forums a lot of time it only seems like the only people that show up for them are the people that are in favor of the project or the proposal … and a lot of times you don’t really get a true feeling, and through contacting people at church, friends, everything else, Boyne City doesn’t have to be like everywhere else.”
Sansom “echoed” Grunch’s sentiment, adding that her personal conversations resulted in a 4:1 ratio of those against the measure.
Sansom said she personally opposes such a thing because only one business wanted it and that would be changing the law just to suit one business, and allowing sidewalk cafes could cause obstruction on a public walkway.
Ryde, who works for the business that requested the ordinance change, said everywhere he goes, this type of alcohol service in sidewalk cafes is acceptable.
“I think the public was mislead into thinking drinking on the sidewalk meant you could just walk around and drink anywhere on the sidewalk and that is just not true,” Ryde said. “You have to meet the laws and the guidelines. You have to have it corralled … and you can get shut down if there is a violation … it’s very much regulated.”
Ryde said the outdoor cafe alcohol service is a necessary part of many successful resort areas, especially since many businesses rely on the revenue they earn six months out of the year to stay in business.
“You say you talked to 13 people, that’s not a consensus; you talk to 50 or 60 people, that’s not a consensus; I have talked to hundreds upon hundreds, that’s not a consensus either,” Ryde said. “You can do a survey and find what the real feel of the community is. You can’t just talk to a few people.”
Election day is Tuesday Nov. 5.
Go to www.boynegazette.com to see the Boyne City Commission candidates’ profiles that were published in the Oct. 9 edition of the Boyne City Gazette.