Boyne City Gazette top local stories of 2013

top stories of 2013As 2013 becomes just another set of numerals in history’s ash bin, the Boyne City Gazette takes a few moments to look back on some of the stories that made headlines over the course of the year.


Following is a selection of stories—some that impacted many, and some that were felt by few—recapped for your reading pleasure as you head into 2014.

Dilworth purchased

The Dilworth Hotel in downtown Boyne City was purchased in mid-July by Tall Pines Investment of Boyne City.

 The 27-room hotel, which has been closed for nearly five years, originally opened in 1912.

No plans have yet been announced for the historic hotel.


Fireworks ordinance

 The majority of Boyne City Commissioners cited safety and tranquility as their reasoning for implementing a new, more stringent fireworks ordinance on Tuesday April 23.

The fireworks ordinance’s new language is more restrictive than the freer state law that was passed just last year to allow Michigan citizens the right to use more types of fireworks, and to have the option use them more often.

Fireworks cannot be used between midnight and 7 a.m.

The new ordinance requires anyone seeking to use display fireworks to ask the city commission for permission to obtain a permit. Fireworks are now allowed to be used only on the day of, the day before and the day after select Federally recognized holidays.

Police can determine if a person has violated the new ordinance. The fireworks can be confiscated and a fine may be imposed. Financial penalties for violating the new law are $50 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

$112k building donated to free clinic

 Thanks to a generous donation from the Davern-Fochtman Trust, the Boyne Area Free Clinic now owns the building in which it is housed.

The trust, which is located in England, officially turned over ownership of the facility on July 31.

According to the Charlevoix County Property Assessment Inquiry Database, the 2013 State Equalized Value of the property was $56,300, which means the estimated value is $112,600.

The donation came as a boon to the clinic, which is funded by donations that allow it to cover operating costs and wages.

The Clinic offers basic primary care, immunizations and urgent care.


Kirtland wins appeal

 Boyne City officials had no authority to stifle wood fuel pellet manufacturer Kirtland Products’ ability to operate.

In a 17-page ruling on the Aug. 20 decision, Charlevoix 33rd Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas stated the Boyne City Planning Commission originally granted approval of the conditional use without imposing any requirements or conditions … and therefore had no reason to rescind the permit.

“Kirtland is not using the property inconsistent with the approved conditional use of manufacturing wood pellets,” Pajtas wrote. “Accordingly, the Planning Commission is without authority to rescind its previous approval for noncompliance with nonexistent requirements or conditions.”

The fight to operate began back in fall 2011 almost immediately after Kirtland began operating and citizens began complaining about noise levels.


BC commissioners remain

All three incumbent Boyne City Commissioners retained their seats in the Tuesday Nov. 5 election.

 Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch had the most votes, with 333; Laura Sansom came in with the next highest count at 302 votes; commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne rounded out the wins with 290 votes.


Walloon Lake Water System roller-coaster

If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em out.

The meeting which began as an opportunity for customers of the Walloon Lake Water System (WLWS) to learn details of a settlement regarding system owner Dennis Lee Hass’ dismissed case ended with a discussion over the possibility of buying his water system.

Later, more than 80 percent of the water system customers signed petitions stating that they would like to buy the system for an estimated $1.3 million.

Some water system customers were unhappy with Hass’ alleged practices—which court documents revealed ranged in allegations from forcing new customers to pay for bills owed by previous homeowners, placing liens upon customers’ properties for fees owed by prior property owners, threatening to shut off water supply to customers for reasons other than non-payment of moneys legally owed, and requiring customers to purchase replacement parts directly through Hass.

Now the matter must be negotiated among water system customers and the system’s owner.


County mulls 50-50 island garage deal

 Both Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners and Road Commission are negotiating a deal for 50-50 ownership of the proposed million-dollar Beaver Island garage.

Following two days of intense discussions—and despite having voted to retain sole ownership of the facility nearly nine months ago—commissioners agreed to have their civil counsel research a proposed rent-to-partially-own deal for the proposed mixed-use garage facility.

Charlevoix County Road Commission Board Member Keith Ogden brought the county board an offer from his board late in 2013.

Now, the county’s legal counsel is working up proposals for various lease lengths—both 20 and 40-year terms—which would eventually give the county and the road commission each 50 percent ownership of the proposed $1.5 million mixed-use garage facility.

The facility is intended to house the road commission, Charlevoix County Transit Authority and Charlevoix County Sheriff Office equipment and work spaces on Beaver Island.


BC home invasion

While home invasions are relatively prevalent across America, they are big news when they happen in a sleepy little town in Charlevoix County.

 Carey Johnson was asleep when an intruder began kicking in the front door to his Boyne City home early Monday Sept. 2 after his teenage daughter awakened him with the news that someone was trying to get into the house.

Johnson armed himself and went downstairs where he found 23-year-old Aaron Spencer Himmelspach of Boyne City sitting in a living room chair.

Himmelspach was eventually convicted of third-degree attempted home invasion. He received a sentence of nine months in jail, to serve six months in jail with credit for five days in jail. He was also ordered to pay nearly $5,000 in court fees and restitution in addition to serving 24 months on probation.


Longtime principal leaves

 Boyne City Elementary School Principal Fred Sitkins left the school after nearly 14 years on the job.

Sitkins left to work on the tall ships in Traverse City with the Inland seas organization.

Calling it a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, Sitkins said he will miss Boyne City schools but had to follow his dream to work with the Inland Seas organization.


BC mulls dog park

 After enough interest was shown in a potential dog park in Boyne City, a citizens committee was formed. The committee, which has investigated locations, sizes and amenities, will continue to report back to city officials.

So far, a triangular slice of Avalanche Park in Boyne City has been but one suggested location for the proposed park.

If approved, the park would likely be fenced in and possibly offer segregated areas for dogs of varying size.

The Boyne City Commission voted unanimously to approve a motion to support the concept of a dog park and go forward with allowing the city staff to work with the dog park citizens committee on preparing a more detailed plan.

New county prosecutor

 Charlevoix County’s new Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof, who was elected by a more than 2:1 ratio back in 2012 officially began his four-year term as the county’s new top cop a year ago this week.

“I hope to be a steadying influence in the office and in county government in general,” he told the Boyne City Gazette last year. “My entire career has been devoted to solving problems, not creating them, and I plan to continue this as prosecuting attorney.”


Boyne City makes national register

Boyne’s Central Historic District joined the list of 1,600 Michigan listings on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

 The effort to attain the designation was spearheaded by Boyne City Main Street Program Manager Hugh Conklin.

Many of the buildings in the district were constructed in the late 1800s.

The Boyne City Central Historic District consists of the following:

South from Boyne River to Main Street;

East from Front Street along Ray and Water Streets;

Boyne Avenue to Pearl Street


BC police equipped with cameras

 Nearly every interaction with a Boyne City Police Officer is now recorded for the benefit of both police and citizens.

According to Boyne City Police Chief Jeffrey Gaither, who announced the department’s newest public safety enhancement, the body cameras were funded with proceeds from the annual Boyne City Police Department Drag Races.

The tiny cameras can be mounted in an unobstructed location—even on an officer’s lapel—in order to record traffic stops, pedestrian interactions and emergency calls.

The officers are not required to turn their cameras on at the beginning of their shift.


Lock-down merely a safety precaution

 Police from several agencies were unable to find any evidence of a blood-covered man with a gun allegedly crossing M-75 in Boyne Falls near a school on Friday May 17.

The investigation began around 7 a.m. with Boyne Falls and Concord Academy Boyne and Boyne City public school systems all locking down their respective campuses as a precautionary measure.

“We had everyone, including the DNR and K9 units, checking around,” said Charlevoix County Under-sheriff Chuck Vondra. “The description we were given was very clear: a man wearing khaki shorts and a brown shirt with blood on it had a handgun. Nobody could find a drop of blood or any evidence of a crime being committed.”
By 1:10 p.m. that same day the lock-down was called off.