Cigarettes allowed at beaches; discussed among other issues at Charlevoix County Board Meeting

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Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners convened on Wednesday Dec. 17 to discuss various pieces of business before the holidays.

The following briefs cover the highlights of the meeting.

MSU Extension changes

MSU Extension Office Interim District Coordinator Jennifer Berkey briefed the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners on impending structural changes to the local MSU Extension district.

“During the reorganization process five years ago, we discovered that district three, which is where Charlevoix County is housed, was just too large of a district for one individual to manage. The same thing was discovered for district four, which is east of us. That particular individual managed over nine counties. And so, as part of that evolution, we’ve determined that, in order to give the counties—to strengthen those relationships and to be more present—those district boundaries have changed and will be changing this spring.”

District 3 will be comprised of Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Manistee counties. Jennifer Berkey will continue to be the interim district coordinator. You can reach her at berkevi@msu.edu or 231-922-4821.

District 4 will include Alcona, Arenac, Crawford, losco, Oscoda, Ogemaw and

Roscommon counties. Kelley Hiemstra remains the district coordinator. She can be reached at hiemstra@msu.edu or 989-345-0692.

The new District 14 will be made up of Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Montmorency, Otsego and Presque lsle counties.

Currently, the MSUEO is looking for a new district coordinator for Charlevoix County with hopes of having an individual in place by this spring.

“There will be no changes at all to how the county operates, who is in the county representing Charlevoix County for MSU Extension,” Berkey said. “There’s not going to be any programmatic changes at all, it’s just administrative boundaries only.”

Employee time off

Outgoing Charlevoix County Commissioner Larry Sullivan (R-District 6) told the board he felt the county’s employees should have the day after Christmas off since it fell on a Friday.

Sullivan said it’s not a regular occurrence and shouldn’t pose any issue.

However, Charlevoix County Clerk Cherie Browe said the last time the county building closed after Christmas it caused major issues with the union.

Charlevoix County Commissioner Ron Reinhardt (R-District 3) said the county employees get enough time off as it is.

Charlevoix County Commissioner George T. Lasater (R-District 1) supported Sullivan’s position.

Charlevoix County Sheriff W. Don Snyder said the unionized employees up at the jail and sheriff’s office felt that, if the county’s non-union employees got a day off, then the unionized employees should be paid extra holiday pay whether they worked or not.

Charlevoix County Coordinator/Human Resources Director Kevin Shepard said the county building would be a ghost town the day after Christmas.

Chairman of the Charlevoix County Commission Board Joel Evans (R-District 4) said the matter could be looked into for future years but should remain as-is for this year—county employees did not get the day after Christmas off.

No vote was taken on the matter

New iPads

The board of commissioners discussed whether to buy new iPads for themselves because the ones they bought in 2011 are running slower than the new iPads that are available.

The county’s personnel and internal government committee suggested that the board should buy the new Microsoft Surface Pro III model tablet for all board members.

The unspecified dollar amount will come from the county general fund.

The motion was unanimously approved

Fixed asset management policy

The county board has developed a policy for maintaining fixed assets that will maintain sufficient information to permit the preparation of year-end financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles and adequate insurance coverage, according to county officials.

“It’s not any different than we’ve handled fixed assets in the past, we just have not had a formal policy in place,” said Browe. “And, our auditors have asked that we actually put it in writing.”

Fixed assets are comprised of land, buildings, improvements like parking lots, sidewalks and playgrounds, equipment like machinery and vehicles, and construction in progress.

Information to be maintained will include asset numbers, descriptions, asset classification, location, date of purchase, purchase price, serial and model numbers and estimated life of the asset.

The motion was unanimously approved

Fraud risk management policy

“This came out of internal government. This is just another standard thing that the auditors recommended we have a policy in place to address this issue or any other issues in the future,” said Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2).

According to the proposed resolution, the county is committed to preventing opportunities for fraud and theft, and it is essential that there are clear, written policies and procedures in place to ensure corruption is reduced to the lowest possible risk.

“Systems and procedures for the prevention and detection of fraud and theft have been designed and implemented to ensure a culture and environment that promotes honest and ethical behavior,” it states in the fraud risk management policy…. “The county coordinator and the fiscal officer are responsible for assuring that suitable levels of internal checks and balances are included in work procedures, particularly financial procedures.”

According to the new policy, all information dealing with the identity of the person(s) providing information on fraud or theft will be kept confidential and dealt with “fairly.”

The policy states that the county coordinator, in consultation with the county board, will decide on the type and course of any investigation into such matters.

“This will include referring matters to the police if criminal activity is suspected,” it states in the policy. “The county will prosecute and/or carry out disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

The policy further states, “The investigative process should not be misused and therefore, any abuse, such as raising unfounded malicious allegation, will be addressed as a separate disciplinary matter.”

The motion was unanimously approved

Marine grant

Resolution to apply for a renewal of the sheriff’s marine safety grant of nearly $23,000.

The grant has been used for the last few years to help pay for marine safety expenses.

Lasater asked about the status of the sheriff office’s water crafts.

“I think we’re in fairly good shape,” said Schneider. “The Zodiacs we’re going to get away from purchasing those in the future because they are very costly to maintain … but other than that we’re doing OK.”

The motion was unanimously approved

Remonumentation grant

Resolution to renew the remonumentation grant for 2015.

This grant would renew the $42,583 used to help replace the metal markers at the corners of certain areas of the county which help surveyors keep track of property borders.

The motion was unanimously approved

Tobacco-free policy

A resolution—requested by the county’s parks committee and reviewed by the county’s public safety committee—to adopt a resolution to prohibit the use of tobacco products at Charlevoix County beaches.

Evans said he felt the board should hold off on dealing with the matter until there is more time to look into the matter.

Sullivan said he would like to see the resolution passed with two changes: that it apply only to Charlevoix County-owned beaches.

Sullivan said the resolution would only apply to the beaches and not the rest of the parks where smoking is currently allowed.

Lasater asked if the board could have a member of the public safety committee present to answer questions if need be.

The motion to adopt the resolution died for lack of a second.

Christensen said the policy jumped the tracks when it mentioned electronic cigarettes, which contain no tobacco and do not emit smoke.

Following is the text of the proposed policy, which commissioners said they may discuss in the future.

“In an effort to preserve the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Charlevoix County … and whereas, secondhand smoke has been identified as a health hazard and is responsible for many deaths from lung cancer and exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease in many children; and whereas, children who attend or participate in athletic and recreational events can be affected by secondhand smoke and the use of tobacco products at such events send a harmful health message to youth and student athletes,” the proposed policy stated. “And, whereas, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States and a dangerous nuisance and pose a health threat to thousands of young children who are poisoned by the ingestion of cigarettes, cigarette butts and other tobacco products; and whereas, electronic cigarettes closely resemble the act of smoking and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that electronic cigarettes contain nicotine as well as carcinogens and toxic chemicals and they are known to have caused serious injury from explosion of their rechargeable lithium batteries; and whereas, creating smoke-free areas to protect the health of our children and the 80 percent of adults who do not smoke and a large number of citizens and visitors to the County of Charlevoix find smoking and the use of tobacco products a serious health concern in both indoor and outdoor environments, particularly where a large number of people are gathered in close proximity; and whereas, there is no Constitutional right to smoke or use tobacco products … the public safety committee supports this tobacco-free policy and recommends it to the full board.”

Charlevoix County Parks & Recreation Director Ross Maxwell said the main issue is the amount of cigarette butts that litter the beaches.

The county’s civil counsel said, if the county did approve such a resolution in the future, there would be no way of enforcing it.