Boyne City’s top stories of 2016

In a few days, another year will have come and gone. For many, the New Year’s holiday is a time to reflect on the past before preparing for the future.
Here are some of the stories that helped make another year in history in the Boyne area.

Losing an Icon
After a long life of 95 years, Edward H. Hennessey of Boyne City died on May 29, 2016.
Throughout his time in Boyne City, he became known for a wide variety of causes and accomplishments, including the American Legion, Boyne Valley Lions Club, Camp Quality, Camp Daggett, and more.
But, in the community of Boyne City, the person he lived to be is remembered every bit as much as the things he did.
“I referred to him as Dad, and he referred to me as John-Boy,” said Mayor and fellow Lion Ron Grunch. “He was very special to me as far as a person-veteran-dad. My wife and I took several trips with Ed and Irene. They were like family to us.”


Lawman Dies
Other familiar faces were lost throughout 2016, including a longtime local law enforcement official who served for over a quarter of a century.
Former Boyne City Assistant-Chief of Police Jeffrey Gettel, who retired back in November 2011, died at his home at the age of 55, in May.
“[W]e were advised that we’ve lost one of our own with the passing of Jeff Gettel,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain at the opening of the Tuesday May 24 Boyne City Commission meeting.
“Jeff Gettel was a longtime member of the Boyne City team.”
He added, “Jeff came to us as a police officer on Aug. 30, 1985, after working with the Charlevoix County Sheriff (Office).”
Gettel served with the sheriff office for six years.
Then, in October 1991, Gettel became the Boyne City Assistant-Chief of Police.
“Overall, he had 26 years of service with our police department and he did an excellent job in all of his roles and capacities with us,” Cain said.

Millage approved
The Boyne City Public Schools $10.315 million technology/busing/improvements bond issue was approved by voters.
“We’re just ecstatic over here at the school,” said former Interim Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss. “Our theme for this campaign was ‘sustaining our success’ and we just hope that people have been following us and seeing what we’re trying to do with the community’s children—this is basically a vindication that people feel we’re going in the right direction and I’m appreciative for their support.”
Moss said community buy-in on the school system’s mission is as important as the good work his staff of teachers and support staff are doing.
Moss said, if all goes well, taxpayers should see a reduction in their tax rate over time, while at the same time the school district will be able to maintain and update its aging buildings and complete other projects.

New super
Patrick Little joined the community as the new superintendent of Boyne City Public Schools.
Little was offered the job at a May 5 special school board meeting by a 6-1 vote of the Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education.
Little signed on for a three-year contract with an annual starting salary of $110,048. Former superintendent Peter Moss, who served as interim superintendent, ultimately retired officially on June 30.

Historical clock
2016 was the year Boyne City officials decided to have the city’s historical 1904 E. Howard & Co. tower clock restored.
The Balzer Family Clock Works of Freeport, Maine, was contracted and is currently working on the clock.
The estimated cost to restore and transport the clock—including four new faces and sets of hands—is proposed to be $92,244.
The clock will be the centerpiece of the new city hall facilities project.

Water quality
Every year, Boyne City releases its water quality report without much fanfare. But, anyone who has heard about the drinking water crisis downstate may be wondering just what is in the local water supply.
Nearly two weeks before the city released 2016’s report, a concerned citizen approached city leaders with questions about Boyne’s water system.
We took those questions to Boyne City’s resident water expert.
According to Boyne City Water/Wastewater Superintendent Mark Fowler, the city’s water supply is safe and all recent test results show lead levels well below the accepted standards.
Fowler said there are no Boyne City lead mains or pipes that city officials are aware of.
Fowler said the major portion of the city’s water lines have been replaced, over the last number of years, with newer materials.

New sheriff
Chuck Vondra, of Boyne City, ran unopposed for the position of retiring Charlevoix County Sheriff W. Don Schneider.
“Ever since I could walk and talk I’ve wanted to go into law enforcement,” Vondra told the Boyne City Gazette shortly after Schneider officially announced his retirement last spring.
A Boyne City resident, Vondra, 46, is married and has two children.
Vondra has 27 years of experience in law enforcement.

Sidewalk café win
Selling alcohol at sidewalk cafés is now legal in Boyne City.
Boyne City commissioners decided this past year to give the practice a try and come back after a year or so and review how it went.
Local restaurants which operate sidewalk cafés will be able to serve alcoholic drinks to their customers most days of the year if they so choose. Proponents say this move will only encourage more visitors to the downtown area. The main concerns of opponents was similar: that it would invite too many people to sit near the sidewalks and create foot traffic issues.
Only time will tell now whether the move is a good fit for Boyne City.

Ironton Ferry
Despite a car fire in fall 2015, that caused extensive damage to the Ironton Ferry, the ship was repaired and made seaworthy again by its usual spring start time.
According to the Charlevoix County Transportation Authority, the cost to repair the ferry was expected to be more than $95,000.
The ferry sustained damage on Friday Oct. 2, 2015, when a Charlevoix man’s car caught fire while being transported across the Ironton Narrows. The ferry typically operates 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., mid-April to Mid-November.

Big money
Boyne City governmental, economic development and business officials gathered for the official finalization of a $500,000 Michigan Economic Development Corporation job creation/blight elimination Community Development Block Grant at Boyne City Hall for the Catt Realty SOBO Redevelopment Project. Glen Catt’s project to renovate and reconstruct two properties located at 202 and 210 South Lake St. in Boyne City now house a bar and restaurant called the 7 Monks Tap Room in addition to a new Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center.
“Without support from funding options like CDBG, Brownfield and local reimbursement programs, investments in redevelopment projects would not be possible,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain. “The need for public and private partnership is key to community development.”

Breaking Ground
The Boyne City facilities project, estimated to cost $6,593,374, broke ground in 2016 and looks to be on schedule to open sometime in the summer of 2017.
The new city facilities will house Boyne City’s police, fire, ambulance, city hall and museum operations. Space has been designed to include the MSU Extension Office as well.
In addition to the Boyne City Commission approving restoration and reuse of the city’s original tower clock in the new facility, display space has been designed to properly house the city’s first piece of motorized fire equipment, its 1917 LaFrance fire truck.

Poverty Soars
Child poverty went up in 80 of 83 Michigan counties since 2006, including Charlevoix County, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2016 released by the Michigan League (MML) for Public Policy.
In Charlevoix County, 19 percent of children lived in poverty in 2014, a 31 percent increase from nine years ago.
Overall, Charlevoix County ranked 20th for child well-being by county. For child poverty, Charlevoix County ranked 21st among the counties.
“We think all kids count—no matter where they live, their racial or ethnic back-ground, or their family income—but do the elected officials charged with supporting their well-being share that priority?” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “This book is not meant to be simply a reporting tool, but a catalyst for action. If legislators are truly concerned with child well-being, they have to address income and racial disparities, and invest in proven two-generation strategies that help kids by helping their parents.”

The Doc retires
On July 1, after 47 years in practice, Dr. Richard Mansfield officially retired from his regular practice, though he has continued working at the Boyne Area Free Clinic. Mansfield began his work in Boyne City. He is credited with delivering over 1,500 babies.

Officers honored
Local officers were among those honored by the Michigan Sheriffs Association for their bravery in 2016. The commendations were awarded for their performance during the May 16, 2015, shoot-out near Boyne City, which left Charlevoix County Sheriff Deputy Cpl. Fred Hasty seriously wounded. In mid-June, the Michigan Sheriffs Association Awards Committee awarded the Distinguished Service Medal to the following officers:
• Boyne City Police Department Assistant Chief Kevin Spate
• Charlevoix County Sheriff Deputy Corporal William B. Church II
• Michigan State Police Trooper Zachary Helton
Michigan Sheriffs Association Medal of Honor went to the following officers:
• Charlevoix County Sheriff Office Corporal Frederick Hasty Jr.
• Sergeant George R. Lasater
• Undersheriff Charles Vondra

Possible development
It’s still too early for specifics, says developer Ted Macksey, but he is working to rezone a 30-acre plot of land in Boyne City where he could put up to 300 apartments or a variety of other housing options.
“Finding a well-done, affordable place to live is a serious issue that we have in our area—not only in Charlevoix County, all over the state and all over the country,” said Macksey. “So, looking at higher density developments is kind of the way things are going.”
The general consensus has long been that there is great need for housing for working families.
Some local business owners have said they cannot find enough employees because there is no place for them to live locally.
Opponents to a potential housing project fear such a development could lower their nearby property values. The matter is currently going through a public hearing process before the Boyne City Commission.

Water Woes
Dennis Hass and his Walloon Lake Water System, Inc. paid $30,000 in fines this last year to resolve the lawsuit brought on behalf of the State of Michigan by Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof.
Hass and WLWS were made to pay after breaking an agreement not to go after customers who complained about unfair treatment. Hass was penalized for filing a federal lawsuit against five of his customers in violation of an agreement they had signed with Telgenhof on Sept. 10, 2013.
“I am glad we finally have payment from Mr. Hass and WLWS. They paid an amount larger than we originally sought, without the risk of appeal or collection,” Telgenhof said. “I am confident we would have prevailed on appeal but this gives us certainty which is worth a good deal of money. More importantly, I hope that a $30,000 penalty is enough to convince the defendants not to violate our agreement in the future.”

Animals in need
The Charlevoix Area Humane Society announced it was in financial trouble this past year.
“We greatly need your support to raise revenue for our operating expenses,” said Charlevoix Area Humane Society Executive Director Scott MacKenzie. “[W]e need to balance the budget to have a financially stable humane society. please help!”
Over the past few years, the local humane society has expanded its services with spay and neuter programs, a foster program, additional medical help for animals, rabies vaccinations in advance for all adopted animals and more.
You can make a donation online at or call (231) 582-6774 if you’d like to help.

Serious allegations
Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education member Bob South made some serious allegations against his own board this past fall.
South brought his concerns to the Boyne City Gazette, which investigated the matter for several weeks.
“As I ponder moving forward in running for an open board position, I want to be certain that my time is well spent and that there are no barriers to providing what is best for not just my three children but for all children in the Boyne City school system,” South wrote in a statement to the Boyne City Gazette.
South had been a member of the board since October 2015, when the death of a long-time board member left a vacancy.
South’s concerns included his worries over the school board’s conflict of interest policy and how board members communicated outside of meetings.
School board officials claimed no inappropriate actions were being taken and the matter seems to have gone quietly away.
South lost his bid for re-election to the board but remains an assistant wrestling team coach.

Meeder Quits
The Boyne City Main Street Program still needs a new director.
Former Boyne City Main Street Program Executive Director Lori Meeder, who had the job for nearly a year-and-a-half, told the Main Street Board of Directors her last day will be Monday Sept. 5.
“The board was surprised and disappointed in her decision,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain. “Despite her long-term love and support of Boyne City and the Boyne City Main Street Program and its volunteers, she decided that the executive director’s position was not the proper fit for her.”
All these months later, the Boyne City Main Street Board is still looking for a replacement.

Open Space funding
Up to $2.4 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was approved to help purchase the 475 North Lake St. Open Space property.
City officials hope to use grant moneys and donated funds to purchase the property, which they are currently leasing for $1, from the two private individuals who bought the property in hopes of it being used for public park space.

City goals refined
Boyne City officials hope refining its goals list from 18 issues to three categories will improve chances of accomplishing those tasks.
The Boyne City Commission voted unanimously in August to adopt a new plan that focuses on three main categories: Parks and Recreation, Affordable Housing, and Economic Development.
“It doesn’t take anything off the table,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain. “It just helps us organize it better.”

Childcare Dearth
Boyne City planners began discussing a need for childcare facilities and the effect of the city’s stringent regulations on such businesses this last year.
The general consensus of the planning commission was that the current ordinance is excessive and needs to be looked at further.
Some of the concerns commissioners said should be considered in potentially altering the ordinance language would be noise, general traffic, school bus traffic, locations of facilities and whether they are “harmonious” with the neighborhoods they are in.
City planning staff was directed to research the matter further and draft new language to bring back before the planning commission for review.

Baumann retires
After a little over eight years as the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Jim Baumann retired.
Baumann got a sendoff on Friday Nov. 4 at the Boyne City Tap Room where friends and local officials, chamber members and well-wishers gathered to say “goodbye” to what was the face of Boyne City for nearly a decade.
Baumann was hired in July of 2008 by the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to that, he was a magazine publisher in California, prior to which he worked for what was then the Charlevoix County Press, which eventually became the Boyne Citizen-Journal.

Water/Sewer Windfall
Boyne City officials gathered Wednesday Nov. 23 at their temporary city hall to formally accept nearly $691,000 in stormwater and sewer system grant moneys.
“This is a project and an opportunity we’ve been working on since … 2012-2013, when we first applied to the State of Michigan and the DEQ for their SAW Grant,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain.
“The SAW Grant is an excellent opportunity for communities such as Boyne City to take a good look at our stormwater and sanitary sewer systems and the back systems—equipment that help make sure those are viable systems.”
The total project is estimated to cost $767,608, of which the City of Boyne City will provide an estimated $76,761 local match.

Cop shooter Sentenced
James Franklin Cook, 55, of Boyne City, was sentenced to a minimum of 469 months in prison for a crime spree that occurred on May 16, 2015, and culminated in a shoot-out with officers from the Charlevoix County Sheriff Office, Boyne City Police Department and Michigan State Police.
Cook shot and permanently injured Charlevoix County Sheriff Corporal Fred Hasty.
Cook pleaded guilty to multiple charges committed on that date—assault with intent to murder, resisting and obstructing a police officer causing serious impairment, five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, first degree home invasion, breaking and entering a building with intent to commit larceny, two counts of unlawful driving away of an automobile and malicious destruction of property.
As a result, he will be eligible for parole in the year 2054, when he is 92 years old.

Statue erected
After years of planning, and months of construction, a new sculpture celebrating Boyne City’s historic roots—entitled The Last River Draw—has been installed on the banks of the Boyne River in the heart of Boyne City’s Downtown District.
Final preparations on the project were made on Wednesday Dec. 7, in Old City Park.
The sculpture was created in order to celebrate Boyne’s heritage rooted in the logging industry.
The life-sized sculpture represents a logger using his pike pole to help move the logs down the river.
Local artists Martha Sulfridge and Wally Barkley, along with local artisan and builder Andy Poineau, are the three key people behind transforming the vision and models of the sculpture into the fully developed reality.
The project was sponsored by the Boyne City Main Street Program and its design committee.
It was funded primarily through donations from members of the public and a $25,000 matching grant from the MEDC.

Fruge found guilty
After a day-long deliberation, jurors found Matthew Mark Fruge, 35, of Boyne City, guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
That charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Fruge was charged with open murder for the killing of Jacob Conklin on Oct. 1, 2015 at Fruge’s home in Bay Township.
Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof presented 13 witnesses, laying out a case that showed Conklin was a friend of Fruge’s who had just arrived in Charlevoix County, from his Florida home, a day earlier, on Sept. 30.
The two stayed up all night abusing drugs and, the next day, Fruge took a butcher knife from his kitchen, went to his driveway and stabbed Conklin 10 times in the neck, shoulder and head, severing both carotid arteries and the jugular vein.
Fruge will be sentenced on Jan. 13, in the 33rd Circuit Court.

New director
The Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors hired Ashley Cousens as its next executive director.
Her first day in the Chamber office was Sept. 13.
“We had more than 20 applications for this position, we interviewed six finalists, and Ashley was our consensus choice,” said chamber board president Michael Doumanian. “We’re confident that she will do a great job and everyone who meets her will be as enthusiastic as we are.”

New health services
Poor and uninsured people dealing with mental illness and substance abuse will get more and better care thanks to a recent grant to Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center.
The $96,250 grant, part of $535,000 given to six Michigan “safety net providers,” will allow the Boyne Area Health Center to hire a full-time behavioral health therapist.
“This grant will allow us to widen our array of services offered in Boyne City at our two facilities: Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center (BAHC) and Munson Healthcare Boyne Rehab Center (BRC). Specifically, it will allow us to embed a behavioral and mental health therapist at Munson Healthcare Boyne Area Health Center with access to a psychiatrist at Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital, who will be available to see any patient within the practice as well as patients referred by physicians outside of our healthcare system,” said Chelsea Platte, Executive Director of the Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital Foundation.

Avalanche trails
Avalanche Nature Preserve in Boyne City is closer to having a world-class, sustainable and professionally built non-motorized trails thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of over 200 patrons throughout northern Michigan.
The campaign surpassed its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 and received a matching grant with funds made possible by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Work began on Sept. 13 by the 3-man team. Trails of varying skill levels will be completed so there should be a variety of new trails to choose from. As of Thursday Sept. 29, the first 1.25 miles of new trail were opened for everyone to enjoy and reviews coming in are very positive.
When all phases of the project are complete, this project will add almost 10 miles of new, sustainably designed trails that will become a destination trail system for the region.

Boyne Housing Summit
Boyne City officials and other community leaders, developers, business people, and concerned citizens gathered for a meeting to discuss the current state and future of housing in the area.
Boyne City Mayor Tom Neidhamer opened the event with a little background on how the housing summit came to be.
“This is a result of our city-wide goals that have been an accumulation of data from the city commission, from Main Street, the chamber, and a lot of data has—not only locally but regionally—identified the housing crisis in Northern Michigan, and we need to address this,” he said.
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said the issue of a lack of affordable housing for working families has been the subject of discussion for a couple years now.
“It was basically not just coming from one source—from businesses, people connected with our industrial park—but all across the community,” Cain said…. “So, tonight, we’re looking to start a conversation.”
He added, “I don’t see that this is going to be an easy solution because, if it was, it would have been solved already.”
Cain said affordable housing is not just a Boyne City issue.
“This is not even just a Northern Michigan issue,” he said. “This is a statewide and possibly, a national issue.”
Cain added, “But, it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with because it’s having a lot of repercussions for individuals, businesses, and communities as well.”
This was the first major public discussion of the housing issue but Boyne City officials intend to continue working on the matter in the future.

Crisman a murderer?
Rachael Marie Crisman, 30, of Boyne City, was charged with open murder. The charge stems from an incident on the evening of Tuesday Oct. 25.
According to law enforcement documents, a neighbor called police to report that she had seen Crisman struggling or fighting with someone in the late afternoon.
Moments later, the witness saw Crisman come out of her home, at 606 East Main St. in Boyne City, and she was covered in blood.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found Regina Plevinski, Crisman’s mother, dead inside the home.

Attempted murder
What began as a traffic stop at around 7:35 p.m. on Friday Oct. 21, ended with a suspect getting shot after allegedly trying to run over a Charlevoix County Sheriff Deputy.
According to the Charlevoix County Prosecutor, 63-year-old Steve A. Martin of Charlevoix was charged, on Tuesday Oct. 25, with “assault with intent to murder” as well as “assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer.”
The suspect in the traffic stop resisted and struggled with Kaminski and another officer at the scene.
Kaminski used his taser on the subject, at which time Martin ‘floored it’ in his truck, according to an eyewitness at the scene, drove in the direction of the officers ‘really quick’ and ‘almost hit the male officer.’
Kaminski fired three times at the vehicle, striking Martin, who stopped the vehicle immediately.
According to the eyewitness, the officer fired “in self-defense.”

Enrollment spike
The Board of Education of Boyne City Public Schools passed an improved, revised 2016-17 budget at the Dec. 14, regular meeting, attributable to an increase in enrollment this fall.
The budget revision was made on the recommendation of the Finance Committee, chaired by Treasurer Ross McLane.
The Board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation.
The revised budget was based on an increase of 55 students since last fall. Currently, 1,390 students attend BCPS.
The new fund balance will be projected at 13.93 percent.
In passing the revised budget, the Board set aside funding for future: bus purchases, investment in expanded programming in preschool education and increased support for teachers using technology effectively in the classroom.

Bye, Bea!
Long-time Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education member Bea Reinhardt attended her last school board meeting this winter after choosing not to seek yet another term on the board.