Boyne City’s annual state of the community luncheon was held on Thursday Oct. 13.
The event included updates on area organizations, events and governmental operations by Boyne City Manager Michael Cain, Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2), Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Little, and outgoing Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann.
Following are highlights of the guest speakers’ comments.
Little kicked off the presentation as the first speaker of the day.
“This event, along with several others in the Boyne community, made me realize that Boyne City is a special place,” He said….
“The connectedness that you share through this event, through Team Boyne, through the school district participation that you all do, the many things that you do make Boyne a special place.”
He added, “And, as an outsider who’s becoming an insider very quickly, I appreciate this and I appreciate the effort that it takes to make that connectedness happen.”
Little said the transition of responsibilities from former Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss to himself went smoothly.
He also said the community’s partnership with the school system is vital to educational success.
Little said the school board is working hard right now to develop a strategic plan for the next three to five years.
“We’ve got some interesting activities where they’ll (school board members) be engaged with community members about that conversation,” Little said.
Little broached the major bond which was approved by voters last May.
Already purchased are new buses, new technology for classrooms and they are looking at making more improvements in the future.
Little said the school system is up 54 students over last fall, which is nearly 30 more students that they had budgeted for.
Boyne schools also has 15 new employees.
Little discussed some shared goals for the school system.
The three main things include working hard with teachers and principals on student data to look at student growth; they are paying attention to students who are economically disadvantaged; and, the school system is working on its teacher evaluation system.
“This school district really does some neat things for kids so they don’t fall through the cracks,” said Little.
Boyne schools is also trying something called “tele-health” which will enhance the school system’s school nurse program. The program could allow a student who becomes sick at school to see a local doctor over the internet instead of having to leave school to get checked out for certain illnesses.
Little said this would be ideal for parents who cannot leave work to take a sick child to the doctor in the middle of the day.
Christensen said he will work to continue to be a good steward of taxpayer money.
“When we last talked a year ago, I left you with these five things: I said lower taxes, better roads, technology upgrades for improved access and service to the taxpayer, improving the quality of life throughout all of the parks in Charlevoix County, and the lowest operating tax in 38 years for the county millage,” he said.
Christensen said the non-motorized trail from Boyne City to US-31 progress continues.
In 2017 there are plans to apply for the third phase of the trail.
On the governmental side, Christensen discussed the brownfield permit it approved for St. Marys Cement’s improvement project.
The county renewed its contract with the special prosecutor who works on domestic violence cases.
The county has improved its security by installing panic buttons and bullet-proof glass, buying more and better cameras, and reducing the number of entrances to one. A security officer has also been hired to help keep the building safe.
Christensen also spoke about the county’s new website, calling it more user-friendly.
The county purchased a multi-use building over the past year in order to house the sheriff, transit and road commission equipment, small jail area, and personnel on Beaver Island.
“Which sounds impressive until you realize that it’s only about three-and-a-half people,” Christensen said. “The good news is, though, that the original estimates were $1.5 million to build this huge multi-purpose building. We bought the building for $300,000. And, with renovations, we should come in somewhere under $600,000 or maybe $650,000—tops.”
The county’s work on bringing broadband to county institutions like the road commission.
Christensen also touched on local parks improvements and the county’s recycling program.
“This year, we were able to remove 5,000 tires from Charlevoix County as part of that program,” Christensen said.
Christensen said the county recently approved next year’s budget at 4.45 mils for the county’s operations. That is down from 4.46 mils last year.
Christensen said this makes the parks & recreation millage and the veterans millage budget neutral, as the county pledged when it asked voters to approve them.
The county’s operating millage is now at its lowest level in 40 years.
Roadwork in the county this past year included Korthase, Deer Lake and Ellsworth roads.
In the nine years the county road millage has been in place, 49.08 miles of local road has been fixed.
Christensen said nearly 80 percent of the roads have been addressed in two-thirds of the time by smart purchasing and planning.
“Now, we really have some of the best roads in Northern Michigan throughout Charlevoix County,” Christensen said.
Christensen said there are many local boards at the county level which are in need of members. He urges people to call the county clerk’s office at 547-7200 and ask about which boards currently have vacancies.
Baumann, who has nearly three weeks before retiring, talked about his time as the chamber of commerce director for the last eight years.
He also said he feels good about leaving the chamber of commerce with the new director Ashley Cousens.
“This last year marks another historic year of progress for our community,” said Cain, who opened his remarks by saying this year is the 160th anniversary of the first settlers coming to Boyne City.
“Since we met last year we completed and opened our new and much more efficient DPW facility up at North Boyne,” Cain said. “Since we met last year we’ve made great progress on building the new voter-approved city facilities project which will house our police, fire, ambulance, city hall operations, public meeting spaces, as well as our new museum, along with space for the MSU extension and 4H programs.”
He added, “When the new facility opens next year, hopefully in time for the 4th of July, our 111-year-old tower clock and bell—which is currently getting refurbished in Maine—will be operational for the first time in some 40 years and will join our currently 99-year-old LaFrance firetruck in proper public displays fitting their historic roles in Boyne City.”
Cain also discussed the results of the city’s future goal-setting session.
“[T]he City Commission has selected three main citywide goals on which we will focus,” he said. “They are: Housing Diversity, Economic Development and Parks and Recreation.”
Cain said employers are scrambling to find employees to expand their operations but feel a lack of housing is making that difficult.
“While this is much more than a Boyne City issue, we are stepping to the plate and looking to see how we can help address it,” he said. “To that end, Boyne City will be holding a Housing Summit next Thursday Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Boyne Area Senior Center, where we will be bringing together regional and local leaders to begin to address this topic.”
Cain talked about economic development and all the new businesses and projects around Boyne.
“This has been another banner year for downtown Boyne City with new businesses coming online, including Rich Bergman and his team at the Boyne City Taproom; Catt Development, which has not only completed another phase of their residential cottages development at One Water Street but has transformed two very tired buildings into homes for new businesses 7 Monks Taproom and Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center,” he said.
Cain said the momentum must be kept going and that Boyne’s success should not be taken for granted.
Cain also talked about the city’s parks and recreation projects.
“Despite our quality resources, this probably remains one of the areas where there is the greatest potential for further gains,” he said. “Since the last time we met, we completed the plan development process of our Boyne on the Water project, which helped refine our vision for Boyne’s waterfront from the Harborage Marina to the City’s Main Boat launch, based on the input and efforts of a good number of the community residents.”
Cain added, “Since then, the city has applied for two major grants to help secure the Open Space across from Family Fare, moved forward on plans to update and expand the City Marina and improve that gateway into Boyne City, and applied for a grant to help Catt Development build a new fishing pier at the end of the new walkway at the west end of Water Street.”
Cain also touched on projects like the mountain biking trails at Avalanche Preserve and the sanitary sewer project between Sommerset Pointe and the city.
Cain closed by wishing Baumann well in his retirement.
“I have had the privilege of speaking at every single state of the community since Jim Baumann started them many years ago,” Cain said. “How they have grown and improved over the years, from those early morning sessions that were relatively lightly attended, to what we have here today. As Boyne has gotten its groove on, so have these events. And, Jim Baumann has been a huge part of our growth and success.”
He added, “So, Jim, on behalf of the City of Boyne City, its government, its people and myself personally, please accept our sincerest thank-you and best wishes for many great years ahead.”