BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
The two big items on the ballot facing Boyne City residents at the upcoming election will be the Boyne City Commission race and the proposed Char-Em ISD Educational Enhancement Millage.
Five candidates are vying for three seats on the commission.
The terms of Delbert “Gene” Towne, Laura Sansom, and Ron Grunch are all up but Grunch is the only incumbent running in the race.
The new candidates for Boyne City Commission are Chad Culver, Sally Page, Andy Smith, and Dean Solomon.
The election will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday Nov. 7, at Boyne City Hall auditorium, located at 319 North Lake St. in Boyne City.
If approved, the millage will be levied at 1 mill for 10 years and would provide an estimated $5,233,750 in the first year; this would be approximately $615 per pupil.
If approved, the millage would provide an estimated $852,000 for Boyne City Public Schools in the first year.
See the full FAQ on the proposed millage in the PDF below.
Boyne City Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 4 to issue and accept absentee ballots.
Subscribers can read the in-depth coverage of the Boyne City Commission Candidate Forum below
BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS
The five candidates vying for three seats on the Boyne City Commission at the Nov. 7 election met last week to discuss their respective visions for the area before a crowd of several dozen people.
The Boyne City Commission Candidate Forum—co-sponsored by the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce and Boyne City Gazette—consisted of a 90-minute question and answer session which began with opening statements by candidates Sally Page, Dean Solomon, Ron Grunch, Chad Culver, and Andy Smith.
• Sally Page moved to Boyne City in 2005 and brings 40 years of legal and small government experience with her.
“Since entering the race, I’ve listened to your concerns, and three issues keep popping up: the affect resort growth can have on the cost of living here; the need for affordable housing because of the increase in job opportunities from new business; and the need to keep Boyne City’s history from getting lost in the shuffle as we grow,” she said. “As I have learned, Boyne City is one of the best kept secrets in Northern Michigan … and now that secret is out.”
Page added, “My goal as a commissioner would be to strike a balance between accommodating development and maintaining the character (of) our small town. We have a vibrant and creative community spirit. My hope is to keep the spirit going while we continue to grow, and to serve all of you—from the oldest to the youngest.”
• Though he has been visiting the area for nearly 12 years, Andy Smith moved to Boyne City three years ago and has been living there full-time for two years. He works in the marketing department of Boyne Mountain Resort and began thinking of running for office when the discussion over affordable housing began in recent years.
“What we have here is something that is truly special, something that I feel I have been welcomed into very well by this wonderful community,” Smith said, adding that he hopes to help the community grow in sustainable ways.
• The only incumbent running for a seat on the commission is 18-year Boyne City Commission veteran and former mayor Ron Grunch.
“(I’m) seeking to stay on the commission in order to keep the dream alive,” he said. “I have the background information and I would say maybe the track record of what’s happened in the 40-some years I’ve been in Boyne City.”
Grunch was raised on a dairy farm in Charlevoix and joined the U.S. Air Force for four years before going to college. Then he went on to own and operate several businesses for more than 40 years.
“My background in business, I think, has brought a lot to the board,” he said.
• Dean Solomon has been part of the Boyne City community since 2006.
He recently retired from the MSU Extension Office in Boyne, and has served in many roles as a volunteer, including work on the Boyne City Farmers Market committee, as well as work with the chamber and Main Street program, and a major trail steering committee, among others.
“I’m not ready to hang it up and just go fishing,” Solomon said. “I think I have both experience and creative ideas and would really like the opportunity to serve our community as a city commission member.”
• Chad Culver, who has lived in Boyne City for 20 years, said he has been looking for a way to serve the community.
“This will be the first time I’ve done something like this,” he said… “If you elect me in November, I’ll work hard and do the best I can.”
Why are you running?
Smith said he was encouraged to put his skills to use in working for Boyne.
Grunch said he wants to continue being an advocate for senior citizens.
Solomon said he can’t let go of the idea of serving the community and working to continue Boyne’s success. He also wants to work to give the citizens even more of a voice as well as working to protect Lake Charlevoix.
Culver worked nearly 20 years in public education and said he just wants to be more involved in the community.
Page said she would love to serve the community.
What civic projects have you helped facilitate and/or what civic committees or offices have you served on?
Grunch worked to help the Boyne Area Senior Center get built, he has served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, housing commission, worked as a youth risk minister, sings on the choir at St. Matthew Church, and has been on several committees like the one which helped direct work on the new city hall facility.
In addition to the farmers market, Solomon has served on planning commissions, and he’s been involved in the Leadership Charlevoix County Program as a mentor.
Culver worked as a school administrator and sat on numerous committees dealing with education.
Page said she managed the prosecutor’s office in Emmet County for 25 years. She has also played music for a church in Harbor Springs for 30 years.
Smith said he has no experience on civic boards or groups but that he has had experience working with sports teams, making sure every one is heard.
Candidates were then asked if they knew about why the fluoride had been discontinued in recent years and whether it was done so by a vote of the people.
Background: The Boyne City Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday May 13, 2014 to stop adding fluoride to Boyne City’s municipal water supply. Later that year, a ballot measure to reinstate the use of fluoridation of the city’s municipal water supply passed by a 2:1 margin in the general election.
“I don’t believe it’s been discontinued,” said Solomon.
All the candidates—other than Grunch—answered that they either didn’t know or that as far as they knew the water was still being fluoridated.
Grunch went on to explain the issue in brief (see above) to the audience.
What do you think about the current mix of businesses in Boyne?
Culver said, in 20 years, he’s seen a lot of change, but that any time a new business comes to town there is excitement.
“The variety … is a good thing,” he said. “It builds an interest for people who want to visit our community.”
Page said Boyne has a good mix and there are a lot of good businesses coming in.
“I thought, at first, how can we support that many, but the reality is they are all different and people enjoy them all,” Page said of the number of restaurants in Boyne City.
Smith said there is a good variety, having worked for some of the restaurants in town.
“I think we’re doing pretty well on restaurants for now,” he said.
“I think we could look into some other avenues moving forward.”
Smith added, “Beyond that, I love the feel we have in our town. I love walking down the street … and we have so much to offer, from the hardware stores to the mom-n-pop coffee shops.”
Grunch said everyone has identified Boyne City as a restaurant destination but that there are many businesses which provide jobs in the community that support families.
“The job creation in this community is second to none in Northern Michigan,” Grunch said.
Solomon said there is a great mix of businesses and that it would be good to attract even more small-scale manufacturing businesses.
Candidates were asked what they would do to make Boyne City more attractive to year-round residents.
Page said one of the issues facing full-time residents is affordable housing.
Smith said he hopes to raise a family in Boyne but that the city needs affordable housing—not to be confused with subsidized housing.
“I think we need opportunities for people to purchase or rent or be able to afford these houses,” Smith said…. “Somebody who makes $25,000 a year coming out of college, it’s hard for them to be able to find something.”
Grunch agreed that affordable housing is key.
Solomon said the city shouldn’t apologize for being a tourism hub, and said it is important to add a mix of businesses.
Culver said, as businesses come into Boyne, they will need qualified people and housing for those people. He also said the tourism aspect of Boyne needs to continue to be marketed.
The overwhelming majority of questions from the audience dealt with how candidates would address the housing issue in the area; those questions were consilidated.
“Yes, I am very aware of this challenge that faces our community,” said Smith, who represented a restaurant group when community discussions on housing began in recent years. He said housing is necessary but so are jobs which pay people enough to afford the housing.
Grunch said there are some opportunities for plots of land within the city but that careful planning must be done to ensure they are secure from flooding and other potential issues. He also said there is a need for subsidized housing for senior citizens.
Solomon said he recently attended the Northwest Regional Housing Summit in Traverse City.
“One thing I heard about a tremendous amount is we’re not alone … this is not a Boyne City but a regional issue,” Solomon said. He added that affordability depends on how much money you earn. He also said housing choices people make are different than they used to be.
“I think we’ve got to look very carefully at our master plan and our zoning ordinance to make sure that we’re matching what we hope to achieve with housing with what our laws say you have to build,” Solomon said. “I suspect that we are not quite as innovative as we could be in looking at things, especially things like housing choice, different types of buildings and structures.”
He also said the city needs to look at its processes to make sure it’s not creating barriers to affordable housing.
Culver said he feels it is important to have affordable housing and a lot of it. He said the questions about where it will be located, how it will be built, and who will build it need to be looked at.
“My goal would just be to learn more about it, get out in the community, start talking to folks,” he said. “And, once areas are identified with likely plots of land … who’s it going to impact, who’s it going to affect?”
Page said the housing issue is one of the top concerns of folks she has talked with, adding that there needs to be more year-round housing.
Candidates were then asked how they would fulfill their duty to the citizens.
Grunch said the city commission is a business and its main job is service. He said the main job of a commissioner is to create policy and allocate resources.
“It isn’t five people deciding what the city needs or what the people need,” Grunch said, referring to the city’s city-wide planning sessions. “It’s the citizens that are making that decision.”
He added, “Everything that’s been done in the last several years has been what the people asked us to do.”
Since Solomon decided to run for office, he said he’s been attending more city commission meetings.
“Sitting out there in the audience, looking at the commission, things look really good,” he said.
He added that there may sometimes be a disconnect between how city officials feel they are doing and how the citizens think things are going.
Solomon said things can be done to draw more residents to participate in community planning sessions.
Culver agreed that, often, city meetings are not well-attended and, even if they were, some folks may feel too intimidated at meetings to speak.
Culver suggested holding coffee hours at downtown shops with public officials to create a less formal setting for residents to talk with commissioners.
Page said, if elected, she would spend time in the community in order to get a better sense of ideas and concerns.
Smith said he would learn as much as he can about the processes of the city commission in order to best serve his constituents.
The candidate forum was co-moderated by Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Cousens and Boyne City Gazette Publisher Chris Faulknor.
To hear the rest of the questions and answers, listen to the audio of the meeting online at www.boynegazette.com.