Boyne City held its annual joint boards and commissions meeting on Tuesday Oct. 16 during which time officials discussed various implementation issues and strategies regarding the city’s goals.
Attendees included members of the Main Street Board, Airport Advisory, Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education, Historical Commission, the Boyne City Commission, Parks & Recreation, Museum, Planning Commission, and the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Boyne City has a rich history of doing community goal-setting and it generally starts after each election,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain…. “[W]e basically started by polling the community and the public first to see what was on their minds… Then, once we had that process taken place, we basically tallied all the results and tried to put them into a format where we put like topics by like topics to see what was coming from the community.”
The survey held earlier this year had more than 500 participants and yielded a number of issues Boyne City stakeholders felt were the most pressing.
From that survey, the top five issues were identified and presented to a group of nearly two dozen residents and officials at a goal-setting session held in August.
Those in attendance then broke into five groups to discuss and take notes on the five topics:
• Keeping young adults in Boyne
• Water quality protection
• Family supporting jobs
• Downtown vitality
• Affordable housing
The Boyne City Commission then discussed the issues and identified some six major action items.
• Be excellent stewards of taxpayer funds – Develop tools and processes to allocate city funds very efficiently and better forecast future City financial needs and challenges.
• Engage our Community – Get more residents involved in Boyne City government more often. Make it easy for residents to learn about city policies, operations and actions.
• Increase Housing availability
Work with all segments of the community to develop and implement a common vision leading to a sustainable mix of housing options in and around Boyne City that maintains our community character.
Align our city regulations and plans to support this vision.
• Protect Lake Charlevoix and the Boyne River – Protect and enhance lake and river water quality, especially impacts of storm water runoff.
• Keep Boyne City’s economy strong and resilient – Foster a strong local year-round economy that builds upon existing businesses and welcomes new compatible ones. Focus efforts and resources to create family sustaining jobs. Enhance city plans and policies to further support business development.
• Enhance recreational opportunities in Boyne City’s parks and public spaces – Complete current and planned recreation projects and develop a vision for future recreation programs.
“[T]he city commission has been working … to try and define these items better so that, at the end of two years or so, when we go through our next round of it, we’ll know if we made real progress and what the results would be,” Cain said.
“So, that’s kind of what we’re looking to do tonight which is basically put all of our heads together—we all have certain areas of expertise—and to see what each of us as individuals and through our boards and commissions or our organizations that are affiliated with the city can do to move these steps forward.”
He added, “We’ll talk about the high-priority actions that the city commission came up with so far, get your reaction to those, see if there are other ones that this group thinks would be appropriate to help implement the overlying and overreaching goal for that topic. And, we want to make sure, as we come up with those action items that they’re specific, measurable, have a deadline, and that we know who the responsible parties are going to be for them.”
Each of the attendees then shared how they and their respective boards could help achieve the city’s goals.
Cain said the city does a good job with regard to understanding its past financials. He also said there needs to be a close look at various future costs and obligations the city will incur.
Interim DPW Director Mike Wiesner said, “I’m working on the financial model as time allows… When I start out, I look first at all the purchases and funds and expenditure of the year and define what I call one-time items … second would be reoccurring … and the third item would be what you call ongoing major items. And those can be included in the forecast.”
He added, “I’ve done this in several communities and it’s very enlightening.”
Wiesner plans to present his findings to the city regarding the general fund in November.
One attendee said he would like to see “analysis” of bids the city accepts for its projects.
A discussion was then had on the potential for requiring bidders to provide a full breakdown of their costs so the city can determine whether the contractor’s profit margin is fair.
Cain also said the city’s capital improvement plan could be more thorough.
“I think we have some excellent ideas,” said Boyne City Mayor Tom Neidhamer. “Improve the capital improvement plan, include the bidding specs that would possibly include profit margins of companies in more details.”
Cain discussed how people are chosen and appointed for boards and commissions and how those boards get the pool of candidates in the first place.
One attendee said it would be good to advertise openings on boards to increase the number of applicants. She said right now many of the boards simply use “word of mouth” when there is an opening on a board. Another attendee agreed that the current way of doing things results in fewer potential candidates.
The airport board apparently has some voting members and some members who are not allowed to vote, and this creates a situation which makes it difficult to have more engaged members when some know their opinions don’t carry as much weight.
How board openings and other city information is shared was also discussed. Many of the city’s boards and commissions rely heavily on email and social media—rather than traditional media—to reach people.
The city already “advertises” on its own website and Facebook, yet some are concerned these methods aren’t reaching enough people.
Neidhamer said the number of responses to the city’s goal-setting questionnaire was good but could be better.
Neidhamer said the city doesn’t have a lot of property available to use for housing developments.
He also mentioned property maintenance standards.
Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson said the city could adopt the International Property Maintenance Code which would create a series of standards for all the items a house has.
“If the city commission wants to they can move forward with adopting that then we’d have to look at how that’s enforced and applied,” McPherson said.
Neidhamer said if the city brought substandard properties in the city up to standard it would increase the amount of available housing.
A potential tax credit to enable people to improve housing could be looked at.
McPherson said a maintenance code would not provide for tax credits but would be used punitively to enforce standards.
One attendee said a major issue with people not being able to afford housing is that their wages are so low.
Zoning changes which could make it easier to increase housing were also mentioned, as was the issue of “short-term rentals” which tends to mean less than a month.
Cain said Boyne City ranks near the top of the list in Michigan of cities with a glut of short-term rentals. The problem, officials say, is that short-term rental units reduce the amount of permanent or long-term housing in an area.
“How much that would impact the availability of some of these houses for other things, we don’t know,” Cain said. “But, it might be an issue worth exploring.”
Lake & River Quality
Cain suggested the city develop plans and cost estimates for alternate water discharge points to see if they can recreate what was built behind Sunset Park—the stormwater pipes used to run right into Lake Charlevoix but now there is a central filtration collection point.
Cain also said other water collection solutions should be looked at—rain gardens, ditches, etc.—to collect water rather than extending the storm sewer system.
Keeping Boyne City’s economy strong was discussed.
It was said that Boyne needs to decide what kind of community it wants to be—seasonal or year-round.
Attracting jobs which can sustain families was identified as a need.
Neidhamer said there needs to be community consensus on what direction Boyne City wants to go regarding its growth and the types of businesses the city wants.
“For as long as I’ve been here, two statements in this category have come up consistently year after year,” said Cain. “One is that we create a year-round economy to try to get away as much as possible from the cyclical nature that we have…. The other one is the family-sustaining jobs.”
Cain said the city should invest in the business park. The city-owned property there is currently near three-quarters full.
“We have a substantial industrial base,” Cain said. “So, how do we expand that?”
Having younger people tour local businesses was also mentioned as a potential way of retaining new workers.
Parks & Recreation
Neidhamer said Boyne has a huge inventory of parks and beaches.
The status of projects, maintenance, and opportunities for recreation were discussed.
Identifying priorities, calculating costs, and developing a timeline for those projects was discussed.
The parks and recreation board has addressed issues like ensuring bathrooms are kept clean, working with groups on educational programs, and overseeing improvements and maintenance to local parks.
One attendee mentioned potentially increasing boat launch space—especially for when special events cause long waits—at the city’s Open Space property.
Being more snowmobile friendly was also identified as a potential opportunity.
Boyne City Commissioner Ron Grunch said the city’s slogan of “Hometown feel, small town appeal” should be a threat running through all of the city’s planning efforts.
It was said that, before expanding and acquiring parks, plans should be made for how those properties will be operated and maintained regarding funding and manpower.
The findings from the joint boards meeting will be compiled and discussed at future Boyne City Commission meetings.