2016-10-27 / Life in Leelanau

Veteran commissioner faces challenge in District No. 3

BUNEK BUNEK District 3 county commissioner William J. (Will) Bunek, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Dean Robb.

District 3 is made up of Suttons Bay Township and a portion of Bingham Township.

Mr. Bunek held the seat from 2004- 2008, and reclaimed the seat in 2012.

Mr. Bunek has been the owner of Alpha Electric of Suttons Bay for 38 years. He is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Traverse City and has been married for 41 years to his wife, Carol.

They have four children and five grandchildren.

Mr. Robb did not respond to our questions or phone call.

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A profile of county commission seats can be found on Page 4 of this section. We asked each candidate to respond to four questions and to limit their responses to 75 words apiece.

1. Leelanau County has demanded repayment from local governments in your district for back taxes, interest and penalties owed by the former BayView development. While an agreement may be worked out reducing the original bills, which totaled about $1 million, did the county overreach by demanding the penalties and interest of 1 percent per month?

BUNEK: My answer would have to be “no.” Even though the Treasurer wished to have the county cover most of the penalty and interest to these entities, the county law firm nor auditor would allow that to happen.

We were informed by our lawyers that, neither the treasurer nor the commissioners have the authority to dismiss tax penalty or interest. The commissioners can lower the interest rate but not retroactively, so that would not help …

2. Leelanau County has a sizable fund balance and, compared to other county governments, a manageable debt for its retirement system. Given the county’s solid economic outlook, is it time for county government to expand services into other areas?

BUNEK: Growth and expansion of county government is taking place. For example, the commissioners just approved an order for a 911 upgrade and first responder radios. As wonderful a program as it is, it will cost the taxpayers approximately $3 million. The county recently added dogs to the sheriff department and court house. The Prosecutor, planning and inspections office have recently added staff or increased their hours. The demands for government expansion are relentless and unending. …

3. Recent meetings of local governments across the Peninsula, including county government, have included sizable time slots for discussion of the petroleum pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac. Are discussions of issues that local governments have no authority to regulate an appropriate use of meeting time?

BUNEK: Generally speaking, anything from A to Z can be considered to be affecting Leelanau County. I do not believe most issues over which local units of government have no authority to regulate are agenda items. These items, although important in their own right, are not an appropriate use of meeting time. Our First Amendment allows public comment on any topic at commissioner meetings, therefore individuals can introduce non-agenda items.

4. Are you familiar with — and what are your opinions of — the Michigan Open Meetings Act and the state Freedom of Information Act?

BUNEK: I am very familiar with the Michigan Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. These laws protect the people of Leelanau County and our state. They help public officials be transparent and honest, which are essential in a constitutional republic such as ours.

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