2017-10-05 / Front Page

Septics regs put on table

Advocates dominate meeting
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


THE MEETING room at the Connie Binsfeld Resource Center was filled with proponents of a county Point of Sale septic ordinance. THE MEETING room at the Connie Binsfeld Resource Center was filled with proponents of a county Point of Sale septic ordinance. It’s back.

The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners next month will consider options for adopting an ordinance requiring inspections of septic systems.

At its executive meeting this week, the County Board heard public comments from 15 Leelanau County residents, all of whom expressed support for the county imposing regulations requiring the inspections.

Representatives of each of the county’s lake associations, numerous other organizations and individuals, and arguably the board of the Benzie- Leelanau Health Department have recommended that Leelanau County adopt such an ordinance.

About 40 audience members filled the Commissioners Meeting Room on Tuesday morning. Asked by one of those offering public comment whether they favored adopting a septic inspection ordinance, about 30 people raised their hands.

The question of whether to adopt a septic inspection ordinance was not on the County Board’s meeting agenda. It was added Tuesday morning by District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell with the concurrence of District No. 7 Commissioner Melinda Lautner after it became clear that the audience was filled with people interested in the topic.

Lautner also serves as chairman of the board of the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department. She came under fire during this week’s County Board meeting, primarily from audience members critical of how she handled a motion by the Health Department board last week to recommend that Leelanau County adopt a septic inspection ordinance.

Lautner said at this week’s County Board meeting that she and the Health Department board are “still waiting for clarification” on whether a 3-1 vote in favor of recommending that Leelanau County adopt a septic ordinance will stand. She said that the Health Department board’s bylaws do not specify whether a majority of the full six- member board is required for a motion to carry, or just a majority of a bare quorum is required, as happened last week when four directors were present.

Lautner drew attacks from audience members who had been tipped off that the item would be discussed.

During a public comment opportunity at this week’s County Board meeting, Maggie Singer of Elmwood Township accused Lautner of a lack of professionalism in not understanding the bylaws of a body she chairs.

Gwenne Allgaier, chair of the Leelanau County Democratic Party, offered public comment twice during the meeting, at the beginning and the end. During her final public comment of the day, Allgaier questioned whether Lautner’s long-standing opposition to a septic inspection ordinance in Leelanau County was related to the possible impact on her family’s farm and her own finances. Allgaier suggested Lautner should recuse herself from any further board discussion or action on the issue.

During the County Board’s discussion of the issue as a late-addition agenda item near the end of the meeting, Wessell said he was concerned that Lautner’s actions at last week’s Health Department Board meeting had eroded “public trust.”

Wessell accused Lautner of “manipulating” the Health Department board as its chairman and trying to prevent a board decision that might lead to adoption of a septic inspection ordinance in Leelanau County.

Lautner interrupted Wessell to say that his accusation was “extremely unfair,” before she was reminded by County Board chairman and District No. 3 Commissioner Will Bunek that Wessell had the floor.

Earlier in the meeting, Bunek was forced to interrupt a member of the public, Victoria Gutowski, whose comments exceeded the five-minute time limit. About 45 minutes of public comment preceded the board’s heated discussion of the issue near the end of its three-hour-long meeting.

Earlier this summer pro-inspection advocates appeared at a County Board meeting to suggest consideration of a septic inspection ordinance. At the time, District No. 1 Commissioner Tony Ansorge asked that the issue go before the Health Department board for a recommendation before the County Board took action.

Ansorge said he believes it is now time for the County Board to consider the issue. He requested that it be placed on the board’s November agenda. County administrator Chet Janik said he would follow through.

Proponents of enacting a septic inspection ordinance in Leelanau County have long expressed concern that failed septic systems, particularly on waterfront properties on inland lakes, are endangering water quality. A septic inspection ordinance has been in place for many years in neighboring Benzie County.

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Seems shady, not on agenda,

Seems shady, not on agenda, then added hours before? Seems the people there had an "agenda". Next up, septic taxes, septic violations, septic payola......... Come up with something that works, like REAL sewers with 30 year assessment.