<![CDATA[The Ticker]]> http://www.traverseticker.com Tue, 23 May 2017 22:25:48 -0400 <![CDATA[Kids Creek Restoration, Slowly But Surely]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/more-kids-creek-projects-set-to-get-underway A $200,000 project to increase the floodplain of Kids Creek near Grand Traverse Pavilions is set to get underway in June – one of multiple projects planned to proceed in 2017 as part of a multi-year restoration effort to improve the health of the waterway and remove it from the state’s Impaired Waters List.

Sarah U’Ren, program director at The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, appeared before Grand Traverse County commissioners Wednesday to brief them on the latest project, set to take place on Kids Creek’s Tributary AA on the south end of the Pavilions campus near Grand Traverse Commons (pictured). “Our plan is to increase the floodplain, so we’re going to reduce the flooding problems that this area sees when we see heavy rains,” U’Ren told commissioners. “We’re going to add a 20-30 foot buffer along that section of creek, plant 65 new trees and replace two of the culverts.”

Because the project will take place on county land, The Watershed Center – working in partnership with the Pavilions and Team Elmer’s – required commission approval to proceed. But U’Ren noted to commissioners that the “biggest thing you guys need to know with this project is that it’s not going to cost you a dime.” Project funding will instead come entirely from a $728,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant through the Environmental Protection Agency, which was awarded to The Watershed Center for green infrastructure improvements and bank stabilization along Kids Creek.

Commissioners unanimously approved the Tributary AA project, which U’Ren says – pending issuance of a Department of Environmental Quality permit – should start in June and be completed by the end of July.

The Watershed Center has worked on Kids Creek-related projects since 2003, which is at least as long as the waterway has been on the state’s Impaired Waters List, according to U’Ren. A two-mile section of Kids Creek in Traverse City’s urban core was put on the list after stormwater runoff and sedimentation depleted the stream’s aquatic insect populations – one of the key indicators of stream health, and upon which fish populations depend to survive.

“Kids Creek is a great urban creek that provides a lot of habitat, and it’s a great a way to connect people to the natural environment. There’s good potential for fish habitat there, for birds and other wildlife,” says U’Ren. “It’s also our only impaired water (in this category) in our watershed here…in my mind, it’s also the only one impaired mainly due to stormwater-related causes.”

The Watershed Center has secured approximately $4.3 million to date for Kids Creek-related projects through state and federal funds, private grants, and donations from partners like the Pavilions, Grand Traverse Commons and Munson Medical Center. Completed projects to reduce stormwater impact on Kids Creek so far have included:

> “Daylighting” a 900-foot section of Kids Creek (redirecting the stream into an above-ground channel) running through the Munson campus, creating nearly a quarter-mile of new naturally meandering stream;
> Eliminating 72,000 square feet of impervious surface by converting parking lot to pervious pavers, as well as retrofitting a basin to a rain garden on Medical Campus Drive and installing downspout planter boxes;
> Retrofitting 3,100 square feet of Munson rooftop to a green roof;
> Installing green roof, underground filtration trenches and a rain garden at Munson’s Cowell Family Cancer Center.

Other projects underway or soon to be include enlarging the wetlands on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Medical Campus Drive so more water can be captured during storms, preventing overflow into Kids Creek, and converting rock-filled detention centers off of Cottageview Drive into functioning rain gardens. The Watershed Center and Munson also plan to collaborate on stormwater reduction systems when the hospital builds its planned new parking garage in its existing parking lot. Additional rain gardens and bioswales are also planned throughout the project corridor, while other projects listed for 2017-18 include paving the dirt road between Spanglish and Left Foot Charley at the Commons to reduce erosion and runoff (directing stormwater into rain gardens), and installing bioretention basins and pervious pavement around Munson's helipad parking lots.

U’Ren says The Watershed Center is nearing the completion of its first significant phase of work: reducing stormwater input to Kids Creek by installing green infrastructure throughout multiple sites around the stream. The organization will next switch gears the next several years to improving "stream function, installing better habitat and restoring sinuosity," U'Ren says.

“We know it’s never going to return what it once was more than 100 years ago, when it was surrounded by forest," she says. "We can’t make buildings go away. But it’s working within the confines of what we have…to restore health (back to the stream)."

U’Ren says she can’t estimate an exact dollar figure of how much investment is still needed to improve Kids Creek, as future projects have yet to be defined in scale and scope. Funding to complete the Kids Creek restoration remains a concern for The Watershed Center, with federal budget discussions this year including talks of either cutting or eliminating GLRI funding. The Watershed’s ability to obtain grant funding will determine if or when Kids Creek could be removed from the state’s Impaired Waters List, says U’Ren.

“It’s not going to be a quick fix, even if funding wasn’t an issue,” U’Ren. “Any project takes time. But if we were successful with funding, (Kid Creeks’ removal from the list) could be done in under 10 years.” The result, she says, would be a vibrant urban creek that “moves sediment at the rate it’s supposed to, has a healthy aquatic insect population, offers good habitat for fish, and has enough capacity to handle the stormwater it receives.”

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Here Come The Mummies Announced For Cherry Fest]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/here-come-the-mummies-announced-for-cherry-fest Eight-piece funk-rock band Here Come The Mummies is set to return to the National Cherry Festival this summer, organizers announced Monday.

The group - which has opened for acts including P-Funk, Al Green and Cheap Trick - will take the stage on Sunday, July 2. Tickets go on sale Friday (May 26) at 9am online and are $10 for general admission or $20 for reserved seating. The National Cherry Festival also has a limited number of VIP deck packages for sale for concert nights for $100 that include two complementary adult beverages, VIP seating and a full buffet-style meal.

Other acts scheduled for the 2017 National Cherry Festival include Shinedown (July 3), '90s Dance Party 2.0 featuring Vanilla Ice, Coolio, All-4-One and C&C Music Factory w/Freedom Williams (July 4), REO Speedwagon (July 5), country star Cole Swindell (July 6), and comedy troupe The Tenderloins (July 7).

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Deputy Hospitalized After Attacked By Dog]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/deputy-hospitalized-after-attacked-by-dog A Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s deputy was hospitalized after he shot a dog which attacked him in Green Lake Township.

The deputy was called to a residence at 4:38pm Friday after a pit bull bit an elderly woman who was trying to pull the animal away as it attacked a mixed-breed dog. The pit bull was owned by a 26-year-old woman who was staying at the woman's house. The older woman suffered a minor injury.

The pit bull killed the other dog. When the deputy arrived and got the animal’s attention, the dog charged the officer, biting his hand and causing him to drop a stun gun. The dog bit the deputy all over his hands and arms until he pulled his revolver and shot it, grazing the animal in the head.

“The dog retreated and went and just laid down,” says Lt. Chris Barsheff.

The deputy was hospitalized but expected to be okay, Barsheff says.

The dog survived with a minor injury and will be monitored by animal control for signs of rabies. Barsheff says a report will be sent to prosecutors, and the dog could be put down.

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Spotlight On Mackinac Island]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/spotlight-on-mackinac-island For many northern Michiganders, summer isn't complete without a trip to Mackinac Island. Fortunately, for those planning a getaway this season - or those simply fascinated by the island's history and charms - this week's Northern Express is dedicated to all things Mackinac.

Go inside the revamp of the Grand Hotel's famous porch, set to be unveiled with a new facelift this summer, then learn all the details on two must-visit island events in June: the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival and Titanic at the Grand. "Mackinac Island Mainstays" provides a unique glimpse of island life through the eyes of some of its most notable and dedicated residents, while investigative reporter Patrick Sullivan profiles the renovation of the historic Biddle House and efforts to bring Native American history on the island to life through new exhibits at the property. Meanwhile, Dr. Gregory Hessler sits down to talk about his fascinating experiences as the island's new in-residence doctor.

Just in time for this week's special Mackinac Island theme, the Northern Express - sister publication of The Ticker - is also now available for free at spots around the island. The Northern Express is also available to read online, or pick up a copy at one of nearly 700 other spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Impaired Driving Incidents Lead To Accident, Two Arrests]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/impaired-driving-incidents-lead-to-accident-two-arrests Two individuals were arrested for impaired driving in Leelanau County over the weekend.

On Saturday at 7:38pm, a Leelanau County Sheriff's Office deputy patrolling Solon Township found a 2000 Chevrolet pick-up truck stopped in the roadway on South Lake Shore Drive near Schomberg Road. While checking the vehicle, the deputy discovered the driver passed out in the car. After an investigation, the driver was arrested for suspicion of operating the pick-up truck while under the influence of drugs. Suspected drugs, both legal and illegal, were confiscated from the truck, along with a number of syringes.

The driver, a 37-year-old Suttons Bay man, was lodged at the Leelanau County Jail for OWI second offense, drug possession and bond violation. The man's prior OWI conviction was in 2003 out of Traverse City; he was out on bond from a recent arrest for aggravated domestic assault in Leelanau County.

On Sunday at 10pm, an accident was reported on M-22 north of East Lakeview Hills Road in Bingham Township. A caller witnessed a 2011 Cadillac driving erratically southbound before crossing the center line and colliding with a northbound 2017 Subaru. The female driver of the Cadillac then fled the scene on foot.

Leelanau County Sheriff's Office deputies, assisted by the Michigan State Police, searched the area but could not find the female driver. At 1:50am, a patrolling deputy spotted the woman walking on M-22 a distance from the original crash site. The driver, a 44-year-old Traverse City woman, showed signs of "spending a period of time in the woods...she was quite dirty and had abrasions on her lower legs," according to the Sheriff's Office. She was arrested for suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a accident (pictured). She was lodged in the Leelanau County Jail.

Both the driver and passenger in the Subaru involved in the accident were taken to Munson Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Photo credit: Leelanau County Sheriff's Office

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[TC's Kayak Boom Raises Stakes For Competition, Conservation]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tc-s-kayak-boom-raises-stakes-for-competition-conservation Kayak tours and rentals have become big business in Traverse City, with 6,800 people set to float down the Boardman River this summer and thousands more hitting the water with rented equipment at Clinch and Medalie parks. The boom has brought increased competition among companies for customers and government contracts, as well as renewed efforts – including by vendors – to protect local waterways.

While providing tourists equipment and access to the water has long existed as a business model in Traverse City, newer offerings like brewery tours and livery services at city and county parks have raised the profile of non-motorized watersport companies. “I’ve been in this business 30 years…and it’s gone viral now,” says owner Mike Sutherland of The River Outfitters. “It’s become big, big business.”

The shift has brought both new competition – and opportunity – to Sutherland’s doorstep. In 2015, following six years of Sutherland operating concessions stand and rental hub The River at Clinch Park, city officials opened the park contract up to other bidders. Sutherland contended the move unfairly jeopardized years’ of investment building The River from a startup into a thriving business. “Investing in a business and then realizing it can be taken away from you is a real challenge,” he told The Ticker during the bidding war.

Though Sutherland outbid two other vendors for the Clinch Park contract, city officials disqualified his bid, citing concerns over Sutherland’s legal and business history. Owner Jeff Bensley of Paddle TC was awarded a three-year contract with the city beginning in 2016, paying between $30,000 and $31,000 annually for the right to rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), beach chairs and other equipment at the park.

“Last summer went really well,” says Bensley, who is gearing up this weekend for the launch of Paddle TC’s second year at Clinch Park. “We had positive feedback from our customers, and the city was great to work with. I was happy overall with our season.” In addition to rentals, Paddle TC will offer both guided and self-guided river and bike tours, brewery tours, SUP yoga classes and more in 2017. Bensley was also awarded the contract to offer concessions at the park beginning this summer.

After his own departure from Clinch Park, Sutherland approached Grand Traverse County about offering livery services from Medalie Park off South Airport Road. The county agreed to a contract for The River to provide light concessions and canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals from the park in 2016. But as with Clinch Park, interest from other vendors prompted the county to open the contract up for bid this year.

Along with Sutherland, both Bensley and Troy Daily – owner of TC Ale Trail, Paddle For Pints, and Kayak, Bike and Brew – bid on the contract. County parks and recreation commissioners voted Thursday to award a three-year contract to Sutherland, who bid $3,000 for the right to use Medalie Park this summer, compared to $1,000 bids from the other two vendors. But competitive tensions ran high in the two meetings devoted to the discussion, with Sutherland’s business practices again called into question and competing vendors highlighting the untapped potential offered by Medalie Park, which could see a significant influx of traffic once the Boardman Lake Trail is completed.

With incoming new developement at the Warehouse District – currently home to the The River Outfitters headquarters – Medalie Park could be Sutherland’s sole location this summer. Sutherland draws a distinction between what he sees as his smaller-scale, sustainably-focused operation and the “mass marketing” of local waterways by newer vendors. “I’m not necessarily happy with the product of sending hundreds of people down the river stopping at seven brewpubs,” he says. “We knew there was a market to feed the masses, but we resisted it, both culturally and environmentally. It’s changing the culture of Traverse City, and not necessarily for the better.”

Visitors, however – along with breweries, downtown businesses and city officials – seemed to have embraced the influx of tours highlighting the Boardman River. Since launching Paddle For Pints in 2014, Daily has received overwhelming response to his “brewery pub paddle,” which offers twenty tour dates throughout the summer, each hosting four waves of 50 people. For the 2017 season, all 4,000 tickets sold out in under an hour, according to Daily. Last year, Daily launched a second business – Kayak, Bike and Brew – offering a scaled-down version of the tour. That event has sold 2,800 tickets so far in 2017.

Daily emphasizes that his operation is meant to showcase both Traverse City’s natural environment and local breweries in a way that protects the river and maintains a positive working relationship with businesses and the city. Though demand would support further expansion of his events, Daily says he has voluntarily capped his business. “We don’t want to overrun the river or the breweries,” he says. “There’s an opportunity there, but we’re cutting it off to keep it comfortable for everybody.”

Daily and city officials also collaborated this year on a five-year agreement to mitigate any potential park impacts by tour participants. As part of the deal, Daily offered to contribute $8,000 to the city for river enhancements in 2017 and 2018 (climbing $1,000 annually thereafter, up to $11,000 in 2021). He will provide trash receptacles and a public restroom at the Union Street dam, and donate $1,000 to TART Trails for trail upkeep. City Clerk Benjamin Marentette praised Daily’s ventures in a January memo to city commissioners, saying the city was “pleased with the manner in which Paddle For Pints and Kayak, Bike and Brew” operated and that Daily “conducts his events responsibly and well.” Businesses including The Filling Station, Cherry Tree Inn & Suites, Right Brain Brewery and Rare Bird Brewpub issued public letters of support this year for Paddle For Pints; the event was also awarded the 2017 Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration.

Bensley believes that increased traffic on waterways doesn’t automatically equate to increased negative impact – if anything, the opposite may be true, he says. Bensley, Daily, Sutherland and their respective staffs all participate in multiple river clean-up outings each summer, pick up trash throughout their events and support the efforts of the Boardman River Clean Sweep. Bensley contrasts that to years past, when individuals or groups with no supervision might kayak or tube down the river and throw their trash where they pleased.

“The river is probably cleaner now than a number of years ago, because there are more people caring for it,” Bensley says. “I feel Clinch is more organized and cleaner now than it’s ever been. When businesses put people (on the water), we’re constantly worried about keeping it pristine, so it’s our priority.”

Photo credit: Paddle For Pints

Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Adventure Fest Canceled For Open Space]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/adventure-fest-canceled-for-open-space Adventure Fest, a planned day of “immersive adventure packed with learning, sharing, brews and grooves" that was set to take place June 7 in the Open space, has been canceled.

Event organizer Gociety posted on Facebook that the company was "sad to announce Adventure Fest TC has been canceled due to budget cuts." Traverse City was scheduled to be one of several communities hosting a national tour of the event this summer, including Denver, Colo., Chattanooga, Tenn., Eugene, Ore., and Asheville, N.C. The event was intended to offer themed outdoor fitness areas hosting national and local product and brand demonstrations, interactive booths, games and competitions.

Gociety did not say whether any other tour dates of the event will be canceled. The company has not yet removed Traverse City from its website, but canceled Traverse City's ticketing site, as well as Traverse City's event page on Facebook.

Pictured: Adventure Fest. Photo credit: Gociety.

Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Did You Read This?]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/did-you-read-this Do you read Northern Express? Like it or have any specific thoughts you're willing to share? Our sister publication would love to get your candid opinions in this five-minute survey; two participants will be randomly selected to win $100 in downtown Traverse City gift certificates! Share your thoughts here

Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Parking Changes Proposed For Downtown]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/parking-changes-proposed-for-downtown Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members took steps Friday to alleviate parking pressures on downtown employees – part of a range of short and long-term options under consideration to address parking challenges exacerbated by increased traffic and development.

Board members unanimously approved two proposals Friday to decrease downtown parking fees. Both proposals will now go to the city commission for final approval. The first measure, set to take effect July 1, will decrease parking fees by half – from $10 to $5 – if violators pay the ticket the same day. “We would like to ease the frustration and incentivize parkers who promptly pay meter violations,” Parking Administrator Nicole VanNess told board members in a memo. “This change will hopefully ensure citations are not forgotten, which can lead to additional fines.”

The change would apply to expired meter tickets downtown and at Munson Medical Center – a category that covers the vast majority of tickets issued by the parking system. Violators would need to pay the tickets in person or online by midnight in order to receive the same-day discount.

A significant uptick in tickets this year compared to prior years prompted staff to revisit fees, according to VanNess. In 2014-15, the parking system issued 19,533 of the $10 expired meter tickets, collecting $195,530. In 2015-16, that number dropped to 18,104 for $180,140 collected. But for 2016-17, the parking system has already issued 21,775 tickets as of May 5, collecting $217,750 – with nearly two months still to go in the fiscal year.

The uptick in tickets also prompted the DDA’s second proposal: expanding the number of violations a vehicle can receive before tickets increase from $10 to $75. Right now, once a vehicle incurs six violations in a calendar year, the seventh and subsequent violations jump up to $75. Under the new proposal – set to take effect January 1 – the higher fee won’t kick in until the twelfth ticket.

While DDA board members unanimously supported both proposals, the inclusion of the items on Friday’s agenda prompted lively discussion – and some division – over whether parking issues downtown would worsen by softening enforcement or fines. “By not enforcing, we’re teaching other behaviors,” said board member Steve Constantin. Board member Debbie Hershey agreed, citing concerns about “coddling” parkers with haphazard enforcement.

But other board members – particularly those owning downtown businesses – expressed concerns the DDA was sending the wrong message to downtown employees and visitors with its approach to ticketing. “When you walk up and down Front Street, and you see all the yellow tickets on people’s windshields, it’s like, ‘Welcome to downtown,’” said Jeff Joubran, who owns Sweet Pea on Front Street. “I struggle with that.”

“I hear similar things as well when I talk to retailers,” agreed Gabe Schneider, whose firm Northern Strategies 360 is located on Front Street. “Part of it potentially is the way they view the enforcement itself, as very unfriendly and designed to give the ticket, as opposed to educate and to change behavior, which I think is ultimately the goal.” DDA Executive Director Rob Bacigalupi told board members the DDA may soon hire a customer service training firm to work with parking system staff in order to improve interactions with downtown visitors.

Other board members suggested adding more educational pieces to assist parkers in finding available spaces, including expanded signage or putting parking maps/brochures along with tickets under windshields. While VanNess says parking is a legitimate downtown challenge – particularly in the summer – she also believes education is an important missing piece, with parkers not realizing what spaces or lots may be available when complaining that there’s “no parking” available downtown.

“Part of it is just a lack of understanding of what the options are,” she says. “I don’t know if we’ve found the best way to help people with that yet.” She notes as one example that while the DDA introduced a $2 daily permit two years ago – allowing parkers to park in any permit lot for $2 per day, instead of $1 per hour at meters or in decks – awareness of that program has spread slowly. VanNess also notes permit lots are not enforced on weekends, offering free parking to downtown visitors. (See a map of permit lots here.)

But even permit lots are a component of the downtown parking system that could soon be under stress. Due to the planned construction of developer Thom Darga’s Warehouse Flats in the Warehouse District, 72 permit spaces – and 23 metered spaces – are set to be eliminated from that area effective August 1. Warehouse Flats will eventually host an on-site parking deck, but in the short term, the effect could be an at- or beyond-capacity permit system. “It’s something we’ll be keeping a close eye on,” says VanNess. “As of today, there hasn’t been a capacity issue, but that could have an impact.”

All of which points to the need for longer-term solutions downtown, DDA staff and board members acknowledge. The DDA has hired Nelson\Nygaard to conduct an intensive transportation demand management (TDM) study of downtown Traverse City this year. The TDM will identify exactly how much parking downtown needs compared to what it has, visitor trends, effectiveness of parking rates and fees, projected demand over the next decade, and the ideal amount and locations of new parking. Options like shuttles and Park-and-Ride systems will also be evaluated. City officials have also purchased property and are pursuing plans to open a new downtown parking deck at 145 West Front Street.

In the interim, Bacigalupi calls the new DDA proposals to reduce parking fees “a way to soften the blow” for downtown employees and others struggling to navigate the parking system. “Parking is becoming more scarce, and it’s a little more difficult for folks to find parking,” he told board members Friday. “We don’t want downtown to be viewed as incredibly business-unfriendly.”

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Traffic Delays Expected On Keystone This Weekend For TBAYS Tournament]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/traffic-delays-expected-on-keystone-for-tbays-tournament Traverse Bay Area Youth Soccer (TBAYS) will be hosting its Cherry Capital Cup this weekend at the Keystone Soccer Complex - a high-impact event that is expected to draw large crowds to the community and create traffic delays on Keystone Road.

The tournament will take place Saturday and Sunday. Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office deputies will assist TBAYS in controlling traffic on Keystone Road at the complex entrance. "We hope to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible and request that you remain patient if traveling through the area over the weekend," the department said in a statement.

Drivers are advised to take alternate routes using South Airport Road or Garfield Road "if you are not attending (the event) and want to avoid potential traffic congestion," according to the Sheriff's Office.

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[NMC To Host Annual Barbecue Sunday]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/nmc-to-host-annual-barbecue-sunday Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) will host its annual NMC Barbecue Sunday from 11am-5pm.

The community "picnic under the pines" will offer food, live entertainment and family-friendly activities on the college campus. Entry is free, with a meal ticket costing $6 in advance or $8 at the door. Each meal includes a buffalo burger or hot dog, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, relishes, ice cream, & beverages. Activities including live entertainment, a cake walk, kid's games, children's book readings, college department demos and displays, an inflatable obstacle course, fire truck rides, dunk tank, invitational car show and more will be offered throughout the event. For a complete schedule of events, click here.

Advance meal tickets are available at NMC, Oleson's grocery stores, select local banks and online. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate.

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[NMC Continues Its Fight For Nursing Bachelor Degrees]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/nmc-continues-its-fight-for-nursing-bachelor-degrees Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) continues its fight in Lansing to promote legislation to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in nursing, arguing that it could help meet high demand for qualified candidates.

“Eventually I think it will happen. It makes sense,” NMC President Tim Nelson says of his push he began five years ago. “There’s a need for nurses. That’s been our contention all along,” though he’s reluctant to provide a timetable. “I don’t have a crystal ball.”

That caution is borne of seeing previous efforts to pass such a bill fail. In 2012, the state passed legislation allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in four specialized occupational areas: energy production, concrete technology, maritime marine technology and culinary arts. NMC became the first community college in Michigan to do so, awarding bachelor degrees in maritime/marine technology majors in 2013.

Missing from that list: a bachelor of science in nursing. It was originally included, but was removed due to opposition from the state’s 15 public universities. That stance hasn’t changed, much to Nelson’s chagrin, who notes, “Universities have said it is mission creep for community colleges.”

He disagrees, saying it is simply incumbent upon community colleges such as NMC to provide the kinds of training needed in their local communities. “We want to provide relevant (training), and relevant changes over time. Western Michigan started as a two-year teachers’ college. Ferris started as a trade school. We’re meeting needs.”

A year ago, such legislation appeared once again to be on the cusp of passage, with a proposal to allow local voters to determine if community colleges in their districts could offer four-year nursing degrees. That bill died on the floor of the Michigan State Senate.

Traverse City’s State Senator, Wayne Schmidt, who has co-sponsored every bill in favor of the change, says he remains optimistic.

“We’ve come close, but not quite gotten there. Every year we pick up some votes. Downstate at public universities they do a great job,” he says. “But let us have that opportunity up here. We need qualified healthcare professionals.”

Now Nelson says Munson Healthcare has joined the fight, trying to convince legislators to pass such a proposal. “Munson has been a big supporter for us,” he says.

“We’re supportive,” agrees Gabe Schneider, director of government relations for Munson Healthcare. “A four-year degree is becoming standard for the profession.”

Though each Munson affiliate hospital has its own requirements, Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center requires all nurses to either have a bachelor’s degree or acquire one within five years of being hired. “Munson Medical Center is designated as a magnet hospital,” says Schneider, a status by only 432 other hospitals in the country. “With that comes the requirement that a greater percentage of staff acquire it (a four-year degree).”

Schneider says the ability to get that degree locally would be a boon to Munson and its staff. Like most hospitals, Munson has nursing vacancies virtually year-round; currently 40 slots remain open for registered nurses.

Across the country, community colleges in 19 states can confer baccalaureate degrees. Of those, nine states permit the schools to grant BSNs. Nelson says he sees such a development potentially benefiting not only community colleges, but residents of the state far removed from four-year institutions. He believes it could at least partly address the need for higher-paying jobs in areas such as ours. “How do we create 500 new jobs that pay $75,000 to $80,000 a year? They’re in technology, healthcare, what I call emerging (fields).”

He acknowledges that staff at community colleges such as NMC will have to be similarly qualified as those at four-year colleges. “If we offer the programs, staff will have to be certified,” he says. “We will follow national accreditation policies. Our board will not authorize us to offer a program if we can’t offer quality.” 

Fri, 19 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Short's Launches Public Space At Elk Rapids Facility]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/short-s-launches-public-space-at-elk-rapids-facility Short's Brewing Company is opening its Elk Rapids production facility to the public, the company announced Thursday.

The facility - which opened in 2009 - has traditionally only been accessible by the public for pre-arranged tours and during the company's annual Short's Fest celebration. Starting May 25, the facility will offer a public outdoor space on the property featuring draft and packaged Short's brews and Starcut Ciders (including same-day packaged products), food from Vendetti's Spanky Wagon, production facility tours, yard games, a selection of Short’s Mart merchandise, and more. The space will operate Monday-Friday from 3pm to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm 10pm. Tours will be available Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3pm.

According to Short’s, the “Pull Barn” taps will begin flowing at 3pm on Thursday, May 25, with a grand opening celebration to follow on Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27. "This location will bring a little slice of pub life to the other side of Antrim county," Short's said in a statement.

Fri, 19 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Serving Garfield Township's Water Needs]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/serving-garfield-township-s-water-needs A one million-gallon water tank will soon be under construction to serve residents and businesses in the growing northwest corner of Garfield Township.

The long-awaited tank will be built west of Harris Road along Cedar Run Road. The need for the new tank was outlined in a report almost a decade ago, but serious discussions began about three years ago, according to Township Supervisor Chuck Korn.

In most areas in the township, water pressure is maintained simply by gravity. But in some spots — including near West Senior High, Lone Tree subdivision and GreyHawk subdivision, where there has been much residential growth — pumps are used to keep pressure up. The new tank will provide a more reliable source of pressurized water, particularly for firefighting needs, and will eliminate the need for pumps in those areas.

“It’s been a multi-year planning process,” says Korn. “We worked with the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] along the way. You can’t put a pipe in the ground without their approval.”

The township board recently accepted a bid of $1 million from DN TANKS, a Massachusetts-based firm that designs and constructs tanks worldwide; a team of design engineers, project managers, construction field workers, and quality control engineers will work with local officials.

The township chose to build a concrete tank -- more expensive than metal -- because it will require less maintenance. Once the site is prepared, it should take six to eight weeks to complete. The board is still considering which of five architectural styles will be built.

“We expect to have it in place this summer,” Korn adds. “We’ve talked with homeowners and businesses in the area. Homeowners who are on wells will have the choice to tie in to the system.”

Funding for the new tank will come from one of the township’s enterprise funds specifically earmarked for water projects. Revenues in the fund come from water users in the township.

This will be the third water tank owned by Garfield Township. A 2.2-million-gallon tank sits on McRae Hill, while a 350,000-gallon tank is located at Birmley Estates. The township also partners with the City of Traverse City on a 4-million-gallon tank along LaFranier Road, just south of South Airport Road.

That large aging LaFranier structure will soon need repairs, according to Korn. “We’ll be working with the city on that tank,” he says. “It needs a new top and to be totally painted.”

Pictured: One style of tank under consideration is this one built in Pleasant Prairie, WI by DN TANKS.

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Gas Leak Shuts Down Garfield Avenue]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/gas-leak-shuts-down-garfield Construction crews accidentally struck a gas line while excavating near Garfield Avenue and Oak Terrace Drive Thursday, forcing the complete closure of a large section of Garfield for more than an hour.

Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office and Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department officials responded to a report of a major gas leak at the construction site at 1:15pm. Authorities closed Garfield to all traffic between South Airport and Hammond roads to respond to the leak. While crews were working to repair the gas line, traffic congestion in the area compounded when a motorcycle accident occurred at the same time on Garfield near Lucky Jack's. A northbound motorcycle hit a vehicle entering Garfield, injuring the motorcycle driver. The motorcyclist was transported to Munson Medical Center for treatment. The gas line was repaired and Garfield reopened at 2:30pm.

Some traffic delays are expected to continue on Garfield today (Thursday) and Friday as the Grand Traverse County Road Commission works in the same construction area. The southbound, far right lane of Garfield will be closed for road construction occurring on Oak Terrace Drive, with the lane closure beginning just north of Oak Terrace and continuing to just south of Oak Terrace. Closures will begin at 9am and continue throughout the day. Motorists are advised to drive slowly and use caution while traveling through the work area.

Photo credit: Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[New Technology At Munson "Lights The Way" For Cancer Detection]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/new-technology-at-munson-lights-the-way-for-cancer-detection New surgical technology at Munson Medical Center “lights up” potentially cancerous lymph nodes in real time, helping save the lives of patients diagnosed with cervical and endometrial cancers.

Gynecologic oncologist David Michelin, M.D., M.P.H., says the hospital’s da Vinci Xi Surgical System offers minimally invasive surgery and magnified 3D high definition vision within a patient’s body. It has been complemented by Firefly technology, which adds an integrated fluorescence imaging component. Patients receive an injection of a fluorescent green dye that allows a surgeon to see which lymph nodes are draining a specific organ.

“After the dye is injected, we put the da Vinci camera into the near infrared spectrum and everything in the background is black while the sentinel lymph nodes are bright green,” Dr. Michelin says. The second patient he used the technology on had two lymph nodes near the aorta, one of which was glowing green. “Without the Firefly, I would not have removed them. But I took them both. Lab tests showed the green node was cancerous, the other was not.” Because the Firefly system identified the node, the spread of cancer was confirmed and the patient went into further treatment. “Firefly potentially will save the woman’s life,” Dr. Michelin adds.

The removing of “sentinel lymph nodes” has become best practice for gynecologic cancers just as with other types of cancer. Dr. Michelin says just taking three nodes cuts down significantly on the amount of time a patient is in the operating room and on anesthesia.

About 150 patients a year are treated for endometrial and cervical cancer at Munson Medical Center. The hospital is the only one in northern Michigan with the Firefly technology. 

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Hardy Deck Access Limited To State Street Through May 27]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/hardy-deck-access-restricted-to-state-street-through-may-27 Access to the Larry C. Hardy Parking Deck in downtown Traverse City will be limited to one garage entrance as construction crews work to build a new crosswalk on East Front Street.

To faciliate crosswalk construction, the south lane of East Front Street is now closed, preventing access to the parking deck from Front Street. Motorists will still be able to travel down Front Street in the north lane. Those attempting to enter or leave the parking deck will need to do so from the deck's State Street entrance.

The midblock crosswalk is expected to be complete by May 27. Front Street's north lane and access to the parking deck will reopen at that time.

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Old Mission (Charter) School Could Be Unique Nationwide]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/old-mission-pursues-charter-authorization The Old Mission Peninsula Education Foundation (OMPEF) has applied and been recommended for authorization to convert Old Mission Peninsula School into a charter school – with authorizer Grand Valley State University calling the group’s application unique among state and national schools.

OMPEF board members submitted a “Phase 1” application to GVSU to begin pursuing charter school status in April after closing on the $1.1 million purchase of Old Mission Peninsula School from Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS). Charter schools – as with traditional public schools – are funded by taxpayers though state and federal funding; they cannot charge tuition or be religious, and must open their doors to all students. They must also meet academic performance standards or risk losing their authorization.

But unlike with traditional public schools, charter schools do not have publicly elected school boards. They can be either for-profit or nonprofit, and choose to self-manage or contract with a management company. They also have greater flexibility with their curriculum. OMPEF President Allison O’Keefe says the last factor ultimately prompted the board’s decision to open a charter school.

“It’s about what this community said they wanted – it’s not about a negative or positive relationship with TCAPS,” says O’Keefe. “The community wants different start times. They want curriculum changes…and TCAPS said they couldn’t provide that. We have the opportunity to make our own school, and we can do anything, so we can meet all those pieces.”

OMPEF submitted a 40-50 page application detailing everything from proposed instructional models to admissions policies to staffing plans to operating budgets, according to Associate Vice President for Charter Schools Rob Kimball of GVSU, one of more than 40 universities and school districts approved to authorize charter schools in Michigan. Of an estimated 100 applications GVSU receives each year, says Kimball, only “10 percent of those typically receive authorization.”

But Kimball says the GVSU application review committee was “impressed by (OMPEF’s) application” and invited the group for Phase 2: an in-depth, in-person interview that included a “deep dive” into Old Mission’s proposed budget, curriculum and other issues. “We’ll look at things like, ‘OK, can this succeed with half or a quarter of the proposed (number of) students?’” says Kimball. “That’s where we see a lot of applications fail.”

But OMPEF’s “comprehensive” answers won committee approval, according to Kimball, particularly on the curriculum front. OMPEF board members shared their plans to focus on EL Education, an interdisciplinary curriculum model formed out of a partnership between Outward Bound and Harvard. “We’ve been a leading advocate of EL for Michigan schools for a long time, so that allayed a number of our concerns,” Kimball says.

Barring any major issues during the committee’s final “due diligence” check now underway, the group is recommending Old Mission Peninsula School for charter authorization at GVSU’s board of trustees meeting in July. Kimball says such recommendations are nearly always approved. If Old Mission receives its authorization, the school will end its 2017-18 school year as a TCAPS school – but start its 2018-19 school year as a charter school.

“Old Mission is by far the only situation that’s ever occurred like this in Michigan,” says Kimball, “where you have a traditional school coming offline one day and a charter school coming online basically the next day.” Kimball says a national authorizer contact recently told him there “may have been only one other (school like this) in the country.”

While obtaining authorization would be a major step forward for OMPEF in its pursuit of opening a charter school, the group still faces several hurdles. OMPEF has set a self-imposed fundraising goal of $2 million by January to cover initial start-up costs, including the hiring and training of administrators and teaching staff. “Our goal is to hire leadership this fall and teachers in January, so that will be a big piece with all the training and professional development before July 1 (2018),” says O’Keefe – the date at which TCAPS officially vacates Old Mission and OMPEF takes over, giving the board two months to convert the school.

OMPEF plans to start as a K-6 facility, though it might pursue seventh and eight grades in the future. The group is working with a contract daycare provider to provide a “birth to pre-K piece,” says O’Keefe. Old Mission will operate as a nonprofit, with the goal of being “completely self-managed” – though O’Keefe acknowledges “we may need to contract with someone (for management) the first year or so.”

Old Mission’s first-year budget targets an enrollment of at least 100 students. “To be clear, 100 students will not be sustainable in the long term,” says O’Keefe. “But we’re confident we can start with a minimum at that level. That’s where the foundation comes in.” O’Keefe notes that as a nonprofit, the foundation can sustain Old Mission until the school “becomes self-sustaining.” Old Mission’s first per-pupil funding allowance from the state of Michigan is set to kick in in October 2018.

In the meantime, OMPEF board members are planning to host monthly fundraising events this summer – including an August 12 fundraiser at the Old Mission Lighthouse park – and are embarking on “living room tours," offering sit-downs with interested parents and families to discuss the school’s plans in detail. “There is a lot of misinformation out there because of the negative financial implications that have been in the media locally and nationally (around charter schools),” says O’Keefe. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep people informed.”

Wed, 17 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[Old Mission Blossoms Take Center Stage For Music Video]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/old-mission-blossoms-take-center-stage-for-music-video Phil Thompson’s piano videos often celebrate nature, and where better to do that than in the midst of a cherry orchard. The pop pianist, whose YouTube channel has eclipsed one million views, has performed Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on a Hill” in an ice castle and Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” in a grassy courtyard surrounded by palm trees.

For his arrangement of a medley of Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” and John Lennon’s “Imagine,” he decided to shoot in the midst of a cherry orchard, and Googling “cherry blossoms” led him to Traverse City.

“I’d never been here, and it (the cherry industry) is obviously a very big deal,” Thompson said by phone Tuesday, just prior to the commencement of an afternoon and evening of shooting. The shoot took place at the Ken Lardie farm on Old Mission Peninsula, offering views of both East and West Bay.

Thompson, a Twin Cities resident who has played on cruise ships alongside Kenny Loggins and Three Dog Night and opened for Clay Aiken and David Foster, enlisted the help of Stone Hut Studios and Chris Selby of Evola Music. “Chris actually had the idea to use an upright and a grand piano,” Thompson says, with one piano at the bottom of a hill and the other on top. Thompson says after the shoot he’ll be working with Stone Hut Studios to finalize the video (“I want to support local businesses,” he says), which he plans to post on YouTube by early June. 

Wed, 17 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400
<![CDATA[County Eyes Twin Lakes, Civic Center, Other Property Sales]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/county-eyes-twin-lakes-civc-center-other-property-sales While Grand Traverse County commissioners continue to mull options for addressing the county’s estimated $60 million-plus pension debt – options that could include bonding the debt or seeking a public millage – several board members have expressed interest in other solution: selling off some of the county’s most desirable parks and properties.

At commissioners’ request, county staff are compiling a list of every piece of county property, along with information such as each parcel’s acquisition date and value, its usage, and any deed restrictions on the title. During a recent marathon study session on possible pension solutions, commissioners expressed their eagerness to get the list finished so they could begin exploring possible sales of property.

“I think this is a piece that we’ve been asking about for quite awhile, because we thought that this maybe would be a piece that would help us solve this puzzle,” said Commissioner Cheryl Gore Follette. “We want to come up with a solution, and it’s hard to do that when we don’t have the information…(the property list) really does need to be a priority.”

After County Deputy Administrator Jennifer DeHaan noted the project was a “monumental task involving multiple departments” because the county didn’t have an existing inventory of properties and had to build the database from scratch, Gore Follete suggested staff hone in on and prioritize key properties commissioners know they might want to sell.

“I think it’s fair to say that Twin Lakes and the Civic Center are two parcels that we’re real interested in having the history of what we can do with those parcels,” she said.

In addition to those parks – two of the most high-profile recreational sites owned by the county – Commissioner Ron Clous added he “would like to have the Pavilions” on the list. The Grand Traverse Pavilions accommodates approximately 330 residents and 430 employees on its 28-acre campus near The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, making it the largest county-owned nursing facility in the state.

Other parks and properties specifically mentioned by commissioners as of interest for possible sale have included Power Island and Maple Bay Park & Natural Area.

County Planning Director John Sych and Deputy Civil Counsel Christopher Forsyth are both involved in researching county properties and potential impediments to their sale. Forsyth points out that public parks in particular can be difficult for municipalities to offload. “When it comes to park property, there are usually either deed restrictions or grant restrictions, so if a property is bought with grant money, they’re going to impose conditions on that grant,” he says.

The 450-acre Maple Bay Park & Natural Area in Acme Township – which includes more than 2,500 feet of Lake Michigan frontage – would likely be the most difficult for the county to sell, according to staff. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant records show the county received at least $6.8 million in DNR funding for the acquisition of the property in 2001. Even if the county repaid the grant funding – an option commissioners have asked staff to explore for grant-restricted properties – selling the land could jeopardize the county’s relationship with the state and its ability to secure future grant funding.

“That’s an acquisition that’s relatively recent, and it seems like the community put a lot of effort into that,” says Sych. “While (the land) is valuable, I would caution against going down that path. It wouldn’t send a good message to the state of Michigan if you tried to put that on the market.”

Both Twin Lakes and Power Island were gifted to the county by families that placed deed restrictions on the titles. Ambiguous language about preserving Twin Lakes for recreational use could allow for a potential sale to a recreational entity, but Forsyth says the county would likely need to go to the family’s heirs for permission to pursue such a path. Clous has previously raised the possibility – if a sale wasn't an option – of gifting the properties back to the families, eliminating county maintenance costs and putting the parcels back on county tax rolls. That route is legally permissible, Forsyth says.

Potentially the easiest property for Grand Traverse County to sell is the Civic Center. While the title appears to be unencumbered, staff are still checking on a decades-old reference to park grant funding in county commission minutes, according to Forsyth. “(The board) may not have actually applied for the grant, but we don’t know – we’re looking into that,” he says. County and city officials publicly discussed the possibility of Traverse City acquiring the Civic Center from Grand Traverse County in 2015, but those discussions never produced a formal proposal. County Administrator Tom Menzel says he sees potential value in preserving the Civic Center’s recreational aspects – such as its walking trails, baseball diamonds and community pool – while developing some of the remaining property with residential or commercial buildings.

“If you structured it properly and designed it right, you could diversify that property, add housing and bring more people to the site to make use of the recreational components there,” he says.

Commissioners have already approved putting three county properties on the market, including 36 acres on Keystone and Birmley roads, which has attracted the interest of a potential buyer. The county could also explore additional options beyond selling parks, including renegotiating leases for jointly-used properties with partners and finding new uses for underutilized sites. Menzel cites as another option a sale-leaseback of properties like the Governmental Center, in which the county could sell the building for an immediate cash infusion and lease its space back. “That would be similar to what Hagerty did,” Menzel says, citing the insurance company’s sale-leaseback deal last year.

Still, commissioners remain firm in their desire to explore selling high-profile county properties. “In this research, what I really don’t want to see is, ‘Oh, you can’t sell it,’” Commissioner Dan Lathrop told county staff during the study session. “I want to see how we can sell it, or how we can give it back. I don’t want to hear the words ‘we can’t sell it' unless we have to."

Pictured (clockwise): Grand Traverse County Civic Center, Twin Lakes, Maple Bay Park & Natural Area. Photo credit: Grand Traverse County/Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400