County Commissioners Approve Four Millages For Ballot; Hentschel Responds To Allegations
By Beth Milligan | July 28, 2022
Grand Traverse County commissioners Wednesday approved putting four millage requests on the November ballot, asking voters to fund services at the Commission on Aging, Senior Center Network, Veterans Affairs, and Animal Control. Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Chair Rob Hentschel issued a public statement in response to a petition calling for his resignation over recently surfaced allegations of harassment made by Hentschel’s ex-wife in 2020.
Grand Traverse County voters will be asked to approve four millage requests this fall after county commissioners agreed Wednesday to put the proposals on the ballot. If approved, the millages will renew dedicated funding streams for the Commission on Aging, Senior Center Network, Veterans Affairs, and Animal Control. Details on each millage request are as follows:
Commission on Aging: This proposal would renew an existing millage in the amount of .5 mills to fund and operate the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging, which provides services to citizens 60 years and older. The estimated cost for a residential parcel with a taxable value of $100,000 would be $50 per year. The 10-year millage would run from 2023 through 2032 and raise an estimated $3,025,157 in its first year.
Senior Center: This proposal would renew an existing millage in the amount of .10 mills to fund and operate the Grand Traverse County Senior Centers. The estimated cost for a residential parcel with a taxable value of $100,000 would be $10 per year. The 10-year millage would run from 2023 through 2032 and raise an estimated $547,010 in its first year.
Veterans Affairs: This proposal would renew an existing millage in the amount of .12 mills to fund and operate a Grand Traverse County Veterans Affairs Office. The estimated cost for a residential parcel with a taxable value of $100,000 would be $12 per year. The 6-year millage would run from 2022 through 2027 and raise an estimated $695,553 in its first year.
Animal Control: This proposal would authorize a new additional millage to fund the animal control programs, facilities, personnel, and necessary expenses for the Grand Traverse County Animal Control Agency in the amount of 0.037 mills. The estimated cost for a residential parcel with a taxable value of $100,000 would be $3.70 per year. The 6-year millage would run from 2022 through 2027 and raise an estimated $236,190 in its first year. Animal Control was previously funded by a three-year millage approved by voters in 2018, but it expired last year, leaving the county's general fund to cover the program for a year until a new millage request could be put to voters this year.
Commissioners unanimously approved the language for the Commission on Aging and Senior Center millages. County Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth noted the millages were sought for the maximum length allowed by law – 10 years – to ensure funding is available “to meet the growing needs related to senior services” in a county with an expanding number of retirees. The Commission on Aging millage that was passed in 2016 also specified funding was limited to in-home services, while the millage renewal language this year is broadened to just senior services to offer more programming flexibility.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the Veterans Affairs and Animal Control millages, with Commissioner Ron Clous opposed to both. Clous said he believed those departments could be fully funded through the county’s general fund and didn’t need dedicated millages. Commissioner Betsy Coffia said that relying on the general fund puts departments “at the whims of one board to the next….year over year” since commissioners set the budget each year. County Finance Director Dean Bott said that if voters are willing to support certain services, it frees up general fund dollars to go other county priorities. “From a financial management perspective, that's a good spot to be in,” he said. With inflation rates still high and the possibility of a recession looming, several commissioners said they wanted to ensure funding is in place for veterans as well as animal control services in the coming years. Animal control staff noted they’ve experienced an uptick in pet abandonment since the pandemic and expect that trend to continue if the economy remains weak.
A group of residents delivered copies of an online petition signed by nearly 500 individuals Wednesday to county commissioners calling for Chair Rob Hentschel’s resignation. The petition links to a recently surfaced personal protection order sought by – but not granted to – Hentschel’s ex-wife Andrea Hentschel in 2020 while the couple was going through a divorce. In the PPO application, Andrea Hentschel detailed physical, mental, and sexual harassment she alleged was committed against her by Hentschel. The petition also links to a police report and 911 call made by Andrea Hentschel in 2020 after her vehicle was damaged. She told authorities she believed her husband had tampered with the vehicle. Andrea Hentschel later dropped the complaint and no charges were filed in the case, according to the police report.
County resident and TCAPS board trustee Erica Moon Mohr spoke during public comment Wednesday, calling the allegations against Hentschel “atrocious.” She questioned whether the PPO application should have gone in front of a Grand Traverse County judge given that Hentschel and other commissioners approve the court budget, saying the case deserved to be heard in a “neutral legal jurisdiction.”
Hentschel addressed the allegations at the start of Wednesday’s meeting prior to public comment, saying he was aware of the petitions and had been contacted by media about the allegations. “Sometimes we need to stop and take a breath and rethink what we’re doing. And I’m asking everyone involved in negative campaigning and political attacks to do just that,” Hentschel said. He said petitioners were attempting to “publicize a list of false accusations made against me during a child custody battle that happened two years ago, attempting to bring harm to me and my children (and) their mother for the purpose of political gain.”
Hentschel said he believed “the Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters of Grand Traverse County truly want what is best for our community. At the end of the day, we all want to see things getting better. We don’t always agree on how to make that happen and that is the purpose of these meetings. That is why we are here today.” He concluded his statement by encouraging commissioners to “focus on making sound policy that solves problems, protects freedoms, and improves our lives,” adding that “political muckraking and grandstanding has no place here.”Comment