Gotta go? Better make a stop before heading to Wetzel Lake Park

By: 
Dave Lein, Editor

BELLAIRE – Those planning a visit to Wetzel Lake Park this summer will have to remember to make one stop before venturing to the lake, north of Mancelona; a visit to the bathroom.

Following continued vandalism to the portable bathrooms (or porta-johns/potties) at the park, Gmoser’s Septic Service – which provides the amenities – requested an amendment to its overall contract with the county to remove the structures (one regular and another that’s handicap-accessible) immediately for this year.

During last Thursday’s Antrim County Board of Commissioners meeting, Administrator Pete Garwood told the board that he was contacted by Gmoser’s following a recent incident that involved someone “ripping the door” off of the portable handicap-accessible structure.

“Vandalism to the porta-potties out there has been an ongoing problem,” Garwood said, “and this recent incident was pretty severe. Therefore Gmoser’s notified us that they would be removing the structures permanently.”

Several commissioners questioned whether Gmoser’s had the authority to “break” the contract, which also provides services to other county-owned or leased public facilities.

Garwood said any change to the contract would require board approval, but that “there wasn’t a lot they (the county) could do about it.”

“The costs for replacement and/or to repair the ongoing vandalism are obviously something they don’t want to keep dealing with,” he noted. “We could fight it, or look for another provider, but that won’t really fix the problem.”

Placement of a surveillance camera to help catch offenders was also mentioned – but wasn’t fully considered at this time due to its cost and personnel needed to continuously review footage.

After further discussion, a motion was made by board vice chair and District 3 Commissioner Karen Bargy and supported by District 5 Commissioner Terry VanAlstine to amend the contract for removal this season of the portable structures and their related cost, and erect a sign at the site explaining why they were removed.

The motion was approved 7-2 with District 1 Commissioner David Heeres and District 8 Commissioner Jason Helwig opposing the measure.

“I understand that there is a problem there,” said Helwig, whose district encompasses the Village of Mancelona and Mancelona Township. “But, that’s a popular park and we can’t let the actions of a few hurt everyone. A lot of families use that lake, and we are hurting them by not having bathroom facilities available.”

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