Counties set to clash again at upcoming DHD meeting

Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

KALKASKA – The upcoming meeting between the 10 member counties of District Health Dept. No. 10 on Friday, Dec. 22, could be a lot more interesting, especially after a recent vote by the Kalkaska County Board of Commissioners.

At a special meeting on Oct. 31, the county board voted, 6-1, against approving a proposed request by Manistee County for various revisions to its point-of-sale inspection program of septic systems and water wells. District No. 2 Commissioner Leigh Ngirarsaol cast the lone dissenting vote.

District No. 5 Commissioner David Comai, in making the motion at the special meeting, stated he could not again support Kalkaska County’s approval of Manistee County’s requested revisions, considering the neighboring county’s refusal of Kalkaska’s earlier request to withdrawal from the program.

In what has become a contentious back-and-forth dispute between the two county boards, Manistee County commissioners in October rejected a proposal by Kalkaska County to end its own participation in the program. Kalkaska County board members were seeking to exit from the inspection process, citing inflated inspection fees that can run as high as $1,000 and contained no real mandate for a property owner to make necessary changes before selling their property.

Manistee County’s stance seemed to run counter to a good-will gesture by the Kalkaska County board in September, when it approved new guidelines requested by Manistee County to strengthen its inspection program by removing various exemptions, as well as extending the validity of any inspection from two to three years.

District No. 3 Commissioner Kohn Fisher, chairman of the Kalkaska County board, confirmed the Oct. 31 vote was, in part, a direct rebuttal of Manistee County’s denial of Kalkaska County wanting to discontinue its program, which commissioners had hoped would allow local townships to write and enforce more stringent guidelines.

Fisher added that that can’t happen until it’s allowed out of the DHD No. 10 program. According to an agreement between the 10 participating counties, each member must agree to any changes in status for another member to institute changes or withdrawal from the program.

“The townships can do nothing as long as Kalkaska County remains part of this program,” Fisher said, adding that he knows of one township which is ready to forge its own guidelines. “The townships have no authority as long as the county is involved in the point-of-sale program.”

According to Fisher, the other eight member counties seem ready to allow Kalkaska County to exit the program, leaving Manistee County as the lone roadblock.

“It’s a 10-county agreement,” he said. “Eight of which don’t even participate.

“And, their votes have been along those lines.”

But, the local commissioner said he’s also unsure where the two counties stand going into the Nov. 22 meeting in Cadillac after the most recent vote by the Kalkaska County board.

“I have no clue,” Fisher said. “I’ve not heard back from anyone.

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