Sept. 22, 2017 – CNS Budget

Sept. 22, 2017 — Week 3

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or

For other matters, contact Dave Poulson:;

Here is your file:

ROADKILL: Turkeys in traffic: Michigan police agencies last year reported 232 traffic accidents involving turkeys. For the first time police are identifying how often four species of wildlife other than deer — bears, elk, moose, turkeys  — are involved in Michigan traffic accidents. Marquette, Oakland, Jackson and Cheboygan counties top the kill list for various species. By Jingjing Nie. FOR MARQUETTE, MANISTEE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, CADILLAC, CHEBOYGAN, METRO TIMES AND ALL POINTS.

IMMUNIZATION: Parents wouldn’t have to learn about immunization and disease prevention to get their children waived from Michigan vaccination requirements under a proposed bill. But state health authorities say that the requirement has significantly lowered the rate of waivers Michigan gives while improving health. The state once gave the fourth most waivers but now ranks 11th. Houghton County has the highest waiver rate and Luce the lowest. By Kaley Fech. FOR SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, LANSING CITY PULSE, METRO TIMES AND ALL POINTS

Editors: check vaccination rates in your county at:,5885,7-339-73971_4911_4914_68361-321114–,00.html

INFORMANT: Criminal informants could get a tenfold increase in pay under recently introduced legislation that would boost limits on payouts from $2,000 to $20,000. Sponsors include lawmakers from Mason, Oak Park, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Calumet and Warren. By Stephen Olschanski. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, MARQUETTE AND ALL POINTS.

ZIKA: State and local authorities are ramping up surveillance for the species of mosquitoes that causes the Zika virus in the wake of their discovery in Wayne County. They are also on the lookout for piles of tires and other areas where standing water can serve as breeding grounds for the insect that carries a disease that can cause birth defects. We hear from state, Wayne County and Kent County health officials and experts at MSU, Michigan Environmental Council and DEQ. By Jack Nissen. FOR METRO TIMES, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

STOUT&TROUT: Representatives of a wide range of environmental groups, government units and private companies gather several times a year for beer and casual conversation about the fate and future of the Great Lakes, including a recent gathering at an Ann Arbor microbrewery. We interview participants from the National Wildlife Federation and Great Lakes Observing System. By Steven Maier. FOR ALL POINTS

w/stouttrout1.jpg: Look out for these cutting-edge buoys on the Detroit River. Image: Kristin Schrader

LIFESKILLS – County jails have started to turn to programs that help keep inmates from returning. The lifeskills courses are similar to programs at state prisons, but aimed at offenders serving much shorter sentences at county jails, including Allegan County and Kent County programs. We also hear from the Sheriffs’ Association. By Jingjing Nie. FOR HOLLAND, GRAND RAPIDS AND ALL POINTS.


More county jails seek to keep inmates from returning

By Jingjing Nie
Capital News Service

LANSING – More Michigan counties are offering programs to keep inmates from returning to jail.

Similar to programs in place at state prisons, the local programs teach skills that give a better chance to jail inmates who serve much shorter sentences than those in prison, said Blaine Koops, the executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

Each program is unique and depends on the demographics and the size of the jail, Koops said.

Kent County is in the sixth year of a re-entry program piloted with the National Institute of Corrections, based in Washington, D.C.

It offers classes on avoiding substance abuse, job readiness, high school equivalency completion, job readiness training,social skills and problem solving, said Rob Steele, the inmate program coordinator.

The county re-entry programs are designed to eliminate the short-term repeat offenders.

Jails have frequent flyers, said Capt. Klint Thorne, who oversees facility operations for Kent County. “It is like a revolving door. We will have the same problem with same people again.”

“Frequent flyers” usually started in the criminal justice system at a young age and have been arrested several times, Thorne said. The program targets them and other high-risk people serving sentences to ensure there is enough time to have an impact, he said.

Finding funding for such programs is difficult, Thorne said. The department often partners with local groups.

“It is important to have support from the local community — financial support and time commitment to make this work,” Thorne said. “I think this should be a nationwide program, but I understand there is some difficulty in counties.”

The Allegan County Correctional Facility started a similar program in 2009, said Sgt. John Sexton of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department.

It allows people to live in one dorm as study buddies, he said. They have two life skills classes a day, five days a week. The coursework includes job skills, budgeting, addiction recovery, parenting and Bible study.

Inmates can also choose weekend workshops, worship services, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and high school equivalency classes.

The program lasts 10 weeks, Sexton said. Eighteen people graduated this year.

“Some students actually asked the judge if they can stay until the class is over,” Sexton said.

Most of the students don’t return to jail, Sexton said. “Some of them got back, but mostly for a smaller crime like violation of parole. They rarely come back for the same level crime or a more severe one.”

And the program has supporters.  

“Judges, probation officers, sheriffs and a lot people from law enforcement are all invited to the graduation,” he said.

The program was so successful that the county set up a women’s program. The first students graduated in September 2016.

It offers the same classes but also offers individual counseling with a therapist.

Forgotten Man Ministries works in similar programs with 33 county jails across the state, said Sarah Farkas, the group’s lead chaplain. It offers religious classes, worship services and individual counseling.

It is possible for people to change their lives, she said.

“When I first started in the program about two and a half years ago, it broke my heart to see how people are looking at the inmate,” she said. “I feel like inmates are always marginalized in a lot of ways.

“I had a loved one who was incarcerated once, so I understand the system and I see society always associated shame with it,” Farkas said. “This is a successful program, it empowers them and empowers their thinking process.”

Inmates in jail ministries are open and willing to share their stories, which is not often seen in everyday life, she said.

Life skills programs are emerging in county jails but not yet widely used, Koops said.

“I’d like to see it not only statewide, it should be a nationwide program,” he said.

Proposed bills could undo parental education requirement for immunization waivers

By Kaley Fech
Capital News Service

LANSING — Parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids could skip an education session designed to teach them a the benefits of vaccines and the risks of disease, under legislation proposed by two Republican lawmakers.

A 2014 rule requires parents to first learn about vaccines from a county health department to get an immunization waiver, , according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The rule was put in place by a joint committee of the House and Senate, not the entire Legislature.

Michigan allows immunization waivers for medical, religious and philosophical reasons. Medical waivers are completed by a physician.The education requirement pertains only to parents claiming religious and philosophical reasons.

Michigan had the sixth-highest waiver rate for kindergarteners in the country in 2014-15, according to the state health agency. The state moved to 11th place after the educational requirement was put in place.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen a 33 percent decrease in waivers,” said Bob Swanson, director of the Health and Human Services division of immunizations.

Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, and Rep. Jeff Noble, R-Plymouth, introduced bills earleir this year to undo the education requirements.

One of the problems with the administrative rule is it contradicts state law, Barrett testified at at House Education Reform Committee.

“Michigan law grants parents the right to waive any and all vaccines for their children for medical, philosophical or religious reasons,” he said. “That law remains on the books today.”

The Department of Health and Human Services opposes the bills.

“From a public health standpoint, vaccines are very important,” Swanson said.

Supporters of the repeal say the issue is about parental rights

“We support the right for parents to choose if their kids are vaccinated,” said Beth Bechtel, a volunteer with Michigan for Vaccine Choice. “As a group, we are not for or against vaccines. We simply believe parents should be able to choose.”

Noble testified that parents and not government should be encouraged to make wise decisions.

State health authorities note that the education requirement does not take away a parent’s rights.

“The education informs parents of the benefits of being vaccinated and the risks of diseases, but afterward they still have the right to choose to sign a waiver,” Swanson said.

Another criticism by opponents is that the requirement was approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rule instead of the entire Legislature.

“If the Department of Health and Human Services wanted to change the rules, they should have written up bills,” Bechtel said.

Five vaccines are required for kindergarten school entry, according to the state health agency. That includes vaccines for chickenpox; polio; measles, mumps and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; and hepatitis B.

Some parents are opposed to only certain vaccines due to religious or philosophical beliefs, Bechtel said. The most common one is for chickenpox.

Only about 3 percent of children in the United States are completely unvaccinated, according to officials.

Swanson said ending the education requirement would make waiver rates go back up and increase the risk of disease.

“The more people who are susceptible, the higher the risk for outbreak,” he said.

As of June 30, Houghton County had the highest waiver rate at 13.5 percent. Luce County had the lowest at 0.6 percent, according to Health and Human Services.

When 90 to 95 percent of a community is protected, it is almost impossible for vaccine- preventable diseases to spread, according to health officials administering the state’s “I vaccinate” campaign. As that number decreases, the risk of outbreak increases.  

“A number of preventable disease outbreaks have occurred in Michigan as well as other spots in the U.S. due to low vaccination rates,” said Angela Minicuci, the communications director for the department.

A current example is a hepatitis A outbreak among adults in Southeast Michigan, Swanson said.

“We haven’t seen it in a lot of kids because they’ve been vaccinated,” he said. “But most adults were never vaccinated against the virus, making them susceptible.”

State health authorities say as many people as possible should be vaccinated to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, such as pregnant women, babies, the elderly and ones who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

“Vaccines are the best protection against diseases,” Swanson said.

The bills are in the House Committee on Education Reform.

Counties could pay informants more, if bill becomes law

Capital News Service

LANSING — Criminal informants in Michigan could be in for a larger payday if a recently introduced bipartisan bill increases the limit on payouts by 10 times.

The  bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, and 17 co-sponsors who say a larger reward amount could make witnesses to crimes more willing to come forward. Three co-sponsors are Republican.

Currently the maximum amount that could be given to an informant is $2,000, and it comes from a county’s general fund. This legislation would increase the limit to $20,000. There is no particular reason for the proposed limit, Cochran said, although it seemed to be a figure counties could afford.

As for why there is any limit, Cochran said it was precedent. The law sets the limit at $2,000. However, Cochran said he would be open to an amendment to the bill to get rid of the limit and allow counties to figure it out themselves.

“The idea being the reward would be a little more substantial and possibly someone would come forward with information,” Cochran said.

A former sheriff approached him about increasing the reward for police informants after one of his deputies died while chasing a suspect, Cochran said. No witnesses to the crash came forward, and he thought a greater incentive might have made a difference.

“He felt very strongly in working with the Sheriffs’ Association that they would like to see this raised to $20,000,” Cochran said.

The money would be controlled by county commissioners and be doled out of the county general fund. Each county would select how much to reward witnesses up to that amount, Cochran said.

“This is permissive. It doesn’t require the county to put forth that much reward but it could be up to $20,000,” Cochran said. “Obviously they have to work within their budget constraints, but this allows for local control.”

Cochran said he has the backing of the Ingham County Sheriffs’ Department and the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

Typically, the money doled out to criminal informants goes to persons informing on drug dealers or those involved in racketeering, said Blaine Koops, the executive director of the Association.

Rewards for criminal informants typically do work, he said. The money goes to those who divulge information leading to arrests or convictions of people for high- level felonies.

“The problem is, money is a great motivator,” Koops said.

Co-sponsors are: John Chirkun, D-Roseville; Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor; Pam Faris, D-Clio; Tim Sneller, D-Burton; Eric Leutheuser, R-Hillsdale; Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Scott Dianda, D-Calumet; Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon; Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township; David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids; Brian Elder, D-Bay City; Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township; Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township; Leslie Love, D-Detroit; Andy Schor, D-Lansing; and Patrick Green, D-Warren.

The bill was referred to the Law and Justice Committee, where Cochran says his Republican colleagues said they felt optimistic about getting the bill pushed through for a hearing.

State expected to catch Zika mosquitoes in nets and it did

Capital News Service

Lansing — While Michigan health officials had a plan for combating the Asian tiger mosquito, it was untested.

At least, until mid-August when they caught a few in Wayne County.

Now that the mosquitoes, known for carrying the Zika virus, have been found in Michigan,  health departments are taking more measures to fight their arrival.

“We’re probably going to be ramping up surveillance as well as monitoring Ohio and Indiana,” said Meghan Swain, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, a nonprofit lobbyist for local health departments.

After the mosquito was found, an increased surveillance of the area in Wayne County was done twice in search for more.

“We’re in some ways, more prepared for this because of the funding we had at the beginning of the year,” said Erik Foster, a medical entomologist with the Department of Health and Human Services. “We had more preparation and understanding of the mosquito as a vector.”

The Wayne County Health Department spotted the mosquito in one of the traps put up every week in Livonia. They were breeding near a business location on I-96 in a shipment of containers, Foster said.

“They did a nice job,” said Eden Wells, the chief medical executive with the Department of Health and Human Services. “They have responded very well and I was very impressed with the way leadership of the Wayne County Health Department and the city of Livonia partnered with our state health folks to address this.”

Officials were on high alert after receiving notice a month earlier that the same species of mosquito was found in Toledo, Ohio—just across the border from Michigan.

“We weren’t that desperate, because everybody understood that Zika was going to be a problem and started preparing about two years ago,” Wells said.

This doesn’t mean the disease itself hasn’t shown up in Michigan. In 2016, there were 67 reported cases of Zika imported by people into the state.

The Zika virus, a disease that causes birth defects in children, entered the national spotlight after travelers to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were warned about the outbreak. While they don’t travel very far on their own, they tend to make big hops in containers holding tires, Foster said.

While the Asian tiger mosquito isn’t in Kent County, mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus are — and that’s prompting officials there to take similar measures. A warning was put out mid-September concerning five new cases of the disease.

“The reason we think that warning is important is because people need to know that West Nile is very present in the community,” said Steve Kelso, the marketing and communications manager for the Kent County Health Department. “People need to know this is active and need to be careful and take precautions.”

The tests Kent County does for mosquitoes that can carry West Nile are similar to the tests that counties use for Asian tiger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with 25 county health departments to set up traps to attract mosquitoes.

“We fully anticipated that we would need to be ready for when Zika showed up in the state a while ago,” Wells said.

That meant educating travelers about potential diseases and ways to avoid getting sick, while using a system in Michigan that she calls “enhanced surveillance” to look out for cases of the mosquitoes.

The health department has also identified airports and shipping ports where the disease could come in, increasing the number of tests for mosquitoes and making more efforts to remove places where breeding takes place.

Now that the species is here, the Department of Health and Human Services has been talking with the CDC about controlling and eliminating the species.

“These mosquitoes love standing water,” Wells said. “It’s important to try to control these mosquito pools to get rid of anything that might incite them.”

Sewer and drainage areas are popular places where water accumulates. Because a lot of Michigan’s industry is built around cars, Wells worries about old tire yards, which are considered an active surveillance site.

There is a connection between the Livonia spotting and tire pits, said Edward Walker, a Michigan State University entomologist.

“It is associated with the pile of tires that is accumulating in Livonia,” Walker said. “It’s not surprising to me because the tire trade is so common in Michigan, as well as the moderating of temperatures.”

As of 2015, the Department of Environmental Quality estimated more than 275,000 tons of tires were recycled or repurposed in Michigan..

About the same amount will be collected this year, said Aaron Hiday, an environmental quality analyst.

Scrap tire recyclers must treat them for mosquitoes,  Hiday said. “Some set traps while others will spray a type of pesticide or cut holes in the tires.”

Many scientists are calling the growing trend of tropical viruses further north a result of climate change.

“We’re seeing the same trend with allergens and an increase in pollen count,” said Katie Parrish, the communications officer with the Michigan Environmental Council. “We’re seeing this as an indicator that climate change is real and we’re seeing those manifestations in our everyday life.”

With the warming of summer months, a shrinking of winter months and increased precipitation, Walker says we should see an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses as time goes on.

“We’re going to have to have the public and political will to intercept the problem before it gets worse.”

Turkeys in traffic — and bears, elk and moose, oh my!

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan drivers know to watch for deer on the road — the state recorded 46,870 car-deer accidents in 2016.

But have you ever heard of a driving hazard caused by turkeys?

Michigan police agencies reported 232 vehicle crashes involving the birds in 2016. They are among the species of wildlife that police are identifying for the first time as involved in Michigan traffic accidents.

For the first time, police arecollecting data on turkey, elk, moose and bear, said Scott Carlson, a trooper with the State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit.

In 2016, the number of traffic accidents involving each animal is followed by the county with the most accidents:

  • Deer — 46,870 (Oakland County — 1,847)
  • Turkeys — 232 (Jackson County — 17)
  • Bear — 61 (Marquette County — 6)
  • Elk — 22 (Cheboygan County — 5)
  • Moose –18 (Marquette County — 5)
  • Other — 876

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other users of the state’s traffic crash database showed interest in the type of animals being struck and where, Carlson wrote in an email.

Officers now capture statistics about the five species most often involved in traffic accidents. An “other” selection encompasses other animals such as horses and cows.

The data could lead to new warning signs along highways, state officials said.

Ryan Boyer, a district biologist from the National Wild Turkey Federation, said he isn’t surprised by the number of turkey-involved accidents.

The number of wild turkeys has rapidly increased in the past few decades, he said. The DNR estimates the state’s population at around 200,000 turkeys.

June, July and August is the breeding season for turkeys, he said. “Young turkeys usually are looking for bugs in an opening with a higher numbers of insects It might be one reason behind those crashes.”

Some of the data may be suspect, such as a moose/vehicle collision in Detroit. That’s likely a mistake, said Anne Readett, section chief of the planning and administration section of the Office of Highway Safety Planning.

There aren’t any moose in the Lower Peninsula, said Dean Beyer, a DNR biologist. They live in the Upper Peninsula, away from people.

But there are major roads in the U.P. near where the moose live, he said. And when moose try to cross the road, accidents happen.

Michigan has more elk than moose, said Chad Stewart, the DNR deer, elk and moose specialist. Elk usually live in unpopulated areas of the northern Lower Peninsula.

“It is extremely rare, but occasionally we have a few elk accidents each year,’’ said Amy Trotter, deputy director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

They’re usually on I-75 in the northern Lower Peninsula.

The best mechanism to reduce animal-car accidents is hunting, she said.

The actual number of turkey accidents could be higher. Every county i has  spring turkey hunting and some counties have a fall season as well.

Boyer said, “There are more people and more turkeys in the southern part of Michigan, and I think hunting season helps maintain and reduce the turkey population.”

The high number of  bears–61– struck by Michigan motorists is a result of an increasing bear population in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, said DNR wildlife specialist Kevin Swanson.

The reason for most bear-related accidents is that bears are simply trying to cross the roads, he said.

“Bears have large range, especially in this season when bears need to put on some fat before they enter hibernation,” he said. They travel a long distance to food sources.

Deer remain the greatest wildlife headache for motorists by far. Fourteen people were killed in traffic accidents involving deer in 2016. None of the other wildlife caused fatal accidents, Readett said.

Erik Schnelle, the president of the Quality Deer Management Association of Michigan.said, “In some areas, the main causes of death of deer is cars since there are no natural predators.”

The key to reducing deer accidents is to achieve a healthy balance in the deer herd.

One reason for the deer overpopulation is restrictions on hunting, Schnelle said.

Science shows a  need to harvest at least 30 percent of female deer in a herd r to maintain the population, Schnelle said.

In some areas in Kent County, 40 to 50 percent of the deer population should be harvested to keep it in check, he said. Hunters should hunt antlerless deer to keep the population down and reduce the number of deer-car accidents.

Plain old conversation works for lakes’ advocates

Capital News Service

LANSING — Representatives from multiple Great Lakes-based organizations gathered recently in Ann Arbor but not to tackle any threats to the lakes.

They came for happy hour.

“It’s just sort of a casual thing that happens a couple of times a year,” said Kristin Schrader, a communications manager for the Great Lakes Observing System, a regional data-sharing partnership based in Ann Arbor.

It started six years ago, when Schrader was working for Ducks Unlimited. She thought her organization would benefit from conversations with members of other groups – something that happened only at infrequent events with scheduled programs. Schrader wanted an event conducive to casual conversation.

And the Great Lakes Happy Hour was born.

The gathering creates “cross-pollination, in a casual way,” she said. Individuals from nonprofit organizations, government agencies, private firms and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have attended. And the soirees feature a mix of political leanings -– evident in the distinction between self-identifying “conservationists” and “environmentalists.”

Both groups advocate for preservation of natural resources, although environmentalism is often associated with liberal political ideologies and conservation with those of the political right.

Although onlookers might expect some tension there, they won’t find it, said Drew YoungeDyke, a communications coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center.

“We’re all looking out for the Great Lakes,” he said. “We’re all about the resource, though we may have come to appreciate that resource from a different perspective.”

Poor weather at the most recent event forced a last-minute change of venue from a beer garden to a local brewery and drew a smaller crowd than usual. Fewer than 10 attended.

The event has drawn audiences of up to 30 in the past.

Schrader said representatives from the Great Lakes Observing System, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Great Lakes Commission and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research attended.

Members of Ducks Unlimited, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation and the private environmental science firm LimnoTech have come in the past, she said.

YoungeDyke said, “We get together and have a beer, and just kind of discuss the issues that are going on. Pretty informal, but a good spot to kind of get in the loop on what’s coming up.”

Steven Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Sept. 15, 2017 – CNS Budget

Sept. 15, 2017 — Week 2

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or

For other matters, contact Dave Poulson:;

Here is your file:

MARINEPATROL: State funding for county sheriff deputies to patrol lakes and rivers has dropped over the past decade with the decline in the boater registrations that support them. But at the same time the county marine patrols are rescuing an increasing number of canoers and kayakers – who don’t have to register their craft and support the service. That’s leading to calls to register the increasingly popular craft. We talk to DNR and sheriffs in Mackinac, Marquette and Huron counties. By Kaley Fech. FOR MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE, MANISTEE, CADILLAC, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS.

OPIOIDCRISIS: A drug is saving the lives of hundreds of Michigan opioid addicts. But experts say it’s no solution for the epidemic sweeping the state and that it may even encourage further drug use among addicts. We talk to the Ingham County sheriff, the Department of Corrections and health experts from U-M and Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health. By Jack Nissen. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, METRO TIMES AND ALL POINTS.

SECONDARYROADPATROL: Speeding may be less risky business for Michigan drivers — officers are issuing fewer citations each year. But the drop is costing county sheriffs’ departments thousands of dollars each year that fund patrols of the state’s back roads and investigations into vehicle crashes. We hear from the Sheriffs’ Association and Office of Highway Safety Planning. By Stephen Olschanski. FOR ALL POINTS.

MTARVON: You won’t find Mount Arvon listed in many Michigan tour books, despite the peak’s lofty status as the highest point in Michigan. But these days, Mount Arvon is getting more attention from tourists and the just plain curious willing to climb Michigan’s most prominent peak. It also is attracting a national convention of mountain climbers in 2019. By Carl Stoddard. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, SAULT STE.MARIE AND ALL POINTS.

w/MOUNTARVONSIGN: Mount Arvon is Michigan’s tallest spot. Credit: Baraga County Convention & Visitors Bureau


A new study shows that people who have been affected by weather extremes have polarized perceptions of climate change: some are more concerned and some are more dubious. It found that people who spend more time outdoors are more concerned about climate change. We talk to a Michigan State University professor of agricultural, food and resource economics; the author of the study, a former grad student at MSU; and a national expert on climate change at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change. By Jack Nissen. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU & ALL POINTS.

SUSTAINABILITY: MSU faculty and grad students explore sustainability in the Cadillac-Traverse City-Leelanau Peninsula area, including a trail system linking Northwest Michigan communities, a small-scale organic vegetable farm that supplies local restaurants with fresh produce, citizen-scientists alert for invasive aquatics, apple researchers and critics of an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.  Commentary by Eric Freedman. FOR CADILLAC, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, BIG RAPIDS & ALL POINTS.

           w/SUSTAINABILITYPHOTO1: Seining for Great Lakes fishes with the Cerulean Center at Maple Bay Natural Area. Credit: Shari L. Dann

           w/SUSTAINABILITYPHOTO2: Nic Theisen discusses growing organic vegetables at Loma Farm near Traverse City. Credit: Eric Freedman


Police cite fewer speeders, costing counties patrol dollars

Capital News Service

LANSING — Speeding might be less risky  for drivers in Michigan as police officers are issuing fewer citations annually.

But that drop is costing county sheriffs’ departments thousands of dollars each year for patrolling the state’s back roads and to investigate crashes.

The program, known as secondary road patrol, is a state program of traffic enforcement and crash investigation on non-main roads in the counties, including parts of national and state parks.

It was funded solely by state grant general fund from 1979 to 1992. But now it is self-funded by the surcharge added to fines generated by traffic citations issued by all police. Partial allocation from the general fund continued from 1992 until 2003 when it  was completely eliminated

The average number of  citations issued per deputy has decreased from 582 in 2006 to 444 in 2016, according to a report by Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning.. That resulted in a loss of nearly $3 million to the secondary road patrol program during the past 10 years.

“The two are intertwined,” said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. “The number of citations equals the amount revenue that’s generated.”

There may be multiple reasons for the decrease in citations, Koops said. But more compassionate officers may be among them.

“Part of it is the whole demeanor of the new police officers,” Koops said. “Number one is more compassionate police officers as far as looking at an individual and their individual circumstances but also their looking at their job differently.”

Koops said more officers are looking at their jobs as more community-based as the people they serve are also the people they live among.

Other reasons for the decrease in citations  have to do with changing road environments. Barriers dividing the freeways have made it more difficult for officers to catch violators.

“If they’re tracking opposite direction traffic, they cannot go through the median to track that vehicle,” Koops said. “If indeed they’re going to track that vehicle, they have to go to the next emergency exchange in the middle of the road which can be several miles away.”

Officers are also more cognizant of being filmed or having to use body cameras which may make them less likely to ticket speeders.

The decrease in funding has led also to a decrease in secondary road patrol deputies funded through the program, taking officers off the road. At the program’s’ inception in 1979, 287 officers were funded by the secondary road patrol funds. Now approximately 126 officers are funded through the program.

That shifted costs to local government. The number of county-funded officers has increased from 1,123 in 1979 to approximately 2,184 in 2016.

“There’s just not enough money to put the deputies on the road,” Koops said. “That money is spent really as far as a funding source to augment the general fund that a county puts into traffic enforcement.”

Eighty-eight percent of the program’s expenditures, or about $11.8 million,  are spent on personnel costs. Each deputy costs approximately $97,258.04 including salary, fringes, vehicles and equipment.

The decrease in funds to the program has no quick solution,  Koops said.

“Truthfully, right now there is no solution,” he said.

Decline in boat registrations creating a lack of funding for marine patrols

Capital News Service

LANSING — Over the past decade, state funding for the marine divisions of sheriffs’ offices in Michigan has dwindled with the decline in the number of registered boats.

At the same time, the number of unregistered canoes and kayaks has increased, leading to calls for the owners of those craft to also be required to pay the registration fees that support rescues and other boating programs

“We’ve experienced a dramatic decrease in funding,” said Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait. “It’s roughly one-third of what it was 10 years ago.”  

Marine divisions offer boater safety classes, patrol waterways and conduct search-and- rescue missions on the water, including areas of the Great Lakes.

The  Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers Marine Safety grants to county sheriff departments for marine patrol divisions. The grant money comes from boat registration fees.

However, a decline in registered boats has led to a decrease in the grant money vailable, and sheriffs’ offices across the state are feeling the effects, said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

In 2007, there were 827,869 registered boats in Michigan. By 2012, there were only 800,793. Last year that number dropped to 790,425, according to the DNR.

The amount available for Marine Safety grants is decreasing with the decline in registered boats. In 2007, it  was about $3.5 million. In 2012, it fell to about $2.8 million.  In 2016, it was about $2.2 million, according to the DNR.

“Funding here is roughly half of what it was when I first started,” said Sgt. Eric Decker, from the Marquette County special operations division. “Ten to 15 years ago, grant money was somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000. It’s now down to between $17,000 and $20,000.”

In the past, the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office used funds from the DNR grant to purchase new equipment, but he said the lack of funding is now forcing the county to make some tough decisions.

“We haven’t been able to replace equipment,” Decker said. “We have an aging boat, but we haven’t been able to replace it because grant money has gone down. It’s now looking like the county will purchase the boat and will put off getting a new patrol car for another year.”

An increasing problem counties are seeing is the number of calls they receive from canoers and kayakers in distress.

“We’re seeing major issues with kayaks,” said Kelly Hanson, the Huron County dheriff. “We’ve been called out over 70 times this year for kayak rescues.”

In Michigan, canoes and kayaks do not have to be registered. When users call for help, they are using marine division resources without contributing to the funding, Strait said.

Strait said his office is receiving a growing number of calls from kayakers, especially in the Straits of Mackinac. Deckersaid Marquette County is also getting more calls involving kayakers in trouble.

All three sheriffs say that  requiring canoes and kayaks to be registered would improve the funding situation.

They’re not alone.

“This is something we’ve wanted to see happen for years,” said Mark Miltner, vice president of Michigan Association of Paddlesport Providers and owner of Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston, about halfway between Manistee and Cadillac.

“The number of people who own personal crafts is increasing, and they’re not always experienced,” he said. “Sheriff marine divisions are getting called out more and more to do search and rescues.”

Decker said the drop in funding  means fewer deputies on the water.

It’s a concern that Hanson shares.

“At one time we had a marine patrol seven days a week,” he said. “Now we just have a weekend patrol.”