Grand Traverse County

Grand Traverse County wants the YMCA to run its troubled swimming pool. County commissioners voted Wednesday night to turn management of the Easling Pool over to the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA. The pool has been closed since October due to lack of funding.

The county would pay the YMCA $50,000 in management fees during a one-year trial.

Most commissioners support the plan but County Administrator Tom Menzel said it’s a bad idea.

Northern Michigan Human Trafficking Awareness Summit


Law enforcement says human trafficking is definitely happening northern Michigan, but it’s hard to prosecute. 

They have trouble getting victims to talk, and without the victim’s testimony, it’s often hard to tell if prostitution is forced or voluntary.

There’s a summit this Friday and Saturday in Cadillac where they’ll be talking about these issues.


More sex crime charges for Native American leader

Aug 20, 2015
Peter Payette

UPDATE: Today, Grand Traverse County prosecutors charged Derek Bailey with two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and with being a sexually delinquent person.

Bob Cooney, prosecuting attorney for Grand Traverse County, says, "These are just allegations, but the idea of a sexually delinquent person is that it’s not just a one-time act. Because of repetitive behaviors, the statute is designed to give the court more discretion to fashion a sentence that is protective of the public." 

Officials don't know why 911 system failed during storm

Aug 6, 2015
Aaron Selbig

UPDATED on Thursday at 1pm with statement from AT&T.

Officials in Grand Traverse County want to know why the 911 system failed during Sunday’s storm.

Emergency calls in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Kalkaska Counties had to be rerouted for several hours after the storm. Some of the calls ended up at a dispatch center in Petoskey.

Linda Stephan

Updated: Monday at 12 p.m.

Grand Traverse County Chair Christine Maxbauer issued a local state of emergency on Monday afternoon.

Storms ripped through northern Michigan Sunday afternoon and early evening, bringing winds up to 70 miles per hour.

The wind uprooted trees, broke limbs and downed power lines, leading to widespread power outages. Fifteen thousand people in Grand Traverse County were without power as of 10 a.m. Monday morning.

Aaron Selbig

Local governments are turning to social media to reach citizens where they are. 

The Grand Traverse County 911 dispatch center has probably the most-"liked" Facebook page in northern Michigan. Deputy Director Jason Torrey says the idea for the page came in the spring of 2012, when a huge snowstorm caused chaos all over the county.

“It dumped two and a half feet of snow – wet, heavy snow," says Torrey. "It took power out in the whole county.”

Housing task force wraps up work

Apr 15, 2015

Six months after its creation, the Grand Traverse County Joint Housing Task Force has finished its work.

The task force was formed last October to bring together county, township and Traverse City leaders on housing issues. It will hold its final meeting today.

County Planning Director John Sych says the task force was never supposed to last long-term.

“This was really just intended to … bring some of our elected leaders up to speed (and) identify some key actions that they can continue onwards, after the task force has concluded,” said Sych.

Report compares wait times at VA clinics nationwide

Apr 10, 2015

Veterans in northern Michigan rarely face long wait times for health care. That’s according to a new report that compares wait times at veterans’ health facilities across the country.

Nationally, nearly three percent of veterans have to wait longer than 30 days for a medical appointment. But at clinics in Gaylord and Traverse City, that percentage is almost down to zero.

Investigators with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department recommend criminal charges against a Traverse City police captain. A report released Thursday says Captain Mike Ayling mishandled a police call to the home of then-City Manager Jered Ottenwess.

Ottenwess was not arrested during the February incident but later pleaded “no contest” to charges of domestic violence and resisting police. The investigators asked County Prosecutor Bob Cooney charge Ayling with “willful neglect of public duty.”

Cooney says the request is not an actual criminal charge.

Vaccination numbers trending upward

Mar 31, 2015

Fewer parents in northern Michigan are opting out of vaccinations for their children. Health officials say the trend is positive but there is still more work to do.

In Leelanau County, just over 12 percent of parents requested a vaccine waiver for their kindergarteners this year. That number is down from nearly 20 percent the year before.

In Grand Traverse County, the rate of vaccine waivers is down from 13 percent to just under 10 percent. County Health Officer Wendy Trute says that’s a step in the right direction.

An investigation of the Traverse City Police Department is nearing completion.

Officers did not arrest then-City Manger Jered Ottenwess after responding to a 911 call at his home February 16th. Ottenwess later pleaded “no contest” to charges of domestic violence and attempting to resist police.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney says two lieutenants from the sheriff’s department are conducting the investigation.

“And I expect to get a report fairly soon … possibly within the next couple of days (or) maybe a week at the outside,” said Cooney.

Aaron Selbig

Outbreaks of measles and whooping cough have died down in northern Michigan. But a new state law has gone into effect that makes it harder for parents to refuse vaccinations for their children.

Parents seeking a vaccine waiver for “philosophical” reasons will first have to meet with a public health nurse. Health officials hope the new law will reduce Michigan’s high waiver rate but research shows the plan could be ineffective – or even backfire.

Traverse City Manager Jered Ottenwess has been charged with domestic violence and attempted assault on a police officer.

The charges stem from an incident at Ottenwess' home last week. They were filed today by the Grand Traverse County Prosecuting Attorneys Office. Prosecutors allege that during a police call to his home last Monday, Ottenwess attempted to assault two officers from the Traverse City Police Department. He is also charged with assaulting his wife.

Police say the city manager of Traverse City was not arrested during a call to his home last Monday but the incident is under investigation.

Police were called to the home of City Manager Jared Ottenwess last Monday afternoon. Traverse City Police Chief Michael Warren describes the call as a “medical assist” but a report from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s office says police responded to “a disorderly subject.”

Aaron Selbig

The Grand Traverse County Health Department wants another nurse to help fight outbreaks of measles and pertussis.

The health department has been stretched thin since the pertussis outbreak began six weeks ago. Workers have put in more than 1,000 hours of overtime and many worked through Thanksgiving.

Health Officer Wendy Trute says her team has been busy re-tracing the steps of people who have come down with pertussis and measles.

Grand Traverse County could be facing an outbreak of measles following a pair of confirmed cases of the disease. 

Two siblings, ages 19 and 20, apparently contracted the disease while on a recent trip to the Philippines. That country has had a serious measles outbreak over the last year, with more than 50,000 reported cases and more than 100 deaths.

The two siblings had not been vaccinated against measles.

Grand Traverse County no longer leads the state in the number of illegal dump sites.

Last month, the Michigan Department of Resources identified 55 dump sites on public land throughout the county. But thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers, all 55 piles of trash have been cleaned up.

The effort was led by DNR volunteer coordinator Ada Takacs. She said all sorts of things were found at the sites.

“We find anything from gum wrappers all the way up to major … trailer homes that were abandoned and then maybe stripped of metals," she said.

Mall worker died of a heart attack, says pathologist

Oct 15, 2014
Tom Carr

Police say the man whose body was found yesterday morning at the Grand Traverse Mall died of a heart attack – and not as a result of foul play.

An autopsy performed in Grand Rapids on 64-year-old Ricky Alan Billings confirms the cause of death.

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office originally called Billings’ death “suspicious,” due to a wound found on his head. But a pathologist’s report says the wound was not a contributing factor to his death.

Billings was employed as a night-shift housekeeper at the mall.

Tom Carr

 UPDATE: 5:50PM The Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office has identified the man found dead as 64-year-old Ricky Alan Billings, who was a night shift housekeeper at the mall. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Grand Rapids.

Police are investigating a death at the Grand Traverse Mall in Traverse City.

Lt. Brian Giddis of the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Dept. said the death occurred inside the mall, sometime after closing hours last night. The body of a man between 60 and 70 years old was found this morning. Police do not know the cause of death.

Kids Cove closed due to elevated arsenic levels

Sep 25, 2014
Grand Traverse County

Officials in Grand Traverse County have closed Kids Cove playground after a test revealed elevated arsenic levels in the soil.

Tom Carr

While the state of Michigan grapples with how to regulate e-cigarettes, the electronic glow of the devices will still be allowed at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

The county parks and recreation commission has snuffed out a proposal to ban electronic cigarettes on civic center grounds. Smoking traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products is already prohibited.

But Dan Laubenheimer, who manages an e-cigarette store, applauded the committee’s decision not to ban the devices.

Some Gun Enthusiasts Favor Moving Hoosier Valley Range

Jun 17, 2014
Michigan DNR

Some gun enthusiasts are supporting the state’s plan to move the long-time gun range in Hoosier Valley. The shooting area could soon be replaced by one of three proposed sites in Grand Traverse County.

People have been shooting at Hoosier Valley since the 1960s. But residents living nearby began to complain about noise and safety concerns in the last few years.

DNR Plans to Replace 'Hoosier Valley' Gun Range

Jun 11, 2014
Laura Herberg

The state Department of Natural Resources plans to replace a long-time shooting range south of Traverse City. The informal gun range is in Hoosier Valley.

It’s prompted complaints from residents in Blair Township concerned with noise and safety.

Bill Sterrett is a District Supervisor with the DNR. He says a subdivision of more than 100 homes is located near the range.

“It’s not that it’s been a dismal failure there. It’s just the location itself is just not conducive to … to having shooting occur in such close proximity to other populated areas.”

Three school districts up north are asking voters to pay to improve safety, technology and buildings. Alanson, Elk Rapids and Manton school districts all have new measures on the ballot for next month’s election.

Last November, almost half the schools in Michigan were unsuccessful at getting voters to approve their bond proposals. That included Elk Rapids Public Schools, which lost by a narrow margin. They are back with the exact same proposal that includes security upgrades at all its buildings and a new high school gymnasium.

A Grand Traverse County deputy testified in federal court he had no choice but to shoot Craig Carlson after a stand off at the man’s Interlochen home in 2007. Wednesday’s testimony was the first time Charlie Jetter has spoken publically about the shot he fired, ending an 11-hour barricade.

Arriving On Scene
Deputy Charlie Jetter lived close to Craig Carlson’s home in Interlochen. He was one of the earlier officers to arrive on the scene as part of a regional SWAT team.