TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Commissioners side-stepped past protocol on biannual tribal grant applications, voting on each individually instead of approving the slate.

A possible conflict of interest by Commissioner Bryce Hundley — who works for Child and Family Services, which had an interest in one of the applications — and issues with some of the applications themselves, prompted the change.

“I think it was the intent a year or so ago when we made the changes that we were going to support applications that were in direct support of county services,” said Commissioner Addison “Sonny” Wheelock. “I think some of these have stretched that ‘county services’ definition a little bit more than I’m comfortable with.”

The tribal grants are part of the Grand Traverse Band’s required 2 percent allocation of video gaming revenue that take place twice a year.

In 2019, county commissioners unanimously passed a resolution requiring all applications, even those submitted by non-governmental nonprofit organizations, be submitted with a county department head’s support and must provide services “by and for” Grand Traverse County.

Supported applications will be sent to the Board of Commissioners for approval at a November meeting, before being submitted to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians for funding decisions, officials said.

Commissioners voted on whether to approve forwarding the following applications onto the Grand Traverse Band for funding:

A $50,000 grant request from Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse for construction costs; $30,000 from conservation resource alliance for river restoration; $18,534.76 from Grand Traverse County Sheriff Department for a CORE K-9 camera to broadcast video to officers; $42,284 for Safe Haven supervised visits for families experiencing domestic violence, $7,500 for Grand Traverse Pavilions for a thermal imaging camera to facilitate safe family visits during COVID-19; $28,200 for Parks & Recreation for tree health report, soil health report for a planned garden to surround the historic Marker Tree; $5,500 for TART Trails Recycle a Bicycle for repurposed bicycles; $101,250 for District, Circuit, Family and Probate Courts for upgraded recording equipment for courtrooms.

Some applicants attended Wednesday’s board meeting to answer questions. One of these was Dave Schaffer, county resource recovery department.

Commissioner Gordie La Point asked about the department’s $5,500 request.

“A large part of my duty is to make sure recycling is accessible to all residents of Grand Traverse County,” said Schaffer. “This project through the TART trails program enables residents of the county to have access to bicycles. Not new bicycles but used ones that are repurposed and repaired.”

The Recycle a Bicycle request was the only application not approved, meaning the group’s application was not forwarded on to the Band for funding.

The application from Grand Traverse Pavilions, for a thermal imaging camera to be used to screen staff and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, passed narrowly.

The river restoration project and the court recording equipment were highlighted by commissioners as good use of the application opportunity.

“Those dams were owned by the government, removing them had an effect on the river so I do see this as a program of county government,” said Commission Chairman Rob Hentschel.

“The Grand Traverse Band has been an essential partner through the entire dam removal restoration project and I think the fact that we’re asking them to continue to be that partner is a great idea. It’s critical to the continuation of the restoration project,” Wheelock said.

A total of $283,268.76 was requested in the eight applications; $277,768.76 of which was approved for submission to the Grand Traverse Band for consideration.

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