SUTTONS BAY — At least one Leelanau County commissioner may be a little red-faced about an Ironman resolution that was given initial approval by the county board last week.
“My only concern is that sometimes we overreact,” Commissioner Ty Wessel said at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.
Last week the county board unanimously voted to recommend for approval a resolution asking the state attorney general to identify and prosecute those who closed roads during the Aug. 25 Ironman event without going through the proper channels.
“The resolution caused a lot of consternation and a lot of bad publicity, not just for the event, but for Leelanau County,” said Lake Leelanau resident Ben LaCross, who raced in the event.
Commissioner Tony Ansorge, who brought the resolution forth, asked that the resolution be taken off the agenda because it has not yet been cleared by the county’s legal council.
State law says that a city, township or incorporated village must request a road closure for a special event. If it is a county road, the request must be made of the road commission for that county. For a state road, MDOT and the MSP handle the request.
County Administrator Chet Janik said he checked with officials in several municipalities on the race route who could not produce documents that that was done.
“It’s not that we’re opposed to Ironman,” Janik said. “We’re opposed to having the roads closed.”
John Popa of the Leelanau County Road Commission said the commission passed a resolution at its meeting earlier on Tuesday that it was concerned with how the road closures were handled and that the proper channels should be followed next year.
Popa said race organizers made a presentation to the road commission about a year ago detailing how they wanted the race route to travel up the peninsula.
“They never came back,” Popa said. “They just decided to go someplace else.”
County officials, including Sheriff Mike Borkovich and road commissioners, planned to attend a follow-up meeting on the race today with Traverse City officials and race organizers. The meeting is meant to look at how next year’s race can be improved.
Janik said the goal is that the right process is followed in 2020. He said that Ansorge may have a different resolution next month.
The problem stemmed from the fact that Leelanau County residents were unable to get in or out of the county for most of the day, contrary to information put out by race organizers that the westbound lane of M-72 would be open and there would be rolling closures of the eastbound lane.
Stella Otto lives south of M-72 and said the closure of the highway and Almira Road, behind her home, had her boxed in.
“For the entire day we were not able to get in and out of our home,” Otto said. “I shudder to think what would have happened if we needed an ambulance ... I do not support the event at all.”
But many do support it, like Deanna Hewitt-North, who said it is a family-centered event.
Supporters who spoke during Tuesday’s public comment talked about county residents who stood at the end of their driveways or sat in chairs along the race route ringing cowbells, banging on plastic tubs and cheering the athletes on.
“Events like this showcase what the county has to offer,” said David King, who lives in Elmwood Township and was a race participant.