CADILLAC — Kalkaska County took another step toward dropping the required point-of-sale water well and septic tank inspection rule from its sanitary code.
Members of the District Health Department No. 10 Board of Health voted Friday to allow Kalkaska County to withdraw from the point-of-sale inspection program after the Kalkaska County Board of Commissioners agreed to opt out in November last year.
A standing-room only crowd filled the health department's conference room in Cadillac, the majority there to speak in favor of keeping the regulation.
"Is point-of-sale perfect? No. Does it need some amendment? Probably," said Sid Friedman, who lives near Manistee Lake in Kalkaska County. "To remove it and leave everything unchecked is a really sorry situation."
Fred Van Dyke of Kalkaska County, who also serves as executive director of the Au Sable Institute, said the required inspections keep new property owners fully informed and encourage more frequent upgrades and septic systems kept in overall better working order.
He also said the state Legislature's so-far unsuccessful efforts to adopt a statewide septic code should not be used as decision-making criteria on the local level.
"Repeal of this ordinance is unjustifiable from the standpoint of economic return, environmental protections and community responsibility," Van Dyke said.
However, not everyone who spoke during the hearing wanted the inspection regulation kept on the books.
Stuart McKinnon, former Kalkaska County Board chairman, said he believes removal of the point-of-sale inspection rule is imperative.
He said the only people to benefit from the rule are those who work in real estate and those who are licensed to perform the inspections, the latter of whom he suggested provide financial kickbacks to the realtors who book them for the inspections.
"Kalkaska County wants out, not that they don't care about water and septic issues, but because they do," McKinnon said. "Let Kalkaska County hold its sovereignty on this issue."
Inspector Gerald Gautier, who owns Boardman Valley Construction of South Boardman, said he believes the required inspection system works well. He also said complaints about inspection report turnaround times wouldn't be problematic if property sellers and their representatives appropriately planned ahead.
"You can't call on Tuesday and have a closing on Friday," Gautier said.
Mostly real estate brokers have argued against the point-of-sale inspection regulation, contending it creates a backlog of land transactions awaiting inspection reports, plus doesn’t achieve its intended goal. Contrarily, environmental advocates argue the program provides consumer protections, safe drinking water assurances and environmental conservation.
Now that the Board of Health approved removal of Kalkaska County from the point-of-sale inspection program, the move must also be approved by the Boards of Commissioners for all 10 counties in the health district — Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford — before the change will take effect 45 days later.
The sole dissenting vote cast by a Board of Health member came from Bryan Kolk of Newaygo County, who said he believed the process to remove Kalkaska County from the program was unfair to residents and those who had come to rely of the system.
Kalkaska and Manistee counties opted into the point-of-sale inspection regulation in 2009. Manistee County officials currently seek to tighten up the restriction and remove some of the exemptions to the rule.