TRAVERSE CITY — A special county meeting Tuesday to review a lease agreement for a new senior center is a last-ditch effort to put the issue to voters this fall.
“The county board will review the lease, and will determine how they are going to proceed,” Grand Traverse County Administrator Nate Alger said Monday. “We have worked pretty heavily with the city over the last couple weeks to get to the point where the two commissions could weave both interests together.”
The city owns the senior center building and the county provides programming under a management agreement set to expire. The building is small, with outdated mechanical systems, and a citizens group, Senior Friends Network, has long advocated for a new facility to be built in its place.
Whether county voters should have the opportunity to vote on a millage yet this fall hinges on whether the two commissions can work out their differences over the lease agreement.
A draft of millage language may also be discussed at the county meeting and Alger said by end of business Monday, he’d heard from six commissioners confirming their attendance.
Since the facility would be built on city parkland and managed by the county, attorneys decided the lease agreement was necessary; the county wanted 99 years, the city 50.
“We conceded the 99 years and agreed to 50,” Alger said, “but the ballot question was for the building only and the millage dollars that the county would be requesting aren’t just for the building, but for the pickleball courts, the shuffleboard courts and the picnic area — all of that.”
The county wants to manage the outdoor amenities and well as the indoor; the city says the lease should cover the building only.
Ballot language must be approved Aug. 11 by 4:30 p.m. to get the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, County Clerk Bonnie Scheele previously said.
City Manager Marty Colburn said shifting meeting times scuttled a joint city-county meeting discussed as early as Monday morning.
Plus, county commissioners wanted the city to agree to a lease — contingent on city voters authorizing it in November — before placing the millage question on the November ballot, Colburn said. That would’ve left less than 24 hours for city commissioners to review that lease before voting Tuesday morning.
“That’s really just too tight, and not the appropriate opportunity for the public discussion that’s required on such a significant commitment,” Colburn said
Colburn said he and city staff need more time to vet the proposed lease, and so he can review it with city commissioners in a study session.
The lease could be worked out after county commissioners decide to place the millage question on the November ballot, Colburn said — they would have until the end of August to pull the question if a deal can’t be reached.
Grand Traverse County’s already obligated to provide senior services and has partnered with the city for years to provide them at the current spot, Colburn said.
A new senior center there would be a prime spot, and the city has spent around $200,000 on architecture work for that location, as per an agreement with the county.
The special meeting takes place online Aug. 11 at 10:30 a.m. by livestream at http://gtcmi.us/bocstream or dial-in 408-418-9388, PIN: 792 476 402.