SUTTONS BAY — A toned down version of a resolution regarding road closures during the Aug. 25 Ironman race is on the table for Leelanau County commissioners.
If approved by the county board at its meeting at 7 p.m. today, state Attorney General Dana Nessel will be asked to investigate whether the temporary closures of M-72 and CR-677 in late August for the Ironman 70.3 violated state law and, if so, to take measures to prevent further unlawful closures.
A resolution on the same topic in September asked for the county to file a complaint with the AG’s office asking for identification and prosecution of those who closed state and county roads during the event without proper approval.
“The idea here is not really prosecution, but to make sure next year the law is followed,” said Commissioner Tony Ansorge.
Ansorge brought the original resolution forward, but took it off the September regular meeting agenda so the county’s legal counsel could give it the go-ahead.
The Lansing-based firm Cohl, Stoker and Toskey in its review of the document said that a lack of permits for the road closures would be a civil, rather than a criminal, matter, and advised the county to focus on meeting with all parties to iron out the issue for next year’s race.
Next year’s race is set for Aug. 30 and has already sold out, with about 2,500 participants signing up on the day registration opened.
The new resolution was approved on a vote of 6-0 at the Board of Commissioners Executive session last week, moving it forward for discussion and possible adoption today. Ansorge was absent from that meeting.
Commissioner Ty Wessell said he plans to vote “no” on the resolution.
“I do not believe we need to go to the AG to solve our problem,” Wessell said. “We do need to solve the problem, but we don’t need to go to Lansing to do it.”
Wessell said county officials should sit down with race organizers to talk about how things can be done better next year.
The issue stems from Leelanau County road closures that blocked residents from getting in or out of the county for most of race day.
According to state law, municipalities must request road closures for any special event. If it is a county road the request is made of that county’s road commission and for a state road the request is made through the Michigan Department of Transportation.
County Administrator Chet Janik said there are no documents showing those requests were made or approved.
Ansorge said the resolution is not so much about Ironman race organizers or Traverse City Tourism, the sponsoring agency.
“The problem is with MDOT and state police not following the law,” Ansorge said. “The (organizers) were doing what they thought was right and that’s not their fault.”
Michigan State Police troopers, many of whom were from out of the area and were unfamiliar with local roads, were patrolling intersections during the race. One trooper was hit by a driver who was angry that he couldn’t get to his destination.
MDOT and the MSP closed roads without any written requests to do so, Janik said.
Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little said she needs to take a closer look at the resolution before deciding how she’ll vote.
“The thing that got lost in the shuffle is that a lot of our residents participated,” Soutas-Little said. “We should acknowledge that.”