County considers amendment to Point of Sale program

MANISTEE — The Manistee County Board of Commissioners heard from several community members during the public comment portion of their monthly board meeting regarding the Point of Sale Septic System Evaluation program.

The item was put on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting following a discussion during the February meeting, regarding Kalkasa County’s decision to pull out of the program.

Manistee and Kalkaska counties are the only two counties in the state that are part of this program, which was put into effect in 2009.

The program requires properties to undergo a septic system inspection, paid for by the seller. It does not require that all systems are brought up to code, but they must be properly functioning.

Matt Fournier, of District Health Department No. 10, said Kalkaska County Board of Commissioners expressed interested in pulling out of the program after local real estate agents approached the board and voiced concerns about it impacting home sales.

“The board of commissioners unanimously voted to drop the program, but that doesn’t mean it’s dropped,” he explained. “It’s part of the District Health Department and a District Sanitary code, and the Point of Sale program in Manistee and Kalkaska was an amendment to that code.”

Fournier was in attendance to answer questions from commissioners about the program, and explained what actions they could take.

“You’d need a resolution in this board to be taken to the board of health, and they would be the ones to come to terms with the program being dropped, modified, or continuing as is,” he said.

There were many community members in attendance at the meeting, including local real estate agents, local government leaders and representatives from the Portage Lake Watershed council. The feedback was primarily in support of keeping the Point of Sale program, with suggestions for modifications.

“The Point of Sale not only protects our land and our water, but it protects our citizens,” said Gini Pelton, a local real estate agent who spoke at the meeting. “It shows we are a county that holds itself to a highest level of respect for people who want to live here, and protects all of us. Even if I’m in Mason County, I write a Point of Sale inspection into our deal for my buyers and my sellers because I feel it protects everybody.”

The inspection costs approximately $600, and must be repeated after two years if the property does not sell within that time frame. It currently excludes property exchanges within a family.

Some expressed concerns about home sales that occur in the winter when the frozen ground makes an inspection impossible, risking the two year deadline running out and requiring further expense for the seller.

“If we can find a way around the winter months, that would be great,” said Bill Ringel, local associate broker. “Some sellers cannot afford the price, and the seller is the one responsible for providing a point of sale. Prior to the requirement, it used to be that the buyer would pay for the inspection.”

Suzanne Riley, owner and broker of Century 21 Boardwalk in Manistee, also expressed the need to adjust the two year deadline.

“Two winters could go by and they’d have to pay the $600 again,” she said. “If the report is not borderline and everything looks good, I think it should go on for the time period that we have the property listed. We have never seen any effect on that.”

Lynda Beaton, local real estate agent, said it was a challenge to adapt to the new system when it was first put into place, but expressed the need to keep it in effect.

“I will tell you, in 2009, this was not a popular program,” she said. “But I think this has been absolutely the right move. It is environmentally correct, it puts us ahead of the other counties that may have inland lakes that may have a sewer around it, and it would be a regressive step to get rid of it.”

Mary Reed, chair of the Portage Lake Watershed council, was one of many who felt eliminating the program could become an environmental concern.

“I echo the thoughts about how it is environmentally the right thing to do to keep this,” she said. “I go to many meetings around the state and people come up to me and are so proud of Manistee having the Point of Sale. They are very impressed with what we’ve done to protect our water here.”

David Meister, Onekama Township supervisor, felt that the Point of Sale program has helped keep local water clean, and in turn allowed properties to hold higher value.

“I think it would be absolutely disastrous if you pulled out for Manistee County,” he said. “Everyone I talk to who visits remarks about our water quality, and we’re talking about getting rid of that? To be blunt, I don’t care what Kalkaska does. If they want to pull out and potentially pollute their water, that’s up to them.”

The commissioners had the opportunity to ask questions of those in attendance, including Fournier.

Richard Schmidt, District 2 commissioner, expressed his reservations about the program, but agreed that the consensus was to explore a modification to the program rather than elimination.

“Personally, I think it’s an added cost and the state didn’t feel they need it, but it’s up to everyone here to make the decision,” he said. “Talking about affordable housing, it puts more cost on the buyer. Although the seller pays for it, they can just add it on the other end.”

The commissioners asked the Portage Lake Watershed council to assist in creating suggestions for amending the program, and their recommendation will be presented at a future meeting.

Additionally, the commissioners unanimously approved several items on the agenda, including:

• Casting a unanimous ballot to accept all three board position nominations for the Centra Wellness Board of Directors, including Diane Lonn, Leslie Wilson and James Wisniski;

• Resolution 2019-3 to declare April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in Manistee County;

• Resolution 2019-4 to declare April as National County Government Month in Manistee County; and

• Signing a letter of support for the Wagoner Center.

Contact Jane Bond at (231) 398-3111 or email jane.bond@hearst.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MNA_Jane.

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