TAWAS CITY – After debate and discussion on the issue, the Iosco County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to leave the issue of a potential gypsy moth millage up to the townships.

Commissioners previously discussed creating a millage that would generate funding that could be used to chemical spray for gypsy moths, which are currently defoliating trees in parts of the county, and across Michigan. The county had previous gypsy moth millages in the 1990s and has some funding left from those millages, around $37,000.

Under a resolution, passed during the July 15 meeting of the commissioners, the county will give that funding to townships that put a gypsy moth millage on their township ballots for the November election, and successfully get it passed. Townships have until early Aug. 11 to submit millage language for the November election.

Previously talk was to create a county-wide millage, but some commissioners were not on board with the idea. One of the previous millages that was passed in the 1990s was for .1 mill to generate funding. Commissioner John Moehring said that if that was passed again for three years, it could generate around $174,000. He questioned if that would be enough funding to do the spraying in a area of Plainfield Township that was previously surveyed for the moths.

Vice Chairman Jay O’Farrell said that when the original millage funding was passed, it was actually combined with funding from the federal government at a 100 percent match, so more funding was around to spray for the caterpillars.

“We don’t have that opportunity this time, we would have to do the same type of job,” He said. “We would have to ask for a larger amount of money to get the job done.”

Chairman Robert Huebel said that because the government matched the funding dollar for dollar, it wouldn’t be fair now for residents.

“I think it’s a big ask of the entire county to pay for one section of the county,” he said. 

Moehring said he looked at the situations along the same lines and said there were several millage requests that were coming up, new ones, and in the economic climate he was thinking that it was asking a lot of the township voters and taxpayers.

“We have more essential millage proposals, not to minimize this at any rate, but there are some pretty significant millage proposals,” he said. 

Commissioner Terry Dutcher said that it could be necessary for the county to pass a millage considering how much damage there has been related to the moths. He said he saw such damage while taking a road trip up to Cheyboygan recently.

“The gypsy moths have spread a long way,” he said. “If you look at the oak trees you see where they are devastated by this, the predator has taken the leaves off it, beech trees are dead, I don’t think I’m over exaggerating that they are in the thousands, I understand that we have several millage proposals going on the table on the November election, but I do not think this is going to get better, it’s only going to get worse, we need to get this millage agenda, the chips are going to have to fall, this is not getting better by itself, let the voters decide on it.”

Commissioner Charles Finley said he did not have an answer to  what to do, but aid that spraying would certainly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and that certainly a new evaluation would have to take place to find out what was need.

“Would we have time here if the individual townships wanted to address it at a township levels?” he asked. “Similar to how the townships have managed the weed problems in the lakes? It was addressed at a township level. To be fair to the township, they have adequate time to get it on the November ballot.”

Huebel said another factor to consider is that the numbers were from 15 or more years ago, and that the cost for spraying could have gone up. He agreed with Finley and said more surveys needed to take place and as it stood on creating a millage, the county would be shooting in the dark.

“O’Farrell suggested that the individual townships should look into millage proposals at their township levels for moth mitigation.

“If it’s the intent to get rid of these gypsy moths, those areas that are not being affected that have a large voting populous, they might not support it as a countrywide issue, if the townships that have the problem they might go for it as an individual township proposal, if we look at the county and it doesn’t pass, it could be a long time before anything is done,” O’Farrell said.

Huebel said that there could be issues with businesses and homeowners, who have lost income during the pandemic, and will not be able to make their tax payments this year.

“We might be looking at vastly different numbers,” he said. “If they’ve given up their home and their businesses, they are not going to be paying these taxes, that is just another thought.”

O’Farrell agreed. He said there were many people who are unemployment, and have to make decisions with the little money that they currently have. 

“To put something like this in front of them, they have to make a choice,” he said.

Dutcher said county officials should be contacting individual townships and telling them to get on board with creating millages for themselves if they desire to have the funding, if the county was not going to do a millage.

“I agree with that but I think the townships, just like we are going to be shooting in the dark again,” Huebel said. He suggested that the funding that the county currently has from the prior millages be given to townships that are seeking millages for their own gypsy moth mitigation efforts.

After discussion, Huebel’s motion was cast to give townships that have successful millages for gypsy moth mitigation the funding, split evenly. He was seconded by Dutcher, and the motion passed unanimously.