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Accomplishments as told in the local press

Feb. 14, 2024 GT County Commissioners Explore Changes to Road Commission, Drain Commission Office

... Other issues have also contributed to commissioners wanting to take a closer look at the Road Commission, Andrews says. “I think from all of our perspectives, there’s been a series of challenges at the Road Commission before and after the roadkill situation to where there was enough of an interest in further exploring options,” she says. Those issues include the unresolved closure of Bluff Road, a delayed Road Commission financial audit that then delayed a county audit, concerns about the Road Commission operating without a chief financial officer and having to pay for an interim CFO, and the abrupt resignation of former Road Commission Managing Director Brad Kluczynski in October. Andrews cites as another example the Road Commission’s recent decision to halt pursuing a Hartman-Hammond bypass due to skyrocketing cost estimates after spending millions pursuing the bridge....

Feb. 10, 2024 City Commissioners to Talk Options for Safe Harbor; County, Neighbors Weigh In

 

... Grand Traverse County commissioners discussed the MOU between community partners Wednesday and are scheduled to have a study session on the topic in the coming weeks (a date has not yet been announced). Some commissioners expressed concern about the “vague” nature of the MOU, in the words of Chair Rob Hentschel, who said Safe Harbor had “a very important mission” but that he was concerned the MOU could be “a slippery slope.” However, Commissioner Ashlea Walter said she felt a “sense of urgency to start the process,” while Commissioner TJ Andrews noted the county’s unique ability to bring a “regional approach” to the issue. “We are the only governmental entity that is in that role,” she said, adding she couldn’t think of a topic more critical for the county to take part in addressing than “unhoused individuals in our community.”

...

Feb. 2, 2024 GT COUNTY: PACE North and Pavilions closer to separation settlement

 

... “I think that whenever two parties work together in good faith, they can almost always reach an agreement,” said Andrews, an attorney. “If they both want to separate, I believe they should be able to do that.”

Currently, the county offers special lease rates to a number of nonprofits in the area, Andrews noted, including TBAYS (which leases the soccer fields at the Keystone soccer complex), Norte (which leases small structures at the Civic Center park) and the YMCA (that leases the Easling pool at the Civic Center). “PACE is not inherently a county function like the Pavilions is,” she added. “The separation of the two is probably a good idea.”  ...

Jan. 19, 2024 ‘No short-term rentals’: County adopts new PILOT policy  

... So-called “workforce housing” is not the same thing as “affordable housing,” emphasized Commissioner T.J. Andrews. The greatest need in the area is for housing below 60 percent of AMI, she said. However, those less expensive rental units are difficult to find, forcing some renters to live many miles away from where they work. Using that logic, Andrews argued that the income range for PILOT-supported projects should be limited to 80 to 100 percent AMI at most – not the 120 percent of AMI in the revised policy. ...

Jan. 18, 2024 GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: BATA board battle blazes anew

 

... In Wednesday’s motion, Jewett voted to appoint himself or the action would have tied. Voting in favor with Jewett were: Brian McAllister, Darryl Nelson, Hentschel and Seifert. Voting against the motion were T.J. Andrews, Ashlea Walter, Lauren Flynn and Penny Morris. ...

Jan. 9, 2024 County board works to finalize PILOT policy for workforce housing

 

...Andrews, who represents District 7, is an advocate for building more affordable housing in the area. She emphasized that there’s a big difference between workforce housing and affordable housing. “There’s been an enormous increase in the number of homeless people in Michigan,” she said. “The greatest need in our area is for rental units that cost below 60 percent of the AMI. While a new PILOT policy will help build more workforce housing, it doesn’t address this greater need.” ​”  ....

Jan. 6, 2024 Opinion: "Workforce Housing" PILOT leaves out areas workers

By TJ Andrews

The “Workforce Housing” policy adopted by Traverse City, recently applied by the City and Grand Traverse County to two downtown developments, subsidizes high-end apartments that are highly unaffordable for most regional workers. ,,,,

Jan. 4, 2024 GT County Commissioners Approve Parks Plan, Exploration of GO-REC Acquisition, Contentious Rule Changes

...Several other changes were extensively debated and approved along 6-3 lines. Those included a new rule requiring four – not three – county commissioners to request a study session. That will essentially require the three Democrats on the board to get at least one Republican to agree to a study session on any given topic, a move Commissioner TJ Andrews said seemed like “retaliation” for some commissioners recently expressing a desire for more study sessions on topics like the county’s budget process. Nelson and Chair Rob Hentschel defended the rule change, saying the commission’s expansion from seven to nine commissioners merited the change and would ensure study sessions weren’t called for topics only of interest to a “small minority,” in Nelson’s words. ...

Dec. 22, 2023  BATA, GT County Square Off Over Board Makeup Again

 

... Some Grand Traverse County officials Wednesday said BATA’s actions were premature. Commissioner TJ Andrews noted that until county commissioners actually approve an appointment, the dispute is hypothetical. Judges don’t deal in hypotheticals, she said, adding the dispute would become “moot” if someone other than a commissioner was ultimately appointed to the citizen seat. With the ad hoc committee planning to meet again in January, Andrews made a motion to seek a two-week extension from BATA to allow the ad hoc committee to meet again and county commissioners to discuss their interpretation of the agreement before BATA takes legal action. That motion was unanimously approved by commissioners. ...

Dec. 14, 2023 GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Proposed $47.2M budget reflects continued growth

 

... An 11.1-percent increase in public safety costs caught Commissioner T.J. Andrews’ attention during the special study session when commissioners got a detailed look at the proposed budget. In recent years, public safety spending has grown much faster than the overall budget, Andrews said. The sheriff’s department is slated to receive $20.5 million next year — the county’s largest expense — which includes county road patrols and jail operations, administration and special investigations, as well as $33,000 for snowmobile enforcement. . ...

Dec. 3, 2023  Pavilions CEO search nears final phase

 

... Andrews said she was impressed by the “high caliber” of finalists for the CEO position. The new CEO will many tasks to prioritize, she said, including financial stability, hiring additional frontline staff and continuous improvements to patient care. “The entire country is struggling with staffing shortages in the senior care field,” she said. “It’s a challenge, but overall I’m very hopeful for the next chapter in the history of the Pavilions.” ...

Nov. 2, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY BUDGET: Seven new employees requested, $3.9M for parks

 

... Commissioner TJ Andrews said one position she’d like to see added next year is a grant writer to assist county departments in seeking out “scores” of various state, federal and private grant opportunities that could generate additional revenue for various county departments and operations.​ ...

Oct. 12, 2023  Road Commissioners Talk Bridge Details, Capacity Planning for Local Roads

 

... The project’s ballooning price tag has alarmed many in the community, including local representatives like Grand Traverse County Commissioner TJ Andrews and groups like the Groundwork Center, which launched a campaign to stop the bridge and called it “outrageously expensive, ineffective, and environmentally damaging.”. ...

Sep. 27, 2023  GT County Commissioners Approve Peninsula Parks Funding, Remote Work Policy

 

... Remote Work Policy In a split 6-3 vote along partisan lines – with Democrats Walter, TJ Andrews, and Lauren Flynn opposed – commissioners updated Grand Traverse County’s remote work policy for employees. The tightened policy now requires department head and HR approval on a case-by-case basis for employees who want to work from home. ​...

Aug. 25, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY Bridge plan draws early opposition

 

... Most of the opposition centered on spiraling cost estimates for the project, recently pegged by county consultants at about $300 million. The estimate has nearly tripled from the $100 million price tag projected a year ago. “It’s a shocking number for this community for new infrastructure,” said T.J. Andrews, a member of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners. ...

June 24, 2023  OPIOID CRISIS: Task force will decide uses for $4.5M in drug settlement funds

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews said she could think of at least three groups that are not represented on the task force — the homeless, people who provide kinship care for children affected by their parents’ addiction, and groups such as Harm Reduction that give out naloxone kits and clean needles. Andrews suggested giving the task force the ability to expand and invite the involvement of others, but Forsyth and other board members agreed it would be better to keep the group fairly small and manageable to ensure its effectiveness. ...

June 22, 2023  Former Munson behavioral building site of new mental health center

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews asked why costs are so high when the building was previously used for behavioral health. Glenn said the 20,000-square-foot building is dated and needs to be brought up to code for crisis services. The center had beds for inpatient treatment for substance use disorder, which will also be updated for teens and adults who need short-term residential services.  ...

May 4, 2023  GT County Commissioners Approve New CMH Agreement

...  A supermajority vote of five committee members will result in a binding decision on a dispute, provided that decision is not superseded by state or federal law.

County Commissioner TJ Andrews said the dispute resolution process gave her “significant pause,” saying she didn’t believe in creating boards to solve other boards’ problems. However, Andrews said she appreciated that “a lot of work has gone into this process” and that she was “willing to take a leap of faith that the boards will use this dispute resolution process sparingly and with public awareness and knowledge and oversight.” Noting that the new agreement is a “living document” that can be updated if needed, Andrews said: “We need to move forward, and I think this is a good way to do that.” ...

April 6, 2023  Pavilions CEO, board members answer questions

...  “The problem is that we don’t know, there’s a lack of transparency,” Commissioner T.J. Andrews said. Coleman and DHHS board members Cecil McNally and Gordie LaPointe were invited to Wednesday’s county meeting to report on the citations. Coleman has said most of the violations were related to food service by a company that has been replaced. Board members found out about the problems at the facility through a Record-Eagle report published Feb. 8, Andrews said. Andrews said she did not see anything about the citations in minutes from several DHHS meetings held from August through mid-February. The citations were not publicly discussed until a Feb. 23 DHHS meeting, according to minutes. “There are significant issues that go far beyond food service and it concerns me that they were not discussed until six months after DHHS issued the violations,” Andrews said. ...

March 16, 2023  County Commissioners Discuss Per Diem Spending, BATA Debate

 

... Commissioners Ashlea Walter and TJ Andrews proposed changing the county’s per diem policy Wednesday to require that commissioner invoices be included as a regular report in meeting packets under the consent calendar. Walter said the move would be “one way we can hold each other accountable” for per diem spending, while Andrews said it would significantly increase “transparency” around the use of taxpayer dollars. ​...

March 9, 2023  Three Dems skip Grand Traverse County special meeting

... The three Democrats on the Grand Traverse County board, as well as the board chairman, did not show up for a special meeting Wednesday. “I don’t believe this was a proper meeting and I don’t want to condone it by participating,” said Commissioner T.J. Andrews, who, along with Commissioners Lauren Flynn and Ashlea Walter, did not attend. Andrews, an attorney, said the meeting was not properly noticed since the notice came from an administrative assistant and not the county clerk, and commissioners were not given 10 days’ notice, as required by state law. According to MCL 46.10, a written request addressed to the county clerk must come from one-third of the members of the board, after which “ ... the clerk shall give notice to each of the commissioners ... at least 10 days before the time of the meeting.”  ...

March 2, 2023  'It's our turn:' Group wants $50M for juvenile facility

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews said the county needs to keep in mind that if it builds a $50 million facility then other costs will also go up — staffing, benefits, cleaning, upkeep and more. ...

Dec. 16. 2022  County board to begin choosing ARPA proposals

... Commissioner-elect T.J. Andrews said about 20 percent of the resources should be reserved for childcare, especially since a tier one project that would have expanded childcare through creation of the Northwest Michigan Early Childhood Center for Excellence was withdrawn. ...

Feb. 10, 2024 SAFE HARBOR: Residents, county officials debate year-round shelter plan

... “The resolution isn’t a set of solutions for homelessness, but rather a way to open the conversation with other [stakeholders] in the area,” Andrews said, advocating for the proposal. If a year-round shelter does go into operation, several key questions must be answered, including the county’s role in ending homelessness, how many additional volunteers would be needed, what gaps in staffing must be filled, and what impact would the year-round model have on residents and businesses in the North Boardman neighborhood. “We would be asking for community partners to come in and present to our board,” Andrews said. “I can’t think of a more critical need – and that’s why I’m asking for a study session.” ...

Feb. 7, 2024 GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Officials mull changes to road commission

 

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews asked other pointed questions, such as: How would a governance change impact service levels and operational efficiency? How does our existing road commission compare to other counties in terms of dollars spent per mile of road and number of complaints? “We really need to gather some information and get some useful metrics before we make a recommendation [to the full county board],” she said.  ...

Jan. 26, 2024 GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Pavilions introduces CEO, cites rising census

 

... County Commissioner T.J. Andrews, who is a liaison to the DHHS, praised Hautamaki and said she is “looking forward” to continuing progress under Bodalski. ...

Jan. 18, 2024 BATA Updates: Appointment Controversy Headed to Court, Security Added at Hall Street  

... On Wednesday, county commissioners voted 5-4 to move ahead with appointing both Sieffert and Jewett to the board. Sieffert, Jewett, Chair Rob Hentschel, and Commissioners Darryl Nelson and Brian McCallister supported the motion, with Commissioners Penny Morris, TJ Andrews, Ashlea Walter, and Lauren Flynn opposed. Jewett was a deciding vote on the motion, with Andrews questioning whether it was a conflict of interest for him to vote on confirming his own appointment.  ...

Jan. 11, 2024 County Nears PILOT Policy for Housing Tax Breaks

 

...The most debate among commissioners related to the fourth requirement, which would set the maximum income level for tenants in a housing project in order for a developer to receive county abatement. PILOTs in Michigan are typically geared toward projects with tenants earning between 80 to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI) – or lower. Some commissioners recommended lowering the maximum threshold from 120 to 100 percent AMI. Andrews said that local examples of projects with a 120-percent-AMI threshold had studio apartments starting at $1,800 per month, which she said was “above the needs of the workforce.”  ....

Jan. 6, 2024 MILLIONS FOR PAVILIONS: County-owned facility gets $7 million in long-awaited federal money

 

... Andrews praised county administrators and Pavilions staff for working together “in good faith” to resolve the longstanding financial problem. “This is unquestionably a turning point, a part of the process to resolve issues that hit bottom in 2023,” she said. “While there’s still much to do, this is a really, really good sign for 2024.” ...

Jan. 5, 2024 GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Appointees to sign 'loyalty oaths'

...The three county commissioners who voted against the new policy — T.J. Andrews (District 7), Lauren Flynn (District 2) and Ashlea Walter (District 3) — argued that the new loyalty policy language is too vague and would therefore force appointees to second-guess the interests of taxpayers and the county board. ...

Dec. 22, 2023 Budget, Raises, ARPA Projects on County Agenda

 

... Public safety – a category that includes the Sheriff’s Office and jail, among other operations – represents the biggest part of the county budget at $20.6 million. Commissioner TJ Andrews raised concerns last week about public safety spending “going up and up and up” in recent years despite a downward trend in crime. Chair Rob Hentschel pointed out there could be a “cause and effect” relationship there – suggesting crime is going down because the county is investing more in public safety – but Andrews and other commissioners asked for a study session in the new year dedicated to rising public safety spending so they can “unpack what’s going on there,” as Andrews put it. ...

Dec. 21, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Board seeks to resolve dispute with BATA

 

... Grand Traverse County Commissioner T.J. Andrews said “an erosion of trust” between BATA and the county board, starting in February, is contributing to the dispute in an unhealthy way. “It’s about power relationships, not partisanship,” Andrews said. “I sincerely hope that the BATA board agrees to the two-week extension we’re asking for. If not, the dispute will become even more acute.” ...

Dec. 7, 2023  County Commissioners Approve $5M Mental Health Agreement, Per Diem Policy, Early Voting Plan

 

... Staff and commissioners agreed voter education should be prioritized to ensure residents understand the rules and rights of early in-person voting. Commissioner TJ Andrews pointed out it might not be “intuitive” for Peninsula Township residents, for example, to know they’re supposed to go to East Bay Township Hall for early voting. Scheele said mailers would be going out to inform voters about early voting procedures.  ...

Nov. 19, 2023  Opinion: PENINSULA TOWNSHIP — Where scenic vistas will be more safely accessible to all

by TJ Andrews

Peninsula Township is working out how to share its world-class scenic vistas with our community through safer access for non-motorized transit. Last month, the township applied for state funding to support development of a comprehensive plan for non-motorized trails. ,,,

Nov. 1, 2023  Grand Traverse County in “Strong Financial Position,” Says Administrator

 

... Commissioners have signaled their desire to look at the budget more holistically, comparing past years to 2024 projections to identify revenue and spending trends and more closely examining all of the county’s various funds – not just its general fund. “We really want to see the bigger picture,” said Commissioner TJ Andrews. ...

Oct. 4, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Interim CEO in place at Pavilions

 

... That committee met Friday — the day after Coleman's resignation — with interim CEO Dood to discuss finances and tour the facility. County Board Chairman Rob Hentschel, who serves on the committee with Commissioners TJ Andrews and Darryl Nelson, said the committee reviewed the facility with an eye toward the inspection issues raised by state regulators last year, including the poor quality of food service to patients. ​...

Sept. 7, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: Ad hoc group to explore options for Pavilions

 

... Andrews also was appointed as the liaison to the county Department of Health and Human Services board, which oversees the Pavilions. Commissioner Penny Morris recommended that Andrews take her place as county liaison. “She has a more detailed mind than mine and I think she’ll ask the right questions,” Morris said. ​...

Aug. 20, 2023  GRAND TRAVERSE PAVILIONS Nursing facility broke; county vouchers prop it up

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews raised the issue at a recent county board meeting. The Department of Health and Human Services board, which oversees the Pavilions, has board packets for its May, June and July meetings posted on its website. Those packets contain financial reports.

“If you look at the packets, every one of them starts in the financial report with a comment on how far in the red the Pavilions is,” Andrews said. “But that’s the only place one will find just how bad the situation at the Pavilions is, because every meeting’s minutes say, ‘Financial report received, open for questions, moving on.’ “ ...

June 23, 2023 Roadkill issue may result in dissolution of county road commission, officials say

... On Wednesday there was a vote to look at options for disposal of roadkill, and that includes possibly dissolving the road commission. The vote was approved 6 to 3.

May 18, 2023  Roadkill debate raised to county commission

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews said it feels like the goal post keeps moving and asked about a short-term strategy for getting dead deer off the sides of the roads, especially with the tourist season a couple of weeks away. “We have dead deer daily,” Andrews said. “It is getting to be summer season. I don’t see what’s changed, why we can no longer deal with them at the county level.”  ...

April 17, 2023  Roadkill debate heats up in Grand Traverse County

... "We shouldn't have even gotten to this point," said Grand Traverse County Commissioner TJ Andrews. "We should have had a solution in place," Andrews said. "If there was going to be a change in practice. There should have been an alternative in place to start with. This is not something we make up on the fly and then solve problems after they occur." Andrews said regardless of who is responsible, the problem is here and simply ignoring it doesn't make it go away. "We can't just cold turkey stop picking up carcasses," Andrews said. And finding a solution now is critical. "We need to in my perspective is the road commission should find a proper disposal," Andrews said. "Make a plan to dispose of carcasses and if they are unable or don't have the budget to do it." "Then we need to have a discussion about that as a community and maybe the county commissioner has a role to play there," Andrews said. "I don't know but when we're hearing about the problem we're not hearing about solutions." ...

April 5, 2023 GT County Commissioners Seek Pavilions Answers, Reject Per Diem Overhaul

... County commissioners questioned why it took until February for the August inspection report to be discussed in public at a DHHS board meeting, and why commissioners learned of the violations through the media instead of from Pavilions staff or county representatives. “There are significant issues in here far exceeding a contract with a food services provider,” said Commissioner T.J. Andrews. Chair Rob Hentschel said that while he empathized with staffing challenges faced by the Pavilions, those challenges are experienced industry-wide – with other nursing homes nonetheless avoiding the violations and low rating incurred by the Pavilions.

Andrews made a motion to require the Pavilions to include its state inspection reports in its meeting packets, to keep meeting packets publicly accessible on the Pavilions website on a rolling 12-month basis, and to explore options for recording and posting Pavilions meetings. The motion was unanimously approved by commissioners (Commissioners Darryl Nelson and Brian McAllister were absent). ...

March 9, 2023  Questions Loom Over Possible County Removal of BATA Board Members

... Democrats TJ Andrews, Lauren Flynn, and Ashlea Walter opposed the motion. They attempted to pass a separate motion to not initiate the legal process but to instead invite Fudge and Cochrun to a meeting to respond to the charges. That motion was defeated 3-6 along party lines. Walter and Andrews expressed concern about the validity of the accusations and the process. Walter said board appointees – including at-large members – can’t be presumed to automatically vote one way or another. She noted that voters recently supported the BATA millage renewal by a wide margin, saying that’s how taxpayers hold organizations like BATA accountable. Andrews pointed out that Grand Traverse County is already embroiled in a legal dispute over the removal of two county appointees to the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (CMH) board. ...

March 3, 2023  Grand Traverse County board charges BATA members with 'willful neglect'

... “I do have a concern that once we appoint people to BATA, their responsibility is to BATA,” Andrews said. “It doesn’t sound to me like the two members who voted were going against anything we told them as a board to do or not do, so I’m confused as to how they neglected a duty.”

Walter, Andrews and Lauren Flynn, all Democrats, voted against charging Cochrun and Fudge. ...

Jan. 5, 2023 TIME CHANGE: GTC board sessions will start an hour later

... Commissioner T.J. Andrews, who represents the 7th District, asked if staff could look at the availability of the meeting room in the evenings. County Administrator Nate Alger will bring that information to the next meeting. ...

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