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Benzie Co. electorate to decide whether to fund TNT drug enforcement efforts

Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) jurisdiction map
Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) jurisdiction mapMichigan State Police

Benzie County's Board of Commissioners (BOC), on Tuesday, July 29, approved a resolution authorizing a proposal to be placed on the November 4 ballot to determine if voters desire supporting an additional millage of approximately $111,000 per year to fund the Traverse Narcotics Team’s (TNT’s) activities in Benzie County.

Benzie County currently does not have an officer assigned to TNT. The Benzie County Record Patriot reported earlier this month that in “… November of [2013], Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel made the decision to pull Deputy Cody Castle, who was dedicated solely to working with the Traverse Narcotics Team, in order to be able to have two officers on daily patrol.”

The BOC’s resolution made the following findings: “Drug Enforcement Officer services are of substantial benefit to the citizens of the County of Benzie; and … the Board of Commissioners of the County of Benzie deems it necessary and expedient for the County to continue to participate in the Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) for drug enforcement and awareness programs in Benzie County; and … the Board of Commissioners of the County of Benzie has determined that it is appropriate to submit a millage request to the electors of the County to determine whether or not they desire to support a millage of up to one tenth (0.1000) of one mill for a period of four (4) years, 2014 through 2017, inclusive, for the purpose of funding the Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) for drug enforcement and awareness programs in Benzie County.”

Benzie County administrator, Karl Sparks, indicated on Tuesday that he is not certain whether the specific language contained in the approved ballot proposal would effectually prohibit TNT from utilizing funds obtained through the millage proposal for drug enforcement efforts outside of Benzie County’s boarders. TNT is generally structured to allow for its participating officers to work, as needed, in any of the various eight counties within its jurisdiction. However, the ballot language approved by the BOC states that it is “specifically … for drug enforcement and awareness programs in Benzie County …”

TNT’s website shows that the organization is “made up of two multijurisdictional narcotics teams and an interdiction officer. The North Team is located in Traverse City and is responsible for the following counties: Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau. The South Team is located in Cadillac and is responsible for Missaukee, Osceola, and Wexford Counties.”

The BOC’s resolution indicates that, “[i]f approved and levied in full, this millage would raise an estimated $111,968.72 for Traverse Narcotics Team Drug Enforcement Officer operating purposes in the first calendar year.”