- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

FRANKFORT, Mich. (AP) - Local officials are worried that they’re swimming against the tide as they try to convince the U.S. Coast Guard to maintain its presence at a station in the lakeside city of Frankfort.

The Frankfort Coast Guard Station is responsible year-round for the Lake Michigan shore from Arcadia Lake to Leland. But Frankfort Superintendent Joshua Mills told the Traverse City Record-Eagle (http://bit.ly/1Ud06Cc ) that Coast Guard officials have indicated that they plan to reduce the seasons the station is fully staffed.

“We believe it’s critical that we have the Coast Guard presence here year-round, 365 days,” he said.

Benzie County Commissioner Roger Griner is concerned that the Coast Guard will only staff the Frankfort station from Memorial Day through Labor Day. He believes the station needs to stay open year-round to accommodate boaters who often go out in spring and fall or in unpredictable weather.

“Lake Michigan’s been known to have some very vicious storms that blow up in a hurry,” Griner said.

The Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays are just guidelines, not strict deadlines, according to Frankfort station chief Joe Baxter.

“We are keeping the stations where they’re at,” he said. “We’re just changing how they’re operated and how they’re staffed so that we don’t have redundancies.”

Despite the plan to reorganize Great Lakes Coast Guard operations, there aren’t any plans to close the Frankfort station, Baxter said.

“We’re not losing people,” he said. “We’re not losing boats, but (we want to) put them where they make the most sense so we can provide the same level of response as we have right now, or a better response.”

On April 5, officials from Frankfort, Benzie County, regional police departments and emergency rescue groups will meet with Coast Guard leaders on April 5 to discuss “modern response capabilities and plans for optimization and seasonalization,” according to an email Baxter sent to Mills.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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