Local News Archive 2016

 

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, at the urging of officials in Breitung Township, have decided to join the fight against the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

The decision came at the Monday night meeting of the County Board, and was passed at the urging of Board Chairman, Henry Wender. Wender pointed out that Breitung Township has already invested a good deal of money in this fight. The Board approved up to $1,000 to assist in legal expenses.

They join a growing list of municipalities that are joining the fight against decisions that are reducing local government tax bases, thus local tax income. Dickinson County and Breitung Township have already taken substantial hits on their tax bases, and the City of Iron Mountain is beginning the feel the pinch as well. The Iron Mountain City Council last week appropriated an additional $5,000 toward this fight.

Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck said that as of this time the City of Kingsford has not been affected by the Tax Tribunal rulings, but that they are keeping a close eye on the situation and keeping in touch with Legislators.  Edelbeck said that even though Kingsford has not yet been impacted, there is a potential for such  an impact.

The Tax Tribunal has drastically reduced the taxable valuation of many properties, especially the so-called "big box" stores, such as Home Depot, and Lowes. The case currently before the State Supreme Court, the one specifically mentioned in the Board's action this week, involves a decision by the State Court of Appeals, overturning a Tax Tribunal action on the Lowes Store in Delta County. This case is not likely to have an specific effect on the situation in Dickinson County.

The fight comes over how property is valued for taxation purposes. Local government units assess taxes based not only on the actual value of the property, but on it's business functionality. Property owners cry foul, saying they already pay other taxes specifically based on those business activities, though that money does not generally go to the local community.

Dickinson County and the Breitung Township School District have been especially hard hit by a number of the tax tribunal decisions.

 

 

 

Sheriff Scott Rutter issued his department's activity report for the month of February, indicating another full month of activity for Sheriff's Department personnel.

The Sheriff's Road Patrol served a total of 82 civil process papers, investigated 80 complaints, handled 28 accident investigations, issued 25 citations and 72 verbal warnings. In addition the Road Patrol reported 24 arrests, 168 property checks, eight prisoner transports and two mental health transports.

The Correctional Center reported a total of 103 bookings for the month of February, for a daily average of 3.4. The average daily population at the County Jail during February was 78, which was two more than the January average.

The enhanced 911 Dispatch Center handled over 4,000 calls during the month of February. Here's the breakdown: emergency 911 calls - 448, Non-911 calls - 2,461, calls for other law enforcement agencies - 922, calls for ambulance service, 272 and calls for fire service, 42.

Individuals assigned to the Sheriff's work van logged a total of 243 hours of community service for the month of February, performing chores and assistance at: The Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency, Dickinson County Landfill, The Northern Lights YMCA, The Cornish Pump and Mining Museum, The Almost Home Animal Shelter , The Dickinson County Historical Building, and the Welcome Center.

 

 

The Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center has launched its annual campaign to ensure that everyone in the Dickinson County region has access to vital community programs and resources that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

Every day, the Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center works to support the people and neighborhoods that need it most by addressing community issues, youth swim lessons, senior exercise classes, homelessness initiatives and personal wellness goals.

“Throughout Dickinson County, countless people know the Northern Lights YMCA. But there’s so much more to our Y than one might think,” said Jonathan Ringel, Northern Lights YMCA Center Director. “The Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause. As a charity, we’re dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the nation’s health and well-being, and giving back and providing support to our neighbors.”

This year, the Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center hopes to raise $80,000. Funds raised will support youth swim lessons, summer day camp, senior health classes, scholarship opportunities and program support.

“We’re excited by what the YMCA has brought to Dickinson County over the past 6 years”, said Campaign Co-Chairs Jeff & Kim Webb. “We would like to see a lot more children, adults, seniors, veterans and families benefit the way we have from our participation in the Y. In order to do that it’s important for the Y to reach all income levels in our area.”

Last year, charitable gifts from YMCA donors made it possible for: 91 children to have a safe place to learn and build confidence after school; for 256 seniors the opportunity for mobility strengthening and diabetes prevention; and 407 people access to education and training to reach their full potential.

To learn more about how you can support the Y’s cause, please contact Jonathan Ringel, NLYMCA Dickinson Center Director at 906-774-4076 or jringel@nlymca.com or visit www.nlymca.com for more information.

Pictured above, left to right; Michael Colavecchi, Kim Webb, Grace Webb, Jeff Webb and Matthew Colavecchi.

 

 

Only one of three recipients was on hand at Monday night's City Council meeting, where they were to be honored with presentation of resolutions, thanking them for their service to the City.

The Council adopted resolutions honoring Fire Department Engineer Perry Tomkins, who retired from service after 25 years; Michael Barlow, Sewerman II for the Public Works Department, retiring after ten years and ten days; and Michael Mooney. Mooney retires as Deputy Director of the Police Department, after 25 years and one day of service to the City.

Mooney is pictured above, receiving the framed resolution from Mayor Dale Allesandrini. Mooney was the only one of the three recipients at the meeting.

The resolution presented to Mooney reads, in part:

Whereas, MICHAEL MOONEY served the City of Iron Mountain for a period of 25 years, 1 day, during which time he exhibited interminable vigilance and care for his community, and

Whereas, MICHAEL MOONEY exemplified superior rectitude for offering exemplary public service and dedication to the City as Deputy Director of Police Services.

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the MAYOR and City Council of the City of Iron Mountain do hereby publicly express their admiration on behalf of the citizens, and joined by City Officials and Employees of the City of  Iron Mountain resolved that MICHAEL MOONEY will always be remembered for his outstanding commitment to ensure and advance the quality of our community.

 

 

Despite continuing objections and a NO vote from long-time Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Bill Rervord, the Iron Mountain City Council on Monday night approved the final step in the establishment of a Commercial Rehabilitation District for the City of Iron Mountain.

The general purpose of the district, which follows the same boundaries as the Downtown Development District, is to attempt to spur economic development and job growth within the district. Business and property owners can earn tax abatements depending on a rather complex set of criteria. However, for those who qualify the tax savings can be significant for up to ten years. Revord's main objection to the plan was the complexity of the criteria.

Business owners who may currently have projects underway will, in most cases, qualify. One of those, with a major project currently underway is Solberg's Greenleaf Bar and Grill on Carpenter Avenue. Operator of the facility, Ed Felton, appeared before Council at a special meeting on February 27th to inquire regarding his project's eligibility, and was informed by City Manager Jordan Stanchina that it would be eligible. Felton said he is currently involved in a $300,000 improvement project to the facility.

The new plan will allow those who qualify to reduce the City portion of their tax bill. It will have no effect on taxes due to the County, the Schools, extra voted millage, etc. It will also have no effect on routine maintenance to properties, which would have no effect on the tax bills.

Information on how to apply is available at the City of Iron Mountain Website, or by calling the Iron Mountain City Hall at 906-774-8530.

 

 

 

 

The Iron Mountain City Council, following lengthy discussion, agreed on Monday night to form a mutual aid pact with the Beacon Ambulance service, as well as with Integrity EMS.   The purpose of the agreement is to improve response time in those incidents where the ambulance services may be involved with other emergencies, as well as to provide an additional set of hands in life-threatening situations.

Iron Mountain's Director of Police and Fire Services, Ed Mattson, addressed the Council to answer some of the concerns expressed.   Mattson said that at present, "we are wasting a valuable resource," since all firemen have undergone EMS training, as a statutory requirement, since 2006.  This training would allow them to act until an ambulance arrives in some cases, and to provide the extra set of hands that can be vital in an emergency situation.

Mattson stressed that this would be accomplished at no additional cost to the City.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that figures show there would likely be no more than 40 such call-outs a year, and that they would be accomplished with existing, on-duty personnel.

Support for the proposal was also voiced by the City's newest Council member, former Dickinson County Sheriff, Scott Celello, as well as by Councilman Kyle Blomquist.

In the end, the agreements were approved unanimously by the Council.

 

 

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will undertake two improvement projects at major Dickinson County intersections during the upcoming construction season.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-May on the North Junction of Highways US2, M95 and 141. MDOT says that the basic "T" configuration will not change. Changes planned include the conversion of some of the shoulder and boulevard areas into turning lanes, and the relighting and repaterning of the lanes to provide more efficient traffic flow.

No Definite date has been set for the start of construction at the South Junction, since the MDOT has not yet secured rights to all of the property it would like to have available for the project.

Both projects are expected to be wrapped up by the end of this November.

 

NORWAY SENIORS
SHOW INTENSE
DISLIKE FOR DICSA

 

If anyone attended today’s special meeting of the County Board of Commissioners expecting it to end in a koombaya moment; they left the meeting very disappointed.

The meeting involved members of the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency (DICSA) and representatives of the Norway Vulcan Senior Center with the County Board in the middle.

The special session, which was actually the Board meeting as a committee of the whole, was requested by Commissioner John P. Degenaer, Jr., who represents the Norway-Vulcan area.

The meeting even drew the attendance of State Representative Ed McBroom who said that his office would do whatever it could to help. He didn’t offer any suggestions, apparently not anxious to put himself in the middle.

In sometimes rambling fashion, representatives of the Norway center reviewed the center’s history, back to it’s incorporation in 1971 and up to it’s current dispute with DICSA. Board Chairman Henry Wender at one point tried to end the address, but the Board decided to let everyone have their say.

The most recent disagreement between the center and the agency erupted when the DICSA board, in a cost-cutting measure, decided to close the kitchen in the Norway center and supply meals from the central kitchen facilities in Iron Mountain.

The announcement drew heated protest before it was even initiated and it’s been downhill ever since.

It would appear that there is little if any hopes of achieving any lasting peace between the Norway seniors and the DICSA board anytime soon, so the battle has pretty much moved into the next phase, “How to divvy up the cash.”

The County Board appears willing to allow the Norway group to get a share of the taxes collected under the special millage for seniors. But, they can’t have all of it because DICSA continues to provide other services, including meal delivery and in home assistance.

Nothing more can happen at this point until the Norway group executes or renegotiates a contract that was apparently provided to them some time ago.

Commissioner Ann Martin was critical of the contract saying that it should be written in language that the average person can understand, apparently a reference to legalese that only makes sense to lawyers.

With everything as much up in the air as it was before it started, the meeting ended abruptly after slightly less than an hour.

 

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners Monday night voted to put strict limits on the amount and type of refuse that can be hauled into the Niagara of Wisconsin landfill, located in Breitung Township.

The matter last came before the board in early September, when the Dickinson County Solid Waste Planning Committee recommended opening the landfill to household garbage, and to allow it to take in non-hazardous waste materials from all Upper Peninsula counties.

At that time, the Board sent the matter back to the Solid Waste Planning Committee, and many believed that to be the end of the matter. However, as explained by Commissioner Ann Martin (R - Dist 2), the fact that the matter came back to the Board is part of the process. Martin's comments were in response to a lineup of Breitung Township residents who took advantage of the Board's "Citizen's Time" to protest the fact that the Board was again considering the matter. One of the protesters suggested that perhaps the Board had waited until after the election to act on the landfill matter. Martin made it clear that the Board was simply following the process.

The Board once again voted unanimously to send the matter back to the Solid Waste Planning Committee. Before the vote took place, Commissioner Joe Stevens (R - Dist 1) said that the residents of Breitung Township, and Dickinson County, have spoken loud and clear on the matter, and he felt that the Board should honor their concerns.

As a result of the Board's action, the landfill will be permitted to accept no more than 15 trucks per day, each carrying a maximum load of 24 tons of non-hazardous materials, from Dickinson County only. The Solid Waste Planning Committee had recommended that the landfill be permitted to accept non-hazardous waste from all of the counties in the Upper Peninsula. The Board also made clear their intent to not allow the facility to accept household wastes, which are defined as Type 2 waste material. The facility will be permitted to continue accepting Type 3 waste, which consists primarily of things like foundry sand, papermaking waste, fly ash, and demolition and construction debris.

Reportedly, the Solid Waste Planning Committee is working with Eric Spirtas, President of Niagara Worldwide, hoping to find alternative routes into the landfill, which is located between Kimberly Road and the Menominee River, between Quinnesec and Norway. Spirtas is reportedly attempting to develop a rail spur into the facility, while at the same time seeking an arrangement with Verso Mill in Quinnesec, to allow truck traffic to cross their property, traveling from US-2 to the Kimberly Road. So far, there has been no reaction to the proposal from Verso.

The Solid Waste Planning Committee could send the matter to the County Board of Commissioners yet another time. However, the Board's firm resolve would seem to indicate that such efforts will likely meet a similar fate.

 

 

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Council Moves One
Step Closer To Allowing
ORVs On City Streets

The Iron Mountain City Council, following more than an hour of discussion and public comment, took the next step in allowing ORVs to use City streets, by scheduling the matter for a public hearing to be held on December 5th.

The question of opening City streets to ORV traffic has been in the works for nearly a year, as the City's infrastructure committee worked to come up with the proposed ordinance language.

The City has been seeking public comment since the November 7th Council Meeting, when the matter was first proposed to the Council. Monday night's meeting saw plenty of comment, with the vast majority of those addressing the Council favoring the proposal.

It is hoped that the ordinance, if passed, will not only make it more convenient for City residents to move access trail systems, but will hopefully improve the business and tourist climate, by opening the City to the numerous trails that criss-cross the Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin.

Originally, the proposed ordinance would have prohibited ORV traffic on Woodward Avenue, Stephenson Avenue, Carpenter Avenue, H Street between Carpenter and Stephenson, and the M-95 corridor. After discussion, Woodward Avenue was removed from the list of prohibited streets.

The ordinance would permit ORV traffic on all City streets, with the exception of those mentioned, between the hours of 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM. ORV's needing to cross the prohibited streets would be permitted to do so at designated locations.

The next step is the public hearing, which will be held at 6:30 PM on Monday, December 5th. Those wishing to address the issue, pro or con, will be permitted to do so at that time. Following the hearing, it is likely that the Council will approve the ordinance.

While there is no sunset provision built into the ordinance, the Council indicated that they could revisit the issue at any time, and reverse the proposed action, if problems arise.

Councilman Bill Revord stressed that this new ordinance will apply only to ORVs, meaning four-wheeled off-road-vehicles and the very popular "side-by-sides." Use of snowmobiles on city streets will continue to be prohibited.

Among those speaking in favor of the proposal was the Director of Police and Fire Services, Ed Mattson. Mattson said he does not anticipate any serious problems, nor does he think the ordinance is likely to produce any undue burden on the Police Department.

 

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Iron Mountain Council
Approves License For
New Pawn Broker

With Iron Mountain's only pawn shop about to go out of business, the City Council has approved a license for a new pawn broker / second hand or junk dealer.

The new business, will be called U.P.pawn Northside Treasure Shop, and will be located within the Broullire Corner properties at 627 North Stephenson Avenue.

The business will be operated by Donald and Bobbie Jo Nelson.

 

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Council Moves Ahead
On Creation of Commercial
Rehabilitation District

The Iron Mountain City Council, hoping to spur investment and development within it's commercial district, appears ready to adopt a Rehabilitation District.

The measure adopted by the Council is the first step in the establishment of a Commercial Rehabilitation District, under Michigan Public Act 210 of 2005. The act gives the City the authority to abate a portion of the taxes on any rehabilitation or improvements on properties within the district. The City would only have the authority to abate it’s portion of the tax defined as: 17.4488 mils for City operations, 3.3321 mils for the police and fire pension fund and 1.5 mils for the Downtown Development Authority. Any entity qualifying for the abatement would still have to pay the school taxes; 17.937 mils for school operations and six mils representing the State school funding assessment. The abatements would only apply to the value of the new investments and improvements. All previously established taxes on the abated property would still have to be paid.

The steps taken are preliminary. Now that the Council has approved the language in the proposal, it will be forwarded to the County Administrator for review by the County Board of Commissioner. Before becoming law, the matter would have to get the approval of the County Board.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that it makes sense to get all of the language in place before bringing the matter to the County Board. If the County Board outright rejects the plan, it would likely go no further. Should they indicate a willingness to proceed, the matter would then be scheduled for a public hearing before the City Council. If approved by the Council, the matter would go back to the County Board, which would have 28 days to act.

 

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Iron Mountain To Consider
Allowing Use of ORV's
On City Streets

The Iron Mountain City Council is expected to look into allowing ORV drivers to use some City streets. The matter will come before the Council as the result of a review by the City's Infrastructure Committee, into sample ordinances that address this issue.

City Manger Jordan Stanchina laid out the basics of the proposed ordinance, in a memo to be reviewed by the Council at it's regular meeting on Monday evening.

If given final approval, the ordinance would allow ORVs on any public street except for Stephenson Avenue, Carpenter Avenue, H Street between Stephenson Avenue and Carpenter Avenue, and Woodward Avenue. Crossing of those streets would need to take place at intersections designated in the ordinance.

This is the the first step in the process. Should the Council express interest in the proposed ordinance, public input would be sought as the next step. Based on input from the public, the Council could then proceed to schedule the matter for a public hearing, or drop it altogether.

Stanchina stressed that input by affected residents would be a major factor in deciding whether to proceed to the next step, which would be the scheduling of a public hearing. That hearing could be scheduled as early as December 5th, should the council decide to proceed.

 

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City of Norway To Receive
More Than Half Million $$
For Sewage System Planning

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) today announced the awarding of nearly $97 million to 137 municipalities to assist with costs of planning for their sewer system maintenance needs from the Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program.

The SAW program provides grant assistance for the development of asset management plans for wastewater and stormwater, stormwater management planning, stormwater and wastewater project planning and design, and testing and demonstration of innovative technology.

This is the fourth round of SAW grant awards and is further progress toward funding the complete list of 579 SAW grant applicants. This most recent achievement now brings the total number of SAW grant applicants to be awarded funding to 478 and the total dollar amount of SAW grant funding awarded to approximately $365 million.

Municipalities applied for SAW grants to the MDEQ in 2013 and approved applications were posted in their funding order per a lottery process in March 2014. No new SAW applications are being accepted by the MDEQ as the total dollar amount of the approved applications exceeds the $450 million available for the SAW program.

The Michigan Department of Treasury will issue general obligation debt to fund the SAW grants as authorized in the Great Lakes Water Quality Bond. The SAW program, signed into law in 2013 to support water pollution control efforts in Michigan in conjunction with the previously established State Revolving Fund and Strategic Water Quality Initiatives Fund loan programs.

Under the grants announced, Norway will receive $503,450.00.


For more information, visit the DEQ’s SAW

Program highlight page


For more information on the SRF/SWQIF loan programs, visit the DEQ’s

Clean Water State Revolving Fund page

 

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Breitung Township To
Consider Medical
Marijuana Regulations

The Breitung Township Board of Trustees will hold it's regular meeting at 7:00 this evening, at the Breitung Township Hall, located in Quinnesec.

Among the items listed on tonight's agenda is: Regulation of retail medical marijuana facilities.

The issue arises out of new regulations being proposed by the State of Michigan. Those regulations allow the Township to absolutely ban these facilities within the Township, should that be their desire.

However, these new regulations do not go into effect until December of 2017. In an opinion issued to the Board by it's attorney, William Fahey, the Board was advised that the Township will have a chance to say Yes or No to the establishment of medical marijuana growers or provisioners in Breitung Township. If the board says No, it's pretty much a dead issue.

However, Fahey said that there is a "carrot" being offered to Townships, in the form of up to $5,000 in assistance to enforce their regulatory ordinances for such uses, and they would benefit from the additional sales taxes being generated by the business.

Fahey said it is not known at this time exactly how much control Townships will be able to exercise, since the regulations have not yet been drafted.

The new regulations, which will control medical marijuana from "seed to sale," are currently being drafted by the State of Michigan.

It is not known at this time whether the Board is likely to act on the matter at this time, since implementation of the regulations won't happen until the end of next year.

The whole question might have become moot, had a Michigan Court of Claims not thrown out some 200,000 signatures that had been raised, in an effort to place the question of marijuana legalization on this year's ballot. The State of Michigan, which has been attempting to undo the medical marijuana system since it was imposed by the voters, claimed that the 200,000 signatures were collected before the beginning of the 180 day period permitted for collection, and thus they were "stale."

The Court did not give the group that had collected the signatures any opportunity to counter the State's claims, before handing down the ruling.

 

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A Boondoggle that's not getting any better

The Iron Mountain City Council on Monday night once again revisited a question that's been hanging over the City for more than a decade: What to do with the 11 acre City-owned property where the Khoury Brothers Furniture Factory used to be.

Khoury Brothers had operated as a builder of small furniture, utilizing locally harvested timber products, for more than half a century at their North Side Iron Mountain factory. The factory, as you likely recall, was located adjacent to Highway US-2. In 2004, after the City and the company were unable to come to an agreement on what the company called "unspecified differences," Khoury Brothers moved their operation into the City of Kingsford, taking over another furniture manufacturing plant, which had recently been vacated by Foley Martens, a Nationally-known manufacturer. Shortly after that move, Khoury Brothers ceased operations altogether.

A decade ago, the City, through it's Tax Increment Finance Authority, purchased the property for $895,000. The assessed value of the property today is around $525,000. At least one attempt has been made to develop the property over the years, when Iron Mountain natives, nationally recognized athletic figures Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucci, attempted to develop a conference and convention center on the property. That effort ended in failure, when the developer announced that they were unable to come to terms with the City Council over a variety of matters, primarily involving tax abatements.

The property has now stood vacant for more than a decade, resulting in zero tax dollars for the City, since it owns it. As Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Bill Revord said on Monday evening, "It's a bad deal that's never going to get any better."

The current discussion revolves around splitting the eleven acre parcel into a number of smaller parcels, in the hopes that the property may become a retail area. City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that most retailers want parcels of at least 1.5 acres, and that only seven or eight of the eleven acres would actually be suitable for development.

Mayor Dale Alessandrini, appeared to favor the proposal, as long as it can be done with minimal development expenses being incurred by the City.

We'll be hearing more about this issue at future meetings.

 

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The City of Iron Mountain recently underwent an audit by the Internal Revenue Service, and passed with only minor issues. The audit was for the year 2014.

Among the items that the IRS flagged were the issue of on-call employees commuting too and from work with a City-owned vehicle, the requirement that firemen and Public Works Department employees provide receipts for things such as safety glasses, safety boots, uniforms, etc.

Some City employees, generally supervisory, are permitted to use City-owned vehicles to commute to and from their homes, when they are "on call." As explained by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, this is not for the employee's convenience. Having a fully-equipped vehicle at their immediate disposal when these employees are on call is of much more advantage to the City than to the employee, since it allows them to immediately proceed to the site of a problem, rather than having to first retrieve their work vehicle. This being the case, the City will pay the applicable taxes. The IRS is charging the City $2,700 for this item.

Under the terms of their contract with the City, firemen are given an annual allowance in the amount of $150.00 for "uniform maintenance." While there is nothing wrong with the allowance itself, firemen will now be required to present receipts for the uniform maintenance items purchased. Any amount that can't be covered by receipts will be taxable income. The amount the IRS assessed against the City in this instance was $300.00.

The situation is much the same for the Department of Public works, where employees are given an annual allowance of $200.00 for the purchase of such things as safety boot, safety glasses, etc. While these allowances will still be permitted, any amount not covered by receipts for the purchase of such items will be reported as taxable income. The IRS assessed a charge of slightly over $1,000.00 for this item.

Another item challenged by the IRS was the manner in which the City reported funds paid to employees who have opted out of the City-provided health insurance plan. While that issue had already been corrected, according to the City's Chief Financial Officer, Heather Lieburn, the IRS assessed a tax of slightly over $2,100.00 against the City.

Most of these charges will be paid out of the general fund.

The IRS also challenged the City's past practice of paying individuals on a contractual basis, rather than treating them as employees. The instance involved work done on behalf of the Downtown Development Authority. This situation has been corrected, according to Lieburn, and all payments are now being run through the payroll department. The IRS assessed approximately $2,500.00 in this matter. That amount will be paid by the Downtown Development Authority.

The audit also went through the City's W9's and 1099's that are issued to vendors. These are usually problem areas in any audit. However, Iron Mountain had only two very minor problems in this area, and there would be no penalties as long as proper documentation is provided.

All in all the City appears to have survived the audit in pretty good shape. The auditor commended the City on "a job well-done" with these forms. Thus, there were no tax charges assessed.




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The Iron Mountain City Council again addressed the matter of the Civil Service proposal which will appear on the November 8th General Election ballot.

The Council's discussion followed remarks by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, who said he was responding to an item which had appeared in a local newspaper.

Stanchina said the item was filled with incorrect information, and did not reflect the situation that would exist if Civil Service is eliminated.

The Manager said that contrary to statements made, elimination of the Civil Service System would not result in the ability to hire friends or relatives, since this practice is specifically prohibited in language written into the City Charter in 1985.

Stanchina said that while Civil Service solved many problems when it was adopted in 1935, it no longer serves any useful purpose, and often makes it difficult, if not impossible, to hire the most qualified individuals.

Council members discussed various methods that might be used to promote passage of proposal #1, but were advised by the City Attorney that there are statutorial limitations on what the Council can do. The Council is specifically prohibited from spending City funds to promote the issue.


The City Manager urged voters to visit the City's website at: www.cityofironmountain.com

 where specific information on the proposal is available.

Dickinson County News also has information available regarding proposal #1 at: www.dickinsoncounty.news

 

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A war of words between a Dickinson County Commissioner and the Iron Mountain City Council escalated on Monday night, when Iron Mountain Councilman Bill Revord (pictured on left above) unleashed a verbal attack on County Commissioner Barbara Kramer (pictured on right above), after she posted a social media article critical of the Council over the Commonwealth Development decision.

After a special hearing on September 28th, the Council voted to table a request by Commonwealth Development, to allow the company to pay fees in lieu of taxes on a proposed housing development in the now abandoned Central Middle School building. Under the proposal, known as PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, the developer would pay to the City a percentage of rent collected, rather than the usual ad valorum taxes normally paid on real property.

While the City did not reject the plan, the Council did agree to table the matter for further study.

Kramer, in an article published on her Facebook page, was very critical of the council's action, saying in part, "This decision should have been quick and sure, because it will benefit the entire community. Iron Mountain City Council's decision puts the Commonwealth project's MSHDA financing success at greater risk as well as the school district's option to pay off the bond earlier, which will save us taxpayers some money. What is more important? Serving the entire community or protecting special interests?"

The payment by Commonwealth to the Iron Mountain School District would allow the district to retire some $144,000 in outstanding bond obligations, resulting in a substantial cash savings to the district.  

Councilman Revord called on County Board Chairman Henry Wender to "rein in" his Commissioner. He said that the Council does not make quick decisions on matters of this importance.   While the project plan is still proceeding, it is unlikely that it would come to fruition without the Council's action.

No timetable has been set for the Council to revisit the matter.

 

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Friday evening put the final nail in the coffin for a proposal to import waste from other areas, for burial in a Breitung Township landfill. The proposal was one of five recommendations made in August by the Dickinson County Solid Waste Planning Commission.

The controversy surrounds a landfill, located in Breitung Township between Quinnesec and Norway, operated by Niagara Development, LLC., of Niagara, Wisconsin.   One of the proposals would have allowed the importation of non-hazardous waste from other counties.   Currently the landfill receives such things as fly ash, paper making waste and construction and demotion debris only from Dickinson County.   The other proposal would have allowed Niagara Development to apply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a permit to accept household waste.

The Board's action was a foregone conclusion, based on sentiments expressed by it's members at previous sessions.

Several Quinnesec residents appeared before the board, making final appeals before the board voted unanimously to send the the matter back to the Planning Commission with no comment. The proposal is almost certain to be dropped, at least for the time being.

Residents objected to any garbage being buried in Dickinson County. That apparently includes our own.

In other action, the board failed to take action on a proposal which would have resulted in the transfer of as much as $56,000 of money raised for senior citizen programs to the Norway-Vulcan Senior Center. The Center is experiencing financial difficulties, since it broke away from the Dickinson Iron Community Services agency earlier this year.

The Center had requested that all monies raised by the senior citizen program millage in the City of Norway, as well as Norway and Waucedah Townships, be allocated to the Center.

DICSA Director, Sandie Essendrup argued against the proposal, since DICSA continues to provide many services to the residents of the Norway area, including adult day care, in-home services and meals delivered to recipients homes.

Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook, who serves as a member of the DICSA Board of Directors, said that the agency is presently working with UPCAP to come up with a plan to provide a set level of funding, based on meals served, to the Norway Center.

No further action will be taken by the Board of Commissioners until those negotiations have been completed.

You can view a video recording of the meeting here:

Jason Asselin Video

 

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has gone on record supporting the retention of Sky West as the essential air carrier for the Dickinson County Ford Airport.

The Commission's unanimous vote came on a motion by Commissioner Ann Martin (R - Dist 2). Martin said that after reviewing the two bids submitted, their recommendation was that Sky West remain as the carrier.

Sky West's proposal calls for seven non-stop weekly round trips to Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, and six weekly non-stop trips to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Sky West is requsting an operating subsidy of $3,924,000.00.

If the Sky West proposal is approved by the Department of Transportation, they will continue serving Dickinson County with the 50 seat CRJ-200 regional jet aircraft.

The other proposal was submitted by Choice One, which is headquartered out of St. Louis, Missouri. Air Choice one proposes a different schedule, utilizing a much smaller aircraft. Their schedule would provide 18 weekly non-stop trips to Minneapolis St. Paul, and 13 weekly non-stop trips to Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Air Choice One proposes utilizing what it describes as a twin-engine, nine-seat turbine jet. They are requesting an operating subsidy of slightly over 4.5 million dollars.

While the Dickinson County Commissioners' vote is advisory, it is likely that the DOT will retain Sky West as the carrier. A decision must be made before February 2017, when the current contract expires.

 

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Dickinson County Commissioner Barbara Kramer, (R-Dist 3) took advantage of Commissioner's Privilege at Monday night's County Board of Commissioners meeting, to answer long-standing charges lodged against her by Gerald McCole, of Channing. McCole refers to himself simply as a "concerned citizen."

In prepared remarks delivered at the meeting, Kramer said:

"During recent meetings, I was accused of wrongfully getting paid for DICSA meetings that I was authorized by the County Board to attend. The attacks came as a total surprise."

"When my accuser challenged my integrity, he also attacked the veracity of our County Board. His analysis was distorted, based on insufficient research and without substance. I also question whether his agenda to discredit me may have been politically motivated due to the upcoming election."

Commissioner Kramer continued:

"I have discussed his allegations with a member of the State Ethics Committee, my fellow Commissioners and my attorney. I have been assured by competent legal counsel that the accusations have no basis and are without merit."

"I take my duties as a County Commissioner very seriously. We are responsible for monitoring dollars which taxpayers allocated to agencies through voted-on millage. Since "Senior Millage" money (approximately $365,000.00 annually) passes through DICSA for disbursement, the most efficient and cost effective way to monitor the use of those funds is to attend the monthly DICSA meetings, which I have done under the direction of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners."

Commissioner Kramer concluded her remarks, saying:

"Having been twice elected to this County Board speaks to the confidence people have in me and my commitment to the community in which I was raised. It is an honor to represent my constituents and the Board and I will continue to execute the duties for which I was elected and I look forward to serving in the future."

Kramer is one of only two Commissioner who face challenges in the November 8th General Election.

In a long standing complaint against Kramer, McCole has claimed that the money she had been paid to attend the DICSA meetings was being paid illegally, since she was not a member of the DICSA board.

Other  sources contacted by Dickinson County News, with knowledge of the situation and the law, have agreed with Kramer's evaluation, saying that without comment on the propriety of the arrangement, they feel that no laws have been broken.

McCole has made a number of attempts to seek criminal charges against Kramer, first through complaints to the Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney, then through the Michigan State Police, all apparently to no avail. McCole recently advised Dickinson County News that he is now appealing to the Michigan Attorney General, asking for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The charges have been widely discussed on several local web sites and blogs.

 

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners will hold the first of their two regular monthly meeting on Monday evening. The meeting will begin at 6:00 PM, and will be held in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse.

While the agenda for the Monday meeting generally looks like a "sleeper," one item of significance will come before the Board; that being the selection of an essential air carrier for the Dickinson County Ford Airport.

The County is currently served by Sky West. Sky West operates out of St. George, Utah, and has hubs in many major American cities. The Sky West proposal for the Ford airport includes the use of the CRJ200 aircraft, pictured above, which seats 50.

Sky West is proposing to continue serving the Ford Airport for another two year period, with an annual subsidy of $3,924,000.

There is another proposal in the offing, this one from Air Choice One, which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Air Choice One is proposing service to the Ford Airport utilizing what they describe as a twin engine, 9 seat turbine. The annual subsidy required by Air Choice One would be in excess of 4.8 million dollars.

The only appreciable difference between two, besides the apparent difference in the aircraft itself, is that Sky West offers connections to Detroit, while Air Choice One offers connections through Chicago O'Hare Airport.

The Board's decision will only be an advisory one. The final decision will be made in Washington, by the Department of Transportation.

 

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Dickinson County Commissioners on Monday night approved a resolution honoring Iron Mountain native Tom Izzo for his nationally recognized accomplishments.

The Commission officially honored the famous Yooper with the following resolution:

WHEREAS, Tom Izzo is a Yooper and hometown son of Iron Mountain in Dickinson County, Michigan, and

WHEREAS, Mr. Izzo has inspired and continues to rouse the dreams and aspirations of innumerable youth, and has fostered the careers of academic achievements of his players, both on and off the basketball court, emphasizing hard work, discipline and determination, and

WHEREAS, Mr. Izzo has served and continues to serve with honor and distinction throughout his tenure as a player and coach with a career coaching record of 524-205, and an impressive roster of accomplishments including the 2000 NCAA National Championship, seven Big Ten Championships, seven Final Four appearances, eight National Coach of the Year awards, and 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and,

WHEREAS, Mr. Izzo has been recognized and honored by his peers with his election and induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; now therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners extends it's profound felicitations to Mr. Tom Izzo on this prestigious and much deserved honor.

The resolution was adopted unanimously by the Board.

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The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of Ms. Emily Ellis, of Iron Mountain, to serve as Magistrate for the 95-B District Court.

The appointment had earlier been questioned by Commissioner John Degenaer, Jr., (D-Dist 5) when the matter came before the budget conscious Board several weeks ago. However, the Board had no choice but to go ahead with the authorization, since the position is required by Michigan law. (MCL 600.5801) The Board had indicated earlier that while they had no choice but to approve the magistrate's appointment, they still hope to achieve a reduction in personnel by eliminating one other position in the court staff.

In his notice to the Board, Judge Ninomiya also submitted a request asking for authorization to send the newly appointed Magistrate to the Michigan Association of District Court Magistrates annual conference in Grand Rapids. That request was also approved by a unanimous voice vote.

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Cash Strapped Board
Turns Down Tourism
Promotion Funding

 

In an unusual move, Dickinson County Commissioner Ann Martin (R-Dist2) moved to make a contribution to the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association, then voted against her own motion. In fairness, Commissioner Martin stated in making the motion that she did not intend to vote for it.

The motion came in response to a request by the Association for a contribution of $550.00.

The Association states as it's mission: Established in 1911 the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association is dedicated to promoting all of the tourism products and services in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Through our marketing efforts and information that we provide the consumer we allow people to plan an outstanding vacation to one of our country’s great natural regions.

The appropriation was rejected on a unanimous voice vote. The County has not contributed to the Association for the past several years, as it continues to struggle with budget problems.

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The threat alert system created by Public Act 235 of 2016 is now operational. This new alerting system can be used in cases where there is a public threat, which is defined as a clear, present, persistent, ongoing and random threat to public safety. A public threat includes, but is not limited to, an act of terrorism, an unresolved mass shooting or an unresolved mass shooting spree.

Upon activation by law enforcement, similar to how an AMBER Alert is issued, the Emergency Alert System can be utilized to interrupt radio and television broadcasting in the affected region. A Wireless Emergency Alert can also be issued through mobile carriers, which will appear on mobile devices similar to a 90-character text message.

“It is extremely important to make the public aware of a potentially life threatening situation, as accurately and quickly as possible, so our residents can stay out of harm’s way,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police (MSP). “Nearly everyone has access to a mobile phone, and unlike other emergency notifications, you do not have to opt-in to receive these important alerts.”

The Public Threat Alert System is activated by the MSP Operations Unit upon request of law enforcement, when the following criteria are met:

1 - A specific and identifiable threat exists that is not a natural disaster.
2 - The threat is immediate and ongoing.
3 - The threat impacts the safety and welfare of the general public.
4 - The suspect(s) have not been apprehended and remain a threat to public safety.
5 - An area-wide broadcast via the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) has been issued.
6 - Sufficient information to protect the public from danger is available to disseminate.

State Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo, who sponsored the legislation creating the Public Threat Alert System added, "I'd like to thank the MSP and Gov. Rick Snyder for their assistance and coordinated efforts in implementing this precautionary measure and bringing it online so quickly. It has and always will be my intention to ensure the public safety of all Michigan residents and my hope is that we never have to use this system; however, if tragedy should strike our local communities rest assured you will be alerted promptly."

 

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Dickinson County Undersheriff Scott Rutter, who is seeking the position being vacated by his boss, Sheriff Scott Celello, has been advised that he has received the endorsement of the Police Officers' Association of Michigan. Rutter has been with the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department for 18 years, and is currently serving in the department's number two position of Undrsheriff. Celello is retiring from his position as Sheriff to seek a seat in the Michigan Legislature.

In a letter dated September 15, the association stated: "The Police Officers' Association of Michigan (POAM) is pleased to provide our endorsement for your election as Dickinson County Sheriff."

The POAM represents over 12,000 police officers in the State of Michigan, and is the largest such organization in the State.

 

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On November 8th, Iron Mountain voters will be faced with the choice of eliminating or perpetuating the Civil Service hiring system, which has been in place for the past eight decades.

Under the current system, the Civil Service Commission acts as the hiring arm for the City. Most non-administrative positions fall under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service system. Every two years the Commission advertises for applicants, who are then tested and reviewed by the Commissioners.


The Commission then provides the City with a list of qualifying applicants ranked in order of their test scores. The City has little flexibility in deviating from that list.

The basic problem is that by the time two years have passed, many of those on the list, especially the most qualified, are often no longer available.

Based on recommendations by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, the City Council agreed to put on the November ballot, a proposal to eliminate the Civil Service system.

Many have wondered:  What would replace Civil Service if the voters agree to eliminate it?

Hopefully we’ll get some preliminary answers to that question on Monday evening, when the Council meets for it’s second regular monthly meeting.

Stanchina told Dickinson County News that he will be presenting “talking points” on the matter to the Council on Monday. It is not known if the Council will take any action at this point.

 

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Board Narrowly Approves
Lake Antoine Fish
Habitat Project

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night gave the go-ahead for a fish habitat project at Lake Antoine, mirroring action taken last week by the Iron Mountain City Council.

The project is being proposed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as part of a wide-ranging project being undertaken by the Glacial Lakes Fish Habitat Partnership.

This project, which will be carried out during the Winter of 2018 if the grant application is approved, would involve the placement of what are called "coarse woody habitat structures," consisting of logs, branches, limbs, trees and wood particles that are bound together and anchored.

The proposal is similar to a project conducted on Lake Antoine several decades ago, when fish habitats consisting of bound logs were placed on the ice, and allowed to sink into the lake with the spring thaw.

The project encountered unexpected resistance from board member Barbara Kramer, who questioned how the habitat structures would look, and whether they might be a boating hazard. Kramer said that she had toured the proposed area on Monday afternoon, and that she would like to have more information before voting on the matter.

Board Chairman Henry Wender called for a rool-call vote on the matter. Voting in favor of the habitat project were Commissioners Ann Martin (R-Dist2), Henry Wender (R-Dist4) and Joe Stevens (R-Dist1). Voting against the project were Commissioners Barbara Kramer (R-Dist3) and John Degenaer, Jr. (D-Dist5).

The Board also approved an accompanying grant application which would fund the project.

While there will be no cost to either the City of Iron Mountain or to Dickinson County, approval was required from both bodies since the projects will be conducted in areas that are under their jurisdiction. The project, if approved, would be funded by the Glacial Lakes Fish Habitat Partnership, in cooperation with Wildlife Unlimited, of Dickinson County.

 

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Both Iron Mountain and Kingsford will be receiving shiny new fire trucks in the near future, as the result of action taken by the respective City Councils on Monday night.

Both cities solicited bids for new trucks, and both received a single bid from the same company, Pierce Manufacturing, of Appleton, Wisconsin. Pierce manufactures a wide range of emergency response vehicles, and distributes products Worldwide.

The bid received for the Iron Mountain truck was slightly over one-half million dollars.  The Kingsford bid was just over $360,000.

According to Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck, the unit being purchased by Kingsford will be somewhat cheaper because of different specifications. Among those is a smaller four man cab, compared to Iron Mountain's six man cab. There are other differences in specifications, based on the respective department's needs, that also account for the price difference. Edelbeck said the specifications for the new truck are very similar to those of the late 1990s model truck that it will be replacing.

Edelbeck said the City could realize additional savings if they are able to pay for the truck "up front," thus taking advantage of an additional discount that the manufacturer would offer.

Iron Mountain will need to borrow the money to pay for the truck. In this case the new truck will replace a 15 year old unit. City Manager Jordan Stanchina, in his original recommendation to the council, said that borrowing the money at this time makes sense because of historically low interest rates. In his report to the Council on Monday evening, Stanchina said that he had obtained a low interest quote of 1.5% from UP State Bank. Based on that quote, the Council authorized a Municipal Installment Purchase agreement.

It will take approximately ten months for Pierce to build the Iron Mountain truck. Pierce has indicated that it will make adjustments to compensate for the interest costs that the city will incur during that period.

The Kingsford truck should be delivered in less time, since it is similar to the stock trucks that the company offers for sale.

Dickinson County News was able to confirm shortly before noon on Tuesday that both trucks are on order.   The specifications for the Iron Mountain truck had already been reviewed and deemed to be in compliance.    Kingsford Public Safety Services Director Brian Metras said shortly before noon that he reviewed the specifications this morning, and that they were in compliance with the City's requirements.   He said the paperwork had been turned over to the City Manager,  and that the truck is on order.

 

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Lukewarm reception after issue stirs controversy.

The Iron Mountain Central Middle School development project will move to it's next step, though the City Couincil expressed skepticism and concerns on Monday night. The Iron Mountain City Council, at their regular meeting on Monday night, scheduled a public hearing, on what has become an unexpectedly controversial issue.

The project is being proposed by the Commonwealth Companies, headquartered out of Louisville, Kentucky.

 Appearing on behalf of the company at the Monday night meeting was the Vice President of Development, David Ritchay, pictured on the right.

Ritchay outlined to the Council the many benefits he felt would arise from the project, not the least of which is providing affordable housing, which the company states as it's primary goal. Ritchay also stressed the benefits of restoring and maintaining historic properties.

The issue stirred enough controversy to generate the largest crowd witnessed at a City Council meeting in some time. 

Ritchay's comments were followed by a string of citizens, almost equally divided on the subject. Some expressed concerns about the traffic problems that might be created, others about the lifestyles of the individuals who might qualify for the low-income housing. Other's favored the project, stating the obvious need for housing in the area, and the benefits of restoring and preserving the historic structure.

Perhaps the most compelling plea came from members of the Iron Mountain Board of Education, who expressed concern for the building's future if this project does not go forward. Addressing the Council on behalf of the Board of Education were the Board's President, Jeff Michaud, as well as Vice-President Rob Langsford and member Lisa Carollo. The primary concern is that the now abandoned building will deteriorate over time, and may eventually become useless. They indicated that there has been no other interest expressed in the building.

Nevertheless, the Council seemed unconvinced. The Company is seeking the adoption of an ordinance, implementing what is known as a PILOT, or Payment In Lieu of Taxes program. This would allow the developer to pay 10.32% of the rent collected to the City, in place of the ad valorum taxes usually assessed.


Mayor Dale Alessandrini seemed to express the general sentiment of the Council, saying that if they gave every business this kind of a break, they'd have people lined up waiting to move into the City. Others on the Council seemed a bit more interested in pursuing the matter, and it was eventually set for public hearing. That hearing will be held in the council chambers of City Hall on September 28th.

 

The proposed $5.4 million dollar project would convert the former school building into 28 apartments, and result in the construction of two, six-unit condominium apartment buildings. Nothing can proceed until the Council takes action on the PILOT ordinance, after the hearing on the 28th.

 

 

Commissioners To
Consider Resolution
Honoring Tom Izzo

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners will hold the second of it's two regular meetings on Monday.

Among the items listed for consideration by the Board is a resolution Honoring Tom Izzo, Iron Mountain native who has earned National recognition as Head Coach of the Michigan State Spartans.

Since 1995 Izzo has presided over a prolonged period of success. On April 4 of this year, Izzo was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Under Izzo, Michigan State has been one of the most successful collegiate basketball programs in the country. Izzo has led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA Division I National Championship, the 2009 NCAA National Championship Game, seven Final Fours, seven Big Ten Championships, and five Big Ten Tournament Championships in his 21 years at Michigan State. The coach with the most wins in school history, Izzo's teams have earned invitations to 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments, in addition to setting the Big Ten record for the longest home winning streak. These accomplishments led analyst Andy Katz at ESPN to deem Michigan State the top college basketball program for the decade from 1998 to 2007.

Currently the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten Conference, Izzo, whose teams are often recognized for their rebounding prowess and defensive tenacity, has won four national coach of the year awards and maintains a considerable coaching tree—several of his former assistants are currently head coaches at other Division I schools. Izzo is just the fifth coach in Big Ten history to win seven conference titles. His immense success during the NCAA Tournament has earned Izzo the nickname "Mr. March" among active coaches.

 

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Dickinson County District Judge Christopher Ninomiya has announced the appointment of Ms. Emily Ellis, of Iron Mountain, to serve as Magistrate for the 95-B District Court.

The appointment had been questioned by Commissioner John Degenaer, Jr., (D-Dist 5) when the matter came before the budget conscious Board several weeks ago. However, the Board had no choice but to go ahead with the authorization, since the position is required by Michigan law. (MCL 600.5801)

In his notice to the Board, Judge Ninomiya is submitting an accompanying request asking authorization to send the newly appointed Magistrate to the Michigan Association of District Court Magistrates annual conference in Grand Rapids.

 

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Fish Habitat Project
At Lake Antoine
To Be Considered
By County Board


 

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners is expected to join the City of Iron Mountain, in authorizing a fish habitat project at Lake Antoine. The project has been proposed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Approval of both governing bodies is required, since the project will be conducted in parts of the lake that fall into both jurisdictions.

The proposal is similar to a project conducted on Lake Antoine several decades ago, when fish habitats consisting of bound logs were placed on the ice, and allowed to sink into the lake with the spring thaw.

This project will involve what is called coarse woody habitat, and consists of logs, branches, limbs, trees and wood particles that are bound together and anchored. As with the earlier project, the habitats will be placed on the ice and allowed to sink into the lake.
They will be placed in areas near the shore, where they will not interfere with recreational use of the lake. These structures serve as cover for prey fish, as well as providing habitat for perch spawning .

The project would be conducted during the Winter of 2018, at no cost to the local government units. If approved, it would be funded by a grant from the Glacial Lakes Fish Habitat Partnership.

 

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Kingsford Council Approves
Fireworks Permit for
Kingsford/Gladstone Game

The Kingsford City Council on Monday night approved a request to permit a fireworks display at the Kingsford vs. Gladstone High School Football game, to be played on Friday, October 14, at Flivver Field.

The fireworks display will begin at approximately 9:00 PM, and will originate on the Flivvers practice field.

According to the conditions of the permit, the fireworks will be stored at an off site location until one-half hour before the start of the display and will be transported to the firing site just before the start of the show.

Public Safety Services Director Brian Metras assured the council that the show would be properly supervised, and felt it could be conducted safely. City Manger Tony Edelbeck said the permit has been granted for a number of years, and there have been no incidents.

The permit was requested by Todd Dooley, representing the Spread Eagle Fireworks Co.

 

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Mixed Results As County
Board Tackles Landfill Issue

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners produced a mixed bag of results Monday night, after considering five proposals put before them by the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Planning Committee regarding a landfill located in Breitung Township. The Board's actions came before an unusually full gallery of Quinnesec and Breitung Township residents, almost unanimously opposed to changes proposed for the landfill.

The Board's first action came on a motion by the group's only Democrat, Commissioner John Degenaer, representing the County's Fifth District. Degenaer's motion, which was seconded by Board Chairman Henry Wender (R-Dist 4), would have rejected all five of the proposed changes, sending the matter back to the Solid Waste Planning Committee with recommendations that the Board would draft after a special meeting. That motion was defeated by a 3-2 vote, with only Degenaer and Wender voting in favor.

Left To Right: Comm. Ann Martin (R-Dist 2), Comm. Joe Stevens (R-Dist 1)
Comm. Henry Wender (R-Dist 4), Comm. Barbara Kramer (R-Dist 3)
Comm. John Degenaer, Jr (D-Dist 5), Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards (R)

The Board then agreed to take up each of the five proposals, voting on them independently.

The first proposal would allow for the exportation of 100% of Dickinson County's waste to other landfills, with no conditions. Degenaer again tried to block the proposal, but his motion to deny died for lack of a second.  Commissioner Ann Martin (R-Dist 2), then moved for passage of the proposal.  It passed on a four to one vote, with only Commissioner Degenaer voting against it.

The second proposal would have allowed Niagara Development to apply for a license to bury Type II, or household waste in the landfill. Currently they are licensed only for Type III refuse, which consists of things such as papermaking waste, fly ash, foundry sand, and construction and demolition debris. On a motion by Commissioner Joe Stevens (R-Dist 1), the Board voted unanimously to deny this proposal, meaning that household waste won't be buried there anytime soon.

The next two changes were technical in nature, officially recognizing the change in name of Great American Disposal (GAD) to it's current title: Great American Environmental Services. This is the company, which in concert with the County's Solid Waste Management Commission, operates the Solid Waste Transfer station, located near Quinnesec.

The other technical change changes references to Champion International, the original operator of the pulp mill in Quinnesec, to Verso Quinnesec LLC., recognizing the change in ownership.

Then came the big fly in the ointment: the question of allowing importation of Type III waste from other UP counties, and to allow a maximum of 15 trucks a day, each carrying a maximum of 24 tons, to travel to the landfill. This is the question that has raised the ire of Quinnesec residents, who fear that the truck traffic will result in the decline of not only their lifestyle, but their property values as well.

Again on this issue, it was Commissioner Degenaer who jumped in and moved that the proposal be denied, and that the question be sent back to the Solid Waste Management Planning Committee for further review; specifically, to try to find an alternate route that would bypass the residential areas. This may prove difficult since the County itself does not own any land in that area.

The Board voted unanimously to send the matter back to the Committee with instruction to try to find an alternate route.

This story will definitely be continued.

 

Link To Video of Monday Night's Meeting

 

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Kingsford Public Safety
August Activity Report

 

Brian Metras, Director of Public Safety Services for the City of Kingsford, has issued the Department's activity report for the month of August. The report is included in material to be reviewed by the Kingsford City Council when it holds it's regular meeting tonight (Monday).

The report shows that the Department handled 188 calls, logged 9,355 road miles, and handled 671 property checks and inspections.

Among other things, the Public Safety Department handled 1 felony aggravated assault complaint, five complaints for contempt of court, three for operating under the influence, one investigation of a natural death, and two accidents.

You can view the entire report by clicking   HERE
 

 

 

City To Hold Silent
Auction For Used
And Surplus Equipment

 

The City will hold it's version of a yard sale, when it auctions off a myriad of used and surplus equipment that's been cluttering up the Public Works building.

The Council approved the auction on Monday night, on recommendation of City Manager Jordan Stanchina.

The auction will include items such as used vehicles, used tires, liquid storage tanks, floor jacks, used street signs and used playground equipment. Also included in the auction is one used Grundfos CR16 pump. If you know what that is; this auction is for you.

The auction will occur between now and October 17. Watch for the announcement.

The items listed for sale will be available for viewing at the Public works department prior to the auction. Bid forms are available at the Iron Mountain City Hall.

 

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Cities Agree To Proceed
With Wastewater Treatment
Plant Upgrade Project

 

The City Councils of both Iron Mountain and Kingsford Monday night gave the green light to a project which will result in a repair and upgrade project at the jointly owned wastewater treatment plant, located on the Menominee River near the Highway M-95 interstate bridge. The estimated cost of the project is $5.4 million.

The recommended project is the result of a study by the Joint Wastewater Treatment Authority, operated by the two cities. The action taken by the Councils will allow the authority to proceed with bid solicitation and grant applications. The final cost of the project will not be known until after the bids are received.

According to Gary Lessard, Superintendent of the WWTP, some of the equipment in use today dates back to the 1970's. Some of it is beyond repair, and repairs to other components become more and more expensive as parts become difficult to locate. Lessard said that in many cases it's cheaper to replace equipment than it is to keep repairing it. This project will allow the plant to operate efficiently and reliably into the future.

The WWTP was originally constructed in the late 1960's, after both Michigan and Wisconsin sued to stop the discharge of raw sewage into the Menominee River. The equipment used as well as practices and procedures have changed greatly since that time as technology has advanced in the field. The plant has undergone a number of extensive upgrades since it's original construction.

While the funding needed for the project will result in borrowing, and increases for water and sewer rates in both cities, the exact amount of those increases won't be determined until all factors are in place.

 

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The Iron Mountain City Council is expected to approve a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes ordinance, to help move along the development of a low-income housing project in the former Iron Mountain Central Middle School building.

The project is being proposed by The Commonwealth Company, of Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin. The company specializes in converting former school properties into apartment and condominium units. On it's corporate website, the company states the following: "It's our mission to build or renovate housing stock that provides high-quality, affordable places for people to live. As well, we seek to preserve and restore the architectural legacy of the communities in which we work."

Commonwealth is proposing to convert the former Central Middle and elementary building into 28 apartment units, and the building of 12 new townhouses, to be located in two buildings of six units each.

The company is applying for what is known as a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes on the proposed development. Taxable value upon completion is expected to be in excess of $3.2 million. Under the PILOT program, the development would pay to the City, 10.32% of all rents collected, in lieu of normal property taxes.

The PILOT program is authorized under Michigan law, and is part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Their mission is to help provide low-cost housing for low-income individuals and families.

If the proposed development proceeds as expected, payments to the Iron Mountain School System will help retire an outstanding $144,000 debt obligation that the School currently holds.

Passage is expected when the Council meets at 6:30 PM on Monday.

 

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Iron Mountain Adopts
Sister City Program

The Iron Mountain City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, to invite Sassoferrato, Italy to be it's Sister City.

The Sister City relationship with Sassoferrato was suggested to the Council by Albert Santoni several weeks ago. In the interim, a resolution was drafted by the City Attorney, and presented to the Council on Tuesday evening. Mr. Santoni was present during the Council's vote. He said he hopes that the relationship can eventually result in exchange visits between the two cities.

The Italian city is a natural match for Iron Mountain, considering this City's long-standing Italian heritage and traditions.

This is the text of the resolution adopted by the Council.

CITY OF IRON MOUNTAIN
RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT A SISTER CITY RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN IRON MOUNTAIN, MICHIGAN, AND SASSOFERRATO, ITALY

WHEREAS, the City of Iron Mountain, Michigan, United States of America, wishes to have a Sister City relationship with the City of Sassoferrato, Italy; and

WHEREAS, the people of the City of Iron Mountain extend a hand of friendship to our potential Sister City, Sassoferrato, Italy; and

WHEREAS, the City of Iron Mountain's City Council is interested in fostering environments through which municipal partnerships can learn, work and solve problems together; and

WHEREAS, the Iron Mountain City Council is interested in cultivating cultural and educational experiences for the citizens of Iron Mountain;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF IRON
MOUNTAIN, DICKINSON COUNTY, MICHIGAN, THAT:

The City Council and the Mayor of the City of Iron Mountain extend through this resolution a formal invitation to the Mayor and people of Sassoferrato to join with Iron Mountain as a Sister City and as such to conduct such mutually beneficial programs as to bring our citizens more closely together and thereby strengthen international amity.

Dated: September 6, 2016

BY ORDER OF MAYOR AND CITY
COUNCIL FOR AND ON BEHALF OF
THE CITY OF IRON MOUNTAIN

As expected, the matter received enthusiastic support from the council.

 

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Kingsford Council Approves
Changes To Master Plan

The Kingsford City Council on Tuesday evening approved a number of changes to the City's master plan. The "master plan" is a means of insuring that future growth and development within the city occurs in an orderly manner.

Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck said that most of the changes approved to the master plan are technical in nature, and came about as the result of changing circumstances such as new streets being developed, changes in maps, and zoning changes. He said that some of the changes came about as the result of census figure adjustments, and information made available to the City by CUPPAD, or the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development District.

Edelbeck said the changes will now go before the City's Planning Commission, where approval is expected at their September 26th meeting.

 

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Opposition To Breitung
Landfill Growing

Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook reported today that she has received more than five hundred petition signatures, opposing action expected to be taken tonight by the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners.

The Board is slated to act tonight on approval of amendments to the operating license for a landfill located in Breitung township. between Quinnesec and Norway. The landfill is operated by Niagara Development LLC, a division of Niagara Worldwide. According to reports received by Dickinson County News; Eric Spirtas, President of Niagara Worldwide, arrived at Ford Airport this afternoon, and is expected to represent the company at tonight's meeting.

The question of expanding the role of the 25 year-old landfill came to fore when the Dickinson County Solid Waste Planning Commission made several recommendations that would widen the area from which the landfill can collect refuse, and possibly upgrade their operating license to allow them to accept household or Type II waste materials. Currently the facility is licensed to handle only Type III materials, which includes such things as demolition and construction debris, foundry sand, paper sludge and fly ash.

The matter will be presented to the board tonight by Tony Edelbeck, Kingsford City Manager, and Secretary of the Solid Waste Management Planning Committee.

The proposed amendments had been expected to win quick approval by the Board. That was before the significant objections that have surfaced. A large contingent of Breitung Township residents, led by members of the township's Board of Trustees, is expected to be on hand at tonight's meeting.

The County Board meets in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM, and is open to the public.

 

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County Board Faces Decision
On Breitung Township Landfill

On Monday evening, the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners will be called upon to make one of the more controversial decisions they've had to make in some time, when they vote on the future of the Niagara Development Landfill near Quinnesec.

The Board will be asked to approve four amendments to the facility's operating license.  Briefly described, those amendments would lift the current restrictions and allow the landfill to accept non-hazardous waste from other UP counties, would change the current no-limit intake to 15 trucks per day, would permit Dickinson County to export waste to a broader area, and would allow Niagara Development to make application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to handle Type II, or household waste. This would only provide permission to apply for the license.

If approved by the Board of Commissioners, the amendments would then require the approval of at least seven of the governmental jurisdictions in the County. This includes the County's three cities and seven townships.  If the Board fails to approve the amendments, the matter would be referred back to the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Planning Commission.

A large crowd is anticipated at the Monday night meeting, based on the number of people who attended similar meetings on this matter at the Breitung Township Hall. Members of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees are also expected to be in attendance, and will likely address the Board of Commissioners.

The meeting will begin at 6:00 Monday evening, in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse.  As always, the meeting is open to the public.

You can read a complete evaluation of the landfill issue by clicking here.

 

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William J. "Bill" Ragio

William Joseph “Bill” Ragio, 71, of Spread Eagle, formerly of Alpha, passed away Sunday, September 4 at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

 

He was born November 22, 1944 in Milwaukee, to the late William and Dena (Carloni) Ragio.

Bill graduated from Muskego High School in 1962. After high school he enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served in Vietnam as a Radio Telegraph Operator. He earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Rifle Marksmanship Medal and was honorably discharged in 1966.

Bill was self-employed. He owned and operated Ragio Concrete, retiring in 2008. He enjoyed cooking, fishing, hunting, going to his grandkids’ sporting events, spending time with his friends, family, and pets. He worked hard but always made time to have fun and partied like a Rockstar. “We will miss you Wild Bill”.

He is survived by his son, Tony (Brenda) Ragio; brother, Al (Karen) Ragio; sisters, Linda (Nunzi) Catania, Nancy (Tom) Dixon, Dena (Marty) Rivera, Wildene Obrenovich, and Anita Ragio; 2 grandchildren, Billy and Kelsey Ragio; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

He is preceded in death by his parents, William and Dena Ragio; and sister, Ilene Madison.

Private services will be held for family and friends.

The Nash Funeral Home of Crystal Falls is in charge of arrangements.

Condolences may be expressed to the family of William Ragio online at www.nashfuneralhome.net

 

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Councils Take No Action
On Township Request

Iron Mountain and Kingsford City Councils both received an appeal from the Breitung Township Board of Trustees, asking that they go on record opposing amendments to the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Plan. Those changes would allow for expansion of a landfill, located in Breitung Township, between Quinnesec and Norway. The landfill is operated by Niagara Development LLC, a subsidiary of Niagara Worldwide.

The changes being proposed are:

1. To allow Niagara Development to accept the same waste (Type III) they are currently permitted for from other U.P. counties.

2. To limit Niagara Development to 15 trucks per day. Currently there is no limit.

3. To permit Dickinson County to export all types of waste to other U.P. counties. At present only Alger county is listed. The other counties would have to approve this plan as well before it could be implemented.

4. To allow Niagara Development to apply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to modify their current landfill permit, the allow them to accept Type II (household waste) materials. This would only give them permission to apply. The MDEQ would have the final say.   Currently the landfill is only permitted to accept Type III material, consisting of things such as foundry sand, paper sludge, and construction and demolition debris.  These materials are defined as non-hazardous.

Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina said he did not understand why the Township was objecting to all four of the amendments, but added that any action by the City Council at this time would be premature. It was much the same story in Kingsford. City Manager Tony Edelbeck said the matter didn't even come before the council. The reason: Any action at this time would be premature.

The matter must first be voted on by the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners. That vote will take place at next Monday's night's meeting of the County Board. Mayor Dale Allesandrini expressed concern over the 15 truck daily limit, since the daily refuse haul from the three cities (Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Norway) would likely exceed that limit, if the landfill is authorized to accept Type II material (household waste).

If the Board of Commissioners approves the plan, it would then be voted on by the three cities and the seven townships. Seven of those ten governmental units would have to approve the amendments before the plan could proceed. If the County Board rejects the amendments, the plan would go back to the Solid Waste Management Planning Committee for possible revision.

 

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Busy Summer For
Kingsford DPW

 

It's been a busy Summer for the Kingsford Public Works Department, according to a report received by the City Council Tuesday evening.

In his report to the Council, Public Works Department Director Justin Wickman listed the following activities:

Completion of 18 ramps to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, two catch basin repairs and two manhole repairs, in preparation for local paving work this fall.

Wickman said the crews completed the monthly sewer flush during the second week of the month. they also completed three manhole and two catch basin top rebuilds, and one complete catch basis rebuild.

According to Wickman, the crews have been busy patching potholes throughout the city. He said there were a few spots that were beyond cold patch, and needed some hot mix asphalt for repairs.

Work will continue as long as weather permits.

 

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Students Bolster City
Council Attendance

 

There was an unusually large crowd on hand at Tuesday night's meeting of the Iron Mountain City Council, thanks to students attending the meeting as part of a class assignment.


The students are part of instructor John Hogberg's Civics class at the Iron Mountain High School. The students were assigned, among other things, to attend one City Council and one County Board meeting.

 

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Drink Up Kingsford
Your Water Is Safe

The Kingsford Municipal Water System received passing grades in all but one category, in a recent survey by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The City received a report of "No Deficiencies/Recommendations," in all but one category, after a recent on-site inspection by the DEQ. That single category is in the City's distribution system, where the DEQ feels there may be inadequate controls over cross-connections. The report did note, however, that they commend the city crews for the work they are doing on this deficiency, and are recommending to the City Council that they adopt an ordinance governing such cross-connections. No problems have been reported from this issue. The steps being taken are preventative in nature.

The system did receive passing grades in the following categories: water source, water treatment, finished water storage, pump stations, monitoring and reporting, management and operations, operator certifications and security.

The information is contained in a report issued by the DEQ on August 17th. It is expected to be presented to the City Council at it's regular meeting tonight (Tuesday).

 

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Iron Mountain To Buy

New Fire Truck

The City of Iron Mountain, following several months of research, Tuesday night agreed to spend more than one-half-million dollars for the purchase a new fire truck.

The City only received one bid for the truck, that came from Pierce Manufacturing, of Antigo, Wisconsin. Pierce specializes in fire and rescue vehicles and distributes products worldwide. The Pierce bid was slightly over one-half million dollars.

That bid approval was deferred for several weeks, due to the complexity of the specifications for the truck. The City's bid specifications covered 131 pages, and the Pierce bid was submitted with an equally daunting amount of paperwork. The specifications have now been reviewed by the Fire Department, and according to the latest information, the bids meet the City's specifications.

This purchase is not currently budgeted for, and the City will have to borrow the money through the sale of bonds.

In his original memo to the Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said it makes sense to borrow the money at historically low interest rates, rather than to put the purchase off for the seven or eight years that it might take the city to set the funds aside.

The new truck will replace a 16-year-old unit, that is in need of upgrades. The current number one unit will become the Department's number two, or standby unit.

In order to make the purchase, the City will have to adopt a Municipal Installment Purchase agreement. Steven Mann, the Detroit representative of the international legal firm Miller Canfield, will act as bond counsel for the City on the borrowing.

In his latest memo to the Council, Manager Stanchina said that several borrowing options will be presented to the Council at it's September 19th meeting, including possible financing through local financial institutions.

The Council unanimously approved the purchase on a voice vote.  However, you don't just pull a new fire truck off the shelf.   According to Manager Stanchina, it will take approximately ten months to build the new truck.

 

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When You Call 911

An inside look at Dickinson County's Emergency Response Center

 

On a recent trip to the Sheriff’s Department, Deputy County Emergency Services Director Pete Schlitt gave us a tour of the Emergency Response Center. The 911 Center is highly secured, located deep within the Sheriff’s Complex, behind two keypad coded doors.
 

 

 

 

The Center is manned by at least two trained dispatchers at all times. This allows one dispatcher to handle routine traffic in the event that the other is tied up in a ongoing emergency situation. 
 

 Dispatchers are able, with the click of a mouse, to immediately contact first responders, including police, fire and ambulance. In addition they can also contact other agencies such as the Road Commission, which may be needed in the event of an emergency.
 

 

 

In the event of a major emergency,  there is a third fully equipped work station which can quickly be brought into service.  Schlitt said the center recently underwent major upgrades thanks primarily to millage approved by County voters. 

 

Dickinson County Undersheriff Scott Rutter told Dickinson County News that they’re not done with the upgrades.  One that they are in the process of implementing is GPS  tracking of all first responders. 

Currently, when an emergency occurs, dispatchers usually have to poll first responders to find out who is nearest the emergency.  Once this new system is fully deployed, dispatchers will have a real-time display showing where all of the first responders are located.  This will allow them to immediately dispatch the closest units to the scene of the emergency.  Rutter said this upgrade will save precious minutes when lives may be at stake.

Here are some of the statistics relating to the center’s 2015 operations:

911 calls, including wireless and text ….. 6,574

Non-911 calls handled by dispatch ….. 54,921

Law enforcement incidents handled ….. 11,808

EMS calls handled by dispatch ….. 2,909

Fire calls handled by dispatch ….. 689

While there has been major controversy state-wide over the funding of the 911 emergency response systems, we see the arguments over funding as being another matter entirely.   Experience has shown us over the years how vital minutes can be when first responders are called upon to handle an emergency situation.   There is no doubt that this investment is one that pays dividends to the residents of Dickinson County on a daily basis.

 

 

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Breitung Township Landfill
Now A County-Wide Issue

Approval will be needed by seven of
Dickinson County's Ten Sub-jurisdictions

Click here to jump to part 2
 

While a landfill located within Breitung Township has raised eyebrows with citizens there, the Township’s government has only a limited voice in the matter, regardless of any objections that might be raised.

The landfill is located on property previously used by the paper making operations at the Niagara paper mill. A portion of the property had been used as the mill’s pulp intake point. The landfill is located to the east of the former pulp yards, near the area that had been used for the papermaking operation’s effluent settling ponds.

The landfill is operated by a company called Niagara Development, a limited liability corporation. While the exact corporate structure is not clear, Niagara Development LLC is apparently owned by a company called Niagara Worldwide.

The company's President is a gentleman by the name of Eric J. Spirtas. While his business card lists a Niagara, Wisconsin address, and a local Niagara telephone number, a call to that number was answered by a very foreign sounding gentleman, and Mr. Spirtas' return call came from the St. Louis, Missouri area code.

 

Mr. Spirtas addressed a standing-room-only crowd at a special meeting of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees on Monday evening. That meeting had been called specifically for the purpose of exploring the landfill issue.

The Landfill

The landfill is located to the South of the Kimberly Road, which connects Norway and Quinnesec. It is located within a large parcel of land that had previously been used by the Niagara papermaking operations. The Google Earth image shown below indicates the exact location of the current landfill operation.

The entry point to the landfill area is shown on the right side of the image. That road connects the landfill area to the former pulp yards which had previously served as the intake point for the wood used in the papermaking operation.

Immediately to the left (East) of the entry road you can see the settling basins into which the papermaking operation used to pump it's effluent. Those basins appear to be unaffected by the current operation, which can be seen farther to the left (East) in the above image.

Current Operation Has Room To Grow

The current landfill operation occupies a 12 acre plot (or 2.4%) within the 500 acre parcel controlled by Niagara Development. At present, according to Spirtas, only fly ash, paper sludge, foundry sand and construction and demolition debris are being processed at the landfill. Spirtas said that the materials being taken in are non hazardous, and are being buried in a double-lined pit, to guard against possible leakage. The best image we can provide of that is a portion of the Google Earth image above.

Company could apply for permit to
accept household waste

The landfill is in the news today, and has recently become controversial, due to recommendations made on August 9th of this year by the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Authority Planning Commission, or DCSWMAPC. This is an advisory group, part of the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Authority, or DCSWMA.

The former, the Planning Commission, is recommending that the following amendments be made to the current governing ordinances and regulations.

1. To allow Niagara Development LLC to accept the same solid waste (Type 3) they are currently permitted from other UP counties.

2. To limit Niagara Development LLC to 15 trucks per day. Currently there is no limit.

3. To permit Dickinson County to export all types of solid waste to other UP counties. Alger County is currently the only one listed. Other counties would have to amend their plans to accept Dickinson County waste.

4. To allow Niagara Development LLC to apply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for permission to modify their current landfill to accept type 2 (household) solid waste. The Commission stresses that this is only permission to apply for the permit. MDEQ approval is not guaranteed.

The proposal has now gone through the first four steps in the approval process. The next step is for the matter to come before the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners. That will happen at the Board's September 12th meeting. Members of the Breitung Township Board of Trustees are expected to attend that meeting as a group.

Dickinson County News, in a conversation with Mr. Spirtas on Tuesday, requested permission to access the property to take photographs so that you can judge for yourself. While we were told that permission would be granted, we are still awaiting confirmation. We'll keep you posted on that.

 

Part Two

Breitung Township Opposes
Landfill Expansion

Letter sent to all other governmental units in Dickinson County

 

After hearing complaints and objections at a special meeting this past Monday evening, the Breitung Township Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a position in opposition to any of the amendments proposed for the operating license of a landfill located within the township.

The landfill is located on property formerly occupied by the papermaking operations in Niagara. It is located between the Kimberly Road and the Menominee River, on a 500 acre parcel owned by Niagara Development, LLC, of Niagara, Wisconsin. Niagara Development LLC is apparently owned by Niagara Worldwide.

 

Currently, the landfill is only licensed to receive non-hazardous waste materials described as: fly ash, paper sludge, foundry sand and construction and demolition debris. Currently they are able to accept these materials only from Dickinson County. If the proposed amendments are approved, the facility would be permitted to receive such materials from throughout the Upper Peninsula. In addition, it would be allowed to apply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for permission to accept household waste.


Proposal on it's way to approval?


The proposed amendments have already passed the first four hurdles in the approval process. The next step is for the matter to be considered by the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners. That will take place at the Board's regular meeting on September 12th.

Breitung Township Trustees are expected to attend that meeting as a group. Based on the reaction at the Breitung Township Board meeting, one might expect that there will be a considerable presence at the County Board meeting as well.

The Township will express it's disapproval formally in a letter being sent to the County Board of Commissioners, as well as to the Boards of Trustees of Dickinson County's other six townships, and to the councils of the cities of Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Norway. That letter reads:

"At their specially scheduled board meeting on August 29, 2016, the Breitung Township Board of Trustees, with six out of seven members attending, unanimously voted to oppose all four of the amendments currently being considered to the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Plan.
They encourage your opposition to these amendments as well.
Please share this communication with all of your elected officials.
Sincerely,
John M. Gaudette,  Breitung Township Superintendent

 

Next Step - County Board of Commissioners


All of this could become moot, if the matter is turned down by the Board of Commissioners. One might be forgiven for anticipating that the matter will receive a friendly reception by the County Board, as County Board Chairman Henry Wender was seen seated next to the Niagara Worldwide President, Eric Spirtas and his entourage, prior to the Township Board's meeting on Monday.

If the Board rejects the proposed amendments, the matter is dead, at least for the moment. It will be sent back to the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Planning Committee for possible revision and reconsideration.

Size doesn't matter


If this proposal is approved by the County Board of Commissioners, it will then face as undemocratic and seemingly unfair a process as any we have seen.

By population, Breitung Township is the second largest governmental unit in the County. The only unit with a higher population is the City of Iron Mountain. Here are the numbers:

Iron Mountain - 7,600
Breitung Township - 5,930
City of Kingsford - 5,100
City of Norway - 2,800
Sagola Township - 1,169
Norway Township - 1,639
Breen Township - 999
Wauceda Township - 800
Felch Township - 726
West Branch Township - 67

While Breitung Township's population is greater than that of the other six townships combined, it's single vote will carry the same weight as that of the 67 residents of West Branch Township.

If seven of the ten governmental units listed above approve the plan, (if approved by the County Board) it will become reality, whether the 5,930 residents of Breitung Township like it or not.

Landfills are always controversial. We all produce waste, but landfills always face the NIMBY factor.

Not
In
My
Back
Yard

What don't they want you to see?


Landfills are an absolute necessity and if operated properly, can function with minimal environmental impact. We would like to think that the Niagara Development operation in Breitung Township is operated responsibly, in an environmentally conscious manner. However, perceived secrecy surrounding the facility does raise suspicions.

In a telephone conversation on Tuesday, Niagara Worldwide President Eric Spirtas assured Dickinson County News that we would be granted access to the site in order to take some photographs for publication. Mr. Spirtas raised further suspicions when he told us that there is nothing there to see. That it would be a boring five mile ride down a wooded road. As you can see by the images above, one would have to drive in circles for some time to log a five mile drive in that parcel.

We were assured that we would be contacted with further information regarding photographic access. As of this writing, that permission has not been forthcoming, leading us to wonder:  What do they not want you to see?

The decision on the landfill's future in now in the hands of the County Board of Commissioners.
 

 

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No Love Expressed
For Breitung Landfill


Once again the Breitung Township hall was host to a standing-room-only crowd, as Breitung Township residents gathered to protest the proposed expansion of a landfill located on the former Kimberly Clark property between Quinnesec and Norway. The landfill is positioned between the Kimberly Road and the Menominee River



The meeting was called by Township Board Chairman Denny Olson, after objections to the landfill erupted at last week's regular Board of Trustees meeting. While this was apparently planned as an informational meeting, it was clear that most of those present wanted nothing to do with a landfill. Many appeared unaware that the landfill has in fact been operating at it's present location for nearly 25 years.

On hand to explain the landfill's operation was Niagara Worldwide's President, Eric J. Spirtas.



On it's website, Niagara Worldwide describes itself as an Internationally Recognized, Innovative Firm, Specializing in: Trading, Mining, Consulting, Construction Services, Demolition, Environmental Remediation along with "Full" scale Property Development Services. The company describes it's mission as striving to be the preferred full service property development company that educates, trains, and invests in local, state and regional resources, inspiring community growth through the re-purposing of idle assets, revitalizing area economics.

The landfill currently occupies a 12 acre site, within a 500 acre parcel owned by Niagara Development, LLC. The area in question was previously used as a wood handling facility and as settling ponds for the effluent from the papermaking process.

Spirtas went into great detail, explaining what types of material the landfill is able to accept. He said currently the only materials being accepted for processing are fly ash, paper sludge, and foundry sand, none of which are considered hazardous, and some of which can actually be put to beneficial use.

However, the explanations Spirtas delivered were obviously not what most of those at the meeting hall were there to hear. During the question and answer period after his address, most of the questions and statements had little to do with the actual operation of the landfill, expressing more concerns about the truck traffic that will result from materials being hauled through Quinnesec, to the landfill. Attendees voiced objections and concerns over everything from traffic patterns, to noise, to possible decreases in property value. None of these are within control of the speaker.

The Township Board in fact has little control over the future of the landfill, other than to voice it's own objections to the County Board of Commissioners, which will consider the questions at it's September 12 meeting.  County Board of Commissioners Chairman Henry Wender was in the audience at the Township Board meeting Monday night.


 

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Kingsford Council To Adopt
Deer Harvest Resolution

The Kingsford City Council is expected to adopt a resolution covering the harvesting of deer within the City Limits.

The resolution sets terms for the harvest, including locations where the bow hunters are allowed to hunt, minimum qualifications for the hunters, as well as licensing and registration requirements for those wishing to participate.

The resolution is expected to get routine approval, since the Council has already approved the harvest itself, including the issuance of 65 permits.

All hunters must comply with all State and Local laws.

 

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Iron Mountain Looks
To Adopt Sister City

If all goes as expected on Tuesday evening, the City of Iron Mountain will be on it's way to establishing a "sister-city" relationship with Sassoferrato, Italy.

The question of entering a sister-city relationship with Sassoferrato first came to issue at a meeting of the City Council several weeks ago, based on a suggestion or proposal brought before the Council by Mr. Albert Santoni.

For those of you who may be better informed on geography than this writer, here is the Google Earth image for the Sassoferrato region.

The Italian city is a good match for Iron Mountain, considering this City's long-standing Italian heritage and traditions.

Following is the text of the resolution to be submitted to the Council on Tuesday.


CITY OF IRON MOUNTAIN
RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT A SISTER CITY RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN IRON MOUNTAIN, MICHIGAN, AND SASSOFERRATO, ITALY


WHEREAS, the City of Iron Mountain, Michigan, United States of America, wishes to have a Sister City relationship with the City of Sassoferrato, Italy; and

WHEREAS, the people of the City of Iron Mountain extend a hand of friendship to our potential Sister City, Sassoferrato, Italy; and

WHEREAS, the City of Iron Mountain's City Council is interested in fostering environments through which municipal partnerships can learn, work and solve problems together; and

WHEREAS, the Iron Mountain City Council is interested in cultivating cultural and educational experiences for the citizens of Iron Mountain;


NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF IRON
MOUNTAIN, DICKINSON COUNTY, MICHIGAN, THAT:


The City Council and the Mayor of the City of Iron Mountain extend through this resolution a formal invitation to the Mayor and people of Sassoferrato to join with Iron Mountain as a Sister City and as such to conduct such mutually beneficial programs as to bring our citizens more closely together and thereby strengthen international amity.

Dated: September 6, 2016

BY ORDER OF MAYOR AND CITY
COUNCIL FOR AND ON BEHALF OF
THE CITY OF IRON MOUNTAIN

The matter is expected to receive unanimous, if not enthusiastic support from the Council.

 

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Iron Mountain Council Defers
Action On BT Board Request


The Iron Mountain City Council on Tuesday night deferred any action on a letter submitted by the Breitung Township Board of Trustees. The letter was signed by Breitung Township Superintendent John Gaudette, on instructions of the Township Board, requesting that the Council voice it's opposition to four amendments being offered to the County's Solid Waste Management Plan.

The Township Board is objecting to all four amendments to the Solid Waste Management Plan, offered by the Solid Waste Management Planning Committee. These amendments refer to the operation of a landfill located in Breitung Township, operated by Niagara Development, LLC, a division of Niagara Worldwide. The landfill is located between the Kimberly Road and the Menominee River, on property formerly occupied by the Niagara Papermaking operations.

At present, the landfill accepts foundry sand, paper sludge and construction and demolition debris, all considered non-hazardous waste.

The four amendments offered by the planning committee are:

1. To allow Niagara Development to accept the same waste (Type 3) they are currently permitted for from other U.P. counties.

2. To limit Niagara Development to 15 trucks per day. Currently there is no limit.

3. To permit Dickinson County to export all types of waste to other U.P. counties. At present only Alger county is listed. The other counties would have to approve this plan as well before it could be implemented.

4. To allow Niagara Development to apply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to modify their current landfill permit, the allow them to accept type two (household waste). This would only give them permission to apply. The MDEQ would have the final say.

Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina said he did not understand why the Township was objecting to all four of the amendments, but added that any action by the City Council at this time would be premature. The matter must first be voted on by the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners. That vote will take place at next Monday's night's meeting of the County Board. Mayor Dale Allesandrini expressed concern over the 15 truck daily limit, since the three cities daily refuse haul would likely exceed that limit, if the landfill is authorized to accept type 2 material.

If the Board of Commissioners approves the plan, it would then be voted on by the three cities and the seven townships. Seven of those ten governmental units would have to approve the amendments before the plan could proceed. If the County Board rejects the amendments, the plan would go back to the Solid Waste Management Planning Committee for possible revision.

 

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Dickinson Courthouse
Radon Safe

The Dickinson County Courthouse appears to be radon safe, though there were some concerns expressed about how the sampling was conducted.

The information was revealed in a report delivered to the County Board of Commissioners on Monday evening, at the Board’s regular meeting. The report was prepared by Daren Dayaert, Environmental Health Director for the Dickinson-Iron County District Health Department.

Dayaert said that six of the eight test kits used in the sampling were improperly located, so their results were not included in the study. Dayaert said that the two properly placed kits showed sampling rates within the prescribed safe levels.

 

Dayaert said that the department is not currently recommending remediation, they are recommending another round of testing to be conducted during the Winter months.

Appearing before the County Board Monday night, Dayaert assured the board that the Health Department will work with the County, to insure that future testing is done properly and that conditions are monitored to insure the safety of both County employees and citizens visiting the Courthouse facilities.

 

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County To Seek Funding
For Sheriff’s Road Patrol

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the signing of a grant application to fund the Sheriff’s secondary road patrol and accident prevention program.

If approved by State and Federal officials, the County would receive $137,000 in Federal funds, and $45,000 in State funding.

In it’s action on Monday, the Board authorized Chairman Henry Wender to sign the ageement to initiate the application process.

Before it's vote, County Sheriff Scott Celello addressed the board regarding the secondary road patrol. Celello said that the secondary road patrol is not a separate arm of the Sheriff's Department, but a regular function. He said that outside of the city limits, the Sheriff's department is the only one that actively patrols the county's secondary roads. In addition, only the Sheriff's Department provides 24 hour availablity in the event of an accident or other emergency.

Celello said that the patrol would be necessry, even without the grants. With the grants, the bulk of the cost will be borne by the State and Federal governments, rather than by County Taxpayers.

 

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Minor Injuries In
Norway Crash


One individual received what appeared to be minor injuries, in a car-truck crash at the intersection of Highways US-2 and US-8 shortly after one PM today (Friday)
 

 

According to witnesses, the red vehicle was traveling west on Highway US-2, and was attempting to drive around a semi-tractor-trailer which was stopped on US-2 waiting to make a left turn onto US-8.
 

 

Exactly how the accident happened is still under investigation, but witnesses said the red vehicle shown here T-Boned the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck pictured on the left.

 

Only minor injuries were reported to a passenger in the red vehicle. The injuries were treated at the scene by North Alert EMS Services.

Norway City Police are investigating.

 

 

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Get Your Pooches Primed
For The Annual Dog Show

The Almost Home Animal Shelter will hold it's annual Fun Dog Show at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds, on Sunday, September 4th.

Registration for the event begins at 11:30 AM, with the show scheduled to get underway at 1:00 PM.

The show will be held in the rotunda at the Fairgrounds. Shelter officials said everyone, young and old is invited to join the fun. Mutts as well as purebreds are welcome to take part. Participants do not need to be residents of Dickinson County.

 

The Open Fun Classes will include:

1. Obstacle course. (Two classes, one for large dogs and one for small)
2. The longest "watch me."
3. The best food catcher
4. The best hot dog bobber
5. The fastest come
6. The fastest retrieve.

You can view the requirements at the Shelter's website by clicking here.

There is a $3.00 entry fee per class, or you can enter your pooch in all six classes for a $15.00 entry fee.

Ribbons will be awarded to the first through third place winners. Judge's decisions are final.

 

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Just When You Think
You've Seen It All

 

On Monday night we attended a meeting of the Breitung Township Board, where a large group of citizens had gathered to discuss the proposed expansion of a landfill located in Breitung Township.

 

When the meeting was opened at 7:00 by Board Chairman Denny Olson, (pictured left) everyone stood for what most expected to be the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Instead, we heard a prayer, or invocation, delivered by the Board Chairman.

Having attended hundreds, if not thousands of similar meetings over many years, we kind of thought we couldn't be surprised. But, we were wrong.

Several people questioned after the meeting said they found it a bit awkward, having never been to one of the Township Board meetings before. But, nobody seemed to mind.

Just an observation that we thought you might find interesting.

 

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Citizens Voice Objections
Over Landfill Expansion

A large crowd turned out at Monday night's meeting of the Breitung Township Board of Supervisors, objecting to proposed changes to a Breitung Township landfill.

The landfill, located south of the Kimberly Road in Breitung Township, is operated by a Niagara Company called Niagara Development, LLC. The landfill currently accepts such things as foundry, and construction and demolition debris from Dickinson County. Under the expansion proposed by the company, and endorsed by the Dickinson County Solid Waste Management Authority, the landfill would be permitted to accept such waste from all over the Upper Peninsula.

Residents at Monday's meeting objected to all phases of the proposal, citing concerns about traffic problems, environmental hazards, and property values.

The landfill expansion is a long way from fruition. The plan must now go before the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners. If approved there, the authority will have to seek the approval of at least seven of the ten governmental jurisdictions in Dickinson County, including the three cities and the seven townships.  Even then, the plan could face hurdles in the licensing process with the State Department of Environmental Quality.

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Henry Wender, who was present at the Township Board meeting, said that the County Board will be discussing the matter at it's September 12th meeting.

 

Some of those present voiced fears that the landfill will proceed, regardless of anything that the residents of Breitung Township, or the Township Board, might do.  Board Chairman Denny Olson said it's a bit early to start worrying about that, saying that there are many steps before that can happen.  

Olson said that Township officials are scouring Township Board actions back into the 1990's, in an effort to find previous board actions which might affect this current situation.

Chairman Olson said that the Township Board meeting scheduled for September 12th may have to be rescheduled to a later time, since he plans to be in attendance that same  night at the County Board meeting.   Olson suggested that the Township Board meeting, usually scheduled for 7:00 PM, may have to be moved to 8:00 that evening to allow members of the Township Board who wish to do so to be present at the County Board meeting.

 

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Are Prayers Before
Public Meetings Legal?

Following our report earlier this week that Breitung Township Chairman Denny Olson had opened a Township Board meeting with a prayer, or invocation, we had a number of inquiries asking if this was legal.

We looked it up, and sure enough, it is perfectly legal. Here's the authority:

On May 14, 2014, The US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan.

But there was sharp disagreement after that, and the majority ruling could encourage public bodies to give more leeway to religious expression in their ceremonial prayers and less deference to the objections of religious minorities.

The court’s five conservatives said legislative prayers need not be stripped of references to a specific religion — the prayers at issue often invoked Jesus Christ and the resurrection — and said those given the opportunity to pray before legislative meetings should be “unfettered” by what government officials find appropriate.

“Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation,” Kennedy wrote.

He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

 

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Shirley J. Pietrantonio

Shirley J. Pietrantonio, 84, of Kingsford, passed away Sunday, August 28 at ManorCare Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Kingsford. A lifetime resident of the area, Shirley was born September 4, 1931 in Iron Mountain, daughter of the late Elmer and Leona (Eastman) Arvey.

 

She graduated from Kingsford High School in 1949. Shirley married John Pietrantonio in 1950 in Kingsford and stayed home to raise their four children.

Shirley and John were both very active in the American Legion. Shirley served as the Aux. President of the American Legion #363. She had a love for reading and a talent for arts and crafts. She booked for Yorkshire Tours for 14 years. Shirley used to hunt with her husband, John, and always loved family outings.

Shirley is survived by her three sons; John (Pam) Pietrantonio of Sagola, Danny (Cheryl) Pietrantonio of Iron Mountain, and Randy (Amy) Pietrantonio of Kingsford; one daughter, Linda (Jerry) DeBernardi of Norway; brother, LeRoy Arvey of Muskegon; sister, Carol Guldswog of Norway; best friends; Karen Erickson and Eldin Paquin; grandchildren, Jason (Bonnie) Pietrantonio, Thomas T.J. (Shari) Pierantonio, Chase Pietrantonio, Bryce Pietrantonio, Jamie Tomosaski-Miller, Tami Miller, Dante DeBernardi, Summer (Andy) Hendricks, Samantha Pietrantonio, Christopher (Andra) Pietrantonio; and 15 great grandchildren; Tyler, Kyle, Jacob, James, Gavin, Seth, Callie, Brianna, Sierra, Elle, Macy, Paityn, Presley, Alayna, and Parker.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John; sisters, Gloria Cesar and Joyce Suduc; son-in-law Jerry DeBernardi, and granddaughter, Sarah Pietrantonio.

Visitation will be held at Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home in Iron Mountain from 4:00 to 7:00 PM on Thursday, September 1. Service will be offered at 7:00 PM by Rev. Lee Liverance at the funeral home. There will be a graveside service at 9:00  Friday morning at Memorial Gardens in Iron Mountain.

The Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home of Iron Mountain is in charge of arrangements.

Condolences may be expressed to the family of Shirley Pietrantonio online at www.ernashfuneralhomes.com

 

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Wind Power ?
Worth Exploring ?

The most interesting ideas at City Hall don't always pop up at the City Council meetings. Conversations before and after Monday night's meeting proved very interesting to this reporter, so we thought we'd pass them along to you.

Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini said he has been toying with the idea of looking into a windmill for the City, possibly to be located on Pewabic Hill, where there are fairly steady prevailing winds.

While a few of those present chuckled at the idea, we think it's worth looking into.

The City spends approximately $30,000 a month on electricity, a big chunk of the budget. A windmill would help to greatly reduce that amount, while providing clean energy.

According to the Mayor's thoughts, the City would not be dependent on power from the windmill. Excess power produced when the wind is blowing would be sold to the power company, thus reducing the City's electric bill.

One of the downsides expressed was possible environmental concerns. Those, of course, would have to addressed in an Environmental Impact Study before anything could be done.

Just an idea that the Mayor has been toying with. We think it's something worth looking into.

 

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Iron Mountain's Civil Service System
To Appear On November Ballot

 

Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina reported to the City Council Monday night that the Michigan Attorney General's office has approved the ballot language for placement of the Civil Service System question on the November 8th General Eelection ballot.

The Council had earlier approved putting the question before voters, but the exact wording to be placed on the ballot had to be approved by the Attorney General's office before the City could proceed.

Stanchina had recommended the change to the Council, saying the current Civil Service system is outdated, and often stands in the way of hiring the individual most qualified for a position. The Civicl Service Commission tests applicants every two years, and supplies a list to the City. Only those on this list are eligible to be hired for many City positions. Stanchina said that what often happens, is that those at the top of the list find other jobs or just lose interest while waiting for a City position to open up. This can leave the City with no choice but to hire those possibly less qualified, who did not score so well on the test.

 

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City To Change Leadership
Structure at DPW

The Iron Mountain City Council Monday night agreed to a recommendation submitted by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, which will change the way the Department of Public Works is run.

The Manager had recommended that upon the November retirment of current DPW Supervisor Donald Dinocenzo, that position be left vacant and that the City instead hire a Public Works Director. The recommendation fills a position that had already been in existence, but had not been filled. The director's position would require substantially greater qualifications, and would not fall under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission, allowing far greater flexibility in selecting the most qualified person.

The basic qualifications, as laid out by Stanchina, would be either a B.A. or a B.S. in management or engineering; or at least five years of experience in a leadership position in the field. Applicants holding a degree would also be required to have one year of experience.

 

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North Side Home
Destroyed By Fire

31 year-old woman being held on arson charges

Iron Mountain Police have arrested a 31 year-old woman, charged with second degree arson, in connection with a fire that destroyed a home on Vulcan Street Friday night.

Firemen received the call to 507 Vulcan Street shortly after 9:30 PM on Friday, and remained on the scene until the early morning hours on Saturday.

Charged in the incident is 31 year-old Theresa Nowaczyk. She is being held on $20,000 bond, pending a preliminary examination in District Court. That hearing has been scheduled for September 22. According to information released by Iron Mountain Director of Police and Fire Services, Ed Mattson, their department was assisted in the investigation by the Michigan State Fire Marshall's office.

While the home was occupied, there were no injuries resulting from the fire. The family is being assisted by the American Red Cross.




View video of fire here.

Photos and video courtesy of Jason Asselin.

 

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$500,000 Fire Truck Purchase
Likely To Be Approved Tuesday

The City of Iron Mountain, following several months of research, appear poised to spend more than one-half-million dollars the purchase a new fire truck.

The City only received one bid for the truck, that came from Pierce Manufacturing, of Antigo, Wisconsin. Pierce specializes in fire and rescue vehicles and distributes products worldwide. The Pierce bid was slightly over one-half million dollars.

That bid approval was deferred for several weeks, due to the complexity of the specifications for the truck. The City's bid specifications covered 131 pages, and the Pierce bid was submitted with an equally daunting amount of paperwork. The specifications have now been reviewed by the Fire Department, and according to the latest information, the bids meet the City's specifications.

This purchase is not currently budgeted for, and the City will have to borrow the money through the sale of bonds.

In his original memo to the Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said it makes sense to borrow the money at historically low interest rates, rather than to put the purchase off for the seven or eight years that it might take the city to set the funds aside.

The new truck will replace a 16-year-old unit, that is in need of upgrades. The current number one unit will become the Department's number two, or standby unit.

In order to make the purchase, the City will have to adopt a Municipal Installment Purchase agreement. Steven Mann, the Detroit representative of the international legal firm Miller Canfield, will act as bond counsel for the City on the borrowing.

In his latest memo to the Council, Manager Stanchina said that several borrowing options will be presented to the Council at it's September 19th meeting, including possible financing through local finacial institutions.

The matter will be before the Council at it's meeting on Tuesday evening. While meetins are normally held on the first and third Monday's of the month, this meeting was delayed due to the Labor Day Holiday.
 

 

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Iron Mountain One Step Closer
To Buying New Fire Truck

Only one bid was received for a new fire pumper truck, being sought by the City of Iron Mountain.

The only company responding to the bid was Pierce Manufacturing, of Antigo, Wisconsin. Pierce specializes in fire and rescue vehicles and distributes products worldwide. The Pierce bid was slightly over one-half million dollars.

That bid could not be acted upon Monday night, due to the complexity of the specifications for the truck. The City's bid specifications covered 131 pages, and the Pierce bid was submitted with an equally daunting amount of paperwork. The specifications will be studied by staff and the Manager, and will report their findings back to the Council as soon as the evaluations are complete.

This purchase is not currently budgeted for, and the City will have to borrow the money through the sale of bonds.

In his original memo to the Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said it makes sense to borrow the money at historically low interest rates, rather than to put the purchase off for the seven or eight years that it might take the city to set the funds aside.

The new truck will replace a 16-year-old unit, that is in need of upgrades. The current number one unit will become the Department's number two, or standby unit.

In order to make the purchase, the City will have to adopt a Municipal Installment Purchase agreement. Steven Mann, the Detroit representative of the international legal firm Miller Canfield, will act as bond counsel for the City on the borrowing.

The Council also authorized advertising for bids for a replacement plow truck for the Public Works Deparment. This purchase would replace a 27-year-old Mack truck, currently in service. The City has set aside $160,000 for this purchase.

 

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Commissioners Agree To Ask
Voters For Money For Vets

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has formally agreed to carry through on verbal commitments made to area veterans at previous meetings.

The Board voted unanimously on two different matters relating to the local Office of Veterans’ Affairs, which has been cases trapped since the County made drastic cuts to the organizations allotment.

The Board agreed to place before the voters a request for 0.10 mils, or 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value.

In addition, the board agreed to create, upon passage of the millage, a County Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

It is anticipated that the millage, if approved by the voters on November 8, will raise approximately $89,000 in the first year. The requested millage would remain in effect for 10 years.

The funds will be used to provide support and assistance to veterans residing in Dickinson County.

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Board Chairman Blames Bad
Publicity For Millage Defeat

Dickinson County Board of Commissioner's Chairman Henry Wender said that the media, and all of the bad, unfair publicity, is the reason voters rejected the Board's request for extra operating millage.

In the Primary Election held last Tuesday, County voters rejected the .75 mil increase in property taxes by a 58 point margin, 21% in favor and 79% opposed.

The Chairman concluded his remarks stating that he hopes people are ashamed, just before calling for a motion to adjourn the meeting.

Apparently, any thoughts of renewing the millage request are off the table, at least for the time being. Several commissioners commented on their regrets that the other millage issues were also defeated. One would have provided funding for the Dickinson Conservation District, the other for the Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Services, which operates 4-H Youth programs, among others.

Commissioner Ann Martin summed it up, saying "The voters have spoken."

 

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Replacement Magistrate
Put On Hold
... For Now
 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, meeting in regular session on Monday, took no action on a request to advertise for applicants to fill an anticipated vacancy, that of a magistrate, in the 95-B District Court.

While a matter such as this would normally be routine, nothing is routine these days, as the Board continues to battle a chronic shortage of funds.

Fifth District Commissioner John Degenaer objected to advertising the vacancy, saying that it’s time the board started taking it’s plan to reduce staffing seriously.

First district Commissioners Joe Stevens said that while he agrees that staff reductions are in order, the magistrate position is required by State Statute. Stevens said the County would stand the risk of being sued by the court, if it fails to fill this statutory position.

While the magistrate position is required by law, other positions in the department are not. The Board appeared to favor promotion to the magistrate position from within the department. By not replacing the individual who gets the promotion, a staff reduction could be achieved without risking a law suit.

 

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City To Purchase
New Fire Truck

There will be two major spending items before the Iron Mountain Council, when it meets in regular session Monday evening.

The first will be the opening of bids for another major paving program. This project, involving three locations, is expected to cost about $155,000. The City had budgeted $385,000 for paving projects this year, with $215,000 going to various paving projects in the area of Crystal Lake.

The remaining project includes approximately 1,110 feet on Walker Street, 805 feet on Madison Street, and 1,356 feet on North Kimberly Avenue.

It's not certain that the paving bid will be awarded at Monday's meeting, as the bids may be submitted to committee for further study before a final decision is made.

The Council will also open bids on Monday for a new pumper truck for the Fire Department. These bids, expected to come in near the half-million dollar mark, will be referred to committee for further review before any decisions are made. The bid specifications for the truck cover some 131 pages.

In his memo to the Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said it makes sense to borrow the money at historically low interest rates, rather than to put the purchase off for the seven or eight years that it might take the city to set the funds aside.

The new truck will replace a 16-year-old unit, that is in need of upgrades. The current number one unit will become the Department's number two, or standby unit.

In order to make the purchase, the City will have to adopt a Municipal Installment Purchase agreement. Steven Mann, the Detroit representative of the international legal firm Miller Canfield, will act as bond counsel for the City on the borrowing.

The Council is also expected to authorize advertising for bids for a replacement plow truck for the Public Works Deparment. This purchase would replace a 27-year-old Mack truck, currently in service. The City has set aside $160,000 for this purchase.

 

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Manager Recommends
Realignment At City's
Public Works Department

The Iron Mountain City Council is expected to adopt a recommendation submitted by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, which will result in changes in the supervisory structure of the Public Works Department.

The recommendation comes with the notice that the Current Public Works Department Supervisor, Don Dinnocenzo, will be retiring in November.

During Dinnocenzo's tenure with the department, the designated position of Director of Public Works has remained vacant. Stanchina is recommending a switch upon Dinnocenzo's retirement, filling the Director's position while leaving the Supervisor's position vacant.

The Manager pointed out that this will give the City the opportunity to hire outside of the Department, and outside of the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission. This will allow for greater flexibility in the hiring process. Those currently working in the Department would be eligible for consideration if they meet the minimum requirements.

Stanchina is recommending a starting salary for the position in the area of $62,500, though the final amount would be determined based on the qualifications and experience of the candidate.

In general the City will likely be seeking someone with a B.A. or B.S. in business administration or engineering, or five years of experience in Public Works Administration. The City would require a minimum of one year of experience in addition to the degree.

 

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Celello - LaFave To Face Off
In November General

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello prevailed over Dana Dziedzic to win the Democratic party's nomination for the 108th District seat in the Michigan Legislature.

In Dickinson County, here's how the vote went for the Democrats:
Celello - 1,729 - 86.5%
Dziedzic - 268 - 13.4%

Dickinson County's strong support for it's popular Sheriff pushed Celello over the top district wide as well:
Celello - 3,344 - 58%
Dziedzic - 2,415 - 42%

Pictured to the left:
Sheriff, Scott Celello

On the Republican side, Beau Matthew LaFave, of Kingsford, prevailed over two other candidates, Alan Arcand and Darryl Shann, to win that party's nomination.  Dickinson County voters were not in line with the District as a whole, however. Here, Alan Arcand prevailed.

Here's how that vote tallied:
Arcand - 1,593 - 46.3%
LaFave - 1,478 - 43%
Shann - 361 - 10.5%

While he did not carry his home county, LaFave did emerge victorious District wide:
LaFave - 4,055 - 44%
Arcand - 2,909 - 33%
Shann - 2,258 - 24%

Pictured to the right:
GOP Candidate Beau LaFave

 

Celello and LaFave will face off in the General Election on November 8th.

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Dickinson County Voters
Overwhelmingly Reject Millage

 

Dickinson County voters on Tuesday showed that they are not inclined to pay extra taxes.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a request by the County for an extra three-quarters of a mil to fund County operating expenses. The measure was rejected by a 71 to 29 percent margin. The vote count was 1,598 in favor, 3,855 against. The measure would have provided an additional $700,000 in operating funds for the County.

Voters also rejected two other millage proposals. One would have funded the Dickinson Conservation District, the other the Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Serice.

The Conservation District proposal went down 67% to 33%; 3,643 no votes to 1,829 yes votes.

The Extension Service proposal likewise suffered a striking defeat; 59% rejecting it compared to 41% who favored it. The proposal received a total of 3,245 no votes and 2,258 yes votes.

Two other millage proposals which appeared on the ballot did pass. The first is to fund the North Alert Ambulance Authority. That passed with 611 yes votes, compared to 361 no votes. In Waucedah Township, voters approved millage for road improvements, 143 yes votes, to 107 no votes.

Only 23% of Dickinson County's voters bothered to show up at the polls.

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County Board Chairman
Retains His Seat

Dickinson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Henry Wender retained his Board seat in balloting on Tuesday, fending off a challenge by Wallace Townsend.

Wender polled a total of 545 votes, or 56%, compared to Townsend's 432 votes, or 44%.

Wender was the only member of the County Board challenged in this election.

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One More Try For
Millage Increase ?

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners will hold the first of it's two regular monthly meetings on Monday night.

The Board is expected to discuss the overwhelming defeat that it's tax increase request suffered in Tuesday's Primary Election.

While we have not been able to independently confirm this; reliable sources indicate that the board may consider making a fourth attempt to get the millage passed on the November General Election ballot. If this were going to happen, action would likely have to be taken at the Monday night meeting, since there are approaching deadlines that must be met.

This millage has now been rejected by voters on three occasions. In the most recent election, held on August 2, 79% of County voters said no to the .75 mil property tax increase. If passed, it would have raised an estimated $700,000 in additional operating funds for the County.   (Click here for election story)

At least one member of the Board, Commissioner Joe Stevens, of Kingsford, representing the County's first district, has said publicly that he will not support another request to the voters.

All County Board meetings are open to the public, and citizens are welcome to address the board on virtually any subject during the scheduled "Citizens' Time." The meeting will be held at 6:00 Monday evening, in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse.

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25 Location Park Is Now
Kiwanis 25 Location Park

The Iron Mountain City Council last (Monday) night approved a resolution  renaming the 25 Location City Park.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina made the recommendation to the Council, based on a request by the Kiwanis Club, which has made significant efforts to upgrade and improve the park.

Stanchina said that in an effort to both honor the work done by the Kiwanis Club and maintain a sense of history, he recommended to the Council that the park be renamed "Kiwanis 25 Location Park."

The Council agreed with the manager's recommendation and approved the name change.

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City Council To Proceed
With Tax Tribunal Challenge

The Iron Mountain City Council last (Monday) night on a recommendation by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, gave the go-ahead for the retaining of special legal counsel to take on the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

In a July 29th memo to the Council, Stanchina said his recommendation is in response to a filing with the State Tax Tribunal by North Star Industries. The petition filed by North Star is requesting a reduction in their tax assessment of about 80%.

In his memo to the Council, Stanchina said he feels that engaging legal counsel early in the process will help ensure that all appropriate steps are taken in the event the petition advances to a full hearing before the Tribunal. He said there is still a possibility that the petition could be withdrawn.

Stanchina recommended that the City engage the Grand Rapids legal firm of Foster Swift, experts in the property tax field.

The Council attached a condition to the approval, limiting initial expenditures to $5,000.   If and when that figure is reached, the manager will have to report back to the Council, at which time they will have to decide whether to proceed further.   Stanchina said if the matter were to go to a full hearing before the Tax Tribunal, legal costs could escalate into the tens of thousands of dollars.
 

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Iron Mountain Approves
2016 Deer Harvest In City

The Iron Mountain City Council last (Monday) night approved a resolution  which will clear the way for another deer harvest in the City.

A total of 204 deer have been harvested by registered bow and arrow hunters over the past four years; 58 in 2012, 35 in 2013, 38 in 2014 and 73 in 2015.

The resolution sets conditions for the hunters, as well as rules and regulations governing the harvest.

The annual bow and arrow harvest is intended to reduce the population of "nuisance" deer within the City Limits. The harvest is part of a long-range Deer Herd Mangement Program, a co-operative effort between the City of Iron Mountain and the Department of Natural Resources.

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Council Approves 2016
Paving Program

A 2016 paving program covering approximately 3.600 feet of City streets was approved by the Iron Mountain City Council on Monday evening. The Council authorized the solicitation of bids for the remaining paving projects.

In his request to the City Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that they hope to be able to pave about 3,600 feet of City streets, but the exact amount of paving will depend on the bids that the City receives on the project.

The project, involving three locations, is expected to cost about $155,000. The City had budgeted $385,000 for paving projects this year, with $215,000 going to various paving projects in the area of Crystal Lake.

The remaining project includes approximately 1,110 feet on Walker Street, 805 feet on Madison Street, and 1,356 feet on North Kimberly Avenue.

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Iron Mountain Declares
Itself A "Purple Heart City"

The City of Iron Mountain has declared itself a "Purple Heart City," in special recognition of the sacrifices made by local military veterans.



The Council at it's regular meeting Monday night, adopted a resolution presented to the City by Dale LaPalme, VAVS (Veterans' Affairs Volunteer Services) representative for the Iron Mountain area.

 

 

Pictured to the left:
Iron Mountain Mayor
Dale Allesandrini
and
VAVS representative
Dale E. La Palme

 


 


The resolution adopted by the Council reads, in part:

Whereas the City of Iron Mountain has a large, highly decorated veteran population including many Purple Heart recipients, and

Whereas the City of Iron Mountain recognizes the service of Purple Heart recipients, and believes it is important to acknowledge them for their contributions.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Iron Mountain Council hereby proclaims the City of Iron Mountain as a Purple Heart City.

 

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Police Report Malicious
Damage to Millie Hill Site

 

(Iron Mountain) - Iron Mountain City Police reported today that they are investigating malicious damage to an informational and educational sign at the Millie Hill viewing platform.

Police said they receive the report yesterday, after an unknown person or persons scratched marks and grooves into the plexiglas covering on the sign.

Anyone having information about this damage is asked to call the Iron Mountain Police Department at 774-1234.

The sign was donated to the site in 2011 by students of the North Elementary School.

Police provided the following photos of the damage.

 

 

 

Meeting On Veterans' Funding
 

(Iron Mountain) - The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, meeting in regular session last (Monday) night called for a special meeting next week, in an effort to once and for all resolve the question of funding for the local Veterans' Affairs Office.

The action came on a motion by Commissioner Barbara Kramer, after impassioned pleas by a number of veterans, and one by Commissioner Joe Stevens, who drew applause from the assembly when he said, "It's time to stop kicking the can down the road."

The board has been criticized by local veterans' groups, after radical cuts were made to funding during the last budget session.

Board Chairman Henry Wender said he had hoped that the issue would be resolved with the passage of additional operating millage for the County in the August  primary election. Stevens, however, appeared less than confident regarding the passage of the millage, and insisted that the issue be settled now.

The special meeting had to be called due to time limitations, if the question is to make it on the November ballot. Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook advised the board that she has been in regular contact with State officials, and is confident that the matter can be placed on the ballot. However, the board will have to decide exactly how they want to proceed, and they were not prepared to do that at last night's meeting.

The special meeting will be held at six PM on Wednesday, July 20th, at the Courthouse.  We'll announce the exact location of the meeting as soon as we get the information.

 

County Board To Seek
Replacement Controller


(Iron Mountain) - The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has authorized advertising to seek a replacement for outgoing County Controller Sonja Pugh. Pugh announced her resignation to the board last month, citing health reasons.

Time is not on the Board's side, since Pugh's last day on the job will be July 22.

At tonight's (Wednesday) special meeting, the board agreed to begin advertising for the position as soon as possible. Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook said the advertising process may take longer than the board anticipated, since it will take some time to get advertising placed in some of the publications that the board wishes to use.

Most of the discussions by the board dealt with the qualifications that should be sought in the new controller. Generally speaking the Board is looking for someone with a Bachelor's or Master's degree in public administration and finance as well as some experience in those fields.

The board is resigned to the fact that it will be impossible to get a replacement in place before Pugh's resignation date. It is likely that other County departments will have to pitch in to assist during that period. County Clerk Dolly Cook said that her office will do whatever it can to assist during the absence of a controller.

Advertising for the position will be placed as soon as possible.

 

Tennis Courts Again
On Hold

(Kingsford) - The Kingsford City Council on Monday night again chose to table the rebuilding and improvements at Lodal Park, hoping to find additional funding while determining if the project can be cut back any further.

Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck said the original estimate provided by the engineering firm hired to oversee the project, was $77,000. Of that amount $45,000 will come from the Michigan DNR Passport fund. The Passport fund receives it's money from the Passport tickets purchased by individuals using the Michigan park system.

When the bids came in, they were well over the original estimates, according to Edelbeck.  After the first failed bid-letting, Kingsford scaled back the project hoping to bring it in closer to budget. There is a limit however to how much the project can be scaled back, while still qualifying for the Passport funds, according to the manager.

Only two bids were received for the project.  The highest of the two bids was that of Northeast Asphalt of Green Bay, at $125,824. The only other bid was from Bacco Construction of Iron Mountain.  That bid was in the amount of $103,796.

Edelbeck said the City is currently exploring other funding options in hopes of rescuing the project. The manager said that the Breitung Township School District, which utilizes many of the City's facilities, has expressed an interest in participating in the project. Edelbeck said the City would not require a large lump-sum payment from the school district, but would be willing to work on the basis of regular or periodic contributions to the project.

The matter will be referred back to the council after further study and discussion.

 

City Council Votes To Put
Civil Service Question To Voters

 

(Iron Mountain) - The Iron Mountain City Council has unanimously approved a resolution, which will put the question of amending the City Charter before the voters in the November 8th General Election.

The Council's action came on a motion by Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Revord, himself a former civil service employee.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that while the civil service system may have worked well for many years after it's initial adoption in 1934, it is now outdated, and often serves as a hindrance to hiring the person best suited for a position.

The Civil Service Commission, which was adopted as an amendment to the City Charter in 1934, was well-intended, probably necessary, and served the City well for many decades. The Commission regularly advertises for applicants who are then tested, and ranked on a hiring list which is provided to the City.  The list is expected to serve for two years. However, many individuals who are not hired in the first round go on to other jobs, meaning that after a short time, the list becomes meaningless because most of the people on it have moved on to other positions or have just lost interest. Stanchina said the process is especially unworkable when it comes to the hiring of police and firemen, who must undergo training and be certified before they can be put in place by the city.

Stanchina told the Council that action at this time was necessary in order to meet the deadlines for the November 8th General Election. Before the matter can be placed on the ballot, the language must be approved by the Attorney General's office, a process that can take up to six weeks. The deadline for placing the matter on the ballot, according to Stanchina, is August 16th.

A similar proposal placed on the ballot in the City of Kingsford a decade ago went down to overwhelming defeat. Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck said voters made it clear at that time that they wanted to maintain the Civil Service System. However in Kingsford, unlike in Iron Mountain, only the Public Safety Department comes under the Civil Service jurisdiction. The Public Works Department, according to the manager, has never been under the Civil Service System.

If the language is approved by the Attorney General's office, Iron Mountain voters will get to decide in November whether they wish to keep the system.

 

Iron Mountain To Update
Data Server System

(Iron Mountain) - The Iron Mountain City Council last (Monday) night gave the go-ahead for the purchase and installation of new data servers for both the City Hall and the Police and Fire facilities.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said the new servers will replace the current, badly outdated system, which is beginning to fail. Currently both locations operate independently, backing up to an outdated magnetic tape system. The systems are currently backed up on location, meaning that in a fire or other catastrophic event, irreplaceable data could be lost. Under the new system, City Hall data will be backed up to the server at the police and fire building utilizing a fiber optic link, insuring that data will be safe and retrievable.

While the council did not question the approximately $6,400.00 for the purchase and installation of the equipment, there was a good deal of discussion involving what several council members felt were excessive long-term maintenance fees. Stanchina told the Council that the question of maintenance fees will not enter into the picture until next year, at which time the City will have the opportunity to review and negotiate those fees. He said these types of maintenance contracts, involving both hardware and software, are standard and are a way of life today.

When asked how old the current system is, Stanchina could say only that it's "old."

 

Kingsford Places Tennis Court
Project on Hold


(Kingsford) - June 22 - The tennis court project at Kingsford's Lodal Park is once again on hold, as the City Council this week refused to accept either of the two bids submitted for the project.

According to Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck, the engineering firm hired by the city had initially estimated the cost of the project at about $77,000. Since the City has been awarded a Michigan DNR Passport Grant in the amount of $45,000.00 to assist with the cost of the project, the City's share would have been approximately $32,000.00. However, in both instances where bids have been taken on the project, the bids have far exceeded the engineer's estimates. Edelbeck said the most expensive part of the project will be removing what is there in order to prepare for the sites for the new surfaces.

Only two bids were received for the project. Those bids were opened at Monday night's City Council meeting. The highest of the two bids was that of Northeast Asphalt of Green Bay, at $125,824. The only other bid was from Bacco Construction of Iron Mountain. That bid was in the amount of $103,796.

Edelbeck said the bids have been referred to the engineers for study. According to the Manager, they may be able to pare the project down a bit, but it must meet requirements set by the DNR in order to remain eligible for the grant.

The matter will be looked at again by the Council at the July 5 meeting.

 

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Multiple Charges Filed Against
High Speed Chase Suspect

 

 

(Iron Mountain) - June 22 - Multiple charges have been filed against a Kingsford man involved in high speed chase that began in Iron Mountain and ended in Niagara early Tuesday morning.

Being held on a $25,000 bond is 32-year-old Robert W. Montey, of Kingsford.

At arraignment in Dickinson County District Court today, Montey was charged with third-degree fleeing and eluding, possession of a firearm by a felon, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, his third offense. Each of these charges carries a possible five year sentence. Montey was also charged with felonious assault, a four year felony, and driving while his license was suspended. The latter is a misdemeanor carrying a possible 93-day sentence.  Montey could face doubling of all sentences due to the fact that he is listed as a third-time offender.

Montey will appear in court again on July 13.

See details on the arrest in next story.

 

Armed Man Taken Into Custody
After Two-State High Speed Chase

(Iron Mountain) - June 21 - At 5:11 this (Tuesday) morning, Iron Mountain City Police were dispatched to the area of the Burger King Restaurant in Iron Mountain, after receiving reports of an intoxicated man, armed with a rifle. Initial reports indicated that the man had left the area driving a red pickup truck.

Police reported that a short time later, the suspect vehicle was spotted again, driving recklessly in the area near the Iron Mountain McDonald's Restaurant. The vehicle was then reported to have entered the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center grounds, where the driver apparently backed into a secluded area behind the hospital and turned the vehicle's lights off.

As officers approached the vehicle with their overhead lights activated, the driver fled the scene, traveling Eastbound on Highway US-2.

A high-speed pursuit took place leaving the City of Iron Mountain and continuing South into the City of Niagara. The pursuit ended there when the driver apparently lost control, hit a utility pole and rolled over.

A 32 year-old male from Kingsford was taken into custody and is currently undergoing treatment at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital, for what were termed non-life-threatening injuries.

Police reported that the rifle in question was recovered at the crash scene.

A formal report has been forwarded to the Dickinson County Prosecutor Lisa Richards for review and possible criminal charges.

Iron Mountain Police were assisted by the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department, and by the Veteran's Administration Police Department.

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Breen Avenue Project
Continuing On Schedule

 

(Kingsford) - June 22 - The Breen Avenue reconstruction project in Kingsford is proceeding as planned, according to a report delivered to the Kingsford City Council by City Manager, Tony Edelbeck.

According to the manager, the underground work on the project was completed on Tuesday of this week. Concrete work is now underway to bring the area into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Edelbeck said the paving work will begin right after the Fourth of July holiday. The entire project should be finished by mid-July.

The cost of the nearly $200,000 project is shared by the City of Kingsford, the Federal Government, under a Federal Aid to Small Urban areas grant, and a grant to help comply with the Americans With Disabilities act.

Edelbeck said the resurfacing will involve the milling of the current surface and the laying of new asphalt.

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Civil Service Hiring
System Outdated?

(Iron Mountain) - June 20 - The City of Iron Mountain may ask the voters to do away with the 82-year-old Civil Service Commission, which governs the hiring of city employees.

The City adopted the Civil Service Commission in 1934, as a way of dealing with nepotism and cronyism in the hiring of city employees. The Civil Service Commission was seen as a way of removing politics, favoritism, family ties, etc. from the hiring process.

But is the Commission still necessary, or is it more of a hindrance than an asset? City Manager Jordan Stanchina put the question before the City Council at it's regular meeting Monday night.

The Civil Service Commission handles the testing and ranking of prospective employees for the police, fire and public works departments, providing a list of employees from which the City is supposed to be able to draw when personnel is needed.    But applicants often find other employment or just lose interest, meaning that at times there is no one to draw from on the list.

Stanchina said the current process does not always result in the hiring of the the best person, because conditions change during the two years that each Civil Service hiring list is in force. At times the City has been forced to pay overtime for protracted periods, because hiring of replacement personnel has been restricted or delayed by the Civil Service Commission process.

The Manager said that while the Civil Service process was probably necessary when it was adopted, there are many other controls in effect today, including City Charter provisions, State and Federal laws and regulations and union representation that would preclude the types of practices that Civil Service was designed to eliminate.

The Council does not have the power to eliminate the Civil Service Commission on it's own, but would have to put the matter before City voters since the Commission is provided for in the City Charter.

Stanchina said he felt it was time to look into the matter and to open it up for discussion.

The earliest the question could be put before the voters would be the November General Election this year.

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County Clerk
Names Candidates

(Iron Mountain) - July 17 - Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook has provided Dickinson County News with the list of candidates who will be seeking County offices in this year's elections.

A total of 15 individuals have filed for the 11 offices that will be on the ballot this year.

Only one County office will be contested in the August primary election. That will be current Dickinson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Henry Wender (R- Iron Mountain) who is being challenged in the primary by Wallace Townsend (R- Sagola) for the nomination for District 4. Whoever prevails in the primary will have no opposition in the November general election.

There are no other major party challenges in the August primary. There will however be a number of races when the November election rolls around. For the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners seat in District 3, incumbent commissioner Barbara Kramer (R - Iron Mountain) will be challenged by Dale Allesandrini (D - Iron Mountain). A second race on the Board of Commissioners will pit incumbent Ann Martin (R - Iron Mountain) against Democratic challenger Kevin Pirlot (D - Iron Mountain).

Commissioners John Degenaer (D - Norway) and Commissioner Joe Stevens (R - Iron Mountain) will be unopposed in both the primary and general elections.

Only one other office will be contested this year, that of Dickinson County Sheriff. Two individuals will be seeking the office which will be vacated due to the retirement of current Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello, who is retiring to seek the seat of outgoing State Senator Tom Casperson. Casperson is unable to run again for the Senate due to term limitations, and is seeking the seat of retiring Republican Congressman Dr. Dan Benishek. Celello is a Democrat.

The two individuals seeking the office are: Current Dickinson County Undersheriff Scott Rutter, a Democrat who has been with the department for 18 years, and Steve Mulka, a Republican from Kingsford.

The five remaining Dickinson County elected officeholders will have no opposition in either of this years elections. They are:

County Clerk and Register of Deeds, Dolly Cook (D - Iron Mountain)

County Treasurer Lorna Carey (R - Channing)

County Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards - (R - Iron Mountain)

County Mine Inspector Steven Smith (D - Kingsford)

County Drain Commissioner Kevin Trevillian (R - Iron Mountain)

Clerk Cook reminded potential office seekers that July 21 is the deadline for those who wish to file with no political party affiliation. Those who intend write-in campaigns must file a certificate of intent to run as a write-in candidate by July 22.  If the certificate of intent to run as a write-in candidate is not filed, votes will not be counted.

Cook reminded those who may seek such candidacies that it is important to insure that they have the latest edition of the forms for these purposes. They are available at the Clerk's office in the Dickinson County Courthouse.

Those wishing to seek non-affiliated or write-in candidacies for township office should contact their respective township clerks.

 

MAJOR ACCIDENT ON HIGHWAY
US-2 NEAR QUINNESEC

Accident Update - Iron Mountain - Sunday June 12 - 08:15 AM - As of this time, no further information is available on this accident. Dickinson County Sheriff's officials are still putting information together as the investigation continues. Sheriff's officials said they will issue a press release on Monday morning at which time they will make further information available.

(Quinnesec) - Saturday June 11 - 10:23 PM - At this moment traffic remains detoured around the scene of a major two car accident on Highway US-2 near Quinnesec.

Dickinson County Sheriff's officers received the call shortly after 9:00 Saturday night.

The accident appears to have involved two vehicles which collided head on or nearly head on.

The crash occurred on Highway US-2 near the intersection with the Dickinson County Solid Waste Facility.


(Photos by DCNews Online Staff)

First responders used the jaws of life to remove at least one victim from the vehicle shown above.

At least two ambulances were seen leaving the scene of the accident.

The number of injured and the extent of the injuries will likely not be known until morning.

 

Dickinson Iron Community
Services Director Answers Critics


(Iron Mountain) - June 15 - In an open letter to the public, Sandie Essendrup, Executive Director of the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency, explains in detail exactly what the agency does.

Essendrup's remarks are in apparent response to many criticisms that have been leveled at the agency in recent months, most of them arising from disputes between the agency and the Norway-Vulcan Senior Citizens Center over meal preparation and delivery.

Her letter makes no direct reference to the dispute, but goes into great detail regarding the many programs the agency provides. These include: In home services for elderly individuals, allowing them to stay in their homes longer; Family Ties, a program providing support services for Alzheimer's care givers; and a variety of other programs including fuel and utility assistance, weatherization programs, door to door ride programs, and many others.

The Director concluded saying: "As a Community Action Agency, DICSA employees work hard to reduce the effects of poverty on all in our community. We carefully follow the regulations and guidelines of our funders to fulfill the purposes of each grant received. With much gratitude, we thank all who have donated or volunteered to help in any of our programs through the years. The DICSA staff pledges to continue serving our neighbors in need to the best of our abilities.

Persons having further questions about the agency are invited to call (906)-774-2256 or visit:
www.dicsami.org


You can view the entire contents of the letter in PDF form here.

Essendrup Open Letter

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Update On Saturday Night
Accident in Quinnesec

 

(Iron Mountain) - June 13 - An 18 year-old Vulcan woman sustained what were described as serious but non-life-threatening injuries in a two car crash Saturday evening on Highway US-2 near Quinnesec.

Dickinson County Sheriff's Lieutenant Derek Dixon reported this morning that their department received the first call on the accident at 9:12 PM on Saturday.

Traffic was detoured for several hours as all lanes were closed at the accident scene.

According to Dixon, initial investigation indicates that a 2009 Ford Explorer, driven by an 18 year-old Iron Mountain man, apparently made a laft turn onto Baler Drive, into the path of the other vehicle. That vehicle, a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, was being driven by an 18 year-old woman from Vulcan. She sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Ford Explorer sustained only minor injuries.

The injured woman has been transported to a Green Bay hospital for further treatment.

The primary investigating agency is the Sheriff's Department. Dixon said the accident is still under investigation at this time.

Sheriff's Officers were assisted at the scene by the Michigan State Police, the Iron Mountain City Police Department, and the Breitung Township Fire Department. The injured were transported to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital by Beacon Ambulance.

(Photos in article below)

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Butterfield Sent
Back To Prison

 

(Iron Mountain) - June 10 - Brandon S. Butterfield, 30, of Kingsford, was sent back to prison yesterday in a sentencing hearing before Dickinson County Circuit Judge Mary Barglind.

Butterfield was arrested after a confrontation with police in April of this year, resulting in charges of parole violation, felony obstruction, and driving while intoxicated.

At the time of his arrest in April, Butterfield had been out of prison for only six months, having been released on parole in September of last year, after having been sent to prison on a breaking and entering charge.



Butterfield pictured with his attorney Daniel F. Anderson


In addressing the court prior to the sentencing, Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards said Butterfield acted like an idiot. Richards said he turned what might have been a simple traffic stop into a major confrontation. 
 Lisa Richards Audio - 2:00

Butterfield's defense attorney, Daniel Anderson, told the court that he felt Butterfield had learned from this experience, and that he was capable of being rehabilitated.
Daniel Anderson Audio - 1:04

Judge Barglind appeared unswayed by Anderson's comments, sentencing him to a minimum of two years in prison on each of the charges of parole violation and felony obstruction, with an additional 90 day sentence for driving under the influence.


Dickinson County Circuit Judge Mary Barglind

Judge Barglind said she felt she had to protect society, as well as the police community, from Butterfield.  Audio - Judge Barglind - 3:04

Butterfield was taken back to the Dickinson County Correctional Center, where he will await transfer back to the State prison system.

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Services Scheduled For
Motorcycle Crash Victim

Funeral services have been announced for 63-year-old William Doyle, of Pembine, who died after his motorcycle collided with another vehicle last Friday at the Breitung Cut Off intersection with Highway 141.

Doyle was driving his 1977 Harley Davidson south on Highway 141 when another vehicle, driven by 39-year-old Michael Delacruz, of Norway, apparently drove into his path.

Doyle was pronounced dead at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital a short time after the accident.

 

For complete services, Click Here

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Private Services To Be Held
For Monday Accident Victims

(Norway) - June 10 - Private family services will be held for two Quinnesec brothers who died in a head-on collision on Monday on the Breitung Cut Off Road.

The victims were Rodney W. Nelson, 62, and Randall O. Nelson, 58, both of Quinnesec.

The brothers were born in Salt Lake City, Utah; Rodney in 1954 and Randall in 1958. They were the sons of Eva (Giesen) and the late Deloy Nelson.

Rodney and Randall are survived by their mother, Eva Nelson of Quinnesec; by sisters Cindy (Glen) Colbert and Melissa Nelson, both of Baltimore, Maryland; aunts Mary Ann (Jack) Allen of Roy, UT, and Lorna Lee of Salt Lake City. A niece, Gwen Kubec of Denver, one great niece and 1 great nephew also survive, along with many cousins.

The Ortman Funeral Home of Norway is in charge of services.

The brothers were traveling east on the Breitung Cut Off road at about 4:30 Monday afternoon when they collided head-on with another vehicle.

The accident remains under investigation at this time.

 

Motorcycle Collides With Deer
Two Seriously Injured


(Iron Mountain) - June 9 - Two persons were transported by ambulance to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital last night, after their motorcycle collided with a deer on the Hamilton Lakes Road, near Loretto.

Dickinson County Sheriff's Lieutenant Derek Dixon told Dickinson County News this (Thursday) morning that their department responded at 10:20 last night to the Hamilton Lakes Road, just north of Tower Drive, when a 2002 Harley Davidson motorcycle collided with a deer.

The driver, a 50 year old male from Loretto, and a passenger, a 45 year old female from Alpena, Michigan, were both transported to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital. The driver sustained what were described as serious, but not life threatening injuries. The passenger's injuries were described as being somewhat less severe.

The Sheriff's Department was assisted at the scene by the Michigan State Police. The injured were transported by Beacon Ambulance and North Alert Ambulance Service.

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Big Box Controversy Could
End With Senate Action

 

(LANSING) - June 8 - The Michigan Senate will now take up consideration of a bill approved this week by the Michigan House, which would apparently close some loopholes that local officials claim have deprived them of needed tax income. The contoversy arose over a number of rulings by the Michigan Tax Tribunal, which have resulted in drastically reduced property taxes for the so-called "big box" stores.

The legislation (House Bill 5578) would require assessors to use the most appropriate of three different methods of appraising retail properties. Last week the Michigan Court of appeals questioned the way the Tribunal arrived at their decisions. However, those opposing the Tribunal said the legislation was still needed to permanantly clarify the issue.

The bill was approved by a vote of 97-11.

There has been no indication of how the legislation will be received in the State Senate.

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Motorcyclist's Death
Still Under Review

Norway man identified as second driver

 

(Iron Mountain) - July 8 - A Norway man, 39 year-old Michael Delacruz, has been identified as the driver of the vehicle that apparently crossed into the path of a motorcycle last Friday evening, resulting in the motorcyclist's death. The accident happened on Highway 141 at the intersection with the Breitung Cut Off Road.

Initial investigation seemed to indicate that the vehicle driven by Delacruz, a 2008 Ford Explorer, crossed from the Breitung Cut Off Road into the path of the motorcycle, which was traveling south on Highway 141.

63 year-old William Doyle, of Pembine, the motorcycle driver, died of his injuries at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital a short time after the crash.

The matter remains under investigation by the Dickinson County Prosecutor's office, where they are awaiting the receipt of additional information from investigators.

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Identities of Crash
Victims Released

(Iron Mountain) - June 7 - Michigan State Police at the Iron Mountain Post today revealed the identities of the victims of a three vehicle crash which occurred on the Breitung Cut Off Road, about 200 yards east of the Hydraulic Falls Road at about 4:30 PM on Monday.

Following is the text of a press release issued this morning by State Police:

"The vehicle driven by Nicole Vanderlin from Vulcan, age 22, was traveling west bound on Breitung Cut Off Road when her vehicle collided head-on with an east bound vehicle occupied by Rodney Nelson, age 62, and Randall Nelson, age 58, from Quinnesec."

"A third vehicle, also traveling east bound, driven by Patricia Gedvick, age 53, from Vulcan, collided with the rear of the vehicle occupied by the Nelsons."

"At this time, Ms. Vanderlin and Mrs. Gedvick are being treated at the Dickinson County Hospital."

"Randall Nelson was pronounced dead at the scene. Rodney Nelson was transported to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries."

Photos of the accident scene can be viewed in the article below.

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Two Dead In Breitung
Cut Off Head-On Crash



(Iron Mountain) - June 7 -  Two men from Quinnesec died in a head-on crash shortly after 4:30 yesterday (Monday) afternoon, when their vehicle collided head-on with another on the Breitung Cut Off Road.

The accident happened just east of the Hydraulic Falls Road, on the Breitung Cut Off Road.

The identities of the victims have not yet been released. The only information available is that they were both residents of Quinnesec, ages 58 and 62.

The two were traveling east on the Breitung Cut Off Road when their vehicle collided head-on with one driven by a 22 year-old woman from Vulcan.

A third vehicle, driven by a 53 yer-old woman, also from Vulcan, hit the rear end of the vehicle occupied by the two victims.

One of the two deceased men was pronounced dead at the scene. The other died of his injuries at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital.

The extent of the injuries to the two women is not known at this time. They were transported to Dickinson County Memorial by Beacon Ambulance. Their identities have not been released.


The primary investigating agency is the Michigan State Police Department. They were assisted at the scene by the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department, the Iron Mountain City Police, and the Breitung Township Fire Department.

See photos in the article below.

 

Second Serious Accident
In Four Days


Photos by Dickinson County News Staff

 

(Iron Mountain) - June 6 - 5:50 PM - For the second time in four days there has been a serious accident involving the Breitung Cut Off Road.

On Friday a 63-year-old Pembine motorcyclist was killed when a vehicle pulled out of the Breitung Cut Off Road, into his path, as he was traveling on Highway 141.

Today, a three vehicle crash occurred on the Breitung Cut Off Road, about two hundred yards east of the Hydrualic Falls Road.

No details are available at this time. A Michigan State Police officer at the scene confirmed that there were life threatening injuries resulting from the accident.

 


 Photos by Dickinson County News Staff

 

The number of injured and the exact extent of their injuries is not known at this time.

Dickinson County News hopes to have further details available early Tuesday morning.

Assisting the State Police at the scene were the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department, the Iron Mountain City Police Department, the Breitung Township Fire Department, and Beacon Ambulance.

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Cities Approve Increases
In Sewage Rates

Kingsford also approves hike in water rates

 

(Twin Cities) - June 7 - The City Councils of both Iron Mountain and Kingsford last (Monday) night approved increases in the rates charged residents for sewage treatment services. The City of Kingsford also approved an increase in the rate charged for municipal water services.

The actions came as the result of a request from the Iron Mountain Kingsford Joint Sewage Board, which operates the wastewater treatment plant on the Menominee River on the M-95 border with Wisconsin.

According to figures released, the rate increase is due in large part to water savings and reclamation efforts by Grede Foundry. While Grede should certainly be applauded for saving water, this has resulted in Grede purchasing much less water from the City of Kingsford. Since sewage rates are based on the amount of water used, the result has been an overall reduction in income of $135,000 for the Sewage Board. Water use has declined by an estimated 58 million gallons. While water use has been declining overall in recent years, the change in Grede's water use has had a substantial impact.

In Iron Mountain, water users will see an average increase of approximately 75 cents per month, or $1.50 over the two-month billing period.

In Kingsford, the increase will amount to 40 cents per thousand gallons of water used for the water, and an additional 40 cents per thousand gallons sewage charge. According to City Manager Tony Edelbeck, this will result in an increase of $5.60 over the two month billing period for the average household.

Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina explained that the reason for the different figures for the cities is due to the fact that they use different methods of billing for water.   Iron Mountain bills by the cubic foot, while Kingsford bills by the gallon.   The amount of the increase for sewage treatment will however, be exactly the same for residents of both cities.

In both cases, the increases were approved by unanimous votes of the respective City Councils.

 

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Iron Mountain Approves
Updated Lighting Plan

 

(Iron Mountain) - June 7 - The Iron Mountain City Council last night unanimously approved a plan submitted by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, which will result in substantial savings in lighting costs for the city.

The plan calls for replacing current fluorescent tube lighting with LED fixtures, resulting in substantial savings in electricity purchased.

The plan calls for replacement of lighting in both the City Hall and the Police and Fire facilities located on East Fleshiem Street.

With the savings in electricity costs, and rebates that can be applied against the cost, the city will recoup the entire cost of reworking the City Hall in approximately 1.5 years.

At the Police and Fire facilities, where lights burn 24 hours a day seven days a week, the savings will be far more substantial, allowing the city to recoup the entire cost in approximately eight months.


Stanchina said the City will save money not only in the cost of electricity purchased, but also in the ongoing maintenance costs of the current lighting system. The Manager said the current lighting uses ballast transformers, which are very expensive to replace. There will be no similar expenses with the LED lighting.

Stanchina said the LED lighting should have a life span of 50,000 hours or more, meaning that City Hall should be trouble-free for up to 25 years.

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Kingsford Council Approves
Budget With Tax Increase
 

(Kingsford) - June 6 - The Kingsford City Council tonight approved an operating budget for the next fiscal year totaling $3,971,882.00. In order to balance this budget, the City has had to increase property taxes by approximately four percent.

The budget approval vote came after a hearing that lasted more than an hour, during which a number of residents expressed concerns and complaints about the tax increase. The increase will result in higher tax bills for property owners. However, it is a small increase, which will average about $35.00.

Council members explained that the increase is needed due to the phasing out of Michigan's Personal Property Tax, as well as the need to make several major equipment purchases, including a new fire truck and two new dump trucks.

Residents also question the pensions being paid to retired city employees, though these matters are generally part of labor negotiations over which the City Council has limited control.

You can view the Kingsford Budget by clicking on the link below.

Kingsford Budget

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Name of Motorcycle
Crash Victim Released

(Iron Mountain) - June 6 - The identity of the individual killed when his motorcycle collided with a vehicle on Friday was released this (Monday) morning by the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department.

Dickinson County Undersheriff Scott Rutter identified the victim as 63 year-old Willam Doyle, of Pembine, Wisconsin.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Highway 141 and the Breitung Cut off Road, when a 39 year-old Norway man apparently drove his 2008 Ford Explorer into the path of the motorcycle. The accident happened shortly after noon on Friday.

Doyle was taken by Beacon Ambulance to the Dickinson County Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries.

The driver of the second vehicle, and a passenger, escaped without injury.


Rutter said no decision has been made as to whether any charges will be filed against the Norway driver. He said the matter has been turned over to the Dickinson County Prosecutor's office for further review.

Officers said it does not appear that alcohol was a factor in this accident.


 

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Fatal Accident In
Breitung Township


(Iron Mountain) - Updated June 5 - A Pembine Wisconsin man was fatally injured Friday afternoon, after his motorcycle struck another vehicle in Breitung Township.

The accident happened at the intersection of Hiway 141 and the Breitung Cut Off Road shortly after noon on Friday.

According to the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department, it appears that the 64-year-old man from Pembine was traveling South on Highway 141 on a 1977 Harley Davidson motorcycle, when he collided with another vehicle, driven by a 39-year-old Norway man. The motorcyclist, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, apparently struck the rear end of the other vehicle, a 2008 Ford Expedition. Police said it appears that the driver of the Expedition attempted to cross the highway at the intersection, failing to yield to the motorcycle.

The motorcycle driver was taken to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital where he died of his injuries.

Police said it does not appear that alcohol was a factor in the accident. A Michigan State Police Accident Investigator will assist in the investigation, which is ongoing at this time.


The matter will be referred to the Dickinson County Prosecutor's Office for further review.

Assisting the Sheriff's Department at the scene were the Michigan State Police, Beacon Ambulance, and the Marinette County Sheriff's Department, as well as the Breitung Township Fire Department.

Neither the driver or a passenger in the Ford Expedition were injured.

As of this (Sunday) morning, police have not released any names.

 

Kingsford Budget Hearing

(Kingsford) - The City of Kingsford will hold it's annual budget hearing tomorrow (Monday) evening at 7:30 at the Kingsford City Hall.

In order to balance the new budget, the City will have to impose a small tax increase. The tax increase will amount to approximately four percent (4%) and will bring the amount of millage levied by the City to 23.206 mills.

The City may also find it necessary to increase water and sewage rates, in order to compensate for revenue lost when Grede Foundries embarked on a water saving/reclaiming plan. No details on this possible rate increase have been released at this time.

According to the City Manager, Tony Edelbeck, the tax increase comes in large part due to the phasing out of the Michigan Personal Property tax, as well as needs for major equipment purchases, including a new fire truck.

You can view the entire Kingsford City Budget by clicking below.

View Budget

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Local Services Suffer As
Verso Papers Restructures

(Iron Mountain) - May 25 - While local governmental units which derive large parts of their income from property taxes reel, under recent rulings by the Michigan Tax Tribunal, one of the companies at the heart of the debate is having financial problems of it's own.
Verso Incorporated, which owns and operates a pulp mill in Quinnesec, earlier this year filed for bankruptcy protection, while it attempts to restructure it's crippling debt load.
Verso, considered a minor player in the overall industry, has been suffering the same problems as the industry in general, a declining market for many paper products, and increasing pressure from overseas competitors.
Verso's pulp division remains fairly strong as demand for things such as corrugated papers and tissue papers continues strong since there is no digital substitute for these products. However, the coated paper industry, which at one time was the backbone of the paper industry, continues to decline as customers switch to digital publications online.
Verso's current appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal, asking for a drastic reduction in the amount of property taxes it pays in Dickinson County, is considered an important part of this restructuring, and is going on in other locations where Verso operates facilities as well.
Meanwhile, the continuing decline in the property tax base continues to alarm local governmental leaders.
Dickinson County News contacted Breitung Township Superintendent of Schools, Craig Allen, regarding the impact that the current Verso appeal would have on his district. Allen said he could not comment specifically on the current appeal, since he is unaware of the details. However, he said if Verso were to prevail with such an appeal, the interest repayments alone that the school would be required to reimburse could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Yesterday, other officials expressed similar concerns regarding the Tax Tribunal appeals process. Dickinson County Equalization Director Sid Bray told Dickinson County News that if Verso is successful in this latest appeal, the County stands to lose a minimum of $129,000 in tax income. Joanie Nelson, Breitung Township Treasurer, said the Township stands to lose at least an additional $76,000.
The problem is compounded for the local governmental units by the fact that they will likely be required to reimburse Verso for taxes already collected and budgeted, as well as interest possibly running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 

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Verso Appeal Would Spell
Disaster for Local Budgets

 

(Iron Mountain) - May 24 - Dickinson County News has learned that Verso Incorporated, which operates a mill in Quinnesec, Michigan, is appealing to the Michigan State Tax Tribunal, attempting to drastically lower their tax liability to Dickinson County, Breitung Township, the Breitung Township School District, the Dickinson County Library, Dickinson County 911 service, and a variety of other agencies and services which depend on property tax income.

Verso, under an agreement reached between the Company, the Tax Tribunal and the local governmental units, is currently being assessed and taxed at a value of 56 million dollars.

Even under the current agreement, Dickinson County, Breitung Township and the Breitung Township School district have taken drastic hits on their property tax collections, causing budget problems across the board. These problems were exacerbated by the Tax Tribunal ruling which required the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes already collected and budgeted.  This would occur again if this appeal is approved by the Tax Tribunal.

If Verso is successful in their current appeal to the Tax Tribunal, it would lower their taxable value to 14 million dollars, or 25% of it's current, negotiated value.

According to Dickinson County Equalization Director Sid Bray, this would result in the loss of an additional $129,000 for the county operating budget alone. According to Joanie Nelson, Breitung Township Assessor, the loss to Breitung Township would be an additional $76,000 per year, over the losses already sustained in the appeals process.  Breitung Township Schools would also suffer significant losses.

No official word yet on whether Breitung Township will answer the company's appeal before the Tax Tribunal.

According to the Assessor, the Township is closely watching Michigan House Bill #5578, which has now been reported out of the Tax Policy Committee, and is working it's way onto the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives.  That bill was introduces by Representative David C. Maturen who represents Michigan's 23rd Legislative District which encompasses Kalamazoo and Calhoun Counties in the State's Lower Peninsula.   If approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Snyder, this legislation would put an end to the "Dark Store" assessment theory currently being used by the Tax Tribunal, restoring what it calls "sound assessment policies."

However, should Verso win it's current appeal, the established rate would stand in perpetuity, according to Nelson, and it would be almost impossible to regain the lost income.

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Commissioners Claim
Unfair Criticism


Iron Mountain - May 23 -
Two members of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, including it's Chairman, last night cried foul, saying they are being unfairly criticized for the way they are handling their jobs.

County Commissioner John Degenar, answered criticism that has been leveled at him, saying that he is doing the best job he can in serving the people and upholding the Constitution, as he swore to do. Commissioner Degenar's remarks were in part in response to criticisms that had been leveled at the board during Citizen's Time, when citizens are permitted to address the board. Audio - Degenar Remarks - 1:38

Chairman Wender responded to a criticism that he behaves unprofessionally. Wender said, "If I'm unprofessional, so be it. I say what's on my mind. I don't talk behind your back, I say it in front of you. If that's being unprofessional, so be it."  Audio - Wender Remarks - 43 seconds

The Commissioners have been under increasing pressure as budget woes have caused the board to make many unpopular decisions.

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Hopes For Breakthrough
In Senior Citizens Battle
With DICSA


Iron Mountain - May 23 -
Dickinson County Commissioner Joe Stevens last night called for a meeting between the Norway Senior Citizens Center and the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency, in an attempt to settle the differences which have resulted in Norway seniors withdrawing from the meals program provided by the Agency.

The battle between the two groups has been raging for some time now, after the Agency changed the way it handles the meals programs at the senior centers in the county, causing the Norway group to withdraw from the two-county program.

Stevens said he hopes to resolve the disagreement by sitting down with the two groups and trying to mediate the disagreements.

Norway Seniors are currently embarking on their own meals program, after they were unable to come to an agreement on the preparation and delivery of meals for the center by the Dickinson Iron County Agency.

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County Board Approves
Appointments


Iron Mountain - May 23 - It took a total of seven ballots, but the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners was finally able to come to an agreement last (Monday) night on two appointments to the Northpointe Behavioral Healthcare System Authority. The multiple ballots by the board were caused in part by the fact that one of the Commissioners, Barbara Kramer, abstained from voting since her husband, Ralph Kramer, was one of the candidates for the board.

Appointed to a term which will expire at the end of March in 2018 was nominee Katie Schinderle.  Appointed to a term which will expire at the end of March 2019 was Gerald McCole.

County Board Chairman Henry Wender said he felt all of the nominees were qualified for the position which made the decision more difficult. He said he was confident that those chosen are well qualified for the positions.

The Board had less difficulty approving the appointment of Robert Doepker to the Fumee Lake Commission. His appointment is for a partial term which will expire in August of 2018. The lack of controversy here was due to the fact that Doepker was the only nominee for the appointment. He was approved unanimously.

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Board Chairman Commends
County Healthcare System


Iron Mountain - May 23 - Dickinson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Henry Wender last (Monday) night, applauded John Shoen, Administrator of the Dickinson County Healthcare System, and the hospital staff for the great care they provide and for the many awards they have received.

The healthcare system has received numerous awards and commendations for high quality patient care.

Wender also expressed thanks and commended the many volunteers in North Dickinson County, who took part in preparing the Norway Lake Park for the tourist season. Wender said the park has never looked better. He said the volunteers, organized by Felch Township, did a far better job than the County would have been able to do under current circumstances.

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Car and Semi Collide in
Iron Mountain


This was the scene in downtown Iron Mountain at about 5:30
this (Monday) morning, when a car and semi-truck collided.


The accident occurred at about 5:30 AM near the
intersection of US-2 and Ludington Street.
Iron Mountain Police reported only minor injuries resulting from the crash.
(Photos by Jason Asselin)

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County Clerk Says
Budget A "Mess"


Blames the "Big Box Store"
Tax Ruling for Problems


Iron Mountain - May 20 - In an exclusive interview today with Dickinson County News, Dickinson County Clerk Dolly Cook responded to criticisms directed at the County budgeting process at the County Finance Committee meeting last (Thursday) night.

At that meeting, Friend of the Court for the 41st Judicial District, Ms. Heidi Van Slooten, said that budget shuffling is making it extremely difficult to manage her office. Van Slooten said the recent practice of shuffling money from one budget year to another has left her in a precarious position for funding everything from office supplies to postage and mandatory advertising. Ms. Van Slooten also criticized the information provided to the Committee, that led to the cuts and reallocations. She was highly critical of County Controller Sonya Pugh, who she claims provided false and misleading information to the Committee. Van Slooten said that while no one is suggesting criminal activity, the current budgeting process is making it extremely difficult to carry on the work assigned to the Friend of the Court's office.

County Clerk Dolly Cook said today that this type of "Robbing Peter to pay Paul," has become routine. She said the whole budgeting process is a mess, and blames the State Tax Tribunal rulings on the taxes paid by the so-called "Big Box Stores." That ruling, which drastically reduced the tax liability for operations such as Home Depot, among others, has left the county and other government units, including the schools, with drastic budget shortfalls. Cook said the problem of tax reductions was compounded by the requirement that the County and other units repay taxes that had already been collected and included in the budget.

The Clerk went on the say that the budgeting process has not been entirely fair or efficient. She said that some departments, such as the County Clerk's Office have been forced to take personnel cuts, while other departments have not been affected. Cook said that since her office is required to have a deputy present in court when Circuit Court is in session, it leaves her short of personnel on a regular basis. This has required her to close her office during the noon hour, 12:00 to 1:00 PM. Unfortunately this is only time of day when many are able to conduct business with her office.  Clerk Cook said that in response to the many complaints she has received over the noon-hour closure, she began handing out cards containing the phone numbers of the members of the County Board.   Individuals with complaints were urged to contact those members to voice their concerns and complaints.

She said that the budget process has also been inefficient. Cook said that in some cases the Board has hired outside firms, including lawyers at two to nearly three hundred dollars an hour to perform work that personnel already in place could handle.

Long-term, Cook said that in the event the "Big Box" ruling is not overturned, or pre-empted by the Legislature, the whole budgeting process will have to adjust. She said if the money is gone, and the taxpayers refuse to support the additional millage to replace it, the County will have to start looking at cuts across the board. So far, those cuts have not been equally or fairly applied, according to the clerk.

The matter is sure to be rehashed on Monday night, when the Board of Commissioners holds it regular meeting.

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County Commissioner And
County Official Involved In
"War of Words"


Iron Mountain - May 20 - One member of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has been asked to recuse herself from voting on any matter involving the Friend of the Court's Office, after the commissioner made what the official called an egregious abuse of power.

Heidi Van Slooten, Friend of the Court for the 41st Judicial District, appeared before the County Board's Finance Committee last (Thursday) night, at which time she leveled charges against Commissioner Ann Martin.

In her address to the Committee, Van Slooten said, "I want to make the board aware that I believe there is a conflict of interest with Commissioner Martin (Republican - District 2). I believe that any decision made by Commissioner Martin would be adversarial in nature."

Van Slooten went on to say, "Commissioner Martin interjected herself in a court matter by way of a letter to the Circuit Court Judges that among other things disparaged me and was an attempt to threaten my employment. Commissioner Martin disbursed this letter to members of the community as well as the Judges. The Judges did respond and addressed her actions."

Van Slooten said, "It is my belief that Commissioner Martin's actions were an egregious abuse of power and I believe that she will not be able to give a fair assessment or vote on any issue or request from my office.'

She concluded with, "To be a good leader you have to be able to listen to concerns with an open mind. You have to be able to communicate in good faith with honesty and integrity. As a Department Head I do not feel that Commissioner Martin will fairly address issues or concerns that pertain to my office."

The Committee took no action on Van Slooten's request.

 

Friend Of the Court
Criticizes County
Accounting Practices

Iron Mountain, May 19 - The Dickinson County Friend of the Court appeared at Monday night's meeting of the Dickinson County Finance Committee, voicing objections and concerns over County accounting practices. Heidi Van Slooten, who serves as Friend of the Court for the 41st Judicial District, told the Committee that she believed money had been shuffled from one budget year into the previous year, leaving her office drastically short of funds.

No action was taken by the Committee, which indicated that her concerns would be taken under advisement.

Van Slooten said that she would make all of her supporting documents available to Dickinson County News. We hope to have further information available later in the week.

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Apparent Injuries in
Lake Antoine Road Accident

Photo Courtesy of Jason Asselin

UPDATE - May 16 - According to information released this (Monday) morning by Dickinson County Undersheriff Scott Rutter, there were no serious injuries resulting from the mishap.   Rutter said the driver was charged with careless driving.

Iron Mountain - May 15 - A single vehicle accident which occurred just before 11:00 Saturday night on the Lake Antoine Road apparently resulted in injuries. The accident occurred about a mile North of US-2 in Breitung Township when the driver apparently ran off the road.

Beacon Ambulance, Breitung Township Fire Department and the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department were all dispatched to the scene.

According to witnesses at the scene, two individuals were taken by Beacon Ambulance to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital. No report is available on their conditions.

As of 7:30 this (Sunday) morning, the Sheriff's Department was unable to release any further details on the crash.

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FELCH TOWN BOARD PROCEEDING
WITH PLANS FOR NORWAY
LAKE PARK
 

     Felch, Michigan – The Felch Township Board, at it’s regular meeting on Monday night, took several actions regarding the Norway Lake Park, which was turned over to the Township by Dickinson County several months ago.
     “While the Parks and Recreation Committee is responsible for all of the parks in the Township, it’s current focus is on getting the Norway Lake Park up and running,” according to Darrell Oman.
     Parks and Recreation Committee member G. Wille provided a report on activities and suggestions to the entire board. After conducting interviews, the Committee recommended the hiring of James Collier, of Felch Mountain, for the position in charge of maintenance and management. The Committee also recommended the purchase of a building for equipment storage, and approved the placement of security camera to monitor the area. The Committee reported that the park community work bee was a great success.
     Supervisor Bob Mattson expressed the board’s appreciation to Laurie Steele, and the many volunteers who helped get the park ready for the Summer season.

 

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Spread Eagle Landmark
Destroyed By Fire

SPREAD EAGLE, WI - April 27 - The Curve Inn Bar, located in Spread Eagle, WI, was completely destroyed by a fire which broke out early this morning.  (UPDATE) Following an investigation by the Wisconsin State Fire Marshall's Office, it was determined that the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction.

 

Photos by DCNews Online Staff

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