Return To Main Page

 

(Iron Mountain - July 04, 2017) --- The current contract for garbage collection services between the City of Iron Mountain and the Great American Disposal Company is set to expire on September 15th.

Great American Disposal (GAD) has been providing garbage collection services for the city of Iron Mountain since September of 2004.

In a report to the City Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that, "GAD has provided excellent garbage collections services, with minimal complaints."

While there is no movement toward securing any different service, the City Charter requires that the contract be put up for bid.

Stanchina said that the City will advertise for a three year proposal.

One stipulation that could eliminate any other potential bidders, is a requirement by the Dickinson County Solid Waste Planning Commission, which requires that all garbage collected in Dickinson County must be transported to the County-owned solid waste transfer station, located near Quinnesec. Stanchina said it is important to keep this in mind, since previous bidders have proposed hauling the garbage to other locations.

This is no small matter, since the bill for garbage collection for 2016 was nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Bids will be due by August 7th, and will be opened at the regular City Council meeting on that date.

 

 

 

(Iron Mountain - July 09, 2017) --- Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has issued his department's activity report for the month of June. The report is issued each month to the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners.

The June report indicates that the department served 137 Civil Processes; investigated 151 complaints; handled 33 accidents; issued 48 traffic citations and 113 verbal warnings; made 25 arrests, nine of those on outstanding warrants; made 134 property checks; seven prisoner transports, and three mental health transports.

A total of 115 prisoners were booked into the Dickinson County Jail during the month of June. Average daily population was 75, and average daily bookings were 3.8, both up slightly from the month of May.

The Enhanced 911 Dispatch Center handled a total of 694 "911" calls, and 3,867 "non-911" calls. In addition, the center handled 1,585 calls for other agencies, 295 ambulance calls, and 93 calls for fire service.

Jail inmates assigned to the Sheriff's Work Van had a busy month, logging a total of 626 hours for June. The inmates were assigned to perform work at the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency, the Sheriff's Office and Courthouse, the Northern Lights YMCA, the Pine Mountain Ski Hill, the Dickinson County Welcome Center, the Almost Home Animal Shelter, Lake Antoine Park, the Michigan State Police post, the Iron Mountain High School football stadium, Iron Mountain's Northside ball park, the Dickinson County Cancer Closet, Kingsford Gardens, the Cowboy Lake park in Kingsford, the Carney Lake Road, and the Veteran's Memorial, located at the top of Pine Mountain.

 

(Quinnesec - June 25, 2017) --- While one reader has suggested that the building may be turned into a warehouse to house all of the rumors, we can say conclusively that nothing official has yet been filed with the Breitung Township Zoning Authorities.

Dickinson County News reached out to Breitung Township Superintendent John Gaudette, since any development on the site would require applications, inspections and permits by the Township Zoning Authority.

Gaudette informed us in an e-mail Sunday morning, that nothing regarding the former Fire Alarm has been filed with the Township, as of Friday afternoon.

Gaudette said that while he has also heard rumors, he knows very little at this time since no paperwork has been filed. The Superintendent said he doesn't know if the work underway represents a total teardown or a major renovation. He said that no demolition permit has been applied for or issued by the Township.

While there have been rumors ranging from an Applebees Restaurant, to a truck stop, to a Big Boy Restuarant, any such development would have to go through a sometimes lengthy permitting process. That process has not yet been started, according to Gaudette.

The superintendent said that "Depending on what ends up happening there, the township is the first step for any zoning. I have not seen any paperwork or had any direct contact about that property."

_ _ _

 

(Quinnesec - June 23, 2017) --- What was at one time the premier "Night Spot" in the region, will soon be nothing more than a memory; the second area landmark to disappear in as many months.

The Fire Alarm, located at the intersection of Highway 141 and the Breitung Cut-Off Road, was in it's hay day during the disco era in the 1970's. At that time, the facility featured a U-shaped bar, which surrounded an actual early 1900's fire truck.

Owned by the Forgette family, and managed by John Jessen, the facility was often filled to capacity, especially on week-ends, when there was often a waiting line at the door.

As the disco era faded, The Fire Alarm experimented for a time with Country & Western, and with stand-up comedy shows. But, with it's remote location, and changes in laws and law enforcement, the Fire Alarm also faded.

The facility served for a while as a Teen Center, and was later turned into a restaurant, known as Hirsch's West. However, it has now been vacant for nearly a decade, and has deteriorated beyond the point of no return.

Last month, another area landmark, the Twin Falls Powerhouse, went under the wrecking ball. (See story below)

Editor's Note:  If anyone has a picture of the Fire Alarm in it's "Hay Day," please share it with your Dickinson County News friends at:

 

 

The iconic Twin Falls powerhouse has stood as an imposing landmark on the Menominee River since it's construction in the late 19th Century.

Removal of the structure began in May of this year, after the new WE Energies powerhouse was constructed and put online.

It had been determined that the old structure, and the power generating equipment it contained, were too outdated to be of any further use, resulting in the construction of the new "low profile" powerhouse, visible in the pictures above and below.

The old structure was located on the Michigan side of the Menominee River, in Dickinson County. The new structure is located on the Wisconsin side, in Florence County.  The new powerhouse is capable of producing nearly twice the amount of power, compared to the original facility, using the same amount of water, thanks to improvements in both generators and the turbines used to drive them.

Today, the old powerhouse is nothing more than a memory, as shown in the photo below.

Through the summer crews will be working to remove the final footings of the old plant, working to restore the falls as close to their original condition as possible.

Most of the reconstruction and landscaping work is expected to be completed by Fall.

Click here if you'd like to take a photo tour of the new WE Energies powerhouse.

 

 

( Lansing - June 27, 2017) --- The Michigan Parole Board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 to consider the possible parole of Edward Alsteens, Jr.

After being charged and tried in Dickinson County Circuit Court, Alsteens was sentenced by Judge Earnest W. Brown on December 1, 1971.

Anthony E. O. King and Barbara S. Sampson, Members of the Michigan Parole Board, will conduct the parole hearing.

It will be held at 9:00 on July 11 at the Handlon Michigan Training Center; Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan.

 

 

While there’s no doubt that iron mining and timber harvesting built this area, both left a mess in their wake. But only one of those, iron mining, continues to present a danger today.

The mining reports being released by County Mine Inspector Steven Smith make several things apparent:

In the days before licensing and permitting, those in search of iron ore poked holes into the Earth wherever they thought they might find ore.

Very poor records were kept of these sometimes very dangerous holes, and in many cases they were simply abandoned with little thought to the dangers they posed.

Many of those shafts that were filled have since subsided, again posing a threat.

Many areas of Dickinson County, especially in and around the City of Iron Mountain are honeycombed with ancient tunnels. In many cases, the maps that do exist are sketchy and highly inaccurate.

Local governments, as well as private property owners, have been less than diligent in keeping track of these areas and taking steps to make them as safe as possible.

The Mine Inspector's latest report deals with lands owned by the Keweenaw Land Association, one of the largest land holders in the Upper Peninsula. The report deals with Keweenaw holdings in the City of Iron Mountain, and the Charter Township of Breitung, as well as Norway, Waucedah, Breen and Felch Townships.

Most of the infractions discovered by the Inspector deal with fencing issues, designed to prevent the public from accessing these sometimes hazardous sites. However, there are several areas of more serious concern indicated.

Regarding the Federal or West Chapin Mine: Smith said that there appears to be some slow subsiding on the opposite side of the Pine Mountain Road. Smith said the areas may be connected under the road, but he has no way of knowing for sure. He said he sees no other reason for the ground to be sinking, except for underground activity. Smith said this pit must be filled and watched for future settling. He said that there are over a dozen features that extend for more than one-half mile from the West Chapin almost to the parking lot of the Pine Mountain Ski Jump. He said that all of these adits and shafts have been filled or pushed shut, but that the locations must not be lost.

Regarding the main shaft, Smith said it now appears to be subsiding. He said this area needs to be filled, fenced and monitored in the event of any future development. The inspector said it's been difficult to examine the shaft closely, because of the debris piled in and around it. He said there is another shaft about 650 feet east of the main Chapin shaft that has been backfilled, but not marked.

Smith also inspected the Cundy (pictured right) and Clifford (Traders') mines in the Charter Township of Breitung, and found fencing issues in both locations. He expressed additional concerns about the Cundy mine, located just off Highway US-2 in Quinnesec, where a 986 foot deep shaft has been capped and backfilled, but not marked. He said this is a serious concern for any future development.

Most of the other problems dealt with fencing issues. Most are located in remote areas.  Those other areas inspected included the Calumet and Hecla mines in Breen Township, the Appleton Mine, in Waucedah Township, The Groveland Mine, in Felch Township, and the Sturgeon Exploration, in Norway Township.

Smith said it's important that property lines be properly surveyed and marked, so the responsible parties can be determined. In some cases, it has been almost impossible to determine who owns the properties in question.

The information was contained in the Mine Inspector's most recent report to the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners.

 

(Photos of Chapin Mine and Cundy Mine above from the M.T.U. Mining Archives)

 

 

The 17-year-old Norway youth who drowned in the Menominee River on Tuesday has been identified as Bryan Christopher Stanchina, son of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Stanchina, of Norway.

The young man's body was found late Tuesday evening, just as the search was being suspended for the night due to darkness.

At about 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon, a group of young people was swimming, jumping off of the old iron bridge that at one time carried traffic between Dickinson and Florence Counties, from the Twin Falls Road (County Road 607) to Spread Eagle.

Stanchina was one of a group of swimmers who jumped off of the bridge, reportedly to assist another swimmer who was in distress.  While all of the other swimmers made it safely back to shore, Stanchina failed to surface, after being caught in the extremely heavy currents.  According to witnesses, he was swept away, toward the Wisconsin side of the river.  His body was discovered in about 14 feet of water, very near the point where he had last been seen.  The Florence County Coroner pronounced the youth dead at the scene.  His body was taken to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital.

The flow of the Menominee River at this time is well above normal rates, causing unusual and dangerous currents. River flow on Tuesday afternoon was reported at nearly 9,000 cubic feet per second, or nearly three times normal flow rate.

Since this is a boundary waterway, officials from both Dickinson and Florence Counties were involved in the search.  In addition, the Delta County Dive Team attempted to assist, but their efforts were thwarted by the extremely heavy currents.

Click here for obituary details

 

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has released his department's activity report for the month of May. The information is part of the Sheriff's regular monthly report to the County Board of Commissioners.

County Road Patrol

Served 88 Civil Process Papers
Investigated 138 complaints
Handled 27 accidents
Issued 32 citations, and 116 verbal warnings
Made 28 arrests (13 of those on outstanding warrants)
Conducted 139 property checks
Made 7 prisoner transfers, and 2 mental health transports

Correctional Center

119 individuals were booked into the jail during May.
The average daily jail population is up significantly from last month. April saw an average daily population of 68, while the daily population for May was up to 78. Average daily bookings for the month were up to 3.8, from 3.4 the previous month.

Enhanced 911 Dispatch Center

Handled 604 "911" calls
Handled 3,119 "non-911" calls
The center also handled 1,431 calls for other law enforcement agencies, 355 ambulance calls, and 611 calls for fire service.

Sheriff's Work Van

Individuals assigned to the Sheriff's Work Van logged a total of 462 hours for the month of May, and worked at the following locations:

Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency
Sheriff's Office and Courthouse
Dickinson County Landfill
Northern Lights YMCA
Pine Mountain
The Dickinson County Welcome Center
The Work Van's "Adopt A Highway"
The Loretto Boat Landing
Hydraulic Falls Park
Menominee River Park
Triangle Park
Lake Mary Garden Club
The Channing Cemetery
The Carney/Rock Lake area
Sawyer Lake Park
Fumee Lake Park
Trash pickup on US-141 and Bailer Drive

 

Both the Iron Mountain and Kingsford Councils on Monday night, gave the final go-ahead for a 5.7 million dollar project at the jointly owned sewage disposal facility, located on the Menominee River, near the M-95 interstate bridge.

The councils were each asked to approve two items; one authorizing the joint sewage authority to proceed with the borrowing of the necessary funds and proceed with the bidding process, and the other authorizing the rate increases to cover repayment of the loans.

Kingsford City Manager Tony Edelbeck, in his report to the Council, said that despite the necessary increases, rates will still be very reasonable in both communities.

Of 102 jurisdictions sampled, Iron Mountain currently ranks #90 at $22.90 per 5,000 gallons of usage, and Kingsford #91 at $22.65 per 5,000 gallons of usage. Under the rate increases approved on Monday, Kingsford will rank #73, at $29.35 per 5,000 gallons, and Iron Mountain #79, at $27.85 per 5,000 gallons.

The rate increases will not go into effect until after the bidding process. The rates could actually be reduced at that time, in the event that the bids come in lower than expected.

While many minor upgrades and improvements have been made to the facility over the years, some of the equipment is four decades old and repairs are becoming more costly due to lack of parts availability.

 

The Kingsford City Council on Monday night approved a balanced budget for the 2017/2018 fiscal year, approving expenditures totaling $3,656,046.00.

While the budget is balanced, the City will dip into it's 1.4 million dollar cash reserve to make it balance.

The City expects to begin the new 2017/2018 budget year with a fund balance of 1.4 million dollars, and end it with a fund balance of $1,220,438.

On the revenue side, the City will levy taxes as follows:

3.470 mils on all real and personal property for funding of the police and fire pensions.

1.202 mils toward the retirement of the general obligation bonds sold for the construction of the new Public Works facility in 1997.

18.00 mils on all real and personal property within the City for the purpose of funding the general operations and liabilities of the City.

Here's how that money will be spent:

The budget resolution was adopted by a unanimous vote of the City Council, following a public hearing conducted by the Council, at 6:45 PM, as part of it's regular Monday Council meeting.

 



The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has gone on record opposing provisions of the 2018 State budget, which would drastically alter the mental health treatment programs in the State.

The Board, at their regular meeting on Monday evening, adopted the following resolution:

WHEREAS, Michigan’s public mental health system provides one of the broadest array of cutting edge, community-based mental health services and supports throughout our Upper Peninsula region; and

WHEREAS, Community Mental Health Service Programs (CMHSPs) were created by County Boards of Commissioners as duly authorized under 330.1205 of the Michigan Mental Health Code; and

WHEREAS, Five CMHSPs representing fifteen counties in the Upper Peninsula created a regional entity, NorthCare Network, to manage Medicaid specialty services as duly authorized under 330.1204b of the Michigan Mental Health Code; and

WHEREAS, County Boards of Commissioners across the Upper Peninsula region support the preservation of the current public mental health system delivery and management; and

WHEREAS, All five CMHSPs in the Upper Peninsula region (Copper Country CMH, Gogebic CMH, Hiawatha Behavioral Health, Northpointe Behavioral Health and Pathways CMH) support the preservation of the current public mental health system delivery and management; and

WHEREAS, Senate and House 298/234 of the Executive Budget recommendation for 2018 effectively nullifies the duly authorized actions taken by Community Mental Health Service Programs to create a regional entity under section 330.204b of the Michigan Mental Health Code; and

WHEREAS, Section 298/234 of the Executive Budget recommendations for 2018 have no accountability to the Upper Peninsula’s fifteen County Boards of Commissioners; and

WHEREAS, County Boards of Commissioners across the Upper Peninsula oppose Section 298/234 of the Executive Budget recommendation for 2018 to implement health plan led pilots; and

WHEREAS, County Boards of Commissioners across the Upper Peninsula oppose any involvement in a pilot program in the Upper Peninsula region; and

WHEREAS, Section 298/234 of the Executive Budget recommendation for 2018 will result in the elimination of public specialty mental health services that are accountable to the communities of persons residing in the fifteen counties of the Upper Peninsula;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
That the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners opposes Section 298/234 of the Executive Budget recommendation for 2018 and encourages the Governor, State Senate, and State House of Representatives to prevent it from becoming law.

The resolution will be forwarded to State officials immediately.

The Niagara of Wisconsin landfill, located in Breitung Township, has again come to the forefront, amidst reports that the Charter Township of Breitung is considering closing Lake Street to truck traffic.

The matter came to light at a recent meeting of the Dickinson County Road Commission, in a report by Operations Manager, Jim Harris. Harris said that there is case law that would support the Township's authority to do so.

The issue first came to light last 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.

In November, after several weeks of heated rhetoric, The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners voted to put strict limits on the amount and type of refuse that can be hauled into the landfill. The landfill is located between Quinnesec and Norway, between the Kimberly Road and the Menominee River.  The facility is owned and operated by Niagara of Wisconsin, LLC.

As a result of the Board's action, the landfill is 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.

Should the Breitung Township Board decide to take this action, the only remaining route, at present, to the landfill would be through the City of Norway. Dickinson County News has reached out to Norway officials in an attempt to determine how they might react to such an action, and received this reply from Norway City Manager, Ray Anderson: "Of course we would not be in favor of this as the intersection at US 8 and Kimberly Road is not adequately designed for truck turns.  We also have an ordinance prohibiting trucks on side streets other than Stephenson Street which also has a limited turn radius from Kimberly."

Anderson went on to say, "Honestly since Lake Street is part of the Federal Aid Route system I would hope that they discuss this with the Federal Aid 12B task force before taking action.  The County Road Commission represents the Township on this task force."

Reportedly, the Solid Waste Planning Committee is working with Eric Spirtas, President of Niagara Worldwide, owner of Niagara of Wisconsin, LLC., hoping to find alternative routes into the landfill. 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 reported progress on either proposal.

On Harris's recommendation, the Road Commission voted to send a letter to Breitung Township Board Chairman Denny Olson, opposing any such action. Harris said that while the Township may have the authority to take this action, he fears the effect that it could have on future Federal funding.

 

Scott Thomas assumed his post as the new head of Iron Mountain's Department of Public Works on Sunday, after having been certified by the City's Civil Service Commission as having received the highest composite score.

Thomas has been acting Supervisor of the department since the retirement of Don Dinocenzo. His appointment carries the mandatory six month probationary period.

Thomas is a graduate of Iron Mountain High School, and a lifelong resident of the City.

 

Iron Mountain's newest City Council member sat in on his first regular meeting on Monday evening. Nathan Zemar, an Iron Mountain businessman, was appointed to an at-large seat vacated by the resignation of former Councilman David Stohl.

Zemar was officially appointed by the Council two weeks ago, and sworn in the following day. According to City Manager Jordan Stanchina, Zemar was the only applicant who qualified for the post.

Under State law, Zemar will be required to run for the seat in the next City election. However, he had already filed for his candidacy before the seat became vacant.

 

There will be some changes coming for this year's annual Dickinson County Fair. The event is traditionally held over the Labor Day week-end, as the last major local event of the summer season. The changes were approved at a recent meeting of the Dickinson County Fair Board.

The Wednesday night early fair opening will not take place this year. The fair will instead revert to the Thursday night opening and preview of the rides and attractions.

The daily admission fee to the fair will be increased from $3.00 to $5.00. However, all shows will be free. A single pass for the entire fair week-end will be available for $15.00.

Fair Board member Commissioner John Degenaer, Jr. (D - Dist 5) said the board is working in partnership with Boss Snowplows on building improvements on the fairgrounds. In the partnership, Boss Snowplows provides the needed building materials for the projects.

This year's Dickinson County Fair will begin on Thursday, August 31, and end on Labor Day, September 4.

 

Dickinson County Mine Inspector Steve Smith appears none too happy with the City of Iron Mountain, suggesting that perhaps the City should stop cutting grass and start fixing fences.

Smith's comments were included in his 2017 Mine Inspection report, delivered to the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday. Smith appeared somewhat frustrated with the City, saying, "I am asking you again to correct the problems I highlighted. I realize that the City is strapped with work and shorthanded, but public safety has to come first, not as an afterthought. I suggest taking some of your temporary help and using them to clear and repair fences, rather than cut grass. I am sure the public would think that makes sense."

 

Smith was particularly critical of fencing around the West Chapin pit, and the area on the West shore of the pit where the City Dumps it's snow during the Winter. Smith said the City needs to come up with a comprehensive, long-term plan for fencing of both pits.

The Inspector also expressed concerns about a number of areas around the East Chapin pit and the Millie Hill area, some of which are in need of fencing, and others requiring additional backfilling.

A major safety concern expressed by the County Inspector is the situation at the Hamilton Shaft.  The City uses the Hamilton Shaft to pump several million gallons of water a day out of the ground to keep the West side of the City dry.  Smith said he's concerned that there is no rescue plan in place in the event that someone should fall into that shaft while working on it.  His query, "Who are you going to call?"

One other major concern is the area near the North Elementary School, where two shafts were backfilled during the construction. Smith said that while the fence is intact and there has been no settling, he is concerned about the road next to the school which is completely undermined. He suggests seismic testing or bore testing to determine the thickness of the rock supporting the road there.

Most of the other problems cited in the report involved fencing problems. Of particular concern is the Devil's Icebox, in Quinnesec, which at one time was a popular tourist attraction, but has been deemed unsafe. Smith said that while there is some question as to ownership of the property, he has demanded that the fencing be repaired within 30 days.

 

The City of Iron Mountain was recognized as a City that pays special tribute to it's Purple Heart recipients, with a presentation ceremony at the Monday night meeting of the City Council. Last year, the Council had adopted a resolution honoring Purple Heart recipients, and declaring itself a "Purple Heart City." Seen receiving the award above is Iron Mountain Mayor, Dale Allesandrini.

The plaque will be installed in the City Council chambers. 

If you add up the cash value of all of the real and personal property in Dickinson County, you come up with a value of $2,069,569,052. That's the figure released in the 2017 County Equalization Report, delivered to the County Board of Commissioners on Monday night by the County's Equalization Director, Sid Bray (Pictured center above).

The Charter Township of Breitung ranks #1 in both real and personal property values: Real property - $525,966,649, Personal property - $105,284,600 for a total of $631,251,249. The WE Energy facilities located in the township, as well as the Verso paper mill, contribute greatly to these values.  This means that while Breitung Township is only one of 10 government jurisdictions in the County, it represents 31% of the total value of the County.

The City of Iron Mountain ranks #2, with $462,997,017 in Real property and $46,562,200 in Personal property for a total of $509,559,217.  The cash value of the City of Iron Mountain represents 25% of the total value of Dickinson County.

In third place is the City of Kingsford. Values there are: $246,656,430 in Real property and $18,063,640 in personal property for a total of $264,719,857.  The total of all property in Kingsford represents 13% of the value of the County.

The the remaining 31% is distributed among the other seven jurisdictions in the county.

Norway Township:
Real property - $128,512,259
Personal property - $4,378,400
Total value - $132,890,659

Sagola Township:
Real property - $118,869,503
Personal property - $10,019,103
Total value - $128,888,606

Waucedah Township:
Real property - $116,517,072
Personal property - $4,663,400
Total value - $121,180,472

City of Norway:
Real property - $117,178,972
Personal property - $3,117,200
Total value - $120,296,172

Felch Township:
Real property - $66,366,442
Personal property - $9,718,500
Total value = $76,084,942

Breen Township:
Real property - $57,879,226
Personal property - $4,116,200
Total value - $61,995,426

West Branch Township:
Real property - $20,051,847
Personal property - $2,654,900
Total value - $22,706,747
 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night went on record approving a request by the County Fair Board, to borrow $10,000 to complete the erection of a building at the County Fairgrounds.

The building in questions was previously purchased by the Fair Board at a price of $40,000. The building previously stood at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Main Street in Norway, and at one time house a Coast to Coast store. It was purchased by the Fair Board when another business at that location bought the property to expand their parking lot.

Board Chairman Henry Wender said the Commissioners had two meetings with the Fair Board, and were convinced that they had a sound plan in mind.

Erection of the structure is expected to be completed well before the start of the 2017 Dickinson County Fair.
 

The body of Andrew Bray, the 78-year-old Vulcan man who went missing in early January, was located late Friday on the shoreline of the Menominee River, in Niagara Township. The body was located downstream from Bomber's Golf Course. Bray's vehicle was found near the river on January 3.

Positive identification of the body was confirmed by Marinette County Coroner, George Smith.

Authorities reported on January 3rd that they had found footprints leading from Bray's vehicle to an open area in the ice of the Menominee River.

Authorities attempted a search of the river upon locating Bray's vehicle, but the dark water and extremely heavy currents made use of divers nearly impossible.  Authorities attempted to search with a remotely operated search device, but that was unsuccessful.

No foul play is believed to have been involved. Bray's family had reported that he may have been suicidal when he was reported missing.

Funeral arrangements are pending with the Ortman Funeral Home of Norway.
 

Passenger traffic at the Dickinson County owned Ford Airport is on track to set records this year, if boardings continue at the current pace.

A total of 1,712 passengers boarded outgoing flights during the month of March. Were this pace to continue, the airport would see nearly 20,000 boardings for the year, nearly twice the number needed to qualify for Federal Essential Air Service supplemental funding. March saw a total of 1,585  incoming passengers.

Ford Airport currently offers non-stop service to Minneapolis/St Paul and Detroit by Sky West, a division of Delta Airlines.
 

Several generations have come and gone since the imposing brick powerhouse first dominated the scene at Twin Falls, on the Menominee River. Soon, that picture will be nothing more than a memory.

Demolition is underway on the old powerhouse, having been replaced by a new structure, shown in the left of the photo above. The new power station went into operation in July of last year, and is undergoing the final steps of construction. Demolition of the original structure is expected to be completed by August of this year.

Due to advances in generator and turbine technology, the new powerhouse is capable of producing nearly twice the power output with the same amount of water. While the old powerhouse is located in Dickinson County, the new facility has been moved across the river, into Florence County.

To ensure safety, outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to stay clear of the dam and construction site when navigating near Twin Falls. Warning signs and buoys have been put in place, and boaters are cautioned to observe these warnings. A new canoe portage has been installed on the Michigan side of the river near the substation and will allow river access downstream from the Dorothy Fox Hall.

The public access site adjacent to the original powerhouse off of Bass Lake Road is temporarily closed. Fishing from the platform or from the shore is prohibited in this location.

In a statement, WE Energies, owner and operator of the property, says they expect to have regular access restored by Fall.

 

As more and more customers take advantage of alternative ways to do business with the Secretary of State such as online services at www.ExpressSOS.com, the department is moving forward with several technology-driven improvements to provide faster and more convenient service.

“Michigan residents are realizing there are better ways to renew their tabs or change their address than by waiting in our busy offices,” Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. “Technology is enabling us to make it easier for you as our customers.”

Johnson said her team has new projects in the works as well as further development of existing programs. These include:

Implementation of Electronic Lien and Title (ELT) system – The ELT system was created by the Legislature in 2014 and is now being implemented. By replacing paper documents with an electronic record, ELT makes lien and title information more secure, which provides additional protection to consumers and lenders and thwarts fraud, such as when unscrupulous individuals falsify titles or lien termination statements. Among the advantages of the new system are a reduction in the possibility of title fraud and lower title and lien processing costs for financial institutions and the State of Michigan. It also means greater convenience for vehicle owners, who will enjoy faster title-related transactions, less paperwork and, in most cases, no need for a trip to a Secretary of State office. The department is in the beginning phases of development with the selected vendor.

Expansion of MI-TIME Line – Plans subject to budget approval are for the popular wait management system, which lets customers make appointments or get in line online at michigan.gov/mitimeline by phone or app and then conveniently arrive at the branch office right before their turn, to expand to 13 more Secretary of State offices in the coming months. Currently available in 30 of the busiest branch offices, MI-TIME Line receives frequent praise like this recent comment from a customer in Troy: “Using the MI-TIME Line allowed for the fastest and most efficient visit to the SOS I have ever experienced. I will absolutely use this method in the future and recommend it to others.” Department staff is working to increase customer awareness of MI-TIME Line, improve the accuracy of wait time estimates and simplify different aspects of the user experience. Nearly 4.5 million customers have used the system since it launched in 2014.

Addition of more Self-Service Stations – The department will be installing an additional 20 Self-Service Stations for plate renewals across the state, including a second kiosk in some SUPER!Centers that have very high usage on the existing kiosk. The timesaving machines allow customers to renew their plates and print out their tabs to take with them in less than two minutes. There are currently 78 Self-Service Stations in operation across the state, which handle a total of more than 800,000 transactions a year.
Modernization of MDOS mainframe computer system – FAST Enterprises, a vendor with an excellent track record on similar modernization projects in other states, has begun work on replacing the department’s decades-old Legacy computer system with a modern system that will improve service for customers, including more online transaction options. FAST has successfully launched nine motor vehicle systems in seven states, delivering on time and on budget in each project.

Johnson said her office will also continue to market and promote the many online transactions customers can complete without having to visit a Secretary of State office. “Just hop online, not in line, to www.ExpressSOS.com, now with Print 'n Go. It's painless,” she said. The site allows customers to renew plates, renew and replace driver’s licenses and state IDs, change their address and order duplicate registrations and titles. People can also sign up on Michigan’s organ donor registry, among other options. Through the first four months of 2017, there were 699,041 transactions at www.ExpressSOS.com, an increase of 49 percent from the same period last year.

More information about office hours, locations and services can be found at www.michigan.gov/sos.

 

There's a new look coming to the North Junction of Highways US-2/141/M95, in a project which is expected to be completed by November of this year.

Work officially began on Monday, April 24.

The project is located North of Iron Mountain in Dickinson County.

The project will reconstruct the existing US-2/141/M-95 North Junction intersection, replacing the existing US-2 divided (boulevard) road section with a multi-lane pavement with center left turn lanes. Work includes reconstruction of the M-95 approach and new traffic signals.

Work has now been completed, replacing the decking on the bridge over the Bass Lake/Twin Falls Road, ending the one-way traffic over the bridge.

The project also includes US-2 road rehabilitation from the state line easterly to the existing E&LS railroad overpass west of the intersection.

Road rehabilitation includes concrete pavement repairs from the state line to Pine Mountain Road, and HMA cold milling and resurfacing from Pine Mountain Road easterly to the E&LS railroad overpass. Some lane closures should be expected during this phase of construction.

Construction is expected to be substantially complete by November 2017.

 

Dickinson County's Friend of the Court system has been ranked as the most cost effective of the 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula, while being ranked 13th out of the 83 counties State-wide.

The information was contained in a report delivered to the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners at it's Monday meeting, by the Director of the Friend of the Court office, Heidi M. Van Slooten.

Van Slooten said the ranking is included in a report by the State of Michigan Office of Child Support, for collections and cost effectiveness.

The Dickinson County Friend of the Court office, according to Van Slooten, collected 3.7 million dollars in child support payments in 2016, and 284 thousand dollars in additional revenue. Total operating cost of the office for the taxpayers of Dickinson County came to $6,934 per month. Van Slooten said the office staff consists of herself, and three staff members.

One of those staff members, Celeste Calo, Child Support and Paternity Establishment Investigator, was recently recognized by the Michigan Office of Child Support for efforts in Service of Process in paternity actions. Dickinson County has a 94% success rate in that area.

 

The Northern Lights YMCA and Dickinson County Healthcare System’s Annual "One Big Day for Healthy Kids" saw an estimated attendance of 750 families and children Saturday, April 22, at the Kingsford Middle School Gymnasium.

“This is the fifth time we have sponsored this event and it was by far the most people we’ve ever had,” YMCA Youth Coordinator Kelly Evosevich-Poupore said. “It was just a terrific day for our youth and our community.”

A free event sponsored by Dickinson County Healthcare System and Northern Lights YMCA, the 2017 One Big Day for Healthy Kids brought together organizations, clubs, businesses and vendors. Bounce houses, carnival games were part of the festivities, and free bike helmets were issued to all in attendance.

“At the "Y, we believe charged up kids really do achieve amazing things,” Evosevich-Poupore said. “We see it all the time. When a child is healthy, happy, motivated and excited…watch out…because something amazing is inevitably going to result. As that child grows and fulfills their true potential, they will truly make the world a better place for everyone.”

One Big Day for Healthy Kids continues the YMCA’s commitment to teach healthy habits for kids and families, encourage physical and mental play and inspire a lifetime love of exercise. As spring begins, Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days, a great opportunity to educate families and motivate kids to stay active in spirit, mind and body throughout the summer.

For more information on the YMCA and its offerings or to make a contribution to the Annual Fund Campaign which directly supports membership and programming access to all, please call (906) 774-4076.

Pictured above, left to right are: Northern Lights YMCA Center Director Jonathan Ringel, Youth Coordinator Kelly Evosevich-Poupore and Membership and Marketing Director Ron Deuter.

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved appointments to the Dickinson County Jury Board, the Dickinson County Road Commission, and the Dickinson County Planning Commission.

Appointed to a six-year term on the Jury Board, following some confusion over applications, was Mary Girard. The other candidate was Barb Oliver.
The vote was not unanimous. Voting for Girard were Commissioners Wender (R - Dist 4), Kramer (R - Dist 3) and Degenaer (D - Dist 5). Commissioners voting for Oliver were Stevens (R - Dist 1) and Martin (R - Dist 2).

There was no controversy in the appointment of two members to the County Road Commission, as there were only two applicants for the two available seats.
Appointed to the Road Commission on unanimous vote were: Dave Brisson and Ron Milbrath. Both will serve three year terms, expiring on April 30 of 2020.

There were three seats open on the County Planning Commission, but only one person applied. Sarah Bietila was appointed to a three year partial term, which will expire on February 28 of 2020.

 

(Pictured above, left to right:  Comm. Ann Martin, Comm. Joe Stevens, Chairman Henry Wender, Comm. Barb Kramer, Comm. John Degenaer and Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards)

 

Regular janitorial and cleaning services are now in place at the Dickinson County Courthouse, something that has been sorrowfully lacking for several years, since the County Board began undertaking massive budget reductions.

The County Board of Commissioners, on recommendation of County Controller Brian Bousley, agreed to a six-month trial contract with Trico Opportunities to provide janitorial and cleaning services for the Courthouse complex.

Bousley said that there will be a thirty-day "out" clause, should the County wish to terminate the contract at any point.

The Board agreed unanimously to the contract, which was put forth in a motion by Commissioner John Degenaer (R - Dist 5), Chairman of the County's Building and Grounds committee.

Following approval by the board, Bousley indicated that the services would begin today (Tuesday) at the Courthouse.

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night put a temporary hold on a request by Board member John Degenaer (D - Dist 5), asking for permission to borrow $12,500 for improvements at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds. Degenaer made the request on behalf of the Dickinson County Fair Board, which manages the fairgrounds.

The loan is being requested to facilitate assembly of a commercial steel building which had earlier been purchased by the Fair Board at a price of $40,000. Degenaer said that should the loan request be denied, the Fair Board may use existing funds for the project.

Degenaer stated a few facts in his request, indicating that the Fair Board has an excellent record of repaying loans that it takes out for the Fairgrounds. He said that since 2009, when virtually all State and County funding was taken away from the fair, the board has borrowed and repaid more than one-half million dollars for fairgrounds improvements, all while remaining "in the black."

Degenaer told the Commissioners that the Fair Board had received three responses to it's advertisement for loan bids:

The Community Federal Credit Union offered a rate of 2.54% over a ten year period, with additional loan costs.

Northern Michigan Bank offered 4.0% on a ten year loan, or 4.5% on a 15 year loan, with additional loan costs.

Upper Peninsula State Bank offered a rate of 3.228% on a 15 year loan, with no loan costs, but with a balloon payment at five years.

Board Chairman Henry Wender (R - Dist 4) said that while he was not opposed to authorizing the Fair Board to borrow the money, he did not feel comfortable voting on it without further review of the numbers. That sentiment was also voiced by Commissioner Barb Kramer, (R - Dist 3).

Wender said that the matter will be discussed at a Committee of the Whole Board meeting next Monday evening.

 

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has issued his report, detailing his department's activity for the month of March.

Sheriff Rutter reported that the Road Patrol served 116 Civil Process papers, investigated 103 complaints, handled 11 accidents, issued 29 citations and 150 verbal warnings. In addition the Road Patrol reported 26 arrests, 157 property checks, and nine prisoner transports.

The Correctional Center was a busy place, as always, though the average daily census at the jail is down slightly to 68. Sheriff Rutter reported a total of 103 bookings into the jail during the month of March, for a daily average of 3.4

The Dispatch Center, which also serves as the enhanced 911 answering center, handled a total of 516 - 911 calls during the month. Non-911 calls were estimated at approximately 3,000. Exact figures are not available due to the fact that the computer system was down for a time for maintenance.

The Dispatch Center also handled 1,193 calls for other agencies, 319 calls for ambulance dispatch, and 55 fire service calls.

The Sheriff's Work Van logged a total of 850 work hours during the month of March. Work was performed at the following locations:
The Sheriff's Office and Courthouse
The Dickinson County Solid Waste Handling Facility
The Northern Lights YMCA
The Pine Mountain Ski Hill
The Almost Home Animal Shelter
The Dickinson County Historical Center and the Dickinson County Welcoming Center

The van's work crew also performed clean up operations at several County parks, and spent time picking up trash along County roads.

The information is included in the Sheriff's regular monthly report to the County Board of Commissioners.

 

Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini has once again raised the possibility of the installation by the City of a utility grade wind turbine for electrical generation. As it was the first time, the possibility was met with less than enthusiastic reaction by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, who said "if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it."

Alessandrini is proposing installation of a utility grade wind turbine on City-owned land on Pewabic Hill, in an effort to control electrical costs. Currently, the City spends around $28,000 a month on electrical power. Most of this goes into street lighting and pumping water out of the ground, both to feed the water distribution system, and pumping millions of gallons of water from the Hamilton Shaft, which keeps the West Side of the City from floating away.

Stanchina said that the City uses the bulk of it's electricity at night. He said statistics show that the winds die down at night. Alessandrini countered, saying that the City can sell the power generated by a wind turbine to the power company, thus reducing the City's electric bill.

A utility grade electrical generating turbine system can run from 1.2 million dollars for a two megawatt unit up to two million dollars for the largest five megawatt unit. The difficulty of the installation can also have a dramatic effect on the cost. Studies would have to be conducted to determine what size generator could be supported by the winds on Pewabic Hill. The largest size available, five megawatts, would eliminate the City's electrical bill and put it in the position of making a profit on power. A two megawatt unit, in an average installation with prevailing winds 50% of the time could easily produce as much as two-thousand dollars worth of electrical power daily, easily eliminating the City's power bill with perhaps a little left over.  Of course, all of this would depend on studies of the prevailing winds on the hill.

This time the Mayor's proposal did generate a good deal of interest and discussion, though no action was taken on the matter.

 

What to do with the City's aging, number two fire truck.

This became a major item of discussion at Monday night's City Council meeting, after the Council was informed by City Manager Jordan Stanchina that the cost of repairs to the truck's main pump had gone from $4,000 to $11,000.

The truck, originally built by Pierce, was recently taken to Red Power Diesel Services of Fremont, Wisconsin. This is apparently the only facility within this region capable of dealing with this model pump.

Originally it was believed that the only work needed on the pump was replacement of seals. However, upon disassembly, it was discovered that there was other internal wear damage to the pump, including to the main shaft. The new estimate on repairs, $11,000.

Had the City decided not to proceed with the repairs, they would have been left with a very large paperweight, as explained to the Council by Iron Mountain Director of Police and Fire Services, Ed Mattson. (Pictured above)

Mattson told the council that without the repairs, the truck would have no value since it could not be sold as a functioning fire truck. Mattson said that with the repairs, the City should be able to at least recoup the cost of the repairs, and perhaps make a few bucks in the process, if they indeed decide to sell the truck. The Council did decide to go ahead with the repairs.

The City is currently awaiting shipment of a new half-million dollar fire truck. No decision has yet been made on whether they will keep the truck in question after receiving the new unit. Mattson said that the Department does have room to house the unit.

 

The Iron Mountain City Council appears ready to make another attempt to move forward with a reconstruction program at the now abandoned Central Middle School building, after the first attempt failed to make the cut at the State level.

The project being proposed for the structure would transform the Central School into 28 apartment units, and construct 12 townhouses on vacant property to the north and east of Central School, and would be undertaken by the Commonwealth Companies.

The Commonwealth Companies develops, acquires, builds and manages multi-family properties in a variety of geographically, economically and socially diverse neighborhoods. Since 2001, Commonwealth Development Corporation has developed real estate holdings valued in excess of $136 Million.

Commonwealth will seek funding from Michigan State Housing Development Authority and use Historic Tax Credits to fund the project. MSHDA requires a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, commonly referred to as a "PILOT," as part of the funding process.

The PILOT program is based on a percentage of gross rents but cannot exceed what the ad valorem taxes would be, if assessed. Commonwealth has conveyed to the Infrastructure Committee that in order to make the project feasible, they are now requesting a payment of 12% of net revenue which is higher then the 10.32% from the previous funding round.

The major concern expressed earlier by the Board of Education is the fact that they can no longer afford to maintain the building, which over time will deteriorate to the point where it will be of no further use.

The proposed project would not only revitalize the building and add infrastructure to the surrounding area, but would assist the Board of Education in paying off existing debt.

Following lengthy discussion, some of it questioning the need for such low-cost housing, the Council did agree to schedule the matter for a public hearing. That hearing will be held in the Council chambers, at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, March 29. Anyone wishing to voice an opinion either way on the issue, or wanting further information, is invited to attend that hearing.

 

The future of Dickinson County's Ford Airport, and most other small rural airports, remains in doubt  today, as President Trump's budget works it's way through Congress.

Under the budget submitted by Trump, the EAS, or Essential Air Service grants to small airports would be ended.

These grants not only provide funding for airport maintenance and improvements, but provide the subsidies that are required to bring commercial flight service to these small facilities. It is highly unlikely that Ford Airport could maintain the current level of service without the EAS funding.

Other airports that would be affected include Houghton County, Delta County, Chippewa and Gogebic Counties. The only airport that would not be affected would be K.I. Sawyer, due primarily to it's designation as an international airport.

If the budget is approved as submitted, funding would officially end with the start of the new fiscal year.  However, Administration officials have indicated on National media that they will likely cancel some if not all of the existing projects.   Dickinson County has one such project in the pipeline.   There's no way of knowing at this point how, if at all, it may be affected.

 

The JC Penney Store in the Birchwood Mall in Kingsford will be one of 138 stores to be closed in another massive company cutback.

In addition to the Kingsford store, stores in Escanaba, the Soo, Houghton and in Marinette, Wisconsin will be closed.

The decision to close the stores was made several weeks ago, but the company withheld public announcement until all employees had been advised.

Following this round of closures, JC Penney will no longer have a presence in the Upper peninsula.

The company blames online shopping for the cutback in their brick and mortar presence.

 


 

What to do with the mentally ill. This is a question that has been plaguing local officials for the past several decades, ever since the effort in the 1980's to close most of the mental hospitals and treatment facilities.

As officials at the Federal, state and local level look for ways to reduce their jail populations, and perhaps provide a more humane means of handling the mentally ill, Dickinson County appears ready to join the effort.

The National Association of Counties, or NACO, has initiated a program called the "Stepping Up Initiative."  This program is aimed at reducing jail and prison populations, while at the same time providing the treatment for the mentally ill that is lacking in the correctional or prison systems.

At present, there are only two or three counties in the State of Michigan that have adopted this program, Marquette County being one of them.

The matter was brought to the floor at the Monday night meeting of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners by Commissioner Joe Stevens, (R - Dist 1), who said he has been interested in this initiative for some time.

Stevens comments came in support of a motion by Commissioner Ann Martin (R - Dist 2), calling for payment of membership dues of $522.00 to the NACO for membership for the year 2017. Stevens said he has been working with the group on the "Stepping Up Initiative," and that he is anxious to continue working with them. He said this is all about the future, looking at ways to reduce the jail population while providing the care that many of these individuals need. Stevens said, "It's time for state and Federal officials to realize, that we are going to have to go back to brick and mortar facilities, to provide facilities to house these individuals, instead of just piling them into jail cells and hospital bed."

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter agreed with Stevens that NACO membership would be a valuable resource, indicating that Marquette County had recently received a $250,000 grant to assist with the program, with the help of NACO. County Controller/Administrator, Brian Bousley, said that he felt the membership would be a valuable resource to his office as well.

The Board passed the motion unanimously , after Bousley indicated that there is money in the budget to fund the membership.

 

The Iron Mountain City Council on Monday night agreed to enter into an agreement with Great American Disposal and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which could result in the proper disposal of up to 2,000 scrap tires from the city.

Iron Mountain will receive a $4,000 grant from the DEQ, as will the Charter Township of Breitung. Sagola Township will receive $2,000. The grants are part of a $587,000 allotment by the DEQ, to get rid of unsightly and dangerous scrap tires. The tires not only provide a breeding place for mosquitoes, other insects and rodents, but also present a significant fire hazard.

The local grants were awarded as the result of applications submitted by Iron Mountain Zoning and Code Administrator, Steve Mulka.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that Great American Disposal has agreed to accept the tires at a fee of $2.00 per tire, meaning that the City will be able to dispose of as many as 2,000 tires.

Exact details have yet to be worked out. Stanchina said it is likely that the city will make the tire clean up part of it's Spring rubbish drop off. Details will be announced as soon as they have been worked out.

 

Dickinson County Mine Inspector Steve Smith has identified problems at several area mines, in his 2017 Mine Inspection Report to be delivered to the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting on Monday Evening.

The problems identified in this year's report deal primarily with the long-defunct Pewabic Mine, and the Fumee Lake Natural Area.

Smith said he has identified a number of problems that could pose significant danger if not addressed. Most of the problems deal with either natural or man-made damage to fencing surrounding some of the dangerous areas, while others deal with ground subsidence on or around old shafts.

Smith said in most cases the owners of the properties have been given 30 days in which to correct the problems. Other matters will be addressed over the summer, with the help of the Michigan DNR.

Where applicable, special measures are being taken, in conjunction with the DNR, to protect and enhance bat populations.

A good example of this would be in the Pewabic Shaft #1.  Smith reports that in this instance, a large "bat-friendly" enclosure now covers the shaft.   The fabricated tubular steel design prevents people from falling into the shaft, but allows bats to enter or leave during the hibernation season.  The enclosure is also equipped with a locked gate, which permits DNR personnel to enter the property for inspections and surveys.  Smith said this enclosure weighs in at about a ton, and is mounted into the stone with anchors, so there's not much chance that it's going to be moved.

 

The Iron Mountain City Council on Monday night appointed Nathan Zemar to an empty at-large Council seat. The seat was left vacant by the recent resignation of Councilman David Stohl.

Zemar, who has already filed his candidacy for one of the two at-large seats that will be filled in the election to be held later this year. City Manager Jordan Stanchina indicated that Zemar was the only applicant for the position, and that he does qualify for the post.

The newest Councilman will take his seat after being sworn in on Tuesday morning.

 

Work is continuing on the North Junction of Highways US-2/141/M95, in a project which is expected to be completed by November of this year.

Work officially began on Monday, April 24.

The project is located North of Iron Mountain in Dickinson County. The project will reconstruct the existing US-2/141/M-95 North Junction intersection, replacing the existing US-2 divided (boulevard) road section with a multi-lane pavement with center left turn lanes. Work includes reconstruction of the M-95 approach and new traffic signals.

 

Work is also underway replacing the decking on the bridge over the Bass Lake/Twin Falls Road. This will result in one-way traffic, so allow for delays.

The project also includes US-2 road rehabilitation from the state line easterly to the existing E&LS railroad overpass west of the intersection. Road rehabilitation includes concrete pavement repairs from the state line to Pine Mountain Road, and HMA cold milling and resurfacing from Pine Mountain Road easterly to the E&LS railroad overpass.

Construction is expected to be substantially complete by November 2017.

 

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has compiled his monthly report on departmental activities. That report is included in the County Board of Commissioners' agenda packet, and will be presented to the Board tonight (Monday).

Sheriff Rutter reports that the Road Patrol served 62 Civil Process Papers, Investigated 101 complaints, Handled 27 accidents, Issued 48 citations and 106 verbal warnings, Made 35 arrests including 13 for outstanding warrants, Made 104 property checks, Made five prisoner transports and three transports for mental health patients.

In addition the Sheriff reported:

Correctional Center


107 Bookings
Average daily population - 63.9
Average daily bookings - 3.6

Dispatch Center

476 - 911 Calls handled
2,842 - Non-911 Calls Handled
1,096 - Calls for other departments
292 - Calls for ambulance service
83 - Calls for fire service

Sheriff's Work Van

Individuals assigned to the Sheriff's Work Van logged 458 hours for the Month of April and worked at a variety of sites in the County, including:

The Sheriff's Office and Courthouse, The Dickinson County Landfill, The Northern Lights YMCA, Pine Mountain, The Almost Home Animal Shelter, The Dickinson County Historical Building, the Dickinson County Welcom Center, The Iron Mountain Senior Center, Several parks in the Cities and County, the Breen Senior Center, The Dickinson County Library, St. Barbara's Church, and several baseball fields in the County. In addition, the van workers picked up trash on a number of County Roads.

 

 


Iron Mountain police had a busy week-end. On Saturday, police became involved in a high-speed chase which started near the intersection of US-2 and H Street, just before 11:00 PM. The chase proceeded down H Street, then onto Carpenter Avenue (M-95), through Aurora and into Marinette County. There the occupants fled the vehicle into a wooded area. As of last report the occupants had not been captured. However, police do have the vehicle, and believe they have identified the driver. The matter will be referred to the prosecutor's office for possible criminal action.

Other agencies which became involved in the chase included the Dickinson, Florence and Marinette County Sheriff's Departments, as well as the Kingsford Public Safety and the Niagara Police Departments.

On Sunday, police arrested a 54-year-old woman who left the Iron Mountain Police Department in what was described as a "fit of rage," striking and damaging two police squad cars.

The woman, who has not yet been identified, was taken into custody, but has since been released, pending arraignment.

 

Iron Mountain's City Manager Jordan Stanchina reported Monday evening that the City Councils of Kingsford and Iron Mountain should expect to receive a requested from the Joint Sewer Authority to support the bond financing of the proposed Iron Mountain - Kingsford Wastewater Treatment Plant capital improvement project at the June 5th meetings.

Stanchina said that the resolution language is being generated by bond attorney Steve Mann of Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone, and is expected to be presented to the Joint Sewer Authority at its May 18th meeting.

Stanchina went on to say, "As previously discussed, the authority is requesting a $0.941 per 1000 gallon increase in its rates to support the project financing. This approval by the City Councils is required by USDA-Rural Development for the financing at this time, although the project engineering and bidding is not complete. The rate increase is not required to go into effect until prior to bidding, which is anticipated to be no earlier than August."

The City Councils of both Iron Mountain and Kingsford gave the green light to a project last August. The jointly owned wastewater treatment plant is located on the Menominee River near the Highway M-95 interstate bridge.

The recommended project is the result of a study by the Joint Wastewater Treatment Authority, operated by the two cities.

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 the cities and ordered them 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.

The estimated cost of the current project is $5.4 million.

 

Welcome to my first capital update. I’m very honored to be representing you in the State's House of Representatives, and am eager to help improve our way of life in the Upper Peninsula.

Since taking the oath of office, I have been assigned to four committees: Insurance, Judiciary, Energy, and Natural Resources as vice chair.

The Upper Peninsula contains almost one third of the total landmass in the state of Michigan and as we all know, the vast majority of that land is forest. That is why I’m very excited to be part of the Natural Resources Committee. I look forward to protecting our beautiful Northern Michigan, and defending our local units as they work with the Department of Natural Resources.

I also look forward to working with my colleagues on the Insurance Committee as we work to reduce auto insurance rates across the state, but especially in the Upper Peninsula. I asked for this committee because as many of us know there is a vast disparity between insurance rates in Wisconsin and Michigan. We need to lower rates to help hard working Michigan families.

Internship Bill

One of the first pieces of legislation I introduced was House Bill (HB) 4106, designed to make it easier for high school students to receive academic credit for internships or work experience outside the classroom. Far too often our students are being told that college is the only option after high school, but that is simply not true. There are many high paying jobs in the skilled trades industry that offer fulfilling and lifelong careers. Michigan especially is in desperate need of more people in these industries, and allowing them to start training early would be extremely beneficial. I have always believed that each child has a bright future, no matter the path they choose, and this bill helps to educate them that there are more options than attending college after high school.

Essential Air Services

The federal government helps guarantee that larger commercial airlines service smaller community airports like ours in Escanaba and Iron Mountain through the Essential Air Services program. Without this program, prices for airline tickets in and out of our airports would sky rocket, and likely lead to decrease commercial airliners in our area. This would also lead to less availability of the flights to a variety of destinations around the country.

Congress has a proposal to drastically cut essential air services throughout the nation including in the Upper Peninsula. Last month I introduced a resolution in the Michigan House that would formally ask Congress to keep the current funding levels in place. The resolution was referred to the House Policy Committee on Commerce and trade. I will keep you updated on this resolution in the future.

 

The National Weather Service has issued a flood alert for portions of Dickinson, Florence, Marinette and Menominee counties, along the Menominee River.

The alert covers areas near Kingsford, and near the Big Quinnesec Falls Dam.

As of 3:10 PM today (Thursday) the river flow at the Ford Dam in Kingsford was 6,772 cubic feet per second. At 8,000 cubic feet per second, flooding may impact some structures downstream.

The flooding concerns are the result of recent heavy rainfalls over a large area of the Menominee River watershed.

 

A fire of as yet undetermined origin completely destroyed the Mobile EZ Mart and the Burger King Restaurant, located next to Highway US-2 near the Walmart Store. 



 City of Iron Mountain firemen, and firefighters from the Charter Township of Breitung fire department were on the scene for over four hours Saturday afternoon.



The cause of the fire was not immediately known. According to authorities, when they arrived on the scene, the fire could be seen breaching the roof.  Shortly after, the entire structure became involved.  Officials said the attendant was able to escape the building unharmed.  However, three firemen were injured and treated and released at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital.  One Iron Mountain fireman sustain burns when he was momentarily trapped inside the collapsing structure.  Another was treated for smoke inhalation.  One Breitung Township fireman was treated for a hand injury.

 

Opening weekend for the Jake Menghini Museum will be June 2, 3, and 4, 2017. The museum invites you to begin our season of remembering the 1950’s. We have set up our center display in furniture and accessories of that era.
 

‘That’s my grandma’s kitchen table!”

That is what was said by a member of the museum's board of directors, when he came into the museum one day.

This Year’s Featured Display - Welcome back to the 1950’s.

The display in the center of the museum features a kitchen and living room from the era. Fun memories will touch your heart as look at the furniture and clothing from that era. One can picture the families sitting all together at the kitchen table have dinner together. The chairs were so comfy, but look how narrow the table seemed.


 

The living room and toy display bring back happy times of when we all watched the black and white TV and maybe had the bowl of popcorn. Board games were played by the entire family. The Anderson family had created a baseball game that many residents of the Norway-Vulcan area enjoyed playing at night you will see that on the floor in the living room.


 

Be sure to look in the dressmaker shop, you may find Elvis is in the building. The shop is loaded with clothing that will bring back memories to all of you.

As always, the rest of the main building has interesting displays and fun items to check out. Don’t forget to stop in the Odill home, the décor dates back to the 1800’s. With the ‘pop room’ featuring logging, mining, pop-making and the former medical doctors and hospitals of Norway.

The museum is open: Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during June, July, August, and September, for guided tours, between the hours of 1:00 - 4:00 PM.

Admission: Adults: $3.00 Under Age 18: Free

 

The City Councils of Iron Mountain and Kingsford are expected to approve resolutions at their Monday night meetings, giving the final go-ahead for a $5.47 million dollar project at the jointly-owned sewage disposal plant, located near the interstate bridge on Highway M-95.

Approval of these resolutions is pretty much a forgone conclusion, since in September of 2016, both City Councils supported the idea of making the improvements that were deemed necessary to the facility.

The total project cost is estimated to be $5.47 million and the project will be financed by a 2%, 40 year loan from the U.S. Rural Development Administration. The joint Sewage Authority has been working for some time to determine the most appropriate way to finance the project and it was determined this was the best option.

Rural Development requires a lengthy checklist to be completed. Gary Lessard, Manager of the facility, has been
working on that checklist for a number of months.

According to Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina, the Authority is now to the point where both City Councils need to adopt Resolutions Approving the Financing Contract and Authorizing Publication of Notice of Intent.

Approval by the City Councils will initiate a 45 day review period. The contract would not take effect until the expiration of the 45 days.

Rural Development requires the Sewer Use Rate to be adjusted based on the project estimate prior to bidding. The estimated project cost of $5.47 million will increase the rate by $7 per 1000 cubic feet or $.94 per 1000 gallons of usage. Though the cities of Iron Mountain and Kingsford use different measurement and billing methods, the amount of the increase will be exactly the same for residents of both cities.

The rate increase would need to be implemented shortly after the 45 day review period. It should be noted that the rate could be reduced if the bids come back lower than estimated.

 

The Kingsford City Council is expected to take one step closer to allowing the use of off-road-vehicles within the City, with the expected adoption of modifications to current City ordinances which specifically prohibit such operation.

If the Kingsford Council takes this step, it will put it in line with the City of Iron Mountain, which approved such action last year.

Under the proposed Kingsford ordinances, an ORV could be operated on any street or alley within the City of Kingsford, except on the Michigan State Trunkline (M-95/Carpenter Avenue).

ORVs will be allowed to operate inside the boundaries of any city park on designated access roads and parking lots in a safe manner and as posted.

An ORV may be parked on any street or highway within the city limits as permitted. They may also be parked on any public parking lot or on private property off of the roadway, with the property owner's permissions.

The restrictions on such operation are the same as those for the responsible operation of any motorized vehicle.

The Kingsford City Council will meet at 6:30 this (Monday) evening, in the Council Chambers of the Kingsford City Hall.

 

Dickinson County News requested information from UPCAP, regarding the effects of the proposed 2018 Trump budget on local services provided by that organization. There are many. The following analysis was provided by Jonathan Mead, President and CEO of UPCAP. Our thanks to Sandie Essendrup, Executive Director of the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency for her assistance.

 . . . . . . . . . .


Recently President Trump sent an outline to Congress of a FY 2018 budget that would dramatically alter the course of federal investments in both defense and non-defense discretionary funding. The “skinny” budget is an opening salvo to lawmakers, federal agencies and the country outlining the Trump Administration’s funding priorities. The budget does not contain many individual program line-items, so it is impossible to say exactly what funding levels the President proposes for many programs—including for Older Americans Act and other aging programs within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Administration on Aging (AoA).

However, overall, the budget increases defense programs by $54 billion by breaking current parity between non-defense (NDD) and defense discretionary programs, and slashing NDD programs by $54 billion overall. Top-line agency numbers in the Trump’s FY18 budget reflect deep cuts far below current budget caps and sequestration levels as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. We don’t know exactly how the Trump Administration proposes to divvy up proposed NDD cuts among many specific programs, but top-line agency allocations suggest deep and concerning cuts will be proposed later this spring. The budget delivered to Capitol Hill does not outline the Administration’s proposals for mandatory spending, such as Medicare and Social Security, or for federal revenue and tax proposals; that, too, will come in the next budget round.


What We Know and Don’t Know About Older Americans Act (OAA) and Other Aging Programs

 

President Trump proposed funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which houses the Administration for Community Living and its Administration on Aging, at $65.1 billion. This reflects a deep $12.6 billion cut (16.2 percent) from current funding. However, because the budget outline released today lacks many details on individual agency spending, we do not know exactly how this overall cut would affect most Older Americans Act programs. Roughly $10 billion of the overall cut to HHS comes from rolling back recent funding increases for the National Institutes of Health and from eliminating other block-grant programs.

President Trump proposed eliminating many workforce development programs including the OAA Title V Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP), housed within the Department of Labor. Last year, Senate appropriators targeted SCSEP for a $34 million cut to its $434 funding level, but the House lawmakers rejected that cut. The Trump budget would zero out the program entirely.

Within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the President proposed cuts to rental assistance programs, which could include Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly. Again, we don’t have details on exactly how these cuts would roll out, but overall HUD was slated for an 11.6 percent cut.


Other Key Programs Slated for Elimination


In addition to SCSEP, other programs on the chopping block that could affect services and support for older adults include the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which includes the Senior Corps programs such as Foster Grandparents and RSVP; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides financial assistance for utility bills; the Community Services Block Grant, which provides wrap-around services for older adults in many communities; and the Legal Services Corporation, which administers some elder justice programs.

Additionally, the budget would eliminate funding within HUD for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This $3 billion cut would eliminate CDBG funding to states to use for a variety of programs including a small amount that a few states and communities direct toward shoring up senior nutrition programs such as home-delivered meals. However, this cut does not mean that the federal home-delivered meals program under the Older Americans Act was slated for elimination. Those details are not available in the current budget blueprint, but news reports of the CDBG cut have led to confusion among advocates and the public.


What’s Next for the FY 2018 Budget


There is much to be concerned about in President Trump’s budget blueprint, and this budget clearly highlights the need for increased advocacy in every community. However, this is simply the first step in the budgeting process—and the Administration hasn’t even released its full budget outline, so it’s really a half step at this point

While the President’s budget does begin the annual process of setting spending levels for all discretionary federal programs, it is simply a starting point for conversations with Congress. Lawmakers will ultimately have to draft their annual funding bills and send to the President for approval. Furthermore, Congress hasn’t yet finalized funding for FY 2017, and current funding, which expires at the end of April, will have to take priority.

In the coming weeks, Congress will hold hearings on some components of the President’s recommendations, but we have heard early objections from House and Senate appropriators on both sides of the aisle about the level of overall NDD Cuts in the President’s budget.

 

Workmen have been busy lining up traffic direction barrels near the North Junction of Highways US-2/141/M95, preparing for Intersection reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Work will officially begin on Monday, April 24, though lane closures will not begin until the week of May 1.

The project is located North of Iron Mountain in Dickinson County. The project will reconstruct the existing US-2/141/M-95 North Junction intersection, replacing the existing US-2 divided (boulevard) road section with a multi-lane pavement with center left turn lanes. Work includes reconstruction of the M-95 approach and new traffic signals.

The project also includes US-2 road rehabilitation from the state line easterly to the existing E&LS railroad overpass west of the intersection. Road rehabilitation includes concrete pavement repairs from the state line to Pine Mountain Road, and HMA cold milling and resurfacing from Pine Mountain Road easterly to the E&LS railroad overpass.

Construction is expected to be substantially complete by November 2017.

 

As the April 22 Earth Day observance approaches, it’s a good time to appreciate our state-managed public lands for all they do to enhance quality of life in Michigan. The Department of Natural Resources manages 4.6 million acres of land for the public’s use and enjoyment, including state forests, game areas, recreation areas and parks. Aside from the high-value cultural, recreational and economic opportunities they provide, Michigan’s public lands have enormous impact on the quality of our environment and natural resources.

The lands reduce air pollution, protect water quality, provide flood retention and offer critical wildlife habitat. Like true heroes, they do their jobs without fanfare.

“People usually associate public lands with outdoor adventures such as camping, hiking or hunting,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “But they may not realize the tremendous natural benefits these spaces provide. Their contributions to the health of Michigan’s environment, natural resources and citizens are many. That’s why proper management of these valued public lands is so critical.”

Ways in which public lands improve our environment, natural resources and even public health include:

Pollution prevention. Forests and wetlands on public lands benefit the environment by serving as natural “purifiers.” For example, trees help reduce air pollution by absorbing pollutants and increasing oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Wetlands play a vital role by filtering pollutants from surface runoff, and breaking down fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants into less harmful substances.

Improved water quality. Tree roots hold soil together and soak up moisture, which enhances water quality and prevents erosion. In addition to filtering pollutants, wetlands improve water quality by recharging groundwater supplies when connected to underground aquifers. They also contribute to natural nutrient and water cycles.

Storm water management. In natural landscapes like forests, the soil absorbs water and pollutants resulting from runoff from hard surfaces such as driveways and parking lots. This is especially important in reducing flooding.

Wildlife habitat. Fields, forests, waterways and wetlands provide Michigan’s wildlife with the vibrant ecosystems they need to thrive.

Better health. Nature plays a huge role in the physical and emotional health of Michiganders. The ability of trees and grasslands to filter air pollution reduces negative health effects on people with respiratory ailments. Plus, state-managed public lands – offering trails, boat launches, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation options – provide any number of opportunities for exercise and fitness. Of course, trees, lakes and rivers offer calming effects that are emotionally gratifying as well.

Good stewardship. Michigan’s public lands promote good environmental stewardship. They allow for initiatives such as Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, which provide exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities through the world-class management of the state’s seven premier Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas. The DNR also is pursuing an innovative wetland mitigation program that harnesses public lands to help offset the loss of wetlands.

“We’re a cleaner, healthier Michigan because of our public lands,” Creagh said. “So much of what they do for us happens without notice. But Earth Day provides a good opportunity to appreciate all our state-managed public lands do for the citizens of Michigan.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Pictured above: Tahquamenon River fall forest: An aerial view of the Tahquamenon River and the surrounding Fall forest, a popular tourist destination in the Eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

 

This spring you’ll find DNR fish stocking trucks releasing their prized recreational cargo at hundreds of lakes and streams throughout the state.

Fish stocking is a valuable tool used by fisheries managers to restore, enhance and create new fishing opportunities in Michigan’s inland lakes and streams and the Great Lakes. The DNR’s Fisheries Division accomplishes this task by rearing fish at its six fish production facilities located throughout the state, cooperatively managing up to 46 rearing ponds and eight Great Lakes imprinting net pen locations, and maintaining a fleet of 18 specialized fish stocking vehicles.

Over the course of a typical year the DNR will stock roughly 26 million fish weighing nearly 350 tons, including eight species of trout and salmon and three coolwater strains of walleye and muskellunge. Beginning in mid-March and ending in early June, the DNR fish stocking trucks will travel well over 100,000 miles to stock between 700 and 1,100 locations.

Michigan anglers have access to four Great Lakes, 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams. That puts residents and visitors no more than 10 minutes away from quality angling opportunities and world-class fisheries.

Visit the DNR website www.michigandnr.com/fishstock for information on local fish stocking locations.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

You may see DNR fish stocking trucks, like the one pictured above, throughout the state in the coming months as they take precious cargo to be stocked in waterbodies across Michigan.

 

The Iron Mountain City Council on Monday night agreed to enter into an agreement with Great American Disposal and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which could result in the proper disposal of up to 2,000 scrap tires from the city.

Iron Mountain will receive a $4,000 grant from the DEQ, as will the Charter Township of Breitung. Sagola Township will receive $2,000. The grants are part of a $587,000 allotment by the DEQ, to get rid of unsightly and dangerous scrap tires. The tires not only provide a breeding place for mosquitoes, other insects and rodents, but also present a significant fire hazard.

The local grants were awarded as the result of applications submitted by Iron Mountain Zoning and Code Administrator, Steve Mulka.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that Great American Disposal has agreed to accept the tires at a fee of $2.00 per tire, meaning that the City will be able to dispose of as many as 2,000 tires.

Exact details have yet to be worked out. Stanchina said it is likely that the city will make the tire clean up part of it's Spring rubbish drop off. Details will be announced as soon as they have been worked out.

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved appointments to the Dickinson County Jury Board, the Dickinson County Road Commission, and the Dickinson County Planning Commission.

Appointed to a six-year term on the Jury Board, following some confusion over applications, was Mary Girard. The other candidate was Barb Oliver.
The vote was not unanimous. Voting for Girard were Commissioners Wender (R - Dist 4), Kramer (R - Dist 3) and Degenaer (D - Dist 5). Commissioners voting for Oliver were Stevens (R - Dist 1) and Martin (R - Dist 2).

There was no controversy in the appointment of two members to the County Road Commission, as there were only two applicants for the two available seats.
Appointed to the Road Commission on unanimous vote were: Dave Brisson and Ron Milbrath. Both will serve three year terms, expiring on April 30 of 2020.

There were three seats open on the County Planning Commission, but only one person applied. Sarah Bietila was appointed to a three year partial term, which will expire on February 28 of 2020.

 

(Pictured above, left to right:  Comm. Ann Martin, Comm. Joe Stevens, Chairman Henry Wender, Comm. Barb Kramer, Comm. John Degenaer and Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards)

 

Regular janitorial and cleaning services are now in place at the Dickinson County Courthouse, something that has been sorrowfully lacking for several years, since the County Board began undertaking massive budget reductions.

The County Board of Commissioners, on recommendation of County Controller Brian Bousley, agreed to a six-month trial contract with Trico Opportunities to provide janitorial and cleaning services for the Courthouse complex.

Bousley said that there will be a thirty-day "out" clause, should the County wish to terminate the contract at any point.

The Board agreed unanimously to the contract, which was put forth in a motion by Commissioner John Degenaer (R - Dist 5), Chairman of the County's Building and Grounds committee.

Following approval by the board, Bousley indicated that the services would begin today (Tuesday) at the Courthouse.

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night put a temporary hold on a request by Board member John Degenaer (D - Dist 5), asking for permission to borrow $12,500 for improvements at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds. Degenaer made the request on behalf of the Dickinson County Fair Board, which manages the fairgrounds.

The loan is being requested to facilitate assembly of a commercial steel building which had earlier been purchased by the Fair Board at a price of $40,000. Degenaer said that should the loan request be denied, the Fair Board may use existing funds for the project.

Degenaer stated a few facts in his request, indicating that the Fair Board has an excellent record of repaying loans that it takes out for the Fairgrounds. He said that since 2009, when virtually all State and County funding was taken away from the fair, the board has borrowed and repaid more than one-half million dollars for fairgrounds improvements, all while remaining "in the black."

Degenaer told the Commissioners that the Fair Board had received three responses to it's advertisement for loan bids:

The Community Federal Credit Union offered a rate of 2.54% over a ten year period, with additional loan costs.

Northern Michigan Bank offered 4.0% on a ten year loan, or 4.5% on a 15 year loan, with additional loan costs.

Upper Peninsula State Bank offered a rate of 3.228% on a 15 year loan, with no loan costs, but with a balloon payment at five years.

Board Chairman Henry Wender (R - Dist 4) said that while he was not opposed to authorizing the Fair Board to borrow the money, he did not feel comfortable voting on it without further review of the numbers. That sentiment was also voiced by Commissioner Barb Kramer, (R - Dist 3).

Wender said that the matter will be discussed at a Committee of the Whole Board meeting next Monday evening.

 

The Dagenais Foundation is supporting the YMCA 2017 Annual Campaign which provides programming and membership opportunities for all in the community and helps fulfill the YMCA mission that NO ONE is turned away.

In 2016 more than 450 youth, adults, seniors, veterans and family members were supported through the Annual Campaign.

Pictured above is Jonathan Ringel, Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center Director accepting a check from Wayne Phelps, General Manager with Riverside Auto Group in Iron Mountain.

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners will consider appointments to the County Jury Board, the County Road Commission and the County Planning Commission, when it meets in regular session on Monday evening.

There are two applicants for the one six-year term opening on the Jury Board. The two applicants for that position are Mary Girard and Barb Oliver.  This appointment is for a six-year term to expire on April 30 of 2023.

The Commissioners will have little problem choosing for the two three year terms on the County Road Commission, since there are only two applicants for those two seats. The applicants are Dave Brisson and Ron Milbrath.  These appointments are for three-year terms which will expire on April 30, of 2020.

While there are three openings on the Dickinson County Planning Commission, only one person has applied. The applicant for that seat is Sarah Bietila.   This appointment is for a partial three-year term, to expire on February 28, of 2020.

The County Board of Commissioners will meet at 6:00 PM on Monday, in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse.

 

Michigan's 109th District Legislative Representative Beau LaFave (R) is scheduled to appear before the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, when they hold their regular meeting on Monday evening.

LaFave has said that he intends to meet regularly with County Board and City Councils when the Legislature is not in session, in order to keep them informed as to Legislative actions that might affect them, and to hear their questions and concerns.

While there will likely be a number of items discussed, there is no doubt that the "Dark Store" issue will be uppermost in the mind of the County Board members.

The "Dark Store" issue, so-called because of the recent rulings of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, treating up-and-running stores as though they were vacant, for tax assessment purposes, is currently before the Michigan Legislature. The Tax Tribunal rulings have cost local units of government, particularly Dickinson County and Breitung Township, hundreds of thousand of dollars in property tax income, since the "Dark Store" is valued at much less than the way in which Big Box stores, such as Walmart and Home Depot, have previously been assessed. Owners of these properties have cried foul, saying they already pay other taxes based on their business activities, though little of that money is seen by the local governmental units. LaFave has said previously that he sees little hope of any type of corrective legislation making it through the Michigan Senate during the current term.

The Board of Commissioners will meet at 6:00 PM on Monday evening, in the Circuit Courtroom of the Dickinson County Courthouse.

 

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has issued his report, detailing his department's activity for the month of March.

Sheriff Rutter reported that the Road Patrol served 116 Civil Process papers, investigated 103 complaints, handled 11 accidents, issued 29 citations and 150 verbal warnings. In addition the Road Patrol reported 26 arrests, 157 property checks, and nine prisoner transports.

The Correctional Center was a busy place, as always, though the average daily census at the jail is down slightly to 68. Sheriff Rutter reported a total of 103 bookings into the jail during the month of March, for a daily average of 3.4

The Dispatch Center, which also serves as the enhanced 911 answering center, handled a total of 516 - 911 calls during the month. Non-911 calls were estimated at approximately 3,000. Exact figures are not available due to the fact that the computer system was down for a time for maintenance.

The Dispatch Center also handled 1,193 calls for other agencies, 319 calls for ambulance dispatch, and 55 fire service calls.

The Sheriff's Work Van logged a total of 850 work hours during the month of March. Work was performed at the following locations:
The Sheriff's Office and Courthouse
The Dickinson County Solid Waste Handling Facility
The Northern Lights YMCA
The Pine Mountain Ski Hill
The Almost Home Animal Shelter
The Dickinson County Historical Center and the Dickinson County Welcoming Center

The van's work crew also performed clean up operations at several County parks, and spent time picking up trash along County roads.

The information is included in the Sheriff's regular monthly report to the County Board of Commissioners.

 

Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini has once again raised the possibility of the installation by the City of a utility grade wind turbine for electrical generation. As it was the first time, the possibility was met with less than enthusiastic reaction by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, who said "if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it."

Alessandrini is proposing installation of a utility grade wind turbine on City-owned land on Pewabic Hill, in an effort to control electrical costs. Currently, the City spends around $28,000 a month on electrical power. Most of this goes into street lighting and pumping water out of the ground, both to feed the water distribution system, and pumping millions of gallons of water from the Hamilton Shaft, which keeps the West Side of the City from floating away.

Stanchina said that the City uses the bulk of it's electricity at night. He said statistics show that the winds die down at night. Alessandrini countered, saying that the City can sell the power generated by a wind turbine to the power company, thus reducing the City's electric bill.

A utility grade electrical generating turbine system can run from 1.2 million dollars for a two megawatt unit up to two million dollars for the largest five megawatt unit. The difficulty of the installation can also have a dramatic effect on the cost. Studies would have to be conducted to determine what size generator could be supported by the winds on Pewabic Hill. The largest size available, five megawatts, would eliminate the City's electrical bill and put it in the position of making a profit on power. A two megawatt unit, in an average installation with prevailing winds 50% of the time could easily produce as much as two-thousand dollars worth of electrical power daily, easily eliminating the City's power bill with perhaps a little left over.  Of course, all of this would depend on studies of the prevailing winds on the hill.

This time the Mayor's proposal did generate a good deal of interest and discussion, though no action was taken on the matter.

 

What to do with the City's aging, number two fire truck.

This became a major item of discussion at Monday night's City Council meeting, after the Council was informed by City Manager Jordan Stanchina that the cost of repairs to the truck's main pump had gone from $4,000 to $11,000.

The truck, originally built by Pierce, was recently taken to Red Power Diesel Services of Fremont, Wisconsin. This is apparently the only facility within this region capable of dealing with this model pump.

Originally it was believed that the only work needed on the pump was replacement of seals. However, upon disassembly, it was discovered that there was other internal wear damage to the pump, including to the main shaft. The new estimate on repairs, $11,000.

Had the City decided not to proceed with the repairs, they would have been left with a very large paperweight, as explained to the Council by Iron Mountain Director of Police and Fire Services, Ed Mattson. (Pictured above)

Mattson told the council that without the repairs, the truck would have no value since it could not be sold as a functioning fire truck. Mattson said that with the repairs, the City should be able to at least recoup the cost of the repairs, and perhaps make a few bucks in the process, if they indeed decide to sell the truck. The Council did decide to go ahead with the repairs.

The City is currently awaiting shipment of a new half-million dollar fire truck. No decision has yet been made on whether they will keep the truck in question after receiving the new unit. Mattson said that the Department does have room to house the unit.

 

The Iron Mountain City Council appears ready to make another attempt to move forward with a reconstruction program at the now abandoned Central Middle School building, after the first attempt failed to make the cut at the State level.

The project being proposed for the structure would transform the Central School into 28 apartment units, and construct 12 townhouses on vacant property to the north and east of Central School, and would be undertaken by the Commonwealth Companies.

The Commonwealth Companies develops, acquires, builds and manages multi-family properties in a variety of geographically, economically and socially diverse neighborhoods. Since 2001, Commonwealth Development Corporation has developed real estate holdings valued in excess of $136 Million.

Commonwealth will seek funding from Michigan State Housing Development Authority and use Historic Tax Credits to fund the project. MSHDA requires a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, commonly referred to as a "PILOT," as part of the funding process.

The PILOT program is based on a percentage of gross rents but cannot exceed what the ad valorem taxes would be, if assessed. Commonwealth has conveyed to the Infrastructure Committee that in order to make the project feasible, they are now requesting a payment of 12% of net revenue which is higher then the 10.32% from the previous funding round.

The major concern expressed earlier by the Board of Education is the fact that they can no longer afford to maintain the building, which over time will deteriorate to the point where it will be of no further use.

The proposed project would not only revitalize the building and add infrastructure to the surrounding area, but would assist the Board of Education in paying off existing debt.

Following lengthy discussion, some of it questioning the need for such low-cost housing, the Council did agree to schedule the matter for a public hearing. That hearing will be held in the Council chambers, at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, March 29. Anyone wishing to voice an opinion either way on the issue, or wanting further information, is invited to attend that hearing.

 

The future of Dickinson County's Ford Airport, and most other small rural airports, remains in doubt  today, as President Trump's budget works it's way through Congress.

Under the budget submitted by Trump, the EAS, or Essential Air Service grants to small airports would be ended.

These grants not only provide funding for airport maintenance and improvements, but provide the subsidies that are required to bring commercial flight service to these small facilities. It is highly unlikely that Ford Airport could maintain the current level of service without the EAS funding.

Other airports that would be affected include Houghton County, Delta County, Chippewa and Gogebic Counties. The only airport that would not be affected would be K.I. Sawyer, due primarily to it's designation as an international airport.

If the budget is approved as submitted, funding would officially end with the start of the new fiscal year.  However, Administration officials have indicated on National media that they will likely cancel some if not all of the existing projects.   Dickinson County has one such project in the pipeline.   There's no way of knowing at this point how, if at all, it may be affected.

 

The JC Penney Store in the Birchwood Mall in Kingsford will be one of 138 stores to be closed in another massive company cutback.

In addition to the Kingsford store, stores in Escanaba, the Soo, Houghton and in Marinette, Wisconsin will be closed.

The decision to close the stores was made several weeks ago, but the company withheld public announcement until all employees had been advised.

Following this round of closures, JC Penney will no longer have a presence in the Upper peninsula.

The company blames online shopping for the cutback in their brick and mortar presence.

 


 

What to do with the mentally ill. This is a question that has been plaguing local officials for the past several decades, ever since the effort in the 1980's to close most of the mental hospitals and treatment facilities.

As officials at the Federal, state and local level look for ways to reduce their jail populations, and perhaps provide a more humane means of handling the mentally ill, Dickinson County appears ready to join the effort.

The National Association of Counties, or NACO, has initiated a program called the "Stepping Up Initiative."  This program is aimed at reducing jail and prison populations, while at the same time providing the treatment for the mentally ill that is lacking in the correctional or prison systems.

At present, there are only two or three counties in the State of Michigan that have adopted this program, Marquette County being one of them.

The matter was brought to the floor at the Monday night meeting of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners by Commissioner Joe Stevens, (R - Dist 1), who said he has been interested in this initiative for some time.

Stevens comments came in support of a motion by Commissioner Ann Martin (R - Dist 2), calling for payment of membership dues of $522.00 to the NACO for membership for the year 2017. Stevens said he has been working with the group on the "Stepping Up Initiative," and that he is anxious to continue working with them. He said this is all about the future, looking at ways to reduce the jail population while providing the care that many of these individuals need. Stevens said, "It's time for state and Federal officials to realize, that we are going to have to go back to brick and mortar facilities, to provide facilities to house these individuals, instead of just piling them into jail cells and hospital bed."

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter agreed with Stevens that NACO membership would be a valuable resource, indicating that Marquette County had recently received a $250,000 grant to assist with the program, with the help of NACO. County Controller/Administrator, Brian Bousley, said that he felt the membership would be a valuable resource to his office as well.

The Board passed the motion unanimously , after Bousley indicated that there is money in the budget to fund the membership.

 

Sixty year-old Tomislav Momcilovic, of Quinnesec, remains hospitalized at this time, as authorities continue their investigation into a crash which killed a 54-year-old Wausaukee truck driver.

Authorities said that Momcilovic apparently pulled into the path of a semi-trailer truck being driven by Michael Wesolowski, of Wausaukee. The semi apparently rolled over several times. Both drivers had to be extricated from their vehicles.

Momcilovic was taken to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital. Wesolowski died of his injuries.

Mike Wesolowski worked for A & C Sawdust, Inc. as a truck driver. He was a member of the Wausaukee Fire Department, along with Wausaukee Rescue Squad and he was a Marinette County Auxiliary officer.  He leaves his wife, Lori, as well as two step-children and five grandchildren.

The Roubal Funeral Home of Wausaukee is assisting the family with arrangements.

The accident remains under investigation at this time by an Accident Reconstruction Unit of the Wisconsin State Patrol.   The crash occurred on Friday afternoon, shortly after 4:00 PM on Highway 101 near Fence, in Florence County.

The Florence County Sheriff's Department was the lead investigator at the scene.

(Photo courtesy of Roubal Funeral Home of Wausaukee)

 

The Iron Mountain City Council is expected to approve a proposal on Monday evening, that will amend the City's overnight parking ban, removing the month of April from that ban.

The overnight parking ban is intended to facilitate snow removal during the overnight hours, allowing plows to work in an unobstructed field. However, in recent years, April snowfalls have been rare, and when it has snowed, the snow has often melted before the plows can even get around to removing it.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina told the Council that the April ban is creating problems, in that it is forcing residents to park their cars in the areas between the sidewalks and the roadways. Once that area begins melting, long-term damage can be done to the lawns and even to the underground infrastructure.

The change in the ordinance is expected to be approved with little, if any, further discussion, as it has already passed the scrutiny of a public hearing.

If approved the change will take effect in 30 days, meaning that parking on the streets will still be prohibited from April 1 until April 6.

Should a heavy snowfall occur, residents will be expected to cooperate to assist City Crews in clearing snow.

The Council is also expected to approve a change to the City's Zoning Ordinance, which will make it easier for property-owners to apply for variances.   This matter too has already undergone the public hearing process.

 

Investigation is underway today by officials of the Wisconsin State Patrol, into an accident which claimed the life of a 54-year-old Wausaukee man, who was killed while driving a semi-trailer truck on Friday on Highway 101 in Florence County.

According to officials, the semi was traveling South on Highway 101 near Fence, when another vehicle, driven by a 60-year-old Quinnesec man, pulled into his path. The truck driver died as the result of injuries sustained when the semi he was driving rolled over as a result of the accident.

Both the truck driver and the driver of the other vehicle, a passenger car, had to be extricated from their vehicles. The Quinnesec man was taken to Dickinson County Memorial Hospital. His condition is unknown at this time.

Highway 101 was closed for several hours after the crash, but has since reopened.

 

It appears that all the T's have been crossed and all the I's have been dotted, and the Commercial Rehabilitation District is about the become a reality in the City of Iron Mountain. All that's left now is approval by the City Council, and that's expected to happen on Monday evening.

It's taken a while to get to this point, since City Manager Jordan Stanchina first started pushing the proposal along more than six months ago.  The final hurdle was passed at the last meeting of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, which gave it's unanimous approval to the project, which could not have proceeded without that approval.

What the program does is give tax breaks to business and commercial owners who are willing to invest money in an existing business or start a new business within the Rehabilitation District. Those businesses that qualify can reduce their City taxes by adding to or improving their existing properties. But the most favor will be given to those who are able to create additional employment. The tax abatement applies only to new investment, and will not affect the rate being paid prior to the improvements. Only City taxes are involved. This will not affect taxes being paid to the County, the Schools, or other entities.

The full text of the criteria for qualification for the abatement is available at the City of Iron Mountain Website at: www.cityofironmountain.com

One of the first beneficiaries of the new program is expected to be the Solberg's Greenleaf's Sports Bar on Carpenter Avenue. Ed Felton, operator of the facility, appeared before the City Council at it's special meeting on February 27th, inquiring as to whether the $300,000 improvement project that he has undertaken would qualify. He was assured that it would. Felton was told that he would be able to meet with the City Manager and set up an application as soon as the criteria had been drawn up and approved.

The action is expected to be taken at the Council's regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 Monday evening in the Council Chambers of the Iron Mountain City Hall.

 

 

The Iron Mountain City Council is expected to honor three retiring employees with resolutions of appreciation, when they hold their regular meeting on Monday evening.

One of the resolutions to be adopted honors Police Department Deputy Director, Michael Mooney.
Mooney will retire after 25 years and 1 day of service to the city.

Another of the resolutions honors Fire Department Engineer, Perry Tomkins. Tomkins is retiring from the Fire Department after 25 years of service.

The third resolution will honor Public Works Sewerman II Michael Barlow. Barlow will retire after ten years and ten days of employment with the City.

The Council will hold one of it's two regularly scheduled monthly meetings at 6:30 PM on Monday in the Council Chambers of the Iron Mountain City Hall.

 

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners on Monday evening approved the payment of just under $100,000 to senior citizen projects in the County.

The money is part of the funds collected by the levy of one mil of property taxes on the residents of Dickinson County. The money is collected specifically for the operation of the senior citizen projects.

The Board approved the second of four annual payments to the Dickinson Iron Community Services Agency. That payment was in the amount of $59,889.

The Iron Mountain Senior Center received it's annual allocation totaling $39,144.

 

 

Things are falling into place as the City of Iron Mountain works toward the establishment of tax rebates for business owners who improve their property.

The City Council officially established the boundaries of the district last week. The Rehab District will follow the same boundaries as the Downtown Development District.

This week, at it’s regular meeting on Monday, the County Board of Commissioners gave it’s OK for the district.

This was good news for the Iron Mountain Council, which was meeting in special session Monday evening to hear public comment on the City’s five year recreation plan.

However, it quickly became clear that a lot of tweaking still needs to be done before the plan is ready for implementation.

Councilman Bill Revord continued questioning the criteria for the plan. Generally, Revord believes that the plan will have little effect since the criteria will be likely to discourage business owners from taking part. Revord, a former business owner himself, told the council that he felt it was unlikely that business owners would rush to make investments just to get a one or two year tax break.

Businesses can actually qualify for up to ten years of abatement, but there is a laundry list of terms and conditions that must be met. Other questions swirled over how the situation might be handled if a so-called “big box” store were to apply for a rebate.

No action was taken by the Council regarding criteria and qualifications at the Monday meeting. The matter will now go back to committee for another look at the qualifications.

In the meantime, application forms will be put together, and business owners may begin applying as soon as the forms become available.

While the details are still a bit fluid, the full text of the proposal, as it currently stands, can be found at the City of Iron Mountain website at: www.cityofironmountain.com

Incidentally, the Five Year Recreation Plan was approved unanimously by the Council, with no public comment.

 

 

Amid confusion and some objections, the Iron Mountain City Council on Monday went on record establishing the boundaries for the Commercial Rehabilitation District to be established within the City.

Some of the business and property owners present objected to adoption of the plan, feeling that the City had not provided them with enough information.

Councilman Bill Revord said he felt that there were so many regulations involved that nobody would be in a position to apply. He objected primarily to the stipulation that a business would have to invest at least $85,000 in order to qualify. Revord said that’s a lot of money to invest, just to get a tax break for a couple of years.

City Manager Jordan Stanchina said that was only one way of earning tax credit, going through a list of different requirements for different levels of tax relief. The major benefits would go to those who are able to create additional jobs.

The plan, being pushed by City Manager Jordan Stanchina, is intended to try to breathe some life back into the City’s ailing downtown commercial district. It would roll back City taxes on new investment for up to ten years, in an effort to encourage investment.

While there appears to be little, if any, opposition to the plan, it was obvious that everyone wants more information before proceeding, and they will have that.

The Council proceeded to approve a resolution detailing the boundaries of the district, which are the same as those of the Downtown Development District.

The exact requirements and qualifications for the program have yet to be worked out. The Council will hear input on the matter next Monday evening at 6:30, at a previously scheduled meeting.

Final action on the complex qualifications is expected to be taken ay the Council’s next regular meeting on March 6.

In the interim, the clock will be ticking on the 28 days that the County Board of Commissioners has to consider the matter. Manager Stanchina indicated that he has met with the Board, and that the members he met with appear receptive to the plan.

Anyone wishing specific details on the plan should visit the City of Iron Mountain’s website at:  www.cityofironmountain.com

 


Iron Mountain will move to a new software supplier, as the City upgrades the fleet management software at the Department of Public Works.

The fleet management software is vital when an entity operates a large number of vehicles. The program can be used to monitor everything from routine maintenance to daily usage, fuel consumption, etc.

The software currently in use is badly outdated and apparently is no longer being supported by the publisher, CFA.

Replacing this same software with an upgraded version would be prohibitively expensive, according to City Manager Jordan Stanchina. Stanchina said that after checking with other municipalities, they decided to try a software system called iWorQ, which was recommended by several other cities.

Acting DPW Supervisor Scott Thomas received a trial version of the iWorQ software. Stanchina said that after several weeks of testing by the City's Motor Pool staff, the software appears to be working well and is very user friendly.

Unlike the restrictive nature of the CFA program, which can only be installed on a single computer, the iWorQ system is cloud based, which will allow multiple authorized users to access the data from multiple locations.

The iWorQ system will save the City money. Whereas the CFA system required an up-front payment of $15,000, with annual fees of $995.00, the iWorQ system will require a one-time up-front payment of $950.00 for software setup and data conversion, then an annual fee of $1,900.

Based on the recommendations of the Manager and the acting DPW Supervisor, the Council unanimously agreed to enter into a contract with iWorQ.

 


Faced with warming and shorter Winters, the Iron Mountain City Council will consider removing the month of April from the Winter parking ban.

This would put Iron Mountain in line with Kingsford and Norway where the parking ban ends at the end of March.

The current ban prohibits overnight parking on all City streets in order to facilitate snow removal. However, as Spring appears to be arriving a bit earlier these days, the April ban is causing problems.

City Manager Jordan said that in many cases, the only alternate parking people have available is on the boulevards, or the property immediately adjacent to the streets. This works fine when the ground is firmly frozen, but causes serious damage to these unpaved areas when they begin to thaw. That thawing seems to be occurring earlier each year.

Stanchina said that in recent years, even when there has been a snowfall in April, the snow has melted and plowing has not been necessary.

The question will be scheduled for a public hearing on March 6. If the Council decides to proceed, this would allow the change to take place on April 3.

 

 

Elections are something that many of us take for granted. They just seem to happen. We cast our vote and a few hours later somebody tells us who won.

That all seems to be changing however, with accusations of voter fraud being voiced almost daily in the National media. Voters seem far more concerned than in the past over whether they can trust the results of those elections.

We decided to get to the bottom of a few of the questions that we’ve heard by asking the lady with the answers, Dickinson County Clerk, Dolly Cook.

Clerk Dolly Cook has been supervising elections here since 1990. Initially school elections were handled separately, but in recent years those elections too have come under the jurisdiction of the County Clerk.


DC NEWS: Many of the questions being raised are in regard to voter registration. Who is responsible for voter registrations in Dickinson County?

CLERK COOK: The cities of Iron Mountain and Kingsford and Breitung Township maintain their own voter registration or qualified voter records. This office handles those records for the other six townships and for the City of Norway.

DC NEWS: One perceived problem is that of dead people voting, or more correctly, fraudulent voters assuming the identities of deceased voters. Is this really an issue?

CLERK COOK: Our office is also responsible for all death records in the County, so it’s a fairly simple matter for us to keep our records up to date. We supply copies of the respective records to Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Breitung Township on a monthly basis so they can keep their records up to date. The problem is that when voters pass away elsewhere, we very often get no official notification.

DC NEWS: So, what does happen to those registrations?

CLERK COOK: We try to keep on top of this but right now there is no reliable system in place. There have been proposals that would let the Social Security Administration share that information with us. In the meantime we’ll just do the best we can.

DC NEWS: Are you confident that no dead people have been voting in Dickinson County?

CLERK COOK: I’m completely confident that no dead people have voted in Dickinson County. Our poll workers will require every voter to show a valid ID, even if that voter is their mother.

DC NEWS: So you are completely confident that only properly registered voters vote in Dickinson County elections?

CLERK COOK: As sure as anyone can reasonably be. Identification is carefully checked for each voter. In many cases poll workers know most of the voters in their precinct. It would be very risky to try to vote under someone else’s name since this is a serious crime. Individuals who don’t have proper identification can still vote by filling out an affidavit. But here again, falsification or misrepresentation is a serious crime.

Certainly if anyone attempted to bus a lot of unqualified voters into one of our precincts, it would be noticed and people would likely end up in jail.

DC NEWS: How many poll workers do you have to round up for an election?


CLERK COOK: We train between 130 and 150 poll workers twice a year for the even year elections. If there are changes in the law or if we get new equipment, we will provide additional training accordingly. We use a combination of videos, power point presentation and written material in training. Each poll worker receives a booklet which I call their “election bible,” and we discuss all of the material in that booklet.

DC NEWS: With so many poll workers in the field, how can you be sure that they’re doing their jobs the way they’re supposed to.

CLERK COOK:
That starts with the training.  The training itself is quite tedious.  I've been doing this for a long time, so it would be fairly easy to tell during the training sessions if someone was not taking the job seriously and they would be eliminated at that point.  Then, every poll worker is administered an oath before going on duty. Since some work only part of the day, all workers are sworn in as they report for duty. The Board of Canvassers will verify that every worker was sworn in.

DC NEWS: So you are confident that Dickinson County elections are honest and reliable?

CLERK COOK: Absolutely. While no system is perfect, we do everything reasonably possible to insure the integrity of our elections. Our poll workers are all hard-working, well-trained individuals who take their jobs very seriously.

Of course there is always the remote possibility that an unqualified voter could slip through the cracks, but it’s highly unlikely.

Overall I think we do an excellent job of handling elections here in Dickinson County. While there are always minor glitches in something as chaotic as an election, I’m very proud of the job my election workers do, and I have complete confidence in the results they produce.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s always room for improvement and we constantly look for better ways to do things. One thing we could certainly use is new voting machines. I understand that the State is upgrading the machines. We’re hoping to have them in place in time for the next election.

 

The Dickinson County Clerk's Office and Register of Deeds are under the leadership of Dolly L. Cook. Dolly was first elected Dickinson County Clerk & Register of Deeds in 1990. She was re-elected in the November 8, 2016 General Election to what she says will be her last term.

Upon completion of her current term she will have served 30 years in the office.

The County Clerk/Register of Deeds is an elected position with 4-year terms.

By Michigan statute, the County Clerk is the 'keeper of records' for the citizens of Dickinson County. The County Clerk is responsible for the recording, maintenance and preservation of all Dickinson County vital records from 1891 to the present.

In addition to recording, maintaining and preserving the vital records of Dickinson County, the County Clerk also oversees County Payroll and Accounts Payable, and is responsible for processing and maintaining voter registration records.

The County Clerk also serves as:

Administrator of Elections
Register of Deeds
Clerk for the County Board of Commissioners
Clerk for the County's Election Board of Canvassers
Clerk for the 41st Circuit, The Family Court and the Probate Court
Clerk for the County Plat Board
Clerk for the County Reapportionment Board
Clerk for the County Election Commission
Clerk for the Special Elections Scheduling Committee

 

 

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners this week approved a major replacement and upgrade to the Sheriff’s Department’s IT data system.

The department’s current system is still functioning satisfactorily, but is missing one vital component --- a backup system.

This server is the backbone of the Sheriff’s IT systems, including report filings, booking records and access to the Law Enforcement Information Network, or LEIN.

While the new server will provide expanded capabilities as more and more functions become computer and internet based, it will also free up the current system for repurposing as a backup system.

The lack of an adequate backup system is a major flaw in the current setup, as explained to the Commissioners by the Deputy County Emergency Services Director, Pete Schlitt. Schlitt told the board that if the current stand-alone server were to fail, it could take days or weeks to restore it, and some of the data could be lost forever.

After being assured by Controller/Administrator Brian Bousley that funds for the purchase are available in the budget, the Board voted unanimously to go ahead with the server upgrade.

The upgrade will be performed by Tech Solutions, which currently services and supports the Sheriff’s IT department.

Total cost of the project, including the reprogramming and relocation of the current system is expected to be approximately $15,000.


 

 


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

 

 

 

 

 

Sky West, an affiliate of Delta Airlines, will begin operating on a new schedule at the County-owned Ford Airport in Dickinson County beginning on February 18th.

The new schedule provides for seven non-stop weekly round trips to Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, and six weekly non-stop trips to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

For providing this service, Sky West will receive an operating subsidy of $3,924,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration. Sky West is the commercial carrier currently serving the Dickinson County area. Only the schedule will change. The new schedule includes two daily departures; the first at 10:30 AM to Detroit Metropolitan International Airport and the second at 4:30 PM to the Wold Chamberlain International Airport in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Sky West was one of two carriers recommended to the County Board of Commissioners. The other proposal was submitted by Choice One, which proposed 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, at a requested Federal subsidy of more than 4.5 Million dollars.

The Board chose the proposal submitted by Sky West. They will continue serving Dickinson County with the 50 seat CRJ-200 regional jet aircraft.

Local commercial flyers are likely to see improvements at the local airport, as it once again qualified for Federal funding. Boardings well exceeded the 10,000 target last year. 10,000 boardings is the target, since that is the cut-off point for much of the Federal funding that the airport receives. Actual figures for 2016: 11,244 boardings and 10,522 arrivals. Incoming freight for the year totaled 543,861 pounds, and outgoing freight 376,195 pounds.

 

 

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter has released his department's activity report for the month of January. The report will be presented to the County Board of Commissioners at it's regular meeting on Monday evening.

The Sheriff reported that the Road Patrol served 80 civil process papers, investigated 90 complaints, handled 25 accidents, issued 30 citations and 75 verbal warnings, made 25 arrests and 133 property checks.

The Correctional Center reported a total of 109 new inmates booked during the month. That's an average of 3.5 bookings per day. Average jail population during January was 76 inmates.

The enhanced 911 Dispatch Center was as always, a busy place. Dispatchers handled a total of 342 911 calls, 2,800 non-911 calls, 947 calls for other law enforcement agencies, 321 calls for ambulance service and 48 calls for fire services.

The Sheriff's Work Van provided a total of 315 hours for the month of January, serving a wide variety of local causes. The van provided assistance during January to the following agencies: The Dickinson Iron County Community Services Agency, the Dickinson County Landfill, the Northern Lights YMCA, the Cornish Pump and Mining Museum, the Almost Home Animal Shelter, the Caring House, and the County Historical Building.

 

 

 

New software installed in the City of Kingsford's accounting department is performing well, according to a report received by the City Council at it's meeting on Monday evening.

The information was contained in a memo to the Council, from Nicole Stanchina, an administrative assistant in the City's accounts payable department.

According to the report, the new software, supplied and supported by BS&A Software Developers, went into operation on January 16. After a few initial glitches, the software is now performing well as employees become familiar with it's operation. The new software will allow the creation of more detailed and tailored reports and summaries to the City Council, which must make decisions on millions of dollars worth of expenditures each year.

BS&A Software Developers are headquartered in Bath Township in Lower Michigan. The company specializes in developing software for Michigan's municipalities.



 

 

The on again / off again project to convert Iron Mountain’s vacated Central Middle School into low cost housing is stalled for the time being, as the project failed to make the cut when State tax credits were handed out.

In his report to the City Council, City Manager Jordan Stanchina wrote:

"As you are aware, MSHDA did not approve the Central School Project submitted by
Commonwealth Development. Their project self scored at 116 points and MSHDA awarded
projects that had 125 to 129 points. It should be noted that an approved PILOT would have added an additional 5 points to their score for a total of 121. Even with the PILOT their point total would have been short of the successfully awarded projects. In an email from Mr. Ritchay, he indicated that funding for this type of project would be very difficult for the October funding round and would have a much better chance in the April round."

In a response to inquiries from Councilman Kyle Blomquist, David Ritchay, Project Developer for Commonwealth Development, explained the process:

"I am not surprised that the project was not awarded funding this round. MSHDA has one year to allocate Michigan's per capita allotment of tax credits. They make allocations/awards in two rounds. Nonsensically, the first round is October and the second round is April. They competitively rank applications by Category (Central School competes in the Open Category against other new construction family and senior developments). MSHDA also has to satisfy statutory requirements and fund projects that will meet certain, Set Asides (Non-profit, Senior, Rural). MSHDA's unwritten policy is to award projects from the October round based solely on competitive Category ranking. They will then try and assign funded projects to a Set Aside. In the April round, MSHDA will use more discretion to award projects in order to fulfill Set Asides, irrespective of Category ranking."

Ritchay went on to say:

"I believe that a Central School application will have two advantages in the April round. I anticipate the majority of the Rural Set Aside will need to be satisfied by the April round. If I recall, we were the highest scoring Rural project in the Open Category and Rural applications in other Categories had small credit requests. The scoring criteria favors larger, urban markets; so, the April round may not see new, Rural applications in the Open Category. The second advantage is that Central School's credit request is relatively small compared with other Open applications."

The Council has thus far been unwilling to commit to the PILOT (Payment in lieu of taxes) program mentioned in the email, though variations on that request are still under consideration. It is expected that some type of agreement will be reached between the City and Commonwealth. At present the City is deriving zero income from the property, since it is owned by the Iron Mountain School District. In an earlier address to the Council, Ritchay stressed that left vacant, the building will deteriorate over time, and will eventually become unusable.

Richey indicated that he is planning a trip to Iron Mountain in the near future, and will meet with City officials again at that time .

 

 

 

 

COUNCIL GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO COMMERCIAL REHABILITATION DISTRICT PROPOSAL - - - ONE HURDLE REMAINS:

The Iron Mountain City Council has moved the matter of the establishment of a commercial rehabilitation district in the city one step close to fruition, when it approved the scheduling of a public hearing.

The hearing will be held on February 20th at 6:30 PM, in conjunction with the regular Council meeting scheduled for that night.

The driving force behind this effort has been City Manager Jordan Stanchina.

Here’s how it would work – Commercial entities that qualify would receive a tax break on any additions or improvements to their property that would result in a tax increase. The matter of who would qualify for the tax break, and how big a tax break they would receive would be determined by a rather complex set of rules. The largest credits would appear to go to those who are able to create the most new jobs.

City Manager Stanchina has been working on this matter for at least five months. The matter was first formally discussed by the Council on November 18th.

Under the proposed ordinance, all taxes (67.4306 mills) except School Operating (17.937 mills) and State Education Tax (6 mills) would be abated on real property, excluding land, with the certificate. Abated millage attributable to the City would be City Operating (17.4488 mills), Police and Fire Pension (3.3321 mills), and D.D.A. (1.5 mills). The abatement is only on the additional taxable value created by the rehabilitation. Full taxes are still paid on the amount of taxable value which existed prior to the rehabilitation.

The action being proposed by Stanchina is authorized under Michigan Public Act 210 of 2005, known as the Commercial Rehabilitation Act.

It is expected that following the hearing on the 20th, the Council will vote to proceed with the establishment of the district. At that point, the matter would move to the County Board of Commissioners. Under State Statute, the Board would have to act on the question within 28 days.

Manager Stanchina said that he has already met with the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, and that the Board appears receptive to the plan.

Final tweaks are still being applied to the proposed ordinance, prior to the February 20th hearing.

 

 

 

FORMER DICKINSON COUNTY SHERIFF ASSUMES SEAT ON THE IRON MOUNTAIN CITY COUNCIL - - - Scott Celello, who ended a 30 year stint with the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department on December 31, is back to public service again, as he assumes an at-large seat on the Iron Mountain City Council.

Celello was welcomed to the Council by Mayor Dale Allesandrini, as well as by the other members of the Council. However, his appointment to the seat did not come without controversy, as the result of an editorial published in a local paper questioning the propriety and methodology of the appointment.

Responding to that editorial, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said there was absolutely nothing improper or unusual about Celello's appointment. As required by the Charter, the Council vacancy was advertised and three individuals applied. Two of the three did not meet the legal requirements for the position, leaving Celello as the only qualified applicant for the appointment. Stanchina said the Council is required to fill a vacant seat within 30 days of it being declared vacant.

Celello's appointment was made at a special meeting of the City Council, held on Thursday, January 26. He fills an at-large Council seat vacated by the resignation of Brad Coe. In moving to approve Celello's appointment, Mayor Dale Allesandrini said he felt that Celello would be an asset to the City Council.  His appointment was approved unanimously by the Council.

 



 

 

STATE SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN "BIG BOX STORE" ORDER


The Michigan Supreme Court appears ready to at least take a look at the Big Box
Store tax issue, after it handed down an order today calling on both sides in the dispute to present more information to the Court. 

Dickinson County has been hard hit by this issue, after several businesses including Home Depot and the Verso Paper Mill in Quinnesec have seen sharp reductions in their tax bills as the result of rulings by the Michigan Tax Tribunal.  he case before the court deals with a decision made last year by the State Court of Appeals, in which they sided with the City of Escanaba in a valuation dispute with the Menard's store there. 

Today's Court order is not likely to have any effect on the Dickinson County situation, since it appears to deal specifically with the Menard's case.  The Court did not indicate any type of schedule for any possible future rulings on the matter.

 


 

LAFAVE SAYS HE'LL WORK TO BRING AUTO INSURANCE RATES DOWN IN MICHIGAN

 


State Representative Beau LaFave (R-108th District) says he's going to work to bring insurance rates down in Michigan, where drivers now pay some of the highest rates in the country. 

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Michigan drivers paid almost twice as much in auto insurance premiums in 2014 as neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.  The reasoning behind these increased premiums can vary between Michigan residents being required to have auto insurance and having a no fault policy that isn’t affordable to every family.   

“If you’re a two car family in Michigan, you are going to pay on average $2,700 a year as opposed to our friends south of the border in Wisconsin; they’re paying a little higher than $1,400. That is a big difference for border counties like Dickinson and Menominee county,” said LaFave. 

One and a half million drivers across the state of Michigan either have no insurance or are insured through another state.  Ever since the introduction of the auto no-fault insurance, a gradual increase has been seen in auto insurance premiums across the state. 

LaFave serves on the insurance committee for the Michigan House of Representatives and is concerned with the unlimited cap for medical benefits when someone gets into an accident.  "Michigan is the only state in the country that requires drivers to purchase unlimited, lifetime medical benefits with their auto insurance policy," said LaFave.  He's hoping to change that is hoping to change this and give more flexibility to Michigan auto insurance users. 

“My proposal is not to cut benefits that they paid for.  My proposal is to take care of those already enrolled in the catastrophic claims area but also look forward allowing Michiganders to choose, to have the freedom to choose whatever benefits they prefer,” said LaFave.  According to the Representative, one of the main priorities of the insurance committee is to work on a no fault insurance reform bill in the near future.