By NIKKI YOUNK
IRON MOUNTAIN - The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners has passed a balanced budget for 2013, but not without controversy.
Several members of the public, as well as one board member, believed that the county should not cut funding to Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), which provides educator services and a 4-H program to the county.
The board had originally proposed to completely eliminate office space and full-time support staff for MSUE. Under a new plan, the board has agreed to provide office space at an undetermined location, possibly in Norway, and funding for at least half-time staffing.
Still, county funding to MSUE will decrease from $110,788 in 2012 to $68,340 in 2013.
Lucy Shampo of Iron Mountain addressed the board during its Monday meeting, saying that 4-H has supported the youth of Dickinson County for years.
"I believe it's the only youth program in your budget," she added. "I'm afraid this (cut) is a continued move in that direction (to eliminate the program)."
Gerald McCole of Channing then asked why the county would kick MSUE out of its current space in the Crystal Lake building when they pay $28,870.80 in annual rent.
Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. was the only board member to vote against the 2013 budget. He said that he felt strongly about the MSUE cut.
Other commissioners noted that the cut was a difficult, but necessary, decision to make.
"I'm still very regretful about reducing the clerical position that serves 4-H and Camp Molinare," said Commissioner Ann Martin. "I wish we could find the money."
Commissioner Frank Smith pointed out that the board also had to make cuts in other areas, and it shows in the contingency fund.
"We're like a household that doesn't have anything set aside if the furnace goes out," he said.
Dickinson County's total budget for 2013 is $8.79 million.
In other business, the board:
- Approved to exempt Dickinson County from the requirements of Public Act 152 for 2013. The act requires local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of employees' health insurance.
County Controller Kay Pascoe said that the county paid 90 percent in 2012 and will pay 85 percent in 2013. The county will be in compliance with the law in 2014, when it will pay 80 percent.
- Released the final 2012 appropriation to Northpointe in the amount of $49,815. Martin noted that the appropriation is required by law.
- Released the 2012 appropriation to the Dickinson Partnership in the amount of $6,000.
- Ratified the appointments of Dr. Al Fulks and Adam St. John to the Dickinson County Hospital Board of Trustees. Each term is four years.
- Heard from Andy Hay of Integrated First Response air ambulance service. Hay thanked the board for its help over the past year.
- Thanked Smith for his years of service on the board. In addition, the city of Kingsford presented Smith with a resolution recognizing his many achievements on the board.
- Held a moment of silence for Magee Johnson, who recently passed away. Commissioner Joe Stevens said that she dedicated her life to public service.
- Set the final county board meeting of 2012 for Thursday, Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.