By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - The Iron Mountain City Council approved a request from the Iron Mountain Public Schools to levy the maximum .25 mills for the school liaison levy.
The request had come before the council at the Feb. 3 meeting and was tabled when council members had further questions for Supt. Tom Jayne. Jayne met with the operations and budget committee of the council to provide additional information on why the school district needed this help.
The school district is currently in a deficit situation that they are working to resolve.
In the past, the city and the school district have split the cost of a school liaison officer - an arrangement that has been in place for approximately 10 years. The city currently levies .163 mills for its share of the position, which generates $36,495.28.
According to City Manager Jordan Stanchina, that leaves .087 mills, which represents $19,479.08 of available funding. The school request was to levy the additional .087 mills available and apply that toward the school's share of the funding.
Voters had approved levying up to .25 mills by the city to pay for its share of the school liaison position four years ago. The levy was agreed on for five years and this is the final year - with the levy on the July taxes to be used for the 2014-15 school year.
Stanchina said that the school is making this request for budgetary reasons.
"The millage disappears after July 1 - the funding is gone - it would have to go to a vote of the people again," Stanchina said.
"I felt synergy with the city and Iron Mountain Schools at this critical time going forward. If they fail, we fail. Our questions were answered in the meeting. In the end, I'm in support of levying the entire millage," said Mayor Bruce Rosen.
Council member Amanda List agreed. "Most of the questions we had were answered. But there is still the question of what is the future for the school."
"It's a crucial position for the school and has helped so many kids. I've talked with Dave Irwin and I think this is important to provide for the kids," Councilman Dale Alessandrini said.
During public comment time, the council once again heard from Nicole Schindler and James Anderson of 305 West H St. concerning the problems they have had getting access to the back of their home following the city granting an easement to the church.
Schindler earlier asked council to rescind action to vacate the alley way.
This action was taken by the council last year at the request of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, which is located at the corner of H Street and Stockbridge Avenue in Iron Mountain.
City Attorney Gerry Pirkola said he looked at the process and that isn't as easy to do - undo the vacated alley.
"There should be a better solution or easier way since this action affects all the adjacent property owners," Pirkola said. "At this point, an easement agreement is in place and if there's a problem with that, it would be a better way to handle it."
Rosen said that they (Schindler and Anderson) were asking to rescind vacating the alley since proper notice had not be made before the council had taken action to vacate the alley.
"Is that enough to negate the council's action?" Rosen asked.
Pirkola doubted that would be enough.
The process to vacate and alley or street involves sending notices to all property owners within 300 feet. The notices were sent out to property owners on East H Street and not West H Street.
"But we don't have an easement at any time," Schindler said. "The church put the snow they plowed there so that it's blocking our easement to our property. When we call the church and leave a message, we don't get any answers."
"If they are not going with the agreement, you can hire an attorney," Alessandrini said.
"Why are we burdened with it - getting an attorney," Schindler asked.
Council members suggested that the city manager contact the church officials and set up a meeting to get the problems worked out.
Councilman Bill Revord agreed with Schindler. "The problem is with the easement - they are plugging their ability to get to their property with snow. The snow is the issue right now and why should they be put in this position," Revord said.
Moraska agreed also with Schindler and Anderson and their concern that this action to vacate the alleyway would affect their property value and possible sale in the future.
Pirkola said that it is difficult for the city to get involved in something that involves two private citizens.
"It's an issue that we probably created and where people didn't get notice that this was going to be discussed by the city. One option is to undo the vacated alleyway. We attempted to avoid having to do that by putting this easement in place to resolve any issues of access to property. But apparently it hasn't happened. We have to make a decision, are we going to undo what was voted on or how do you fix this problem? Any decision will impact the church and how it's using the property," Pirkola said.
Alessandrini felt that it would only be fair to take back the council's original vote and get the process started.
Revord was concerned with the lack of notification about this request to vacate the alleyway. "When vacating an alley or street, there is a process - a most important process - and direct notification was not followed through. That's a pretty significant thing and they didn't have the ability to come and be heard before action was taken by the council."
Moraska agreed. "We have an obligation to take care of a situation that we created. People are being affected adversely. And why should they have to spend money to get an attorney to fix it?'
Pirkola said that once they found out that the notices were sent to the wrong area, the goal from the city's point of view was to give them something better than what they had originally. That's why an easement was worked out. But he cautioned the council from getting in the middle of what's is happening between two private parties.
Stanchina agreed that with the easement, the property owners have 50 feet access through both the alley way and the parking lot of the church. Originally the church came to the council out of concern for vehicles going through the parking lot and the safety of children and activities that the church had in that area.
The council directed the city manager to set up a meeting between the two parties to try and work out the problems.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.