Dickinson provides $1,000 to Escanaba

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County will contribute $1,000 to help the city of Escanaba in its legal battle with Menards over property taxes.

Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. said he hoped the county could find a way to give more, given the potential impact of the case on municipal tax revenues statewide. “This is our chance to make it right,” Degenaer said at Monday’s county board meeting.

In 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the Michigan Tax Tribunal had “committed an error of law” when it reassessed the value of Menards’ Escanaba store and reduced the city’s tax assessment on that property more than 56 percent for three years.

Menards appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, which refused in October to hear the case. After the denial, the Michigan Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the state tax tribunal to allow the two parties to present more testimony on the Escanaba Menards’ property value.

The outcome of the remand hearing could have long-term implications on the “dark store” property tax assessment method, which reduces the taxable values of open and operational “big box” stores to that of closed and vacant buildings, according to Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan. Escanaba is seeking $200,000 in funding from other Michigan municipalities to set a precedent in the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

The county board approved the $1,000 contribution two weeks after first discussing Escanaba’s request.

In other action Monday, the board:

— Agreed to seek quotes from contractors and spend up to $20,000 to replace a rooftop heating and cooling unit at the county jail. Although it’s older equipment, it was not included in a $905,000 energy performance contract the county signed with Trane Inc. three years ago.

— Will pursue financing of $450,000 over 15 years for construction of a hangar measuring 90 feet by 160 feet at Ford Airport. The loan through First National Bank and Trust of Iron Mountain will be paid entirely through a long-term lease with a company that plans to expand its airport operations, said Controller Brian Bousley. A memorandum of understanding will be prepared and the lessee identified once the plan is finalized, he said. The projected interest rate is 3.97 percent.

— Appointed Robert Doepker and Mike Groeneveld to three-year terms on the Fumee Lake Commission. Lisa Pangrazzi, who received a vote from Degenaer, and Ryan Spencer were also applicants.

— Appointed Mary (Kelly) VanOss to a partial term on the Dickinson County Planning Commission to expire Feb. 28, 2020.

— Heard Katie Maxon, board president for the Northern Lights YMCA in Iron Mountain, confirm that the YMCA will purchase the former Crystal Lake Community Center from the county by November. After a successful $2.4 million fundraising campaign, the YMCA expects to rebuild the swimming pool and make other improvements starting in the summer of 2019.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500 ext. 26 or janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.