Board stands by senior center allocations

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Dickinson County Board is holding firm on its planned millage distributions for county senior centers, despite a protest from Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. of Norway.

Degenaer, who is unhappy the Norway center will see a nearly $10,000 cut for next year, believes funding should be determined by each of the five site councils in cooperation with the director of the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency. A county-wide levy of 0.4 mills, or 40 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, will generate $388,500 for senior programs next year.

The county board, in a 3-2 decision Nov. 12, accepted a distribution plan for the Dickinson centers that was drafted by the executive committee of DICSA’s governing board, which includes representatives from Iron County. Norway was the only center to have funds cut.

“No way should Iron County be involved in our distribution,” said Degenaer, who offered a motion Monday to end that practice.

It died for lack of support.

Degenaer also called upon County Clerk-Register of Deeds Dolly Cook to resign from the DICSA board for failing to support the Norway center.

Cook said she plans to stay.

Degenaer’s protest came during commissioners’ personal privilege time. There was little discussion, other than Chairman Henry Wender giving Degenaer the chance to introduce a motion.

The 2019 millage allocations approved earlier this month by the county board were:

— $269,000 for DICSA itself, up from $248,940 in 2018.

— $39,645 for the Crystal Lake Senior Center in Iron Mountain, up from $39,144.

— $25,000 for the Norway Senior Center, down from $34,794.

— $23,901 each for the Breen Senior Center in Kingsford and the Sagola Senior Center, up from $23,400 each.

— $7,053 for the Felch Senior Center, up from $6,552.

Degenaer and Commissioner Barbara Kramer had voted against that distribution plan, while Wender and commissioners Joe Stevens and Ann Martin were in favor.

The Norway center, which broke away from DICSA’s noon meal program in 2016, serves congregate meals but relies on DICSA for home-delivered meals as well as other senior programs. The funding cut for the Norway center represents less than one-fourth of DICSA’s cost for home-delivered meals in that area, Cook said.

Voters in the city of Norway, Norway Township and Waucedah Township approved a new millage for the Norway center in August. That levy of 0.5 mills, or 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, won’t take effect until the end of 2019, generating nearly $80,000 for the 2020 budget year. Norway area taxpayers also pay the county-wide senior levy of 0.4 mills.

The Norway center had requested $88,000 from the county millage for 2019.

In other action Monday, the county board:

— Heard Gerald McCole of Channing call for an independent investigation of a Nov. 2 sewage pipe rupture at the Crystal Lake Senior Center in Iron Mountain, where home-delivered senior meals are prepared. The plumbing issue has been resolved, cleanup completed and meals from Iron Mountain’s center resumed Monday and have been cleared through the local health department, according to Kristin Summerfeld, DICSA executive director. Meals were prepared at the Breen Senior Center in Kingsford during the cleanup.

— Renewed a general cleaning services contract through the end of 2019 with TRICO Opportunities Inc. of Kingsford for the courthouse and correctional center. The contract fee will increase from $49.17 per day to $53.10 per day, effective Jan. 1, reflecting an increase in the minimum wage.

— Received a report on veterans benefits from James Brown and Denise Formolo, veterans service officers with the Dickinson County Office of Veterans Affairs. In 2017, there were 2,594 veterans in Dickinson County, with 754 of them receiving veterans compensation or pensions at an annual average benefit of $18,818. The total benefits paid in Dickinson County compare very favorably with other counties in the Upper Peninsula, Brown said.

— Adopted a policy to allow several non-union employees to pay the full cost to remain in the county’s group hospital insurance program upon retirement, provided it’s approved by the carrier. Once the retiree is eligible for Medicare, the option expires. County employees hired after Jan. 1, 1996, are not eligible for retirement health benefits under a previous policy.

— To avoid a conflict with Christmas Eve, changed the date of its second December board meeting to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 26. There will also be a regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.