Government shutdown stalls decision on Cooks Run hatchery

CRYSTAL FALLS — The federal shutdown also has halted further planning for what Iron County might do with its historic Cooks Run fish hatchery.

While U.S. Forest Service officials confirmed they do have a response ready on whether they are interested in the property, they can’t send it until the government reopens, county Administrator Gene Smith told the Iron County Board earlier this week.

The holidays also got in the way, admitted Paul Schuytema, executive director of the Iron County Economic Chamber Alliance.

But he has met twice with various other organizations that could play a role in what is done with the Stambaugh Township property, such as Iron County resident Mike Golas of the area Trout Unlimited chapter based in Marquette. Others that might be involved in the planning include Friends of the Iron County Heritage Trail and the Iron County Historical Society.

Built in the mid-1930s as a federal works project, Cooks Run is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes a caretaker’s log cabin, a fish hatchery habitat in the Cooks Run stream and a network of trails.

After getting the property for non-payment of taxes, the state turned it over to Iron County with the stipulation it be for public use or it reverts back to the state.

But the cabin has sat idle for a number of years and now needs a new roof and other repairs and upgrades if it is to be put back into use, Schuytema said. An architect with the state Historic Preservation Office judged the structure to be in generally good condition and suitable as a three-season rental property with additions such as restroom facilities and potable water, adding it was “one of the most interesting Depression Era public use log cabins I have seen in Michigan.”

The county is weighing whether it should fix it up or let another agency step in to take over the property. Any plan involving a sale or deed change would need the state’s blessing, though that’s not expected to be a major problem if it remains in public use.

In other business, the board:

— Will check the amounts board members received for mileage reimbursement after realizing they erred in raising the amount per mile last year to match the IRS rate, rather than adhering to what was set by the Michigan Compensation Board. That state board also uses the IRS rate, but only meets every two years, so didn’t change the mileage reimbursement in 2018. While the overpayment likely will be less than $100 total, Smith said, board members thought it still worth figuring out to set an example for the public.

— Agreed with board member Timothy Aho to have future county budgets list all employees’ salaries individually, rather than what is paid per department. While anyone can make a Freedom of Information Act request for those pay rates, this seems more transparent and efficient, Aho said.

— Approved transferring a piece of county-owned property at U.S. 2 and Oss Road to the county Road Commission, which already has part of a garage on the site. If that use ends, the property reverts back to the county.

— Chose 906 Technologies to replace the county’s domain server at a projected cost of about $29,692.