Sheriff seeks program for victims services in Dickinson County

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County could get a new program that provides trained advocates to help crime victims deal with trauma and legal processes.

Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter gave the county board details Monday on setting up a Victim Services Unit, which he said he’s been planning for two years.

In a handout to the board, Rutter stated the teams would provide “comfort and direction … to help families cope with the loss of a loved one, assist a victim of a crime or provide solutions to those in time of need.”

And it would be at no cost to the county, Rutter said. The volunteer advocates are trained by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, which started the program in 1988. This past weekend, he received an inquiry from the association on whether the county might want to pursue such a program.

Delta County will offer victim services training Sept. 13-15. Iron and Menominee counties already have such programs, he said, but aim to bolster their teams.

Rutter also updated the board on setting up a dive team in Dickinson County. After speaking with Delta County Sheriff Edward Oswald, Rutter said the recommendation was to co-op with that county’s existing dive team to have more trained staff available in the region.

Outfitting a single diver costs about $5,000, Rutter said. A post on the department’s Facebook page drew six responses, which would be the recommended minimum number of divers for the team, but Rutter said it could give Dickinson County at least a few local divers close enough to respond quickly when needed, with Delta County backing that up.

The Delta County program, led by deputies Mike Groleau and Jon Smith, has 16 volunteers and more than a decade of experience, Rutter noted. They would be willing to come to a future board meeting to talk about what would be involved, he said.

In other business, the board:

— Indicated most would support allowing Dickinson County Healthcare System to put the Dickinson County Memorial Hospital property title in escrow as collateral for a potential federal loan. DCHS will have a public hearing at 3 p.m. today in Conference Room E of Dickinson County Memorial Hospital on seeking a $24.65 million federal loan to refinance existing debt and make numerous capital acquisitions.

The borrowing has been in the works since October, when DCHS hired Washington D.C.-based Venable LLP to help organize a restructuring that would not require bankruptcy. The effort, led by Venable attorney and former northern Michigan U.S. congressman Bart Stupak, is proceeding as scheduled, with a draft package submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Gladstone office July 19.

Stupak recently requested the board this month back allowing the land to be used as collateral. Board Chairman Henry Wender and members Barbara Kramer and John Degenaer Jr. indicated Monday they favor the move.

But member Kevin Pirlot said though he is not opposed, he needs more information before getting behind such a move. “We need to have a conversation on the pros and cons of this,” he said.

But Wender said putting the land title in escrow would protect the county.

Under a 1994 deed, the county agreed to lease the U.S. 2 site to DCHS for a century at the nominal rent of $1 per year but retains title to the property and buildings.

— Heard that Dickinson County’s Ford Airport had about 2,300 boardings and disembarkments in July, raising the year-to-date total to about 13,000. That’s well past the 10,000-annual-enplanement threshold the airport needs to qualify for up to $1 million in Airport Improvement Program funds. Since 2013, the county has qualified for AIP funds available only to primary airports. Controller Brian Bousley said he expects the airport will hit the 20,000 mark well before the year ends.

— Appointed Lois Ellis and Jordan Stanchina to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority through July 31, 2020; and Nancy deKoster to the Lake Antoine Park Partners until June 30, 2022.

— Authorized Ford Airport Day on Sept. 21.