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Dickinson faces virus funding shortfall

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County is losing an estimated $235,000 in revenue sharing payments due to state budget cuts, and may have to return a portion of $217,899 in related coronavirus relief funds if it fails to meet grant requirements, the county board learned Monday.

Controller Brian Bousley updated the board on the fallout from a $97 million cut in Michigan statutory revenue sharing payments, and separate CARES Act funding of $150 million appropriated in its place.

For Dickinson County, the CARES Act funding is less than the projected revenue sharing, and there’s a good chance some of it will have to be repaid, Bousley said.

According to the Michigan Municipal League, the relief funds have specific restrictions dictated by the enacting federal legislation. Bousley expressed frustration with the process, saying Dickinson County may be punished for being fiscally responsible during the pandemic.

“If you can’t play in our little box, give it back,” he said of the distribution.

The federal funds allocated in place of revenue sharing have a certification report due to the Michigan Department of Treasury by Sept. 23. These funds can only be used for CARES Act eligible expenditures, and Dickinson County may not have enough appropriate expenses that qualify for reimbursement, Bousley said.

“I don’t know if it will fit into their box,” he said.

Commissioner Barbara Kramer suggested the county consider all potential means to meet the requirements, while Sheriff Scott Rutter said there are expenses in his department that may be eligible. Discussions among county officials will continue.

The county’s general fund budget for 2020 totals $9.75 million, which includes state shared revenues estimated at nearly $600,000. In June, the county had feared a potential loss of up to $950,000 in state funding due to the pandemic. For now, it appears the shortfall for this year may be far less.

In other action, the board:

— Adopted a resolution proclaiming Gold Star Family Week starting Sunday through Sept. 26 to recognize families who have lost loved ones in military service. A monument will be dedicated outside the courthouse in a ceremony set for noon Saturday, hosted by the Dickinson County Office of Veterans Affairs and veterans groups. Similar resolutions have been adopted by other municipalities and by the state senate.

— At the suggestion of Commissioner Joe Stevens, agreed to place blue decorative lights in the bushes in front of the courthouse to signify support for police officers. The lights also could symbolize the Blue Lives Matter movement, Stevens said, although the authorization was simply for lights, not signage.

— Learned that replacement of the county boat launch at Lake Antoine is scheduled to start next week in hopes of completing the project by November. Midwest Asphalt & Gravel of Iron Mountain was awarded a $90,254 bid for the work last month. It’s aided by a $43,865 Michigan Waterways Grant.

— Revealed plans to adjust the campsite layout at Lake Antoine Park, providing five additional sites with a direct view of the lake. The new configuration won’t obstruct other views and won’t impede on picnic sites, commissioners noted. The second phase of an electrical upgrade at the campground also is being completed. In February, the board had authorized G. Brooks Electric of Iron Mountain to start a project at a cost not to exceed $105,000. At a committee meeting Sept. 8, the board authorized electrical supplies and labor for the second phase.

— Heard Bousley report that a project to provide sewer and water service to new and future hangars at Ford Airport will be delayed until 2021. In the meantime, the airport will continue to use holding tanks as needed.

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