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Virus cases spike in UP; Florence County has first death

IRON MOUNTAIN — Federal CARES Act funding is keeping the city’s budget on track, although the long-range financial impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina said Monday.

“There is a little good news,” Stanchina told the city council, noting the city has received a $214,924 payment to help cover police and fire payroll from April and May. A separate coronavirus relief grant should net Iron Mountain an additional $47,923, he said.

Going forward, the implications are up in the air, Stanchina cautioned.

The police and fire payment comes through the state’s Public Safety and Public Health Payroll Reimbursement Program, funded with CARES Act money totaling $200 million. Requests statewide totaled at least $360 million, including Iron Mountain’s application for $429,000, Stanchina said.

With some 600 applications in all, the Michigan Department of Treasury has paid 50% of each applicant’s request. Any remaining funds now will be distributed proportionately, Stanchina said.

The separate grant totals $143,769, with $95,846 making up for revenue sharing canceled by the state. The Coronavirus Relief Local Government Grant program is funded with $150 million in CARES money that the state is distributing in place of a $97 million cut from revenue sharing.

The council Monday certified that its grant will be used for around-the-clock public safety payroll expenses.

Council member Pam Maule asked if this will be sufficient to meet federal guidelines and whether any money might have to be returned.

There has been some confusion, Stanchina said, but Michigan Treasury has indicated police and fire payroll is an eligible expense.

Iron Mountain also will receive $27,000 through the First Responder Hazard Pay Premiums program. This will provide payments of $1,000 to 27 eligible employees.

Meeting via Zoom, the council in other action:

— Praised the KIND Drug Enforcement Team for its role in arrests in Janesville, Wis., on Sept. 9 that led to the seizure of methamphetamine worth about $1 million. The investigation initiated from a traffic stop in Iron Mountain, said Ed Mattson, director of police and fire services. “The council appreciates everything they do,” Mayor Dale Alessandrini said.

— With medical marijuana facilities facing an Oct. 1 deadline to begin operations under terms of their city operating licenses, extended that deadline to April 1 due to the pandemic. The extensions were requested by Source 906, Rize and Lume Cannabis. “This was an odd year to hold someone’s feet to the fire on buildings,” Stanchina said, adding, “If more (time) is needed, that can be considered.” Superior Selections is currently the only licensed grower.

— In conjunction with an ongoing utilities project, approved paving an additional block of West C Street at a cost of $18,413. The scope of the project was from Carpenter Avenue to Lake Street, and paving will now be extended to Forest Street. Bacco Construction Co. will do the work. Bacco’s quote was substantially cheaper than that of Payne & Dolan, the subcontractor for the utility project, Stanchina said. The entire project should be up to gravel by Oct. 2, with paving to follow.

— Heard council member Ken Clawson seek assurances the public will have a say in any changes made in the city’s handling of vicious dogs. With a city ordinance involved, any amendment would be subject to a public hearing, City Attorney Gerry Pirkola said. The council’s Public Safety Committee has been assigned to review the matter but has yet to take it up. One of the problems that needs to be addressed, Pirkola said, is having no place to house dogs accused of attacks.

— Received an August payroll report showing nearly $19,000 in fire department overtime costs, which compares with $39,593 in regular wages. Overtime costs should decline with the return of a firefighter to full-time duty, the hiring of a new part-timer, and the potential hiring of two more, Stanchina said.

— Approved $645 in annual dues for the Northern Michigan Public Service Academy, which hosts municipal training sessions in the Upper Peninsula.

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