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Millage for IM schools officer to go on ballot for Feb. 27 vote

IRON MOUNTAIN — A millage renewal to continue funding a full-time police liaison officer in Iron Mountain schools is planned for the Feb. 27 ballot.

Iron Mountain City Council on Monday agreed to seek the renewal to allow for better planning as it looks to potentially fill three vacancies in the police department. If the liaison millage is not renewed in 2024 there would be one less position to fill, City Manager Jordan Stanchina explained.

The upcoming summer tax bill will be the last year for the current levy. The city could also choose to schedule a renewal vote for the Aug. 6 primary or Nov. 5 general election. Feb. 27 is Michigan’s presidential primary.

The proposed five-year levy of up to 0.55 mills, or 55 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, is the same as what voters approved 338 yes to 220 no in November 2019. The city, however, levies only the amount needed to fund the position, which is currently 0.4551 mills, or about 46 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

Stanchina said future levies would likely be in a similar range or even lower if the city is able to get grant assistance.

Edwin Mattson, director of police and fire services, said the benefits of having a school liaison officer are considerable. “It’s phenomenal, it really is,” he said.

A 0.55 mills levy would generate about $145,000 in the first year while the actual cost of the position is about $105,000 to $110,000, Stanchina said.

The police department now has an open position the city has been unable to fill with a certified officer, Mattson said. Also, both Mattson and Lt. Michael Weslin intend to retire in July, creating a total of three open positions.

The city plans to sponsor a candidate from January through May at the Oakland Community College Police Academy in Auburn Hills and two more from May through August at the Northern Michigan University Regional Police Academy in Marquette. Grants of $24,000 each should be available to cover the costs for each candidate, Mattson said.

“If the question was on the February ballot and approved, it would allow us to have a better understanding of how many future officers would attend the May academy,” Stanchina said.

The council agreed a February vote could prevent the possibility of sponsoring a candidate for a vacancy that may not later exist. If the renewal is rejected, it also leaves the opportunity for a second or even third try if the council chooses.

Although some communities have gotten grants for new liaison officers, Iron Mountain has been at a disadvantage in obtaining assistance because it already has a position in place, Stanchina noted.

In other action, the council:

— Discussed traffic safety on U.S. 2 near the east city limits in a 55 mph zone where crashes have recently occurred. “Something has to change,” council member David Farragh said. He suggested a lower speed limit but that would require action by the Michigan Department of Transportation. The issue will be added to the next meeting of the U.S. 2 access management committee, Stanchina said.

— Presented a resolution of appreciation to recently retired Det. Lt. Jeff Bortolini, who served the police department for 25 years. The tribute notes “unsung public service and dedication” and “extraordinary efforts to make Iron Mountain a better community in which to live.”

— Heard Stanchina report that a new entrance arch at Cemetery Park has been delivered and will be installed once the posts are ready. The addition is funded by the August Lilja Memorial Trust. A previous structure was taken down about 15 years ago because it had deteriorated.

— Learned that 44 deer have been culled as of Friday through the city’s managed archery hunt. The hunt continues through Jan. 1.

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