By JIM ANDERSON
IRON MOUNTAIN - Dickinson County is backing away from the idea of providing police services to the city of Iron Mountain.
Sheriff Scott Celello advised Monday that he's unwilling to go forward on a contract, and the county board concurred. Celello said he's confident the sheriff's office could handle the duties, but there are complications the county should avoid.
One issue is responsibility for retirement costs for current city police officers, he said. Another is the hiring of additional part-time road patrol officers, who must be kept under 30 hours per week if the county is to avoid health coverage obligations under the Affordable Care Act.
The sheriff recommended the county "for right now" hold off on any contracted services. Commissioners last fall had given Celello permission to begin talks to explore the concept.
The city has also considered consolidating police and fire services with Kingsford, but those discussions have stalled.
In other action Monday, the county board:
- Received an update from Controller Nicole Frost on a frozen water feed at Ford Airport. Any decision on solving the problem, which is confined to the Fontana Terminal building, will have to wait until the spring thaw. Meanwhile, the county has spent $2,006 for the purchase of a water storage unit and pump to keep toilets operating. Bottled water is also available on site. Kleiman Pump & Well Drilling of Iron Mountain responded quickly to the emergency, Frost said. But after some $6,700 was spent on excavation without resolving the issue, the county board in a special March 14 session opted for the temporary fix. Airport Improvement Program grant funding might be available for a future project if replacement of the water lines is the best course, Frost said.
- Heard Chairman Henry Wender, who serves as a liaison to the Dickinson County Road Commission, report that the commission is hopeful reconstruction work on Quinnesec-Lake Antoine Road will resume in early May. The project was halted last fall by a dispute between contractor Payne and Dolan and the Michigan Department of Transportation over pavement standards.
- Adopted a resolution approving amendments to the county's Solid Waste Plan. Under the proposed plan, a landfill in Breitung Township that once served the Niagara, Wis., paper mill will be able to accept construction and demolition debris generated in Dickinson County. The former sludge landfill, now owned by Niagara Development LLC, is also able to accept low-hazard industrial waste from within the county, namely sand from Grede Foundries. The change was drafted by the county's Solid Waste Management Planning Committee and is subject to approval from seven of the county's 10 municipalities, as well as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Niagara Development acquired the mill property and assets in 2011 after the mill was permanently closed by NewPage Corp. in 2008. The landfill is located off of Kimberly Road.
- Agreed to advertise for a full-time county parks manager. Terry Johnson, the current manager, is retiring effective June. 1. The board plans to present a resolution saluting Johnson for his service.
- In a 4-1 vote, decided that Wi-Fi (wireless internet) services will be provided free of charge to campers at Lake Antoine Park. Commissioner John Degenaer voted no, saying a user's fee should be assessed. The board in November accepted a revised proposal from Charter Communications to provide wireless internet and office telephone services at the park at a total monthly rate of $132.
- Authorized Equalization Director Sid Bray to attend a Michigan Court of Appeals hearing April 8 in Lansing on Home Depot's tax assessment for its Breitung Township store. Home Depot is among a number of "big box" retailers in Michigan that have gotten their property tax assessments slashed by the Michigan Tax Tribunal. In most cases, according to the Michigan Association of Counties, a lower assessment is achieved by equating the value of an operating business to that of a closed, abandoned property. Breitung Township has filed a court appeal, which the county supports. "This is such a big deal, we have to fight this as much as we can," said Commissioner Joe Stevens. Local government officials believe that if Home Depot wins out, other large-scale property owners may also gain reduced assessments.
- Noted that a meeting will be held with representatives of the Northern Lights YMCA at 5 p.m. Monday, April 7, in the correctional center conference room to discuss plans for the former Crystal Lake Community Center building in Iron Mountain, which is now home to the YMCA.
- Approved a request from the Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) to execute a letter of understanding for a formal partnership, at no cost to the county. The coalition, which was formed about five years ago, brings stakeholders together on education and management efforts related to invasive species in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties in Wisconsin, and Dickinson and Menominee counties in Michigan. A broad base of local support increases chances of getting grants to help prevent the spread of invasive species threatening local ecosystems, according to Ann Hruska of the Dickinson Conservation District.
- Received preliminary information from NorthCare Network on forming a Substance Use Disorder Oversight Policy Board for delivery of behavioral health services across the Upper Peninsula. To meet new requirements, oversight of substance abuse services will be transferred by Oct. 1 from existing coordinating agencies in the U.P. (Pathways and Western U.P. Substance Abuse Services) to NorthCare Network, said William Slavin, NorthCare Network chief executive. Each of the 15 U.P. counties will have representation on the board.
- Agreed to advertise seven openings on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and two three-year terms on the Dickinson County Road Commission.
Jim Anderson's email address is email@example.com.