IRONWOOD — Concerns about grant funding for ice-making equipment at the Patrick O’Donnell Civic Center and the Gogebic County Fair were heard by State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, Saturday.
Dianda fielded questions at a town hall meeting at Mike’s Restaurant on Cloverland Drive.
Brian Roehm, manager of the civic center, told Dianda the Ironwood City Commission last Monday approved a $275,000 bond for a $500,000 civic center project.
Roehm explained the problem in seeking grant money for the center is that it is owned by the city of Ironwood, but is located in Ironwood Township on the campus of Gogebic Community College.
Roehm noted the civic center receives about $85,000 a year in millage from Ironwood residents, but doesn’t collect millages from other communities that use the center.
“We’ve been pushing for the (new ice-making) system for two years. We’re doing all we can to keep the center open and have some sort of summer ice,” Roehm said.
Dianda said the more organizations that make use of the center, the better the chance would be for receiving funding.
People attending the meeting complained that while the state has a lot of grant money for trail programs, it should also find funding for existing recreational center improvements.
Tom Hampston urged a restoration of funding for the Gogebic County Fair, which has suffered cutbacks by the state for the past several years.
Dianda pledged his support. “I’ve been to your fair three or four times and it’s one of the best ones around,” he said.
In another vexing problem that plagues small communities, Dianda said he’s working on eliminating red tape with organizations in obtaining one-time liquor license permits.
He operated Dianda’s party store for 11 years and said licensing requirements are too strict.
Dianda also said he opposes a proposed increase in the cost of hunting licenses, fearing the added revenue would go to Department of Natural Resources employees’ salaries and not to improving hunting.
He noted the approval of permits for the Copperwood mine in Wakefield and Ironwood townships marks just one example of considerable mining interest and exploration projects in the Upper Peninsula’s 110th representative district.
He also voiced his support for legislation that would provide a 100 percent homestead tax exemption on primary residences for qualifying veterans. “It would be an economic development piece that would lead to some veterans coming back to Michigan,” he said.
About a dozen people attended the meeting.
Dianda said he plans another visit to Ironwood around the last week in March.