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Bessemer city council discusses medical marijuana business


Katie Perttunen/Daily Globe

Mayor Butch Semmerling, left, accepts a calendar from Dick Steiger, president of the Bessemer Area Historical Society, on behalf of the city of Bessemer at Monday's city council meeting. Continuing to the right are Don Cvengros and Lou Kalan.

BESSEMER - Kismet was in evidence at Monday night's Bessemer City Council meeting, as it began with a presentation by the Gogebic Iron Area Narcotics Team members from the Gogebic County Sheriff's Department, and ended with vehement public opposition to the newly approved medical marijuana nursery and transfer point in Bessemer's industrial zone. (Editor's note: See separate story on GIANT presentation on page 5.)

The council approved a special land use permit for the business, operated by Richard Duncanson, a medical marijuana licensed caregiver, at its Dec. 2 meeting on a 3-2 vote.

Opposition at Monday's meeting included claims the public hearing at the last meeting was not properly posted. City Clerk James Trudgeon did not recall if it were properly posted.

The council received a letter of opposition from David and Kathy Paynter, residents of Bessemer, who say their home is within the 1,320 feet of the dispensary located at 888 Industrial Road Suite A - a distance that is too close according to the Bessemer Zoning Ordinance.

"What benefit is this to our city?" Kathy Paynter asked. What kind of people will it attract to Bessemer?

Mayor Butch Semmerling said a possible benefit to the city may be taxes paid by the business. City Manager Michael Uskiewicz said the business will also be paying utilities.

"Job creation starts with one person," John Turkal, zoning commission member, said.

Shawn Koski, a business owner in the industrial zone, applied earlier in the year for a zoning variance to build a home on his property. Koski's application was turned down, and Monday night he said, "that would have brought taxes in, too."

Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich said his department was not given notice of the dispensary. Undersheriff Ross Solberg said no deputies were contacted.

Matonich said medical marijuana "is a pain in our backsides." He said there is no database to track caregivers and patients, and cards can be forged.

In other business, council member Linda Nelson asked for the memorandum of understanding between the Gogebic Range Water Authority and the city of Bessemer regarding the GRWA providing up to 100,000 gallons of water to Bessemer for the Mary Street Park under development.

Council member Doug Olsen said to Nelson, "It was a gentlemen's agreement. You screwed that deal up. There will be no deal."

Uskiewicz said the memorandum was a moot point, because the new mayor is going in a different direction, although the city wants to continually build upon its relationship with GRWA. "They're not going to jump through hoops for Bessemer with the animosity," he said.

Semmerling said not all concerned parties were present, and "I don't buy hay for my horses when I have my own. We'll get to the bottom of this."

Nelson brought a copy of "Robert's Rules of Order," and quoted parts regarding reconsidering motions and rescinding motions.

"We all need a copy," council member Al Gaiss said.

Korpela disagreed with Nelson about the rules as she stated them, and later Semmerling said maybe a neutral party or attorney could help interpret them.

Former Mayor John Frello was honored for his service with a plaque, and the Bessemer Historical Society presented the council with a calendar.

The council accepted the donation of a parcel of land from John and Dorothy Stempihar for the Bessemer Volunteer Fire Department to improve the driveway of the firehall, as well as for storage.

The council also adopted the Gogebic County 2013-18 Hazard Mitigation Plan.


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