The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

State of emergency declared for Gogebic County

UP reports $7 million in damages this winter


Ryan Jarvi/Daily Globe

JIM LOEPER, Gogebic County Emergency Management director, addresses the Bessemer City Council at its meeting April 21 at Bessemer City Hall.

BESSEMER - Bessemer City Council members were updated about this past winter's impact on the region and the emergency situation of Gogebic County at a meeting Monday.

"We in Gogebic County declared a local state of emergency," Jim Loeper, emergency manager for Gogebic County said. "The next step we would take as a county is that we would ask the governor to declare Gogebic County a disaster area."

Loeper mentioned a state of emergency declaration that was recently made for Marquette County. The declaration allows the county to use certain resources such as calling in the National Guard, but it does not provide the county with any money.

The state could allot up to $100,000 to a county if it desires, Loeper said, but even if a state of emergency is declared there is no guarantee of money.

The governor could also declare a state of emergency for Michigan with the federal government, but the amount of damages would have to be more than $13.6 million statewide.

City manager Michael Uskiewicz said there has been around $85,000 in damages for Bessemer. There is about $7 million worth of reported damage throughout the Upper Peninsula.

"We definitely have a situation here," Loeper said. "But we're not there yet."

Loeper said a meeting has been scheduled with city, township and county officials on Wednesday to discuss if the county should request an emergency declaration from the governor.

Council member Al Gaiss said he suspects the state will reach its threshold allowing the governor to ask for federal relief.

"If we're at $7 million alone in the U.P., the state is going to have $13 million," Gaiss said. "They (the Lower Peninsula) have two-thirds of the state, and we haven't seen the full effect of it here."

As warmer weather continues to thaw the frost-line underground, officials expect to find more water breaks.

"I will continue to work with all the cities and townships in the county to try to come up with the best solution we can do," Loeper said. "What we're trying to do is get presidential declaration. It's an uphill battle, but I'm fighting it."

Other business

The council approved a resolution, allowing the city to opt out of mandated health insurance for its employees until December 2014.

"You have to come up with a hard cap where the employees pay more, or an 80-20 (percent) split," Uskiewicz said of a requirement under Public Act 152 that requires health insurance for employees. "Right now we don't have that because we still have an active participant agreement and we still have an active insurance plan."

Bill McDonald addressed the council regarding its motion during an April 7 meeting to support the Bessemer Area Schools' bond referendum to update its schools.

"There was a motion made and passed 3-2 to back the school referendum bond," McDonald said. Council members Doug Olsen and Marlene Zaleski voted no on the motion. Mayor Butch Semmerling, Linda Nelson and Gaiss voted yes.

"It should have been a 2-2 vote because Mr. Gaiss should have abstained because he was on the school board and city council, and according to the county treasury, anything dealing with money from another identity that you're sitting on, you have to abstain – you can't vote on it," McDonald said.

McDonald sought to have the motion rescinded, but it was not.


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