The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Village council praises UPSET


April 24, 2018


Ontonagon — The Ontonagon Village Council Monday praised the work of Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team-West, noting team has produced “incredible” results in the Western U.P. from October 1, 2016 through March 1, 2018.

Reports indicate the team investigated 158 new cases, 78 of which were closed; 62 people were arrested on a total of 136 counts. The team’s drug seizures included 421 grams of heroin, 553 grams methamphetamine and 740 units of other narcotics.

The council approved spending $1,500 to help UPSET-West in its effort to reduce the availability of drugs in the region.

The village of Ontonagon has a pension liability of $6,197,328 and a funding ratio of 56.3 percent. Because the funding ratio is below 60 percent, the village is required to request a waiver application to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Manager Joe Erickson explained the majority of the liability is from the Ontonagon Memorial Hospital. In 2007, Aspirus purchased the former Ontonagon Hospital — in order to complete the sale, the village accepted the pension liability. He said the catch-up funds were excessive and the village combined the hospital liability with an open unit to make MERS payments more manageable. Presently the village makes a $200,000 contribution to MERS.

The village must indicate to the treasury how they plan to get to the 60 percent threshold. Erickson praised the previous council in 2007 because, “Had they not agreed to accept the pension liability, there would be no hospital in the community.”

Erickson noted that work on the M-64 bridge over the Ontonagon River began Monday and there will be lane closures starting this week. The Michigan Department of Transportation will invest $1.2 million to perform epoxy overlay, deck patching, joint replacement, substructure repair and approach reconstruction work on the bridge. There will be an alternating lane of traffic signals.

Contractor Norman Pestka responded to an email written anonymously which appeared to try and cast doubts on his actions. Pestka detailed all the volunteer work and contributions he has made to the village throughout the 45 years as a businessman in the village. He said the total is about $3 million dollars. He added the many projects he has funded were done out of the, “Grace of my heart because I love Ontonagon.”

In other action, the village:

—Approved membership in MI-TRALE.

—Heard that the advertisement for names of those who want to sit on the two vacant seats of the Housing Commission did not get in the paper. President Ken Waldrop said the commission’s budget meeting is May 14 and he would like a full board. He said he did not want to hold a hearing with just three members. It was agreed the village’s personnel committee will meet May 2 — and May 3, if needed — to interview all the applicants. Then the village will hold a special meeting to appoint the two new members.


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