Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Solid Waste Authority hires new attorney for Bessemer dispute


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Ironwood — The Gogebic Range Solid Waste Management Authority’s board voted Thursday to hire Steve Tinti, out of Crystal Falls, to represent the authority in the ongoing dispute with the city of Bessemer.

The move became necessary as Michael Pope, the authority’s normal attorney, does work for Bessemer on an unrelated issue and Pope told the Daily Globe the negotiations have reached a point where he felt its best to step aside to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

At issue in the dispute between the city and authority is a disagreement regarding whether the city should be responsible for its portion of the debt incurred by the authority.

Bessemer’s city council voted to leave the authority at its March 16 meeting.

According to Shane Ellison, an outside accountant hired by the authority to calculate Bessemer’s share of the debt, the city owes $88,811. City attorney Michael Korpela called this figure a “a non-starter” in a letter to the authority.

In an different October letter read at the last authority board meeting, Korpela cited $16,000 as a preliminary number the city might consider paying as an equitable settlement. Korpela argued the authority should use its uncommitted bond funds to reduce its debt obligation — the money was marked for purchasing a garbage truck — but Pope said the city’s argument mischaracterized the situation.

Due to the dispute, Bessemer didn’t contribute to the authority’s bond payment that was due on Aug. 1. With the failure of Bessemer to contribute its portion of the $2,968 bond payment — Bessemer’s 25 percent equated to roughly $730, according to authority administrator Chris Ann Bressette — the authority had two basic options, Pope explained in July.

The first option was to begin litigation, forcing Bessemer to make its payment, Pope said, with the other option being to report Bessemer to the Michigan Treasury. The second option, Pope explained, would then cause state officials to examine everything and require the appropriate funds go toward the bond payment through the seizure of tax revenue.

On Thursday, Bressette said she liked Tinti based on the initial conversations she has had with him.

“I really liked him. He will get the job done. I explained to him what we are trying to do and the issue we have ... basically, he will have you do a resolution to go ahead and take care of the matter with the city of Bessemer,” said Bressette.

Bressette also relayed his opinion that if the authority wanted to continue negotiating with the city, his services weren’t needed.

Bressette said Tinti would likely appear at the authority board’s next meeting to introduce himself and present his plan to the board.

According to information presented to the board, he charges $160-an-hour for municipalities and $200-an-hour for other clients.

In other action:

— The board voted to purchase a Kenworth Model T880 truck, with a Cummins motor, to haul roll-off dumpsters. Kenworth’s bid of $198,200 was chosen over a bid from Mack Trucks totaling $198,968.

— The board voted to make a change to Bressette’s contract to fix an error that was discovered after the contract was approved at the November meeting.

— The board voted to approve Christmas bonuses for authority employees.