The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

New UPSET-West to serve western Upper Peninsula



Ontonagon — The Western Upper Peninsula counties of Ontonagon, Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw will have a new substance enforcement team called UPSET-West.

Ontonagon County Sheriff Dale Rantala informed the county board of commissioners Tuesday the present Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team comes from Marquette, a two-hour trip both ways, and that costs time, as well as money.

He noted UPSET-West is closer to the four counties. The team will consist of two officers from Houghton County, one from Hancock and two troopers and a sergeant.

Rantala said meth and prescribed drugs have become a real problem and the new team would be working on it. He said he was short-handed and could not offer an officer for the team, but asked if the county board would be willing to help fund it. “It’s important we have skin in the game,” Rantala commented.

Prosecutor Mike Findley agreed the area has a “major drug problem and if we don’t nip it now, it will get worse.”

The board agreed to help support the effort financially, with the amount to be determined.

The board approved an Ottawa National Forest request to support a grant to the Department of Natural Resources by the Ottawa National Forest and North Country  Trails  for rehabilitation of the O Kun de Kun Falls Trail.

Elissa Simpson, of the Forest Service office in Ironwood, explained the 1.5-mile falls trail has had timber falls, water issues and what was a family trail is in bad shape.

While the North Country Trail Club and Forest Service have worked on one-half mile, they will need the grant to complete the project. When it is done, the path will be wheelchair-accessible  and  a great family trail, she said. The board’s approval came after a short public hearing.

Susanne Adams, Ottawa District Ranger, Ontonagon District, outlined an agreement for the harvesting 67.2 million board feet of hardwood timber on the Ottawa in the next 10 years, higher than the 61 million previously set. She also explained the target to harvest 30,000 acres of aspen, one-half in Ontonagon County, in the next 15 years. She said much of it is older and some may be lost because of age.

In other action, the board:

— Heard a report from auditor Susan Sanford, who said the county fund balance is in “definitely healthy shape.”

— Approved a request from Rantala to apply for a 2015-16 off-road vehicle grant of $5,200 and to purchase a used vehicle from the Marquette department for $4,000.

— Approved a request to continue for another year the 911 surcharge of 51 cents.

— Heard an insurance report from Richard Hannala.

— Purchased  light bulbs for the courthouse at $13,710 with an incentive of $5,642 and an expectation that it will pay for itself in one year.

— Heard the Ontonagon County Park will open on May 1.


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