The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Gogebic County to sponsor Phase 3 of trail project


December 14, 2017


Bessemer — The Gogebic County Board of Commissioners agreed Wednesday to sponsor a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application for the third phase of the Iron Belle non-motorized trail project, from Bessemer to Ramsay.

The board voted 6-0 to sponsor the grant, after the Michigan Western Gateway Trail Authority agreed to pay the county the $29,566 that is owed for the second phase of the project, from Ironwood to Bessemer.

About 20 people attended Wednesday’s county board meeting to support the third phase of the trail project.

The next construction locally on the Iron Belle trail is scheduled to begin in 2020.

Paul Anderson, of Coleman Engineering, and Scott Erickson, Ironwood’s city manager, both appeared before the board on behalf of the MWGTA.

Anderson said the MWGTA agreed “to make the county whole” by using maintenance funds that will be transferred to the county.

County board members made it clear at their last meeting they would not sponsor Phase Three of the project if they didn’t receive the money owed to the county.

County commissioner Tom Laabs, of Ironwood, pointed out some wording in the agreement for Phase Three that needed to be changed. The change in wording states the county will not be liable for financial or other penalties related to the MDNR grant.

Laabs also asked if the county treasurer should be paid extra for administering the grant. Erickson said it is a partnership and the trail authority cannot afford to pay for the time that municipal employees spend on the grant application process.

On several occasions, commissioners said they did not want to get stuck with the costs of the project, citing the current squabble over paying $600,000 to Michigan Works involving pensions of retired employees from many counties. Gogebic County is stuck with the bill it feels other Upper Peninsula counties should be sharing, pending legislation on the matter.

Anderson said the county is protected from cost over-runs for Phase Three of the trail project both on the short- and long-term basis, as is the road commission, which has also received state funds for the project.

County board members received applause upon agreeing unanimously to sponsor the third phase grant.

Board member Jim Oliver, of Ironwood, was absent.

In other business Wednesday, the county board agreed to a three-month extension of the sheriff’s department deputies’ union contract, under the same terms.

The board learned Kathy Jo Koval has accepted the position of county equalization director effective Jan. 1 at a salary of $48,500. Long-time equalization director Tom Novascone has retired.

Koval said she has named Tina Romosz as her deputy director at pay grade 6 on the union scale. It is a full-time job.


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