The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Iron County board discusses limiting finance committee power


January 31, 2018


Hurley — In Iron County, a lot of financial decisions live and die at the Iron County Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee. The county board debated changing that Tuesday as it discussed whether purchases above a set amount needed to be brought before the full county board rather than handled by the committee.

“I feel that too much has been put onto the finance committee, as far as being able to make decisions without coming back to the full county board. We don’t get any recommendations from finance as a full board; it’s ‘Bring it to finance for approval,’” said supervisor Karl Krall. “I believe finance should do the legwork on some of the stuff, but refer it to the full board for the sale of a county lot or making the final decision on a lot of the big ticket items.”

While the discussion started after finance committee chair Opal Roberts reported on the committee’s decision to hold onto a property the county owns near Whitecap Mountain, the discussion quickly extended beyond the specific decision.

The ongoing construction of the garage behind the county courthouse was discussed, which was originally estimated to cost $250,000 but was bid out at roughly $330,000.

Some board members said they felt they weren’t properly informed of the higher costs or the scope of the project.

Iron County Clerk Mike Saari said the $250,000 figure came from rough estimate the county pencilled in based on some initial calculations done by county employees and it underestimated how much materials would cost for the project. He explained the $330,000 bid was the lowest bid submitted and the price wasn’t increased after the contract was awarded.

Saari also questioned board members as to whether they really wanted all purchases to go before the whole county board, arguing other committees approve purchases without going to the full board as well.

“You guys have got to determine if you really want to bring everything back to the full board, do you guys want to do that every time? Because then what happens is, you hold up the purchase of something until the end of the month,” Saari said.

Supervisor Larry Youngs cited an old county resolution — Resolution 2,400 — which requires purchases over $3,500 be approved by the full county board.

County board chair Joe Pinardi said he was unaware of the resolution and while he seemed to agree with the concept of a limit, Pinardi said he felt $3,500 was too low and needed to be increased.

Several board members — including Krall — made clear they weren’t necessarily criticizing the finance committee and would probably have made the same decision if given the opportunity to vote. They said they would simply like a say in the decisions since the entire board answers to the taxpayers, especially as the county ramps up the rebuilding of Saxon Harbor.

“We all have our own opinions and our own thoughts. Our one goal is to save the county as much money as we can. For every dollar we spend, I want to know where it’s going and I want these (procedures) in place now so we don’t have to have these conversations (down the road),” Youngs said, referring to Saxon Harbor.

No action was taken as a result of the discussion, but Saari said other changes to the county’s procurement policy were on the agenda for upcoming finance committee meetings.

In other action:

—The county transferred several pieces of land to its highway department needed for the right-of-way on the rerouted County A at Saxon Harbor. The reroute was necessary given the location of the new bridge over Oronto Creek at the harbor, as the old bridge was destroyed in the July 2016 storm.

—The board received an update on the county’s new Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Program. In its first year, the program targeting non-violent offenders with substance abuse issues was offered to 17 offenders. Five declined to participate, three began the program but couldn’t complete it and nine have been successful so far.

—Saari reported the towns of Saxon and Gurney have repaid the $150,000 they borrowed from Iron County in the immediate aftermath of the July 2016 storm that washed out roads in the northern part of the county and destroyed Saxon Harbor.

—The board approved the 2017 Iron County Fair Board’s financial report and 2018 membership list, a requirement for the fair’s inclusion in the county’s insurance policy.


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