The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Village of Ontonagon discusses grant, broadband services


January 15, 2019

Jan Tucker/Daily Globe

Mark Pantti of Northern Michigan University explained to the Ontonagon Village Council the efforts to bring broadband service to rural areas and the benefits to school children of the area. The service would be mounted on the Ontonagon and White Pine water towers. The council approved the request.


Ontonagon - The Ontonagon Village Council Monday heard from Village Manager Joe Erickson that in the waning days of the Snyder Administration, the state approved a one-time Rural Community Demolition Grant program. He explained the program has $350,000 available and the maximum award of $50,000 for demolition of publicly owned blighted structures, with applications due Feb. 15.

Councilman Tony Smydra noted the village of Ontonagon has all the criteria to apply for the demolition grant. The program defines what is considered "blighted" and Smydra added "we meet all the conditions." He noted the buildings under considerations are "fire hazards, dangerous, utilities disconnected, unfit for human occupation." Council members said the group must work fast to complete the grant. The Downtown Development Authority and Village Planning Commission will be contacted and are expected to meet this week on the issue, Village President Ken Waldrop added.

Marlene Broemer, in the audience, added she is a member of the Land Bank Authority in the county and they will be made aware of the program and possibly go for the grant as well. Smydra continued the village has other things going for it.

"We are a Rising Tide community and Redevelopment Ready Community which would make it attractive for the state to see how we are working on this blight problem," Smydra continued.

Erickson noted that if the village gets the grant it could be used as inkind to apply for other grants.

The council approved the Northern Michigan University proposal to expand wireless internet service in the area, as part of the rural broadband success project. Using water towers in Ontonagon and White Pine, the project could provide households with school-age children internet access where traditional wired services are not available. The Ewen area has also approved such services on their tower. Additional services are being worked on using towers in Rockland. The Ontonagon Township Board has already approved the project as well.

Mark Pantti, of NMU, explained the proposal and answered questions from the council and audience.

Erickson informed the council the village has received the lead/copper sampling results from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the report indicates, "Zero levels for lead or copper in the village drinking water." Resident Tom Hamilton questioned where the tests were taken and asked about houses that have been vacant a long time and the condition in those pipes. Erickson said more comprehensive information about the village water system will be available in the Consumer Confidence Report that will be out in June and Hamilton can check that out. He explained that the state has detailed rules of how and where samples are taken.

Sue Lockhart informed the council that she called the Attorney General's office and was told that any piece of paper that even one councilman received, the public is also eligible to receive. She also asked the village how much revenue they may have lost because some forms were not filed in a timely manner. The council had no comment but Waldrop said the question will be reviewed and they will get back to her.

Erickson also informed the council that the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region has funds for community energy audits and he has inquired about a energy audit of the water and sewer systems. It would identify efficiencies and explore alternate energy such as solar. He noted such solar panels might be used by the lagoon system of the village to reduce energy costs.


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