Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Michigan Court of Appeals to hear Marenisco's OCF case


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Marenisco — When the Michigan Department of Corrections closed the Ojibway Correctional Facility a year ago in Marenisco Township, it was not because township and county officials had not fought hard to keep it.

Beyond local protests, formal gatherings, and written support from other county and state officials, Marenisco Township had sued MDOC on the grounds of not considering the economic impact the closure would have on this region.

Marenisco Supervisor Richard Bouvette also noted that the local population had neither been consulted properly, nor given adequate warning. The state had announced the closure in August of 2018, only a few months before prison doors closed.

Nevertheless, in November of last year, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello said that the township had not provided adequate proof to avoid the prison closure that followed on Dec. 1.

The township then appealed his action and, after expecting a response no later than last summer, just now received word that the Michigan Court of Appeals will hear the case at the start of the new year.

“We discovered that our lawsuit is going to be heard on the 14th of January,” said Bouvette in a Tuesday phone call. He added that he plans to be there in person.

In the meantime, in recent months, MDOC rendered the prison’s independent sewer system inert by filling in related lagoons on the property.

State officials claimed that needed sewer system repairs were too expensive and that disabling the sewer system would make the property more marketable to potential new owners, who then could contribute to township taxes.

In the opinion of Bouvette and other township officials, closing out the sewer system was just another nail in the coffin.

He said the property now sits useless and abandoned. “It’s a shame,” said Bouvette.

In the past several months, Rep. Greg Markkanen, a Republican in the state’s 110th House district, worked to amend a state appropriations bill to add OCF to a list of facilities under consideration for an MDOC training facility.

That decision remains in limbo while official state comments have indicated a desire for a training facility that is easily accessible.

Bouvette said he reported the coming court action at Monday evening’s meeting of the Marenisco Board of Trustees.

In other news, board members also:

—Voted to appoint Marenisco Police Chief Bruce Mahler as an economic development representative for the township. Mahler will work in conjunction with other county representatives to encourage economic growth here.

—Voted to appoint Al Fairfield to the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board’s next regular meeting will be on Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Marenisco Township Hall.

Bouvette said members expect at that time to review a new ordinance that will officially declare the township’s desire to opt out of enterprise relating to recreational marijuana.

That action is underway by township attorney Jim Bucknell because a majority of Marenisco voters indicated on Nov. 5 that they do not want such activity in their locale.

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