Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Board seeks counsel for Gogebic County's reimbursement case

BESSEMER — The Gogebic County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved 7-0 a new attorney to provide legal counsel for the ongoing retirement funds issue with the Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium.

Wendy Marcotte of Marquette, will provide counsel regarding the county’s legal and legislative efforts over five years to recoup more than $900,000 in funds in a rule transition for retirement legacy costs with the Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium in 2015.

The previous attorney, Steven Pence, announced his retirement effective Jan. 31. Marcotte is an associate with the former firm and is familiar with the case.

In the county administrator’s report, Juliane Giackino said the county building elevator is breaking down more frequently including a December incident when an employee was stuck inside for approximately 20 minutes. The problem is with the door motors that are no longer serviced by the manufacturer and an upgrade would also require a computer, she said.

“The cost is about $140,000 for an upgrade,” Giackino said.

Discussions are ongoing to see if the work can be done in phases but it looks like the work will need to be done at one time, she said.

“I knew that we would have to do this eventually,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be so costly.”

The board unanimously re-elected James Byrns as vice-chair for 2020. There were no additional nominations.

The election of vice chair, according to Gerry Pelissero, county register of deeds, occurs each year when the chair has been elected for two years. Commissioner Dan Siirila was elected chair for two years at the 2019 re-organizational meeting, when Byrns was first elected vice-chair.

The board approved reappointing Robert Sharon to the Personnel and Negotiations Committee with a recommendation from Scott Parrot, director of the Department of Health and Human Services. Sharon’s current term expired Oct. 31, 2019. Sharon was also the only applicant.

The board authorized Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich to purchase a 2020 Dodge Ram pickup truck that will serve as a sheriff’s department vehicle. The $29,202 purchase price was $500 lower than the next bid and was already included in the annual county budget through the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant funds.

The board accepted a communication from Greg Ryskey, Gogebic County grant administrator, regarding the County Remonumentation program revisions that will require proof that the county approved its revised county plan.

The board accepted a communication from James Zyduck, director of hydro plants for Xcel Energy, regarding a letter of intent to reapply for licensing Hydroelectric projects at Saxon Falls and Superior Falls. The current project licenses expire on Dec. 31, 2024.

Giackino announced that the county nutrition instructor position is vacant. The position works within the Gogebic County Extension Office of Michigan State University.

Giackino also announced that the Michigan Association of Counties sent a $31,046 dividend check to the county from the workers compensation fund.