Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

City commission hears pandemic updates


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Ironwood — The Ironwood City Commission on Monday heard COVID-19 response reports from department heads in a meeting held via the Zoom video conferencing app and broadcast on the city’s Facebook page.

Andrew DiGiorgio, director of the public safety, said his officers update themselves daily on information coming out of state and federal government and health agencies. Recent changes require the wearing of masks in certain buildings and businesses, he said.

“We continue to monitor changes,” DiGiorgio said. “It’s a moving target to meet the needs going forward.”

The officers carry personal protective gear to include masks and gowns for themselves and for the people they come in contact with during their duties.

He said individuals, fabric businesses and area sewing and quilting groups continue to donate masks and gowns to the department.

“I would like to thank our community for really rallying and supporting us during this time period,” he said. “I believe they made over 900 to 1,000 cloth masks.”

The officers also conduct public education and help direct curbside pickups at the food banks, he said.

“More than 63 residents participated in a recent food drive for St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank,” DiGiorgio said.

Paul Linn, city finance director and treasurer, said the Michigan Department of the Treasury reports a decline in revenue sharing and Act 51 revenue is expected for the remainder of this fiscal year. The city has created several new accounts to track COVID-19 related expenses.

“From a financial standpoint we’re looking at some big declines in revenue and specifically revenue sharing for April and May, as expected with the slowdown in the economy that is directly tied to sales tax,” Linn said. “We will also see a decline for those same months in our Act 51 revenue, which provides revenue to our street departments from fuel sales taxes.”

The good news is that the city should see higher than expected state revenues from January and February, he said. The decrease for the remainder of the year will not be as low as March and April, but the city is taking a very conservative approach to the next fiscal year starting in July, he said.

Some construction projects are already budgeted and using obligate grant funds and will start as anticipated when road restrictions are lifted, he said. These are projects such as the Downtown City Square Project and the street projects.

All other projects are being evaluated for necessity and timing, he said.

Michigan Municipal League webinars on financial impacts offer guidance and insight from the Treasury department, he said. The city is eligible for a public assistance grant through FEMA that would reimburse 75% of costs for emergency protective measures taken in response to COVID-19, he said.

“We should rebound in June,” Linn said. “We have had nine solid months of on target revenues.”

Tom Bergman, director of community development, said his office is looking at how area businesses can benefit from the $310 billion in appropriations from the latest Paycheck Protection Program to pass Congress. The program opened Monday and allocations will go quickly, he said.

Small Business Administration recovery loans are still available, he said. The Small Business Development Center in Marquette is providing a contract employee for Gogebic County to offer financial guidance and resources to help businesses into the “new normal” of the post pandemic, he said.

In the city manager’s report, Erickson said there will be a Thursday meeting with the city’s insurance company, the architect and the project manager for the Pat O’Donnell Civic Center reconstruction project. The civic center board input led to a redesign of the interior that will improve functionality for users and spectators, he said.

“We are moving forward and we anticipate getting the contractors lined up and starting construction in the spring,” Erickson said.

The first step will be to take down the dome and the new facility will be built on the newer raised footing that was constructed for the temporary dome after the collapse of the original structure, he said. The new footing will provide more square footage inside to improve function, he said.

The project goal is to be completed by late fall or early winter, he said.

Massie Construction Company will start the mill and overlay project of Country Club Road after Memorial Day weekend and is expected to complete the job by the middle of June, he said. Several blocks on Ayer Street are included with a few gaps that will soon undergo water and sewer work.

The project is possible through a state urban grant fund and involves the city, Gogebic County Road Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will begin spring water main and hydrant flushing in May. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department will conduct water quality testing at the same time.

Erickson said the department of public safety was putting together a noxious odor ordinance that would be presented to the commission in a few weeks. In addition, two officers are being trained to use odor detection equipment, according to DiGiorgio.

In other business, the commissioners approved the 2020-21 City Commission Goals. The list of goals and projects was compiled over a few months to help prioritize the budget process.

The commission 5-0 approved the $30,960 low bid for an S1E Crawler Mainline sanitary sewer system camera, and the $5,755 low bid for an S1E Optical Push sanitary sewer camera to Jack Doheny Companies, Inc. The purchases were recommended by Bob Tervonen, city utilities manager, who said he is applying for a 50% matching grant for each purchase through a program with the city’s insurance company.

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