Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

County board approves Mercer garage loan


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Hurley — The Iron County Board of Supervisors approved taking out a loan to cover part of the cost of building a new garage in Mercer for the county’s highway department Tuesday.

The county will borrow $1 million in a 5-year loan with an interest rate of 2.5%, with the board opting to take the shorter loan than the 8-year loan Highway Commissioner Mike Swartz had originally suggested.

Swartz expressed concern about the highway department’s ability to pay the more expensive quarterly payments for the 5-year loan, however, the board voted to have the county take on the loan rather than keeping it solely in the highway department.

That decision means the county is expected to only pay $66,919 in interest over the life of the loan, rather than the $128,522 in interest over the life of the 8-year loan. However, it also means the county will add the loan over the levy cap and pass the cost onto taxpayers.

“I would take the cheapest interest you can,” Iron County Clerk Mike Saari said, adding the $600,000 loan to fund the courthouse expansion won’t be on the tax rolls after 2021.

Along with the $1 million loan, the highway department will use roughly $1.5 million in other funds to cover the expected $2.5 million cost of the new garage

At the finance committee meeting earlier this month, Swartz said the department is looking to build a new 15,000-square-foot garage to be built on the same property off U.S. 51 at the north end of Mercer as the existing 4,000-square-foot structure.

The current structure, which was built in the 1930s, is too small for some of the department’s vehicles, according to information presented at the committee meeting.

In other action, the board:

—Approved a Utility Location Ordinance requiring utility owners to move any utilities in the highway right-of-way if they are in the way of needed road work and imposing a $1,000-per-day fine for utilities that aren’t moved within a set time period.

—Approved a COVID-19 policy for county employees and extended the existing resolution giving county officials the flexibility to respond to the pandemic.

—Passed a resolution regarding Thomas Popko’s bequeathment of funds for improvements to Schomberg Park.

—Approved the 2019 Zoning Annual Report.

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