Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Marenisco police chief opening to be posted soon

MARENISCO — At a Monday evening meeting of the Marenisco Board of Trustees, Supervisor Richard Bouvette announced that the pending retirement of Police Chief Bruce Mahler begs the question of whether to replace him.

“Yeah!” answered Trustee Kelly Dunbar without hesitation.

“Maybe,” said Trustee Dave Hagen, who added later that he would prefer the position to be part time.

“What other options do we have?” asked Treasurer Diane Dean.

Bouvette, who also chairs the board, said members can hire a replacement for Mahler or can contract services through the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Office. The board also can “do nothing,” he said.

Board members ultimately agreed that hiring a full-time replacement was the best option, and Bouvette said he will plan to post the position after the July 4 holiday.

Mahler, who was present in the audience, said that in order for Marenisco to qualify for various law enforcement grants and to meet other government terms, his replacement would have to be full time.

Mahler, who plans to leave his job by the end of August, added that — if board members opt to contract services — they also would have to hire a separate code enforcement officer because sheriff’s deputies do not perform that service.

“We’ve already lost our ambulance,” said Clerk Donna Kenney regarding the possibility of merely contracting services. “I do not want to lose our police officer.”

Kenney said she’d prefer to avoid “increased response time” as a result of potential law enforcement officials traveling from a greater geographical distance.

Bouvette expressed the same concern. “I would prefer that our policeman lives here,” he said. Moreover, he added, “That was the nice thing about Bruce. He was here. I think it’s nice that we had someone who knows the local conditions and the local people.”

Board members also discussed potential criteria for Mahler’s replacement.

Bouvette said some applicants may be qualified, but not live in the township. Other applicants may reside locally, but lack qualifications.

The supervisor said he will check the legal requirements for residency and said that board members can encourage, if not require, a law enforcement official to live in Marenisco.

According to Mahler, Michigan has eight or nine law enforcement academies that provide training at different times throughout the year, but he said just getting accepted can take months.

“If you’re willing to send someone to the academy, you’re going to get a lot of applicants,” he said, adding that paid training could be contingent upon an applicant’s agreement to serve a minimum number of years within the township.

Dean said she’d prefer to hire someone who already has the qualifications.

“You have to find the right person for your community,” said Mahler. “That’s the most important thing.”

Bouvette said the cost of funding a police chief is “expensive,” running up to $90,000 when costs of equipment maintenance, etc. are included. Mahler said one advantage is that his police car has only 51,000 miles and is in “great shape.”

In other news, Bouvette reported that plans for a July 4 celebration are continuing. He said that related committee members are planning kids games and have hired a band to perform from 3-6 p.m. in the new pavilion near the Marenisco Town Hall.

At Bouvette’s suggestion, the board also voted to spend an additional $3,000 on fireworks, for a total of $13,000.

In a nod to concerns regarding COVID-19, Hagen said masks will be available to the public.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced that people now can congregate outdoors in crowds of up to 250 people, although social distancing is still encouraged.

The board also voted to post an open position on the planning commission. Bouvette said that former member Arthur Pardi, 91, cannot continue in the role due to health issues.

In a break from virtual sessions, the board’s Monday meeting was in the town hall for the first time since Feb. 17. The next regular meeting will be on July 20 at 6 p.m. in the hall, and the public is welcome.