Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Gogebic County awards dispatcher contract to Negaunee


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Bessemer — The Gogebic County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved a three-year contract for county dispatching services to Negaunee Regional Dispatch.

The contract was recommended by the Finance, Budgeting and Auditing Committee, and was supported by the Michigan State Police Wakefield Post. It will take effect on Jan. 1.

The bid will realize approximately $145,259 in savings from the current contract with Iron County (Mich.) Dispatch, according to the letter from Heidi DeRosso, county Emergency Management and 911 coordinator. However, the transition will require additional costs.

Every county that joins the Negaunee dispatch will offset the costs for each member county. Negaunee’s equipment was also a factor and planned VHF towers might help avoid the need to install new fiber optic lines that were part of the 911 fee hike request that was passed in the recent county election.

“In the future this will allow any dispatch center in the U.P. to dispatch for us without any additional switch-over costs,” DeRosso said in the letter to the commission.

The commission approved county jury board appointments as presented by Circuit Court Judge Michael Pope. The terms of jury board members Paula Partanen, Susan Mitchem and Lynn Ormes will expire on Dec. 31, and Judge Pope asked for their reappointment to six-year terms.

Pope said the board members are effective and experienced at accomplishing tedious clerical tasks and that the circuit court is fortunate that they want to continue.

“They have been very efficient as well as inexpensive,” Pope said in the letter. “Their diligence, trustworthiness, and knowledge of the systems here cannot be duplicated.”

In other business, the board approved:

—Siirila as the commission member volunteer on the Public Act 660 designated assessor committee. The designated assessor ensures quality assessments for taxpayers and local units of government, and that all nine local government units in the county are compliant, or are correcting compliance issues discovered by state tax commission audits, according to Kathy Jo Koval, county equalization director. Siirila and the committee will meet with supervisors and city managers for input.

—The County Winter Levy form that will be issued on Dec. 1. The county will levy 2.7237 mills of a possible 3.1206 mills against a 2020 taxable county value of $554,426,229.

—The Range Suicide Prevention Council’s proclamation request to designate the week of Sept. 7-13 as Suicide Prevention Week in Gogebic County.

Following the regular meeting the commission held a personnel and negotiations committee meeting to discuss the proposed 2020-21 general budget as presented by Juliane Giackino, county administrator. The commissioners scheduled a workshop for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the county building, after determining they needed more time to review the proposed budget and to hear from department heads who want to discuss proposed cuts.

Judge Pope said he would like to attend the workshop to discuss ways to reach a “reasonable and necessary budget.” There is a $37,000 proposed cut to the probate budget, and a $20,000 cut to the Friend of the Court budget.

Giackino said the cuts were based on worker vacancies and other one-time cuts.

Gerry Pelissero, clerk of court and register of deeds, said he wanted to discuss alternatives to proposed cuts to two-and-a-half worker positions in the office. His own proposal is based on his leaving office and replacement, along with two potential retirements that he said would save $17,000.

Joe Bonovetz, who chairs the Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board, said he wanted to discuss the second consecutive $30,000 cut from the general budget. He proposed maintaining the $30,000 cut in 2019 but that the additional cut would make airport operations unsustainable.

Gogebic County has a 75% airport budget contribution along with a 25% contribution from Iron County, Wisconsin. The additional $30,000 cut would result in another $10,000 cut from Iron County on top of the $10,000 cut in 2019 — making the two year total an $80,000 drop in revenue from $170,000.

Dan Siirila, commission chair, said the second $30,000 cut was considered because the airport has nearly $90,000 in its capital outlay fund when no other department carries that kind of cash on hand. 

Bonovetz said the fund was built over 12 years and is used to provide required matching funds when applying for multimillion dollar federal grants. Those grants lead to airport improvements such as the next project that is to build a new hangar that may lead to regional jet service some day.

Lisa Hewitt, county treasurer, was present to answer questions about her concerns that the commission understand that the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund cannot carry a deficit. The commissioners said the fund has held a surplus for several years and did not understand as it still contains nearly $2 million.

There was a $92,787 payment to the ambulance fund, along with legal fees for pending litigation, she said. There is $1.4 million earmarked for court costs from pending litigation and recent civil cases. Any anticipated reimbursements from the state legislature should not be considered awarded until approved.

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