By TOM LAVENTURE
Dennis Hewitt is retiring at the end of December after 24 years in the dual role of city assessor and building official for the city of Ironwood, according to city manager Scott Erickson at the meeting. Hewitt has abilities and specific credentials, certifications and licenses that have allowed him to serve both in positions.
“Both positions have been well managed over the years and through Dennis’ outstanding work, has resulted in the city receiving recognition through a certificate of achievement from the state of Michigan for receiving a perfect score last year on the state’s Audit of Minimum Assessing Requirements Review, which is conducted every five years,” Erickson said. “This is a high bar to achieve with few assessing agencies able to achieve this level of service.”
The city commission 5-0 approved current code enforcement officer Jason Alonen to replace Hewitt as the city assessor and assessor of record, effective Jan. 1, 2021. Alonen has trained with Hewitt for four years and has completed the Michigan Certified Assessing Officer requirement.
The succession plan now restructures Hewitt’s two positions to provide full and part time personnel to provide service in an efficient and cost-effective manner, Erickson said. Alonen will maintain his code enforcement duties but will now spend 40% of his time in the city assessor position.
A part-time building inspector will be hired at around 800 hours annually, Erickson said. Alonen’s other current duties in community development will go to another part time employee to expand the assistant role into a full time position.
“The result of this internal restructuring will be an annual budget savings of approximately $63,000, while continuing to provide a high level of service for city residents,” Erickson said.
In the COVID-19 response reports, Ironwood Public Safety Department Director Andrew DiGiorgio said he learned from ongoing discussions with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department that Gogebic County will receive its first allocation of vaccine this week. The limited first delivery will be distributed to an as yet unidentified group and will expand with future deliveries.
“We continue to move forward and we see some changes coming that will impact our area,” DiGiorgio said.
Tom Bergman, director of city development, said he is encouraging small business owners to apply early for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grant applications for a new grant cycle of Small Business Relief Program funding starting Tuesday. The state has $10 million to distribute statewide including $500,000 to the Upper Peninsula and it should be a very competitive process, he said.
For more information about the grant, contact Bergman at 906-932-5050 ext 126, or email bergmant@cityofiron
Erickson said he received a letter from Aspirus Ironwood CEO Paula Chermside, asking that city leadership keep encouraging residents to mask, social distance and abide by other requests to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community. He said the continuing message is important even with the positive news of the vaccines due to a high number of local cases that are filling hospitals and draining resources.
The commission approved a $9,795 request from City Clerk Karen Gullan to replace the city’s cemetery software to be compatible with other city software systems. The BS&A software includes an annual cemetery management agreement and training.
The commission removed discussion of financing options for the proposed city water filtration plant and pump station after hearing information from a pre-meeting workshop. Jeff Sjoquist of Coleman Engineering said he is working with the state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Water Treatment Plant regarding a potential funding source that will require a month or more of research and processing.
The city commission was unanimous in adding the Downtown City Square to the no smoking ordinance for city parks. The ordinance also includes Depot Park, Downtown Art Park, Downtown Pocket Park, Hiawatha Park, Hiawatha Rotary Skate Park, Krznarich Little League Field, Kuitunen Park, Lake/Ayer Street Park, Longyear Park, Norrie Park, Patterson Park and Tennis Courts.
In other business, the city commission approved:
—A professional engineering services agreement for replacing lead and galvanized water service lines through the Disadvantaged Community Lead Service Line program of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. If approved the program funds construction and replacement of lead and galvanized water service lines.
—Authorizing bids for a 2019 Michigan State Housing Development Authority Neighborhood Enhancement Program application that would assist homeowners with exterior housing improvements along corridors to the downtown. The commission also approved a 2020 application to be submitted.
—Designating the Gogebic County Equalization Director as the city’s designated assessor, a requirement of the State Tax Commission to have an authorized external assessor as a backup in the event of a fiscal management crisis.