Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wakefield gets outpouring of federal funding


[email protected]

Ironwood — Giddy moods prevailed on Monday evening as Wakefield City Manager Robert Brown Jr. reported to the City Council that two substantial sources of federal funding had been confirmed.

According to Brown, $440,000 to fund the new Department of Public Works site has now been granted officially from the Rural Development Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, Brown said that the city is expected to receive $174,507 via the American Rescue Plan that went into effect on March 11 as part of continuing relief in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our records show that the assistance recommended by USDA Rural Development is a loan of $198,000 and grant of $242,000,” wrote Donald J. Gerrie Jr., area director for the USDA’s Gladstone area office, in a July 19 letter.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out,” said Brown, who added that the city has 20 years to pay off the loan, but that he believes it can be done in about a decade.

Council members were quick to thank Brown for his efforts in securing the funds.

“If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be where we are, so thank you,” said Amy Tarro.

“Great job!” said Kay Wiita, while Mayor Dale White also praised the teamwork among Brown, Treasurer Mandy Lake and former treasurer, Sherry Ravelli.

“Now, we can start turning our attention to other buildings in town,” said Brown, explaining that two developers have toured the former city hall — which has been abandoned since 2014 — and that “a lot of interest” has been expressed in private ownership that may result in new apartments and storage options.

In order to move forward with the separate, additional American Rescue funds, council members voted to authorize Brown to finalize acceptance of the allotment.

“The paperwork has been submitted,” he assured.

Brown said it appears that those funds can be designated for infrastructure such as roads and sewer work or for parks and recreation.

But he also added of government officials, “They are changing the requirements almost weekly.”

Council members also:

—Learned from Brown that the planning commission had referred ongoing concerns regarding city land next to Plymouth Lake back to the council. He and the mayor both expressed a desire to meet with several other lakeshore owners there to get a consensus of their stance. Tarro suggested scheduling that session before the council’s next regular meeting, and Brown said he will aim for that.

—At the request of Tim Lynott, a resident of Chicago Mine Road, voted to proceed with facilitating the sale of undeveloped Eddy Park property that Brown said has no value to the city and on which utility issues make the land “unbuildable.” Brown said City Attorney Ray O’Dea will be consulted as to the next steps.

—Learned from Brown that he hopes to hold a “listening session” with residents at Eddy Park Campground, which he said has averaged 90% occupancy this year. He said a “Christmas with Santa” event last Saturday was “really well attended” and was followed by a street dance.

—Voted for the city to proceed with the purchase of 26 utility poles at a total cost of $21,837, including hardware.

—Voted to approve a water rate increase of $0.0171, resulting in a new rate of $1.3201 per 1,000 gallons for what Brown phrased as “safe, clean, drinkable water” for the Gogebic Range Water Authority. The rate change was approved in the form of a resolution that amends an agreement created in the year 2000.

—Voted to approve, at a cost not exceeding $39,346, the annual renewal cost of city membership in the Michigan Municipal League’s Liability and Property Pool.

All votes were unanimous with all members present.

The council’s next regular meeting will be on Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the municipal building.