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Back to square one for Baraga County 911 committee

August 7, 2012
By STEPHEN ANDERSON - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

L'ANSE - The Baraga County 911 committee has been in a near-constant state of flux due to several resignations, and just when the committee thought it would finally name a new county 911 director Monday, it found out the candidate it had chosen accepted a full-time job elsewhere.

"Applications were submitted to the interview committee, and they chose a candidate. That was going to be on the agenda for approval," said Gary Wadaga, current committee chair and director of Bay Ambulance, during a phone interview Monday. "That person just got a full-time job elsewhere. We're back to square one. It's kind of in the county's court now, but at this point in time we don't have a new director."

Current county commissioner Bill Menge has been filling in as director since county equalization director Lora Osterman resigned from the 911 director position in March.

"I think we're going to have to make a change. ... I'm going to talk to the county board about it," Menge said on the phone Monday.

At its July meeting, the committee opted with an 8-2 vote to stay with 911 service through Negaunee Regional Dispatch Center instead of switching to Iron County Dispatch.

The issue had been hotly debated since a Dec. 12 county board of commissioners meeting in which the board opted to switch to Iron County. The 911 committee had met that morning without the proper advance meeting notice and voted 6-5 to switch to Iron County, but the bylaw violation, as announced at the Jan. 9 county board meeting, nullified the move. The committee, which has committed to compromising before bringing a final recommendation to the county board for approval, has since seen the resignation of Osterman and previous committee chair Daune Smith, who is also the Baraga County emergency coordinator.

"At this point in time we're happy with Negaunee, we're happy with the contract," Wadaga said. "Now it's just a matter of renewing the contract. The big decision will be to renew it year by year, or Negaunee has offered a five-year contract with a 3 percent price increase each year."

The committee will revisit the renewal issue at its Sept. 3 meeting, and the Negaunee contract, which expires in September, would have to be approved by the county board at a date yet to be determined.

"I just think the committee is very anxious to hire a coordinator," Wadaga said. "We're falling behind on some things and it's not as organized as it could be."



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