HANCOCK - The city councils of Hancock and Houghton conducted one of their periodic joint meetings Thursday in the community room of Lakeview Manor in Hancock, and they heard reports on issues of interest to both of them.
Jack Dueweke, emergency measures coordinator for Houghton and Keweenaw counties, said a preliminary version of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge Incident Management Plan has been completed.
Since 2010, Dueweke said a committee has been working on developing a plan for how to deal with a significant and long-term outage of the bridge.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Jack Dueweke, emergency measures coordinator for Houghton and Keweenaw counties, gives an update on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge Incident Management Plan Thursday during a joint meeting of the Hancock and Houghton city councils in the community room of Lakeview Manor in Hancock.
Of all the things he has to be concerned about as emergency measures coordinator, Dueweke said a bridge outage concerns him most.
"That truly is my greatest worry," he said.
Many people may not realize it, Dueweke said, but the Keweenaw Peninsula north of the bridge is actually an island, and not having a way to cross the Portage Canal can create problems.
"There are about 20,000 people that live on that island," he said.
There are hospitals, an airport, schools and other important facilities north of the bridge, which have to be part of an emergency plan, Dueweke said.
One of the contingencies considered by the committee was the use of a pontoon bridge, but the nearest one is in the Sault Ste. Marie area, and it could take three to five days to get here, Dueweke said. However, there are enough supplies on the north side of the bridge to last that amount of time.
If the bridge should be out for a significant amount of time, Dueweke said many of the surrounding counties could be affected, also.
"It's a huge, huge issue," he said.
The Incident Management Plan was funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation, but Dueweke said that funding is gone, so the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region is working on getting a grant to continue planning.
"This is really just the beginning," he said. "Now we need to dig a little deeper."
Jerald Wuorenmaa, planner at WUPPDR, said the agency is working to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Community Resilience Challenge grant, which will allow more in-depth planning with specific entities, such as hospitals, law enforcement and schools.
After Dueweke spoke, Scott See, executive director of the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, updated the council members about the efforts with the Quincy Smelting Works site.
After two years of stabilization work, See said work has stopped temporarily.
"It was a little quiet this summer," he said.
In October, See said the Advisory Commission and officials with Franklin Township, owner of the site, entered into an option agreement, which will allow the Advisory Commission to come up with $330,000 by Sept. 30, 2015, to purchase the smelter site, as well as artifacts and documents related to the site. The agreement also includes $11,400 of loan forgiveness from the advisory commission to the township.
"Our plan is to execute this as soon as possible," he said. "We're doing what we can to acquire the funding."
Now that the option agreement has been signed, See said more specific discussions can take place about moving the Isle Royale headquarters and Ranger III dock from Houghton across the canal to the smelter site.The final paperwork for delisting the smelter site from the Torch Lake Superfund Site is continuing, See said.
"All the remediation has been done," he said.
It's hoped the delisting can take place next year, See said.
Next to speak was Dennis Hext, manager of the Houghton County Memorial Airport, who told the council members about an effort to bring aviation-related businesses to the airport called Green Forces Aviation.
Hext said Green Forces Aviation is a concept to create green business in the aviation industry, such as aircraft dismantling.
The HCMA is involved with the plan, Hext said, because the Small Business Administration is funding the effort at Sawyer International Airport and the airports at Escanaba and Delta County. Officials with the SBA want to fund regional efforts, so the HCMA was asked to join. The four entities formed the Upper Michigan Green Aviation Association.
Hext said an effort now is being made to get local businesses involved with the plan.
"Right now, it's moving along," he said.
After Hext spoke, Marilyn Clark, CEO of the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation SmartZone, updated council members about the efforts of the SmartZone.
Clark said earlier this year she made a commitment to bring 750 jobs to the area in 10 years, and there are three ways to do that: 1) Supporting start up companies, 2) Giving support to existing high tech companies and 3) Expanding existing companies.
The effort to get 750 jobs started modestly, Clark said.
"Our goal was for six jobs," she said. "We created 32 jobs. That's net."
Several companies grew out of the SmartZone business incubators, Clark said.
"We've had a lot of jobs in the expanding (part of the plan)," she said.
In the Finlandia University Jutila Center for Global Design and Business, Clark said the Entrepreneur Support Center has gotten several companies going.
"Most of them are lifestyle companies," she said.
Clark said because of a concept called economic gardening, many business can get started in the state.
"There has never been a better time to start a business in Michigan than now," she said. "There is a lot of grant opportunity out there."
Clark said she thinks more companies will be moving to or starting up locally, also.
"We have a bright future here," she said.
After Clark spoke, Scott MacInnes, Houghton city manager, said plans are continuing for FinnFest set for June 19-23, 2013 in the Copper Country.
Most rooms available in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties are either booked for the event or will be soon, MacInnes said.
"This event is going to be the greatest specific event we've ever had here by a significant amount," he said.
Although FinnFest will be centered in Hancock, MacInnes said there will be events in all four counties.
It's expected FinnFest will cost $700,000 to $800,000, MacInnes said, and fundraising efforts are taking place.
"We still have a long way to go," he said.
After MacInnes spoke, Glenn Anderson, Hancock city manager, said a consolidation of services report for Gov. Rick Snyder's Economic Vitality Incentive Plan was completed by himself and MacInnes.
The consolidation of services plan is a transit study of the the two cities completed by students at Michigan Technological University, which looks at transit use in both cities and examines the possibility of fixed routes and stops.
"We expect the first report this spring," Anderson said of the Tech study.
MacInnes said if Tech students are able to find funding to implement the study, it could be done by the start of the next school year.
"If we could do that, it could significantly reduce the amount of traffic on our streets," MacInnes said.
Both councils voted unanimously to submit the transit study to the state as their consolidation of services effort.