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Ontonagon questions CARES Act invoice

While the village of Ontonagon handed out a pay raise of over $3.00 to an employee in the office, and gave an additional $10.00/hr (to $30.00/hr) to a former employee to come back and help train her replacement, the village council continues to try to find a way to pay an individual they have been trying to hire for over a year.

When Downtown Development Authority President Richard Ernest claimed to have put in over 170 hours in helping local businesses through the CARES Act, the issue drew the attention of local residents. Ernest sent an invoice to the village at $25.00/hour.

The issue has gone through the Finance Committee. Village Manager Joe Erickson told the council that the committee believes that two of the tasks were performed in response to the COVID pandemic, “were above and beyond the responsibilities of the DDA chairman.”

“The delivery and pick up of funding applications and the review of applications submitted for funding are more than would be expected of any DDA member,” said Erickson when addressing the council. “However, the invoice does not provide information about the time spent on these applications.”

Councilsor Junior Marks made the motion to table the payment to Ernest until there is more clarification.

Ernest first was given the job of village building inspector, providing he got his certification from the state. While the village had received another applicant for that job, they gave the job to Ernest. However Ernest never got his certification. Thus no one was hired for that position.

An issue that the village has had in front of them for over a year has been the repair of the concrete walkway along the East Pier of the Ontonagon River.  The landowner, Matt Weisen, has wanted the village to repair the walkway as this has become a danger to those that use it. Weisen wanted the village to either repair the walkway or close it down before anyone gets hurt.

The council agreed to meet with Weisen to find a solution to the problem. 

“I am optimistic,” Weisen said.  “The village is interested in seeing a solution with the walkway in the near future.”

According to the council this issue has been discussed for only the past couple months.

People use the walkway to fish, and the bank where the walkway is located is considered public property. The problem the council has is where to get the money to pay for the repairs and whether the village can get a state grant for the repairs.

The village got a grant for the controversial paddle craft landing, and has been in discussion to pay over $100,000 for the dredging of the village’s marina. Plus the village is looking at another extension from the Michigan Department of Treasury on the village’s financial problems

What the village will do regarding the repairs at the East Pier may come down to where the village can get the money.

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