Houghton Police Department gets grant for accreditation

HOUGHTON — The Houghton Police Department is looking to become accredited through a statewide program.

At Wednesday’s Houghton City Council meeting, Chief John Donnelly said the department had received a $38,000 grant to pursue accreditation through the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

“It’s something we had wanted to do, we just didn’t have a way to fund it,” he said. “That’s why they came up with this, to get small departments like this, so we can bring a level of professionalism within the law enforcement community that citizens deserve. It’s a lot of work, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Forty departments statewide have gotten accredited since 2018. Marquette is the only Upper Peninsula department to complete the process so far.

The program includes 108 standards for best practices, such as field training, records access and control, and use of force policies.

More than 50 other departments are at some point in the process, including Ironwood and Ishpeming.

Accreditation would take two years, Donnelly said. Donnelly said becoming accredited would benefit the city.

“It makes sure that if something bad does place — let’s say an accident during a high-speed chase — it makes sure the officers know what their role is, what their responsibility is, and that our procedures are what they should be, so that the city isn’t held liable, the officers aren’t held liable, and everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

The department also received a portable speed sign, which it acquired jointly with Portage Township. The solar-powered sign can be set up to flash when a car approaches at a certain speed, and then to show red-and-blue flashing lights to indicate a speed at which someone could expect a ticket, Donnelly said. The readings will not themselves be grounds for a ticket, but Donnelly hopes it can act as a deterrent.

“This one is mobile, so we can put it right in people’s neighborhoods,” he said.

In other action, the council:

— Moved meeting dates for November and December to accommodate the second public engagement session regarding the parking deck property, which is scheduled for Nov. 10. The city council meetings will take place Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.

City Manager Eric Waara said responding to participant feedback after the first public engagement session, the number of tables would be reduced to allow people to better hear conversations.

— Heard a report from Waara on a walkthrough this week by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. as part of the Redevelopment Ready Communities program. The MEDC will report back on what opportunities it sees for development in the downtown. The city also learned of a possible grant through MEDC’s Match on Main program, which offers grants of up to $25,000 with an additional 10% match. The grants will allow businesses to make improvements such as outdoor seating, pickup windows or redoing a business’s entrance. The city can submit applications on behalf of two businesses. “We have a reasonably good chance of success if we’ve got a good application, because it’s only for certain communities that are redevelopment-ready in the U.P.,” Waara said.

— Heard from Waara the city paving project should be finishing up this week. The final streets will be on western and eastern Houghton Avenue, Seventh Avenue and Sandpiper Drive.

— heard from Waara action on a burned-down building on College Avenue is in a holding period while the city awaits the owners’ response to the hearing officers’ finding the building should be torn down. Waara hopes the work can be completed before Christmas.

— Heard a list of “10 good things” from Waara. The city’s RV park had its best year in revenue, at twice the volume as 2015.

— Passed a resolution supporting in principle a Public Act 425 agreement with Portage township that would bring the potential site of a new jail on Sharon Avenue into city boundaries.

— Approved a lot split off of Evergreen Drive related to the construction of an extended-stay hotel on Razorback Drive. The owners of the hotel had requested to move their stormwater pond to allow more room for snow storage.

— Approved a five-year agreement for the transit system.


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