Wager’s property removal investigation underway in Ontonagon

The entrance and removal of property by an Ontonagon Village contractor at the former Wager’s Restaurant in Ontonagon continues to be a topic at Ontonagon Village Council meetings. When Village Council member Sarah Hopper questioned the council for an update at a May meeting, and it was not put in the minutes, the council listened back to the meeting recording.

They agreed to simply put in the minutes, ‘Trustee Hopper asked about the status of the Wager’s building.” The response from President Pro Tem Tony Smydra about possible legal litigation was not in the minutes.

Monday night’s Ontonagon Village Council meeting did see Village President Ken Waldrop give a brief update.

“Wagers Restaurant was entered,” he said. “We talked about that after Norm Pestka went in there. I investigated the situation between Joe Erickson (Ontonagon Village Manager) and Norm in dealings back in 2017 before this grant was ever brought about. They did agree.”

Erickson stated that the village was looking for a way for work to be done at the former Courtesy Chevrolet Garage. “Money went pay for the testing (at the former Garage),” he said. “Some of the money went for the property in Wagers for the testing before the demolition was coming up.”

“My concern was with the dollar match amounts matched with what Norm Pestka said they did,” said Waldrop. “So I called Two Loons, who got a piece of the equipment. They verified that it did match. Back in 2017, he (Pestka) went and looked it up. They were also a part of a Revolving Fund (Business loan). I didn’t have much success with that.

“I also did check with a company in the Green Bay-Milwaukee area and that was a very minimal amount of money they got. They used whatever they got from Norm (Pestka) for scrap. Now fast forward, 2019, Norm Pestka enters a restaurant that’s going to be demolished. They start taking our radiators. They were unscrewed and taken out. They were not cut out. They were stacked on to a trailer. Joe (Erickson), who found out about it, went over there.”

According to Waldrop, Erickson told the contractor that this is not what they are supposed to be doing. Erickson seized the trailer and brought it back over there.

“Now, I investigated and went through all the numbers and I asked the state police if we have a crime here,” Waldrop said. “They said it’s being investigated, somebody has already made a complaint. It’s already being investigated.”

Waldrop told the Michigan State Police that he (Waldrop) has the numbers.

“While you’re investigating this (State Police),” Waldrop said. “Please come to me and I’ll answer whatever I can with the investigation I’ve got so far…if it matters at all.”

Waldrop remarked that the state police is still investigating. He then stated that he asked the state police if they were going to tell him when the investigation is complete.

According to Waldrop, the state police told him that they are not required to tell him when and if the investigation is complete.

“I don’t know if that is a yes or a no,” he said. “I don’t like Norm going in there. Made me upset and he knows that. This was our first grant for a building. Worked years for that.

“Sure don’t want people coming to a council meeting with wild accusations. It created a firestorm. They said the private citizen called (Senator Ed) McBroom. They also called other politicians about the whole darn deal. That’s how fired up they were. If I get any response from them (state police), I’ll share it at an open meeting.”

As Waldrop stated that radiators were removed, village resident William Johnson stated that he is looking for radiators, and whether those removed will be put up for public auction. Waldrop did not answer as to where the radiators were.

Pat Tucker who originally had a licensed business for the removal of hazardous material stated.

“I’m kind of with Bill (William Johnson) on that,” Tucker said. “Part of it wasn’t that it happened, part of it was the process. When it is a village owned asset there should be a process. It isn’t a contractor taking things out on his own, selling them at whatever value he determines to sell them at.”

Waldrop responded to Tucker that it comes down to the dollar value of what village owned asset is being removed and possibly put up for bid.

Waldrop, nor Erickson or Tucker commented or questioned the possibility of hazardous material being removed by Pestka.

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