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Ontonagon residents continue to speak up on a number of issues

As has been the routine at Ontonagon Village Council meetings, public comment turned into a time for residents to question the decisions and operations managed by the council. As has been a heated topic for over a year, the paddle-craft landing continues to be a controversy in the village.

At the previous meeting, Village President Ken Waldrop answered a Rose Island land owner, Tom Hamilton. Waldrop spoke against Hamilton’s complaints as to the location and construction of the landing. Waldrop questioned where Hamilton got his information from. Hamilton was not at that meeting, but appeared at Monday night’s meeting.

This time, Waldrop was not at the meeting. It was right before the meeting started that President Pro Tem Tony Smydra chaired the meeting.

“I’ll do this until he (Waldrop) shows up,” said Smydra.

Waldrop never showed up.

Hamilton was the individual that brought a renaissance festival to Ontonagon in 2005, an event that drew over a 1,000 people to the area. Hamilton talked about the importance of tourism in the community. Tourism was brought up at the meeting when it came to approving a zoning variance for a small campground.

“Our community has a cottage industry,” Smydra said as he discussed the importance of tourism.

“There was no water test taken before the contract was handed out,” Hamilton said. “I know what I’m saying because I have paperwork that goes back to 2013. Why wasn’t a water test taken before the contractor was even out?”

When Hamilton was told his time was up, he concluded with the importance of tourism to the community.

“Ontonagon’s got the potential,” he said. “Do something, but do it right: don’t cut corners.”

A new kayak storage unit was built and erected at the landing, which Hamilton called “a chicken coup.”

At the end of the meeting, Smydra read a lengthy statement as to the public’s comments and accusations toward the council, and stated that those speaking should do this with respect. He also stated that council members should also show respect to the public.

Smydra that stated that he talked with Hamilton personally and asked to get the “paperwork” that Hamilton states that he has.

“Tom (Hamilton) would not give me that paperwork,” said Smydra.

At Monday Night’s meeting, people spoke up about what some call the “village dump,” located off the Old Norwich Trail, and behind the North Country Snowmobile Club. The village has been using the property as a place to dump trees, branches, and compostable material. The area was first used as a dump when the village and its residents needed a place to get rid of downed trees and branches after a severe straight line wind storm years ago.

However, some people have been using this area as a place to dump garbage according to village officials and residents. Some of the debris being dumped is by non-residents.

Over 10 years ago, the property was free of debris and cleaned up by the North Country Snowmobile Club for a United States Snowmobile Association Pro Star Series Ice Oval race. Where the dump is located now, was used as the “pit area” for professional snowmobile race teams from all over the United States.

The snowmobile club plans on approaching the Council in the near future to develop an off road vehicle course, with the possibility of hosting an event. Club officials said that since council members and residents see the importance of tourism, the club volunteers are in the process of putting together a proposal to bring to the council which would help bring people to the village.

During the meeting, the council approved a zoning variance for Keith Penegor to develop a small campground on River Drive. Pushing for approval of this zoning variance was Smydra, who emphasized the importance of tourism to the community. The zoning board and council unanimously approved the zoning variance.

Vikki James questioned the road entrance to the dump and the use of a gate. She was asking if there is a way for the snowmobile club and others to have a key to the gate, including on weekends.

Wayne Sheffield stated how he appreciated that residents can go over there and drop their brush and leaves.

“I was just wondering why there wasn’t a sign there saying you cannot dump lumber, you cannot do this and you cannot do that,” he said.

Sheffield also asked about a sign as to where to get a key to open the gate. He finished his public comment dealing with the new Ontonagon Village Lake Superior Beach Park, and the placement of beach mats. He has property next to this park.

“When I bought my property, there was no mention of a beach mat,” he said. “There was nothing there, and had no idea nothing was going to go in. It will affect my house and it will affect me. I didn’t buy the house to have a parking lot across the street.”

Smydra told him that he will bring up his concerns to the recreation commission.

“The commission is appointed by you,” Sheffield said. “You are our elected officials. I have no control over them. I can’t vote them in or out.”

James and others asked about the lack of current information on the village’s website.

“I was told when I was a trustee that only one person could be a non-village resident on a commission,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the case. I went to the website and there is no information on requirements or qualifications or anything.”

Smydra did state that the qualifications for the different commissions should be posted on the website.

She also questioned why the village council minutes were not posted and kept up to date on the website.

“The last one was April 4, 2009,” James said.

In response to the minutes of the meetings not being posted on the website, Sue Lockhart stated that what she understands is that the village council is to post the minutes of their last meeting within eight days.

As far as minutes, the council tabled approval of the minutes till the next meeting. The minutes had “the council commented on information published by the Daily Mining Gazette.” Video and audio recordings showed only two people commented on the news stories in the Gazette.

“Just Mike (Mogen) and Kenny (Waldrop) commented,” said Lockhart. “Do those two people speak on behalf of the whole council?”

Another resident asked that village contacts for water and sewer problems should be posted on the website.

Another concern of Sheffield’s was with the speed people were going along Lakeshore Drive and how the “radar sign” is blocked by a tree.

“I’ve asked (Ontonagon County Sheriff) Dale (Rantala) a couple times, and a few deputies, if they could stick someone down between the Township Park and the Sheriff’s office,” she said. “They sometimes would go between 45 and 60 miles per hour there.”

A resident stated that the teenagers know where every deputy is.

“We have to tell Dale (Sheriff Rantala) to do something about it,” she said. “We only have one deputy that works at night and we have the third largest county in the state.”

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