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Ontonagon Village meets on consecutive Mondays, receives invoice for CARES Act work

(Skip Schulz) Rich Ernest, file photo

After not meeting for two of the regular, scheduled council meetings, the Ontonagon Village Council will meet on back-to-back Mondays.  They met last Monday, and will meet again this Monday.

Last Monday, the council voted on a resolution for the management of ‘electronic meetings.’  

“This resolution will establish the rules for conducting electronic meetings by the village as permitted under amendments to the Michigan Open Meetings Act,” stated Village Manager Joe Erickson.  

Nothing in the resolution gives the public the chance to speak if it is difficult for the public to hear what council members are saying and what actions are taken. 

Last Monday, the council agreed with media representatives and the public as to how difficult it was to hear what actions the council took during that electronic meeting.

For over a year, the village’s debt and financial problems have been ongoing.  When a council member asked for an update on reports and audit to the State of Michigan Department of Treasury, the village president and village manager stated that this issue is being addressed with a new accounting program.

The council has an auditor’s report for tonight’s meeting. They also have a ‘closed session’ on the agenda.

For over a year the repair or handing over the easement on the East Pier along the Ontonagon River has been discussed.  The walkway on this pier is in need of repair and the adjoining landowner is concerned about the safety of those walking on the pier.  The transfer of that easement will now go into discussion between the village and the adjoining landowner.

Last Monday, the council was updated on what the village needs to do to take part in the Redevelopment Ready Communities program.  They also went over the vacancy for the village clerk/treasurer position.  This included a hiring policy, along with a new exit policy.

Interviews of three of the four applicants for the clerk/treasurer position took place this past Saturday and the position is on tonight’s agenda.

The topic of hiring for a village position was addressed during public comment when Downtown Development Authority Chair Rich Ernest submitted an invoice for work associated with COVID-19 related development issues. 

Ernest claims that he put in 178.75 hours at $25 per hour for a total of $4,468.75. During public comment, how many businesses Mr. Ernest worked with in helping find funding from the ‘Cares Act’ was questioned.  The other question asked during public comment dealt with if the council advertised and/or sought other applicants that may have charged less than the $25 per hour.

The individual during public comment alleged that Ernest has two of his own businesses.  The council did not act on Ernest’s invoice and passed this issue on to the personel committee.

The Village Council will meet via teleconference tonight at 5:30 p.m.. If you would like to participate or listen to the meeting, you have the right to call the village offices at (906) 884-2305 to get the phone number and key code to hear the meeting.

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