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Baraga County buys a new loader: $290K road commission request for ARPA money OK’d

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Baraga County Chairman Bill Rolof and commissioners Brad Dakota and Dan Robillard talk during Monday’s monthly board meeting.

L’ANSE — The Baraga County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved spending $290,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money to purchase a new loader for the county road commission.

The $290,000 matches the projections for lost federal and state transportation revenue since 2020.

Commissioner Lyle Olsen also suggested setting aside some ARPA money for the county’s trails.

He reported on the Baraga County Trail Authority’s efforts to convert a former rail line for use as an ORV trail. Two sections are being eyed: from L’Anse to Baraga, and one in Covington Township.

“If we do get that rail abandoned, all that track’s got to come up, and where’s the money going to come from?” he said.

“It’d be a shame to get it abandoned, and then we can’t get the rails removed to use it.”

Trails Authority member Harry Miron said easements are in the works that would solidify one trail. State politicians have been supportive of the plan, he said.

He estimated it would take at least a year to get a state-certified trail.

The Trails Authority will have a member ride on July 10 to demonstrate why members are looking for a trail system.

In other action, the board:

• Approved combining the magistrate and probation officer positions in the county after a request from 97th District Court Judge Nicholas Daavettila.

Asked about potential conflicts of interest by board members, Daavettila said cases of probation violation come before the judge, rather than the magistrate.

The board approved a $10,000 allocation for the probation officer position and a $43,000 salary for Teresa Johnson. Houghton and Keweenaw counties will pay the remainder of the salary for the probation officer position; the treatment court officer will serve in that position there.

• Approved sending a letter to Michigan Technological University opposing the teardown of the sawmill at Alberta. Several county residents spoke in opposition to the plans, citing the historical value of the building.

• Heard from Sheriff Joe Brogan that a peer recovery program at the jail will be expanded. Sessions with female inmates began last year. The sheriff’s department was notified that a male counselor is also now available; he will come once a week to meet with male inmates.

• Approved advertising for bids to replace the roof on the administration building in L’Anse. Two layers will be taken off and water will be directed to the drain; it has been pooling under the roofing, causing water damage. A Duralast replacement will be installed.

• Approved an increase in starting wages to $18 per hour from $16.50.

• Accepted the resignation of Jill Beeler from the county Department of Health and Human Services board. The board thanked Beeler for her service.

• Approved a resolution opposing Michigan House bills 4729-4732. The legislation, backed by Zillow, would bar local governments from charging money for copies and images of property records.

• Approved $666.67 as funds for flags for American Legion Post 444 in L’Anse.

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