Houghton council approves city center as county early-voting site

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette The second floor of Houghton’s City Center will serve as an early voting site for future state and presidential elections, starting with the 2024 presidential primaries.

HOUGHTON — Houghton County will have a center for early voting.

The Houghton City Council approved usage of the second floor of the City Center as an early-voting site for county residents for future state and presidential elections, starting with the 2024 presidential primary.

“(Clerk) Ann (Vollrath) has been working with the county clerk on trying to come up with a good location for the vote center, and it just happens we have some space on the second floor which is 100% accessible with our elevator,” City Manager Eric Waara said.

It will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from the first Saturday of the required nine days to the second Sunday.

The early voting period was part of Proposal 2, which Michigan voters approved last November. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill outlining the new procedure into law as part of a voting rights package in July.

The dates are uniform. The eight-hour day is, too, though the centers can pick the hours.

The 8-to-4 hours will make it easier on the workers, who will have long days, Vollrath said.

“We figured … that if you work until 5 on a weekday, you’ll have Saturday and Sunday to go,” she said.

County Clerk Jennifer Kelly and the county Election Commission will administer the voting center. If they hadn’t, Vollrath said, every city and township would have had to staff its own.

“The state is trying to get a lot of county clerks to take over, but some county clerks won’t,” Vollrath said. “So it’s a good thing that she did for us. It’ll cost everybody a lot less money.”

The council’s resolution Wednesday also authorized Vollrath to expend necessary funds to ensure the city can cover its share of costs in using the center.

Kelly said at Tuesday’s county board meeting two more early voting centers could potentially be added on the north and south end of the county.

In other action, the council:

Scheduled fall clean-up for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 29 to Oct. 30. Dumpsters will be available at the Department of Public Works garage. Fall collection dates for senior citizens and handicapped residents will be Oct. 13 and Oct. 27.

Voted to take the course of action recommended by the city attorney regarding pending litigation. The Planning Commission is being sued by Edward Gregory, whose request for a zoning change was denied by the planning commission and city council in July. Gregory had sought to rezone his Canal Road property from R-1 (single-family residential) to R-3 (multiple-family residential).for short-term rentals. The council made the vote after going into closed session to discuss information under attorney-client privilege.

Heard an update from Waara on Lakeshore Drive. Crews will be fine-grading the area that will receive asphalt next week and the following week. Paving and striping will occur around Sept. 28, after which parking will be opened up. Pedestrian access will be available once the sidewalk is firmed up. The street will not be available full-time until construction work finishes, which is expected to be sometime in October.

Heard from Police Chief John Donnelly department representatives will be at the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police conference in two weeks for the final stages of accreditation. MACP visited the department this summer and took public comment as part of the process. Since the previous meeting, the department received 162 calls for service; in that time the department made one felony arrest, six misdemeanor arrests, and given out 22 civil infractions and three city tickets, responded to 13 accidents and 33 calls for health and safety.

Heard public comment from Joan Borbas about issues with Waste Management concerning their performance with new equipment. Waara said it was a mix of staffing levels and getting used to the new equipment, in addition to some residents not placing their cans properly. Councilor Mike Needham suggested Waste Management come to the council to present a report on the first three-and-a-half months of the new contract, and discuss how it will improve.

Discussed procedure for adjourning the meeting, which Irizarry had suggested to head off potential issues. The council settled on having Irizarry ask the council if there is any further business; if no councilor answers, he would adjourn the meeting.


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