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Houghton County supports startup

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Board approved a $45,000 permanent working capital loan to a startup roofing company in the area Tuesday.

Peak Metal Roofing Products is a metal roof and siding manufacturer located on Quincy Hill.

The Peak Metal Roofing project is expected to create two new jobs, Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Jeff Ratcliffe said in a letter to the board. The manufacturing program will also contribute to local and regional markets for residential construction, Ratcliffe said.

“It sounds like a good way to keep that revolving loan fund working in the local economy and create jobs,” Board Chair Tom Tikkanen said Tuesday.

It would become the second such manufacturer in the Upper Peninsula, joining one near Escanaba, Ratcliffe said. In addition to roofing, Peak Metal also makes things such as inside wall panels for metal buildings.

“Part of what they’re selling is just-in-time manufacturing locally, quick turnaround, and being able to provide those custom pieces and make as necessary,” he said.

Carrying a 7% interest rate, the loan must be repaid within five years, Ratcliffe said at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Because the company is leasing its space, collateral will come through machinery and recruitment and in the form of corporate and personal guarantees.

The Houghton County Revolving Loan Fund review committee recommended the loan in January. It makes up half of a $90,000 permanent working capital loan request. The Keweenaw Revolving Loan Fund’s committee approved the other half at its January meeting.

Houghton County also approved a resolution to submit an application to the state’s Community Development Block Grant program for $45,000 in funding. Before the project can incur any costs, it must get formal authorization from the state and also complete environmental review, according to the resolution.

In other action, the board:

• Heard from Undersheriff Jon Giachino the county’s inmate numbers have been rising. Since Jan. 17, the jail has averaged 30 inmates, with a high of 34. The jail’s capacity is 28.

The sheriff’s department is also being taxed by mental health transports, which in the past three days have included trips to Midland, Grand Rapids and Saginaw, Giachino said.

• Approved the repurchase of Lot 2 of the Houghton County Airpark from Royale Air Service for $40,000. As part of the agreement, Royale must cover all closing fees and other expenses, Administrator Ben Larson said.

The airport has also reached an agreement with Century 21 to sell the lot to a new buyer, said Airport Manager Dennis Hext.

“We’re already got people asking about that lot, so hopefully in a couple of months we’ll be selling it again,” he said.

Hext also said the airport was working with SkyWest Airlines to get the afternoon flight moved from its current time of 6:30 p.m. back to early afternoon. There are indications that could happen in March or April, Hext said.

“Right now that flight gets down to Chicago, and there’s only 13 connections,” he said. “That’s why it’s almost empty.”

The airport is still in the black so far this year, thanks in part to reduced winter maintenance costs from the lack of snow, Hext said.

• Approved a resolution in support of naming a portion of M-26 after Pvt. Wesley Karna, who was killed in action during World War II while fighting in Italy. The section would stretch from the southern end of Painesdale, where he was born, to Academy Street in South Range, where he is buried.

• Approved a letter of support for a request for variance for the River Trails, LLC condominium project, a 128-acre, 47-lot development with single-family homes on land south of the Michigan Tech Trails. The variance would allow for approval of the site with lots with individual on-site wells to address uranium levels in the groundwater and well capacity requirements.

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department had granted a septic permit last year, but had not approved the site for wells based on radiation levels of wells on adjacent property, Commissioner Glenn Anderson said.

The board’s letter said the developers have agreed to add restrictions in the by-laws and master deed requiring filtration of uranium above levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency and capacity requirements for individual wells.

Commissioner Joel Keranen said the issues could be easily remedied through reverse osmosis, and should not be an obstacle to a project that would add much-needed housing in the area.

• Approved a $59,865 bid from U.P. Power and Light for a refit and expansion of the fire alarm system in the Houghton County Courthouse.

The previous system had been installed around 1980, Larson said. In a recent fire drill at the courthouse, many employees were unable to hear the alarm. The bid includes 2,000 feet of cabling and 65 sound beacons, up from the current 12.

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