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Neighborly backup: Hancock OKs summer ice for HoCo Arena

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Tracie Williams, director of OHM’s Hancock office, discusses the ice plant at the HoCo Arena during Hancock’s City Council meeting. With MacInnes Ice Arena undergoing renovations this summer, the council approved extended ice time at the arena until Aug. 15.

HANCOCK — There will be ice time at the HoCo Arena through most of the summer.

The Hancock City Council approved operating the arena through Aug. 15 at Wednesday’s meeting.

Extending the ice time should be a one-time occurrence, City Manager Mary Babcock said. The MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton will be closed this summer for renovations.

“If Tech has ice, all the people that will be skating there this summer will be back at Tech,” she said. “This isn’t something we’d consider doing on an annual basis.”

The HoCo ice plant is sized to operate in summer conditions, said Tracie Williams, director of OHM’s Hancock office. The dehumidification system there takes care of the environment inside the arena, but not the ice.

“In combination, those things will work for most of the weather conditions we get here,” she said. “If we get long periods of hot, humid weather, it will not work. You will have soft ice, you’ll get fog in there … it may take a little more management of when you run those systems than in the winter.”

It will cost an estimated $5,000 extra to maintain the ice during the summer. To cover costs, the city will raise the price of ice time to $200 an hour. It will take a minimum of 40 hours of ice time a week to break even, City Manager Mary Babcock said.

“It’s projected right now we’ll probably have about 50 hours, maybe even a little bit more, of ice, but then there’s going to be weeks where we only have 20 hours,” she said. “So it’s going to be a balancing act.”

The Copper Country veterans group, which has a five-day reservation to use the arena in the summer, was able to be taken on at the Student Development Complex instead.

Ice time will end on Aug. 15 to provide enough time to get the arena ready for the Houghton County Fair, which starts a week later.

The council also approved the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant for a feasibility study on former Finlandia University properties. The city purchased Mannerheim, Nikander and Wargelin halls last year for $10,000 each to preserve them for potential development.

The city is considering a public discussion on uses of the buildings, though no date has been yet.

“I think people are very curious about the buildings, and it would be a good time to answer a lot of the questions,” Babcock said.

It also approved OHM’s proposal for $54,000 of professional services for the feasibility assessment. Evaluating the existing condition will cost about $35,000; another $19,000 will be for conceptual design.

The assessments will note any environmental issues with the buildings, but do not include abatement, Williams said.

In other action, the council:

• Heard early in-person voting figures from Clerk Linda Kalinec. Houghton County voters began voting Feb. 17. As of Wednesday, 43 people had voted at the county’s early voting location at the Houghton City Center; six of them were Hancock residents. The city has issued 373 absentee ballots, 74% of which have been returned. Of the 373, 344 have signed up to automatically receive ballots in the mail for future elections.

• Heard a report from Babcock on the city’s electric vehicle chargers, which were installed this summer. In October, the chargers had 60 sessions with 20 unique users. Users are charged for the cost of electricity, and the grant includes a five-year maintenance plan.

• Went into closed session at the end of the meeting for Babcock’s evaluation. The results will not be announced until the March council meeting, but Mayor Pro Tem Lisa McKenzie said the results were positive. The March council meeting will also include a discussion on city goals for 2024.

• Heard from Police Chief Tami Sleeman that Officer Darron Olson had been recognized as Officer of the Year during Friday’s Pigs ‘N Heat game. Olson serves as school resource officer for Hancock Public Schools.

• Approved a listing contract for property on Captains and Campus drives for $52,000. The lot was formerly in the Spruce Haven housing development, but was removed from the covenant because its zoning allows for multi-family housing.

• Certified Calcite and Dolomite drives as city streets, enabling them to receive state funding for maintenance. The streets are in the Hancock Business and Technology Park.

• Appointed Wayne Weaver to the Board of Review with a term ending Dec. 31, 2026.

• Appointed Taylor Mills to the Hancock Housing Commission with a term ending Dec. 31, 2024.

• Set March 12 as a backup date for the March Board of Review, scheduled to take place on March 11.

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