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County mulls plan for courthouse repairs

October 10, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - The Houghton County Board of Commissioners approved a plan to assess the conditions of the county courthouse at its meeting Tuesday.

Karin Cooper of U.P. Engineers & Architects said the assessment would be a step toward being able to budget for an annual maintenance program.

"What we're proposing is to take an assessment of the building as it is now ... and to come up with some estimates for repairs, and some budgeting for you to have for the next several years," she said.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Karin Cooper of U.P Engineers & Architects updates the Houghton County Board of Commissioners on an assessment of the Houghton County Courthouse. Repairs have been pegged for the windows, masonry and parking deck, and Cooper recommended the board adopt a budget for an annual maintenance program.

Building Inspector Jerry Juntunen has already provided some information, such as the condition of the window frames. While they were done in wood to comply with historic preservation standards, Cooper said those standards have been relaxed. Aluminum should be acceptable, which would help maintain the paint job, she said.

Other issues include masonry and the parking deck, Cooper said.

"That's probably the most immediate issue, to seal the cracks in the parking deck, so that it doesn't leak down into the parking below and then create ice issues," she said.

Commissioner Tim Palosaari suggested creating a permanent building fund for repairs.

"This is an old building," he said. "It does require more maintenance than a new building would."

Controller Eric Forsberg said the assessment would be a first step toward such a fund, rather than addressing issues on an isolated basis, such as last year's repair of the front steps.

In other action, the board:

reappointed Ken Rowe to the Houghton County Road Commission.

"I think Mr. Rowe is a very well-respected part of the northern community of this area," Commissioner Dennis Barrette said. "I think he's done a good job as the chair of the commission, and his expertise is still needed."

approved a motion that the county board specify each road commission member come from a different part of the county. Commissioner Scott Ala said he would go to the Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region to have them draft the language.

reappointed Jim Gale to the U.P. State Fair Board.

appointed Randy Malueg to the Houghton County Revolving Loan Fund board.

tabled a request to raise the wage for the new Houghton County jail captain from $41,786 to $50,650 (the former captain's salary). The captain's prior salary before transferring was $44,470. The captain's salary would go up to $46,176 after the first year.

heard from Palosaari Rio Tinto would be doing aerial surveying in Duncan and Laird townships by helicopter. The surveys will start Friday and last from 7 to 10 days.

heard reports from Ala. Next year's Houghton County Fair has tentatively been scheduled for Aug. 22 through Aug. 25. The fair board is investigating a single pass that could be used for every ride and show. Also, Ala said the state informed the local Michigan Works office that it had been out of regulation since 2006 and to form a task force. Remedies include setting up bylaws for the work force board and elected officials, defining the roles and responsibilities of both boards; defining organization structure; and rewriting the interlocal agreements between Houghton County and the other western U.P. counties.

heard reports from Palosaari. The Phoenix House is considering providing resident detoxification for adult women. The Substance Abuse Coordinating Agency will have funding for another year, though its status is uncertain beyond that.

heard reports from Barrette. The bridge committee approved a draft of the emergency bridge outage plan, which the Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region will write in its final form. It also approved a white paper detailing the plans. Barrette said the white paper is hoped to be used to persuade the National Guard to do a practice session on the water erecting a portable bridge. A Michigan Technological University senior design group under Bill Leder is looking at a plan for transporting cars in an outage, the bridge structure itself and environmental issues. The class will present its findings on Dec. 13.

The Houghton County Memorial Airport had 2,754 enplanements last month, up from 2,420 the year before. The local emergency planning group discussed the Superior Search and Rescue group, which can now be dispatched from Negaunee by calling 911. Each sheriff's department in the Upper Peninsula has received a virtual weapons simulator through grants.

heard reports from Commissioner Anton Pintar, who chaired the meeting in Chair Ed Jenich's absence. MSU Extension U.P. coordinator Brad Newman met with the Houghton County Planning Commission to go over its role. The commission is to review any changes in master plans and zoning ordinances at the township level; the planning commission's role is strictly advisory. Under state law, if the changes aren't reviewed by the planning commission, they may be struck down by the courts. The planning commission will also send a checklist to township supervisors so they can make sure they are in compliance with the law.

heard from Juntunen there have been 48 home construction permits issued this year, up from 31 last year.



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