Hancock council keeps Zoom option
HANCOCK — The Hancock City Council will continue to livestream meetings on Zoom, though a decision on whether to return to one meeting a month will wait until all councilors attend the meeting.
In a 5-0 vote, the council voted to continue providing a Zoom feed for residents to watch meetings.
“It’s important to let people that don’t want to come or aren’t comfortable coming be able to listen,” said Councilor Whitney Warstler.
City Manager Mary Babcock said there’d been a lot of feedback from residents on the audio quality.
“We did spend probably about $10,000 on the sound and video equipment and in the council chambers,” she said. “But you have to talk directly into your microphone, otherwise people can’t hear. And you have to blatantly talk a little louder.”
The council also discussed going back to one meeting per month, as it had done until 2021. A trend of long meetings had inspired the move to one. However, with a new council lineup and issues such as the zoning ordinance less prevalent, meetings should be shorter, said Councilor Ron Blau.
“We can always have a special meeting if we need it,” he said. “But I think sometimes it’s just too much.”
The council tabled Blau’s motion until the next meeting so the full council could weigh in. Mayor Paul Labine and Councilor Richard Freeman were absent Wednesday.
In other action, the council:
• Approved a 4% pay increase for non-union employees retroactive to Jan. 1. The raise is in line with the 4% given to Department of Public Works employees in their most recent contract.
• Set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Jan. 18 for the purchase of the Houghton County Arena for $1. The Houghton County Board voted in favor of the sale in November.
• Approved $394,965 for a total refurbishment of the city’s aerial fire truck. The money will come from the fire department millage. The upgrades could take from 90 to 120 days, said Fire Chief William Lepisto.
The most pressing issues are the vehicle’s suspension and a power take-off hydraulic pump. Because of diligent work from the department, the 18-year-old truck hasn’t accumulated any rust underneath, Lepisto said.
The fair market value of the truck was estimated at $500,000, only a slight depreciation from the $525,000 the city originally paid. The department should be able to get at least 10 years out of the truck, Lepisto said. Replacing it would cost about $1.75 million.
While the truck is being repaired, the department will have an agreement with Houghton to send its aerial. Calumet Township and Laurium would also be on standby, Lepisto said.
• Heard from Babcock the city is making progress on its unfunded retirement liability through the Municipal Employees Retirement System. The city is now at 64.8% funded, up from 62% last year.
• Heard from Babcock lights on the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Quincy Street are out after someone hit a light pole in front of the pocket park. Circuit boards in all the lights may need to be replaced. The soonest it could be done is Friday.
• Heard from Babcock a new Match on Main program opens Jan. 30 and closes Feb. 24. Businesses in the downtown area can fund up to $25,000 in improvements.
• Approved purchasing a 2016 Ford Explorer with 32,000 miles from the Village of Calumet. The vehicle will be used by the police department.
• Approved $9,800 for two appraisals from Seaton Appraisals for property immediately west of a three-story townhouse on Navy Street and a portion of the Carmdoy-Lahti property along the waterfront. The appraisals are part of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to purchase property along Navy Street. If the grant is approved, it will cover 80% of the cost of the appraisals.