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Houghton County Commissioners Meeting September 14th, 2021

The Houghton County commissioners showed gratitude last night toward areas of growth. With the 2020 census numbers having been released earlier in the month, Houghton County was the only county in the Upper Peninsula to grow over the previous decade. Commissioner Anderson said he was proud of the work done to get the count correct.

And then If you look at the population of the jurisdictions, eight townships out of the 14, one of the cities grew and one out of the five villages grew. Even though Houghton got most of the credit. – Commissioner Glen Anderson

Commissioner Britz said in his report that Portage Township does not feel comfortable at this time in annexing the proposed site of the county jail to the City of Houghton.

They did say that they would, once we pass the millage and we built and constructed the jail, then they would permit annexation to the city. Only upon completion of the project, so that they wouldn’t lose potential tax dollars. – Commissioner Roy Britz

Without the millage approval right now, the township fears that if in the future it does not pass a county vote. The county could sell the property and future tax revenue for the site would go to the city of Houghton, if the parcel is annexed right now.

And a mine shaft was found near the airport last week. Currently efforts have surrounded the opening by a fence. But the county is looking into more permanent solutions. The boards of canvassers representatives were nominated. Becky Bruins for the Republican Party and Barb Mannenien for the Democratic Party will be the likely representatives. And the EPA has begun moving equipment into place to begin clean up of the 5th street fire in Calumet.

County Administrator Ben Larsen’s resignation letter was accepted by the commission as well. In Larsen’s statement to the board he said, “It has been my honor and privilege to have served in the Administrator’s role for the County. I will be working with my Board of Commissioners to find my successor, and to make sure that a smooth transition happens for them and the County. It is a great position, and I am hopeful that we can identify and then hire our next Administrator soon. My last day will be on October 29th.”

The county will begin to accept applications to fill the position until September 28th. And they plan to review applications as a part of the budgetary meeting set for September 29th, at 12 pm. The County hopes to have someone interview for the position by October 4th, in order to allow for a transition period before Larsen leaves. Applications should be sent into the County Commission Administrator.

The County also plans to send a letter to the 9th District Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, Blair Stanifer, with support from MSP, Mercy Ambulance, Hancock and Houghton’s Police and Fire Departments and City Councils and Michigan Tech, asking for a Code of Federal Regulations restriction for the bridge to not lift for pleasure craft during peak hours. Administrator Ben Larsen expressed the frustration felt by citizens in long wait times at the bridge.

There’s a lot of frustration, my phone rings off the hook, “Why must the bridge go up for a a sailboat at 4:30 (pm) or 5 (pm)” There is a lot of public sentiment about this and now that we have the bridge traffic with construction, it is even worse. I don’t know what exactly what will happen, they (MDOT) just sent one in saying we’ll close the bridge from 3 to 6, and he would not sign that. Its not gonna happen. We have to have a more common sense approach, and I’d like to have a collection of signatures from you all. saying “It is a very big concern for us to get an ambulance to the front of the four ramps onto the bridge, and everyone is backed up for 2 hours, and you get to the front, really for a sailboat?” – Administrator Ben Larsen

The most recent attempt by the county to curb the issue was denied. The complications that arise with traffic jams during peak times and bridge having to go up, for a pleasure craft may be accepted now with the support of emergency responders attesting to the challenges it causes them in a life or death situation for a patient.  

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