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Houghton County Getting Closer to Building New Jail

Houghton County Commissioner Roy Britz was absent at last night’s meeting. Commissioner Tikkanen wanted to thank State Senator McBroom and State Representative Markkanen for their effort on the state budget, and getting the county the funding needed to pay off debts resulting from the Father’s Day flood. He also said that the 5th Street fire clean up by the EPA is nearly finished in Calumet, thanking Congressman Bergman for petitioning the EPA for help in the effort. The Reapportionment Committee also submitted district maps to the secretary of state. There is a 30 day window for appeals.

Commissioner Janssen asked for a resolution for the county to oppose the Secure MI petition. A motion to vote on the resolution was made by Commissioner Anderson and supported by Commissioner Janssen. That vote would go 2 and 2, failing without a final deciding vote. The request for a Code of Federal Regulation was handed over to MDOT to file the last signature on a letter to the Coast Guard. If the CFR is approved there will be restriction to pleasure crafts passing under the Portage Lake Lift Bridge during heavy commute times.

The county may also sell two properties soon. Talks are ongoing with the Torch Lake Federal Credit Union and the City of Hancock. The Torch Lake Federal Credit Union has leased their building in Laurium for a number of years from the county. And TLFCU has contacted the county about purchasing the building. Commissioner Tikkanen says that the county has owned this building for a while now.

Its extends to the days when 911 service was provided locally. So its an ongoing enterprise, ongoing situation. But it is the intent to , once we do strike a deal on a price, to bring that to the full board. – Commissioner Tom Tikkanen

The other facility that the county was contacted about was the Houghton County Arena. The city of Hancock has talked openly about the possibility of purchasing the building at council meetings. And commissioners, along with city council members toured the facility recently says County Administrator Ben Larson.

Hancock City has made an approach to the county, and they might want to turn it into the Hancock City Arena. Which I think would be great win for the county taxpayers. We still have a debt of $430,000 on there, and we’re about to cut the $40,000 check. Which we do every fall. When they want to turn into Hancock City Arena, I think that would be a fantastic thing. So the commissioners did go walk around with members of the city council to look at this. There is no action at this time, but if you look at the city council notes, you’ll see this has been talked about in public forum by them. – Administrator Ben Larson

The county also got one step closer to the annexation of land on Sharon Avenue that would become the site for the new county jail. Portage Township has agreed to a 425 agreement, which will allow the county to purchase the property and begin initial construction. Before Portage Township makes the official move to annex the parcel to the City of Houghton, the first bricks for the facility will need to be laid. Portage Township is worried that if the jail is not built at that site and annexation goes through. The township could lose out on tax revenue that would move to the city of Houghton.

And finally Ben Larson was recognized for his hard work during the past 14 months with the county. Larsen’s resignation from the position of Administrator occurred a couple weeks ago, and his replacement has been found in that time. Elizabeth Bjorn was unanimously chosen by the board of commissioners last week for the role. Larson’s last day with the county will be October 22nd.  

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