Houghton County will invest some of its American Rescue Plan cash in security upgrades, plans for a potential new justice complex, and child care.
At a special meeting yesterday, board members debated how to spend the remainder of the federal funds provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. A considerable chunk of the money had already been spoken for, including matching funds designated to help townships repair roads. Still, $1.75 million remained on the table at the beginning of the session.
Commissioners decided to allocate $400,000 to provide updated security for the courthouse. The county has lagged well behind most other governmental units in the state in implementing safety measures and physical improvements to protect employees and visiting citizens from individuals who might seek to cause injury or harm.
$500,000 was set aside to pay for development plans for a potential new justice complex. The county is in the process of purchasing the First Apostolic Church building and surrounding land on Sharon Avenue. Commission chair Tom Tikkanen sees it as an opportunity to address a long-standing county problem…
A plan for adapting the existing building and building a new jail will need to be created before a millage request can be presented to voters. The new complex would replace the aging county jail, and likely also house the sheriff’s department and the district court.
Commissioners also earmarked $200,000 to help expand child care options in the county. Commissioner Glenn Anderson noted that lack of child care is contributing to a lack of workers in the region…
He hopes the county’s investment might be what’s needed to kickstart a larger effort. Tikkanen said the need starts with the county’s own enterprises…
Just what form of support the money will provide has not yet been decided.
At the end of the session, the county still had more than $600,000 in ARPA funds uncommitted.
One intriguing possibility is an expansion of the county’s recycling effort. The county’s first tire-recycling event yesterday brought in so many old tires that it reached capacity before lunchtime, and had to be shut down early. It’s expensive to collect whole tires, and truck them out of the area. But, once the tires are shredded, there’s a market for the material.
The idea of setting up a tire-shredding operation was floated at yesterday’s meeting. A preliminary estimate placed the cost at around $350,000 to build the facility, and staffing would also need to be considered.
Commissioners were interested, and asked to see more research into the cost, and into whether the operation could become self-sustaining.