2005-03-16 / Front Page

Commission Rejects Early Retirement Bid; Saves With Wireless Internet

By Karen Gould

Meeting Thursday, March 10, Mackinac County Commissioners declined to take action on a request to allow corrections deputy Keith Grogan to buy two years of service time he believed he needed to receive early retirement. Commissioner Jim Farero said he and the former county chairman, Mike Litzner, had previously determined that Mr. Grogan did not have as much employment time as he claims.

The Municipal Employee Retirement System shows Mr. Grogan has 20 years of service with the county, said County Clerk Mary Kay Tamlyn. The county requires an employee to have 25 years of service for early retirement.

Mr. Grogan is accused by Sheriff Scott Strait of writing bad checks to the inmates’ cash fund and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing in District Court March 16. When Mr. Farero asked Sheriff Strait if Mr. Grogan is on administrative leave, Sheriff Strait said, “With respect to the process and the individual involved, I’m not going to make a comment.”

Mackinac County Emergency Management Director Ben Thompson told commissioners that the state is proposing that all emergency management grants be awarded at the district level, which could jeopardize programs in Mackinac County. The entire Upper Peninsula would comprise District 8, he said, and to get grant money under the proposal, counties would have to “fight over it.”

Commissioners agreed to consider writing a letter of protest, which Mr. Thompson will draft.

In other emergency services developments, Mr. Thompson said new federal training standards now require six exercises a year, instead of only one, and that all emergency response staff needs National Incident Management System screening training. Without training certification, the county would not get any emergency service funds. He said the screening class takes about five hours and the county has one year to get everyone trained.

Steve Mason, general manager of Lighthouse.Net of Sault Ste. Marie, a subsidiary of Cloverland Electric Cooperative, told the board an antennae has been installed on the Second Street water tower and as of Friday, March 11, St. Ignace residences and businesses within two to four miles of the tower could sign up for high speed Internet. Mr. Mason said his company had installed the infrastructure and, eventually, other areas in the county, like Engadine and Curtis, could get the service.

The service for the city’s “hot spot” areas at Little Bear Arena, St. Ignace Public Library, and the marina is provided with $25,000 from Upper Great Lakes Educational Technology, Inc. (UGLETI) and $1,250 contributions from the Mackinac County Economic Development Corporation and the St. Ignace Downtown Development Authority. Mr. Mason also told commissioners that the county’s Economic Development Corporation owns the “hot spot” areas and fees will be paid to them for those who use the service.

This is a way the EDC could generate revenue, said Cindy Oliver, who made the application to UGLETI.

The hot spot at Little Bear will be installed this month, and service at the library and marina will follow.

He told commissioners as part of the UGLETI funding requirements, the county building will have wireless Internet service at no charge to the county. Dial-up lines now in place at the county building and annex can be abandoned, saving the county $400 a month or more.

Lighthouse.Net must complete the project by June 15 and is ahead of schedule.

Commissioners were advised of a possible lawsuit over a disagreement with Lange Enterprises, Inc., of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, who is seeking payment of $42,680 for work done in digital mapping for the county’s Enhanced 9-1-1 system.

County Prosecutor W. Clayton Graham said the county’s Central Dispatch Board and Lange are at odds over what was asked for in a request for proposals and what was proposed in Lange’s response. He said that after the proposal was accepted, a contract should have been drawn up for acceptance by both parties.

“So now you have the battle of documents,” Mr. Graham said.

In other action, the board approved a letter of support for Community Action Agency (CAA), which is planning to demolish the old county garage on State A Street and replace it with a 24-unit senior housing complex. CAA Coordinator Don Wright made the request and told commissioners the agency is working with an architect, but does not yet have funding.

Commissioners agreed to ask the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians for $15,000 for the Mackinac County Human Services Collaborative Body, as a match for the salary for the coordinator. Prevention Coordinator Geraldine Stelmaszek made the request for her agency, which provides a communication link between human services agencies to avoid duplication of effort and resources.

Gene Feneley of Curtis was appointed by commissioners to the Manistique Lake Dam Committee. Commissioner Carl Frazier also is on that committee.

Commissioners approved the purchases of a washing machine, a refrigerator, and a freezer for the jail. The washing machine will cost $655, which includes a two-year warranty. The current machine, said Sheriff Scott Strait, will require almost that much for repairs. A new refrigerator and a freezer are also needed and the old ones will be replaced with commercial grade equipment at a cost of $2,436 for the refrigerator and $3,150 for the freezer, including delivery and a four-year warranty.

The department has $34,700 in its budget for the equipment and a cell renovation.

Last month the Sheriff’s Department booked in 27 people into the jail, seven people for felonies and 20 for misdemeanors. The jail had a daily average of 23 inmates. It has 28 beds.

Sheriff Strait told the board there were 23 inmate transports during the month and he would like to put the issue on the board’s next agenda. He is preparing a staffing analysis report on the transports.

The department recorded 36 car accidents, four resulting in injuries, and deputies made 100 traffic stops and issued 64 citations. In addition, eight snowmobile citations issued, and three snowmobile accidents resulted in injuries.

The department has applied for a grant through Homeland Security for two all-terrain vehicles.

The next County Commission meeting is Thursday, March 24 at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ room in the County Annex Building.

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