2012-03-15 / Front Page

Transfer to UPCAP has community corrections employees up in arms as April deadline approachesThe

April 1, the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) will take over the Central Upper Peninsula Com- munity Corrections services in Al- ger and Schoolcraft counties.

The issue was originally ap- proved by a 5-0 vote of the School- craft County Board of Commission- ers at their Dec. 21, 2011, meeting.

At that meeting, Commissioner Dan LaFoille reported that the move, which also had the support of Alger County, was being done to improve the program’s accountabil- ity and oversight.

Additionally he said that Com- munity Corrections employees would become employees of UP- CAP instead of Schoolcraft County.

All future funding would flow through UPCAP, LaFoille ex- plained, noting that the county would lose the $5,040 the state pre- viously allocated to the county for administering the program. How- ever, he said there would be no other cost involved in the change, and the county might make a little money by renting office space to UPCAP.

The issue was also introduced by LaFoille at the Central Upper Peninsula Community Corrections Board’s October meeting but not acted on because there was not a quorum for that meeting.

The matter was put back on the advisory board’s agenda and ap- proved in December by a 7-2 vote.

With the understanding that UP- CAP would just take over as the fiscal agent for the program’s state funding and employees Michelle Allsteadt and Mike Gray would be- come employees of the Escanaba- based agency, it was “business as usual” at the office here in School- craft County – until Allsteadt re- cently discovered that UPCAP had posted on the Michigan Talent Bank Web site, looking to fill one position for a Community Correc- tions work crew/coordinator to re- place her and Gray.

Shocked by the posting and looking for answers, Allsteadt ad- dressed the County Board at their audit-finance committee meeting last Thursday, looking to delay the transfer, which she claimed was based on misleading information presented to the board in December.

“In light of things that have hap- pen since December, many of the CUPCC board members said they were misled and the issue needs to be brought back before them for future discussion,” said Allsteadt. “The assumption was everything here was going to run the same ex- cept for the fiscal agent duties. Ob- viously it’s not.”

In addition to three positions be- ing eliminated – one in Alger Coun- ty and two in Schoolcraft County – Allsteadt said the county will be losing direct and indirect revenue from their program, which will have an effect on the local econo- my.

Following her presentation, she requested that the County Board grant their request to bring the issue back to the CUPCC advisory board.

LaFoille responded to Allsteadt’s claim that the advisory board re- ceived misinformation, saying, “That was not the case at all.” In addition to Schoolcraft County approving the transfer, LaFoille said he received calls from Sheriff Hughes and commissioners in Alg- er County who continue to support their decision of the transfer.

LaFoille said he took “issue” with Allsteadt’s claim of an eco- nomic loss to the county.

He said representatives from the state indicated that Alger and Schoolcraft counties spend too much money for payment to those who run the program, an amount LaFoille said equals just about 90 percent of the annual grant – one of the highest percentages in the state.

“This was recognized after UP- CAP took a look at the contract and had conversations with Mr. Kevin Weisenborn who is in charge with grant approval process from the state,” LaFoille said. “Mr. Weisen- born called Jon Mead, director of UPCAP, he called me and said the state would like to see this finished and thinks it is important that it get done. They also feel as I do that our program will be enhanced by this. Alger County feels the same way. I see no reason at this point for us to take any other action in regards to this.”

Gray also voiced his concerns about an economic impact to the county if the program was trans- ferred.

“This is a lose-lose-lose situation for the county,” Gray said. “Five months ago you sat here and waved your arms, making a big deal over the paper mill shutting down, say- ing we can’t lose jobs and need ev- ery job we can have in the county. Now, with a stroke of a pen you are sitting here and doing away with three jobs, replacing them with one, while telling the people of School- craft County this program is going to run better than it is now.”

LaFoille again defended the County Board’s decision, saying changes to the way the program would be run came after UPCAP reviewed the contract between Community Corrections and the state.

Despite the statements from La- Foille, Commissioner Jerry Zellar made the motion to delay the trans- fer until the Community Correc- tions board can meet again, but the motion died for lack of a support.

The discussion spilled over into a heated debate during the public comment portion of the meeting, with Allsteadt and Gray continu- ing to question the board’s decision not to delay the transfer and raising doubts about UPCAP’s ability to run the program with one person.

Allsteadt wondered how effec- tive the UPCAP program will be with the van leaving Manistique and traveling to Munising to pick up inmates and bring them back.

“I have been questioned about inmates riding around in the van and not doing anything,” she said. “But based on what Rebecca (Mc- Intyre) has told me, that is exactly what they will be doing. They will be picking up inmates here, driving to Alger County and picking them up there, spending 75 percent of the day on the road, what is going to get done in either county? There are a lot of agencies here that are going to lose services.”

Gray asked where the balance of the funds, less the $5,400 adminis- tration fee paid to UPCAP, would be spent if they are going to operate with just one person in both coun- ties.

“Where is the money from our wages going? To UPCAP?” Gray said. “So this is what is happening. You are taking the workers off the street and taking two-thirds of the money from the grant and putting it in their pockets, a private nonprofit organization.”

LaFoille said that was not the case, and the money will go toward programs.

“It’s not our responsibility,” he said. “We have complete confi- dence in their ability to be able to run this program properly. They said that they will do that, and I trust them.”

LaFoille went on to say that UP- CAP already runs the program in six other counties, and stressed that the state supports the change.

“This is something the state wants us to do, consolidate services with other units of government. It’s another piece of that effort,” La- Foille said.

Bonnie Garvin of the St. Vin-cent de Paul Society echoed concerns about the ability to have Commu- nity Corrections crews provide ser- vices to them in the future.

“We received services through them and they are wonderful,” Garvin said. “They are wonder- ful. Mike treats the workers with respect, and I would hate to lose them, absolutely hate to lose them to UPCAP. The way I see it, the little communities are feeding the big communities, and we are going to die. We need to take care of our own.”

Pat Rodman, a CUPCC advisory board member who was one of the dissenting votes on the transfer, also addressed the board, saying he really didn’t know where to begin.

“All I can ask is why,” Rodman said. “I don’t know what the prob- lem is. I think this should come back to the Community Correc- tions board. I don’t think this board should be doing this.”

Following an exchange on who said or knew what, LaFoille said, “All three boards, Alger, School- craft and Community Corrections, put forth a resolution to change the fiduciary to UPCAP, and that is what is going to happen.”

The CUPCC has been in service

Thursday, March 15, 2012COMMUNITY for the past 23 years, operating with an annual state grant they receive in the amount of nearly $79,000 dol- lars, and at no cost to the county.

On an average day, crews are providing snowplowing and lawn care services at Hiawatha Behav- ioral Health offices and group homes in the county, Manistique Machine, assisting the Manistique Hockey Association in the removal of recyclable paper from their barn at Little Bear West Arena, loading and unloading trucks at St. Vincent de Paul, and providing a variety of services to the Manistique Senior Citizens Center.

Established in 1990, UPCAP operates the West-Central U.P. Regional Community Corrections program, which serves Delta, Dick- inson, Gogebic, Iron, Menominee and Ontonagon counties.

In other business:

• Accepted the resignation of Rick Pawley from the boards of Public Transit, Planning and Zon- ing, CUPPAD and the Department of Human Services effective April 1.

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