2012-03-29 / Front Page

City refinances debt, saves 1.5 million

Review of Community Correction program too late

Actions taken by the Manistique City Council Monday night will save the city an estimated $1.5 million. The council approved a resolution to refinance the debt on the 1996 wastewater treatment plant renovation, dropping the interest rate from 4.5 percent to 2 percent.

The refinancing is being done in conjunction with the city’s $10 million water and sewer infrastructure project, which is set to begin this spring.

The savings will allow the city to repay the infrastructure obligation without a utility-rate increase for city residents and businesses.

In other action, an 11th hour effort to retain control of the Community Corrections program here in Schoolcraft County was taken under consideration by the City Council.

According to City Manager Shelia Aldrich, she was approached by Community Corrections about the possibility of the city acting as fiduciary for the program, which is scheduled to be transferred from Schoolcraft County to the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) in Escanaba, effective April 1.

In service for the past 23 years, Community Corrections operates off grant funds received from the state. With approval of the judge, the program sends supervised prisoner work crews out in the community to perform a variety of services such as lawn care, snow removal and trash pickup, along with a number of other tasks throughout Alger and Schoolcraft counties.

Last December, the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to allow UPCAP to take over the program. The transfer was also approved in December by the Central Upper Peninsula Community Corrections Advisory Board by a vote of 7-2.

With the April 1 deadline fast approaching, Aldrich said it is her understanding that the state board that oversees the grant would consider postponing the transfer if they received a letter of interest from the city prior to the deadline.

City attorney John Filoramo explained that an advantage to Manistique is that the city will benefit directly or indirectly from the work performed by the crews.

Under UPCAP’s supervision, the services would be shared between Alger and Schoolcraft counties, with a large amount of time spent on the road traveling between both counties, picking up and dropping off inmates, along with a large amount of money spent on gas for those runs back and forth.

“I can’t verify any of that, but these were some of the complaints I had heard,” Filoramo said. “I don’t know if the council is interested or not interested, but it is a program that directly affects the city, because 80 percent of the work they do is done inside the city limits.”

Public Safety Director Ken Golat said that the administrative duties and the liability that comes with the program was one of the issues the county considered when making their decision to transfer responsibility to UPCAP.

Golat, who is a member of the CUPCC board, said, “There comes a lot of responsibility with that. It’s not just being a pass-through. There is a lot of fiscal responsibility that come with it.”

With no commitment on their part, council instructed Aldrich to correspond with the state, indicating their willingness to look into the matter further.

Aldrich said Tuesday that while investigating the process, she was told by Schoolcraft County Commissioner Dan LaFoille that the transfer was done and that the county would not support the city’s efforts to take over the program.

In a phone interview Wednesday morning, LaFoille confirmed Aldrich’s statement, saying, “It’s done. The county board has no plans to delay the process. To my understanding, they are in the middle of the hiring process, and they (UPCAP) will be taking over April 1.”

In other business Monday:

• Approved a Community Development Block Grant application in the amount of $371,170 that includes: CDBG funds totaling $231,170, Local Task Force funds of $100,000 and city Major Street funds of $40,000 for utilities and street replacement on South Cedar Street from Walnut to Oak Street.

• Approved two Department of Natural Resources Land Acquisition Grants — one for the purchase of two parcels of property owned by Manistique Papers Inc. and one for the purchase of a vacant parcel of property at the end of Traders’ Point Drive.

• Approved the monthly reimbursement request for the water plant upgrade project in the amount of $37,567.04.

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