2012-10-11 / Front Page

Meeting focuses on fate of DDA, MSU Extension

Organizations seek support of city council, community members

MANISTIQUE – Manistique City Council discussed the fate of the Downtown Development Authority, as well as the Schoolcraft County Michigan State University Extension office during Tuesday’s meeting. No action was taken on either item.

According to City Manager Sheila Aldrich, the purpose of the DDA agenda item was to inform members that the organization is looking to extend its life. Currently, the DDA is set to expire in 2018. A grant, awarded to the organization from the Michigan Waterways Commission in 2008, is slated to pay for various improvements to the Manistique Marina.

“The state has been waiting for the city and the DDA to proceed with this project or, otherwise, to turn it down,” explained Aldrich.

By accepting the grant, the DDA will need to have permission from the city to extend its life, as bonds will most likely be used to match grant funds. Since it is not likely the DDA will be able to pay the bonds off by 2018, Aldrich explained city council will have to work with the organization to set a new date on which to expire.

The DDA, along with bonding attorney Miller Canfield and members of city council, will soon meet to work out a plan to fund the match portion of the grant and complete the marina work, she said. Once this is done, Aldrich explained council members would have the time frame they need to possibly extend the DDA’s life.

Council members voted unanimously to allow the DDA to continue talks with its bonding attorney and council members to come up with a proposal for council. In the meantime, the DDA will be advertising for proposals for the engineering portion of the project, Aldrich added, in case the plan does move forward.

“We’ve got some major issues at the marina, as we all know,” said Mayor David Peterson. “I think that the only way possible for us to do that would be to extend, but we want to know what the cost is and how long it’s going to take to repay that.”

In other business, the council heard an update from representatives of MSU Extension, as the organization is currently seeking a millage to regain its closed Schoolcraft County office. Jim Lucas, MSU Extension district coordinator, noted that the importance of the MSU Extension offi ce hinges on the organizations programs and services. Currently, no MSU Extension programs can come into Schoolcraft County, as there has been no office since March 2011.

“My problem is I can’t come into Schoolcraft County,” he said. “As you well know, we don’t have an office (in Schoolcraft) – in fact, this is the only county that we do not have an office in the state of Michigan.”

The MSU Extension Schoolcraft County office is seeking a millage of .179 mills, or 17.9 cents on each $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. According to Lucas, this equates to a $100,000 home paying approximately $17.90 a year.

“This is almost half of what we originally asked for,” he added.

The millage would fund an offi ce, a 4H position, secretary, and bring MSU Extension programs back to the county. The office will be provided for free for the length of the millage – through 2014 – by Schoolcraft County.

“I think we do many exciting things and I think we have some excellent programs … we want to come back,” Lucas said.

Tracie Abram, a MSU Extension educator, was also present during the meeting. She explained that many of the MSU Extension programs are unknown by county residents. Currently, Abram explained she covers five counties, performing various tasks, including: teaching nutrition; forming partnerships with schools, Department of Human Services, and the Women, Infant, Children program; teaching social/emotional health; teaching an anger management class; providing an anti-bullying program for after school activities such as Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts; and teaching the nurturing parenting series of classes.

“We have a hard time with promotion,” she said. “It’s different because it’s education. We’re not giving them (residents) a service … they are driven because they want the information, so we go in and give it to them.”

Abram said it is vital for voters to know about each program MSU Extension offers before they cast their vote, since no program can come into the county until the offi ce is financed.

“I know there is major support for it in the community, but, sometimes, they just don’t get out and vote,” said Mayor David Peterson.

For more information on MSU Extension, visit msue.anr.msu.edu.

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