By JIM ANDERSON
IRON MOUNTAIN - Dickinson County will no longer provide office space for Michigan State University-Extension programs under a proposed 2013 budget.
Extension services in the county will be minimal, although Dickinson and Iron counties will continue to share a 4-H coordinator, said Kay Pascoe, county controller.
The county plans to reduce Cooperative Extension Services spending by nearly $72,000. The 2012 budget provides $110,788 for the Extension. That will be reduced to $38,850 under the 2013 draft.
The county board has explored, and rejected, the option of a tri-county MSU-Extension office that would serve as a base of operations for the educators and 4-H coordinators and MSU support staff for Dickinson, Delta and Menominee counties, Pascoe said.
Under Dickinson's independent plan, the county will provide neither support staff or office space for Extension programs.
"Although Michigan State University has shown a strong reluctance to decouple 4-H and Extension Services, it has agreed to make an exception in the case of Dickinson County," Pascoe said in a memo outlining the 2013 budget.
As long as Dickinson County continues its operating agreement with MSU and pays the contracted amount, Dickinson and Iron counties will share a 4-H coordinator, Pascoe said.
Services will continue to be provided by multi-county MSU Extension educators, including former Dickinson Extension Director Beth Waitrovich. But without an office or support staff, the viability of those programs will suffer locally. Also, the future of the 4-H Camp Molinare in Channing is uncertain.
The county board on Monday scheduled a budget work session for 8 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, at the courthouse to finalize its 2013 spending plan.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the circuit courtroom. The board is scheduled to adopt the budget at that meeting.
The board must also decide whether to again seek a new millage to help support the 911 Dispatch Center. Voters last week rejected a proposed levy of 0.4 mills for three years - 6,376 no to 5,800 yes.
The school election on Feb. 28 is the only opportunity to conduct a county-wide millage in 2013, Pascoe noted, and the deadline for millage requests is Dec. 6. The next regular meeting of the county board is Monday, Nov. 26, so a decision would likely have to be made at that time.
The cost of replacing and upgrading the county's outdated 911 equipment is estimated at $360,000. If the board asks voters to reconsider, and a 911 millage is approved, revenues would not be available until 2014.
Overall, county revenues are expected to total $8.15 million in 2013, an increase of just 0.2 percent from this year.
Besides the MSU Extension cuts, the county will hold down costs by:
- Reducing the position of animal control officer from full-time to part-time (the position is now vacant due to a recent retirement).
- Filling other full-time openings in the sheriff's department with part-time personnel.
- Reducing part-time staff in the prosecutor's office.
- Cutting summer staffing levels in the county parks system.
Unlike the previous two years, no reduction in the county's fund balance is proposed for 2013. The projected year-end fund balance for 2012 is slightly less than $1.34 million.
In other action Monday, the county board heard a presentation from Michigan State Police Lt. Detective Tim Sholander of the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET). Sholander emphasized the rise in methamphetamine or "meth" labs in the U.P., pointing out that UPSET has the only meth cleanup crew in the region that is certified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
In addition to the costly cleanups, meth production results in lowered forfeiture revenues for the drug-fighting agency, since seized property is so often contaminated.
Sholander asked the county to consider a modest contribution to UPSET in 2013, but Chairman Henry Wender said the county is facing "a difficult year."
The board, in other business:
- Heard Sheriff Scott Celello report that 82 inmates are now housed at the county correctional center, including 28 females. Celello said that when he began his law enforcement career 26 years ago, the inmate census was 18. He estimated that upwards of 90 percent of current incarcerations are directly or indirectly related to drugs and/or alcohol.
- Authorized a two-year lease agreement with SkyWest Airlines for the provision of Essential Air Service at Ford Airport. SkyWest is scheduled to take over as the federally subsidized passenger carrier at the county airport Dec. 15. The total monthly rate for terminal space in 2013 is $5,386. In addition, there are landing fees, parking charges and utility assessments.
- Accepted the low bid of Northern Carpets Inc. of Kingsford to provide and install commercial tile in the circuit court probation office in the lower level of the correctional center for $1,873. Last month, the board authorized U.P. Cleaning and Restoration of Iron Mountain to clean and remove surface mold and remove carpeting in the office, which has had problems with leaks from the upper level.
Jim Anderson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.