By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Both issues put before voters during a special election Tuesday passed - with Dickinson County's 911 system and the Iron Mountain Public School District - getting the necessary approval to move ahead with improvements.
Voters in the Iron Mountain School District approved a request to borrow up to $9.5 million for 18 years for school improvements.
The breakdown of the 1,225 votes case was 654 in favor of the bonding proposal and 571 opposed - a difference of 83 votes.
A previous bond issue for the school district was put to voters in Iron Mountain in May 2012 and was voted down by 46 votes. That bond issue looked for approval of $11 million for 20 years for improvements.
The 10 cities and townships that make up Dickinson County approved a request on Tuesday for 0.4 mills for three years to improve and operate the county's enhanced 911 system - replacing the current system that was purchased in 1991.
The breakdown of the 2,529 votes cast on Tuesday for this request was 1,653 in favor and 876 against - a difference of 777 votes.
"I'm so glad that it passed - and not by a closer margin. If that would have happened, then we would have wondered if people really wanted it or were behind us," noted Sheriff Scott Celello.
He added that he had heard from a lot of people when the proposal was on the general election ballot. "They said that they went down and voted no on all the state proposals not realizing that the last one was for the county 911 system."
"I also think we did a better job of clarifying what this millage request was all about. And when looking at the numbers from the election, you see that it passed by 62, 67 and 69 percent in the three Iron Mountain precincts and by 82 percent in the city of Norway. Both of these areas rely on us dispatching for them after hours and would have been affected by any changes," Celello said.
Moving on after the approval from the election, Celello added that they will get together with the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners and start gathering information on the different systems that are available.
"We have to look and see what's compatible with what we have and then we can send out requests for proposals. We will look at different options so we can get started on the improvements to the system," he said.
"I'm excited for this. It was getting to be at a critical point and then the county would have had to decide whether to continue on or make some changes," Celello added.
Dispatchers working for the 911 enhanced system also indicated that they were happy that the millage passed Tuesday and are thankful to the voters in the county.
Iron Mountain Schools Supt. Tom Jayne also expressed his thanks to the voters for passing the bond proposal Tuesday. "I just want to thank the Mountaineer community for getting out and voting yesterday and for believing in our efforts to make these needed improvements. I promise the voters we will be good stewards of this money. These improvements will pay it forward for the next 20-30 years. I just can't thank them enough."
The next step for the school district will be going out and advertising to sell the bonds, which are also available for the local area to buy. This process should be completed by the end of May.
"Then the work will begin. Our first concentration is to make sure East Elementary School is ready for the fall with improvements done in the areas of safety and security, plumbing and heating," he said noting that there will be a larger influx of students and adults in the building next year.
Technology needs will also be addressed and then the larger projects of retrofitting the heating and lighting systems, phone system and safety and security will be tackled.
"This will help out with next year's budget in the areas of technology, heating and maintenance. We can't thank the voters enough - our Mountaineer pride came through yesterday. I also respect the voters who voted no in these tough economic times. But these are definitely needs for the school district and not wants."
For example, he noted that last week at North Elementary School one of the two boilers there was down and they are left with one that is running all the time.
"It (boiler) literally rotted from the inside out and to replace it would be a $65,000 investment. Another recent problem was on Monday when we started hosting the girls basketball tournament, a pipe and water heater went. The pipe was gushing out a gallon of water a minute. Those are some of the things that are happening weekly and within a year or two we can now replace these worn out systems," Jayne said.
"Unfortunately these systems are old and have well surpassed their life expectancy. By addressing these needed improvements we can prevent these things from happening into the next 20-30 years. It's going to be a lot of work, but very gratifying to see the progress being make throughout the next 2-3 years. We will be keeping the community updated on our progress and have open houses to show what's been accomplished," Jayne said.
He also expressed his thanks to the bond committee, administration, staff and school board for their work in making phone calls, canvassing voters in the area and getting the word out about the bond proposal noting that it was a "team effort" for everyone involved.
"When I came here as superintendent it wasn't that the school board didn't have a plan for improvements - they had a three page document listing the needs. But with the loss of enrollment and state money, we needed the public's help to make this happen. We are so thankful for their support," he said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.