Ontonagon pursues federal MERS relief, approves more sidewalk dining
Reporting from Bruce Johanson
A full Council was present as well as Interim Manager William DuPont at the Ontonagon Village Council’s May 24 meeting.
DuPont reported that the village currently owes the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) $139,563.76. The village will manage to make the Feb. 20 payment of $35,400 within the next 30 days. DuPont also added that the possibility of receiving funds from the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Relief Act is being pursued. On March 11, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden signed the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Relief Act into law. The law will preserve and restore the pensions of more than one million retirees and workers in an estimated 200-225 severely underfunded multi-employer pension plans.
Another restaurant in the village, the UP North Cafe has made an application to conduct sidewalk dining on River Street. The necessary insurance and other required permits are in place.
In the ‘new business’ portion of the meeting, the following items were discussed and acted upon:
• Resolution 2021-14: A resolution to designate May as Motorcycle Awareness Month in the Village of Ontonagon was approved. This resolution would call attention to motorcycle and moped traffic from this time forward during the month of May in recognition of the increase in two-wheel traffic in the village.
The local ABATE organization supports this resolution and the council wishes it to be known that motorcyclists are welcome in Ontonagon
• River’s Edge Boat Rental: A request from Bryan Hamilton and Donna Nethery to use the former State Police Post and JJ’s Tackle Shack Building near the marina as a base for their boat rental business. Plans are to also offer kayaks and canoes and the sale of fishing tackle and other recreational items. The matter was referred to the Building Committee to work out the details.
• Heritage Antiques Request: Penny Jilbert and Pattie Roehm propose to hold a one-Saturday–a-month sale of antiques, or miscellaneous items, and homemade goodies on the vacant lot next to the current antique store location. The first sale date was scheduled for May 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Permission to also use the adjoining former site of the Wagar Restaurant which was demolished last fall, was requested.
There will be no fees charged to sellers. It is to be considered something of a flea-market/garage sale enterprise.
• The Ontonagon Eagle’s Club #2239 requested the closure of the street in front of the lodge building in order to provide for outside street dancing, once a week or on the occasion of special events. As this is not a state road, no road closure permit is necessary, however, proof of liability insurance will be required.
• County Road Commission offer: Some years ago the former SPEC building, which was built by the Ontonagon Village Downtown Development Authority, was sold to the Ontonagon County Road Commission for $75,000. A part of the purchase was an agreement that the village would receive $50,000 in cash and $25,000 in services to extend Giesau Avenue through to the Rockland Road thus connecting M-38 to US 45.
The street extension has not been undertaken and instead, the County Road Commission is prepared to simply pay the Village $25,000 in cash and terminate the commitment to extend the street.
The matter was tabled in order to review the contract. The road was to be put through by 2021.
• Kori Weisinger rehiring: Weisinger had resigned as Village Clerk and Treasurer in the fall of 2020 and William DuPont was hired to replace her effective Jan. 1. In the meantime, Weisinger had been retained on a part-time basis to continue serving as clerk until DuPont was available to assume his new duties and then continued to work part-time until DuPont became familiar with his new duties.
Subsequently, then-Village Manager Joseph Erickson was discharged and DuPont was retained as interim viIlage manager and Weisinger continued part-time as clerk on a contract basis.
Weisinger has now completed college coursework and is now available to resume full-time employment with the village, adding, “With the amount of items we are trying to correct and move forward on, I have been working nearly full time since March. I can’t see leaving the village when we are moving forward in such a positive way.”
The Personnel Committee, all of whom were present, were in agreement to recommend reinstating Weisinger’s full-time status and this was carried on a roll call.
• Housing Commission Vacancy and Appointment: The Village Housing Commission has had a vacancy for some months. The housing commission, which oversees the operation of the Cane Court federally subsidized housing complex in the Village, consists of five commissioners who are appointed by the village council.
Currently, the Housing Commission consists of President Rich Ernest, Dorothy Phillips, Robert Seid, and Steven Maass.
An application was received from Danielle Reath of White Pine for an appointment to the vacancy. It was moved and approved to appoint Reath to the Village Housing Commission.
• An inquiry from a council about the severance benefits to be paid to the former village manager was explained. As Erickson was terminated without cause, he is entitled to specific benefits which could be a total of $81,910.36, which includes insurance, however, if Erickson secures paid benefits from other employment, these costs could be less.