UPSET presentation and donation, Finlandia's president makes appearance, fire chief stipend boosted
Hancock City Council, Sept. 15, 2021
Editor’s note: The last meeting of the Hancock City Council was erroneously labeled “Aug. 1, 2021”. The meeting occurred on Sept. 1, 2021. The label has been corrected.
Finlandia’s president, Philip Johnson, was the first to present to the council on Wednesday night. He started by thanking the council. He told them Finlandia had 6% growth in their student body and 9% growth in their student residence halls, and other statistics. He said the remodeled historic high school was near completion and that he was looking forward to having an open house to show the public the new spaces, including an auditorium and gymnasium. Finlandia is requiring masks for all students, vaccinated or unvaccinated, inside the classroom. Weekly testing is required of the non-vaccinated. He said employees are about 85% vaccinated. Across the whole campus, they’re at about 72% vaccinated, which includes staff and students, and they have incentivized getting vaccinated. Finlandia celebrates its 125th anniversary this week, and Johnson said they have more activities planned in the run-up to their Finnish Independence celebration.
Chief Donnelly informs board about UPSET West, council approves donation to the team through Portage Health Foundation
Chief John Donnelly of the Houghton Police Department spent some time informing the council about UPSET West’s substance enforcement work, how they’ve grown, what the team does, and how important Hancock’s contribution would be. Chief Wayne Butler from Hancock’s police department and Lt. Nick Roberts from Houghton Police Department were also there to support the donation. Donnelly, who is also part of UPSET’s board, said that the buy-in from the local governments was more than matched by the state. The UPSET West team is currently five officers, and Donnelly said that safety procedures dictate that at least four officers are needed to run undercover sting operations, so maintaining funding is important. Donnelly said they attempt to push local dealers into drug court, and out-of-area traffickers into federal prisons. The team also facilitates cross-jurisdictional operations across city, county, tribal, and state lines. Donnelly took questions from the council after his presentation was over.
Chief Donnelly’s talk lasted for about 30 minutes. If you have any interest in UPSET West, I recommend watching the full video clip.
Later in the meeting, the council approved an immediate $5,000 donation to Portage Health Foundation, which acts as the fiduciary of the money for UPSET West. They also committed to four more years of $5,000 payments but acknowledged that another council could reverse that during the budget process. Councilor William Lytle was the lone dissenting vote. Before the vote, he stated that he disagreed with the overarching strategy of the “war on drugs” in addition to more specific objections, but said he did support trying to keep substance abuse out of the community.
Dog park fundraiser reaches goal, Bridges Out of Poverty learning session, repair for corner of Ingot and Elevation Streets
During City Manager Mary Babcock’s report, she shared news that the fundraiser for the dog park had exceeded the goal and that the dog park should be fully funded without anything being committed from the city’s general fund. Applications are closed for the Department of Public Works director position, and Councilor Whitney Warstler joined the hiring committee. The bathhouse renovation is nearly complete at the city campground. Babcock will be visiting San Antonio, Texas to learn about the Bridges Out of Poverty program in a trip sponsored by the Portage Health Foundation, which has sponsored other Bridges Out of Poverty training in the community as well. The big bump at the corner of Elevation and Ingot Streets that a citizen brought to the council’s attention at the last meeting is being put out for bids to see if it can be fixed before the end of this construction season. Babcock said the zoning update is well underway and should begin coming to the council before the end of the year.
The monthly stipend to Hancock’s volunteer fire department was unanimously increased by $350 so that Fire Chief William Lepisto can get a stipend for acting as fire chief and fire marshal. Babcock also said the hours Lepisto put in, particularly in emergency events like the Santori’s Corner spill this year, warranted the special stipend. Previously, Lepisto was compensated the same as other volunteers, an even split of $1,320 per month.
Councilor’s closing notes
Councilor John Haeussler announced a presentation about how Copper Country impacted University of Notre Dame hockey leading up to the Oct. 15 Michigan Tech hockey opener against Notre Dame.
Councilor Rick Freeman Jr made a statement acknowledging the importance of 9/11.