Senior citizens concerned about Iron Mountain center


News Editor

IRON MOUNTAIN – Representatives of the Crystal Lake Senior Center were assured Monday that they will be included in decisions about the future of the building.

The Northern Lights YMCA has raised the possibility of acquiring the center from Dickinson County, prompting concerns among center patrons that senior programs will suffer.

The Dickinson County Board of Commissioners heard Monday from center president Gary Carlson and three other senior site council members who asked to be kept informed of developments. Bob Paoletti said the center is “operating under a cloud” because of the uncertainties.

County board members said they’re waiting for more information on the YMCA concept and have made no decision. Commissioner John Degenaer Jr., for one, said he does not support a change in ownership as proposed.

The Iron Mountain center hosts senior dances, card games and other activities, in addition to serving as the kitchen for Meals on Wheels services.

Earlier this month, the county board held a committee meeting at the Crystal Lake Senior Center to inform site council members that the YMCA had proposed acquiring the building (and parking lot) to incorporate it into a major facility upgrade. Council members told the board they did not want the building to go to the YMCA, which could choose to demolish it.

In November 2010, the YMCA signed a five-year lease with the county to take over operations of the former Crystal Lake Community Center, which neighbors the senior center. The YMCA has been a success, expanding memberships and programs and relieving the county of an operations subsidy that typically was $100,000 or more annually.

The county entered the lease with the understanding that the YMCA could eventually assume ownership of the community center, but the senior center was not part of that initial plan.

In other action Monday, the county board:

– Approved a request from County Medical Examiner Dr. Martin Cristanelli and County Clerk-Register of Deeds Dolly Cook to begin submitting toxicology tests in death investigations to a private laboratory at an estimated cost of $200 to $300 per sample. The service is provided free through a downstate Michigan State Police forensic lab, but there is a backlog of a dozen Dickinson County cases dating back as far as 13 months, Cook said. The backlog is creating hardships because families cannot receive life insurance benefits until a pending death certificate lists a cause of death, Cook explained. Sheriff Scott Celello said the state police lab is understaffed, although there is an effort under way to train additional personnel. Cook said the county has about 10 to 12 reviews a year that require toxicology tests. While the switch to a private lab will not resolve the pending cases, it will not add further to the backlog, she said.

– Agreed to seek a grant of $175,000 through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority for single-family housing rehabilitations in Dickinson County, with housing specialist Larry Wall of Stephenson in Menominee County to serve as the administrator. In the past, such grants have been administered through the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency (DICSA), but that agency has no available staff with expertise to handle the program, said County Controller Nicole Frost. The rehabilitation grant is separate from DICSA’s home weatherization program.

– Authorized payment of $7,069 to Silver & Van Essen P.C. Litigation and Counseling of Grand Rapids, which is representing multiple counties in an appeal to the Michigan Public Service Commission for increased or expanded 911 surcharge rates.

– Agreed to participate in the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission, a Wisconsin-based coalition seeking to promote freight rail service along the Canadian National rail line (or its successor) in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. There is no funding commitment from the county.

– Reappointed Sue Pope to a three-year term on the Fumee Lake Commission. A remaining vacancy will be re-advertised.

– Heard Chairman Henry Wender restate his desire to sell timber from the county’s Fumee Lake Natural Area, a practice that Commissioner Joe Stevens said is not only objectionable, but also banned under restrictive covenants placed on the property by the city of Norway. Wender said the county is losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

– Approved a request from David Pasahow of Dallas, Texas, to expand his existing hangar at Ford Airport by approximately 1,200 square feet for an aircraft workshop. In connection with the project, the extra footage will be added to the existing ground lease, which will be renewed for a 20-year term.

– Authorized a one-year renewal of a hangar and parcel lease at Ford Airport for Air Medical Investors One (Integrated First Response-Great Lakes) at a base rate of $1,500 per month plus associated utility and landing fees.

– Was introduced to Doug Brahee, who is serving as interim district coordinator for Michigan State University-Extension in the western Upper Peninsula.

Jim Anderson’s email address is