4-H continues in Iron County

Crystal Falls is a long way from East Lansing.

That was never more apparent than during the discussion over hiring a 4-H coordinator in Iron County.

In November, the Iron County Board of Commissioners was asked to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Michigan State University Extension for educator services and the 4-H program for this year.

The cost was $34,545.

The commissioners thought the price was too expensive.

The commissioners made it clear that they thought the 4-H program is a good program. The problem was the cost.

In an attempt to negotiate a deal with MSU Extension Interim District Coordinator Doug Brahee, the board offered $17,000 for the half-time position.

That would not work, Brahee said.

Of the $34,545, some $31,000 would cover the salary and fringe benefits of a half-time 4-H coordinator and $3,545 would cover travel expenses for any extension educators the county would like to utilize.

An annual salary of $31,000 for half-time may not be a lot of money in East Lansing, home to Michigan State University. But in Iron County, that’s an awfully good part-time job.

Iron County Commissioner Patti Peretto noted that $31,000 is more than many full-time workers in Iron County earn.

What’s more, to qualify as a 4-H coordinator, Michigan State University Extension has some pretty rigid requirements. The county could not ask a local 4-H leader to do the job and still be affiliated with 4-H, the Extension said.

Brahee offered to cut the price to $30,000 by cutting out educator services, but that’s as low as he could go.

Thankfully, the issue was resolved this week when the county board agreed to pay the extension $30,000 in 2014 for the services of a part-time 4-H coordinator and the use of any extension educator in the Upper Peninsula.

Iron County Administrator Sue Clisch said revenue sharing from the state was $6,300 more than expected this year. That money, along with the $17,000 the county had already budgeted, could be put toward the extension’s bill, she said.

Clisch said that with the help of the various department heads, the county could probably “tighten its belt” and find the extra $6,700 to arrive at the $30,000 total.

“Every dollar spent on youth is a dollar well spent,” said Commissioner Carl Lind.

The board unanimously approved the agreement.

Meanwhile, Iron County officials bent the ears of local state representatives in Lansing to discuss lack of local control over hiring county 4-H coordinators.

Let’s hope some changes can be made in the future to ensure the 4-H program continues at a reasonable cost, even in Iron County.