The future of consolidation

Consolidation is a challenging word for some people.

It’s embraced by others.

Most government leaders recognize that it eventually will be in our future.

Federal, state, city and school budgets have been ratcheted down so far they squeak. Some bleed red ink.

And taxpayers are complaining. They want better roads, good schools and quality services, but cannot afford increased tax bills and maintain a decent standard of living.

Former Iron Mountain Mayor Bruce Rosen recognized the problem. He recently resigned his position due to increased business duties. He was on City Council since 2008.

“The only disappointment in my years of service has been our earnest but failed attempt to consolidate services with Kingsford and the County,” Rosen said in his letter of resignation. “Consolidation appears to be the only substantial means by which our taxpayers could see relief.”

Iron Mountain civic leader Bill Verrette also appreciates the value of consolidation.

Commenting on the on-going bargaining difficulties between the Iron Mountain School Board of Education and the Iron Mountain Education Association – the teachers’ union – Verrette suggested school consolidation.

In letter to the editor in The Daily News on March 17, Verrette said that the “four school districts should be merged into one system giving the students the best possible educational opportunity.”

To that end, Verrette, chairman of Champion Inc., has agreed to head a community committee to investigate local public opinion on school consolidation.

“He wants to stress that this is just an opinion study and not a feasibility study. The goal is to see if the community is interested and if it warrants any further study,” said Iron Mountain School Board President Jeff Michaud.

The Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District Board of Education has approved a request to submit the idea to the four school district boards of education in Dickinson County – Iron Mountain, Breitung Township, Norway-Vulcan and North Dickinson.

Verrette’s committee will also contract with an outside company to investigate the opinions of residents about a county-wide school district.

“In no way do we have any financial commitment associated with this request. There is no commitment from any of the school districts in Dickinson County. It is coming from this community committee,” Michaud said.

We expect area residents will soon be surveyed on this idea.

Should we try to survive as independent entities, regardless of cost? Or should we merge our resources?

Their answers will likely determine the fate of consolidation.