City Commission Hears IPSD Update & Announces $610,000 Grant Award for Downtown

IRONWOOD, MI - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - The Ironwood City Commission held a very brief regularly scheduled meeting last night in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of the Memorial Building.

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Bob Burchell at 5:30 PM. City Clerk Karen Gullan recorded the roll. All Commissioners, except Rick Semo were present - Kim Corcoran, Gemma Lamb, Mayor Burchell, and William Lucius. Semo was excused. City Staff present at the meeting included City Clerk Karen Gullan, City Attorney Dennis Cossi, Ironwood Public Safety Director Bob Erspamer, IPSD Officer Andrew DiGiorgio, DPW Supervisor Bob Richards and Utilities Director Bob Tervonen. City Manager Scott Erickson was in attendance. Representing the press were Margaret Levra, reporter for the Daily Globe and yours truly.

The Commission unanimously voted to perform the following tasks by choosing to approve the Consent Agenda: (1) Approved the Minutes of the November 22nd Regular City Commission Meeting; (2) Reviewed and Placed on File the (a) Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from November 3rd; and (3) Scheduled a Public Hearing for Monday, December 27, 2010 at 5:20 PM to hear comment on the USDA Grant in the amount of $9,000 toward the purchase of a new Public Safety patrol car.

After the Commission unanimously approved the Agenda as presented, Mayor Burchell asked the citizens in the audience if they wished to  address the Commission on Agenda items. No one voiced a desire to speak.

IPSD Director Updates Commission on Department Activities

The Director of Public Safety gave a brief report updating the Commission on Public Safety operations. According to Erspamer, the IPSD responded to approximately 41 fire calls, which is about average.  He was pleased to note that there hasn't been a fatality in a couple of years. The average response time per fire call was 5.8 minutes.

Director Erspamer told the Commission that the IPSD typically patrols over 100,000 miles annually. He said this year the department responded to 4,369 complaints. Of those complaints, 98 were for domestic violence and 90 were for malicious destruction of property. Erspamer noted that another common complaint was for harassing phone calls and text messages. He said that domestic animal complaints were also very common throughout the year -- 292 complaints were made regarding animals. Erspamer explained that the County has only a part-time animal control officer. When the County's officer is not on duty, the IPSD is called in to handle animal related complaints.

Erspamer detailed information regarding traffic and non-traffic accidents handled by his department. The IPSD responded to 179 total accident complaints to date this year.

1,063 general assistance complaints -- complaints that don't fall into any of the other listed categories -- were tended to by the Department. Erspamer told the Commission that there is no category for medical responses and that many of those listed in this category were for that purpose. He noted that all of the IPSD officers are medical first responders, and that the Department responds to all medical calls. Also included in the general assistance category are vehicle lock-outs and other similar matters.

Erspamer explained that the IPSD is part of G.I.A.N.T. (the Gogebic-Iron County Narcotic Enforcement Team) and the Gogebic-Iron County S.W.A.T. Team. He told the Commission that both G.I.A.N.T. and S.W.A.T. were created several years ago as a cooperative effort between area law enforcement agencies. He said local agencies decided that it was necessary to take action on drug and violence crimes on a local level rather than waiting for the State or the Federal government to do so. He pointed out that both groups have cost the City very little money due to the fact that several agencies are pooling their funds and resources.

Erspamer told the Commission that the S.W.A.T. team was trained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) out of Milwaukee. He said the training was supplied free of charge. He said the team routinely trains for new situations, and he pointed out that there have been three calls for the S.W.A.T. team since it's inception three years ago. He described the team's first call stating it was to control a shooter/murderer on a bridge in Niagara, Wisconsin. Erspamer told the Commission that the S.W.A.T. teams vehicle was donated to the team by the Kutz Family. It is a converted ambulance from Beacon. There are three members of the IPSD on the S.W.A.T.

He said there are two members of the IPSD on the G.I.A.N.T. team. This team costs the City approximately $3,500 annually, and just like the S.W.A.T. team, costs are shared by neighboring law enforcement agencies.

Erspamer explained that the entire Pubic Safety Department is heavily involved in the community. He listed several of the things the officers do -- mostly on their own time -- to benefit the community. Events include: "Shop With A Cop;" the Bicycle Safety Program; graffitti clean-up; Drive to School in a Fire Truck; and Victim Services. Other events included: Relay Race; and the dedication of the Airport; and a dedication to the 9-11 ceremony.

Erspamer briefly touched on grants that were received by the Department. Most recently they received a $9,000 grant for a new squad car, and they also received a grant through Jim Loeper for onboard computer systems for patrol cars. Erspamer explained that the computers will save time and radio time when backgrounds need to be checked, etc.

Commission Lamb asked Erspamer how Emergency 911 dispatching out of Iron River was going. Erspamer explained that there have been some "rough spots" and the Department has been in contact with Mr. Loeper to have them addressed. Erspamer told the Commission that he has a meeting with an Iron County representative on Thursday to examine some of the issues that have arisen.

"There have been issues," Erspamer said, "And hopefully we can correct them!"

Mayor Burchell asked Erspamer if Iron County has been addressing the problems as they have come up. Erspamer said, "They work on the issues. Some we don't feel have been  addressed 100%, others have. But, there's definitely issues and hopefully we can get them corrected."

Commissioner Lucius commented that the IPSD gave a presentation to the Rotary Club regarding car seat safety. He said the program was a good one and that hit was very helpful. Erspamer noted that the department does all it can to offer safety programs with its limited budget and limited staff. He agreed with Lucius that the car seat safety program was a good thing, and he pointed out that it was the only such program in Gogebic County.

Erspamer told the Commission that IPSD Officer DiGiorgio heads up the program and has received grant money that offers free car seats to anyone who need them. Erspamer said DiGiorgio also trains parents on the proper installation of the seats. According to DiGiorgio four out of five car seats are improperly installed.

The Commission thanked IPSD Director Erspamer for his presentation.

Commission Approves $50 Gratuity Gift for City Employees

City Manager Scott Erickson passed along a memo stating that a gratuity for the holidays in the amount of $50 was traditional for City employees. He recommended to the Commission that a gratuity in that amount be given. The Commission unanimously voted to approve the gift.

City Receives Community Development Block Grant for Phase I of Blueprint Plan

Since City Manager Scott Erickson was not at last night's meeting, City Clerk Karen Gullan read the Manager's Report to the Commission. Included in his report were the following:

  • DPW crews have been snow plowing on a regular basis, and they have been doing a great job.
  • Snow removal is scheduled for the Downtown on early Wednesday, December 15th.
  • Notice has been received that the City of Ironwood has been awarded a CDBG grant for funding the first stage of the improvements associated with the Downtown Blueprint Project.  The CDBG grant is in the amount of $610,000. A presentation of the award will take place on Monday, December 27, 2010, during the City Commission meeting.
  • A public informational meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 15th at 6:00 PM at the Ironwood Township Hall to obtain input on the design of the first phase of a 16" water main transmission line installation. Coleman Engineering has done all of the survey work associated with the project. Representatives from that firm will facilitate the meeting. Funding for the main is through a $600,000 ICE grant.
  • A special City Commission meeting has been scheduled for Friday, December 17, 2010 at 8:30 AM. The purpose of the meeting is to review the City Audit. Following the Audit presentation, the Commission will examine options for the City-owned house at the City Pump Station.
  • Upcoming winter events:
    • Pro-Vintage Race at the Gogebic County Fairgrounds - January 1st & 2nd, 2011. The parade will be held on December 31st, 2010.
    • SISU Cross Country Ski Marathon - January 14 and 15, 2011.

City to Examine Snow Removal Options in the Downtown

Mayor Burchell told the Commission during the "Other Matters" section of the Agenda that several downtown merchants expressed concern regarding the narrow streets and the high snow banks during the peak holiday shopping season. He said he'd like to explore the possibility of expanding the removal efforts for the downtown businesses. He asked the Commission if a workshop could be held to go over costs and possible options.

Burchell suggested that options could be discussed once accurate figures were available on the costs of removing snow from the downtown. One option that will be considered is a co-operative effort between the City, the State, the DIDA and local merchants to increase the frequency of bank removal in the downtown at a reasonable, workable cost to all involved.

Commissioner Lamb asked if the Commission could include the workshop on the Agenda for Friday's special meeting. City Attorney Dennis Cossi said it was okay as long as a 72 hour notice has been made. Lamb made a motion to add the workshop to the Agenda. Will Lucius seconded Lamb's motion, and the Commission unanimously approved the addition to Friday's Agenda.

Kim Corcoran asked if DPW Supervision Bob Richards could attend the meeting. Richards said he looked forward to it.

A Jobs Challenge for the Coming Year

This reporter, during the "Citizens Wishing to Address the Commission on Non-Agenda Items" section of the Agenda, challenged the City Commission to work closely with the IEDC, the IIDC, local entrepeneurs, and the DIDA in the coming year to focus on creating jobs for the citizens of the Ironwood area. In a recent editorial, I pointed out how difficult it will be to attract new industry to the area, but with the proper focus and effort, jobs could be created here from within.

Following my challenge to the Commission a motion was made to adjourn. The motion was seconded and the meeting was adjourned. The meeting took less than a half hour to complete.

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