ONAWAY - The City of Onaway will contribute to an informational phone service new to Presque Isle County, one that connects people to a wide variety of support services.
Onaway City Commissioners voted unanimously to pay $132 to 2-1-1 Northeast Michigan, a free and confidential service to connect callers to food banks, physical and mental health services, employment support, and many others. Onaway City Clerk Kelli Stockwell said the program would give her an option for people who call city hall looking for this kind of help, and the mayor and commissioners voiced their support for the service.
Melinda Hambleton with Great Start Collaborative attended the city commissioner's meeting to speak about the call-in service's benefits. By calling the three-digit number, which went online in Presque Isle County about three weeks ago, county residents can be connected with housing commissions, job training programs, after-school programs and mental health crisis lines, among other services.
The service is also available to Alcona, Alpena and Montmorency residents, according to information from Northeast Michigan 2-1-1.
Money to start the program came from local, state and federal grants, and Presque Isle County government contributed as well, Hambleton said. Now, to cover ongoing annual costs, the Presque Isle County Human Services Coordinating Council is asking the county's two cities and 15 townships to contribute 15 cents per person.
Mayor Gary Wregglesworth said he thinks the program will do "a lot of good for a lot of people," and for not a lot of money. He pointed out that the overall annual cost to serve the county's population of 13,376 is just over $2,000.
"I'm not super familiar with the program, but it looks like it's something that would make it easier for citizens to access information that they need," he said after the meeting.
Stockwell said city hall gets calls daily from people with questions about where to pay their taxes, or how to access other services. Directing them to the 211 number means she'll spend less time finding the information herself, and residents can quickly get the up-to-date information they need.
"People with utility bills that need help, instead of us having to go through the whole list or maybe - you know, that list isn't even updated - we can give them the 211 information, and then they can call 211 and get the most current places where they can get help with their utility bills," she said.
So far, Onaway is the second local government to support the service, Hambleton said. Ocqueoc Township officials have responded to the request, indicating the township will pay its share, at $98.50 for 655 people.
If other townships in the county don't support service for the county, Northeast Michigan 2-1-1 coordinators would raise money through grants or local fundraisers, Hambleton said. This would be similar to what the Human Services Coordinating Council did to raise funds to get the program started.
In other business, the city will participate in a non-binding financial assessment of its water system by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The department will look over the system's budget, rate structures and other aspects, and potentially give recommendations for changes.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.