Alcona County again ponders tax

Building fund exhausted after emergency fixes at jail

HARRISVILLE — Plumbing issues at the Alcona County Jail are forcing the Alcona County Board of Commissioners — who already are struggling with financial issues after voters twice rejected tax proposals last year — to come up with a long-term plan to address a number of looming infrastructure problems.

The county’s Buildings and Grounds department already has exhausted its annual budget, and county commissioners are again considering going to taxpayers for help.

Buildings and Grounds Director Dave Hanson told the board that emergency repairs had to be made to the cast-iron pipes from the jail’s main bathroom, which began leaking sewage into the jail’s basement.

Hanson said the county is currently paying for Hall’s Serv All to clean out the drains and to have Weinkauf Plumbing and Heating come out to replumb the whole line.

While the work was being done, Hanson said he learned the cast iron-lines underneath the jail are rusting out. He said the life expectancy of cast-iron pipes is between 50 and 60 years and the age of the pipes beneath the jail fall within that range.

“There’s a couple of spots, like where this restroom was going bad, that the bottom of the pipe is literally rusted right out,” Hanson said. “A lot of it has to do with the age of the building, so, eventually, we’re going to have to come up with a long-term plan, because every line underneath there is going to start failing in the next few years.”

Hanson said crews fixed the problem by opting for a long-term solution through which they utilized another drain line to take the sewage out the other side of the building, underneath the kitchen, to drain into the city sewer.

Hanson told commissioners they have had a lot of extensive repairs and need to come up with a long-term solutions. He said they will have to come up with the funds to not only replace the drain lines in the jail, but also to tackle other “big structural issues.” The county building’s roof needs to be replaced, he said.

“My concern is, the Building and Grounds budget is to maintain the buildings — small fixes here and there — and we’re having a hard time absorbing all of these big fixes within the budget,” he said. “On top of that … I’ve already spent my entire year’s budget fixing the jail on three other repairs that were unexpected.”

A total of $180,385 was budgeted for building and grounds this year.

County board Chairman Craig Johnston told commissioners he asked Hanson to come up with a list by June of what it would cost to do the repairs, renovations or replacements needed. He said commissioners could then begin the process of thinking about a millage for building updates.

Commissioner Dan Gauthier asked Hanson to get some qualified estimates together as he’s putting together the proposals, assuming that a millage would pass, preferably in August.

“I think we need to keep the public involved and explain why this is necessary and show them,” he said.

The board voted 4-0 to transfer $10,000 from its contingency fund into the Building and Grounds fund during its meeting. Vice Chairman Adam Brege was not in attendance.

Alcona County voters rejected property tax proposals in August and November. Both proposals were for about 1 mill, or $50 a year for the owner of a $100,000 house.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at cnelson@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5687.

In other business

The Alcona County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday also:

∫ Rejected, by a 3-1 vote, a motion that would have allowed the county’s non-union employees to receive the same salary increase as its union employees. Commissioners voted on one of five proposals brought forward by county Personnel Committee. County Board Chairman Craig Johnston and Commissioners Dan Gauthier and Gary Wnuk voted against the motion, while Commissioner Carolyn Brummund voted in favor of it. Vice Chairman Adam Brege was not in attendance. The commissioners sent the request back to personnel so they come back with a single proposal for the council to consider.