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Alpena County investments could include new recycling center, facility upgrades

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz An Alpena Resource Recovery recycling bins sit behind the former Neiman’s Family Market, is shown in a file photo from January

ALPENA — The $5.5 million Alpena County received from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan Act may seem like a lot of money, but it doesn’t come close to paying for projects that need to be done now, or those that will benefit residents in the future, officials say.

One idea is to help financially support the local recycling initiative by contributing money toward a new recycling center near the Alpena County Regional Airport.

Although the board of commissioners has until the end of 2024 to spend the money – which is restricted in how it can be used – a list of projects has been established for the board to choose from.

County Administrator Mary Catherine Hannah said there are a pair of specific routes the commissioners are considering for investment of the money.

She said one idea is to invest in the viability of current facilities, many of which need significant repairs or upgrades. The other plan is to support new initiatives that offer services and quality of life improvement for residents.

Hannah gave some examples of work that needed to be done to current facilities. She said the courthouse needs a new roof and the marble floor needs to be refinished. Hannah added the county’s annex building across the street from the courthouse also needs a roof and improvements to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services building – which the county owns – will need some care when the state moves operations into a new facility under construction on Alpena’s north side.

“There (is) the delayed and put off infrastructure and building maintenance stuff that needs to be done, but (we) haven’t had the cash, so we put it off,” she said. “They aren’t sexy, they aren’t fun, but are so necessary to do.”

The county has received several requests for a portion of its money for large-scale projects.

The Alpena Resource Recovery board – made up of representatives from municipalities in Alpena County for the recycling program – asked for $2 million toward a new recycling center on Airport Road.

Alpena Resource Recovery has received a $1 million grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy toward the more than $5 million facility. The money from the county – if the commissioners approve the request – would help cover the match for the grant.

The City of Alpena requested a touch over $1 million to put toward a new clear well at the water plant.

Hannah said both of those projects, and others, are forward-looking investments, which can lead to future growth and help the environment at the same time.

She said investment into the property near the airport, which would border the new recycling facility, may also be in the cards because it could help lure more developers to that area of the county.

“There is so much industry that is booming around recyclable materials and as we’re able to bring in more recyclable materials, the more base product we can have for other businesses to use,” she said.

The county has already dipped into the stimulus money to help erase a portion of its budget deficit last year. The commissioners took nearly $800,000 and plugged it into the general fund. Last week, commissioner Bob Adrian said more of the money may need to be used to help keep further deficits at bay, but he admitted that isn’t the ideal use for the funds.

Hannah said she hopes the county selects projects that a majority of county residents can benefit from.

“That has to be a huge consideration,” Hannah said. “Impact has to be a consideration.”

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