Thursday, March 24, 2011

Merger Studies

Eleven years ago the Cities of Iron River and
Stambaugh and the Village of Mineral Hills
became the first local municipalities in the
State of Michigan to combine into one entity.

In view of the State of Michigan’s financial
condition, is the time right for more of these
types of mergers for other cities, villages and,
in particular, school districts? In a period of
declining populations, merged entities would
be better able to provide the taxpayers good
police protection, fire protection, etc, when the
State is proposing reducing revenue sharing for

I am not advocating this as a solution, but I am
advocating the study of the advantages or
disadvantages for mergers as a possible solution
to declining municipal income.

The City of Iron River Commissioners voted at
their March 2010 meeting to study and evaluate
the City’s charter. Maybe this is the time for
others to talk and conduct similar studies as well.

Ben Smith


The 2010 census numbers are finally available. The
City of Iron River experienced a reduction of about
10.5% for the decade. The 2010 population was 3029.

The Iron County population shrank as well, with a new
total of 11,817 representing a decrease of about 10%
for the decade. For both the city and county, about 1
person out of every 10 you know now will not be here
for the 2020 census.

Considering that the published state estimate for Iron
County's population was 11,633, we didn't lose quite
as many as had been estimated.

You can find the census data on the internet at:,1607,7-158-54534-252541--,00.html

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Northstar Hospital Report 2010Q4

The fourth quarter financial report for the
Northstar Hospital in Iron River is now
online and available. The reason the public
has access to these reports is because
Northstar requested and received the
proceeds from a municipal bond in the
amount of $23,150,000 with a total of
$25 million authorized.

The latest report may be found at:

The loss from operations is $2,609,000 for
2010. The word "default" appears in a number
of places throughout the report.

What is interesting is that on a total revenue of
$ 34,484,000 the operation resulted in a deficit
of 2,282,000 of revenue compared to expenses.
That approximates a 6.6% loss. The historical
record shown by the report on page shows that
annually the deficit has been increasing since
2007, the last time the ratio was positive instead
of negative as it is now.

The report makes much of the new agreements
between Bellin Health of Green Bay, WI.

With an aging population in Iron County, we hope
that Northstar turns some of the numbers around

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here We Go Again!

With all the hype presently in the news about
outdoor burning in the state of Michigan, I
went about looking at the information available
on the internet and one of the things I found is
a model ordinance put out by the Michigan
Townships Association in conjunction with the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
This document may be found at:

There's a seriously troubling part. Local
governments in Michigan, the MML and the
Townships Association appear to exhibit no
common sense where it comes to codifying
known constitutional violations, and the
ordinances stand until challenged in the
courts, usually at significant expense to
some taxpayer, the courts, and the
taxpayers at large whose tax money is
expended to attempt to defend the state
or municipality encroachment on our
civil rights.

The model ordinance promotes warrantless
searches by law enforcement officials in the
following paragraph:


"15.00 Right of entry and inspection.

"The Fire Chief or any authorized officer, agent,
employee or representative of the [Pick one:
county, city, village or township] of [name] who
presents credentials may inspect any property
for the purpose of ascertaining compliance with
the provisions of this ordinance."

The fourth and fourteenth amendments to the
US Constitution and Paragraph 11 of Article 1
in the Michigan Constitution quite clearly prohibit
such actions.

"The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV)
to the United States Constitution is the part of
the Bill of Rights which guards against
unreasonable searches and seizures, along with
requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned
and supported by probable cause. It was adopted
as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance,
which is a type of general search warrant, in the
American Revolution. Search and arrest should be
limited in scope according to specific information
supplied to the issuing court, usually by a
law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it."

Michigan's constitution says:

"Sec. 11. The person, houses, papers and possessions
of every person shall be secure from unreasonable
searches and seizures. No warrant to search any place
or to seize any person or things shall issue without
describing them, nor without probable cause,
supported by oath or affirmation."

The final sentence of this section, that is here omitted,
was declared void as non-complying with the US
Constitution in 1969 and 1970.

What is sadder yet is that the individuals who pass
such ordinances are usually immunized for authorizing
legislation they know in advance to be illegal. that
doesn't seem reasonable.

But the story doesn't end there. The alleged purpose
of banning garbage burning is to reduce pollution by
sending our trash to landfills. Rural Michigan has been
burning trash, or illegally burying it, for more than
100 years.

Let's look at the alternative, that is, to send all
household trash to landfills. It seems, when all the
elements are examined, to be a false economy in
terms of the ecological costs.

First, a large parcel of land must be dedicated to
being a landfill. If it wasn't excavated for some
economic reason (a mining operation of some sort)
the land must be excavated, and lined with a water
impervious barrier. Usually the barrier is several
layers thick with sand or gravel or clay in between
and an array of leakage sensors installed that has
to be monitored "forever!"

Next, the household trash must be collected. That
has not been done in rural areas such as Iron
County's because generally the population density is
very low, resulting in long distances driven by rubbish
collectors to collect relatively small amounts of trash.
Consider the labor required for this activity and the
amount of pollution caused by the trucks thus

Once collected, the trash is dumped at a transfer
station where larger vehicles take up the load. Once
again heavy machinery is involved and more
pollution in handling the trash a second time.

Now the trash makes a journey to the landfill, with
more truck pollution as a result. How much pollution
depends on how far away the landfill facility is.

At the landfill, the trash is dumped, but then it is
further processed and buried using heavy machinery
with more resulting pollution form those machines
that aren't subject to any sort of pollution regulation
since they're never used on highways.

With the trash buried you'd think we're done, but no,
actually we're just at the beginning of another type
of cycle, the biochemical deterioration of the trash
some of which goes on for at least decades, some
for centuries.

The first product is methane. If not tapped using
well style equipment tons and tons of the stuff,
a carbohydrate gas (CH4), spews into the atmosphere.
It is a greenhouse gas. Even where tapped and used
for electrical generation one primary end product is
carbon dioxide. The carbon component is not reduced
in the burning process.

In the end, all that transferring household trash to
landfills does is to increase the net pollution by
whatever it takes to transport trash from the home
of a consumer to a landfill. The pollution content
of the trash always remains the same, and over time
all of it ends up back in the environment.

To require household trash to be buried in a landfill
is simply relocating the pollution out of sight of
the neighbor who complains, in their ignorance,
about the burning of trash. That relocation costs
all of us significant money with a cognizable increase
in the overall pollution in exchange for our efforts.

When I visited England in 2000, homeowners in the
midlands city of Heanor were burning coal in August
to take the chill off the early morning air and to heat
domestic hot water. I'll bet they threw trash in there
to save on the amount of coal they were burning and
to reduce the overall pollution resulting from their
trash being hauled to a landfill.

It seems to me the more "civilized" (a misnomer that
should be read "regulated") we become the more it
costs us, and nothing we've achieved has significantly
reduced the amount of pollution each of us contributes
to the whole.

Bill Vajk

Friday, March 18, 2011

Airport Committee Meeting

The minutes for the Iron County Ad Hoc Airport
Committee meeting of 3/10/2011 are posted at:

This is a hot topic here in Iron County, Michigan.
We will keep our readers appraised as information
becomes available.

If suitable justification can be found to support
a new airport that presents it as more than a
convenience for a few businessmen then we
should all embrace it. At the moment it seems
unlikely the committee members can legitimately
make a valid case for county involvement.

In any event, there's no reason the businessmen
who would benefit the most cannot create their
own private airport. If a new airport is such a great
idea, then it should present a business opportunity
that can afford the businesspeople involved a viable
profit center.

If it is to be a money pit, Iron County needs to
steer clear. It would be interesting to see a written
justification for county involvement in the existing
airports that, absent a justification able to
withstand public scrutiny, should probably be
closed and sold off. The money currently spent
on behalf of a select few would be better spent
subsidizing badly needed public transportation
in Iron County.

Consider the absurdity of a county with a collapsing
economy and a collapsing population (estimated to
be smaller than 12,000) supporting two airports
with a third airport proposed.

Vilas County, Wisconsin, has recognized that the
largest part of their housing is occupied only for
part of the year. It would be interesting to know
how Iron County would fare if a similar census
were undertaken.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tri-County Meeting Announcement

Contact: Wendy Gehlhoff
Phone: 715-528-3294

Contact: Bruce Orttenburger
Phone: 906-774-2002


Aurora, WI-- “Taking the Fear out of
Financing Your Business” is the topic
for the next Upper Menominee River
Entrepreneurs & Inventors Club meeting
Thursday, March 31st, from 6:00pm –
7:30pm. The meeting will take place in
NWTC’s Woodland Kitchen and Business
Incubator large classroom at the Hillcrest
Elementary School located at the
intersection of County N and B just west
of Aurora, WI in Florence County.

Do you have a great idea for a new business,
but are unsure how to get the start-up
financing you need? Does sitting down with
your local commercial lender make your
palms sweat? Then why not learn directly
from a commercial lender what information
lenders require, what pro forma financial
statements are and why you need them,
and how best to present your financing
request. Our speaker, Chad Skinner, has
been with CoVantage Credit Union in Crystal
Falls for ten years, the last six as a
Commercial Loan Representative. Prior to
that, he took time to gain retail experience
in small business. As a commercial loan
representative, Chad spends most of his
time working with business owners to find
solutions that improve their unique financial
situations. CoVantage Credit Union strives to
be the “Best of the Best” at providing its
members outstanding value and exceptional

After our speaker’s 30 minute presentation,
there will be question and answer time followed
by informal group networking. Taking time to
network with other business owners,
entrepreneurs and business resource people
to learn from their experiences will help you
improve your current business, start a new
business or develop an invention. These
meetings are free for Wisconsin or Michigan
residents. Sponsoring agencies include Florence
County Economic Development, Dickinson Area
Partnership, Marinette County Association for
Business and Industry and NWTC.

For more information or to request special
accommodations, please call Wendy Gehlhoff
(Florence County Economic Development
715-528-3294) or Bruce Orttenburger (Dickinson
Area Partnership 906-774-2002).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The following letter was submitted to a number
of newspapers around the state for publication in
their "letters to the editor."

I am facing a decision whether to pursue an
appeal in the federal courts. It is a costly and
time consuming exercise to undertake. Or
should I permit very bad case law to
permanently do the following.

First: Decide the entire issue of “fee for service”
as opposed to penalty or tax in favor of
municipalities any time they write “This is a fee
for service” into any ridiculous ordinance they
decide to pass. The effect of this is to strip most
of the protections against fund raising initiatives
presently forbidden by Michigan’s Headlee
Amendment and the Bolt vs. Lansing case.

Second: Strip some significant protections of
the 14th Amendment. Municipalities and states
would to longer have to take you before a judge
in order to demand payment for a parking or
speeding ticket or ordinance violation. There’s
a speed limit sign posted, you were speeding,
pay the penalty, no court is necessary! Under
the new federal court judgment, they can simply
write an ordinance requiring payment in 30 days.
If not paid, they would be allowed to charge that
penalty against your water bill. Then, if that’s
not paid, it will go against your property taxes,
and the county treasurer will collect. You’ll
eventually pay the penalty, even when you
weren’t responsible in the first place. Maybe
the police officer wrote down a wrong license
plate number. You’ll have no option other than
to pay, but wouldn’t that streamline the courts
and make things easy for the cities?

The case is #2:10-cv-114 in the Western District
of Michigan. Google “Vajk v. Iron River” to access
the judgment in question. I’d appreciate your
opinion mailed to me at 413 Plum Street, Iron
River MI 49935. Thanks. Bill and Gloria Vajk

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Iron County Poison Pen Chronicles

It is to the misfortune of Iron County residents
that we have a number of poison pen chronicles
in our midst. Although the definition of poison pen
usually invokes cowardly anonymity as a hallmark,
that isn't always the case.

As usual Wikipedia is on target with their
discussion of this topic:

"A poison pen letter is a letter or note containing
unpleasant, abusive or malicious statements or
accusations about the recipient or a third party.
It is usually sent anonymously. Poison pen letters
are usually composed and sent to upset the

Our own local "Shadowman" has reared its
nastiness once again. I probably shouldn't
give this coward a second thought, but its
rantings have actually become slightly amusing
of late.

The quotes that follow were posted on a discussion
forum that's run by "Mr. not ready for prime time
John Faccin," under the auspices of Yahoo's
IronCountyIndependent. Reading what's been
written there lately there's nothing "independent"
about it.

Shadowman professed: "Reading the minutes of
the February 25th and March 4th Special Meeting,
it is not hard to draw a conclusion as why the Board
wanted to eliminate the Animal Control ordinance
and that was expressed by John in his post. There
was no notice of a hearing or acquiring input from
the public on this issue just present a resolution,
accept it and bingo.....problem solved..."

Here's an alert for Shadowman. If the meeting had
been held with no notice, that would be in violation
of Michigan's open meetings act, and Shadowman
should be filing a complaint with the county
prosecutor. But being as anonymous as he deigns
to remain, that becomes impossible, leaving
Shadowman merely a low caliber blowhard.

The facts are, as usual, somewhat different from
the poison pen rantings from Shadowman. Ben
Smith knew of the meeting in advance because
it was announced, and he was able to attend,
thereafter promptly filing his report for this
publication. The Iron Mountain Daily News
published a story about the meeting the very
next day. By the bye, that newspaper justified
the termination of the position by recognizing
two things that are important.

First, the position of dog catcher in Iron County
does not require a full time employee dedicated
to that work. After all we have fewer than 12,000
souls living here.

The second aspect is that a beginning deputy
sheriff in Iron County earns a good bit less than
Tom King was being paid.

Mr. "not ready for prime time" Faccin let loose
with irrational rhetoric, stating among other
nonsense that, "Mr King is Certified by the
State of Michigan to be qualified to do the job."

Let's remember that Tom King was, till recently,
the dog catcher and he most certainly was not
certified as qualified to do the job. Nor did Iron
County obey state law in creating the position
in the first place. The complete record needed to
understand that unlawfulness is available in two
files that IronCountyDoings provides:

Be sure to read all three pages, including the state
law in MCL 287.289b that's included for your


that clearly shows that Tom King did not have the
requisite education essential to the certification by
the State of Michigan regarding his qualifications for
the job.

I want to note for the record that Ben Smith and I
are as opposite in political philosophy as is possible.
Ben is an idealistic Democrat and is active in
supporting the Democratic Party and agendas.

Although we disagree on almost everything political,
we share one commonality that makes friendships
by polar opposites not only possible but also
necessary in Iron County. We share an extreme
dislike, dare I say disgust, of the political corruption
we experience in this region. To compare Iron
County politics to those of Boss Hogg in the once
popular TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard" would
be unfair to Boss Hogg.

Shadowman and John Faccin are supporters of
the corrupt administrations that the rest of us
in Iron County hope will soon be nothing but a
bad history. Having participated in support of
that past, they hope to be eventually rewarded
because they believe that similar corruption will
arise again

Newsflash: Not in the lifetime of anyone who is
reading this publication in real time.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Iron County Overcharged for Permits

In part the meeting minutes from the Iron County
Finance Committee meeting of January 6, 2011,

"New Business:
Iron Conservation District’s County Enforcing Agent,
Bob Gussert, presented the Iron County Erosion
Control Annual Report for 2010. There were 49
total permits: 39 were Residential, 10 were Non-
Residential and there was also one Gravel Pit
permit. There was $13,855.50 Total Fees collected,
and the Expenses for 2010 were $8,698.34, leaving
a Ending Balance of $5,157.16. This balance will be
applied to the 2011 program for active 2010 projects
and other expenses. Lind made a motion, seconded
by Camp, to accept the 2010 Erosion Control
Report. On Voice Vote, the motion carried."

It is clear that the cost of regulating that which the
permits were designed to oversee was significantly
less than the "fees" collected. The overcharges
amount to roughly 40% of the total charges. As
such, under the laws of this state, the excessive
charges must be refunded because any excess
amounts to a tax prohibited under the Headlee
Amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

Although there are a number of judicial cases
involved in creating the "case law" that is
controlling of this case, the primary one that
spells everything out is Bolt vs. City of Lansing,
587 NW.2d 264 which ca be found on the
internet at:

Briefly, the Michigan Supreme Court identified
three primary criteria that differentiate a
legitimate fee imposed by government as
opposed to a tax or a penalty:

"The first criterion is that a user fee must serve
a regulatory purpose rather than a revenue-
raising purpose."

"A second, and related, criterion is that user fees
must be proportionate to the necessary costs of
the service."

"..this Court articulated a third criterion:

Obviously those who sought permits did so
voluntarily. But the fact that there was a 40%
overcharge, beyond the cost to government of
regulating, places the charges out of the realm
of a legitimate fee for service because the
charges are not proportionate to the costs of
the service.

The Bolt case refers to, and embraces, another
older finding by the U.S. Supreme Court:

Nat'l Cable Television Ass'n v. United States,
94 S.Ct. 1146.

"In that case the Supreme Court held that, "The
public agency performing those services normally
may exact a fee for a grant which, presumably,
bestows a benefit on the applicant, not shared
by other members of society."

It is clear from the minutes of the Iron County
Finance Committee meeting that benefits will,
illegally, confer advantage to other members of
society from the excess proceeds of the "fees"
charged by a division or a department of the
Iron County Board.

Will this County Board do the right thing and
refund the excessive charges without someone
actually suing them in a court of law to force
this issue? This will provide a measure of the
honesty of the Iron County Board.

Bill Vajk

Friday, March 4, 2011


Today, March 4, 2011, the Iron County Board
of Commissioners met with one commissioner
absent (Rosalie King.) Associate Editor Ben Smith
attended this morning's meeting and promptly
filed his report. No other reporters were present
at the meeting.

After discussion, the Board issued a letter to
Mr. Tom King and passed a resolution

Terminating the Funding and Legal
Status of
the Animal Control Department
and Repealing
the Iron County Animal
Control Ordinance

We have published several times about the issues
surrounding the Iron County position of
Animal Control Officer, speaking out against
the functioning of that office and recommending
the very action that the Board took today. The
June 1 and June 19, 2010 articles are notable,
and Mare Peterson submitted an article about
a prosecution which took place in the Iron County
Trial Court that we published on July 27, 2010.

In short, the position and the problems it
created were nothing short of a mess. That
mess is now finished.

The documents can be found and read at:

The copies were the draft of the documents
approved by the County Board and are marked
DRAFT for that reason.

We congratulate the Board of Commissioners for
the action they took today.

Bill Vajk

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