Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Iron County Doings is generally
opposed to most expansion of the
local economy that is at the public
expense primarily to benefit private
individuals. The proposed expansion
of the ICMF is one of those things
that is a positive response to the
growing needs of the community that
is facing a rapidly aging population
and the needs that grow out of our
demographic profile.

Whether you are for or against this
expansion, it is important that you
attend the meeting if you can, and
voice your opinion while you're

Communication from Basso & Basso


Tomorrow, WEDNESDAY JUNE 1, 2011,
there is a critically important
public hearing concerning county
support for the expansion of the
Iron County Medical Care Facility.
The hearing will be held in the
CRYSTAL FALLS County Commissioner
meeting room at 5PM.

The hearing concerns whether the
County will support bonding for
the addition of a wing at the
Iron County Medical Care Facility
(the ICMCF) in order to handle
the increased pressures of
rehabilitation needs of our

The ICMCF is a bright light in
our community and we need to
support their efforts. This
hearing is an opportunity to
gain information and/or to
ask questions regarding the
proposed addition to the

Please attend the hearing if
at all possible.

Ron & Sara Basso


Bill Vajk

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zebra Mussels

I received the following in an email from
Sara Jane Basso:

The Iron County Watershed Coalition meeting
will be held on Monday, June 6, at 1:00 p.m.
at the West Iron District Library community
room. Speaker for the meeting will be Dean
Premo on the topic “Zebra Mussels in the
Menominee River Watershed” In fall of 2010,
Zebra Mussels were discovered by a
recreational diver in Keyes Lake (Florence
County, Wisconsin) adding to a growing list of
water bodies in the Menominee River
watershed that zebra mussels have invaded.

Some of these are in Iron County. Dean Premo
of White Water Associates will tell the story of
how the Florence County aquatic invasive
species coordinator, the lake specialist from the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
(WDNR), private citizens and others responded.

Over the course of a few weeks a proposal was
developed and submitted to the WDNR. Funding
was received in March of 2011. Dr. Premo will
describe the resulting project that ranges in scale
from a single lake to the entire Menominee River
watershed and has research, education, and
management components.

All are welcome to attend the 30 minute
presentation. Feel free to invite any people you
think would be interested in this talk.

Bill Vajk

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Michigan and Passenger Rail Service

Michigan awoke again, realizing the effectiveness
of rail service but only after most of the tracks in
Iron County and the region were removed.

The state has been giving the possibility of rail
expansion a lot of thought.


A while back there was a conference looking at
the economy for the UP and bordering Wisconsin
counties. The summary report can be found:


That report, released in September 2009, closes

"Toward that end, many people also noted issues
with transportation infrastructure, noting that
with an improved highway system, passenger
rail service, or mass transit options, they could
more easily seek the missing services elsewhere
while maintaining their place of residence."

This is the consequence of focus group and
questionnaire participation by the general public
in the region. It should be noted that the public
in the US is used to solving its own problems. So
that by the time these sorts of opinions have risen
to the point where they're reported as part of a
study of the sort undertaken by economic
developers and those who are in the front lines,
some harsh realities of circumstance have played
heavily on the respondents.

Now all we have to achieve is to have MDOT and
the people with transportation needs get together
in the same room to hammer out some solutions.

The only naysayers in the crowd are the very same
people who cannot figure out how to get a resting
bench placed along the Apple Blossom Trail in
Iron River. I know of one individual who has been
asking the City of Iron River for such a bench for
years, and still no results!

Heck, a boy scout is doing it for the Caspian end of
that same trail! Perhaps we should get rid of the
naysayers and replace them with boy scouts who
know how to get things done?

Remember, "impossible" is only one of many options.

It appears to me that Iron River has been stuck
with the "impossible" option for far too long.

Bill Vajk

Friday, May 27, 2011

What to do in Iron County!

This time of year IronCountyDoings traditionally
receives searches seeking things to do in Iron
County and Iron River.

Once you're already here, make contact with the
Chamber of Commerce that's got all the information
for the county.

Chamber of Commerce
50 East Genesee St.
Iron River, MI 49935
Fax: (906) 265-5605
(906)265-3822 or info@iron.org

Around town, almost every merchant has
copies of a free tabloid sized newspaper called

Summer Fun

Just pick one up and read it.

And don't forget that making your selected
Iron County destination the central point for
day trips to the surrounding region can
expand your experience, and your pleasant
memories of Iron County!

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

King's "education" as dogcatcher revealed

We now have the documentation that was
provided by the Michigan Department of
Agriculture and Rural Development regarding
the qualifications of Mr. Tom King's alleged
compliance with the state requirements.

As a matter of opinion, we do not believe
the documentation provided to the State by
then undersheriff Brezek to be credible. There
is no certification of any of the records and the
records themselves are incomplete.

Here are some points of contention:

"3. One day spent with prosecuting attorney,
preparing complainants and case writing,
preparing and giving testimony, court protocol,
and public relations. 8 Hours. 23 Aug 02."

There appears to be no letter from the
prosecutor from that time, Joe Sartorelli, who
is no longer able to provide verification of the
alleged event

"4. One clay spent with local authority, discussing
local policies and procedures. 8 Hours. 19 Nov O1."

This lacks identification of the "local authority"
who allegedly provided training. Absence of the
name precludes approval which was unjustifiably
granted by the state. Please see:


"6. Accompany state or federal livestock inspector
for two days and discuss laws and regulations,
inspection of shops, dog pounds, and animal
shelters. 16 Hours. 8-9 Feb 02."

Once again, no identification of the livestock
inspector fails to meet the state's requirements.

"7. One day spent in large city with humane
society shelter, observing entire operation along
with record keeping and method of euthanasia.
8 hours 16 Feb 02."

Here we go again, no documentation as to what
city shelter was involved.

It appears to us that Brezek took the sample that
is published by the state at:


and copied it while interspersing dates and other
"pertinent" information wherever such information
could be made to reach the descriptions.

Apparently Tom King was a jail guard, "Local
Corrections Officer," at the time. The qualifications
for that position changed on April 1, 2004. If Mr.
King qualifies to return to his former position, one
must wonder why such accommodation hasn't
been undertaken by Iron County.

When I originally inquired about filing the FOIA
request for this information with the Iron County
Sheriff's Office, I was advised the the FOIA officer
for the Sheriff's Department was the Iron County
Prosecutor. And Melissa A. Powell was cc'd on the
reply the Mrs. Clisch, the actual FOIA officer for
the county, provided, along with a cc to Tom King.

We also find it very odd that Tom King failed to raise
any issues about his compliance with state law in
being employed as county dogcatcher. until after
his termination from that position. Could that be
because the documentation facially fails to provide
what it claims to do? The legal term used by the
courts to describe such things is "specious."

In any case, the county itself failed to comply with
the state statutes by not formalizing the formal
requirements for that position. And finally, the
state law provides more than adequate regulation
of dogs in the state. We've never discovered any
need for Iron County, Michigan, to regulate animals
and to unnecessarily spend money for a dogcatcher
while state requirements provide this function

IronCountyDoings, and therefore its editor, are
satisfied that Iron County possesses no documents
about Mr. King's compliance with the statutes
regulating the position of dogcatcher. The answer
provided by Mrs. Clisch was, in our opinion, sadly

Bill Vajk

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dog Catcher Stories continue

We began our investigation regarding Tom King's
qualifications for the office he held, that is, Iron
County's dog catcher. In keeping with Michigan
statutes, we requested two documents in a
FOIA to Iron County:

1) The County's policy regarding physical,
educational, mental, and moral fitness for the

2) Mr. King's qualification based successful
completion of a required course of study
as prescribed by the Michigan Department
of Agriculture.

In an office visit to encourage compliance by
answering the FOIA I noted that Mrs. Clisch,
the FOIA officer for Iron County, had a copy
of the state statute MCL 287.289b as part
of her file on the matter. I had not mentioned
the statute in my request, but someone
(perhaps the prosecuting attorney) was
sharp and had found the basis for my question.

On June 15, 2010, Mrs. Clisch answered the
FOIA request stating that none of the documents
requested exist. We've discussed this before.

A few days ago, a letter was handed to
associate editor Ben Smith, from Steven
L Halstead, program manager for the
Department of Agriculture, dated Sept 24,
2003, stating that based on information
sent to him by J. L. Brezak (then the
Undersheriff) that Tom King "has satisfied
the training requirements" for the position
of dog catcher.

This is not the end of the investigatory trail,
but rather a new beginning. Those results
will be reported here.

We have reason to believe that Iron County's
typical flim-flam was used to "qualify" Mr,
King as a political expedient. So whatever
comes out in this matter will be fairly

In the meantime, the County, for years,
violated the state statute which says:

287.289b County animal control
officers; employment standards.

Sec. 29b.

(1) The board of county commissioners

shall adopt minimum employment standards

relative to the recruitment, selection and

appointment of animal control officers. The

minimum standards shall include:

(a) Requirements for physical, educational,

mental and moral fitness.

(b) A minimum course of study of not less

than 100 instructional hours as prescribed

by the department of agriculture.

(2) Subdivision (b) shall not apply if the

animal control officer is a police officer or

has served at least 3 years as an animal

control officer.

It is clear that Iron County violated section
1 of the statute. What remains to be discovered
is how they claim that Tom King fulfilled the
educational requirements. If Undersheriff
Brezek claimed that Tom King had been a
police officer because he had been a jail guard
at the Iron County jail, we'll be looking for his
certification as a Michigan Police Officer.

Sometimes digging resolves issues. And
sometimes when you scratch something
it festers. We are eager to resolve this set
of questions and with hold judgment till
all the facts are in

Bill Vajk

Saturday, May 14, 2011

more wool over the taxpayers' eyes

A presentation was made on May 10, 2011 by
the Iron County Economic Development
Corporation related to the rail spur in
Hematite Township at the meeting advertised
the week before in the Iron County Reporter.

The rail used by the EDC project sawmill is
worn out and needs to be replaced. This fact
must have been known when the sawmill
was funded using a county underwritten
bond, but kept quiet because the net effect
is the addition of yet another contract
amount to replace rails costing taxpayers
a base investment of $176,850 with the
possibility of significant additional charges
to replace unsuitable fill under the tracks.

How many more secrets are there about
this sawmill project that the EDC promoted
heavily not all that long ago? How much
more is that project going to cost the
taxpayers that we haven't been told about?

It was bad enough that roadway was
replaced at EDC/taxpayer expense, but at
least that was public property. Now the
EDC is involved in the replacement of
privately owned property with the only
available recovery being revolving loan
repayments by two firms using the rail
spur, and those firms "guarantee" a
certain number of railcars moving over
the spur till the loans are repaid. That,
of course, assumes the continuing viability
of the sawmail and Sappi Paper for at
least 5 years after this new project is

The fact that the rail spur isn't going to
become public property is, in this editor's
opinion, incompetence on the part of our
EDC officials. And the way the current
project is being handled pretty much
precludes extension of the rail spur
down to the Crystal Falls Industrial
Park that would have significantly
improved the growth potential there.

Since the trackage is worn out and must
be replaced, and the Railroad Company
has stated that they do not intend to
continue service on the spur in its present
condition, this means that the entire spur
is ripe for abandonment except for
intervention by the EDC, the County, and
the State of Michigan.

Abandonment means that it is available
at a minimum cost to anyone who is willing
to purchase it. That "anyone" should have
been the County of Iron. Then
improvements to the rail could have been
made by the Michigan Economic
Development Corp. (MEDC) because it
would have meant improvements related to
public property used for economic advantage
of the region, and a future extension to the
Crystal Falls Industrial Park would have been
a likelihood instead of one more page in a wish
book. Not only that, but the Amasa Depot
has had a lot of inquiry as a site for business
that's not going to be available so long as the
rail spur remains in private hands.

The bid for rail work was submitted by
Holubar Construction Co. on November 8,
2010. So the project has been in the works
at least since that time, and the recipient of
the bid was Pine River Lumber Co.

IronCountyDoings editor has been immersed
in another project and has been unable to
pay attention to the business of the EDC, but
it appears at this moment that this project
was more or less kept under wraps, and
trotted out in the May 4th issue of the Iron
County Reporter, approved by the EDC the
following week on May 10, and approved by
the County Board the same day.

Can you say, "pull the wool over the taxpayers'
eyes" and "rushed through" with no chance for
dissemination by the press and the expected
public discussion?

As is to be expected in Iron County, Tinti
Law and GEI engineering have their pieces
of the action.

According to the unapproved minutes from
the EDC meeting of March 10, the following
members of the EDC Board of Directors were
present and responsible for approving the

Leonoff, Archocosky, Yusla, Ferguson,
Syrjanen, King, Lind, and Quayle. Absent
from the meeting were members Anderson,
Alexa, Lesandrini, and J. Melchiori.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pre-Budget Budget Meeting

The city of Iron River held a special
pre-budget meeting last Wednesday,
May 4, 2011. Various categories and
departments were discussed. It was
announced that a public pre-budget
meeting would be held sometime
later in May to explain the aims of
the budget to the public.

During the public comment segment
of the meeting an Iron River citizen
asked if any consideration had been
given to taking advantage of the New
Government Affordable Health care
Law (Obamacare) to provide the health
coverage for the city employees that are
covered under union contract.

As of now no information has been made
available either to the city nor any

Later during council comments a
mention was made by several members
of the concern of citizens about
the condition of the street pavements in
the city. It was pointed out by the
administration that most of the road
funding the city receives has
traditionally been used primarily for
winter snow removal which leaves very
little for routine maintenance.

And since revenue sharing is expected
to shrink dramatically not much hope
was expressed about future maintenance
of the streets in the city.

Ben Smith


Editor's comments:

The "Ethic of Reciprocity" is also known in
the predominantly Christian west as "The
Golden Rule." A goodly number of
variations in the wording have been around
since at least the Middle Kingdom of Egypt
that began about 2040 BC. However, of
particular interest to today's discussion
is the variation stated by a Jewish Elder,
sometimes referred to a Rabbi named Hillel,
who was a contemporary of Christ. Hillel
taught, "If I am not for myself, then who
will be for me? And if I am only for myself,
then what am I? And if not now, when?"

For this discussion, the last part is critical.

If the City of Iron River has been unable to
maintain the street pavement over the past
few decades, and has no money for it now,
then when?

It appears that no one has taken the
residents' long term needs into
consideration. The City Manager is,
relatively speaking, a short timer, who
will be retiring before any of the city
streets become impassible. The
members of the City Council are elected
for one cycle at a time. The office staff
has no responsibility for infrastructure.

This publication discussed this very issue
quite recently, on April 29th. What good is
money in the bank while infrastructure is
collapsing around us?

The bad part is that it doesn't appear that
the City of Iron River has any plans at all
for making necessary repairs or replacement
of pavement. The powers that are responsible
appear to be turning a blind eye to the

And unfortunately, some finger pointing
solves the problem for them by saying that
Bill Vajk is just "out to destroy Iron River,
so don't listen to him, there are more
important things to do."


Bill Vajk

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