Judge says thanks for program support

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Delta County District Court Judge Steve Parks addresses the Delta County Board of Commissioners during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

ESCANABA — Delta County District Court Judge Steve Parks updated the Delta County Board of Commissioners about developments in the court and thanked the group for its support during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Parks expressed his gratitude to the board for allowing the district court to assume some of the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress Community Corrections program’s responsibilities after state funding stopped for the program. The Community Corrections program allows supervised jail inmates to go out into the community and work on a variety of community projects.

“The reason I came to you was really to thank you,” Parks said.

Parks noted the board gave the district court an opportunity to establish a position for Jon Harris in the Delta County Probation Office. Harris has helped the district court improve community service in the county, according to Parks.

“(He’s) helped us really be innovative in using community service,” Parks said.

With Harris’ involvement, the scope of community service in the county has been expanded.

“We’re tapping into the creative talents of many of the defendants, and we’re assigning them tasks and projects,” Parks said. These people have been building benches, children’s tables, and other items.

Parks also spoke about the county’s drug court. He said that later this year the drug court is expected to hit a major milestone.

“I’m pleased to tell you that within a very short period of time — maybe two months, maybe three months — we’ll have our first four graduates from the drug court,” he said.

Parks also gave his thanks to Delta County Administrator Ryan Bergman and corrections officers at the Delta County Sheriff’s Department.

In other business, the board:

– heard an update on the county’s search for a new airport manager from Bergman. The Delta County Airport’s current manager, Kelly Smith, plans to leave the position in May.

Thirty-eight candidates applied for the position, which the Airport Manager Hiring Committee narrowed down to nine semi-finalists. One of the semi-finalists backed out, and the committee interviewed the eight remaining semi-finalists last week. Three finalists were selected.

Bergman did not release the names of the finalists. One of the candidates has more than 10 years of experience as an airport manager in Michigan, another is currently an airport manager in Montana, and another was briefly an airport manager before becoming the deputy director of a larger airport in Wyoming.

“We had an impressive array of experience,” Bergman said. These interviews will continue on Feb. 19 and 20.

– voted to provide the city of Escanaba with approximately $21,000 in funding for legal fees for the city’s ongoing tax dispute with Menards related to the “dark store” tax theory. The board also clarified that, because of its statewide ramifications, the county will continue to support this case in the future; however, it does not plan to financially support other tax appeals.

– opened jail management software bids. The bids were given to Sheriff Ed Oswald, who will work with the county’s IT director and make a recommendation to the board at a later meeting.

– heard about the county’s foreclosure report for 2017 from Delta County Treasurer Tom Sabor. The county foreclosed on 21 properties last year.

– officially accepted a lease agreement with the Northern Michigan Mobile Child Advocacy Center, which will be establishing a regional child advocacy center in the former Michigan Works building behind the Delta County Service Center. The center will pay the county $1,150 per month in rent.

– received an update from Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson on the grant application process for improvements to Rapid River Falls Park.

– agreed to write a letter of support for a city of Escanaba grant application. The grant would allow Escanaba’s north side to be connected to a non-motorized pathway system.

– heard from Bergman about the impact of newly-implemented Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for government websites. As a result of the added work needed to comply with these requirements, the county may not be able to post full board packets for the Delta County Board of Commissioners meetings online. However, Bergman said the county is looking into ways to make information available through e-mail.

– voted to write a letter opposing a bill which would require Michigan companies to give preferential treatment to salt produced in the Detroit area.

– voted in favor of writing a thank-you letter to the Delta County Planning Commission for its work related to the approval of conditional use permits for wind turbine site plans.