U.P. county commissioners meet in Harris

HARRIS — Dozens of Upper Peninsula county commissioners will head to the Island Resort and Casino later this week for the Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners (UPACC) Spring Conference. The event is set to take place Thursday and Friday.

The Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress serves as the administrative agent for UPACC. Jonathan Mead, the commission’s president and CEO, said the commission played a role in developing UPACC in the early ’70s. UPACC conferences have been held since then.

Turnout at UPACC conferences is typically strong, Mead said. He noted there are roughly 90 county commissioners in the U.P.

“We usually get between 45 and 50 (commissioners),” he said.

UPACC holds conferences every spring and fall. These conferences are meant to provide relevant information to county commissioners from across the peninsula and to give commissioners a chance to interact.

“It’s really a good opportunity for commissioners to share best practices with one another,” Mead said.

Topics that will be discussed during the first day of UPACC’s spring conference Thursday afternoon include 911 services in the U.P., the status of U.P. roads and legislative funding proposals, Community Mental Health, efforts to prepare for the 2020 census, proposed deer regulations in the U.P. related to chronic wasting disease and judicial perspectives on “raise the age” legislation.

On Friday morning, commissioners at the conference will receive an update from the Michigan Association of Counties and participate in a legislative forum. State Sen. Ed McBroom, State Rep. Beau LaFave and State Rep. Sara Cambensy are expected to attend the forum, as are staff members representing Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters.

A UPACC business meeting will also take place Friday.

In addition to the conferences it holds each year, UPACC has established a legislative coalition. According to Mead, the coalition was formed to look at issues and pending legislation that could affect area counties, discuss these issues, take official positions on them and develop a platform.

“We can share that with our legislators,” he said of the coalition’s platform, noting the platform is constantly being changed and updated.

The coalition includes members from each of the U.P.’s counties. It meets at least six times per year, with a meeting scheduled to take place before the spring conference starts Thursday.

At this time, the coalition is expected to take action on various matters and discuss legislation-related topics, including a recently-approved deal to change Michigan’s auto insurance system and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed gas tax increase.

Mead said UPACC conferences play an important role in informing members of the legislative coalition.

“They’re developing a position based on information that they’ve received and knowledge that they’ve gained through these conferences,” he said.