Child advocacy center to come under local control

ESCANABA — A child advocacy center in Delta County is transitioning towards being controlled locally this summer. The Delta County Board of Commissioners agreed to sign a letter seeking Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) emergency funding for the continuation of child advocacy services in the area during its meeting Tuesday.

The center was established by the Northern Michigan Alliance for Children in 2018 in order to provide and coordinate services for child victims and their families. Delta County Administrator Philip Strom said VOCA — which is one of the Delta County center’s primary funding sources through grants and other avenues — had identified available monies that the center could not use due to a requirement that centers using the funds be locally controlled.

“The funding sources for long-term sustainability had brought up the need or desire to have more local control at the child advocacy center, and so that initiated a conversation that kind of coincided with the forensic interviewer being hired at a different county,” he said.

He said the county is working with VOCA, the Northern Michigan Alliance for Children and local stakeholders on the transition.

As the Northern Michigan Alliance for Children has a lease on the building where the center is currently located, the center will be temporarily moving to the prosecutor’s office.

“We’re repurposing one of the rooms in our office, and we would like to be moving forward with hiring a forensic interviewer that would be there full-time,” Delta County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Wickman said.

The forensic interviewer would be hired through a new non-profit organization with local control, which would also be responsible for running the child advocacy center.

The counties of Alger, Menominee and Schoolcraft — as well as tribal communities in the area — are expected to be able to continue using the child advocacy center.

“To do that, we are looking to kind of jump-start the grant process and asking actually for some emergency funding from VOCA and other grant providers,” Wickman said.

She also noted no gap in local child advocacy services is expected as a result of the transition.

“Right now, we have law enforcement volunteers that’d be willing to come in and do some of that forensic interviewing until we can have a full-time forensic interviewer,” Wickman said.

A member of the prosecutor’s office staff will receive forensic interview training, as well.

In other business, the board:

– approved a resolution to accept $86,000 in funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the Rapid River Falls ORV/ATV Park. The county will provide $31,000 in matching funds.

– heard from State Rep. Beau LaFave about his efforts related to Michigan’s veterans property tax exemption, the “dark store” tax theory and car insurance reform.

He also spoke about his plan to propose a constitutional amendment along with State Rep. Sara Cambensy, State Rep. Greg Markkanen and State Sen. Ed McBroom in the coming months. If approved, the amendment would establish an Upper Peninsula-specific natural resources commission to set rules for hunting land animals in the U.P.

As state representatives living in the U.P., LaFave, Cambensy and Markkanen would each appoint one person to the commission. McBroom, being a state senator from the region, would appoint two people. If a governor from the U.P. were to be elected, they would be able to appoint three people to the commission.

– received an update from Delta County Veterans Service Officer David Dziewior on veterans services in the county.

– agreed to post a request for qualifications for services assisting with the sale of scrap metal from the former Delta County Correctional Facility site.

– instructed Strom to put lockers from the former correctional facility up for auction. Northern Lights YMCA had requested that these lockers be donated; if the lockers are not sold at auction, the county will reach out to the YMCA.

– continued an ongoing discussion on courthouse security. Recently, commissioners, members of local law enforcement and county judges held a meeting and came to the consensus that action on this topic needed to be taken in the near future.

– reviewed an actuarial valuation report on Delta County from the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan. Strom noted the county’s funded ratio for its defined benefit plan increased from 71 percent to 72 percent.

– accepted resolutions in support of the U.P. Area Agency on Aging’s 2020-2022 Multi-Year Plan.