Child center gets boost from county

ESCANABA — The Delta County Board of Commissioners approved a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant amendment that will allow a child advocacy center in Delta County to continue providing its services Tuesday. The board’s decision was made during its statutory meeting that day.

In 2018, the child advocacy center was established by the Northern Michigan Alliance for Children (NMAC) to provide and coordinate services for child victims and their families. The center began transitioning towards being controlled locally earlier this year.

“About in May, we replaced the old NMAC for various reasons, and the most important reason — it’s the children,” Delta County Prosecuting Attorney Brett Gardner said.

The change was made after VOCA identified available monies the center could not use due to a requirement that centers using the funds be locally controlled. Delta County worked with VOCA, the NMAC and local stakeholders on the transition.

The NMAC had a lease on the building behind the Delta County Service Center where the child advocacy center was previously located. To ensure the center could be fully staffed, it has been temporarily operating out of the prosecutor’s office on a volunteer basis.

VOCA’s newly-approved financial support of the child advocacy center comes in the form of an amendment to a pre-existing grant with the prosecutor’s office for victim services.

The amendment includes about $93,000 in emergency funding for the child advocacy center. This funding will support a full-time coordinator position, a part-time family advocate position and a contracted forensic interviewer position.

Emergency funding from VOCA for the child advocacy center will continue through Sept. 30, 2020. Over the next eight or nine months, Gardner said the child advocacy center is aiming to operate on its own.

“The goal is, eventually, to have it run by an independent 501(c)(3), not by the prosecutor’s office,” he said.

The board’s motion also called for the center to move back into its previous location. Gardner noted NMAC is no longer on the lease for this building, and efforts to move the center back into the building are underway.

“We’d ask that that be for one year without rent — we’re looking and digging down deep to pay utilities, and we will do what we can as we bring in more money,” he said.

This request was included in the board’s motion, as well.

In other business, the board:

– heard a presentation from Bay College President Laura Coleman about the college’s operating millage proposal, which will appear on ballots for Delta County’s Nov. 5 election.

– received an update on recent activity at the Delta County Airport from Airport Manager Jeffery Sierpien.

– renewed a contract with Northrop Assessing Inc. for Juli Kolbe’s equalization services. The contract will be in effect from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2022; under the contract, Northrop’s annual fee for equalization services will be $90,000.

– approved the transfer of $100,000 from a residual tax fund to the general fund to fund the purchase of new network equipment.

– voted in favor of adopting the hard cap cost sharing model for employee healthcare for 2020.

– agreed to send a letter encouraging the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority to partner with Delta County on hazardous waste clean-up efforts at the old road commission site in Wells Township.

– re-appointed William LaMarch to the Soldiers Relief Commission.

– okayed a request from the administration office asking for authority to approve sick time donations from one employee to another.

– agreed to continue the county’s involvement with a nationwide class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. The board’s vote on this issue was taken after the board entered executive session to discuss attorney-client communications.