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Menominee approves siren removal, but refrains from announcing replacement

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—With more people relying on smartphone weather apps and emergency alerts, the Menominee City Council agreed to remove the city’s three outdoor emergency sirens, which are in need of repair. But exactly what will replace them hasn’t been announced.

Council members voted 8-0-1 Monday, with Jacqueline Nutter’s absence excused, to approve the administration’s request to remove the outdoor sirens and notify the public they will not be used as warning devices. Fire Chief Mark Petersen prepared the staff recommendation, according to the agenda documents.

Sirens currently are installed at three locations: 22nd Street by the Junior and Senior High School, 41st Avenue by the I.S.D. Building and 8th Street by the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department. But they’ll be taken down because they haven’t been working well and are costly to repair and maintain.

While new emergency alert technology has been developed and is being used in many areas, experts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency said sirens continue to work well in tandem with new communication efforts.

The City of Stephenson is among the areas committed to maintaining weather sirens, which many older residents are accustomed to. “We have quite a few elderly residents in the city and they rely on them for weather,” for a tornado or a big storm, said Kenneth Marklein, supervisor for the City of Stephenson’s Department of Public Works.

Stephenson has two weather sirens operated by the city or central dispatch, he said. The same sirens also can be used as fire sirens. “We have no plans to eliminate them,” Marklein said. They are tested monthly on the first Monday of every month at noon and used for weather and fire emergencies.

FEMA encourages local governments to use more than one method of alerting the public, and these often include weather sirens and public announcement systems.

“If a local agency decides to use phone apps in place of siren systems, they should be aware that phone apps may not work during network outages or power failures affecting cell towers. It is important for local agencies to review their public alerting systems, threats to the community, and identify backup and redundant methods of alerting,” a FEMA spokesperson said in response to the EagleHerald’s request.

FEMA offers the Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems (IPAWS) program, which works with cellphone, weather radio, broadcast radio and television technologies. A variety of alerts—from national emergencies to local weather and crime alerts—can be transmitted using IPAWS.

“IPAWS provides local agencies the ability to send public alerts via Wireless Emergency Alerts (cell phones), Emergency Alert System (TV and radio), NOAA Weather Radio, and other internet-connected systems. The ability to use each of these alerting methods requires coordination with the state agency responsible for verifying public alerting authorities,” FEMA said.

But FEMA said sirens still have a place in emergency communications.

“In some areas, sirens and P.A. systems may remain an effective public alerting method,” the agency said.

To decide how best to communicate with the public about an emergency, consider how familiar the community is with siren alerts, how limited cellular coverage is in the area, and whether a public announcement (P.A.) system might be suitable for campus-style areas such as universities, amusement parks and military bases, FEMA said.

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Menominee Planning Commission chair resigns after Lume’s use permit stalls
  • Updated

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—A business consultant working for Lume Cannabis Co. asked the Menominee City Council Monday to look into why the company was rebuffed at the Oct. 12 planning commission meeting where it hoped its special use application would be approved.

Questions arose on why the planning commission chairman resigned a day after Lume Cannabis’s special-use application was removed at the last minute from the committee’s agenda.

Attorney Kim Coggins resigned as chairman of the Menominee Planning Commission Oct. 13, a day after the planning commission meeting, he said through an office worker at his law firm. Coggins declined to comment about the meeting or why he resigned.

Lume’s special-use application apparently was removed from the planning commission agenda because of a city staffing issue, said Mark Pontti, an Iron Mountain business consultant working with Lume, during the public comment period at Monday’s city council meeting.

“As some of you might know, Lume’s application for a special use permit was on the agenda for last Tuesday, Oct 12. The requisite notice was published several weeks ahead of time,” Pontti said.

But at the beginning of the meeting, the item was removed from the agenda because a staff report was missing.

Carol “ Cookie” Kramer, a member of the planning commission, confirmed Lume’s special-use application was tabled. “That means they took it off the agenda because we did not have all the information we needed to make the decision. We always have a checklist and we did not have the checklist to go over the pros and cons.”

Michael Scholle, the city code enforcement officer listed on the application, said Tuesday, “I don’t think an appropriate staff report was available at that time.” He declined to comment further.

At the same meeting, a city code enforcement officer provided a staff report for a bank that reportedly submitted its special use application two months after Lume did, Pontti said.

“We don’t understand why one got a staff report and the other didn’t,” he said.

If the city is understaffed, he suggested the city outsource the task of preparing the “staff report” on Lume and said Lume would cover the cost.

“We just want to keep the application process moving along, and we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

Several experts representing the company, including architects, had traveled about 200 miles from Iron Mountain to Menominee for the meeting to present details about the company’s application for a special-use permit, he told a reporter.

City Council Member William Plemel, who is chair of the Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee, said Tuesday he was looking into why Lume’s special use application was removed from the Planning Commission’s agenda. He said he wasn’t aware Coggins had resigned.

“I did talk to the (interim) city manager a little bit about it because they approved one (special-use application) and not the other one. He said the bank was a simple one and this wasn’t simple at all.”

Plemel does not sit on the planning commission and said, “I don’t get involved with the planning commission. I usually don’t.”

Attitude Wellness/Lume received the city council’s approval for a Retail Sales Medical Marijuana license with the stipulation it would be approved for a special use permit for a C-2 District. The company applied to take over the La Cabana Restaurant site at 2812 10th St. and improve the property.

After Monday’s city council meeting, Pontti said postponing the special-use permit process could delay its construction plans for converting the 3,100-square-foot restaurant building into a medical marijuana store. Winter weather could interfere if the company can’t begin construction at the site soon.

The company plans to convert three lots at the two-acre site into a single lot, according to the application for the special-use permit. The building will get a facelift to give it a “discreet presence” with a subdued entrance similar in look to a professional office building. The mansard roof structure and exterior vestibule will be removed and a new roof will allow for higher ceilings on the interior and a solar panel assembly on the exterior.

The rooftop solar system is expected to generate 41,000 kWh in energy annually and support electric vehicles to be used for Lume’s local delivery service. A new stormwater management system will limit run-off to neighboring lots and the right-of-way. Chicago style brick consistent with a historic look is slated to be used for the building’s exterior, and new doors, windows and canopies will be installed.

Inside the building, a customer reception area is designed to screen people as they enter the store. Eligible customers will meet a “budtender” who will accompany them to the sales room and assist with purchases. Customer access will be limited to the reception area and a sales area. Products in the sales room will be for display purposes, and the product will be kept securely stored in a fulfillment center behind the sales counter, the company’s application said.

A barred owl was spotted by Diane Mallgren Holmes Friday at Henes Park in Menominee. The mild fall weather has extended the season for biking, walking, running and other outdoor activities.

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Michigan road grant paves way for new jobs in Carney

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The Village of Carney’s Guard Street is set to be improved to make way for 78 new lumber jobs in the next three years.

Performance Corp., based in Seymour, Wis., said it would expand its Carney sawmill facility provided the road was improved, so Carney Village President Eric Janofski worked to make it happen.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will provide $387,194 of the $483,992 project cost from a Transportation Economic Development Grant, with Performance Corp. and the Village of Carney paying the rest, according to a news release from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office. The expansion is expected to yield about 78 new jobs at the Carney facility and bring 38 employees from Wisconsin to the Michigan facility, according to the State of Michigan news release.

“That’s the big news of the day. The news du jour,” Janofski said. “If the business wasn’t there, we wouldn’t repave it. We wouldn’t have the money to do that. We would have rendered it back to gravel on our dime,” he said. The village might have lost jobs as a result instead of gaining them.

The expansion also could increase the tax roll and the school district size in Carney. “There are many different facets. It’s always nice to see a business grow,” said Menominee County Commissioner Larry Johnson, who represents District 8 in Nadeau Township. “It’s definitely welcome news.”

The expansion is “a really big deal for our community,” Janofski said. “The biggest impact is going to be at the school and the other local businesses, and also people living here.”

Without the funds to improve the road, Guard Street would have been gravel, he said. “If it would have been a gravel road, which would have been our only other option, they would have had to run at reduced capacity. So we’re all thankful that this happened.”

Janofski said he worked with the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development (CUPPAD) Regional Commission in Escanaba to find the Transportation Economic Development Grant and apply for it. “When we were going to write the grant, people said call CUUPAAD. It paid off,” he said. “The state wanted to make sure they stayed here and didn’t move to Wisconsin,” Janofski said.

The transportation grant amounts to extra money for a road in Menominee County.

“This isn’t your normal selection process for a road project. That was a grant that was applied for,” said Darrell Cass, engineer manager at the Menominee County Road Commission. While the Transportation Economic Development Grant is from the Michigan Department of Transportation, it comes from a “totally separate bucket,” Cass said. The grant funds are set aside for projects designed to support economic development.

Most county road maintenance and repair costs are paid for primarily by taxes at the gas pump and vehicle registration licenses, but the economic grant is “a one-time grant that you could use toward a project,” Cass said. The Village of Carney worked with Performance Corp. to come up with the local funds required for the project.

The Guard Street project doesn’t fall under the Menominee County Road Commission’s budget because it is within the Village of Carney, Cass said.

But with an estimated population of about 200, Carney doesn’t have the tax base to repair the road without help. “Roads are so expensive to redo these days. I don’t know how they surfaced all these roads in the past. It’s like a million dollars a mile,” Janofski said.

The road improvement is expected to be a hit with Performance Corp.’s employees who travel on Guard Street. Chelsi Imhoff, an office and logistics supervisor in Carney, said Monday the news hadn’t yet reached most workers, but she expects it to boost employee satisfaction. “It’s going to be a lot when the road gets replaced. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make everybody’s day at work easier. If you’re not having to drive 5 miles per hour down a mile-long road just to get to work in the morning, it makes a difference in how you start your day.”

Besides the new road, the company is building a transportation maintenance shop “so we have the ability to service our own trucks and trailers,” she said. The company produces boards for pallets and other wood shipping containers.

Asked to describe the company’s production at Carney, she said, “We take raw logs and turn them into boards to make pallets.”

Recruiting new workers could be a challenge in a tight labor market. But the company plans to transfer some workers from Wisconsin, according to the news release. Imhoff said the company has 67 employees in Carney and 14 available positions. They don’t all live in Carney, she said.

“I feel confident they could bring some people to meet the need,” Johnson said.

“I see them advertising quite a bit for positions open. It’s kind of a workers market,” Johnson said.