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City of Menominee gears up for legal fight

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The City of Menominee’s Interim City Manager Brett Botbyl said Monday the Petoskey law firm Plunket Cooney will represent the city in the lawsuits it faces from marijuana companies that applied for retail licenses but didn’t receive them. But city council members said they weren’t certain who is representing them.

Matthew Cross of Plunkett Cooney will represent the city in a legal fight over whether the city broke laws in the way it awarded licenses for marijuana retailers.

Whether the law firm also will represent city council members, who were named as defendants in more than one lawsuit, remained a question Monday.

“I have not heard anything from the city at all. If you think that makes me happy, it doesn’t,” said Menominee City Council member Bill Plemel, who represents Ward 2 and chairs the Judicial & Legislative/Personnel & Labor Committee.

Council member Josh Jones, who represents Ward 3, also said he didn’t know who was representing the Menominee City Council.

“Until we get a chance to hear from who’s going to be representing us, I really don’t have any comment,” Jones said.

City Attorney Michael Celello said he won’t be representing the city. “Because I am a named defendant, I am unable to represent the city. Please refer questions to the interim city manager,” he said in an emailed response to the EagleHerald’s request for comment.

Botbyl, who chaired the Marijuana Selection Committee recommended to the city council which companies should receive licenses, refused to comment. “Due to the fact that we are in litigation and working with our attorneys whom are representing us, I respectfully decline to answer questions at this time,” he said.

Plemel said whichever law firm has been hired to represent the city will probably represent the city council members, too. “I would think it’s going to represent everybody. It would be crazy for each of us to go out and hire our own lawyer and it would be crazy expensive,” he said.

“We’re supposed to have a committee of the whole meeting closed so someone can explain what we’re supposed to do,” Plemel said.

Asked how the litigation might have been avoided, Plemel said, “Well, there’s been disagreement on the council. I still want to have a Committee of the Whole meeting and talk about adding one or two more retail selling units—one for Lume and one for Ottawa (Innovations). We haven’t been able to schedule that meeting,” he said. “We’re going to try to schedule that meeting.”

Lume received the Planning Commission’s approval for a special-use permit for a medical-marijuana store but had its application for an adult-use recreational marijuana store license declined. Ottawa Innovations received grow permits for medical and recreational marijuana but the company’s retail arm, Higher Love, was denied a retail license. OI Holdings and Higher Love have filed a lawsuit against the city.

The city council would have to approve any additional licenses and hasn’t yet met to discuss it, Plemel said. Plemel said when Susan Johnson, the city’s executive assistant, sent out a notice about a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, not enough council members said they could make it.

Providing two more licenses might resolve some lawsuits but Plemel said, “I don’t know if I can convince anybody do to that,” he said.

Dawn Brazeau, deputy county clerk for Menominee County Courthouse, said Monday she had not received a written response yet from the city to the lawsuits filed so far. Plemel said, “I understand we had like 21 days to respond and we missed that first one, I guess. I know that Brett was sick, and I’m trying to give him a little leeway,” he said.

Several cases were scheduled for hearings Tuesday afternoon, including a motion from Rize, which received a license to open an adult-use recreational marijuana store at the site of the former Stang Sales & Service location. It is asking the court to allow it to proceed with its plans to open a store.

The Mike Cox Law Firm is representing Rize. “Mr. Cox is a former two-term attorney general for the State of Michigan,” Celello said.

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USS Marinette's name honors contributions of the city

MARINETTE—The future USS Marinette, the 25th Littoral Combat Ship that was officially christened Saturday at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) shipyard, bears a name that honors the city’s significant contribution to Navy shipbuilding. It will be the first commissioned U.S. Navy combatant ship to be named after the city. One other ship by the name, a Natick-class tugboat, launched in 1967.

“Building LCS 25 and sister ships for the U.S. Navy is an honor and we are proud to be the nation’s shipyard in the heartland,” FMM CEO Mark Vandroff said at the ceremony. “It is especially memorable to have this ship be named for the great town it’s built in. This christening is a testament to the hard work of more than 2,500 shipbuilders who pass through our gates and build American warships.”

“Today’s christening of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) 25, the future USS Marinette, marks the next critical milestone in the life of this warship,” Lockheed Martin Vice President of Small Combatants and Ship Systems Steve Allen said during his speech. “It’s an honor to celebrate this moment with the many hardworking men and women who both built the Marinette and call this great city home. The Lockheed Martin team is proud of our continued partnership with the U.S. Navy to support enhanced warfighting capabilities to this highly capable class of Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ships.”

The future USS Marinette will begin acceptance trials, a test process and materials inspection undertaken by the government, next year.

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Healthcare employers increasing incentives to recruit and retain workforce

EagleHerald Staff Writers

MARINETTE—The strain of COVID-19 on healthcare workers is prompting employers to increase incentives to recruit and retain employees.

Research literature demonstrates consistent findings of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms among healthcare workers in relation to the increased burdens of COVID, according to a September 2020 study published in The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. Numerous studies have found anxiety among healthcare workers to be related to patient care and concerns about infecting their families.

The pandemic also exacerbated trends that were already putting a strain on the healthcare workforce.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s 2020 Health Care Workforce Report, among the most notable of these challenges is the phenomenon known as the “Silver Tsunami,” or the increasing demand for healthcare services by an aging population. This increase has coincided with the disproportionate retirement of healthcare professionals compared to the number of new workers entering the healthcare field.

Employers in the healthcare industry have implemented strategies such as wage increases in response to these challenges.

The nonprofit healthcare system Advocate Aurora Health announced Nov. 11 that it will raise its minimum hourly wage from $15 to $18 for full-time employees beginning Dec. 5.

The wage increase will impact approximately 10,800 team members across the network, according to a press release. About 20,000 employees who already make more than $18 will also receive raises.

During the pandemic, Aurora Health Care also introduced other incentives such as special COVID pay for its employees working on the frontline, family care reimbursement, lodging accommodation and recognition bonuses. In addition, the healthcare system expanded its employer-sponsored access to mental health professionals for employees.

“Our team members have really shown selflessness throughout the pandemic,” Vice President of Human Resources at Aurora Health Care Beth Kirby said in an email to the EagleHerald. “They are constantly helping out fellow team members, patients and the community. They have been picking up shifts and doing random acts of kindness that have truly been amazing.”

Bellin Health similarly increased stipends during the pandemic for employees who work evening, overnight and weekend shifts and implemented an early annual wage increase this year. In addition, Bellin Health will be paying a thank-you bonus to all frontline and support staff around Thanksgiving.

Some drug stores are also offering incentives to recruit and retain employees.

Walgreens, for instance, is recruiting pharmacy and retail team members nationwide to support the administering of COVID vaccines and tests as well as routine vaccinations such as the flu shot.

To entice potential recruits, Walgreens is offering various incentives, including a $1,250 sign-on bonus for full and part-time pharmacy technicians hired through the end of December. In September, the company gave out a one-time bonus of $1,250 to full-time pharmacists and $1,000 to part-time pharmacists and is extending a $1,000 bonus through a six-month retention period to pharmacy technicians who are certified or become certified to administer flu and COVID vaccines.

Walgreens also announced in September that it would increase its starting hourly wage to $15 per hour. The increase began in October and will take effect in phases through November 2022.

In addition, the drug store introduced new roles to alleviate pressure in pharmacy operations. The pharmacy operations manager position, for instance, takes on pharmacy technician and non-pharmacist staff, non-clinical and workflow management to allow pharmacy managers—all registered pharmacists—to focus on patient care.

“I am extremely proud and grateful of the work our team members are doing across our 9,000 Walgreens locations serving our customers, patients and communities each and every day,” CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance Roz Brewer said in a press release. “Investing in and rewarding our team members is not only the right thing to do, it’s highly important to retaining and attracting a talented workforce, and to continuing to serve our critical role in community health care.”