Budget, millage on Ishpeming agenda

ISHPEMING – The Ishpeming City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the 2014 budget and millage rates.

“It’s not going to be an elaborate budget at this point, but (we’re) providing that information to city council so they know where the city’s finances are going to be for the end of 2013 and going into 2014,” said Ishpeming Interim City Manager and Department of Public Works Superintendent Jon Kangas.

Kangas said that “establishing the millage rates is always a challenge,” and this year the city will focus on millage rates for the Act 345 pension fund – the retirement fund for the city’s police and fire employees.

An audit of the city’s 2012 finances presented to the city council in August showed that the city’s pension funds could potentially be in trouble.

“Both of the city’s pension funds are struggling currently, due to poor returns in investments and a continuing decline in employees contributing and an increase in retirees,” Kangas said. “The amount of employees contributing is outnumbered by the number of employees collecting, so it’s difficult to maintain adequate funding levels in those pension plans as a result.”

The council will also discuss the city’s responsibilities as the Michigan Department of Transportation moves forward with plans for a U.S. 41 roundabout at Second Street. Kangas said the city is responsible for connecting Second Street to Third Street in order to avoid southbound traffic passing through residential neighborhoods on Second, and the council will review their options for accomplishing this.

Kangas said the tentative plan at this stage is an S-shaped road connecting Second and Third.

“I don’t want to use the term ‘S’ curve, because it’s kind of a derogatory term, but ultimately that’s what it is, is an ‘S’ curve between Third and Second,” he said.

To do so, Kangas said the city is beginning to work to acquire property necessary for construction of such a street – with the city keeping the potential use of Bessemer Street as a back-up plan.

“We’ve requested qualifications from engineering firms to do the design work on (the connector) and to conduct investigations and prepare recommendations relative to property acquisitions,” he said.

The council will also discuss the city’s leases on former Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. properties, a couple of change orders to the second phase of the Partridge Creek project and will look to appoint a committee for a water and sewer rate analysis.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Ishpeming Senior Citizens Center.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.