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Millage sought to renovate Keweenaw courthouse

July 15, 2012
By STACEY KUKKONEN - Houghton daily Mining Gazette , The Mining Journal

EAGLE RIVER - The Keweenaw County Board will be asking voters to approve a millage in the Aug. 7 election to preserve the historical courthouse and grounds in Eagle River.

"The county courthouse, jail, carriage house and grounds are all in need of attention," Commissioner Don Piche said. "A priority list has been created with the help of a local engineering firm."

The millage asks: "Shall the 15 mill tax limitation on general ad valorem taxes within the county of Keweenaw be increased for said county by .5 mills (50 cents per thousand of taxable value) for the years of 2012-15 inclusive for courthouse/jail buildings and grounds improvements, which will raise $64,633 in the first year?"

Article Photos

The Keweenaw County Board will be asking voters to approve a millage on the August primary ballot to preserve the historical courthouse and grounds in Eagle River. Some of the damage to the siding is shown here. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Stacey Kukkonen)

The county recently received an Americana Foundation Grant of $40,000 for repairs and restoration. A percentage of matching money is required.

"The roof will be done this summer and the deadline is Aug. 31," Piche said.

At the commission meeting Wednesday in Eagle River, a contractor will be chosen and the project will begin with the target completion date of Aug. 31.

The millage would assist in various projects yet to be started. OHM of Hancock estimated the project to be about $185,000 for roofing and siding, which is in bad need of repair.

Every time there is a strong wind or storm, siding is pulled from the building and shingles have been littering the grounds for years.

In addition, the board asked Honeywell to assess energy in the building, and eventually the courthouse and sheriff's building will need new furnaces, lighting and insulation, Piche said.

"The reason we're going after this millage is because we basically have no money," Piche said. "That bid came in at $325,000 and we just cannot afford to do that project."

If the millage is approved, the funding will be used to repair the siding and get new furnaces, in addition to removing and replacing the roof.

"Also, these buildings have to be somewhat insulated," he said. "The roof here was insulated but it still isn't enough. ... We have a moisture problem that needs to be resolved, too."

According to information from the county clerk Julie Carlson, the average taxable value for residential property is $31,936 and $58,558 for commercial property in Keweenaw County. With the passage of the millage, the increase on the average tax bill would be $15.97 for residential property and $29.28 on commercial property.

"The last time we painted was back in 2003 at a cost of $29,000," said Ricky Thomas, who does maintenance at the grounds. "It didn't hold up."

Piche said it's unknown how long it's been since a roofing and siding project has been done at the courthouse, as it could have been more than 50 years ago. In the early 2000s, the courtroom was equipped with new windows and fresh paint. In the 1990s, the brick fencing was put up around the grounds.

Piche stressed the importance of preserving the courthouse, as it is listed on the Michigan Historical Record and business is conducted at the building every day.



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