County board re-appoints Larson to mental health board

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

The Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners re-appointed Terry Larson, of Rogers City to a three-year term on the board of directors for the Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority. Larson, who is currently a board member, having served 15 years, will have his current term end March 31. The board had selected Lester Buza to fill that seat at a previous meeting, but asked Larson to continue his service to fill a new vacancy.

The appointment came to fill the seat of Marie LaLonde, of Onaway who announced she would be resigning when her term ends March 31.

COUNTY COMMISSION members had a light agenda at last week’s meeying. Pictured are (from left) commissioners Stephen Lang, Mike Darga, Robert Schell, Carl Altman Lee Gapczynski and county clerk Ann Marie Main. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
COUNTY COMMISSION members had a light agenda at last week’s meeying. Pictured are (from left) commissioners Stephen Lang, Mike Darga, Robert Schell, Carl Altman Lee Gapczynski and county clerk Ann Marie Main. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

The mental health authority serves Presque Isle, Alpena, Montmorency and Alcona counties with 12 members serving on the board. Gary Nowak, Rogers City councilman, is the chairman of the board. The appointment came at the Feb. 10 meeting of the county board.

Also at that meeting the board heard from Marc Miller, regional initiatives deputy with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who made a presentation on managed public land strategy employed by the state.

“It is my second trip through. I met with chairman Carl Altman a while ago and discussed our approach with DNR to re-engage with county officials and township officials to try to improve our public engagements and relationships,” he said.

Miller said part of what the DNR needs to do is to tell the story of the agency better. Protecting and using the natural assets are important.

“We have a lot of fantastic assets that other states do not have. It is good for us to talk about what we do well, where we need to improve and also have a common understanding so the next time we have the opportunity to work together, we know where each other are coming from,” he told the board.

Miller’s presentation centered on the economic impact natural resources has on Michigan’s economy. He said that DNR-managed recreation facilities help support the $2.28 billion tourism industry, which brings 214,000 direct jobs. Of that total, he said, fishing and boating add $7 billion to the economy and hunting adds $2.3 billion.

He said the DNR manages 102 state parks, 138 state forest campgrounds, 1,300 boating access sites and 80 public harbors. The DNR has 4 million acres of managed forest, which supports the $16 billion timber industry and 31,000 direct jobs.

Commissioners questioned the merits of the youth hunt, for which Miller gave an explanation of DNR strategy.

“As we look at the demographics of those who hunt now, we are looking at continued decline in the number of hunters. It is very difficult to get the youth and others out as all of us age. We are going to hit a point in the very near future where we are going to drop off a cliff as baby boomers and generation X starts to slow down,” he said.

“That is a real concern for all of us because we are concerned with our heritage continuing.”

The DNR is working on the right way to approach “recruitment, retention and reactivation” of hunters, he said. The challenge is to get younger people and those living in the cities out and enjoying the resources offered in Michigan.

In other county board matters: 

–The board approved payment of $7,645 to be paid to Central Lake Armor Express for bulletproof vests for the sheriff’s department. A portion of that will be covered by a federal grant secured by the department.

–Altman said no recommendation would be made regarding a possible millage to support county historical museums, as discussed at a prior meeting. An opinion from the county’s attorney is due by the end of the month, Altman told the board.

–District 3 commissioner Mike Darga (D.-Rogers City) said since Rogers City took over the transfer station earlier this month he has been monitoring the dumpster situation. Two more dumpsters were delivered to the site as of last week to handle cardboard recycling. One was moved from Hawks, which was underutilized, Darga said.

–District 5 commissioner Stephen Lang, (R.-Presque Isle) said the personnel committee began considering salaries for the coming year, that must be decided upon before the county budget is approved.

–County clerk Ann Marie Main said after the meeting that the only countywide officeholder to file a nominating petition to date was incumbent county clerk Bridget LaLonde. The deadline for filing petitions is April 19.

–The board received a letter of resignation from veterans counselor Lisa Homan, effective June 30. She has a two-year term, which ends Dec. 31.

–The board did not discuss the status of a lawsuit brought by prosecuting attorney Rick Steiger against the board. Steiger was not present at the meeting. No other elected officials were in attendance.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 9:30 a.m. at the county courthouse.