County board extends union contract

HOUGHTON – The Houghton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a two-year contract extension for courthouse and airport union members at its meeting Tuesday.

Union members sought the extension as a way to avoid some provisions of the state’s right-to-work legislation taking effect on March 28. The contract would have expired at the end of this year. The agreement still allows for wages and benefits to be negotiated in December.

The state’s right-to-work law takes effect with contracts that expire on or after March 28. Under the new state law, workers would no longer automatically have to pay union dues. The law also places restrictions on the nature of negotiations, prohibiting employees and management from discussing issues on county property during working hours.

“It’s always been a very positive relationship, that we would just talk about safety, or issues with employees, or questions on contracts without any hassle, having to rent a room, or be here after hours or do anything like that, or pay your employees to do stuff after hours,” said Deputy County Clerk Pat Janke.

Controller Eric Forsberg said if they violated the law and someone filed a complaint, the county could be fined $500.

In other action, the board:

heard from Emergency Coordinator Jack Dueweke the county is looking for new snow measurers.

Dueweke thanked Debbie Pindral of Painesdale and George Thurner in Laurium for years of providing snowfall totals. Both retired at the start of winter.

Dueweke is especially looking for people in Painesdale and Laurium.

To get in touch with Dueweke about providing snow measurements, contact him at 482-6400.

approved a resolution to give the drain commissioner legal authority to develop the legal water levels at Rice and Twin lakes.

created a subcommittee to look at application for the Houghton/Keweenaw Recreation Authority and Houghton County Road Commission.

approved the sale of Houghton County Airpark Lot 8 to a private company for $30,000.

backed selling a portion of county land across the street from the courthouse.

tabled bids for work at the Houghton County Probate Court in favor of looking into security recommendations for the entire courthouse.

approved buying new locks for 19 doors at the courthouse.

approved creating a seven-person Construction Code Board of Appeals panel.

approved the county’s 2013 investment policy.

named Chair Albert Koskela as remonumentation grant administrator.

approved letters of support for grants for the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center and an engineering study on erosion at McLain State Park.