Request denied … for now

HANCOCK – An effort to seek a donation from the Hancock City Council for the purchase of the Quincy Smelting Works site was met with council member resistance during their regular meeting Wednesday.

Scott See, executive director of the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, came to the council to ask for $10,000 donation toward the $335,000 purchase price of the site.

The site is owned by Franklin Township, but in October 2012, the Franklin Township Board of Trustees, and the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission came to an agreement for the sale of the site to the National Park Service for $335,000 plus the forgiveness of $11,437 in loans from the Advisory Commission to the township. The Advisory Commission made a down payment of $2,000 on October 22, 2012. They have until Sept. 30, 2015, to pay off the $335,000 sale price.

See said the Advisory Commission received a $100,000 donation toward the purchase price of the site, but it requires an equal match, which is why he came to the council seeking a donation. Hancock was the first local municipality he approached. About $57,000 toward the match has been raised so far.

See said if the Advisory Commission can purchase the site, they would transfer ownership to the National Park Service. The federal government has invested more than $2 million into the site for building stabilization and environmental remediation because of its historic significance.

The site is part of the Torch Lake Superfund Site, and See said it is expected to be delisted.

“As of today (Wednesday), the site was supposed to be removed from the Superfund list,” he said.

However, because of the federal government shutdown, See said he was uncertain when that action will be taken.

See said the Advisory Commission intends to make the smelter site a viable economic feature of the Keweenaw.

“What we want to do is put it back into public use,” he said. “We can return this to a thriving piece of the community.”

See said one reason he approached the Hancock City Council was because members previously agreed to pay $5,000 toward the cost of building stabilization.

The Advisory Commission members would like to raise the $100,000 match by the end of 2013, See said, which would put them two-thirds of the way toward the $335,000 purchase price.

The NPS is considering moving the Isle Royale National Park headquarters from Houghton to the smelter site, See said.

Councilman John Haeussler said he didn’t understand why, if the NPS is willing to put $2 million into the site for stabilization and remediation, they wouldn’t pay the $335,000 to Franklin Township. See said there are line items in the Department of Interior’s budget for the remediation and stabilization, but not for property purchases.

Haeussler said he’s talked to local business owners and residents about the council possibly donating toward the purchase, and most of them were against it.

Although he liked the effort to renovate the smelter site, Haeussler said he didn’t think Hancock residents should help pay for it.

“This isn’t my money,” he said. “This is tax dollars.”

Haeussler said he also wasn’t certain such a donation would be legal for the council to make.

If the IRNP headquarters is moved to the smelter site, Haeussler said the city of Houghton will gain valuable waterfront property.

“There’s two big gainers here, and neither of them is Hancock,” he said.

Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson said rehabilitation of the site will benefit the Keweenaw, and this may be the best time to move on developing it.

Councilman Ted Belej moved to table the request for the $10,000 donation toward the $100,000 match so members could consider it more. The motion passed 5-1 with Haeussler voting no.

Council members also considered the only application for appointment to the Ward II seat vacated by Jeremie Moore, who recently moved to the Detroit area. Council unanimously approved appointing Kevin Hodur to fill the seat until the November 2014 general election at which time he can choose to run to fill the remainder of Moore’s term, which ends in 2016. He will be sworn in at the council’s Nov. 6 organizational meeting.

Hodur said he had run in previous elections, and he thinks it’s important for residents to get involved.

“I feel like it’s my obligation,” he said.

In other business, council members:

approved the city’s Title VI Non-Discrimination Policy Plan for the Federal Highway Administration.

approved purchasing an endloader from Fabco of Marquette for $160,000.