Assessment hearings for Otter Lake Dam upkeep held Thursday

HOUGHTON – Otter Lake residents found out more about their assessments for upkeep on the Otter Lake Dam at review hearings Thursday.

Houghton County began setting up the assessment district earlier this year after the Department of Natural Resources informed Houghton County it would stop paying for maintenance costs on the dam.

The total value of the assessment is $44,881.27. Of that, owners of the 91 parcels will pay $31,416.89, or 70 percent. Houghton County will pay another 20 percent, followed by 10 percent from Portage Township.

By 12:30 p.m., about 10 property owners had come in. Drain Commissioner John Pekkala said most people had reacted well once they found out how Pekkala arrived at the assessment.

“We are trying to do this as fairly and impartially as possible,” he said.

Pekkala looked at two main factors. First, a building on the site would increase the assessment. The second is a weighted factor based on the amount of lake frontage, starting at a base rate of 1 for up to 200 feet, then dropping by increments of .25 for every additional 200 feet.

Pekkala said the assessment roll was prepared by the Spicer Group in Saginaw, which has done similar projects throughout the state.

Residents Paul and Nancy Hyypio were among those to talk with Pekkala.

They said the assessment would come as a hit for them and other seniors.

“It’s something that none of the people in Otter Lake ever thought was going to happen,” Paul Hyypio said. “It came as a surprise to me. I suppose it had to be done. If it didn’t, (the dam) might give way. And we didn’t think we were going to have to pay.”