Wakefield Township cancels meetings



Wakefield — Members of the Wakefield Township Board of Trustees met in person one last time on Tuesday evening before voting to cancel their regular monthly meetings in both May and June.

“I think we’re in for hard times for half the summer, anyway,” said Township Supervisor John Cox, who also chaired the meeting at the township hall.

Cox was referring to the progression of COVID-19, an acronym based on the word “COronaVIRus”, with the “d” standing for disease and the 19 referring to the onset of the global illness at the end of 2019.

As members sat at the nationally-recommended distance of six feet apart, Cox explained that, although the township hall is now closed to the public, “We’re trying to close down as little as we can.”

Western U.P. Recycling Center is now closed, and the township’s spring cleanup has been postponed indefinitely, but Cox said garbage pick-up for township residents will continue.

Members also voted to authorize Treasurer Joan Dalman to conduct necessary financial business during the next couple months and for Clerk Mandy Lake to continue handling other paperwork as needed.

“I think we can operate just as well,” said Cox. “We all get along. That’s the best part. We communicate with each other.”

Cox joked that he’s working harder than ever now as he engages in regular virtual meetings with representatives of Gogebic County Emergency Management, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, the Iron County Health Department, and law enforcement, etc.

In a letter with today’s date, Cox explained in detail to township residents what some of the fallout has been from state stay-at-home orders that have reduced travel and slowed the economy.

“Some road projects had to be cut back because of the higher than projected costs of hot asphalt mix and chip seal,” he stated, adding, “The Gogebic County Road Commission is concerned about a cut in the gas tax revenue they receive since most everyone is not traveling.”

As Cox emphasized during the meeting, “The less traffic on the road, the less gas tax you get.”

On the bright side, Cox stated in his letter that “this virus will end one way or another.”

He added, “In the meantime, since we are so sparsely populated, our yard, garden, house projects and other outdoor activities will keep us busy.”

Moreover, he said of his constituents, “Wakefield Township residents have always been a hardy bunch, and I’m sure we will all get through this bump in the road.”

When Dalman asked whether the May or June meetings might be rescheduled if social distancing guidelines loosen up in coming weeks, Cox laughed and said, “We’d have to call a special meeting” to reset either session.

Internet coverage

In other news, board members also voted to approve an agreement with GogebicRange.net LLC of Marenisco to engage in the construction of a new communications tower near the township building.

“We’ve been back and forth, back and forth,” said Cox in relation to getting the legal language of the agreement just right.

He said the new tower, which he expects to be completed either this summer or fall, will result in GogebicRange.net providing an internet range from Bingo’s Garage to N. County Hwy. 519 “and as far north as they can reach without getting tree interference.”

The township’s cost for the project will be $42,202 with GogebicRange.net paying an additional $10,700, plus $100 per month to lease the land in a 10-year agreement.

The company, managed by Brandon Yuchasz, will own the tower, related building and equipment.

According to the agreement, the new facility will result with GogebicRange.net being responsible for related maintenance, utilities, taxes, licensing and liability.

At whatever time the company may opt to cease operations, it also will be responsible for removing its equipment, the tower, and the concrete under the structure.

Cox said the company will arrange for individual service agreements with any resident or business desiring to use its services. He estimates 20 maximum clients.

After the meeting, Cox said that clients opting to use the pending service likely also will benefit from better cell phone reception “because it’s going to be done by Wi-Fi.”

The board’s next regular meeting will be on July 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Wakefield Township Hall at 414 N. County Road 519. The public is welcome.

Meanwhile, Cox said residents are free to call him with any questions at 906-224-3721.