CHEBOYGAN COUNTY — During his report to the Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners on April 14, Cheboygan County Administrator Jeff Lawson updated the commissioners on several projects around the county, including the marina project.


"To follow up on staffing here a little bit," said Lawson. "For the governor's executive order 2020-42 that came out a couple days ago that extended the, of course, work from home for the majority of our staff."


Lawson said the county building has what is labeled under critical infrastructure workers that report to work in the building, with the approval of the elected official or department head. This is scheduled to continue through the executive order.


During this time, there are a number of Cheboygan County employees who have been working from home, or assigned in reserve at home, due to the pandemic. These employees continue to receive their full pay during the time period.


As far as the county's marina project is concerned, with the proposed replacement of the fuel tanks at the marina, the county had received communication from the State of Michigan on April 13 that the governor's orders have frozen grant funding under certain programs.


"So under waterways, that's a program that is not able to continue on projects at this time, under that executive order," said Lawson. "So, we are looking to extend our bid opening, actually, until May 1."


This extension will be put in a report that is put out on April 24, moving the bid opening date to May 1. This new date corresponds with the orders in place by the governor, which have been extended through the end of April. The bids will be read by phone at that time to the contractors, when they are opened.


Lawson said they are expecting the good possibility that the stay-at-home order will be extended longer. If this happens, the county will review the project at that time, to make the determination whether it is going to be moving forward with the work or if it will be pushed off to do when the pandemic is over.


Lawson also updated the commissioners on the county building repair project.


MacMillan Associates, the structural engineer for the project, has completed their preliminary engineering report and field work to develop the plans and specifications for the repair project. They have provided the county with two options for the repair work to be done in the vault area of the Treasurer's office.


The first option was to convert the vault area into office space, rather than it being a vault area with block walls. This would come with a cost of $155,000 and would make an office space with two windows.


"That would require the removal of all the brick and block on the second floor. Those walls are what's called curtain walls, so they can structurally be removed and rebuilt with windows," said Lawson.


The second option would be to keep the current configuration as it stands now, with the vault, with the block walls, and tie the second floor walls at the bottom and top, with the girder systems, together with ties, for approximately $35,000.This would not provide guarantee that the walls would not move again in the future, but the anchoring would eliminate safety concerns. There would also be no exterior windows.


The first option is more of a long term option for the county building. The second is structurally sound, from a safety standpoint, but the walls could still move with the ties.


Lawson requested that at a future meeting, the commissioners discuss which of the options they are more comfortable with and what the uses of that room will be in the future. There may be some issues with finances in the future due to COVID-19 and the potential long term impacts of the virus.


The commissioners agreed that this would be a good topic to discuss in an open meeting, to be able to compare both proposals and look at how it will affect the county long term.


Commissioner Cal Gouine said converting the space into the offices makes the most sense because it will allow the county to get more use of the room, rather than it just being a vault.


This matter will be brought back before the commissioners after the stay-at-home order has been lifted.


Lawson also said there was good news with the Inverness Township sewer bond, as the township was able to close on the refinancing of the bonds before everything got shut down due to the virus. With the township refinancing their sewer bonds, the county is no longer an owner in that sewer system and is released from the requirements from the USDA.


Lawson also updated the commissioners that Straits Regional Ride did receive six new buses and the buses have a new lettering scheme on them.


The county also did receive a $10,000 grant through the Michigan Municipal League Foundation to place some radio ads for census participation. The county also plans on contacting the newspapers in the county to place some ads about the census and encouraging people to return the questionnaire.


"The last that we looked for the county, our percentage was I believe around 46 percent return, which was good, one of the higher ones in the state for self return, and then also Michigan itself was one of the states higher on self return," said Lawson.