Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Portage Library to host health insurance assistance

HOUGHTON -- People who have questions about obtaining health insurance through the marketplace or through the Healthy MI Plan can stop by the Portage Lake District Library for free one-on-one assistance with a certified application counselor from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29.

Iola Brubaker, CAC, from the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center will provide information about health insurance and answer questions about how the Affordable Care Act will impact this year's taxes. She will also explain how to apply for an exemption from the required fee for those who did not have health insurance in 2014.

No appointment is needed and everyone is welcome. Please call (906) 370-4075 for more information.

Monday, January 26, 2015

HEET accepting applications for paid, part-time Energy Manager position

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) is now accepting applications for the Energy Manager, who will lead the community's efforts in winning the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize. The Energy Manager will be a paid, part-time position.*

Applications will be reviewed beginning Feb. 15, and the position will remain open until filled. Feel free to apply and/or share this information with anyone you think would be interested.

To Apply: Please submit your 1) cover letter; 2) résumé or curriculum vitae; and 3) list of three references to admin@energizehoughton.org.

* To read the job description listing the responsibilities and desired skills go to http://energizehoughton.org/energy-manager-position/.

Editor's Note: If you missed our article on HEET's celebration of their semifinalist qualification for the Georgetown Energy Prize, click here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

First bats to die from white-nose syndrome this winter reported in Keweenaw County

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome (inset) at a mine opening in Keweenaw County. (Photo courtesy Gina Nicholas)

KEWEENAW COUNTY -- On Friday, Jan. 23, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that it has received the first reports this winter of bats dying from white-nose syndrome. Members of the public found dead bats outside the opening of an abandoned copper mine near Mohawk in Keweenaw County and reported it to DNR field staff.

"White nose syndrome is now a very serious issue for our area," said Gina Nicholas, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District chairperson. "The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District will have bat specialist(s) as the featured speaker(s) at the Annual Meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at the Ramada Inn, Hancock."*

White-nose syndrome was first discovered in Michigan in late winter 2014 in Alpena, Dickinson, Keweenaw, Mackinac and Ontonagon counties. Widespread die-offs of hibernating bats are expected in all of these counties, and potentially others, this winter. Experience with white-nose syndrome in northeastern states suggests that most dead bats will be found within 100 yards of the openings to the mines, caves or other places in which they hibernate (called "hibernacula"), but some bats may travel a mile or more before dying.

Because most of the major bat hibernacula in these counties are in relatively remote areas, most people will probably not see the bat die-offs.

However, in towns like Iron Mountain, Hancock and Norway, where large numbers of bats hibernate in mines within the city limits, area residents may see dead and dying bats. These bats may be on the ground, or roost on trees, buildings or other structures close to humans and domestic animals.

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome near a cave opening in Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy Greg Turner, Pennsylvania Game Commission)

While there is no connection between white-nose syndrome and rabies, bats can carry rabies, a virus that infects the central nervous system of mammals, including people, and causes death if not properly treated. Rabies is most commonly spread by the bite (or contact with the saliva) of an infected animal. Bats are the animals most commonly found infected with rabies in Michigan, although the disease is relatively rare even in bats.

"We understand the public will be concerned, and we share their concern for the plight of these bats," said DNR wildlife veterinarian Dan O’Brien. "Unfortunately, there is nothing that the public can do to help the bats that are now dying. There is currently no practical way to treat the large number of bats affected by white-nose syndrome. For public health reasons, it is very important that people not touch bats with bare hands, and to keep children, pets and livestock away from bats. Pets and livestock can also be protected by making sure they have a current rabies vaccination."

The DNR asks that bat die-offs this winter be reported on the DNR website or by calling 517-336-5030. The DNR will not be collecting and disposing of bat carcasses where die-offs have occurred. The public can safely dispose of dead bats by picking them up with a shovel or heavy gloves and placing them in plastic trash bags for routine garbage disposal.

Rehabilitation of bats is prohibited in Michigan because of the potential for exposure of humans and domestic animals to rabies.

Long-term, the public can best help bat populations recover from the effects of white-nose syndrome by staying out of mines and caves where bats hibernate (unless proper biosecurity precautions are taken), becoming educated about the critical ecological roles bats play, and supporting bat research and conservation.

For more information on bats and white-nose syndrome, visit www.michigan.gov/wns and www.whitenosesyndrome.org

*More information about the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District meeting will be announced at a later date.

Editor's Note: The Center for Biological Diversity reported recently that 7.7 million metric tons of insects are not consumed each year in the eastern United States because of die-off of the northern long-eared bat due to white-nose syndrome.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finlandia's Young Women's Caucus for Art to hold Soup and Art fundraiser Jan. 24

Soup and Art poster courtesy Finlandia University.

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University's Young Women's Caucus for Art will hold a Soup Lunch and Silent Art Auction fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, in room 323 at the Jutila Center, 200 Michigan St, Hancock.

Music will be provided by music by flute and violin duet Megumi Kaneko and Aoi Buto and solo guitarist Yifan Zhang. Kaneko played with a Japanese chamber orchestra in Vienna over Christmas break.

Cost is $10 adults, $7 students -- all you can eat -- fabulous soups!

It’s been a busy few months for 13 Finlandia University students as they’ve worked hard to raise funds and make the necessary preparations for a trip to New York City this February. The group is attending Access, the annual conference for the national Women’s Caucus of Art.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to connect with a national organization and have contact with some legendary artists," said Phyllis Fredendall, professor of fiber and fashion design at Finlandia’s International School of Art and Design.

The event includes a chance to watch the 2015 WCA Lifetime Achievement Awards. This year’s award winners are Sue Coe, Kiki Smith, and Martha Wilson, while the recipient for the 2015 President’s Art and Activism Award is Petra Kuppers.

"These are some amazing artists," Fredendall said. "Our students will have the chance to interact with them and see them in person talk about their careers."

Aside from the award ceremony, the event will lead the students through dozens of options of breakout events over a three-day period of time. It will also allow the students to see the art scene in New York City.

"New York City is a mecca for art," Fredendall said. "We’re absolutely thrilled to have so many enthusiastic art students participating this year."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dreaming of Finland Dance to be Jan. 23 -- fund raiser for Kivajat Dancers

Kivajat Dancers in action. They plan to perform in Finland this summer. Come to the Dreaming of Finland Dance on Jan. 23 to help support their trip! (Photo courtesy Kivajat Dancers)

HANCOCK -- The Dreaming of Finland Dance will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock to raise funds to help the Kivajat Dancers youth group perform in Finland this summer.

The Thimbleberry Band will be playing that good old-time "Finn Hall" music -- polka, schottische, waltz, maybe swing! Every dollar raised will be matched from a Finn Fest grant. Tickets are $5 (so the kids will get $10 for every ticket sold!).

Come and dance on the Keweenaw's best dance space -- it's for the kids!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Houghton County, HEET celebrate semifinalist status for Georgetown University Energy Prize competition

By Michele Bourdieu

At their Jan. 14, 2015, celebration in the Houghton County Courthouse, Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) members and visitors pose for photos with a banner announcing Houghton County's semifinalist status in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton County Courthouse was the scene of a celebration on Jan. 14, 2015, as members and community supporters of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) formally announced that Houghton County has been included as one of 50 communities competing nationally for the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) -- $5 million for the best achievement in energy efficiency.

Since September 2014, HEET has worked on a long-term Energy Plan for Houghton County, which they submitted to GUEP.* Now that the competition has entered the two-year semifinalist stage, from January 2015 to December 2016, the challenge is to implement the plan in order to reduce utility-supplied energy consumption in a manner that is likely to yield continuing improvements within this community and replication in other communities. To determine finalists and winners, GUEP has restricted community energy consumption measurements to energy supplied by gas and electric utilities directly to all residential and municipal customers.**

At the Sept. 17, 2014, Community Visioning Meeting for Saving Energy, held at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, HEET organizer Abhilash ("Abhi") Kantamneni, a PhD student in Computer Science at Michigan Tech and a researcher in solar energy, points out that electric rates for the Upper Peninsula are among the highest in the U.S. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Richelle Winkler, Michigan Tech University assistant professor of sociology and demography, who has acted as a facilitator for the HEET meetings, welcomed HEET members and visitors to the Jan. 14 celebration and introduced speakers.

Abhilash "Abhi" Kantamneni, a PhD student in Computer Science at Michigan Tech and a researcher in solar energy, has been a lead organizer for the HEET group and their participation in the GUEP competition.

Here Winkler introduces Kantamneni at the Jan. 14 celebration:

Abhilash ("Abhi") Kantamneni, an organizer of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team, speaks about the Georgetown University Energy Prize during a celebration at the Houghton County Courthouse marking Houghton County's status as one of 50 semifinalist communities in competition for the prize. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Following Abhi's introduction, Jay Meldrum, executive director of Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center and an active member of the HEET group, read a letter of congratulations by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

During the celebration of Houghton County as semifinalist in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition, Jay Meldrum of the Keweenaw Research Center reads a letter of congratulations from Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder.

Rick Kasprzak, Houghton County Democratic Party vice chair and a new member of HEET, announced that State Rep. Scott Dianda, while unable to attend the event since he was in legislative session in Lansing, is aware of HEET's work and very supportive of their efforts to empower Houghton County residents to take charge of their own utility bills.

Kasprzak later told Keweenaw Now he is extremely proud of Houghton County as one of the semifinalists in the GUEP competition.

"The competition for the Georgetown Prize will make the residents of Houghton County winners whether or not we are able to win the Prize, as everyone will benefit from learning how to conserve energy while putting money in our pockets," Kasprzak noted. "Although Houghton County is by far the most rural community competing for the Prize, Houghton County is also a community of resourceful and determined people, and I have every confidence when the residents of this county are inspired to take charge of their own utility bills they will rise to the top of the competition."

Other political figures -- Congressman Dan Benishek and State Senator Tom Casperson also sent messages of congratulations that were read to the audience.

The three local utilities, UPPCO, OCREA (electric) and SEMCO (gas) have worked with HEET to identify residential and municipal accounts within Houghton County limits.
The Houghton County Energy Plan provides information about energy data collection to be submitted to GUEP.* During the celebration, David McCowen, representing SEMCO ENERGY Natural Gas Company, spoke about SEMCO's role in helping to implement the Houghton County Energy Plan.

David McCowen, Key Accounts executive with SEMCO ENERGY, who is responsible for all new natural gas services in the SEMCO areas of the U.P., speaks about SEMCO's ongoing efforts to help customers with energy efficiency and SEMCO's support of the Houghton County Energy Plan.

Michigan Interfaith Power and Light has been working to help support HEET efforts. They recently granted funds for five local congregations to do energy audits and efficiency upgrades to their buildings. They are also doing an educational campaign on energy efficiency with members of these congregations this month.

At the HEET celebration, Bucky Beach, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Houghton, spoke about his church's commitment to improving energy efficiency in their building and educating the public about it.

Bucky Beach, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church pastor, addresses the audience during the Jan. 14 Georgetown University Energy Prize announcement in the Houghton County Courthouse. His church is one of several in the community tht are participating in the county's new Energy Plan by working on energy efficiency and educational programs.

Houghton County Commissioner Scott Ala, who has been working closely with the HEET group, gave the closing speech at the celebration in the Courthouse.

In his closing speech at the celebration, Houghton County Commissioner Scott Ala explains the purpose of HEET's Energy Plan for the county and the importance of community participation.

Local residents who have been involved with the HEET group were enthusiastic about the GUEP semifinalist qualification and the new Energy Plan.

"I am excited about the county-wide approach that is required by this project," said Carolyn Peterson of Houghton. "We can always use more practice in working with Copper Country residents who live in different neighborhoods."

HEET member Linda Belote of Hancock also shared her enthusiasm for the endeavor.

"This is very exciting," Belote said. "I think we have a good chance of winning because our community knows how to work together. This is an excellent challenge for us. Even if we aren't the top winners, we will still have gained a lot in the attempt."
 
Nominations for Energy Plan leadership positions still open

HEET will continue to lead and manage the Houghton County Energy Plan.* As stated in the plan, HEET's more than 60 volunteer members include municipal government officials, committed residents, utility executives, service organization leaders, university staff and students, and local business and school leaders.

On Jan. 6, 2015, a group of HEET members met to discuss the structure of leadership for implementing the County Energy Plan and to make suggestions for nominations to leadership positions.

Richelle Winkler outlined the structure, which will include a Community Advisory Board, an Energy Manager and volunteer coordinators for outreach/marketing, education, service organizations, alternative energy, energy efficiency, government, volunteers and fundraising. The Energy Manager position will be a part-time paid position, possibly to be funded by a $30,000 Joyce Foundation Grant recently awarded to the HEET group.

At the Jan. 6, 2015, meeting of HEET members, facilitator Richelle Winkler outlines the structure for leadership as the team prepares to nominate leaders to implement the new Houghton County Energy Plan.

While some nominations for these leadership positions have been made and accepted, the new HEET Web site offers an opportunity for additional online nominations for these positions.*** HEET invites interested persons to join the team or become involved with their efforts in various ways.

Community events coincide with HEET celebration

As part of the HEET celebration, businesses in Hancock and Houghton participated by promoting energy efficient products, and weatherization of a home in Calumet was sponsored by New Power Tour, Inc.

Efficiency UNITED, a state and utility partnership program that helps people and businesses to become more energy efficient, set up booths at Pat's Foods in Hancock and Econo Foods in Houghton to discuss the multiple rebates and programs they offer to Semco and UPPCO customers. They also sold energy efficient items to customers.****

Efficiency UNITED representatives, from right, Wayne Formolo and Bill Wittenbach of Iron Mountain, talk to Bucky Beach, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church pastor, and Barbara Manninen of Hancock about energy efficient products and rebates at Pat's Foods in Hancock on Jan. 14. They also had a similar booth at Econo Foods in Houghton on Jan. 15 to help create awareness of their company's work. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Bucky Beach, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church pastor, bought eight LED lightbulbs at the booth at Pat's Foods.

"We're trying to go as energy efficient as we can at my church and at home," Beach said.

Some of the energy efficient products being promoted by Efficiency UNITED include these LED light bulbs and night lights and a water saving shower. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Efficiency UNITED is in partnership with SEMCO ENERGY Gas Company and Upper Peninsula Power Company to help customers discover ways to save energy through innovative energy efficiency programs and educational tools such as online energy audits.

In addition, during the month of January, hardware stores in Houghton, Hancock and Calumet are offering a 10 percent discount on "consumable" energy efficiency products (CFL and LED light bulbs, winterization supplies, etc.) through Jan. 31, 2015, for customers who request the HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team) discount.

Another event associated with the HEET celebration was a weatherization of a residence in Calumet last week by New Power Tour, Inc.

During the Jan. 14 HEET celebration, Melissa Davis, managing director of New Power Tour, Inc., and a HEET member, speaks about the need for volunteers to help winterize homes through the New Power Tour program. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

New Power Tour works with Construction Engineering students from Michigan Tech University, training high school students while winterizing the homes of low-income and elderly members of the local community. The project makes an economic and thermal difference in the lives of residents, and students learn skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.*****

This ice dam caused damage to the roof and leaking water in the home of Loran and Shirley Kommes. New Power Tour volunteers spent a whole semester winterizing the house to solve the problem. (Photo © and courtesy New Power Tour, Inc. Reprinted with permission.)

To solve the problem student volunteers insulated the attic with blueboard that they tacked down and sealed around the edges with spray foam. (Photo © and courtesy New Power Tour, Inc. Reprinted with permission.)

Notes:

* Click here to read the new Houghton County Energy Plan.

** Go to guep.org to learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize.

*** Click here to learn about the HEET leadership nominations and to become involved with the project.

**** Visit the Efficiency UNITED Web site for more information.

***** Click here to learn more about New Power Tour and their winterization program.

Water expert Wendy Pabich to speak TONIGHT at Finnish American Heritage Center

HANCOCK -- Author Wendy J. Pabich will speak on water issues at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock.The presentation, free and open to the public, is hosted by Finlandia University's Servant Leadership House.

Pabich is an environmental scientist, speaker, educator, adventurer and artist obsessed with all things water. As the founder and president of Water Futures, Pabich works to find innovative solutions to one of the planet's most pressing problems -- the quest for sustainable water.

The Servant Leadership House at Finlandia is an intentional residential experience built on the core commitments of service, leadership and community. The house, with up to six female students each year calling it home, was established in the fall of 2014 after the hard work of many people came together to help restore the former Robinson House.

As part of the experience for the students this year, they are studying the topic of water, which includes reading Pabich's book Taking on Water. In it she shares her story of attempting to measure and reduce her own water footprint in her day-to-day household water needs, the food she consumes and the clothes she wears. Mixed in with the facts and figures of how water permeates our lives, Pabich offers suggestions for small, but important, changes everyone can make toward changing our wasteful water habits.

Copies of Pabich's book can be found at Finlandia's Sulo and Aileen Maki Library or at Finlandia's bookstore, North Wind Books.

Learn more about Pabich at waterdeva.com. Read about Water Futures at waterfuturesinc.com and Finlandia's Servant Leadership House at finlandia.edu/servantleadershiphouse.

Inset photo of Wendy Pabich courtesy Finlandia University.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Michigan Tech observes Martin Luther King Day today

From Tech Today
Posted Jan. 19, 2015

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech and its Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) will observe Martin Luther King Day today, with the third annual MLK Day of Service, an MLK Banquet and an interfaith worship service and candlelight vigil.

Approximately 40 student volunteers will visit Houghton Elementary School and Barkell Elementary School in Hancock, where they will read books to the children about Martin Luther King's life. They will be at the schools between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The MLK Banquet is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Tickets are free but must be picked up in advance from CDI. The keynote banquet speaker is Daymond Glenn, vice president for community life, chief diversity officer and assistant professor of urban studies at Warner Pacific College. A student, Nathan Shaiyen, will sing and a student jazz group will perform.

Immediately following the banquet, the Cooperative Campus Ministry will host an interfaith worship service with students from various faith backgrounds sharing insights about their faith as it relates to Martin Luther King and peace. A candlelight vigil will follow the service.

Friday, January 16, 2015

State Rep. Scott Dianda takes oath of office, announces Committee assignments

State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) takes the oath of office from Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack at the swearing-in ceremony for the official opening of the 98th session of the Michigan House of Representatives on Jan. 14, 2015. Joining Rep. Dianda, from left, are staff member Curtis Audette; relatives retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Kim Pacsai and his wife, Carol; wife Debbie Dianda and Rep. Dianda; House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills); and staff members Elise Matz and Martha Troy. (Photo courtesy office of Scott Dianda)

LANSING – State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) was sworn in Jan. 14 beginning his second term at the official opening of the 98th session of the Michigan House of Representatives at the state Capitol in Lansing. Dianda’s House District 110 covers the western Upper Peninsula counties of Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon, Gogebic, Iron and Baraga as well as part of Marquette County.

"I'm an honored that the residents of House District 110 have sent me back to Lansing to continue working on the issues that are important to our U.P. communities," said Dianda.

In his first term, Dianda fought for proposals to improve U.P. communities including tax relief for middle-class families and helped convince Gov. Rick Snyder to declare a state of emergency after brutally cold temperatures caused frozen and burst water pipes in many U.P. communities. He also fought for fair distribution of Michigan Department of Transportation road funding.*

Dianda's Committee assignments

For the new legislative session, Dianda will be the Democratic minority vice chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee and will serve as a member of the Energy and Transportation Committees.

"I am pleased to be the Democratic vice chairman of regulatory reform, and I look forward to working with my House colleagues on establishing sensible regulations that work for our communities. As a small businesses man myself, I will always be the private sector guy looking for ways to make Michigan a better place for small businesses," said Dianda. "I look forward to working on the energy committee to lower costs for the U.P. and generate power in the Upper Peninsula. As we saw last winter, and as we are seeing now over the issue of energy generating plants, U.P. residents have unique issues and needs. As a member of the transportation committee, I will be working with the Michigan Department of Transportation to reduce costs and find more cost savings before the May ballot vote on transportation funding. I am eager and ready to get to work."

The House Regulatory Reform Committee handles legislation covering many different areas including, to name just a few, licensing requirements for occupations, regulating athletic contests such as boxing and mixed martial arts, liquor license regulations and other liquor related issues and construction code regulations. The House Energy Committee considers legislation including utilities and current methods of energy generation as well as new ways of generating energy. The House Transportation Committee considers legislation that affects both state and locally maintained highways, roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure, as well as licensing and traffic control issues.

"I will continue to put U.P. residents and our unique needs first as we debate legislation at the state Capitol," Dianda added. "I encourage people to contact me with their thoughts and ideas through email, my website or by phone. My staff and I are always ready to hear new ideas and to offer our help to people trying to navigate their way through state government."

Dianda can be contacted toll-free by phone at (888) 663-4031, by email at ScottDianda@house.mi.gov and through his website at www.dianda.housedems.com.

* Editor's Note: See our Nov. 27, 2014, article, "State Rep. Scott Dianda notes concerns about clean energy, road improvement, public transit, more ..."