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 ..."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hancock researcher, author to speak at Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society meeting Jan. 15

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society will hold its first meeting of 2015 at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15 [NOT THE NORMAL MEETING DAY], at the Portage Lake District Library, in Houghton.

The meeting will feature a presentation by John Haeussler, author of Images of America: Hancock (published by Arcadia Publishing in 2014, part of Arcadia's Images of America series). The presentation will be a discussion of images of early Hancock: virtually all pre-1940, many pre-1900.

At a Hancock Fire Dept. Pancake Breakfast in October 2013, Hancock researcher and former City Councilor John Haeussler (center) chats with City Councilor John Slivon, right, and Ann Pace (Slivon's wife) about Hancock history and the Hancock Sesquicentennial book, to which Haeussler, Sesquicentennial Committee chairman, contributed significantly. Haeussler will speak about his book, Images of America: Hancock, at the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society meeting Thursday, Jan. 15, at Portage Lake District Library. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

In addition to showing a few of his favorite images, Haeussler plans to focus on looking at the detail within the images, at times looking at as many as six-to-eight items within a single image. One "sidebar" topic will be a series of images in which the Norwegian Lutheran Free Church appears. Four ca. 1880 images from the Smithsonian will also be included. There will be time for Questions and Answers, and audience participation will be highly encouraged. Books will be available for purchase and can be signed.

John Haeussler is an academic researcher. He moved to Hancock in 2007 and recently completed a four-year term on the Hancock City Council. Haeussler continues to serve on multiple local governmental boards. He was Committee Chair of the City's Sesquicentennial in 2013, and co-editor and co-author of the City of Hancock's Book, Hidden Gems and Towering Tales: A Hancock Michigan Anthology.

The meeting is open to the public. For further information, call 369-4083 or emailHKCGSociety@gmail.com.

Contra Dance to be held TONIGHT, Jan. 14, at Finnish American Heritage Center

HANCOCK -- A Copper Country Contra Dance will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. TONIGHT, Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock.

Colin Hoekje provide instruction and call the dances. The Thimbleberry Band will provide live music. No need to bring a partner -- everybody dances with everyone else. Admission is $6 per person. Great wood floor for dancing!

MDOT Traffic alert: M-26 detoured for Portage Lake Lift Bridge project

HANCOCK -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be detouring northbound M-26 traffic in the city of Houghton beginning TODAY, Wednesday, Jan. 14.

As part of ongoing bridge maintenance work, the M-26 northbound ramp onto the bridge in the city of Houghton will be closed until further notice. Traffic will be rerouted through downtown Houghton.

Motorists also should expect a single-lane closure of the outside northbound lane on the bridge. Both southbound lanes will be reopened Wednesday morning.

UPDATE from Tech Today: Change in Portage Lake Lift Bridge Closures

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close the US-41/M-26 Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock for 10 hours beginning at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17. The bridge is scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18. The hockey game on Saturday, Jan. 17, has been moved to 5:07 p.m. to accommodate Huskies fans north of the bridge. In case of a weather delay, an alternate bridge closure date of Jan. 24 has been set.

Short Closures Schedule Change

The contractor has notified MDOT the previously scheduled four two-hour closures for Jan. 20, 21, 22, and 23 from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. will need to be rescheduled. The two-hour closures will be announced at a later date.

In addition to the Saturday, Jan. 17, closure, motorists should expect:
  • Nearly 170 intermittent 15- to 20-minute closures from January to March, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • One 11-and-a-half-hour closure on March 21 from 9 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. with an alternate date of March 28 in case of weather delay.
For more information, visit the bridge construction website or contact Travis Pierce at tlp@mtu.edu.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Houghton County to be announced Jan. 14 as semifinalist for $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize

HOUGHTON -- Residents of Houghton County are taking charge of their power bills, thanks to the efforts of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). On Wednesday, Jan. 14, Houghton County will be announced as one of 50 semifinalists for the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a nationwide competition challenging communities across the USA to reduce energy consumption. The community which most drastically reduces energy consumption will be the winner of a $5 million dollar prize.

Houghton County’s entry is an initiative launched and led by Michigan Tech computer science graduate student Abhilash Kantamneni (pictured here), with the support and help of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), the Houghton County Board of Commissioners and many Michigan Tech and community individuals and groups.

Photo: Abhilash ("Abhi") Kantamneni is pictured here at a HEET meeting during discussion of Houghton County's energy efficiency initiative mission statement and energy plan. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

A kick-off event will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the circuit courtroom, Houghton County Courthouse, 401 E. Houghton Avenue in Houghton. The event is open to the public.

A selected group of speakers will describe their excitement for the GUEP competition, pledge their support, and encourage the community to participate. After the event, a photo will be taken on the steps of the Houghton County Courthouse (weather permitting) with speakers and any community leaders who wish to participate. Bakery will be provided by Roy's Pasties and Bakery and Suomi Home Bakery and Restaurant.

HEET will partner with utilities and other groups to expand upon the work already being done, as well as explore alternative energy sources in order to reduce energy consumption, and more importantly power bills, in Houghton County for the two-year duration of the competition.

"This is a community effort," Houghton County Commissioner Scott Ala said, "This is a chance for the residents of Houghton County to be involved in something that will benefit the entire community."

This comes as timely news for Houghton County as the residents of the Upper Peninsula wonder whether their power rates will spike given the uncertain future of the Presque Isle Power Plant. The UP already pays some of the highest power rates in the country. Only Hawaii has more expensive electricity.

"The whole project has been gathering momentum and it’s good to see," said Bruce Woodry, Chairman and CEO of the Sigma Capital Group and a member of HEET’s Community Action Board. "Everybody wins on this deal. The community will win and individuals who winterize or have energy savings will win, period."

The community is encouraged to help win the Prize for Houghton County by taking some simple actions at home, such as caulking windows and doors and turning down the thermostat at night.

"Houghton County, as well as mayors and executives from across the country, have told us that the Prize gives them the momentum to accelerate their energy efficiency efforts," said Dr. Francis Slakely, Founder and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize. "These semifinalist communities are leading the way for other small and medium size cities and counties to secure their energy future."

The local business community has already taken a step in jump-starting this effort for Houghton County residents by offering a 10 percent discount on weatherization products for anyone mentioning HEET at the time of purchase.

Efficiency UNITED Booths

Efficiency UNITED is a state and utility partnership program that helps people and businesses to become more energy efficient. They will have representatives in Houghton and Hancock Wednesday, Jan. 14, and Thursday, Jan. 15, to discuss the multiple rebates and programs they offer to Semco and UPPCO customers. They will also be selling energy efficient items (like LED light bulbs and low-flow showerheads) at cost.

Here are the locations:
  • 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 14 -- Pat's Foods in Hancock.
  • 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15 -- Econo Foods in Houghton. 
Efficiency UNITED is committed to educating both residential and commercial customers about energy efficiency and offers cost-effective solutions and rebates for reducing energy use. Efficiency UNITED is also in partnership with twenty of Michigan’s energy providers, including 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.*
Hardware Store Sales

Local hardware stores have agreed to provide a 10 percent discount on "consumable" energy efficiency products (CFL and LED light bulbs, winterization supplies, etc.) from January 14-31 for customers who request the HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team) discount.

Dates: January 14-31

Participating Stores: Swift’s Hardware, Houghton; Risto’s Hardware, Hancock; Ace Hardware, Calumet.

Learn more at energizehoughton.org

For more information about HEET’s efforts and ways to get involved in saving money on your utility bills while winning the Prize for Houghton County, visit www.energizehoughton.org to stay on top of the latest ideas and opportunities HEET will be acting on locally or contact Robert Handler by email at rhandler@mtu.edu.

"The competition looks truly like America," said Dr. Slakely. "Not only do these communities come from across the map, they come from across the political spectrum, represent all socioeconomic strata and include demographically diverse populations. Some are paying the highest prices for energy; some have the ambition to be carbon net-zero, but all communities share the goal of transforming America’s energy future."

To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition’s progress, visit www.guep.org, or follow the Prize on Twitter @GUEnergyPrize or on Facebook www.facebook.com/guenergyprize.

*Information on Efficiency UNITED can be found at www.efficiencyunited.com.