By Sterling McGinn

On Tuesday, January 16, the Luce County Board of Commissioners held their regular monthly meeting where they heard an update on Helen Newberry Joy’s efforts to become a not-for-profit hospital.

The meeting took place at 4:30 p.m. in the Luce County Government Building.

“We are in the process of a conversion and becoming an independent not-for-profit health care organization,” hospital board trustee Dr. Michael Beaulieu told the commissioners.

Beaulieu said the hospital board is preparing documents and a frequently asked questions form, which will be available to the community once it is approved.
Rumors that the hospital is going to be sold abound, and Beaulieu specifically addressed that.

“There are rumors going around the area that the hospital is making this move in order to sell the hospital to another health system,” said Beaulieu. “When I am asked that, the answer is absolutely no.”

The hospital board’s plan is to continue operating as an independent community health care facility as long as possible.

“As a board, we would of course be foolish not to look for alliances with other organizations to the extent that they can bring our community and our patients funding and services that we wouldn’t be able to provide without that collaboration.”

During public comment, Luce County resident Cliff Fossitt said that he is not in favor of the county losing control of the hospital.

“We lose the right to know when the meetings are and they don’t have to go by the Open Meetings Act,” Fossitt said. “I don’t think [the county commission] should approve that. We lose control of the hospital. I think we should be very careful if you approve the 501c3.”

In other news, commissioner Brandon Wheeler updated the board on the status of the Big Manistique Lake Dam.

Both Nancy Morrison and Wheeler met with Schoolcraft County’s legal counsel to discuss the ongoing issue of the responsibility and control of the water structure. The dam is owned by Luce County but is located within Schoolcraft County a couple of miles down the Manistique River.

“Schoolcraft County is going to pass a resolution giving authority to Luce and Mackinac counties,” said Wheeler. “We need to pass a resolution to set up an official committee to run the dam along with what the lake level needs to be set at and if we want a winter lake level.”

Mackinac County will also pass the same resolution as Luce. Wheeler hopes the matter will be settled this spring.

No board action was taken on the matter that evening.

Approximately 12 Big Manistique Lake residents were in attendance that night and several spoke during public comment.

Current dam committee member Jim Mattson presented commission chair Michelle Clark with 110 signatures from individuals who are unsatisfied with the lake level in the summer.

Mattson said an ad-hoc committee pulled the boards this winter without informing others on the committee.

“The people on the committee pull the boards, and we were not contacted,” Mattson said. “We had the lake checked three days before the boards were going to be pulled, and the level was at 686, minus an inch, and there was no reason to pull the boards according to Environment Great Lakes and Energy. They were pulled and remain pulled and there is open water from Burnt Island all the way to Needle Point.”

“We found out after deer season, some ad-hoc committee came in and pulled three or four boards out of every bay, and in one bay, they pulled the boards completely out,” said dam committee member Tom Bronz.

“There is six to eight inches of water going through. And, lo and behold, someone pulled the dam out in Curtis, so there is more water flowing out of that lake, into Big Manistique Lake, and now we have open water. We suspect all that water is leaving our lake.”

Finally, the board said they needed to hold a special executive meeting within 10 days for the purpose of a litigation. No further information was given.