HIGHLIGHTS OF DELTA COUNTY HISTORY
Delta County was surveyed in April, 1843. At that time it included the present territory and all of what is now known as Menominee County, and parts of Dickinson, Iron and Marquette Counties. The name came from its triangular shape, like that of the Greek letter Delta.
Delta County was formally organized in 1861. The first meeting of the Delta County Board of Supervisors was held May 28,1862, at the Delta Mills in the Township of Nahma. Members of the Board were George LeGare, Chairman of Escanaba Township, A. G. Bailey, of Nahma Townhship, and the Clerk, Thomas Ashton. The county seat was located in Masonville from 1860 to 1864 when the county records and offices were moved to Escanaba.
Nahma Township was the first township created in Delta County in 1861. The other townships and their years of creation are Baldwin Township 1873, Bark River Township 1880, Bay de Noc Township 1881, Brampton Township 1903, Cornell Township 1905, Ensign Township 1921, Fairbanks Township 1872, Ford River Township 1875, Garden Township 1882, Maple Ridge Township 1873, Masonville Township 1869 and Wells Township 1889.
The first Judge who sat in Circuit Court was Daniel Goodwin, a Supreme Court Judge. This was prior to the establishment of the 25th Judicial Circuit and he was followed by John W. Stone, Richard C. Flannigan, Frank A. Bell, Glenn W. Jackson, Carroll C. Rushton and Bernard G. Davidson. On January 1, 1975, a new circuit was created for only Delta County. Clair J. Hoehn was the first Judge elected for the 47th Judicial Circuit. Portraits of the first seven Judges can be viewed in the County Building.
Escanaba was incorporated as a village in 1866, and in 1867 a lighthouse was established on Sand Point. Also in 1867, a charcoal iron furnace was built in Fayette by the Jackson Iron Company.
Gladstone was first settled in 1877. It was originally named Saunders Point and at that time it was the Eastern Terminal Port of the Soo Line Railroad.
In 1882 the first Courthouse was built in Delta County. A committee composed of Thomas J. Streeter, John D. Ross, Charles E. Brotherton and Robert Peacock was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to secure a building site. Block five of the original plat of Escanaba was purchased from David Oliver at a cost of $4,000. Contract for the building construction was awarded to H. G. Ashmun for $20,700. The completion cost was $26,474 and the Courthouse was turned over to the County on February 27, 1884.
Escanaba was incorporated as a City in 1883, with Gladstone being incorporated as a Village in 1887 and as a City in 1889.
The First Delta County Jail and Sheriff's residence was a two story brick building located on the northeast corner of the present intersection of First Avenue South and South 5th Street, Escanaba. On June 6, 1886, the Board of Supervisors provided for funds and accepted bids for construction of a new jail and Sheriff's residence in the amount of $5,000. The new building was erected at the rear of the then new Courthouse.
At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on October 8, 1956, Supervisor Lawrence J. Jacobs made a report on remodeling the court room and stated that the cost was such that something should be done about a new County Building instead. A lay committee was appointed from each unit of the County to study the County Government's facility needs. Appointed were: Austin Stegath, chairman, Ralph Sogard, vice chairman, and John H. Fawcett, F.W. Schmitt, H.E. Flath, Jerrold Becvar, George Ventura, L. J. Jacobs, Phil Miron and Conan E. Fisher.
This lay committee reported back to the Board of Supervisors, on April 9, 1957, with the determination that the County Building was no longer adequate for the needs of the County and that steps should be taken immediately to plan construction of a new County Building. The study continued.
On October 14, 1957, a resolution was adopted that the Board of Supervisors take preliminary steps to create an authority to undertake the County Building project. At a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors on March 21, 1958, articles of incorporation of the Delta County Building Authority were adopted and at an adjourned session of the same meeting on April 2, 1958, the Board of Supervisors elected John H. Fawcett, James T. Jones, Clayton Ford, Ralph Sogard, and H. E. Flath, as members of the Delta County Building Authority.
Three city-owned lots at the County Building site were deeded to the Authority by the City of Escanaba and remaining lots in the city block were purchased by the Authority. G. Arntzen & Co., Architect, was retained to prepare final plans for the new Delta County Building, and the contract for construction was awarded to Erling Arntzen, Escanaba contractor. Ground breaking took place in October, 1959, and the new County Building was occupied on May 18, 1961. The cost was $680,000, of which $50,000 was donated by late Catherine Bonifas in her will.
The Department of Corrections condemned the Delta County Jail and the Board of Commissioners authorized the Building and Grounds Committee to study the means of obtaining a new jail. A new, modern jail was built on land north of the new Courthouse. This land was donated to the County by the City of Escanaba and the Delta County Building Authority. The cost of the Jail was $557,000 of which 50% was furnished by the Federal Government and the balance raised by a vote of the people for a special tax levy of two mills for one year. The new Jail was occupied in December, 1964.
On January 7, 1969, the new five member Delta County Board of Commissioners took control of county government operations from the twenty-seven member Delta County Board of Supervisors. This move reflected a change in governmental structure for counties in the State of Michigan.
The County took over operation of the Airport from the City of Escanaba in 1973. A $4 million, 5-year expansion program included acquisition of more land, enlarging and resurfacing of runways, a new building to house rescue and snow removal equipment, and installation of a new instrument landing system. Federal Aviation Agency grants paid 90% of the total cost. Rededication of the Delta County Airport took place in August, 1979.
The new Delta County Service Center Building was dedicated on December 7, 1975, on College Avenue. Among the first occupants were the Delta County Department of Social Services, the Delta-Menominee District Health Department, and the Mental Health Clinic. Built at a cost of $1,300,000, it was paid for with non-tax revenues, a Hill-Burton grant and federal revenue sharing monies.
As the State encouraged more mental health treatment away from institutions, the County Mental Health Department grew to meet those needs. The Service Center Building was expanded in 1988 to accommodate added staff and clientele. The 25,787 square-foot addition cost $2.3 million. In 1993, the former Mental Health area in the Service Center was remodeled to expand office space for the Department of Social Services. In January of 1998, the Pathways Authority was created from the community mental health programs servicing Alger, Delta, Luce and Marquette counties. The goal of the Authority is to better service the county's residents by enhancing the effectiveness of mental health services.
Growth and redistribution of population in the County was evidenced by the need for new administrative positions and ordinances. A statewide change in court systems during the late 1960's abolished Escanaba's Municipal court and the Justice of the Peace system. The 94th Judicial District was created on January 1, 1969, with Dean Shipman serving as the County's first elected District Judge. The office of Prosecuting Attorney became a full-time position in June, 1975 and the position of County Controller was created in 1978. A county-wide zoning ordinance went into effect in 1976, after three years of planning with the help of CUPPAD. The ordinance, which includes 15 land classifications, was necessary to make growth of the county more orderly. Tom Elegeert was appointed first Zoning Administrator.
In 1976, the County townships formed the Delta County Township Association, with Gregg Johnson of Bark River Township as first President. The Association was formed to seek solutions to common township problems, such as solid waste management, transportation, and property tax administration.
A new system of rural addresses was adopted by the Board of Commissioners, primarily for easier locating of houses in emergencies. The new system went into effect in spring, 1983.
In a cooperative venture among the cities, townships and the County Board, the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority was organized in 1985 to construct and manage a landfill for disposal of Delta County wastes. The Delta Landfill, a Type II (residential/household wastes) landfill, began operations financed by a $1.5 million bond issue. Construction of subsequent landfill cells are financed through the landfill tipping fees. The entire landfill is designed to serve the County for about 35 years.
In 1991, the Landfill Authority was awarded a Clean Michigan Community grant to implement a recycling/composting program. The County was one of six communities, statewide, selected as "model" program, a cooperative effort among the municipalities and the recyclable materials as well as a drop-site. The collected materials are processed at the material recovery facility and shipped to end markets.
In 1996-97, due to changes in state regulations, the landfill needed to be reconstructed. The Landfill Authority obtained a $4.25 million Revenue Bond to allow for reconstruction of a new double lined landfill for both Type II and Type III (Construction/Demolition Waste). Construction was completed in early 1999.
In March, 1986, the Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution combining the Airport Board with the Parks and Recreation Commission, which had previously been managed by the Road Commission. Since that time, the Parks have been managed by the Airport Manager and one full-time Parks Supervisor using part-time summer employees. The Park system includes Pioneer Trail Park modern campground and picnic area; and a modern campground, beach, and picnic area at Fuller Park, which was completed and opened to the public in June, 1993.
Delta Area Transit Authority (DATA) was established in September 1989, under Public Transportation Authority Act 196 (Act 196), sponsored by the Delta County Board of Commissioners. DATA is governed by a County appointed five-member board of directors and operates fourteen ADA accessible vehicles within Delta County. A multipurpose transit facility, funded by federal and state grants, was dedicated in September of 1997. As of this date, Delta Area Transit Authority has transported over 1,000,000 passengers over 3,000,000 miles.
Delta County voters supported three services with extra millage in recent years. Pinecrest Medical Care Facility in Powers, owned jointly by Delta, Menominee, and Dickinson counties, was funded by a tax bond in 1987 in order to undergo a major renovation to meet State codes. The Delta County Sheriff's Department Road Patrol and Delta County Senior Citizen programs were given tax boosts in 1998 and 1999, enabling the continuation of specific services whose other funding sources had dwindled.
On May 6, 1993, the Delta County Board of Commissioners approved a final plan for Enhanced 911 emergency dispatch service for the entire County. The system went on live in December of 1995 as the Central Dispatch Center for Delta County, City of Escanaba, City of Gladstone, Delta County Township Association, Rampart Ambulance, and the Hannahville Indian Community. The Central Dispatch is guided by a board composed of user representatives including Delta County sheriff, Escanaba Public Safety, Gladstone Public Safety, Michigan State Police, Rampart Ambulance, Delta County Fire Chiefs Association, Emergency Medical Services, and St Francis Medical Control. The Escanaba Public Safety Director is the 911 coordinator for Delta County and is responsible for day to day operations.
Ground was broken in May, 1994 for a second floor addition to the existing Courthouse to alleviate overcrowding. The first floor aso was updated during this construction project to bring the building up to code. The cost of the project was over $5 million and financed through a low-cost loan from the Farmers Home Administration. Open house for the newly renovated Courthouse was held in December, 1995.
Beginning in 1994, the Hannahville Indian Community has donated a percentage of slot machine revenues to local governmental units. Through 1998, Delta County has been the recipient of $542,005.43 with which various purchases and equipment upgrades have been made. A fire safety house, which educates children in correct fire procedures, was purchased with this funding and then donated to the Delta County Fire Chiefs Association. Additionally, equipment upgrades have been made to the county-wide 911 system and to the communication towers. The Sheriff Dept., the Community Action Agency, and the City of Escanaba, along with Delta County, have all benefited from the generosity of the Hannahville Indian Community.
In the spring of 1999, plans were completed for the addition of a 41-bed modular minimum security addition to the Delta County Jail. The estimated cost of this addition is $868,000 with $160,000 being funded by the State Department of Corrections. This addition, upon completion in September of 1999, will help alleviate the constant overcrowding of the present correctional facility.
The Delta County Board, in December of 1997, commissioned a bronze sculpture of Delta County to be constructed by T. D. Vinette and mounted on the south wall of the Courthouse. The sculpture is approximately 10 feet x 11 1/2 feet, constructed of bronze sheet and chased to effect a bas relief sculpture depicting river valleys, lakes, water front cliffs, and the townships and cities created by the joints at the boundaries of these areas.
Mr. Vinette became ill in 1999 and was aided in the completion of the sculpture by Ritch Branstrom of Stonington. The sculpture was completed and mounted on November 1, 2000. At the dedication ceremony, Board Chairman David O. Schultz, presented the sculpture to the citizens of Delta County as a tribute to the outstanding local talent we are fortunate to have and as a testimonial and inspiration to future generations.
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