2016-10-20 / Front Page

County Courthouse Welcomes Public

After Three Years of Upgrades, 1937 Building And Annex Shown Off to Visitors
By Sam Morgen


Mackinac County Board of Commissioners Chairman and District 1 Commissioner Jim Hill (left) and District 5 Commissioner Calvin McPhee greet visitors to the Mackinac County Courthouse open house Wednesday, October 12. Mackinac County Board of Commissioners Chairman and District 1 Commissioner Jim Hill (left) and District 5 Commissioner Calvin McPhee greet visitors to the Mackinac County Courthouse open house Wednesday, October 12. Mackinac County employees welcomed residents Wednesday, October 12, to tour their offices and see first-hand the improvements made to county facilities. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., visitors roamed the buildings, asking questions and enjoying the food and drinks laid out on each floor. Posters explained the function of each office, and employees and county commissioners were on hand to answer questions.

“I’m pleased and quite surprised,” Mackinac County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Hill said of the response to the open house.

Originally built in 1887 and reconstructed in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration, the Mackinac County Courthouse contains the Clerk’s office, the Register of Deeds, 6th District Probate Court, 92nd District Court, the Treasurer’s office, and 11th Circuit Court.


At right: Court Clerks Rebecca Schmidt (left) and Mary Ann Mullins answer questions at the open house about the Mackinac County courts. At right: Court Clerks Rebecca Schmidt (left) and Mary Ann Mullins answer questions at the open house about the Mackinac County courts. A separate building, called the Annex, houses Emergency 911, Veterans Services, Equalization, Friend of the Court, Prosecutor, Sheriff, and the jail.

Improvements to the courthouse building include a new elevator, new rooftop generator for the courthouse annex, new roofing for the courthouse, new interior paint, new carpeting, and new furniture.

Mr. Hill said the county had dedicated the past three years to improving the courthouse facilities.

“I don’t know if there is another courthouse in the state that is this old and in this condition,” he said. “If you let a building like this go for any length of time, it becomes impossible to bring it back.”


Above: Office Assistant for Hiawatha Behavioral Health Mary Huskey (from left) and Clinical Services Manager Courtney Grant learn more about the Mackinac County jail project, which Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait explains, Wednesday, October 12. Above: Office Assistant for Hiawatha Behavioral Health Mary Huskey (from left) and Clinical Services Manager Courtney Grant learn more about the Mackinac County jail project, which Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait explains, Wednesday, October 12. Deputy Treasurer Jennifer Goudreau showed visitors the county treasurer’s office, which manages county funds, collects delinquent property taxes, and oversees the county’s general ledger, among other tasks.

At the Clerk’s office, Mackinac County Clerk Mary Kay Tamlyn met visitors and answered questions.

“Right now we’re in election mode,” she said. “In the summer time, we’re marriages.”

This year, the Clerk’s office has issued 163 marriage licenses.

The Clerk’s office records county records for births and deaths, marriage licenses, concealed weapons permits, administrates the county payroll, conducts elections, and is the secretary for county boards and commissions.


Chief Deputy Treasurers Jennifer Goudreau (left) and Theresa Weaver provide pump- kin doughnut holes for open house guests who visited the office. Chief Deputy Treasurers Jennifer Goudreau (left) and Theresa Weaver provide pump- kin doughnut holes for open house guests who visited the office. “It’s an office that wears many hats,” Mrs. Tamlyn said.

Magistrate Geraldine Glenn with the 6th District Probate Court works across the hall from the Clerk’s office. Here, Judge Clayton Graham handles adoptions, family division, mental competency issues, and name changes.

On the second floor, at 92nd District Court, civil court clerk and bookkeeper Judy St. Louis meets citizens charged with civil complaints for unpaid hospital or credit card bills or who have been evicted by their landlord. She is often the first court official they meet, and the sympathetic ear they seek.


Chief Deputy Clerk for the Mackinac County Clerk’s office Lori Wisner-Johnston (from left), Circuit Court Clerk Tina Schlehuber, and County Clerk Mary Kay Tamlyn stand before the Clerk’s Office display, which explains the duties of the county clerk. Chief Deputy Clerk for the Mackinac County Clerk’s office Lori Wisner-Johnston (from left), Circuit Court Clerk Tina Schlehuber, and County Clerk Mary Kay Tamlyn stand before the Clerk’s Office display, which explains the duties of the county clerk. Judge Beth Gibson presides over civil litigation up to $25,000, as well as garnishments, eviction proceedings, and land contract forfeitures. All criminal cases start in District Court, where the court conducts preliminary examinations for felony cases and handles misdemeanors for jail time of under a year.

Mary Ann Mullins and Rebecca Schmidt work as court clerks for the District Court, entering traffic tickets, recording criminal histories, and accepting payments.

Debbie Luepnitz works as the only probation officer for District Court. She administers drug tests and ensures people have followed the terms of their parole. With an overcrowded jail, she said, some parolees can push the limits of their parole, thinking they won’t be sent back to jail.


Above: District Court Magistrate Judy St. Louis and St. Ignace resident Bob Brandstrom chat in the district court office during the open house. Above: District Court Magistrate Judy St. Louis and St. Ignace resident Bob Brandstrom chat in the district court office during the open house. At the Annex, Mackinac County Animal Shelter Administrator Ginger Valentine and shelter employee Tina Newsome met visitors with information about their program. On Wednesday, the shelter had 12 dogs and 11 cats. It can hold 20 dogs and 16 cats.

Mrs. Newsome said the shelter, which employs one other worker, rehabilitates the stray and unwanted animals that come to them, sometimes for months, before putting them up for adoption.

“We don’t give up on them,” Mrs. Newsome said.

They all get adopted, added Mrs. Valentine, but matching an animal’s personality to a potential owner’s lifestyle is important. Putting an energetic puppy in the home of an elderly couple, for example, would have poor results, she said.


At left: Mackinac County Animal Shelter employee Tina Newsome (left), and shelter administrator Ginger Valentine explain the role of the animal shelter at the county’s open house. At left: Mackinac County Animal Shelter employee Tina Newsome (left), and shelter administrator Ginger Valentine explain the role of the animal shelter at the county’s open house. Jim Lucas, the district coordinator for Michigan State University Extension oversees educational extension programs, which includes the 4-H clubs in Alger, Chippewa, Luce, Mackinac, and Schoolcraft counties.

“We just have a lot of good times,” he said of the program.

Sheriff Scott Strait greeted visitors in the outer lobby of his office with posters explaining advocating for a bond proposal to construct a new jail.

Serving court mandates like the seizure of property, patrolling roads and waterways, dealing with loose animals, keeping county prisoners, and enforcement of laws are all duties of his office.

“If nobody else wants to do it, we have to,” he said of his responsibilities.

Rain discouraged many visitors from looking at the outdoor display of sheriff’s equipment, which included a patrol car, boat, and off-road vehicle.

In another section of the Annex, Prosecutor Stuart Spencer explained his duties.

“Our job is to keep people safe,” he said.

He and Assistant Prosecutor Zackary Sylvain, Victim Rights Specialist Courtney Aldrich, and Criminal Registrar Denise Smith bring criminal complaints to the county courts.

Mr. Sylvain handles misdemeanor cases and preliminary hearings on felony cases, among other duties.

Ms. Aldrich guides crime victims through the justice system and makes sure the victim’s rights are upheld.

In 2015, the prosecutor’s office issued 500 criminal complaints.

Throughout the open house, District 5 County Commissioner Calvin “Bucky” McPhee greeted visitors.

“It’s a great idea Mr. McPhee said of the open house and the opportunity to show the county facilities to residents. “Every office has done a great job.”

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