2009-12-31 / Front Page

Nokomis closing Jan.15th

By Glenn Schicker glenn.schicker @houghtonlakeresorter.com

For the 46 employees of Camp Nokomis of Houghton Lake, Scrooge came a day after Christmas in the form of lay off notices issued from the state notifying the employees that Jan. 15 Camp Nokomis will close.

“If everything goes as planned by the folks in Lansing, we should be sadly closing the doors on the 15th of January,” Nokomis Director Deb Jones said Tuesday.

Jones said that the staff is scrambling to meet the Jan. 15 deadline for moving the 30 residents. She said each resident has to go before their court of jurisdiction to get their court orders changed to get orders to be placed somewhere else. That is the task at hand for the workers and the holidays makes it difficult to get hearings scheduled and to get court dates.

Jones said the staff is attempting to find appropriate placements for the youthful offenders.

“It makes it more difficult when they close existing treatment centers,” Jones said. “Trying to get the best treatment and opportunity to rehabilitate, to insure that is difficult.

“I was very proud when I spoke to the staff yesterday. They are losing their jobs and still saying their focus must stay with the kids, I think that’s a remarkable, professional way to handle this. I’m very proud of how they have handled the situation,” Jones said.

Jones said Camp Nokomis, which opened in 1960, has consistently come in under budget every year while adding innovating treatment programs without increasing costs. The per diem costs of Camp Nokomis are the lowest of the three public facilities below the bridge, Jones said.

While the closure of Camp Nokomis affects 46 jobs of Nokomis employees it will also affect about 10 other ancillary jobs of substitute teachers, medical people and dentists that are contracted.

Another 10 to 12 local businesses will be indirectly affected, Jones said.

Of the 46 employees of Nokomis 39 live in Roscommon County. Two of the Nokomis employees are eligible for retirement and six to possibly seven employees may be able to bump lesser seniority employees of Camp Shawano in Grayling. For the others Michigan Works! will bring a special rapid response team to help people being laid off, and to help with training programs through the No Worker Left Behind program.

“It’s going to be a financially crushing blow to Houghton Lake with the ripple effects,” Jones said. “We have had nothing but excellent community response…for a small community I’m absolutely amazed at the support, sending e-mails, writing letters and phone calls to Lansing. It kept the budget process going longer and kept conversation going right up to the end of December.”

What will become of the facility Jones said she didn’t know, that at present she hasn’t been told if it would be mothballed.

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