2011 State of the Nation Address - Chairwoman Laurie Boivin
Good morning. Thank you for being here and for the opportunity to address you at one of our most important and cherished occasions: The Annual General Council of the Menominee Nation. It’s a day that provides us all the opportunity to come together, discover what we did as a Nation, and share our thoughts and ideas on how we can be a better Nation. It’s a time for us to reflect on the past and express our hopes for the future. This year, it’s also an opportunity for many of us to finally see and enjoy one of the Tribe’s largest undertakings—the newly renovated hotel and the addition of this magnificent convention center.
As a member of the Menominee Tribal Legislature and this year’s Chairwoman, it has been a tremendous honor to serve my Nation and work with the best, brightest and most passionate of souls working in Indian Country. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year, we are blessed in so many ways. We’re dedicated. We’re committed. We’re proud of who we are and where we come from. And when we work together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve as this State of the Nation address will demonstrate.
Like many other Tribes throughout the Country, we continue to feel the effects of the Country’s economic recession. Unlike other Tribes, however, we were very fortunate to not feel its effects until just this past year. We developed a $12.2 million budget this past year that counted on $9.4 million in revenues from the Casino. In April we learned the Casino had to revise it projection downward by $3.2 million, resulting in the Tribe implementing various cost containment measures. The goal of these measures was to —
• Continue providing quality services to the membership while creating the least amount of impacts to our employees and economic base;
• Spread the reduction out over as many departments and programs that could bear it; and
• Have the least amount of impacts to services, employees, and their families.
Beginning in June, we reduced hours of operation from 40 hours a week to 36 hours a week, and went from a 5 day work week to a 4 day work week for most departments and programs. We imposed greater restrictions on travel, supplies and hiring, and the Legislature helped set the example by cutting back on meeting payments and other expenses. While the rescissions were tough on our employees, they were designed to be fair and across the board. More importantly, they were all designed to best accommodate the needs and challenges of the community.
Because of the sacrifices of our employees and the common understanding that it was all for the greater good, the Tribe made it through the year. We were able to bring our employees back to a 40 hour work week and continue providing services to the membership 5 days a week starting with the new fiscal year on October 1st.
Unfortunately, the recession lingers and we continue to monitor our revenues, expenses and reserves. We stand prepared to make adjustments where necessary, including the possibility of a reduced workweek again.
Despite the Tribe’s financial struggles, we continue to grow responsibly and prosper in other areas. The Tribe managed to secure over $20 million in stimulus funding and over $16.5 million in recurring or new grant funding. We used this funding to help close budgetary gaps, create new jobs, improve aging infrastructure and develop new infrastructure throughout our community.
Among some of the most noteworthy projects and initiatives the Tribe has undertaken this past year include —
• The construction of the new Menominee Transportation Center. The $5.7 million facility has integrated some of the latest renewable energy technology available, such as geothermal, solar and photovoltaic energy to provide heat and power. This is the first "green" facility the Tribe has constructed, and was funded entirely with federal and state grants. If you get a chance please stop over and take a tour of this remarkable, state of the art facility that was funded with stimulus funding.
• The Menominee Tribe received $272,000 in stimulus funding from USDA-Rural Development for the renovation and addition to the Emergency Medical Services facility at the Clinic. This project will provide the Clinic with additional office space, storage space, and a training area for emergency medical personnel.
• The Tribe received $3,476,384 in stimulus funding from the Department of Interior to improve a number of roads throughout the Reservation. To date, improvements have been made to Go-Around Road, Crow Settlement Road, Camp 23, Camp 24, and Long Quarderoy Road. With this funding, we hired a road crew of four and enhanced hiring opportunities for our local workforce with subcontractors. More road construction projects will begin this spring.
• The Menominee Tribe, Menominee County and State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services worked together this past year as members of the Human Services Planning Committee. This Committee was tasked with revising and developing processes to ensure Menominee Tribal members continued to receive inpatient mental health services. Through its efforts, the Committee was able to increase the collaboration of services, enhance services being offered by both County and Tribe, reduced duplication of services, and secured $250,000 worth of additional funding to provide better mental health services for our neediest members.
• This past year we began construction on the Neopit Water and Wastewater Treatment project. The total project cost is estimated at $5 million, and will replace sewer and water mains (some of which are over 60 years old), replace the old pump house, and construct a new water tower. This project will be completed by the end of this year.
• This past year the Legislature formed the Menominee Indian Economic Development Authority, which is a 5-member board authorized to conduct any non-gaming commercial activity for the purpose of raising revenue. Among some of the projects the MIEDA board is looking at include the re-establishment of a grocery store and the development of a construction company capable of competing for business throughout the State.
• In housing, we received over $4 million in stimulus funding for mold assessment and remediation, roof replacements and porch installations for over 130 housing units. In addition, all LP furnaces ten years and older were replaced. These renovations and replacements helped extend the useful life of our housing inventory and enhanced the quality of living for our tenants.
• After a year and a half of planning and negotiations, we finally began construction on a high-speed telecommunications network throughout Keshena, Middle Village, and Neopit with our partner, Charter Communications. This project will provide the Tribe, Casino, School District, College of the Menominee Nation, and residents with telephone, cable-TV and broadband internet at a substantial savings. For the first time in about 100 years, the community will finally have a choice. Customers will begin receiving services by late-February.
• In keeping with our December 31, 2010 deadline to establish a new Forest Management Plan, as well as an important goal of the Tribe’s Strategic Plan, the Legislature approved a new Forest Management Plan on December 8, 2010 and sent it to the BIA for review and approval. The new plan represented the culmination of five years worth of work by the Trust Resources Department and the FMP Workgroup as well as input from our membership. The BIA continues their review of the plan and has granted a waiver on the current plan through February 13th.
As I conclude: There’s so much for us to celebrate and be thankful for, and at the same time so many hopes and opportunities to fulfill. If there’s anything you take away with from this State of the Nation address, I hope it is this: it’s important for us to listen to one another and be respectful of our differences, to find common ground and to work together in a manner our ancestors and our children would be proud of.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you this past year as your Chairwoman, it has truly been an honor and privilege and a once in a lifetime experience.