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      Mediation services come to Houghton County

      When it comes to settling a dispute, mediation may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but 20 volunteers are going through a 40-hour training program to become a neutral third party to help settle disputes.

      "Mediation is when you have two people in conflict or two groups of people in conflict and you bring them together to talk about how they can resolve the conflict,â?? said Program Coordinator for UPCAP Resolution Services, Cheryl Goc.

      The Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) is bringing their mediation services to Houghton County.

      From now on, any small claims case the judge determines to be eligible will go before mediators. This process helps reduce the demands put on the court system and gives them more time to handle bigger cases. Going through mediation can also help save both parties money.

      "Mediation is the fastest way to get things resolved. You don't need to go to court; it's the cheapest way, and you don't have to pay for an attorney,â?? Goc said.

      During the mediation process, each person is given time to tell their side of the story and the mediator helps the individuals understand the issues. Once a solution is discussed, an agreement is made and a contract is signed by both parties. If there is no agreement on a solution, the issue will go back to court.

      Becoming a mediator is strictly on a volunteer basis, and after an entire week of training, volunteers learn what mediation is and how the process works.

      "I have a background in Human Resources and I'm retired now, so I felt that I could give back to the community by getting into the mediation program," said mediator trainee Cindy Francis.

      When it comes to settling small claims through mediation, it really does work. Both parties reach some sort of an agreement 80 percent of the time.

      If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to settle your case through mediation, contact UPCAP Resolution Services Program at (906) 789-9580 or dial 211.