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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Oconto County LEC Still On Budget, Nearly On Schedule

"We're getting down to crunch time".There's only a few months of construction left," Administrative Coordinator Kevin Hamann told the Oconto County Board at its monthly meeting on Thursday, Jan. 19. He was referring to the county's new Law Enforcement Center (LEC) being built adjacent to the existing courthouse complex and attached to it. Hamann said $27.7 million, or 81 percent of the total project budget, has been spent so far. Photos of the project can be viewed on the county's web site, which is continually being updated, Hamann said.

A hangup on delivery of security doors and frames for the jail had delayed the project a bit, but they are now being put in by a different installer. Hamann indicated some issues with the original contractor/vendor may end up being settled in court.

To a question from Supervisor Rose Stellmacher, Hamann said the delays cost about $150,000. The 76 detention doors are now all on site, and glass for the project was to arrive by the end of the following week.

Kurt Berner, of Samuels Architect Group, reported they currently have 449 days of construction without a lost time accident. There were 55 workers on site on Jan. 19, and provided nothing happened, there would be a milestone celebration on Friday.

Berner said Technology Director Wayne Sleeter and his staff would take over the new data center to install their equipment early in February, as soon as ceilings and flooring are complete. Even the detention doors in the jail will not work until that work is done.

Hamann asked Berner the cause of the problem with the conduit, and Berner explained at the start of the project they asked the 42 contractors to identify places where there could be price reductions. One was to cut $115,000 from the cost by reducing the amount of conduit, and engineers and architects approved that idea. The City of Oconto fire chief has now refused to approve the building without the wires being enclosed in conduit. Berner said they have called the state building inspector to sign a variance. If the variance is not granted they will need to spend $150,000 to go back into the ceilings and install the conduit. However, he felt the variance may be granted, and the fire chief has said he will sign if the state approves.

Supervisor Bill Grady asked if Potter Lawson designers should not have known at the start that the conduit would be needed. He was told it was in the original plans, but then they thought it was fine not to have it. County Board Chair Lee Rymer said they are working with the local officials, and Hamann explained the fire chief felt it might be a life and death issue and declined to sign without state approval.

Supervisor Gary Frank explained the wiring that may have to be put in conduit is in a ceiling 14 feet above the floor in areas that are not jail cells. Purpose of conduit is to keep jail inmates from getting up there to damage the wiring, and if they did not have detention ceilings they would definitely need it, but they do have them.

Berner said Frank was 蔴 percent correct," and wiring in the cell areas is all in conduit in addition to being protected by detention ceilings. He said this is in an area where inmates do not live, they just use it to go from one area to another, where they should be supervised at all times anyway. Waiting for an answer from the state, and then doing the work if it must be done, could delay project completion, Berner said.

At the start of the meeting Rymer presented certificates of appreciation for outstanding service to the residents of Oconto County to Eileen Duffeck, Oconto, who had been manager of the J. Douglas Bake Memorial Airport for 34 years, and to Holly Hoppe, who has retired after serving 17 years as County Veteran Service Officer. Ron Christiansen has been approved to fill that position, and at its December meeting the board had approved making the part-time office assistant position in the Veterans Service office into a full time post as Benefits Specialist in the Veterans Service Office.

Although Christiansen had previously been approved to take over as Veteran's Service Officer after Hoppe retired, that decision was made formal at Tuesday's meeting when he was unanimously elected to that position. Following an explanation by Corporation Counsel Cheryl Mick, Rymer opened the floor to nominations. Supervisor Alan Sleeter nominated Christiansen as the County Veteran Service Officer and Supervisor Elmer Ragen seconded. No further nominations were made, and the motion to elect Ron Christiansen as the County Veteran Service Officer was adopted by a unanimous electronic vote.

Paul Ehrfurth, head of the Oconto County Economic Development Corporation, reported that efforts to get the DNR to keep the Lakewood Trout Rearing station open have paid off. It will remain open through 2017. During that time there will be efforts to find a permanent way to keep it operating. "That's a great boon for the county," Ehrfurth declared. In December the board had approved a resolution supporting continued operation of the facility, and Ehrfurth understood the Lieutenant Governor had gotten involved. Oconto and Marinette counties will be working together on some projects, Ehrfurth said, and there were plans afoot to convene the Oconto County Education Alliance in February. That alliance involves all school superintendents and a number of major employers in the county.

County Clerk Kim Pytleski reported her office enlisted 19 people, including regular office help and limited term employees, to handle the presidential election recount, "And everything went really, really well."

The board's agenda for the day included approval of a number of items for the LEC and related work, including relocation of the Technology Department and replacement of 37 outdated courthouse security cameras with their modern counterparts.

Hamann said after all is done there is $240,000 left in the project's contingency fund, and that should be sufficient unless they run into a big issue with conduit the state is requiring them to install in parts of the "raceway" above jail hallway ceilings.

"I'm quite confident we'll have enough," Hamann repeated, but said if they do run short there is money left in the project's land acquisition fund, where not as much had been spent as anticipated. However, he hopes the money will not be needed, so he can return it to the county's general fund.

In connection with the LEC work, the board approved a revision to the 2017 Capital Improvement Plan to allow replacing 37 existing security cameras in the courthouse at the same time as the new cameras are installed in the LEC. Capital Improvements are paid for through the county's half a percent sales tax, which generated $1,946,407 last year, well over the anticipated $1,796,195. The Capital Improvement Plan had allocated $800,000 in 2018 for re-use of the Sheriff's Offices/Jail area, and the resolution allows reallocting $123,000 of that to replace the courthouse cameras in 2017.

Hamann explained they had planned to do the cameras next year, but moved it up a year because they got a good price from the vendor for doing it at the same time as the LEC cameras are installed.

The board also approved change orders for the LEC totaling $58,054 to install the detention fames and temporary doors and windows after a delivery delivery delay.

Also approved was a resolution to approve the hiring of Architects Group Limited (AGL) for $5,665 to prepare the plans and specifications for remodeling the current Sheriff's Office to meet the needs of the Technology Services Department, which will be moving into the vacated office space when the Sheriff's Office is relocated to the Law Enforcement Center. The Capital Improvements budget ifor 2017 includes $25,000 for this move and the necessary remodeling.

Hamann noted the county still has five Corrections Officer vacancies, and said that is a problem all over the state. "If you know someone that wants to be a corrections officer, have them apply," Hamann invited.

There also are still a couple of medical examiner vacancies.

The board approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Village of Suring for cooperation in which the Sheriff's Department will activate the village's tornado warning siren when it is needed.

At the end of the meeting County Health Nurse Debbie Konitzer and Phil Everhart, executive director of the Tri-County United Way, gave a presentation on problems with alcohol and other drug abuse, followed by a long discussion. Konitzer said they are trying to get input on how county officials and others in the community feel about the drug and alcohol abuse issues, and if they feel there is a problem. Everyone agreed it is, but there was some concern over lumping alcohol with illegal drugs.

One supervisor was brave enough to object to "demonizing" of the bar industry over the last 30 years. "A lot of good taxpaying bars are going out of business," he declared. He said the main difference is that alcohol is legal, and the drugs in question are not. If it's a matter of health, over eating is also unhealthy, and that is legal. Konitzer said there will be another work group on that issue. Everhart said overeating does not impact minds and the mental ability to function.

Pytleski said she could see both sides of this issue. She said drugs are illegal and any use is over use, while it is okay to eat and drink moderately. Instructors seem to make no distinction between legal and illegal, and there is no discussion on how to eat and how to drink moderately, while celebrities are teaching kids that it's okay to use drugs. She said she had a glass of wine with dinner recently, "and my daughter thought I was doing something wrong."

As to guidelines for responsible drinking, Everhart said standards still are five drinks a day for men and four for women.Supervisor Chris Augustine said his health care adviser told him it should be down to 14 drinks a week.

Supervisor Ryan Wendt felt a major part of the problem for people who use drugs is that they feel they have nothing left, no opportunities."That's a big problem in our community," he declared.

Supervisor Diane Nichols agreed. "We are dealing with the results of people not liking the lives they are living," she said. "People are using these drugs to numb themselves to what is going on with their lives."

Stellmacher mentioned that Marinette County is doing good things with drug court,and said she would like to see Oconto County do that. "We're spending lots of money to build jails to keep thse people in, instead of dealing with what the problem is," she declared.

Everhart agreed the Marinette County program is very successful. They currently have 19 people in Drug Court, and United Way has been very involved, and they also are looking at finding housing for these people after they leave jail.

Hamann said he has met several times with Marinette County's Judge Jim Morrison, who heads the Drug Court, and he expects Marinette County to send him a proposal soon for working with them.

Konitzer asked what supervisors felt her department could do differently. One suggestion was to start with younger children. Everhart suggested setting up and/or supporting a Healthy Youth Coalition office in Oconto County. He also said the average age at which a child first uses marijuana is 10. There were suggesitons that it should be mandatory for schools to teach about the dangers of drug use.

Pytleski reported receiving a letter a letter from Michael Lamont, Chief Operating Officer of Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation, congratulating Ragen on his recent appointment to the 2017 WCMIC Loss Prevention and Workers' Compensation Advisory Committee.

The board approved zoning changes requested by Donald Klipstein to change his property in the Town of Breed from Agricultural to Residential Multiple Family; from Ned Lundquist to rezone his property in the Town of Mountain from Residential Single Family and Forest to Rural Residential, and from Elaine McMahon to rezone her Town of Spruce property from Agricultural to Rural Residential.

Pytleski asked supervisors to tell their clerks that election materials can be picked up at the courthouse. There is a state primary in February, and a primary for village president in the Village of Suring.

Forest and Parks Director Monty Brink was officially authorized to apply to the state Department of Natural Resources to apply for financial aid that may be available to help build and maintain recreational trails for ATVs and snowmobiles.The county's trail maintenance/rehabilitation base amount is $171,000, and it is fully funded with no requirement for a county match. He noted it costs $75,000 to rehab just ten miles of trail, or work on just one bridge.


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