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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Vilas Schroeder Elected County Board Vice Chair

The Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31 was a busy one, with a number of vacancies to be filled, including the position of County Board Vice Chair and selection of a team to handle Highway Commissioner duties following the resignation of Ray Palonen, who has accepted a similar job in Winnebago County.

On recommendation of Acting County Administrator John LeFebvre, Highway Patrol Superintendent Joe Baranek and Contruction and Maintenance Supervisor Richard Rickaby, both long-time employees of the department, will share the duties and responsibilities of the Highway Commissioner position while continuing do their usual work. As compensation for accepting and fulfilling the added duties and responsibilities the two will each receive $350 per week in addition to their regular salaries. They are expected to serve in the joint position until a new administrator is hired.

Tuesday's County Board meeting was the first for LeFebvre in his role as Acting County Administrator, a position he accepted in December following the resignation of Administrator Shawn Henessee. LeFebvre is handling the County Administrator's duties in addition to his regular work as administrator of MarOco Landfill and head of the county's Land Information Department.

The 9 a.m. board meeting began with a moment of silent prayer for Supervisor Kathy Just, who passed away on Saturday, Jan. 2. Her death left the board's vice chair position vacant, and created vacancies on several committees.

First business for the day was election of a new vice chair, which was done by secret paper ballot. The office went to former chair Supervisor Vilas Schroeder by a 16 to 12 vote margin over Supervisor Russ Bauer. Schroeder had served as County Board Chair until April of 2016, when he was replaced by newly elected Supervisor Mark Anderson, who had returned to the board after an absence of several years.

Supervisor Robert Holly had nominated Bauer, noting he is an 18-year veteran of County Board who has served on the Health and Human Services and Law Enforcement Committees, and is current chair of the Highway Committee.

Supervisor Ken Keller, with a second from Supervisor Al Sauld, nominated Supervisor Vilas Schroeder. Keller cited Schroeder's "vast experience on the Finance Committee, and previous service as board chair and vice chair."

There are 30 supervisors on county Board, but 28 votes were cast. Just's position is to be filled by appointment at the Feb. 28 board meeting, and Supervisor Dennis Marcelly was absent and excused.

Schroeder thanked everyone who voted for him and said he looks forward with working with Anderson.

With no fanfare at all, the board unanimously approved a motion to pay for $2,626,000 of 2017 Capital Improvement projects without borrowing. The board had previously been told that they might be able to finance the projects without adding to the county's already heavy debt, but had nonetheless given preliminary approval to go for another bond issue. The recommendation from the Finance Committee, which was included in the approved motion, was to pay for the 2017 projects in the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan by using savings from switching the health insurance plan for 2017, along with the County Road Special Revenue Fund balance and part of the County's Unassigned General Fund balance as determined by the county administrator and finance director. Bringing county borrowing to a halt has been one of Anderson's goals since he was elected County Board Chair in April of 2016.

The board approved LeFebvre's appointment of Supervisor Fred Meintz of Peshtigo to replace Just on the Health and Human Services Committee, which she had chaired. Anderson appointed Supervisor Rick Polzin to replace her on the Finance Committee. The board confirmed both appointments without dissent.

Anderson said the county is advertising for persons interested in being appointed to the District 10 supervisory position, representing the Town of Lake and part of the Town of Middle Inlet until the current term expires in April of 2018. Letters of interest are to be sent to him at the Courthouse in Marinette no later than Friday, Feb. 17.

The new supervisor selected will fill vacancies left on other committees where Just had served, but that will probably not happen until March, Anderson said. Meanwhile he invited any supervisors interested in committee reassignment to contact him.

Appointment of Baranek and Rickaby to share Highway Commissioner responsibilities had been recommended by LeFebvre and was unanimously approved by the Highway Committee at a brief 8:30 a.m. meeting before Tuesday's 9 a.m. regular board meeting.

Information distributed in regard to the 2-person management team proposal is that it will save the county about $1,175 a week in wages and benefits. The extra $350 each for Baranek and Rickaby will cost the county a total of $802 per week after adding taxes, FICA, Wisconsin Retirement and life insurance costs. Other benefits for the two are already covered by their regular salaries.

Palonen's pay, at $38.01 per hour, and benefits were budgeted at a total of $2,058 per week.

Other appointments approved were Richard Seils for another term on the 911User Committee position representing the Rural Fire Association and changing Char Staffeldt from the position of alternate on the Local Emergency Planning Committee to full membership as a representative of Bay Area Medical Center.

The board so far has taken no steps to fill the county administrator post. Tuesday's meeting included an in-depth report by Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) Outreach Manager Jon Hochkammer on the three types of governnance available to Wisconsin counties - County Executive, County Administrator, or Administrative Coordinator. The report included information on authority given to counties by the state. Counties are creatures of the state, while cities and villages are their own entities.

He also presented advice on the role of county supervisors in county management, and stressed that supervisors have only collective authority and should not attempt to give orders individually or micromanage county departments.

There are currently 11 counties in the state with elected county executives, 27 with county administrators and 34 with administrative coordinators. In 14 counties, the county clerk serves as administrative coordinator. In three counties the County Board Chair serves as administrative coordinator, but a fairly recent Attorney General's opinion is that the two roles are not legally compatible.

Marinette County has had an administrator since the mid 1980s, when the state decreed that all counties must have one of the three accepted forms of county leadership. Oconto County adopted an Administrative Coordinator form of government, which is still in effect there.

In general, administrative coordinators have as much or as little authority as the county board chooses to assign to them, while the roles of county administrator and county executive are much defined by state statute.

At the end of the discussion, Supervisor Ted Sauve asked how salaries paid to County Administrators, County Executives and Administrative coordinators compare. Hochkammer said he did not have that information with him, but would send it. He said the report might be about two years old, however.

There was some discussion of how counties are set up. Only Wisconsin and the State of New York have County Supervisors. According to one site on the web, average pay for the County Commissioners that most states have is $150,000 per year.

Asked how the county supervisory districts were set up, Hochkammer said Wisconsin's founding fathers wanted citizens to be able to access services within a 24-hour time period, which meant their supervisor should be close enough that they could get there and back home again by horseback in a 24-hour period.

As a result of last month's questions regarding the benefits of belonging to the National Counties Association (NACo), WCA Field Services Representative Keith Langenhahn reported on NACo services, which mainly involve watching out for county interests at the federal level.

Bay Area Workforce Development Executive Director Jim Golembeski gave an hour-long annual report to the board on their organization. He was highly complimentary to Supervisor Cheryl Wruk, who has represented Marinette County on their 11-member board of directors for many years. He said she was always active and never missed a meeting. Anderson is currently the Marinette County representative on that board.

Golembeski spoke on the importance of workforce training to the local economy the difference in outlook between Baby Boomers, Gen-X and other age groups, the looming shortage of workers as Baby Boomers retire, and what can be done locally to encourage young workers to remain in the area. Employers apparently are unable to fill jobs, while prospective employees remain under employed.

One requirement for keeping the educated portion of the workforce in the area, Golembeski stressed, is providing access everywhere to broadband, and the state is working on that. He also stressed the importance of academic career planning, getting kids connected with local industry and employers while they are still in high school.

That report was followed by brief comments from UWEX Economic Development Instructor Ellen Geisler in preparation for the board's February meeting, when they are to begin doing some strategic planning.

Referring to the information Golembeski had provided on drawbacks that keep young people from staying here, Geisler challenged: "My first question is, what are you going to do about it?" She asked supervisors to come back with some broad picture goals, not details.

Anderson said he has been seeking ways to promote economic development everywhere he can, and asked the board, "What do you want to see happen? What do you think we can do to bring economic developement and prosperity?"

He said they are trying to find out what everyone wants, and that in turn will help the board set some goals for itself.

There was data that 45 percent of job applicants locally were not eligible to be hired because they failed the drug test.

Hochkammer also had some thoughts and insights on how Wisconsin can attract and keep good workers.

He said broadband is the number one issue "Without it, they just won't come." Second is certified day care, third is suitable and affordable housing, fourth is adult day care for aging parents, and fifth is transportation.

Both he and Golembeski said with Millennials, "It's very important that you reach out to them....They won't reach out to you."

With just a bit of discussion the board agreed to purchase the seven 2017 squad cars for the Sheriff's Department from Ewald Chevrolet of Oconomowoc for the low bid price of $29,423.50 each, a total of $205,964.50, delivered to Marinette.

Next low bidder was Witt Ford Sales Inc. of Crivitz, with a very slightly higher per vehicle price of $30,041.50, and a package total of $210,290.50.

"For a $600 per car difference we're going to Oconomowoc?" asked Holley. "They don't pay taxes here. Local business is important to keep the economy going!"

Sheriff Jerry Sauve said when that difference is multiplied by seven, it adds up to $4,326, "and this time they'll deliver them." "This isn't the recommendation of the Sheriff's Department, it's the recommendation of the committee," he added, plus, "If we're not going to take the low bid, why go out for bids?"

"As a local businessman, I agree with Supervisor Holley," declared Supervisor Christopher Schmidt. He said he agrees with prior speakers that economic development is important for the county, and asked, "When do we start?"

"We need to stay with the integrity of our bidding process," Sauve replied.

Asked for his input, LeFebvre agreed, "If we are going to go through the bidding process, we really need to accept the lowest bid."

Asked if the cars come fully equipped, Sauve said they do come with trailer hitch and connections for trailer lights, but the police equipment is added separately after the cars are delivered, generally by switching it from older squad cars that are going out of service.

Vote was 27 to one in favor of accepting the Ewald bid, with Schmidt casting the sole dissenting vote.

Vote was unanimous in favor of accepting an agreement with the City of Marinette Fire Department and the Sheriff's Department for use of the Sheriff's Department boat and boating equipment, which will be kept at the Harbor Town Marina.

"This is a really nice partnership," Sheriff Sauve said before the vote. "Our boat sits at their dock at the Menekaunee Harbor. They can get trained personnel there faster than we can and also they can put a pump in the water from the boat and use it to fight fires in the area."

The county is to provide initial training to city personnel for use of the vessel. If an emergency arises requiring a potential Green Bay rescue, either city or county will respond depending on which agency has trained employees physically closest to th earea.

In other action:

*The board approved a long list of Health and Human Services state revenue contracts for 2017.

*A personnel policy change that prohibits employees from wearing their county uniforms while off duty except with special permission was approved.

*An intergovernmental agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and the county for Child Support Enforcement totaling $306,603 was approved. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison explained the money will be distributed to various departments that have expenses connected with child support.

*On recommendation of the Personnel Committee, the pay grade of limited term and permanent part time care workers was moved up from grade 16 to grade 17. The Health and Human Services Department was having a hard time filling the positions at the Grade 16 pay level. Holley questioned a policy of allowing part time employees to move up to full time without going through a new hiring process. He felt that many good people may not have applied for the part time position because they needed a full time job.

* The board adopted a credit card fee policy by which those who use a credit card to pay county departments will pay fee equal to what the vendor charges the county. Fee is $2 for payments under $50; $4 for payments over $50 up to $100, $6 for $100 to $200, and 2.75% for payments over $201. Fees will be posted in each department. On-line credit card fees will be accepted in a number of departments, with fees paid by the user to the card vendor. Department of Health and Human Services credit card users are not assessed credit card fees and any fees are paid by the department.


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