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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Taking Another Look At Borrowing, Budget Policy

Issue Date: August 31, 2016

Marinette County Board of Supervisors put in a long, hard day on Tuesday, Aug. 30 that started at 9 a.m. with a plea from a county employee for a return to a pay system based on longevity, not merit increases. It ended at 2:30 p.m. with a decision to not schedule a presentation on county administrator versus administrative coordinator style of government for next month. There was no lunch hour, and there were only three brief breaks in proceedings.

The meeting included deliberations on how to handle the employee compen∏sation study that is just getting underway, including selection of counties, cities, towns to be used for comparisons; some hard discussion on how to end chronic borrowing while continuing to provide services, and a closed session discussion to review the employment agreement with County Administrator Shawn Henessee.

There were numerous disputes throughout the meeting, but the thorniest issues of the day were a motion to reconsider approval of Henessee's July report on the 2017 budget policy and long-term financial structure issues for the county and the closed door discussion of Henessee's employment agreement.

County Board Chairman Mark Anderson expressed frustration at being unable to discover just how much of a structural deficit exists in the county financial picture. Henessee has agreed the borrowing needs to end, but he and Anderson have disagreed at several recent meetings on how to accomplish that.

Henessee believes the only reasonable way to handle the cur≈rent debt and provide for becoming debt free in the foreseeable future without gutting county services is to continue the half a percent county sales tax at least until 2029. This will require an ordinance change by the County Board, since the sales tax is to sunset in 2021. Anderson has insisted they should not tie the hands of supervisors who are still to be elected.

As currently structured, even if there is no new borrowing, debt payments will continue through 2029, but payments would have to come from a hefty increase in the property tax if the sales tax is not extended. Long term debt payments are exempt from state levy limits.

Henessee had sent out a new set of financial recommendations via e-mail to board members less than an hour before the meeting was to begin and supervisors had not had a chance to review it. Many did not know it had been sent. He told the board he had not really understood until Friday afternoon just what Anderson wanted, a˛nd had spent the weekend working on it.

Anderson has repeatedly said he wants to know exactly what the structural deficit is, and what it would take to get the county budget back to the point where operations and maintenance, except for unusually large projects, are again paid for without borrowing, which was done until 2010.

The new plan from Henessee provides for eliminating all debt by 2029 while maintaining the Marinette County road system and the Highway Department. However, it includes extending the sales tax indefinitely and using $10 million of the $19 million debt retirement fund that was established with funds from the sale of Pine View Mental Health Center and Bay Area Medical Center. It appears input will be sought from bond counsel on what effect, if any, that would have on the county's credit rating. The plan also calls for a $100,000 reduction each year in the allocation for snowplowing of county roads.

Eventually, with some procedural advice from Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison the board a

Henessee's contract and the budget policy/financing issues are among items expected to come up for discussion at an Executive Committee meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Henessee's contract was discussed in a lengthy closed session. Supervisor Al Sauld and former Board Chair d in favor.

On the proposal for a presentation by Wisconsin Counties Association Outreach Manager John Hochkammer on the administrator versus administrative coordinator forms of government, only Anderson, Russ Bauer and Glenn Broderick voted in favor. Behnke was absent and supervisors Tom Mailand, Christopher Schmidt, Dave Zahn and William Stankevich had already left the meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, the board without dissent had approved Thomas F. Doyle as Veterans Service Officer effective on Monday, Sept. 6, assigned Supervisor Gilbert Engel to represent County Board on the McCaslin Lake District Commission; and agreed to transfer a tax deed property at 138 E. Main Street in Coleman to the Village of Coleman

There were annual reports from Tourism Coordinator Warren "Butch" Kostreva, Forestry and Parks Administrator Pete Villas, Land Information Department Director John LeFebvre, and Bay Area Medical Center CEO Ed Harding. Though the hospital is no longer county owned, annual reports have been promised and provided. Harding reported on hospital operations and mission statement, board of directors membership, and construction of the new hospital that is under way on University Drive in partnership with Aurora Health Care. Both BAMC and Aurora are nonprofit organizations, and Harding said their mission statement includes a continuing commitment to provide medical and wellness services for all, regardless of ability to pay.

Dr. Keith Montgomery, North Region Dean for the UW System that includes the UW Marinette spoke at length on UW Marinette enrollment and the need for student housing on or near the campus. Board Chair Anderson referred the housing issue to the board's Buildings and Property Committee. The county has a cooperative agreement with the university system through which the county owns the UW-Marinette buildings and provides major maintenance, while the UW system provides programming and instructors for the college and day to day care of the facilities. Current student housing is handled by UW-Marinette through a lease agreement with a private apartment complex owner, but Montgomery said those apartments are not ADA compliant, there is not space for enough students, and there are no amenities like a commons area for students to gather.

Once construction of the new Bay Area Medical Center Hospital is complete the existing building will be vacated. Harding said they hope to find a buyer, since the building is in good condition with parts of it, particularly the mechanical systems, relatively new. However, if there is noounty apparently still owns the land under the buildings, and the hospital has a 99-year lease on the property.

There were a few suggestions from supervisors that the old hospital building would be ideal for student housing, since it adjoins the UW-Marinette campus. Harding said that suggestion is among those being considered.

As recommended by the Personnel Committee and Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger approved were several amendments to the county's Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual. The changes allow ongoing recruitment efforts for some positions, soften a current requirement that any county employee required to have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) be discharged if for any reason they g new county employees, particularly those in supervisory positions.

In other action:

*The board approved a bid totaling $81,275 from Northeastern Roofing Inc. of Seymour for replacing the roof on the Niagara Senior Center, and a bid of $40,541.63 from Avantti Environmental Group LLC of Hales Corners for flooring replacement there. Both contracts are contingent on Corporation Counsel's approval

*On recommendation of the Extension Education Committee, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with Florence County for Agriculture/ Horticulture agent services for 2017, and a contract totaling $132,915 with UW-Extension for educator services for July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. Supervisor Cheryl Wruk explained the $132,915 is the

*With recommendations from the Buildings and Property, Personnel and Finance committees, the board agreed to eliminate the Printer Tech position and create a Maintenance Tech I position, with the current Printer Tech employee to move to the Maintenance Tech 1 position, with no posting and no probation. Supervisor Bob Holley voted against the motion, explaining he believed they were setting a precedent and the position should have been posted. Henessee said the person who is moving to the Maintenance Tech position has actually been doing that work for several years without the wages that should have gone with it.

*Purchase of a data storage system from Capital Data at a cost of $88,317.60 was approved.

*Transfer of $73,450 from the Health and Human Services Department Fund Balance to SS Youth Aids/CCI Care Children Foster Care Placement was approved.

*Contract for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) services with CASA of Brown County in the amount of $47,000 was also approved. This provides funding for first year startup costs and a half-time program supervisor position employed by CASA.

*A Memorandum of Understanding between the Marinette County Circuit Court, the Marinette County Health and Human Services Department and CASA of Brown County, Inc., in connection with the CASA contract was also approved pending Corporation Counsel's approval. The CASA agreements are related to providing care for Children in Need of Protective Services, including foster care supervision. Eventually much of the CASA work is done on a volunteer basis.

*As recommended by the Buildings and Property and Finance Committees the board approved entering into an agreement with SGTS, Inc. for a building access control system and components from SGTS, Inc. at a cost of $114,563, which is to come from the Capital Improvements Fund borrowing for 2016.


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