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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Names LeFebvre To Interim Administrator Position

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 28 that lasted just four minutes, the Marinette County Board of Supervisors approved the appointment of John Lefebvre as Interim County Administrator. In doing so, they were approving a recommendation made by the Executive Committee at a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, following the regular December County Board meeting earlier that day.

Supervisor Mike Behnke made the motion to select LeFebvre as Interim Administrator, and Joe Policello seconded. Support from the board was unanimous.

In a surprise announcement on Monday, Dec. 19, one day prior to the regular monthly county board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, County Administrator Shawn Henessee had resigned his position as the top official in Marinette County government, effective Friday, Jan. 27.

County Board Chair Mark Anderson immediately scheduled the Tuesday afternoon Executive Committee meeting to accept the rsignation and recommend an interim administrator. After an hour of closed session discussion, the Executive Committee opted to end Henessee's active involvement with the county immediately, and recommended LeFebvre to replace him until the board selects a permanent replacement. Henessee had been employed by Marinette County for a year and a half.

Lefebvre's appointment is effective Jan. 2, 2017, and will provide him a $600/week compensation in addition to his current salary. He told the board that he started working for Marinette County 31 years, three months and nine days ago as of Wednesday, Dec. 28.

LeFebvre started work as an assistant in the county's Zoning and Land Use Office. He currently heads the Land Information Department and is administrator of MarOco Landfill, which he helped design as an employee of the firm that was doing it.

"Thanks for the opportunity and I look forward to serving Marinette County in this capacity," he told the board. "I owe a lot to Marinette County, and I look forward to the opportunity to give something back here over the next few months for you. I'll do the best I possibly can, and will try to keep the ball rolling on all the various projects you already have on the table."

Henessee started work for Marinette County in May of 2015, following a long process to fill a vacancy left by the abrupt resignation of Ellen Sorensen in May of 2014.

Henessee was selected for the $114,000 per year position as the head of Marinette County government from a field of 45 applicants. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan., a Master of Arts in Political Science from University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., plus 42 graduate hours in urban planning, and completed a Juris Doctor degree from University of Missouri in Kansas City, Mo. in 2001.

In an interview after his final Marinette County Board meeting board Henessee said his new position was one of several good opportunities he had been offered, and gives him an opportunity to move back to the area he came from. "I had interviews all across the country," he said.

He said Marinette County has many very good department heads, and added, "I feel many people under value the quality of its work force."

Before the hour long closed door Executive Committee discussion started, Anderson expressed hope they could agree on one person to handle the interim administrator duties, and also that County Board will use the time to make a detailed evaluation of the job duties, and take a good look at alternative forms of county government that are available to Marinette County. One of the suggestions had been to select an Administrative Coordinator form of government, which Oconto County has, rather than the County Administrator model.

Previously Anderson had proposed that Marinette County Board should do some strategic planning and goal setting in the very near future.

He suggested it would be nice to find someone local or even internal who could step in to fill the county's most important job.

Anderson expressed thanks to Henessee for the time he spent solidifying things here, and said again that he is leaving on a good footing.

Henessee was not present for the Executive Committee meeting. About half a dozen supervisors in addition to Executive Committee members were present for the closed session, along with Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger and Finance Director Pat Kass, who had jointly filled the administrator job during the last vacancy. Each was paid $1,500 per month in addition to their regular salary.

Henessee had given his final report as County Administrator at the Tuesday, Dec. 20 board meeting.

In other business at that meeting, the board approved a resolution asking the state to pass legislation that would allow counties to impose up to a .1 percent sales tax, with proceeds "to be used exclusively for economic development, tourism and infrastructure for same." That would be in addition to the half a percent sales tax the county already collects for debt retirement and long-term capital investments.

They also approved a list of appointees to several committees, but learned that a number of vacancies remain for positions that are either already unfilled or have terms ending on Saturday, Dec. 31. So far it appears there are no applicants.

There are vacancies for a 5-year term of a citizen-at-large on the Civil Service Commission, a governor's appointee to the Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission, a citizen member of the Marinette County Housing Authority, and a City of Niagara representative on the County Consolidated Library Board for a term that will end on Dec. 31, 2019.

Appointments approved were Rose O'Hara, second 2-year term as a citizen representative, Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee; Marilyn Lawson, citizen, and County Board representatives Supervisor Don Phillips and Supervisor Gilbert Engel, Elderly Services; Marilyn Lawson, Registered Nurse, Health & Human Services Board; Shelly Ghere, MCABI and Greg Goetzman and Diane Becker, lending institution representatives, Marinette County Industrial Development Corporation (Revolving Loan fund), and Crivitz School District Superintendent Patrick Mans, three year term on the Marinette County Consolidated Library Board and Planning Committee.

Ag Agent Scott Reuss, who heads the Marinette County UWEX office, reported on work the educators assigned him to do, and plans for the future of their work as the educational arm of state and county government, which will soon be going through some fundamental changes being designed at the state level. The restructuring is being called the "nEXT generation."

"We know all county offices will stay open," he told the board, "but we are likely to find lesser numbers of staff assigned to direct education in the counties." He expects all four program areas here to continue functioning, but probably with more staff assigned to more than one county. Marinette County will likely be in a "cluster" with Oconto and Shawano counties, but will continue its work with Florence County as well.

The program areas are Community, Natural Resources and Economic Development, Ellen Geisler; Family Living, Nancy Crevier; 4-H youth Development, John Pinkart, and Agriculture/Horticulture, Reuss.

Reuss said he expects to know more in March, and to see changes starting on July 1, but said it will be at least a year before all changes are implemented, and probably more like 18 to 24 months. This is why there was no change to their budget for 2017.

Some work of Reuss in Marinette County involves the Harmony Gardens Arboretum, which is operated with the help of the Northern Lights Master Gardeners and some others, including Glacial Gardeners of Florence.

Their successful operation of Teen Court and other youth programs has a huge impact.

The educators work with multiple volunteers and volunteer organizations, contribute at least 20,000 hours of work a year, "and none of this would be possible without UWEX," Reuss said. He said their work brings back to the county at least one added dollar for every dollar the county puts in, and added, "The economic benefit is very substantial and very real."

Reuss said his own work with farmers can increase farm profitability by $20 to $30 per acre, and commented that may not sound like much, "but multiplied by 200 or 500 acres it adds up."

Without discussion or dissent the board approved the 2017 work plan for the Forestry Department, the $16,770.69 annual service agreement with BayCom for the 911 Dispatch Center, the annual BayCom service agreement with the sheriff's office for $51,078 for 2017 and the same annual rate for 2018.

A Secure Juvenile Detention services agreement with Sheboygan County at $90 per day for the final months of 2016 and $95 per day for 2017 was approved after brief discussion.

Marinette County Board Chair Mark Anderson asked how many juveniles the county usually has in custody. Sheriff Jerry Sauve explained it varies greatly year by year, and is up to the judges and the Department of Health and Human Services. "We're pretty much a taxi service," he commented. "It's pretty important for me that you approve this, or we'll be transporting them to LaCrosse."

Former Marinette County Administrator Henessee who left the position on Dec. 27 said the county has no options, no control, "It's up to the judges." Heath and Human Services Director Robin Elsner said his department has worked to minimize the number of juveniles sent into detention.

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder asked if the Sheboygan facility had the ability to handle court appearances via telecommunications and was told that they do now.

The board also approved raising the fee for Radon Test Kits from the Health and Human Services Department from $5 to $10 each because there is no more grant funding.

Also approved was application for a WisDOT Transportation grant of $131,927 for one year, in conjunction with Elderly Services, as well as a one year agreement totaling $144,479 with Elderly Services as Aging Unit for the county.

On recommendation of Personnel and Health and Human Services committees the board approved eliminating a half time Nutrition Educator position with the Health and Human Services Department and replacing it with a half-time Community Health Educator position. It also reclassified 11 limited term care workers as permanent part-time positions and increased the hours of those holding the positions from 23 to 29 hours a week without posting the positions.

To questions from supervisors, Elsner explained the people being reclassified already have relationships with the elderly frail clients they serve, and are willing to work more hours. He said everyone was asked, but some do not want added hours.

Elsner said the county actually is losing money by not being able to fill all the care hours available, and are short about 3,500 units. The department has authority to go to 83 part-time people, but so far they have been able to fill only about 53 of them.

The revised Capital Improvement projects list for 2017 was approved without discussion. Henessee has expressed hope the projects and purchases included can all be accomplished without need to borrow, due to some savings elsewhere in the budget and added income for the Highway Department, but provisions have been made for borrowing if necessary. The originally approved plan has been pared down a bit in hopes of putting an end to borrowing each year.

The board spent some time discussing payment of the $835 annual dues to remain a member of the National Counties Association (NACO), which is the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) national lobbying arm, before deciding to join again this year. Finance Committee had forwarded the bill without a recommendation. Board Chair Anderson said there are indirect benefits, and suggested they ask someone from NACO or WCA to address them sometime in the future to explain their services.

Sup. Schroeder said he can't really convince himself to rejoin NACO, and Supervisor Don Pazynski felt there was very minimal benefit.

Supervisor Don Phillips said he appreciates the NACO newsletter, and said right now they are lobbying on a national level to get more highway assistance for states and counties.

Supervisor Clancy Whiting also supported remaining a NACO member. "It's our national lobbying group. We should help support it," he declared. He said the national organization is an extension of WCA, "and a lot of our funding comes from the feds."

Supervisor George Kloppenburg asked if they should still get someone in to do a report on services offered by NACO and WCA, and was told they can.

Anderson said the Executive Committee will be discussing the possibility of doing a strategic plan, and hopefully in March they could get someone in from WCA to explain how it is done and how they can help. A report on membership benefits in both the state and national groups could be included. Everyone seemed to agree with the idea.

The NACO membership fee was then approved without dissent.

Sauve reported the potential Green Island developers are still trying to get that project off the ground, and there may be someone interested again.

Near the end of the meeting Henessee's resignation was discussed briefly. Anderson thanked Henessee announced there would be a 2 p.m. meeting of the Executive Committee to deal with it. He wished Henessee and his family well, and County Board echoed the sentiment with a long round of applause.

Henessee said Marinette County is beautiful and has a lot of opportunities, and wished the county well in achieving them.

Supervisor Mike Behnke was welcomed back after a long absence due to a severe back injury. "It's been a long haul and it's very good to be back," he said after a round of applause.

On advice of Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison the board rejected a claim for damages of $2,547.63 filed by the Emmajane H. Lee Family Trust. Mattison said the property tax assessment against the property was wrong and has now been adjusted. Supervisor Russ Bauer said the county has known about the error since 2002. Mattison said there was something filed with the surveyor's office, but it was never properly brought to the county's attention. The trust had been assessed for 30.85 acres when the certified survey map recorded on Sept. 3, 2002 shows it has 24.1 acres. Tax overpayment ranged from $195 to $270 per year between 2005 and 2015.


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