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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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083017frontswearingin.jpg

NEW SUPERVISORS-Marinette County Court Commissioner Francis Boyle, left administers the oath of office for newly approved Marinette County Board Supervisors Ginger Deschane, Crivitz, far right, and Thomas E. Mandli, Grover, center, at the start of the County Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29. Both were appointed by Board Chair Mark Anderson to fill vacancies left when their predecessors resigned, and were unanimously approved by the board.

County Board Keeps DA Request on Hold

With the seating of Ginger Deschane and Thomas E. Mandli on Tuesday, Aug. 29, Marinette County Board once again has its full 30 members.

District Attorney DeShea Morrow's plea for more help in the form of county pay for half of a full time assistant district attorney's pay was onc again postponed. Rationale expressed by board members was that they are waiting to see what sort of help will be forthcoming once the state passes its 2018-2019 budget. Decision on the Assistant DA position issue had been delayed last month for the same reason.

At the start of the meeting the County Board unanimously approved County Board Chair Mark Anderson's appointment of Deschane as the new supervisor for District 12, the Village of Crivitz, replacing Janis Porfilio, and Mandli to replace Christopher Schmidt as the supervisor for District 17, parts of the towns of Grover and Peshtigo. Both Schmidt and Porfilio recently resigned. Court Commissioner Francis M. Boyle administered oaths of office to the new supervisors immediately after the vote and they took their places on the board.

Deschane has been a resident of the Village of Crivitz for nearly 40 years and served on Crivitz School Board for 13 years. She is very active in Crivitz Business Association and other community activities. "I am especially interested in improving the counties great network of parks and improving our tourist industry," she wrote in her letter applying for the supervisor post.

Mandli, a native of Racine, has lived in the Town of Grover for the past 40 years. He holds a Bachelor degree in Industrial Arts Education and a Master's degree in Technology Education from UW-Stout. He taught for 31 years at Marinette High School and Middle School before retiring in 2008. For the last part of his career he was the department head, responsible for budgeting and curriculum. He is president of the Marinette/Menominee Auto Club, was a Boy Scout and Explorer Scout leader, and is himself an Eagle Scout. He and his wife, Gail, have four adult sons and nine grandchildren. They are both Master Gardeners, and he describes himself as very concerned about the environment.

"I am eager to work with the board in addressing many of the problems that are shared with most counties in Wisconsin, including our crumbling infrastructure, environmental problem, reduced tax revenues (having to do more with less), and the necessity of working outside the box to address these issues and more," Mandli wrote in his applicaiton letter.

On recommendation of County Administrator John LeFebvre the board approved Rick Rickaby as the new Marinette County Highway Commissioner, effective Sunday, Sept. 10, when the new payroll period begins. He said Rickaby and Construction Maintenance Supervisor Joe Baranek had worked together well sharing Highway Commissioner duties since the resignation of Ray Palonen six months ago.

Rickaby has been a Marinette County employee since 2012, and was a construction maintenance supervisor for four years before moving into the shared Highway Commissioner responsibilities. LeFebvre said in that role Rickaby "has done a wonderful job, and he's still learning."

He said one of his goals as County Administrator is to always try to promote from within, and said the nice thing is that they had Rickaby, someone within the department, "who had the skills, abilities and willingness to step in." He said Rickaby and Barenek together had done outstanding jobs in their role as co-commisisoners of the Highway Department.

Board action included appointments of Mandli and Deschane to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, and Supervisor Tricia Grebin of District 3, Dunbar and Athelstane, to replace Porfilio on the Finance and Insurance Committee. Grebin and Christiansen had been on the Economic Development and Tourism Committee. Grebin has indicated she would like to remain a member of the Tourism Alliance group.

Supervisor Don Phillips of Marinette was appointed to represent Marinette County Elderly Services Board, on the Aging and Disability Resource Center board of directors. Phillips is a member of the county's Health and Human Services Committee, and serves on the Elderly Services Board.

Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger assured the board that the county is not likely to be subjected to any penalties as a result of an investigation by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) into compliance with federal wage and hour laws.

A report by Holtger to the Personnel Committee earlier in the month that the county was targeted for a DOL wage and hour investigation had caused quite a bit of public concern and Anderson had asked her to report on the issue to the full board.

She was notified on Aug. 3 by DOL that an investigator would be at her office on Monday, Aug. 21, and she was to assemble information on minimum wages, overtime, exemptions, record keeping and compliance with child labor laws over the past two years.

She said she had met with the investigator for two hours and 20 minutes on Aug. 21, and had all the requested records. She said the investigator brought booklets full of laws and questioned her knowledge of them, and they reviewed examples of every employee in the county. "I passed the test," she declared. She said much of the focus was on exemption from overtime pay. She explained also that with the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 employers, including the county, lost their ability to rely on union contracts to insurance compliance with labor laws.

As a result of the interview, Holtger said the good news for Marinette County was that the investigator had commented that the county "had a great knowledge of the laws." She said the investigator then told her the visit should now be called "a compliance review," rather than an investigation, "and that got a smile out of me."

She said after that first interview period she and the investigator spent another hour reviewing the information she had provided. The investigator told her there was nothing serious found, "but I will continue to dig."

The day after there was a follow up with a couple of questions and a request for job descriptions.

She repeated that it is unlikely that there will be penalties, "and if there are any violations, they will be corrected."

The board also spent some time on a summary by UWEX CONRED Agent Ellen Geisler on findings from a board visioning session held in Wausaukee in June. Geisler had compiled discussion information from that meeting and sent it by e-mail to supervisors so they could review it before the meeting. Apparently not all supervisors had been able to access the information. She had picked seven issues that seemed to be of greatest importance to board members.

Supervisor Bill Stankevich said it would be nice if his computer could have downloaded the material in less than 20 minutes. That comment backed up the issue identified as having greatest importance: access to high speed internet for all areas of the county. She had collected information on what other counties and communities are doing to improve high speed connectivity.

Other issues included education (thinking beyond the K-12 schools), natural resources and education. The full compilation is to be posted on the county web site.

Geisler sid she had learned that all supervisors agree that recreation and natural resources are very beneficial to the county, and that they disagree on how education should be delivered.

Supervisor Rick Polzin said he would like to see next year's budget include funding for some of the priority items. He also suggested that the board's entire committee system should be re-designed, but he asked to have this matter be handled by the entire board, not just the Executive Committee.

Geisler suggested they could either do a whole strategic plan, or set up a task force to deal with one issue at a time.

Supervisor Don Pazynski said he could see adding a committee, but cautioned against any total reorganization. "but let us not throw away what we do have that is working."

LeFebvre said there is an Executive Committee meeting coming up, and the existing committees are already in place to discuss the other issues.

Anderson said he will put the visioning goals on the agenda for the next Executive Committee meeting, which he then scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 12. Stankevich felt if they set up a special committee to work on the Internet connectivity issue they should include some of the county's Information Technology employees, since "these are the people that know these things."

Anderson said overall, they need to identify places where the County Board can really make a difference for county residents.

Geisler suggested UWEX could help with the strategic planning, but Anderson noted at the WCA convention last year he had met some consultants that he felt could do a good job.

In response to an invitation Anderson had extended last month, Geisler reported on some of her experiences on a 22-day bicycle tour across Viet Nam and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the tiny African island nation of Comoros and with University of Purdue in the South American nation of Columbia, where she taught beekeeping to local rural residents.

She commented that many of the places she visited were quite isolated, but she had Internet access everywhere she went. She commented that, "Viet Nam is a nation, not a war."

She spoke a bit about over crowding and poverty. Supervisor Cheryl Wruk noted when Tom Crowley was UWEX CONRED agent he told them if the world's entire population was placed in Marinette County everyone would have seven square feet to stand in. Geisler commented the world's population is still growing.

Without discussion or dissent the board passed a resolution urging passage of legislation to allow input from adjacent governmental entities on the regulation of Sulfide Mining operations along boundary waters between Michigan and Wisconsin. This resolution is connected with growing opposition to the proposed Back Forty mine very close to the shores of the Menominee River in Menominee County's Town of Lake, which is in the Shakey Lakes area. The final permit for the mine owned by Aquilla Resources of Canada is pending with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Oconto County Board on Thursday, Aug. 24 passed a resolution opposing the mine, as have Door County, Brown County and numerous area communities. Marinette County passed the first resolution against the Back Forty mine nearly a year ago. The issue brought a standing room only crowd to the Oconto County Board meeting last week, with nearly everyone opposed to the mine. Information on both sides of the issue was provided to supervisors there.

A proposed staffing agreement for operation of the Marinette County Jail was referred back to the law Enforcement Committee.

Other actions approved at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday included:

*Purchase of a 4-door crew cab truck from the Ford Motor Company for $33,741 plus taxes and fees;

*Amendments to the contract with the UW Board of Regents totaling $46,766 for UW Extension agents from July 1 to Dec. 31 of this year;

*Approval of a quote $13,932.57 from Airbus Defense & Space for Test to 911 service was eliminated from the agenda. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison explained board action was to required because at this point there is no contract, only a quote, and the amount is under the $15,000 threshold for board action. Mattison said Law Enforcement Committee approval of that contract will be sufficient. However, the board did approve a related agreement with BayCom for SMS integration to the VESTA Text to 911 at a cost of $36,360.

*Acceptance of a 2017 Port Security grant for $68,000 if awarded was approved. If the grant application is accepted the federal share will be $51,000 and the county share will be $17,000 from the 2018 budget.

*Also to be accepted if awarded is a 2017 pre-disaster mitigation grant of $25,000 to update the county's hazard mitigation plan. County share will be $6,250 and the federal share wil be $18,750.

*The summer storms were expensive for Marinette County. Insurance will pay the lion's share of the costs, but the board approved an agreement for BayCom to repair lightning damage to the courthouse security camera system for a total of $142,990. Total $25,000 deductible for the storm damage is to be transferred from contingency.

*After some discussion the board approved pay adjustments for 2018 as recommended by the Personnel Committee and listed in the Policies and Procedures Manual.

*After some questions were put to HHR Director Robin Elsner about the difference in cost they also approved creating a Mental Health Therapist position immediately for the Health and Human Services Department and eliminatig a Mental Health Case Manager position when the new position is filled. That change is expected to be made from within the department, the board was told. The cost difference questions were not precisely answered, as that apparently depends on who is chosen to fill the new position. Mid point salary for the Mental Therapist is $55,400.

As recommended by the Finance Committee, the board approved transfer of $55,000 from the Highway Department Operating Revenues balance to cover an anticipated deficit in the department's Highway Equipment Purchase Account.

Randy Hardin, president of the Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association addressed the board during time for public comment at the start of the meeting. "In Marinette County you have a phenomenal trail network," Hardin declared. He said the recreational vehicles have a bigger impact on the local economy than either deer hunting or snowmobiling. He discussed signage, and explained the difference between "trails" and "routes". He invited board members to the annual VIP Ride and workshops at Nekoosa on Friday, Sept. 8, but assured them that on that day everyone who shows up for the ride is a VIP. He presented information on money raised by ATV/UTV licenses and fielded questions on who is responsible for the cost of signage. Newly proposed state regulations may lessen the sign requirements, he said.


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