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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board May Consider Cutting Supervisor Positions

Issue Date: September 13, 2017

Possible restructuring of the Marinette County Board's committee structure and a possible referendum in 2018 to authorize reduction in the size of the board itself are among several major issues to be addressed by the board's Executive Committee starting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.

The board has held one visioning session to determine goals supervisors would like to set for the county. Results of that first session were presented by UWEX Community Resource Development Agent Ellen Geisler at the August County Board meeting, and are to be the subjects of further discussions of the full board.

However, one of the goals identified was improvement in broadband connectivity so all areas of the county can have high speed internet connectivity. A broadband-related resolution unanimously approved by Waupaca County Board in June of this year was provided for consideration by the Marinette County Executive committee at its meeting on Friday. It states that cooperation among county, city, village and town governments wll be necessary for partnering with broadband/internet service providers, and that the various local governments believe the county should be the lead government agency for any cooperative effort to create and fund a strategic plan that implements deployment of broadband internet access that meets or exceeds current FCC standards and covers the entire geographic area of the county. Numerous areas of Marinette Couny do not have access to high speed internet, and some supervisors, faced with a county mandate to go paperless, say they have been forced to take their county provided "tablets" to areas that do have service to get meeting notices and other official information sent out by the county. Several communities, including most recently Crivitz, have also cited access to high speed internet as a need for economic development. School districts also are relying more and more on student access to Internet from their homes.

There has been talk about a referendum to reduce the size of the board from 30 members to 21 members. If a referendum to that effect were passed in 2018 the change could not take place sooner than 2020, and would involve redrawing supervisory district lines, which will likely need to be done anyway after the 2020 census.

A motion to proceed with drafting proposed changes in the board's committee structure was rejected by the Executive Committee by five to six vote at its last meeting, on Wednesday, Aug. 2. Voting against were supervisors Russ Bauer, Shirley Kaufman, Al Mans, Don Pazynski, Joe Policello and Ted Sauve. Those in favor of looking at a new plan were supervisors Ken Keller, Al Sauld, Vilas Schroeder, Cheryl Wruk and Board Chair Mark Anderson.

The proposed restructuring plan as discussed in August would include a look at duties of committees, per diems, salary, and reimbursable expenses beginning with the 2018-2020 term. Any changes would have to come to the full board for approval before taking effect.

Depending on action Friday by the Executive Committee, the decision on whether or not to proceed with developing the committee structure and pay plan may also come to the full board at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

After the Aug. 29 board meeting supervisors Tricia Grebin, Clancy Whiting, Robert Holley, Tom Mandli, Bill Stankevich and Richard Polzin signed a grievance asking that the full board have a voice in any proposal to restructure, and that request is among items on the Executive Committee agenda.

Other major issues on the agenda will be continuation of financial support for the Marinette County Fair, appointment of an alternate member to the Marinette County Fair Board, format and distribution of the 2018 county budget, and resolutions connected with opposition to the proposed Aquila "Back Forty" Mine on the Menominee River near Stephenson, Mich. Specifically, one of the resolutions would express opposition to proposed SB395, which is currently being considered by the Wisconsin legislature. Opponents say it would weaken sulfide mining regulations in Wisconsin. Another, approved by the Executive Committee in August, asks the Wisconsin legislature to enact laws allowing adjacent Wisconsin state government, county governments and local municipalities to have input on the regulation, permitting, operation and reclamation of sulfide mining operations on Michigan/Wisconsin boundary waters. Copies of the resolutions, if passed by both the Executive Committee and County Board, will be sent to Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin legislators representing Marinette County, US Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, Congressman Mike Gallagher, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, and Wisconsin Counties Association.

Included in the Executive Committee packet is a copy of a resolution passed by Oconto County Board in August, by 27 to 3 vote, opposing the mine, seeking Wisconsin input to Michigan boundary waters mining decisions, and expressing opposition to SB395. Copies of the Oconto resolution that strongly urges Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to deny the Back Forty mining permit were to go to several Wisconsin county boards, Wisconsin state and federal legislators, Stepp, Michigan DEQ, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

It is possible that resolutions pertaining to mine regulations will be among actions considered at the Wisconsin Counties Association Conference Sept. 24-27 in Wisconsin Dells. The regular monthly Marinette County Board meeting, generally held on the last Tuesday of each month, was moved up to the Sept. 19 date to avoid conflict with the WCA Conference.

After finishing other business on Friday, the Executive committee will go into closed executive session for a performance review of County Administrator John LeFebvre. There is no provision for action related to the review.


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