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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Work on Marinette County Wage Study is Nearly Done

Issue Date: September 20, 2017

Work related to the Carlson-Dettman Wage Study for Marinette County employees is now nearly complete, Marinette County Administrator John LeFebvre reported to County Board at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19. LeFebvre said there had been 138 county positions defined and placed in the Carson Dettman study, and 21 of those placements were appealed.

As a result of the appeals, changes in grades for 10 positions were recommended when the Personnel Committee met on Thursday, Sept. 14. Several revisions to the employee policies and procedures manual were also recommended. Both sets of recommendations were approved by the full board without discussion or dissent.

LeFebvre said the appeals also led to findings that three employees may be in the wrong job title for the work they actually do, and at least one person in an Administrative Assistant I position has duties and responsibilities that go far beyond those in the job description. A new category may need to be created. That problem will be corrected, LeFebvre said.

One of the personnel policy changes approved governs "gifting" of unused vacation time by employees to co-workers not covered by Family Medical leave pay provisions, and another will help the county by allowing experienced retired employees to return to work for brief periods without risking benefits.

LeFebvre told the board the overlook on Hwy. 141 north of Wausaukee once again provides a scenic view. Forests below the overlook had grown tall, blocking what had been a beautiful view to the west. Those who stopped to look were disappointed when they saw only treetops close at hand. Now, thanks to cooperation between Wausaukee School District, Wisconsin DNR and the Marinette County Forestry Department staff, a new viewing corridor has been opened.

LeFebvre explained the trees blocking the view were part of the Wausaukee School Forest, and could not be cut without permission from both the school district and the DNR. Once the permissions were obtained, Forestry Department staff did the cutting. LeFebvre thanked them for the good job they had done.

LeFebvre noted there have been some vacancies in Parks Department positions, and the money saved is being used to keep the seasonal park caretakers working for extra month this year. He said they will use the time to catch on some things that have been neglected, "for example the signs."

He may have been referring to the waterfall signs. Those signs, long requested by the Tourism Alliance and Economic Development and Tourism Committees to help visitors find their way to the waterfalls, were recently found in a Parks Department building. They had been lost in storage for nearly a decade.

Later in the meeting the board approved a recommendation to eliminate one foreman position from the Parks Department and replace it with an additional caretaker. LeFebvre said that will give the department an additional person who will not be assigned to a specific park but will be available to handle a variety of jobs as needed. A recent policy change allows department heads in all county departments to designate lead workers to manage crews for specific tasks and pay them more for doing it. Functions of a foreman can be assigned when needed, and at other times the person will be taking care of regular caretaker functions.

Information in the board packet is that the person who held the foreman position retired on May 1, and the job has not been filled. The new person will work as a floater to help all parks, and will work every other weekend in Goodman Park to allow the current caretaker to have every other weekend off, as is done for every other park caretaker. The new person also will be a trails coordinator, in charge of monitoring and maintaining the many hiking trails in and near the county parks.

Other action items for County Board included unanimous or nearly unanimous approval of a long list of changes recommended by the Personnel Committee on Thursday, Sept, 14, and several recommended by the Ag and Extension Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 12. LeFebvre commented briefly on both.

Some of the staffing and personnel policy changes recommended by the committees required County Board action, but others did not. Decisions to eliminate positions can be made by the committee alone, but those that involve eliminating one position to create another require County Board approval.

After the meeting, LeFebvre said that four positions have been eliminated since he became county administrator half a year ago and none had required board approval.

The only public comments at the meeting had been a prepared statement read by Delores Konrad of Peshtigo and a letter from Francis and Micki Lewandowski of Crivitz read by Board Chair Mark Anderson. Both expressed strong support for all UWEX programs and urged continued county funding. However, as LeFebvre explained, no board action was required, and there was no discussion except for LeFebvre's report.

The public comments referred the Agriculture and Extension Committee's decision on Sept.12 to cut a Horticulture Program Assistant from the UWEX staff at Marinette and reduce the Community Development and Natural Resource position from full time to half time. In addition, the Family Living Agent will now spend some time working with the state-mandated educational component of Health and Human Services programs, which eliminates a part time position there, LeFebvre said.

LeFebvre explained to County Board, as he had at the Personnel Committee meeting, that currently 10 percent of the time of Ag Agent Scott Reuss is being provided to Florence County on a contract that will not be renewed for next year. The 10 percent of time regained could be used for activities connected with the Harmony Arboretum and Master Gardener activities that had been handled by the Horticulture Program Assistant position that is being eliminated. He noted since the state pays half the cost of UWEX educators, services from Reuss cost the county only $35,000 a year. The entire salary and fringe benefits for the program assistant comes from county coffers. He understands that Reuss also will no longer be office manager, so that will give him even more time to handle educator duties for Marinette County residents, including tasks connected with Master Gardeners and the Harmony Arboretum, where he has been doing a lot of work in any case.Konrad described in detail the programs offered by each UWEX program instructor, and urged the county to continue funding them, including the Horticultural Assistant. She said she had organized the Marinette County Master Gardener Program in 1991 and the state Master Gardening Association in 1992. She said Wisconsin households spend more money on gardening and lawn care than they do on pizza each year, and described the Horticultural Program Assistant and Family Living Educator positions as "essential to the health and well being of county residents."

The Lewandowski letter said they find the UWEX office extremely helpful for ordinary citizens by providing reliable information on many questions, and they have used the services of educators on a regular basis. It praised the Children's Garden at the Harmony Arboretum, and described it "a ...local research in action." The letter described UWEX personnel as "individuals...vital to spearheading community action," and said UWEX people recognized that rural areas need better cell phone and cell phone service and are spreading information to help better cell service become a reality.

"It's not about the people, it's about the positions," LeFebvre said. He explained the UWEX is undergoing a statewide restructuring, and final results are not yet known. As it is now, the county decides what services it wants to offer and which positions need to be filled. That request goes to UWEX, where Nancy Crevier, former Family Living Agent for Marinette County, is now Area 8 Director overseeing Marinette, Oconto, Shawano and Menominee counties UWEX offices. She finds someone to fulfill the position requests. The county pays half the salary of UWEX educators, and provides office staff, space and equipment.

LeFebvre said he has asked the Economic Development and Tourism Committee to allow him to ask MCABI to do tourism services for the county. That proposal will be further discussed at the Economic Development Committee meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18. If the committee approves, MCABI may be asked "to expand their role as the county's economic development agent by coordinating tourism activities, developing and implementing a comprehensive marketing plan, and developing and implementing a branding strategy."

Bay Area medical Center CEO Ed Harding presented his annual report Aurora Bay Area Medical Center, including video views of the new hospital, which is expected to be complete in about 11 months. He invited everyone to visit the project for a view before the walls go up. Tours for the public are being offered from 4 to 6 p.m. daily between Wednesday, Sept. 20 and Wednesday, Sept. 27, Harding said.

The Aurora facility on Old Peshtigo Road will also remain open, and will be used mainly for primary care. Physicians whose practices require closer connection with the hospital will have offices there.

In response to questions from supervisors, Harding said the hospital has 750 to 800 employees, in addition to approximately 275 contractors working on the construction project, "so there is huge economic impact." The entire construction is being done with absolutely no tax dollars.

Supervisor Ted Sauve asked if the University of Wisconsin is interested in buying or taking over the existing hospital building.

"I wish they were," Harding replied. He felt it would be ideal, since it is adjacent to the main UW campus, but he has been told by UW people that students today want suites for living quarters, not dorm rooms.

Another problem is that the hospital is so large. He said although parts of the building were constructed in 1939 the hospital has done a good job of keeping it in good repair and up to date. There is a developer interested, and the BAMC people have been in exclusive negotiations with them for six months, "but as a last resort, we will tear that building down if need be," he said, but added, "We would really hate to do that....It has good bones."

Supervisor Clancy Whiting, who serves on the Health and Human Services Board, asked if there was any provision anywhere in the Aurora BAMC facilities for mental health or drug abuse treatment in Marinette, and was told there is not. He added there is a brand new behavioral center in Green Bay, and commented, "We were not sure it was needed, but it is full."

County Board approved appointment of Whiting to represent Marinette County on the Mississippi Valley Health Services Commission as recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee.

Without discussion or dissent the board approved the 2018 budget for the MarOco Landfill, which is jointly owned with Oconto County County. Oconto County is expected to approve the budget at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 21. LeFebvre, who has been administrator of the landfill since it started more than two decades ago, introduced Paul Kloes, who is taking over that job. LeFebvre said he will work closely with Kloes until he becomes fully licensed. LeFebvre had also been head of the Land Information Department, with Kloes as an employee.

The board approved adding Florence County to the Comprehensive Community Services Intergovernmental Agreement that previously included Marinette and Oconto counties, with Marinette County as lead agent. Fiscal statement indicted the program, which oversees provision of Medicaid services, is almost fully funded by the state, so there any expense incurred by including Florence County would be "immaterial."

The board approved purchase of a Hot Mastic Sealant Melter from Craftco at a cost of $62,300, as recommended by the Highway Committee. Supervisor Bob Holley asked why the committee had recommended accepting the higher of two proposals received. Highway Patrol Superintendent Joe Baranek explained that the one selected has a heat exchanger chute to keep the mastic hot, while the other exposes the flammable material in the chute to an open flame. "We felt the heat exchanger was safer," he said.

On recommendation of the Finance Committee the board approved some changes in the county's investment policies. Supervisor Vilas Schroeder, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the changes were based on recommendations of some financial consultants, who felt the rates being earned on county investments have been too low.

The board also agreed, with Pazynski casting the sole "no" vote, to contribute $2,500 toward the $9,445.25 cost of a housing study of the entire county to be done by Bay lakes Regional Planning Commission. The remainder of the cost is to be funded by Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI).

Whiting asked what a housing study would accomplish.

LeFebvre explained everyone knows there is a need for housing in Marinette County, but the study will provide data on which developers can base decisions on where it is needed, and what type it should be. He said in talks with area employers they repeatedly hear that companies are having a hard time getting and keeping enough employees to fill their needs, and having the right types of housing available should help.

He said major housing developers most likely will not come from this area, and will need firm data to make their decisions on where and how much to invest here.

The board approved a long, long list of "user fees" for 2018, which includes prices for various filing fees, jail stays, licenses, permits, etc., as well as for rent of county buildings in parks and elsewhere.

Holley commented there seem to be a lot of increases this year. LeFebvre said many parks fees have gone up, and there are changes in the cost of jail, which generally happens every few years.

Sauve questioned a $10 fee for a "marriage license waiver." County Clerk Kathy Brandt explained they do not waive the license itself, but they can waive the otherwise mandatory 5-day waiting period. She said for example a person to be married might be leaving for military service the next day, or a couple may come from a distant state to be married in Marinette, and with the waiver they would not need to come back twice.

The staffing agreement for operation of Marinette County Jail was approved as recommended by the Law Enforcement Committee and Sheriff Jerry Sauve. There are to be one civilian jail administrator and one assistant jail administrator, five correctional sergeants, 19 correctional officers, one education and programs sergeant and one jail receptionist/administrative assistant. Staffing needs are reviewed annually in the budget process, and the agreement includes provision that if there is a significant change in the jail population, operating requirements may be re-evaluated.

Also on recommendation of the Law Enforcement Committee and Emergency Management Director Eric Burmeister, the board agreed to contract with Bay Lake Regional Planning Commission for a county-wide update to the county's all Hazards Mitigation Plan, at a cost $24,980.74. Data created during development of the plan is to be provided to the land Information Department upon request.

At the conclusion of regular business, Chair Anderson commented that the Economic Development and Tourism Committee had a very good meeting the previous week, during which they visited three manufacturing businesses in the City of Marinette.

He was pleased that one of those businesses, which has been located in Marinette County for 75 years, "is already preparing for its goal of being here for at least 125 years." Economic Development Committee Chair Shirley Kaufman agreed the tour had been very good.

Anderson said at every business, people they talked to stressed their need for "people, people, people," and said one industry projects they will need for 200 more employees in the next few years. Another has plans to build an entire additional facility, provided they can find the workers.

"We need community development," Anderson declared. "Economic Development has turned from getting businesses to come here to getting employees for them!"

In line with economic development efforts, the Executive Committee last week authorized LeFebvre to set up a working committee to look into ways to bring high speed Broadband Internet service to all areas of the county. That was identified as a primary goal recommended by supervisors at a "visioning" session held in Wausaukee earlier this summer.


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