Marinette Marine Seeks County Assist For Contract Opportunity
At a long and action-packed meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Marinette County Board included presentations and discussions on issues that vitally impact two of the area's largest employers - Marinette Marine and Johnson Controls/Tyco Fire Products.
Discussion on efforts to define the extent of groundwater contamination with compounds known as PFCs and PFAs, resulting from products formerly used in Tyco's fire fighting formulas began at the start of the meeting and lasted nearly two hours. It included a slide show and participation by spokesmen from Tyco/Johnson Controls, Wisconsin DNR and DHS, and Arcadis, an environmental firm contracted by Tyco to help with the problem.
Chemicals formerly used in testing and training activities at the firm's "Fire Fighting Training and Research Center of Excellence" at 2700 Industrial Parkway South near the southeast Marinette City limits have affected waters above and below ground in parts of the city and areas of the adjoining Town of Peshtigo.
"We're doing all we can as fast as we can," declared Jim Cox, manager and head of marketing communications for Tyco/Johnson Controls. He said their main priority is to make sure the people whose wells are affected have clean drinking water.
The presentation at the County Board meeting included a somewhat pared down version of the slide show and program presented at a public informational session at Little River Country Club in the Town of Peshtigo on Tuesday Jan. 23.
During time for public comment at the start of the meeting, Jeff Lamont discussed the issue from the viewpoint of an affected property owner, and called on the county to take a more active role in the cleanup efforts.
Board Chair Mark Anderson said he felt the cleanup is more appropriately handled by the state agencies involved, namely DHS and DNR. He had scheduled the Tyco cleanup report because supervisors were being asked about the contamination and needed to have some answers.
Fincantieri Marinette Marine President, CEO and General Manager Jan Allman told the board about an some future shipbuilding opportunities, and asked for help in getting $15 to $20 million of local funding to help the firm get another Navy contract that will add some 400 new jobs to the 1,500 people already working at the Marinette shipyard, which last summer celebrated its 75th year of shipbuilding in Marinette. Allman presented impressive figures on the firm's economic contributions to the area. She noted that it takes a strong community commitment for a small industry in a small community to last that long.
The opportunity Allman spoke of involved the possibility that they will be chosen to construct four newly designed warships that will ultimately go to Saudi Arabia through a contract with the United States Navy, and an opportunity to gain an exclusive contract to produce 20 "FREM Variant" ship for the Navy over the next 15 years. Many yards will be competing for this contract, Allman said.
Allman said that contract is being bid out soon, and getting it will most likely mean repeat orders for 15 years. However, if their bid is successful some $100 million in new capital is needed for improvements and additions at the shipyard. They are faced with competition from other ship builders located where state and local governments help them keep bids low by contributing heavily to their equipment and infrastructure needs.
She said there is a "funding gap" for the needed improvements. They are seeking $50 million in funds from state and local governments. That includes the $15 to $20 million in grants they hope will come from the local community.
Allman said in addition to the 400 new jobs that will be directly created the contracts have the potential to create over 3,000 additional indirect jobs in this community and beyond. Currently the payroll, with 67 percent of employees living in Wisconsin and 33 percent in Michigan, brings $460 million each year in gross wages, and provides business for 800 major suppliers in 43 states.
Since 2009, when LCS construction began, Fincantieri has added 700 new jobs and spent over $103 million on new buildings in Marinette, doubling their indoor work space and adding other infrastructure improvements. They now have 6 acres of buildings on the site. An average of 2,500 people enter their gates each day, Allman said. They are certified by the Navy as secure site, and were saluted by the US military for being among the top facilities in the nation in terms of security for their operations.
The shipyard had very cyclical employment until the gaining the LCS contracts in 2009, and since then work has been steady.
They have delivered five LCS so far, have three on the water but not yet completed and delivered, five more under construction and one more on order. The Navy still has 33 to be built. Marinette Marine has been sharing LCS construction contracts with the Austal shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, which Allman said gets tremendous help from state and local governments.
Supervisor Don Phillips noted employers here say they are having problems finding enough workers, and asked how the local shipyard would handle this. Allman said there are three ways to get a work force - grow it, import it, or create it. She spoke of woking with school superintendents in Menominee, Peshtigo and Marinette to get students trained in the skills the need, and get them excited about working in manufacturing, and other training efforts in progress.
Allman also noted that the first tenant in the MCABI's Maritime Center of Excellence is a firm that specializes in recruiting workers.
As an aside, she noted that Grand Opening for the Maritime Center of Excellence at 1302 Main Street, Marinette, adjacent to the shipyard, was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31. County Supervisors and members of the general public have been invited to participate in the ceremonies and tour the business incubator half of the building starting at 2:30 pm. The half to be used for US Navy offices will not be open to the public. The incubator area includes space for training workers in Maritime construction skills, and for fledgling companies to produce products, hopefully products related to the maritime industry.
Allman's address included reports on some of the major investments Fincantieri has made for expansion at the Marinette Marine shipyard in the last decade. To questions from supervisors, she said they cut metal last week for construction of the future USS Marinette, which is one of the LCS currently under construction there.
Supervisor Al Sauld commented if Wisconsin can give $40 million to FoxConn to build a factory near Racine, then they should certainly be willing to provide $20 million to help a proven business enterprise expand its operations in Marinette.
County Board Chair Mark Anderson said people he has talked with in the community feel the county should back the Marinette Marine project, and several supervisors said they too have had favorable comments.
As chair, Anderson referred Allman's request to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee to determine if this is something the county should do from an economic growth standpoint, and to the Finance Committee to determine where the money could come from.
He promised to call a special full board meeting to consider the request if needed to meet the bidding deadline. He also urged supervisors and everyone else in the packed County Board room to write or call their state legislators to encourage state grants to help with the project, and recognizing that Nygren and Mursau were still in the room, asked them to do whatever they can in Madison. Allman assured the board that Nygren in particular has been very helpful to their firm.
From the Audience, Dan Peterson, a member of the MCABI Board and president of Stephenson National Bank, urged the board to remember, it is not just 400 new jobs they had to consider, but also that they would be retaining the existing 1,500 jobs.
"Right...The more pressure the better," Anderson agreed.
Later in the meting, when the recreation plan came up for approval, Anderson noted that one section described demographics of the area, including the increasingly older average age of county residents. He declared that too showed the urgency of getting more development, more and better jobs to attract younger people to the county, and keep the ones who grow up here from moving away.
The board also heard an enthusiastic report from UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary Miller on restructuring of the University of Wisconsin (UW) that will make UW campuses at Marinette, Sheboygan and Manitowoc part of UW-Green Bay on or about July 1 of this year.
Miller described the historic restructuring as "a tremendous opportunity"for the local campuses. He said the 14 counties surrounding the expanded UW-Green Bay represent 27 percent of the total Wisconsin population if you exclude the Milwaukee area, and include some of the finest tourist attractions in the state. He believes this will be the only coastal university in the entire Midwest.
He said with the combined campuses they will have a larger footprint, and thus have a bigger impact on the economy of the area. He plans to have all degrees available to students attending the Marinette campus, including opportunities for associates, bachelors and masters degrees.
"This is a great opportunity for us," Miller declared. "We're used to this partnership...We've interacted for years with UW-Marinette."
"We'll be up here a lot, working with you," he assured County board."We know you are very much interested in the university...as are we."
Supervisor Ted Sauve asked if there were plans to restore the Board of Visitors, on which he formerly served. Miller said a community group that works with them asked that very thing, "How to get more community involvement?" and added, "These public universities will not survive without community support and integration."
Supervisor Tom Mailand asked how combining the campuses will affect the athletic program at Marinette.
Wilson said they are still working that out, "but our intent is to keep the teams in place, and continue to compete throughout the state."
With some dissent the board approved spending up to $90,000 for a one-year contract with the City of Marinette to provide tourism marketing services for the county; and without dissent approved a 5-year Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan drafted by Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Villas for 2018 through 2022. Several supervisors praised Villas and his staff for the work put into the plan, and noted that having the plan in place makes the county eligible for grants to help make some of the plans realities.
County Administrator John LeFebvre reported that the broadband grant application has been submitted Packerland Broadband on behalf of their partnership with the county as approved at the special County Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23. However, there were 78 applications for amounts totaling $22 million, and there is only $7.5 million available. He added there is still time for letters of support. Deadline is 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14. They can be sent to him to be forwarded, or sent directly to the state. He reminded the board that this project, if approved, will bring internet connections to 4,100 businesses and residences in the county that are currently either underserved or not served at all.
Lindsay Callow, new executive director of MCABI, was introduced to the board. She noted that she officially started in her new position on Wednesday, Jan. 3. She is a native of Milwaukee. Her husband was born and raised in Menominee and they currently live in Marinette County. They own and operate Forgotten Fires winery in the Town of Peshtigo and Falling Waters winery in Crivitz. She repeated the invitation to the ribbon cutting on Wednesday, with tours to start at 2:30 p.m. at the Maritime Center For Excellence, where her office is located. She said she is eager to reach out to local businesses, "and do what we can to grow Marinette County.
On a split 16 to nine vote, with five members absent, the board ended months of controversy by approving restructuring of its committee system. The new structure pares the number of major standing committees down from 11 to five, each with six members. There will also be an Executive Committee consisting of the chairs of each standing committee plus the County Board chair and vice chair.
New committees will be set up during reorganization after the April elections. Each supervisor will serve on only one committee. The new committees will be:
* Administrative Committee (replacing Finance & Insurance and personnel committees), in charge of finance, county clerk, county treasurer, human resources and information services;
*County Development Committee (replacing Ag & Extension, Economic Development & Tourism, and Land Information committees) to oversee economic development and tourism (including MCABI), UWEX, land information, property listing and register of deeds;
*Human Services Committee (replacing Human Services and duties of supervising Veterans Services formerly handled by Finance) to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services and Veterans' Services;
*Infrastructure Committee (replacing Building & Property, Forestry, Parks & Outdoor Recreation, and Highway committees) to oversee maintenance and care of all county buildings and grounds plus the Forestry, Parks and Highway Departments; and
*Public Services Committee (replacing the Law Enforcement Committee) in charge of child support, clerk of courts, coroner, court commissioner, dispatch, district attorney, emergency management, judiciary, office of the sheriff, and register in probate.
The plan includes pre-scheduled committee meetings of no more than three hours each, with authority to call special meetings as needed.
Some intense discussion preceded the vote. Anderson assured everyone that no departments are being combined, just the committees they report to. He said the change will save $22,000 on the county budget, and save a great deal of time for the County Clerk and her staff, who are responsible for attending most committee meetings and preparing minutes and agendas. He said the change will allow LeFebvre to attend meetings of all committees and have a closer connection with all supervisors.
Kathy Brandt, County Clerk said the average committee meeting in the last two years lasted just over an hour and a half, and called the current system cumbersome and inefficient.
Vilas Schroeder said he had been opposed to the restructuring but had change his mind. He added that the last two Marinette County Administrators had come to him shortly after starting with remarks about the cumbersome system used here.
Repeatedly there were comments that the board is supposed to "set policy," and "not micromanage."
Supervisor Shirley Kaufman declared she strenuously opposes the change, partly because she dislikes having six members - an even number - on each committee. "If there is a tie, who will break it,?" she asked.
Sauve, citing the problems with the even-numbered Twin County Airport Commission, said he too strongly opposed the plan. "I voted twice in Executive committee not to do this, and here it is again," he declared. He said committees should have five or seven members.
Holley countered there are 30 members on County Board and they never have tie votes.
Decision was finally that when committee votes are tied the issue will go to the full board without a committee recommendation either way.
Bill Stankevich suggested tourism should be handled by the Parks Department. Anderson agreed Tourism should be promoting the parks, but felt the resorts and other private businesses would feel shortchanged.
Don Pazynski said the $22,000 in savings works out to .00004 percent of the $53 million County budget.
Anderson said the problem with the Twin County Airport Commission was the river, and compared ending that partnership with Menominee County to "a very bitter divorce."
Voting in favor were supervisors Josh Anderson, Joe Banaszak, Penny Chaikowski, Ginger Deschane, Tricia Grebin, Robert Holley, Ken Keller, Tom Mailand, Thomas Mandli, Fred Meintz, Don Phillips, Rick Polzin, Bill Stankevich, Cheryl Wruk, Vice Chair Vilas Schroeder and Chair Anderson. Opposed were supervisors Mike Behnke, Glenn Broderick, Paul Gustafson, Shirley Kaufman, George Kloppenburg, Don Pazynski, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve and Clancy Whiting. Gilbert Engel, Al Mans, Joe Policello and Dave Zahn were absent and excused, and the seat of the late Russ Bauer is vacant.
The board room was filled to overflowing for the meeting. In addition to various county personnel, the crowd included three TV news cameras and crews, radio and newspaper reporters, and Wisconsin State Assemblymen John Nygren of Marinette and Jeff Mursau of Crivitz. Most of the crowd appeared focused on the Tyco groundwater discussion, and some were in the hallway outside the board room distributing literature before and after the presentation by representatives of Johnson Controls (Tyco Fire Protection), DNR, State Department of Health (DHS), and Arcadis, an environmental firm hired by Johnson controls to advise on the investigation and cleanup efforts.
The board unanimously approved Anderson's recommendation to not fill the District 18 vacancy created by the passing of Supervisor Russ Bauer on Jan. 15. Anderson noted the election on April 3 is only two months away and Bauer's seat can be filled by a write-in candidate at that time.
In response to questions from Anderson, County Clerk Kathy Brandt said there had been one person in her office interested in running for the District 18 position. However, she noted there has been no interest shown by anyone to fill the District 19 seat in the City of Peshtigo where Supervisor Fred Meintz is not seeking re-election.
"I'm hoping somebody runs," commented 20th District Supervisor Mike Behnke, whose district neighbors that of Meintz. County Board seats in all 30 Marinette County Supervisory Districts are up for election to two year terms in April. The only competition is for the District 9 seat being vacated by Joe Policello, who is not seeking return to office. Competing to replace him are Julie Vertz, who was among the crowd attending the meeting, and John Guarisco, Policello's immediate predecessor on the board.
In more routine business, the board approved changes to the county's ordinance regulating use of ATV/UTV vehicles on county roads. The vehicles are permitted on some county highways by special permission that would need to be sought from the Highway Committee, but only from May 1 through Dec. 1 each year. By state law, drivers of those vehicles must be at least 16 years old.
Sauld asked if insurance is required, "and if not, why not?" The county ordinance does not require it.
Supervisor Penny Chaikowski said the recreational vehicles are licensed through the DNR, not the DMV, so DMV rules for licensed vehicles do not apply. A little research by Information Technology Kevin Solway, former Sheriff's Deputy, showed that the vehicles are not covered by regular insurance, a special policy is needed. While state law requires liability insurance for regular motor vehicles, there is no such requirement for the recreational vehicles, but owners are at financial risk if an accident would occur.
Sauve wondered why the Traffic Safety Committee was not involved in the decision to allow the ATV/UTV vehicles on selected segments of county roads. LeFebvre said that is not required in the formal process, but if County Board believes a certain segment of road causes some concern, they could send it to them. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said in the past, the Highway Committee sent issues to the Traffic Safety group, but apparently that no longer happens. LeFebvre repeated the ordinance change affects only five or six miles of county roads, and each request would be acted on separately by the Highway Committee.
Early in the meeting Mattison advised that it would not be illegal for the county to award vehicle bids to other than the lowest bidder, but it would be contrary to past practice.
Since there was less than a $250 per vehicle difference the Law Enforcement Committee, on a split vote, had recommended buying two 2018 Ford Utility Detective Model Interceptors for the Sheriff's Department from Witt Ford of Crivitz for their bid of $31,734 each, $236.50 each higher than the low $31,497.50 per vehicle bid submitted by Ewald's of Hartford, which is located near Milwaukee.
After some discussion when the purchase came up for County Board approval decision was to reverse the committee recommendation and instead buy from the low bidder without regard to buying locally. Motion was made by Schroeder, and seconded by Sauld to amend the committee-approved motion and buy instead from Ewald. This passed by a 16 to nine margin. Those opposed were supervisors Chaikowski, Gustafson, Holley, Kaufman, Keller, Pazynski, Phillips, Polzin and Wruk. The main motion, to buy from Ewald, then passed as amended. Voting against it were supervisors Gustfson, Holley, Kaufman, Pazynski and Wruk.
Despite some strong objections from Ginger Deschane and a few others, the board approved a one-year contract for tourism services with the City of Marinette for a maximum of $90,000. Of that, $40,000 is to be spent on actual promotions/advertising and the remainder can go toward the salary of a full time tourism director who would work for the city and provide services to the county.
"The person who does that at least needs to know what the rest of the county looks like!" Deschane declared. She said they were just giving a $90,000 gift to the city to promote its new Recreation and Convention Center.
LeFebvre assured her he has had lengthy conversations with Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot and is convinced the agreement will work for both parties.
"Trust our administrator to make a good agreement," urged Anderson.
Pazynski too objected that the county will be paying the salary of a full time city employee, and declared, "We're treating tourism (for the county) like an unwanted step child." He repeated the city alone needs a full time person.
LeFebvre said the city is recruiting right now, and already has staff in place to work with the person they hire. There have been proposals to have MCABI take over tourism again, but LeFebvre said in view of the new director just starting at MCABI, "I personally do not feel comfortable with MCABI....I do not feel it's even an option at this time." He said as far as hiring another county tourism coordinator, only one of the other 71 counties in the state has a tourism director or coordinator as a county position.
"I trust John that we're going to get something for our money," Anderson declared, "And hopefully, within a year, the MCABI will be able to take it over."
Kaufman, Chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee and a member of the Tourism Alliance, said she personally would have liked to see a full time county tourism director, but will support this, "Because if we don't go with this, we don't have a tourism person for the county at all." She added that if the city hires the person she wants as tourism director, "The county will be represented very, very well."
When the vote came, there were five opposed to partnering with the city, including Sauld, Deschane, Whiting, Pazynski and Mailand.
The County Board meeting was still in progress when the City of Marinette's Room Tax Committee met across the street and allocated a maximum of $3,500, at $75 per hour, to hire Public Administration Advocates LLC of Oshkosh to recruit candidates for the Tourism Director position. The person hired will be in charge of advertising the city and the county as tourist destinations, and will also be responsible for promoting and setting up events at the Rec Center.
In other business, the board approved:
*Appointment of Supervisor Tricia Grebin as member at large on the Marinette County Tourism Alliance Committee for a term term expiring in April of 2019;
*Appointment of Debbie Baumgart to the Elderly Services Board representing Crivitz and Town Stephenson for a term expiring on Dec. 31, 2020;
*Bid from Reisterer and Schnell to purchase their model 4x4 utility tractor with boom mower in the amount of $151,453.52;
*A Health and Human Services recommendation to contract with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Brown County for 2018 in the amount of $47,000 to provide oversight of 24 juveniles;
*An Administrative Telepsychiatry Agreement with Genoa, a QOL Healthcare Company with an address in New York City, for psychiatric services via telephone consultations to children aged six to 18, pending Corporation Counsel's approval. This is calculated at $ $200 per hour for a psychiatrist and $150 per hour for APRN services for six to nine hours month.
*Purchase of four Motorola APX8000XE public safety portable radios for Emergency Management from Motorola under the state contract at a cost of $30,229.84;
*Purchase of seven 2018 Ford Utility Interceptors from Ewald Automotive Group, Hartford, WI with a total cost of $212,663.50, which was the low bid of $30,380.50 each, as well as the two 2018 Ford Utility Detective Model Interceptors from Ewald for their low bid price of $31,497.50 per unit, a total of $63,995;
*One year continuation of a planned service agreement with Johnson Controls for $39,500, the same price as last year, for services to HVAC equipment at four county buildings in marinette - the courthouse, Stephenson Public Library, Health and Human Services Building, and Johnson Controls, on recommendation of Facilities Director Martin Keyport and the Building and Property Committee; and
*The UW Extension Educator Staffing contract totaling $70,529 for services of UW educators, as recommended by the Ag and Extension Committee. This includes an Agriculture educator full time; 4-H Program Coordinator, half time; Youth and Family, half time; Community Development, half time; and Health and Well Being, full time. However some of the positions are currently vacant which brought the county's share of total wages down to the $ 70,529 after adding $1,000 for professional development. In addition the county provides clerical staff, travel and appropriate expenses for the staff, supplies, and office space and equipment.
*Purchase of employee insurance from National Insurance Services of Wisconsin Insurance Trust for Group Term Life Insurance, pending Corporation Counsel's approval, and amendments to the county's procurement policy and the uniform grant guidance policies and procedures.
*Purchase of one large storage array fora Network Storage Refresh project from Capital Data for not more than $121,675.46 as recommended by the Finance committee and Information Technology (IT) Director Kevin Solway, and
*Renewal of a contract with the City of Marinette for services provided by county IT staff to its computer network.
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