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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Votes To Keep Tourism Alliance

Issue Date: February 28, 2019

As a result of a series of difficult votes at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Marinette County Tourism Alliance continues to exist as an advisory committee to the board, contrary to the wishes of County Administrator John LeFebvre, Board Chair Mark Anderson, and a majority of the 6-member County Development Committee

The Development Committee is in charge of economic development, including tourism, for the county. At its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5 the committee had voted four to two in favor of LeFebvre's recommendation to eliminate the Alliance at this time. Opposition was from Committee Chair Ted Sauve and Supervisor Bonnie Popp, who is a member of both the Alliance and the Development Committee and is directly involved as owner of a tourism-related business in the Twin Bridge area with her husband Leon Popp.

The committee approved a contract with Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission to explore other options for tourist promotion, and currently the county contracts with the City of Marinette for shared services of Melissa Ebsch, who serves as its tourism director.

Popp said at the committee meeting that the Alliance has been a great organization with a lot of dedicated people, "but to me, Marinette County has moved the Alliance from being a tourism democracy model to a tourism dictatorship model." She said the group lost a lot of wisdom when many of its original members got frustrated and quit after the group was stripped of all its authority.

There have been many recent discussions in recent months of eliminating the Alliance and creating an independent tourist and convention bureau to replace it.

LeFebvre explained at the committee meeting, and again at the County Board meeting, that he recommended disbanding the Alliance at this time because terms of several members are expiring and he hesitated to replace them if the group, and therefore the positions, will be eliminated in the near future.

At the board meeting, numerous supervisors objected to disbanding the Alliance before there was something in place to replace it.

When the resolution to disband the Alliance came up for action at the County Board meeting, Supervisor Ginger Deschane declared, "The entire Crivitz area is totally not in favor of this...I really feel the administrator here doesn't care about tourism in the western half of the county!" She declared that even though the Tourism Alliance has been stripped of all its authority, "....We need to keep it until something better is in place!"

Shirley Kaufman, a long-time county board representative on the Alliance,declared the volunteer group is a good resource that has provided good input and advice over the years. Except for County Supervisors, Alliance members are neither compensated for their services nor reimbursed for expenses.

Supervisor John Guarisco, who served many years on the alliance but is no longer a member, said serving on the Alliance had become frustrating. "They come up with good ideas and no one listens." He added, "What I would like to see is for us to put together something on the county level for tourism that would have authority and not be advisory. "Tourism has the potential to bring in a lot of money for the county with very little investment." However, he said because the Alliance had been stripped of its authority he was in favor of disbanding it in order to come up with something better.

Popp agreed this is the problem. She said she tried unsuccessfully to get the county to amend its contract with the City of Marinette to get county representation and input on the group that tells Ebsch what she can and cannot spent money on, and now, although there is no requirement in place, "I can only hope that the City of Marinette would include some representatives anyway. "That's the only thing I can hope and pray for right now," she declared.

LeFebvre said he meets regularly with Ebsch and Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot to discuss tourism issues. He did not feel Ebsch needed to meet monthly with the Development Committee, and had previously said she did not need to meet with the Alliance.

Supervisor Penny Chaikowski disagreed. She felt if the Development Committee is responsible for county tourist promotion the director should be at each of their meetings.

Niagara Supervisor Gilbert Engel argued that the Alliance should be redone so it again has some authority and a sense of purpose. He said under the current tourism plan for the county he sees no rural input and no business input, and strongly declared, "We need to provide something before we eliminate something"

Supervisor Al Sauld, Town of Niagara, said the Ebsch made two appointments to meet with the Town of Niagara and did not show up for either of them. He recalled last summer's Economic Conference at the University, and interest shown by the new owner of Wildman's Rafting and wondered if that person would serve on the Alliance. LeFebvre said he thought there isn't spot for him right now.

"I don't think tourism in Marinette County should be left entirely up to the City of Marinette!" Sauld declared.

After much discussion vote was called, and motion to disband the Alliance passed by 15 to 13 vote, with Sauld recorded as abstaining and one position vacant on the 30-member board. Votes in favor were cast by Mark Anderson, Glenn Broderick, Tricia Grebin, Chris Gromala, Guarisco, Robert Holley, Ken Keller, Tom Mailand, Tom Mandli, Rick Polzin, Vilas Schroeder, Jillian Schutte, Bill Stankevich, and Clancy Whiting. Don Pazynski's vote was recorded as a "yes," but he said he had intended to vote "no," and thought he had done so. That would have made the vote a tie at 14 to 14, with Al Sauld abstaining. Sauld said he had intended to vote no also. Anderson said the vote was done, and the motion had passed.

When proceedings resumed after a break Pazynski asked if they could re-vote, since his vote was not recorded as he intended. "It's matter of principle," he declared.

At first he was told no, and Supervisor Mike Behnke argued that they could. After looking up the rules while the board went on with other business, Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison advised that anyone who voted with the majority could ask for a re-vote at that meeting or a subsequent meeting. Pazynski made a motion to re-vote, with a second from Sauld. That motion passed, 20 to 9.

When the next round of voting was done the motion to disband the Alliance failed, 14 to 15. This time, the "no" votes prevailed. They were cast by supervisors Behnke, Chaikowski, Deschane, Engel, Paul Gustafson, Robert Hoyer, Kaufman, George Kloppenburg, Al Mans, Pazynski, Popp, Sauld, Gail Wanek and Dave Zahn.

Asked after the meeting what happens now, LeFebvre said the Alliance will continue to meet and new terms will be filled, but those appointed will need to understand that the group could be disbanded in favor of something else before many months pass. He said it was good that the re-vote took place at this meeting instead of next month. If that had happened, the Alliance would have been eliminated and then members would need to be recalled.

The Alliance started as an arm of Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, (MCABI) and at one time had authority for administering a $100,000 budget for tourist promotion advertising and activities. Eventually they were separated from MCABI and were attempting to become a free standing entity before they were made a county committee with a county tourism director in charge. That was supposed to be a short term stop-gap measure, but turned out otherwise.

At last month's meeting County Board ended its economic development partnership with MCABI by not renewing the contract that had expired.

In other action at Tuesday's meeting the board approved purchase of a vacant property, former site of TJ's Bar, directly across from the Hall Avenue entrance to the courthouse, for $55,000. LeFebvre said it will be used as a parking lot for county motor pool vehicles to free up more parking spaces near the courthouse. The property is being purchased from the John C. May and Julie A. May Revocable Trust.

The board also approved resolutions needed to make the county part of Wisconsin's PACE program. Supervisor Rick Polzin has been selected to represent the county on the PACE board of commissioners.

The board approved LeFebvre's appointment of Mark Van Der Zee to the Zoning Board of Adjustment as a member with Paul Wilting as an alternate.They also approve naming Gary Motkowski to represent BPM Inc. and Matt Zimmerman as an alternate member on the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Among other action at the board meeting was the annual report by Sheriff Jerry Sauve, a presentation by M&M Community Foundation Executive Director Paula Gruszynski, in addition to purchase of supplies for the highway department, equipment purchases, and contracts agreements as recommended by the various committees.


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