County May Consider Marijuana ReferendumIssue Date: April 11, 2019
Marinette County voters may be offered a chance to have their say in a referendum vote on whether use of recreational marijuana should or should not be legalized in Wisconsin. The issue was discussed at length at a meeting of the County Board's Public Services Committee on Tuesday, April 9, and will be on the agenda again for the committee's meeting on Tuesday, May 7.
The committee also had an in-depth discussion on future equipment for the Sheriff's Department, mainly centered on cost and benefits of acquiring a refurbished Bearcat Armored Rescue Vehicle (ARV) for a cost of about $170,000, and body cameras plus in-squad dashboard cameras for all Sheriff's Department personnel as urged by County Board Chair Mark Anderson and several members of the Committee.
No one disputed the value of the equipment, but there were major concerns on how to pay for them. Suggestions included keeping squad cars on the road longer so fewer need to be purchased in 2020.
Committee Chair Ted Sauve and Supervisor Laura Frea, the newest committee member, suggested larger employers might be willing contribute toward purchasing the ARV, which brought a suggestion from Anderson that they should have some discussion about establishing a Public Safety Foundation to help purchase high cost items.
"We actually are in the early stages of talking with some of our public safety partners," Sheriff Jerry Sauve said in response to comments that donations were unlikely.
Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said the county does accept contributions, "but we don't overtly go out and solicit donations.
The meeting started with introduction of Frea, who was appointed to County Board in March as the District 14 supervisor from Porterfield, replacing Josh Anderson.
In addition to numerous printed reports showing that jail occupancy is down slightly, 911 Communications Director Kirsten Burmeister gave a brief history of the 911 Dispatch Center, which started in 1992 with two consoles and now includes nine monitors with headsets for the people who take the incoming calls and dispatch the proper emergency response units throughout the county.
Their facilities in the Law Enforcement Center were refurbished during two very busy days in March with the Information Technology Department, headed by Kevin Solway; Maintenance/Facilities Department headed by Martin Keyport, BayCom, and Motorola all doing their part, and with use of the Sheriff's Department's mobile command bus as headquarters for dispatchers during the two days their office was disrupted. She said thanks to cooperation of the Sheriff's Department and work of Solway,the dispatching was carried on without disruption.
Sauve said it was good to have dispatchers in the mobile command center for the two days because it gave them a chance to get acquainted with the unit and its equipment "so when we need them with us on site it is familiar to them."
Burmeister invited everyone to visit the Dispatch Center during Telecommunicators' Week, which is from Sunday, April 14 through Saturday, April 20.
Her department is finally almost fully staffed, with only one current opening due to the resignation of a new employee who left after a lot of training.
Sauve reported proudly that his department made an arrest last month in a major murder case. "Forty two and a half years of good work went into that arrest," he declared.
Jail Administrator Robert Majewski reported the average jail occupancy was 110 for the month, relatively low compare to other recent counts. His staff is four members short, with two in training and two more to be hired. Committee Chair Ken Keller comments if they are to be shorthanded, it is good that the inmate count is also low. Sauve said they are keeping jail population at a manageable level with more use of electronic monitoring and supervised release.
Sauve reported the new Recreation Patrol Officer Zak Albrecht is off work for a bit on family leave because he recently became a new father, but has been very busy and has been working very well with the Parks and Forestry people. He has issued numerous citations and traffic tickets, assisted at one snowmobile crash and attended two Snowmobile Alliance Meetings.
Keller mentioned that the officer saved the life of a woman who fell into a deep snow filled ditch while cross country skiing in the Town of Peshtigo'a Harbor Road area and couldn't get out.
On Sauve's recommendation the committee approved donating the Sheriff's Department's 1986 Monarch Aluminum boat and float-on trailer to the City of Marinette at no cost, and also approved a memorandum of understanding with the City of Marinette and its fire department for use of the boat and related equipment if needed. Sauve sad the boat and trailer, now valued at about $5,000, came to Marinette County at no cost 10 years ago from military service "and has outlived its usefulness to us." He said the county has a larger boat that can go safely on the larger bodies of water. The city police and fire departments will use the smaller Monarch vessel. for training and for fire suppression efforts, particularly along the Menominee River.
Keller noted 100 years ago the city had a manned fire station on the river right by the bridge to fight sawmill fires.
Discussion on the possible marijuana referendum started because Sauve had asked the committee to consider having a resolution drafted opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana. He referred to problems faced here after Michigan recreational use became legal at the start of the year.
He said he had asked for the resolution "because of what I've seen come out of our governor's office and what is coming from Michigan...I would encourage this committee and County Board to adopt this resolution." He noted the City of Marinette already had adopted provisions opposed to marijuana.
Keller, who serves on City Council, suggested the city "might have gone a little beyond what they should have." He said they even made CDBG oil, even though it can be legally purchased in Wisconsin right outside the city limits.
Sauve mentioned our officers riding with their Florence County counterparts and seeing, right across the border a shop named,"Glazed and Confused."
Mattison said those opposed to having Wisconsin legalize recreational marijuana use should vote for developing the proposed resolution, and who favored this use should vote against.
That led to a discussion on medical benefits of marijuana products, including CDBG oil. Supervisor Ginger Deschane said she is a nurse and has seen it do some remarkable things for he patients. Frea said her neurologist had suggested she use it .
Anderson suggested a referendum. "We don't really know what the public wants," he said, adding that he wishes they could stop misuse of marijuana, "but we don't have enough officers in the world to stop it.," and declared, "I think we should let our constituents have a say on this."
Sauve was opposed to that idea, from the standpoint of highway safety and public safety. Keller agreed with the idea of a referendum.
Supervisor Glenn Broderick noted there has not been a marijuana referendum in Wisconsin that failed to get at least 60 percent for approval.
Vote on approving the resolution opposing recreational marijuana failed on a tie vote, with supervisors Chris Gromala, Ginger Deschane and George Kloppenburg voting in favor and Broderick, Keller and Frea opposed.
Mattison said the only way the resolution could be come back would be if there us a request to reconsider.
Sauve felt the big reason it failed was because of the referendum suggestion. The committee then agreed that the May agenda should include discussion on a possible marijuana referendum. Other items to come up will be protected union status for jailers, and the sheriff's capital improvement plan equipment list, along with related information on the cost of body cameras.
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