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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette County Population Up Only 123 In Last Decade

Issue Date: September 8, 2021

After a delay in getting 2020 census numbers due to Covid-19 complications, Marinette County is moving forward quickly to draw new boundary lines for its 30 supervisory districts prior to the Oct. 31 deadline. A proposed plan is to be considered and most likely approved by County Board at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

There are minimal changes required in most Marinette County supervisory district boundaries because the county population overall rose by only 123 people - from a total of 41,749 in the 2010 Census to 41,872 in 2020. However, two municipalities - the towns of Stephenson and Dunbar - saw some major changes. The population of the Town of Stephenson rose by 488 residents, from 3,006 residents in 2010 to 3,494 in 2020. Due to the closing of Northland Baptist Bible College, the Town of Dunbar population dropped almost 45 percent - from 1,094 residents in 2010 to 605 in 2020.

County Administrator John LeFebvre unveiled what he called the "preferred plan" at the County Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 31, and said it should be adopted in final form at the October County Board meeting.

Redrawing of state legislative district lines cannot be done until the local redistricting is complete. It is being done in Marinette County under the oversight of the County Board's Development Committee.

In a normal Census year, Census data would have been in the hands of the counties by the end of April. Instead, the population numbers did not come out until mid-August. An attempt by some legislators to postpone redistricting was approved by the Wisconsin Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.

As a result, redrawing of local district boundaries that generally takes over half a year must be completed in approximately three months.

As a League of Municipalities spokesman explained, local redistricting needs to be done by the end of November so candidates for the spring elections know the boundaries of the districts they are running in. Candidates for offices to be filled at the Spring elections can begin circulating nomination papers on Dec. 1.

Tentative new County Board supervisory district boundaries for Marinette County were drawn up by Land Information Office Director Tim Oestreich with input from LeFebvre and County Clerk Kathy Brandt.

The initial plan was presented at the Aug. 31 County Board meeting and slightly tweaked by the Development Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Members of the general public can speak for or against the plan at a 9 a.m. public hearing conducted by the Development Committee in the new County Board Room on the first floor of the courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The public hearing will be followed by a special committee meeting intended to forward the plan to the full County Board with a recommendation for approval at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Dividing the total 3,494 population of the county by the 30 County Board Supervisory Districts shows that to have equal representation, each district should have 1,396 residents, regardless of geographical size. Under one person, one vote laws, the population in each district can vary by only 5 percent - 65 residents above or below the average.

At the Sept. 7 Development Committee meeting, LeFebvre recommended that the committee approve a request from the Town of Stephenson to change the proposed Supervisor District boundary lines so voters living closest to the Village of Crivitz can cast their ballots there as they have been doing, and those living further west in the town can vote at the Town Hall at on County X Twin Bridge.

LeFebvre showed how the change could be accomplished by swapping census blocs. Making the requested change would mean fewer different ballots needed for the Town of Stephenson.

LeFebvre advised they should always try to go with the town's preference, particularly if there's no reason not to.

They had also tweaked some lines in the northwest corner of the county affecting the towns of Silver Cliff, Goodman, Dunbar, and Athelstane. As initially drawn the two districts would each have included a small portion of the Town of Stephenson, and the result could have been two more supervisors from the Town of Stephenson and none from either Goodman or Silver Cliff. Also, the change would simplify the need for extra ballot styles.

To a question from Supervisor Bonnie Popp, LeFebvre said when drawing district boundaries they also tried to consider which areas the residents relate to more. He said he had gotten input from the two current supervisors from that corner of the county. He said Supervisor Bill Stankevich of Goodman said he preferred to have Goodman and Silver Cliff combined than Goodman and Dunbar, and suggested they should listen to him since he is the supervisor from that area. Supervisor Tricia Grebin of Dunbar is not planning to seek re-election, so she personally would not be affected by the dividing lines. In general, one of the redistricting goals is to not draw the lines so two incumbent supervisors live in one district.

"Bill knows the area better than anyone and if he's okay with it, I'm okay with it," commented Supervisor Tom Mandli, a member of the committee. The tweaking was approved as LeFebvre suggested, with Stankevich's district adjusted. Oestreich commented Stankevich will serve most of the same people, but his district will have a new number.

School District boundaries also complicate planning district boundaries to minimize the number of different ballots municipal clerks need to provide. Brandt noted a small portion of Silver Cliff, with 14 residents, is in the Wabeno School District. LeFebvre commented people in those situations seldom vote in contested races because everyone would know how they voted. He suggested the local officials should talk with state legislators to bring school districts into line with municipal boundaries. He said there may have been good reasons in the past, particularly in lightly populated areas like Silver Cliff, but now, with school choice that was introduced by Gov. Scott Walker, their children can still attend whatever school they prefer, and the only difference would be that their parents could not vote for school board members.

Moving on to supervisor districts in the City of Marinette, LeFebvre said he had met with Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot and City Clerk Lana Bero and they had done the best they could to follow the city's existing ward boundaries. All city districts are entirely within the city limits, and very little was changed.

Finally, a motion was made by Supervisor Popp to adopt the tentative redistricting plan with the changes requested by the Town of Stephenson, and keeping Silver Cliff and Goodman whole, and combining Dunbar with part of Athelstane. It was approved without dissent. Other supervisors present and voting in favor were Penny Chaikowski, Thomas Mandli, Clancy Whiting, and Chair Ted Sauve.

The next step is the public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Sauve said changes can be made as a result of the public hearing, but LeFebvre said it was important to keep the changes as minimal as possible.

"Listen to comments, and if you get any feedback from your districts, let us know," he urged.

He hopes to have the final plan ready for adoption at the Sept. 21 County Board meeting, and perhaps to have the proposed map ready to be printed and posted on the county website in a day or two.


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