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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Board Removes Highway Appeal Process

Issue Date: June 2, 2022

At a long and sometimes contentious meeting on Tuesday, May 31, Marinette County Board approved adding $350,000 of ARPA funds to the $500,000 already budgeted to construct the first 15 miles of what is intended to become a major mountain bike trail system starting near Goodman and McClintock parks on the Peshtigo River in the Town of Silver Cliff in the northwest area of the county, and then extending to other parts of the county with another trail segment planned for 2023 construction.

Hopes are for the trail to become an important component of the many tourist attractions and outdoor recreation opportunities Marinette County offers visitors and residents. In addition to the $850,000 allocated for trail design and construction, supervisors approved use of $250,000 in ARPA funds to purchase equipment needed for construction and maintenance of the mountain bike trail system. On that issue, Supervisor Chris Norton cast the sole opposing vote on that proposal and on the motion to authorize spending to construct the trail. Norton, who represents the Silver Cliff area on County Board, said his constituents see no way it will benefit them or the county. To arguments that the new trail system will generate sales tax dollars, Norton said the town has one filling station, and in any case, bicycles use no gas and cyclists are noted for not being big spenders.

Supervisor Al Sauld of Niagara, who is himself a bicyclist, said the bicycles do not use gas, but the cars to get them to the trail system do, and their owners buy food and drink and stay at local hotels, motels and campgrounds.

County Administrator John LeFebvre said the contract with Trail Solutions International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) includes trail planning and construction work, and also includes training personnel of the Marinette County Parks, Forestry and Highway Departments to build and maintain mountain bike trails.

After some discussion the board rejected a motion by Supervisor Mark Anderson to cut the debt retirement tax levy from the 25 cents per $1,000 proposed by LeFebvre to 12.5 cents per $1,000 and take the rest of the money needed for debt retirement from the county's $40 million fund balance. LeFebvre argued they should leave the policy as he has proposed it, but know that they have authority to change it any time between now and when the budget is finally adopted in November.

Voting in favor of Anderson's motion to modify the approved the budget policy and timetable developed by LeFebvre were Anderson and supervisors Wally Hitt, Bob Holley, Norton and Stan Gruszynski. The other 25 supervisors voted in favor, but several indicated after the meeting that they were reserving the right to change the levy before finally adopting the budget in November.

Anderson had commented that the taxpayers can decide better than the county how their money should be spent, and that keeping $40 million in the unallocated funds is excessive. LeFebvre had indicated other uses for the funds may come up between now and budget time.

County Board also approved creation of two new Civilian Jail officer positions to try to remedy a chronic shortage of jail personnel. LeFebvre said if they ever manage to get more jailers trained than they need at any one time they can assign them to prisoner transport and paper service duties that are currently handled by hiring outside entities. Anderson cast the sole no vote to this motion.

By a narrow 15 to 14 vote with one abstention the board approved an ordinance change that leaves no official process for appealing a decision of a highway commissioner to deny a request for exemption from load limit restrictions. Currently the county ordinance allows the applicant to appeal to the committee. LeFebvre said this is contrary to state law. He said challenges should be done in accord with chain of command, which would begin with the department head and then go to him as direct superior to the Commissioner.

Supervisor Don Pazynski said he would have no problem with the current Highway Commissioner, but recalled a running argument in the Town of Peshtigo with a previous Commissioner whose decision would have wasted over a million county taxpayer dollars. The town's position prevailed in that project, and Pazynski said residents would have been furious if it had not.

LeFebvre said anyone who wants to protest a Highway Commissioner decision can speak at a committee meeting or a County Board meeting during time for public comment and the committee or County Board could waive rules to allow for an exchange of information.

LeFebvre said appointing a Highway Commissioner is up to the County Administrator, and the only way County Board could remove a Highway Commissioner would be to first remove him as County Administrator.

Voting against removing the provision for recourse from the Highway Commissioner decision were supervisors Anderson, Shirley Kaufman, Tom Mailand, Norton, Ginger Deschane, Paul Gustafson, Ken Hanson, Robert Holley, Don Pazynski. Bonnie Popp, Denise Oleszak, Al Sauld, Connie Seefeldt, and Gail Wanek. Supervisor Glenn Broderick abstained.


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