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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Seek Candidates To Replace Dist. Supervisor Don Pazynski

Issue Date: July 5, 2022

The Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, June 28 began and ended with tributes to Supervisor Don Pazynski, who passed away on Monday, June 20. Pazynski had served his Town of Peshtigo Wards 5 and 6 (District 22) on County Board for slightly more than a decade.

Board Chair John Guarisco invited any District 22 resident interested in filling Pazynski's position to submit a letter of interest, and said he hopes to be able to hold interviews and make an appointment as early as the County Board meeting on Tuesday, July 26.

At the start of the meeting Guarisco said he was dedicating the day's proceedings to Pazynski. "Don was a good guy and a very dedicated supervisor who served many years on this board," Guarisco declared. He noted that despite not feeling well, Pazynski had participated in all his committee assignments up to the time of his passing. Guarisco asked fellow supervisors to offer a prayer for Pazynski during the moment of silence that follows the official start of the board meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Supervisor Stan Gruszynski, with a second from Supervisor Connie Seefeldt, asked to adjourn the meeting in honor of Pazynski and his 10 years of service on the board, and all voted in favor.

Also at the start of the meeting Guarisco reported briefly on damage from tornadoes general high wind storms on Wednesday, June 15 that caused widespread power outages in various parts of the county, but hit hardest in Silver Cliff, where all nine town buildings were damaged or destroyed, including the fire station.

Guarisco said a pine plantation not 1,000 feet from his home in the Town of Middle Inlet had been leveled, "but Silver Cliff - mainly coming from the west at Parkway and C, and then on a path heading east toward Pembine - was absolutely devastated."

He had been in Silver Cliff shortly after the storm, and then returned a few days later, and expressed amazement at how that small community came together to clean up the damages. "I don't know what kind of an Army they had out there, but they got a lot done," he declared.

He said the Silver Cliff Fire Station was pretty much destroyed, and the Fire Department's three fire trucks damaged, and praised other area fire departments that responded by donating fire trucks for their use.

County Administrator John LeFebvre advised Supervisors that negotiations are underway with Specialty Granules, Inc. of Pembine for a property exchange that would give the company access from their current roofing granule mine site (quarry) to a 310 acre parcel they had purchased from the county in 1990. The exchange proposed would give Marinette County ownership of about 9,000 acres of new waterfront on the Pemme Bon Won River in the Town of Pembine in an area already designated for County Forest expansion, LeFebvre said. DNR approval is required because the acreage the company wants to acquire is currently part of the Marinette County Forest and would need to be released. The exchange is to go to the Infrastructure Committee in July. Specialty Granules employs about 100 individuals at its Pembine facility.

The meeting included the 2021 annual financial report by Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister and a report by LeFebvre and Finance Director Laura Mans on 2021 year end fund balances, sales tax revenues and paying off the county's outstanding debt.

LeFebvre said the goal had been to to get the county's remaining $2.4 million of long-term debt paid off as soon as possible, and that could be done by February of 2024. However, he said in view of the rising rates earned on county investments, now in the neighborhood of 3 percent, they may want to re-think that, since the interest being paid on the bond issues is 2.4 percent.

LeFebvre said the mileage reimbursement rate for county employees, including County Supervisors, is being increased from 58.5 cents per gallon to 62.5 cents.

By unanimous vote later in the meeting the board approved a 2.5 percent increase to the pay plan for county employees in 2023, with the understanding that this would be the minimum amount, there will be step increases, and the overall plan could change after the Carlson Dettman Consulting study on pay is complete. That raise, as suggested by LeFebvre, had been recommended by the Administrative Committee at its meeting on June 16. The pay plan in effect calls for a 2.5 percent increase every other year, or a cost of living percentage, whichever is less. That is likely to change after the current pay study is completed, which should happen before the end of this year.

They also approved a 2.5 percent raise for County Psychiatrist Dr. Guy Powers, whose employment with ADAPT in the Marinette County Department of Health and Human Services is not covered by the Carlson Dettman Pay Plan.

When asking the Administrative Committee to approve the separate pay hike for Powers LeFebvre had praised his work and declared Marinette County extremely fortunate as one of the very few counties lucky enough to have a full time county psychiatrist on staff.

"You are smelling roses when you get a psychiatrist to live and work in Marinette County for the money we pay," LeFebvre had declared at the Administrative Committee meeting. "We are luckier than you can imagine. He (Dr. Powers) is a huge asset to Marinette County, and his extras are invaluable!" He said in addition to his work with ADAPT, Dr. Powers has voluntarily been much involved with the highly successful treatment drug court, and now the relatively new Mental Health Court, at no increase in pay.

Another Administrative Committee recommendation approved without dissent by the County Board was a change in the "Excused Absences" policy allowing the county to re-hire former employees with benefits earned by their previous years of work.

That decision is related to continuing efforts to attract and retain employees. It was noted that training new people is expensive, and sometimes employees who quit their jobs for Marinette County want to come back, and this new policy will allow them to regain their previously earned vacation time and other benefits.

In arguing for approval, Supervisor Bonnie Popp said allowing former employees to regain their former benefits when they come back is a way for the county to be more competitive in the job market.

During discussion before the vote approving the pay raises, Supervisor Mark Anderson asked if there were numbers on actual cost of the proposed pay raises.

LeFebvre said the price is a little different each year. Supervisor Connie Seefeldt said cost of the proposed 2.5 percent had been estimated at $605,000. LeFebvre said that was somewhat true, but the true effect would be less because some of the wages are covered by reimbursement from the state. He said true cost would be more like $400,000. However, law enforcement employees who are members of Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) are not included in the 2.5 percent proposal, and cost of any pay raises for those union members would be in addition to the $400,000. He repeated the 2.5 percent is the minimum the employees will get, and it could be more.

He said the big question is how to juggle. He said the county is losing employees all the time to the private sector, but they are limited in how much they can pay because the have to live within the tax revenue cap.

Anderson asked if they have had any discussion with local legislators in regard to getting that state revenue cap adjusted, or getting more aid from the state, where the treasury has a surplus. LeFebvre said he had not personally talked with legislators about this, but every year Wisconsin Counties Association has a resolution asking the state to either raise the revenue cap or provide more state aid.

"It would behove Marinette County to have a conversation with our own local legislators," Anderson declared.

Guarisco said he had met with State Rep. Jeff Mursau late last week and they had discussed that problem and others. Guarisco said Florence County recently did a resolution and sent it to WCA, and suggested Marinette County could support a similar resolution.

Connie Seefeldt said Rep. Elijah Behnke should be invited to meet with the County Board.

LeFebvre said in addition to rising wages, the county is facing higher prices for meals for the jail, fuel costs and other expenses, and spending for all has to be kept within the revenue cap.

Asked if the Carlson Dettman study looks at benefits paid by the county in addition to wages, LeFebvre said it does not. He said county benefits are good, but not as good as they used to be.

To a suggestion that when interviewing prospective employees Human Resources personnel should stress the county's excellent retirement provisions and other benefits, LeFebvre said they do, but the retirement benefit, while excellent, is not as beneficial as it used to be. Formerly the county put a full 12 percent into each employee's retirement account, but now the employee contributes 6 percent and the county contributes 6 percent, so the employees' take-home pay will be 6 percent less per hour, and they see that as a detriment, Le Febvre said, adding that too often new employees don't see that down the road they will be getting a retirement benefit of $2,000 to $4,000 a month.

The board supported a motion to keep the stipend of $20 per month for county employees who use their private cell phones for county business purposes.

On recommendation of Tourism and Economic Development Director Jennifer Short the board approved use of a new logo featuring "Explore Marinette County," to replace, "Discover The Real North" in advertising for Marinette County tourism. To questions from Supervisor Bonnie Popp as to who designed the logo and who owns it, Short said the logo was designed by Boyle Design Group of Marinette and through the contract with them, it belongs to Marinette County.

"It looks refreshed!" Popp said of the logo before the unanimous vote of approval.

LeFebvre noted Crivitz School District Superintendent Patrick Mans, who retired in June, will need to be replaced as school representative on the Marinette County Library Board of Directors. LeFebvre commented that Mans had done an excellent job, but now they need to find another school district administrator willing to fill his shoes. He also is seeking someone to fill a 3-year term on the Health and Human Services Board.

County Board approved appointment of District 18 Supervisor Chris Gromala, Health and Human Services Director Glenn Sartorelli, and Clinical Administrator Melissa Freeman to the Rawhide Community Advisory Committee as recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee; Ken Hanson to the Beecher Lake District Board of Commissioners and Roger Allen to the Shannon Lake District Board of Commissioners, and Development Committee Member Glenn Broderick to the Natural Resource Conservation Service Local Work Group, as recommended by the Development Committee.

LeFebvre's appointment of Mike Cassidy and Mark Van Der Zee to the Marinette County Zoning Board of Adjustment for terms expiring in June of 2025 was approved, as were two minor easements requested by Wisconsin Public Service for access across county owned land, one in the town of Porterfield and one to the UW Field House in Marinette.

A zoning change recommended by Grover Town Board to return the former Harmony Grocery Store/Feed Mill property at W4497 Hwy. 64 from residential back to highway commercial business was approved. Owners reportedly are planning to open a farm to market fresh grocery business there.

During time for public comment at the start of the meeting Marinette County Sheriff's Deputy Randy Miller, who is seeking the position of Marinette County Sheriff, told the board about his qualifications for the position. He faces a primary election runoff on the Republican ticket in August and hopes to be on the ballot in November.

Miller said he started his law enforcement career 27 years ago with the Antigo Sheriff's Department. He entered the military in 1985 at age 17, and after discharge earned a 2-year degree and then a 4-year degree in law enforcement. He started with Marinette County Sheriff's Department in 2004, and holds the rank of patrol Sergeant. Miller said he trained just about every officer in the department today, "and learned something from every one of them."

In 2019 he accepted a position as interim Police Chief for the Village of Crivitz, an experience he described as "a baptism by fire." He also headed the Town of Stephenson Water Patrol, and continues to serve as a part-time police officer for the City of Peshtigo, filling in when help is needed.

Miller said his time as a volunteer with the Grover/Porterfield Fire Department has given him a lot of respect for what fire fighters do.

He termed drugs one of the top law enforcement issues for Marinette County, along school safety and with recruitment and retention of jailers.

As to public relations, Miller declared, "I really care about police work and the product we put out there." He said he and other law enforcement officers cannot enter a business establishment in Marinette County without having someone say, "thank you for your service," and added, "I attribute that to the quality of law enforcement under our present sheriff," referring to Sheriff Jerry Sauve, who is retiring when his current term ends in January of 2023.

He and his wife have been married for over 30 years. Their son is employed with Oconto County Sheriff's Department and their daughter teaches in the Marinette School District.


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