Marinette County Forestry Sees $300,000 Shortfall
The Marinette County Forestry Committee heard a report at their meeting Thursday, Dec. 8 which predicts that the department will probably see a $300,000 shortfall in timber contract revenue Estimates for 2011 set anticipated revenue at about $2.4 million. Optimistic estimates for December could see revenue rise to only about $2.1 million. Timber revenues have been running behind last years totals, with only slight gains seen in July and August of this year.
Forest Administrator John Scott and Assistant Forest Administrator Pete Villas both reported that from what they are hearing from loggers is that there seems to be an abundance of salvage work taking place in other parts of the state from storm damage during the spring and summer. It appears the decline in revenue for the county is not market related, nor is it connected to the recently announced closure of a paper mill in Wausau. Another contributing factor could be that loggers are also catching up on work they are contracted to do on private tracts.
The county forest revenues do not go into an Enterprise Fund, which could have the benefit of building up a fund reserve. Instead the way Marinette County is structured, all forestry timber revenue goes into the county general fund and the forestry department draws from there. It has also been historical practice to draw from the general fund the shared portion of the revenue that goes to the towns. They, too, will see those amounts drastically reduced by this shortfall.
Marinette County Administrator Ellen Sorenson, while confident the county could make up the shortfall from other internal funds, suggested the idea of possibly setting up an enterprise fund for the 2013 budget process. This type of fund would prevent any surplus forestry revenues from going automatically into the countys general fund and allow forestry to build up a fund balance. In case of future shortfalls, which are relatively rare, then draws could be made on the fund balance. The potential problem with this plan is making up revenues in the general fund balance. She suggested that possibly a sales tax hike or going to the tax levy as potential sources.
In other business, the committee heard an update on the tax parcel building demolition that has taken place at 800 Pierce Avenue in Marinette. The building is down to the concrete slab. Scott has been in constant contact with the neighbors throughout the process. He noted that some fill-in areas need to be completed yet and the well located on the property still needs monitoring. When the well results consistently show acceptable contaminant levels, the slab will be removed and the property placed back on the tax roll.
The Village of Coleman has accepted conveyance of two tax parcels. Both lots, located on Main Street, are now vacant. By conveying the parcels to the village, the village is free to sell them, and perhaps make up the tax assessments and sidewalk assessments on them.
An access permit was issued to a land-locked property in the northern part of the county. The only way for the new owner to access the land was through county land. The county is waiting on one more access permit for a different parcel to be completed.
Clean up has been completed by the Amberg Forestry Crew on a tax deed parcel on County Highway L. The previous owner had left a considerable amount of junk on the land, which was compounded by new junk that has been donated illegally by others. Crews spent 4.5 days and a dozen or so dump truck trips to clear the land for possible sale. To prevent it from becoming an anonymous dumping spot again, the county has cordoned off the property.
Joe Schwantes, Marinette County DNR Liaison, updated the committee on work that is being done on the Kirtland Warbler Rehabilitation Project. He disseminated the recently completed plantation survival survey results. In general, 88% of the trees planted along Highway 8 have survived, that is over 67,000 of the trees planted in 2011 on the 79 acres. Of the 57,900 trees planted earlier this year on 60 acres along County Highway I and Forest Road 1513, 93% of the trees survived. A very favorable growing season coupled with a weak fire season accounted for the excellent results. Schwantes also noted that he is in the process of applying for future grants for more tree plantings.
Approval was given to bid out for a replacement forestry patrol vehicle. A recent minor trail accident damaged the truck, which had over 80,000 miles on it, more than the vehicle was worth. Insurance will cover the cost, minus the deductible, for the mid-sized four-wheel drive pick-up.
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