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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Expanded County Board i-Pad Use Is Considered

Since the middle of last summer, the five members of the Marinette County Finance Committee have been involved in a pilot test program using Apple i-Pads as part of an initiative for the county to go more paperless. To that end, approval was given to expend $2,500 to purchase the units. Training has been done by the County’s Information Services Department.

The test was to see whether or not the paperless initiative could increase efficiencies for the County Board and decrease the costs associated with photocopying, postage, and staff time dedicated to getting the monthly Committee and County Board packets into the hands of the County Board members. A conservative estimate was that the County spent $6,500.00 annually producing the materials for the committee and board meetings.

When first initiated, the goal was expand the test until eventually including all of the other Committees by April of 2014. In the past several months, the Finance Committee has considered expanding the pilot program to another Committee, particularly to the Health and Human Services Committee, which has expressed the desire.

With that in mind, County Administrator Ellen Sorensen was asked to develop a plan to roll out the program to the rest of the Committees.

With that in mind, Sorensen asked the Finance Committee at their Monday, April 8 meeting to discuss her proposed schedule and any misgivings they may have about the expansion.

Having experienced receiving the meeting packets on their i-Pads through email and being able to view them and annotate the agendas and attachments prior to and at the meetings, the Finance Committee favored the program, but several members had questions and cautions.

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder suggested going slowly with the rollout, stressing the importance of adequate training.

It was noted that there are at present three County Board members who do not have a computer or internet access. For this, a work-around would have to be found. Sorensen suggested that it was possible to still print, collage and mail out the packets to three to five members, but doing so would reduce the cost savings. It could also increase the chances for errors.

This led Supervisor Don Pazynski to ask if it was reasonable to expect that an elected County Board member to have a computer in their home?

Other procedural or technical problems were brought up by the Committee that could only be answered or fixed by Information Services.

Armed with the Committee’s input, Sorensen asked that the proposal be tabled for more thought, consideration, and incorporation of the changes that were suggested.

In other matters, the Finance Committee heard an update from Information Services Director (IS) Larry Schultz. He reported that the projector/sound upgrade planned for the County Board Room is not yet complete. Work is beginning on the audio upgrades first, but the department is looking at other options for the video projection upgrades.

Schultz added that the requested changes to the Human Resource statements have been made, which results in a very streamlined individual report for each employee. He also mentioned the decision by Health and Human Services to perform major upgrades to many of their computer systems with money from their own Fund Balance.

Approval was given to setting the compensation for the Assistant Manager/ Programmer Position in the IS Department at the 24 month step of level 12 on the management wage scale. The position, before being moved up to a management position, was under the Courthouse Professional Union. With the added responsibilities, the level was chosen because it pays more than under the union scale did.

Sorensen briefly updated the status of the ongoing Telephone Audit. The full report is not yet ready. She stated that there is still some work being done to determine the actual number of telephone lines that come into the courthouse complex. It appears that the county may still be being billed for lines that are terminated somewhere in the building and are not being used. The maintenance staff is investigating thoroughly and carefully because they don’t want to cut a line that appears to be unused but actually goes to something like an emergency phone in an elevator. Even with that said, there is still suspicion that there are still unused lines.

The Committee approved a contract with Capital Data, which is a major part of the virtualization plan for the county’s network. The bid has already been approved by the County Board, and Corporation Counsel is reviewing it.

At the last meeting of the Executive Committee, responsibility for review of legislative issues was conferred upon the Finance Committee. Three issues were discussed at this meeting.

The first issue dealt with proposed changes on the state level that would have a major detrimental effect on the County’s Child Support division. The proposal, which is part of the state financial package, estimates a cut in statewide funding for Child Support oversight of almost $4 million.

For Marinette County, the drop would be $30,954. When taken with the corresponding drop in federal matching, the change is almost equal to one hired position. Since the Child Support division currently receives about 33 percent of its budget from the tax levy and 67 percent from state and federal funds, the decrease in funding is quite painful

The Wisconsin Counties Association is endorsing placement of $4.2 million back into the State Budget for Child Support services. The Finance Committee approved the idea of developing a resolution for the County Board supporting the WCA’s push to restore funding.

The second issue dealt with the Governor’s Transportation Budget Proposal. The Governor’s proposal doesn’t restore transportation funding to levels of prior budgets, but doesn’t decrease it from the current budget level. It does increase funding for State Highway System maintenance, but it doesn’t address local road and bridge money. One positive of the proposal is that the State will no longer move funds out of the Transportation Fund to the State General Fund like was common under the prior administration. Discussion on the matter was just informational.

The third legislative issue dealt with the proposed Assembly Bill #85. In essence, the bill specifically targets Milwaukee County, but could have an effect on other counties as well. The question is: Can the State tell the Milwaukee County Board how to do their business? The bill appears to give the Milwaukee County Board executive more power while decreasing the County Board’s authority. While in no way condoning some of the things the Milwaukee County Board has decided, the Committee did approve that a draft be written opposing State Bill #85 on the principle that it interferes with the County Board’s authority to do its work.

At the end of the meeting, the Committee heard a presentation by Jay Scott of Associated Financial on the newly approved Marinette County (Employees) Clinic, which is in conjunction with NorthReach. The facility, which will be located in Dr. Werner’s old office by the hospital, will be opening on May 1. Scott explained the purpose of the clinic and how it will ultimately save the county money on health insurance rates.


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