County Paperless Initiative Passes With Resistance
Since June of last year, the five members of the Marinette County Finance Committee have been testing the use of I-Pads in an effort to determine if emailing Committee agendas and attachments instead of printing the documents and sending them out via the mail would be just as effective as paper copies thus meaning the county could save the money associated with printing, copying and mailing the documents to each Committee member. The Committee has been using the I-Pads to view the documents electronically instead of having the hard copy in front of them.
Earlier this year, the Finance Committee concluded that there have been efficiencies and sought to expand the test to other committees. The ultimate goal was to eventually expand the program to each Department Committee by April 2014.
A quick study of the numbers shared that going paperless for just the County Board meeting alone would save the county upwards of $6,500 per year. This does not include the savings that could be realized from making Committee meetings paperless as well.
When the initiative was brought before the Tuesday, May 28 meeting of the County Board, resistance on the part of some County Board members was evident.
Supervisor Ted Sauve questioned if new candidates running for election next April would have to be technologically oriented in order to run for office. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison replied with a resounding Absolutely Not. The printed initiative stated that the cost savings would reduce by approximately $100 per month or $1,200 per year for 3 to 5 members of the board to remain in a paper environment.
Supervisor Connie Seefeldt, a member of the Finance Committee, stated that based on her experience she felt more time was needed to work out some of the bugs that still exist going totally paperless.
Other supervisors questioned why the packet sent out for the County Board meeting had to be so large. Yet others pointed out recent comments from other supervisors who expressly asked that everything, including individual committee meeting minutes, be included in the packet.
Other concerns expressed included training, internet connections at home, and whether or not printed copies of the meeting packet would still be available at the meeting or not.
Regardless of the feelings of the County Board as a whole, Supervisor Kathy Just spoke in favor or at least expanding the beta testing to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
After a little more discussion, Seefeldt requested a roll-call vote. The measure passed on a 20 to 9 vote, with Supervisors Joe Banaszak, Russ Bauer, Alice Baumgarten, Russ Bousley, Ken Casper, Shirley Kaufman, Larry Nichols, Connie Seefeldt and Clancey Whiting voting in the negative.
With the passage of the initiative, the program will be budgeted in 2014. HSS will receive their units in 2013 yet. Ag/Extension and Building/Property are slated for January, Law Enforcement and Forestry/Parks in February, and Highway, Land Info, and Personnel in March of 2014. It remains to be seen how many supervisors will actually make an attempt to participate in the program.
In other decisions reached by the County Board, an unanimous vote was taken to deny the claim of Slade R. Rohrdanz against the County. Rohrdanz claims to have been injured by a county snowplow in November of 2011. As is the custom, the claim was forwarded to the countys insurance company who is recommending that the county pass a resolution denying the claim. With the denial by the County Board, Rohrdanz could next move to file a lawsuit against the county.
The County Board approved another maintenance contract with the State of Wisconsin for the county to perform additional maintenance work on Hwy 64. The contract asks for several spots on Hwy 64 to receive an asphalt overlay. For doing this work, the County will receive $77,955.
Also approved was an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to allow the state to install Automatic Vehicle Locating GPS in the 8 county trucks assigned to state highway plow sections. The GPS units come at no cost to the county. Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen explained that Marinette County is one of the last counties in the state to allow the units to be installed. The units collect and track travel and material usage in order to increase efficiencies.
The County Board approved a resolution from the Parks Committee to transition to a voucher system for camping reservation cancellations to replace the current system which charges a $5 cancellation fee. With the switch, if a person cancels a reservation, he or she would receive a voucher for future camping instead of getting their money back.
Some supervisors questioned why the resolution also included eliminating the $5 cancellation fee from the 2013 User Fee Schedule. The explanation given was that the fee was to cover the costs of credit card reversal fees. With the percentage credit card companies charge, the $5 fee barely covered what the county was being charged.
Resolutions to waive both user and camping fees for two groups were pulled from the agenda without explanation.
A request that came through the Finance Committee to appropriate up to $150,000 for the purchase of a Cassidian Communication Aurora Server from Century Link for the replacement/upgrade of the 911 telephone system was approved.
Communications Director Terry Zimmerman explained this project was initially on the Capital Improvement Project list for next year, but recent partial failures of some system components led to this request be moved up to this year. The current system has reached its life expectancy. The opportunity has presented itself to upgrade both the software and the hardware of the 911 system at a savings of $35,000 over the anticipated costs for next year. An added benefit is that with this new system, the county would also be positioned to take advantage of the budding technology of receiving text and photo/video 911 messages as soon as a national standard is agreed upon.
Supervisor Gilbert Engel asked for an explanation of where the funds would be coming from to pay for this purchase. County Treasurer Pat Kass explained money would come from the contingency fund of $250,000 that was built into the 2013 budget.
In another appropriation request from the Finance Committee, the County Board approved up to $175,000 to totally replace the Video Conferencing system used in the courtrooms, the jail and in other places in the courthouse.
Information Services Director Larry Schultz explained the current system, which was hastily pieced together several years ago, has suffered catastrophic failure. The system is no longer working in Judge David Mirons courtroom and is somewhat unreliable in the other areas in which it is used. Schultz explained that at this point, he can find no vendor that even wants to come in and troubleshoot the system.
This causes a security concern, especially for the Sheriffs Department which has to physically transport many inmates to the courthouse for every single hearing. When the system was working correctly, many of these inmates could appear via video conference from the jail. Sheriff Jerry Sauve added that the county has several high security cases coming up on the docket, and this is a major concern of his.
Kaufmann asked why replacement of this system wasnt included in the regular budget or the Capital Improvement Plan.
County Administrator Ellen Sorensen explained that just about every major system in the County has failed within the last year. She added those that havent yet failed probably will soon. She attributed this to the fact that county is paying the price now for poor decisions made in the past to get by as cheaply as possible. In the past several main components of many systems in the county were purchased off EBay to save money.
As to Kaufmanns question, County Board Chairman Vilas Schroeder added, You cant really predict which light bulb will burn out next.
The funding for the purchase will come from the not-too-well-known Unassigned Fund Balance Contingency that was worked into the 2012 budget. Kass explained that this Fund Balance is worked into every budget by board policy every year. The purpose of the budget category is to provide one-time emergency funding for capital projects. The amount in this Unassigned Contingency Fund was explained in the next agenda item.
The County Board approved setting the Dec. 31, 2012 Unassigned Fund Balance Contingency at 10 percent of the 2013 Budget General Fund Expenditures. The exact amount was $2.205 million.
Kass explained that every year the Finance Committee retroactively sets this amount because it cannot be set until the prior year books have been audited. In most years, this category was never questioned because it never made its way to the County Board. It was just done as part of the Countys Fund Balance Policy.
The existence of this pool of money, and the very size of it, took a number of supervisors by surprise, which then led them to ask a great number of questions about it.
In a final resolution from the Finance Committee, the Board approved appropriation of not more than $10,000 to expand the in-house LEAN Government Certificate Series training sessions for certain Marinette County employees. Kass explained the funding is needed for the training and materials through NWTC. The resolution passed by a voice vote. In a show of hands 22 were in favor and seven against.
In a routine measure, the Board approved a Town of Niagara Zoning Ordinance amendment that was forwarded by the Land Information Committee. All Zoning Ordinance changes in the county, by County Ordinance, have to be ratified by the County Board.
Two Personnel matters were approved. The County Board approved the elimination of the Public Health Receptionist/Billing Clerk position and replacing it with the creation of an additional Receptionist position in HHS. HHS Director Robin Elsner explained the move is cost neutral and will provide the department with greater flexibility to cover tasks throughout the department.
A second move was the elimination of the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator position in the Land Information Department and the restating/reassigning of duties to a Zoning/Sanitary Technician I/II/III/IV position.
In other matters, the Board received the 2012 Annual Report from the Health and Human Services Department, delivered by Elsner. The report highlighted that the HHS Department only receives 15.32 percent of its funding through the county tax levy. The rest is through state and federal aid and from the clients/insurance companies.
The report noted that Marinette County did rise in the health rankings among Wisconsin Counties, from 62 in 2011 to 57 in 2012. Marinette County still struggles with unhealthy behavior such as tobacco use, poor diet/exercise, high alcohol use, adult obesity and unsafe sexual activity.
A positive in 2012 was the creation of a County Aging and Disabilities Resource Center and a negative was the continuing plague of heroin use and abuse. One of the goals of HHS is to continue addressing heroin treatment, prevention and services provided by the department.
Ann Hartnell delivered a report from the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, noting especially the regionalization of Community Development Block Grant funding. In essence, the regionalization will provide additional avenues for business development funds. Pam Kolasinski from the Wisconsin Economic Development will make a presentation at the June County Board meeting.
Kass delivered a brief overview of the Countys net financial position. In his report he highlighted a number of key figures about the county governments financial health. He reviewed some specific funds and their purpose.
Kass further pointed to the continuing low interest rates on investments, but added those low interest rates would also mean low rates on borrowing money. For example, he said if the county had a $1 million debt service, it would only add 28 cents to the county levy rate.
As the county faces a number of fiscal decisions in the coming budget discussion, Kass pointed out there are number of options, which include bonding for capital projects and/or applying some of the countys current investments to these projects.
The Board approved the appointment of Dr. Sandra MacArthur, MD, to an unexpired term on the HHS Committee. Approval was also given for the appointment of Mike Orlando from Bay Area Medical Center to the 911 User Committee.
Approval was given to the repealing and recreating of Chapter 24 of the County Ordinances on the topic of Retention/disposition of records. Corporation Counsel Mattison explained that ordinance updating is continuing project. The changes to this ordinance basically accommodate electronic records and how the county handles them. The ordinance is based upon the model State Policy on the same topic. Kaufman was the only negative vote, basing her vote on disagreement with some of the wording.
The County Board approved the annual resolution for Outdoor Motorized Recreation Train Accounts. This resolution has no impact on county funds. It basically states that the county is the pass-through agent to disburse trail maintenance funds.
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