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Supervisors Vote Down $5 Per Meeting Increase

“I don’t think that most of us are in this for the money,” Supervisor Ken Keller, Marinette, declared at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 as he led the discussion that ended with a 13 to 14 vote that defeated a proposed $5 per meeting pay raise for county supervisors.

If approved, the $5 would have been added to existing per diems of $50 for each full board meeting attended and $25 for each committee meeting or out of town conference attended, in addition to the annual salary of $2,400 and mileage reimbursement at the Federal rate, which currently is 54 cents per mile. The raise, which would have gone into effect in April of 2014, would have added an estimated $6,225 to county spending for 2014 and $8,300 for 2015 and subsequent years.

Motion to approve the raises was made by Supervisor Ken Casper of Coleman, representing the Personnel Committee that recommended approval by 3 to 1 vote after long discussion on Friday, Nov. 8, and seconded by Supervisor Nick Lakari of Crivitz. Casper, at the Committee meeting, had not encouraged a raise recommendation, but did finally vote in favor of the per diem increase. Salaries for elected officials must be established before time to circulate nomination papers for a coming election. County Board supervisors will begin circulating nomination papers Dec. 1 for the April 1 2014 elections.

Keller said he had opposed the raise at the Personnel Committee meeting and continued to oppose it. He said currently a Marinette County Supervisor can earn $3,600 a year by attending one monthly board meeting and one meeting per month of each of their two committee assignments. Many have more committees, and some committees meet more than once a month, which adds to the tally.

He said he analyzed information handed out at the Personnel Committee meeting and concluded that an Oconto County supervisor would earn $2,340 for the year, Door County about $3,000, and Shawano County $2,580. He said supervisors in most counties do not even get a salary, only per diems. In Dodge County, for example, supervisors are paid only $1,440 a year.

“I agree with Ken,” declared Supervisor Mike Behnke, Peshtigo. “I came on to this board expecting to earn a whole lot less. I think we’re paid adequately now.”

Supervisor Gilbert Engel, Niagara commented supervisors had recently approved some salary increases for employees based in large part on comparisons with other counties, and redlined others as being overpaid currently, “If you look at our comparables, we are clearly an Outlier and not underpaid!” he declared.

“We’ve been preaching budget cuts,” declared Supervisor Don Pazynski, Town of Peshtigo. “It’s up to us to set an example. What kind of example are we setting if we give ourselves a raise?”

If the raise had been approved, it would not have taken effect until new supervisory terms start after the April 1, 2014 elections. The salary set at Tuesday’s board meeting will remain in effect for two years, until after the 2016 spring elections.

The last County Board raise was a dozen years ago, and that fact was pointed out by Supervisor Russ Bauer, Town and City of Peshtigo.

“We tell our employees , ‘You’re doing a good job, you deserve a raise, and then we don’t give one to ourselves,” Bauer commented. “People are asking me if we don’t think we’re doing a good job.” He moved to amend the resolution by raising the monthly salary to $250 (bringing the annual salary to $3,000) and raise per diems to $40 for committee meetings, while leaving County Board meetings at $50. That motion died for lack of a second.

Supervisor Ted Sauve, Marinette, felt the $5 per diem increase was appropriate, considering that it has been a long time since there was raise. He said years ago the per diems were $25 for each County Board meeting and $10 for committee meetings, but there was a 50 meeting limit per year, a number that was quickly reached by very active supervisors. He said some of them refused to attend committee meetings once their limit was reached.

Supervisor Casper, who serves on the Personnel Committee that recommended the raises, noted it has been a dozen years since the County Board had a raise, and whatever rate is approved will be in effect for two years.

Supervisor Tom Mailand, Marinette, asked if the raises were covered in the 2014 budget. County Administrator Ellen Sorensen said they are not, but she and Finance Director Pat Kass would meet in January to see where the money would come from.

“We are not like that city in California, but I do think this raise is justified,” Supervisor Bill Walker, Marinette, commented.

Vote was called, and the raise failed by a one-vote 13 to 14 margin, with Supervisors Connie Seefeldt, Russ Bousley and Joe Banaszak absent and excused.

Supervisors opposed were Keller; Behnke; Mailand; Mike Cassidy, Goodman; Engel; Pazynski; Robert Holley, towns of Beaver and Pound; Paul Gustafson, Marinette; Larry Nichols, Porterfield; Kathy Just, Town of Lake; Al Sauld, Niagara; Mel Sharpe, City of Peshtigo, Melissa S. Christiansen, towns of Porterfield and Wagner, and Clancy Whiting, towns of Beecher and Pembine.

Supervisors voting in favor were Sauve; Bauer; Casper; Lakari; Ken Mattison, Amberg; Board Chair Vilas Schroeder, Town of Peshtigo; Joe Policello, towns of Stephenson and Middle Inlet; Cheryl Wruk, towns of Stephenson and Silver Cliff; and Alice Baumgarten, Bill Walker, Al Mans, Shirley Kaufman, and C. J. Barrette, all of Marinette.

At the start of the meeting Schroeder read a letter from Wisconsin Counties Mutual Insurance awarding Honorable Mention to Marinette County Highway Department for achieving one of the best overall workman’s compensation loss ratios in the state in 2012.

After some discussion and an explanation from Sheriff Jerry Sauve, the board unanimously approved renewal of an agreement to house overflow prisoners from Oconto County in the sometimes crowded Marinette County jail.

“It doesn’t make much sense to me to bring people in when we don’t have room for our own,” Engel commented.

Sauve agreed the jail is sometimes overcrowded. As of that morning 131 of the jail’s 165 beds was occupied, which does create problems because of segregation needed, special detention cells and lots of mental health issues. However, the agreement specifies the Oconto County prisoners will be accepted only when there is room, Sauve said, adding the agreement has been in place for a long time and he wants to keep that option open because taking those prisoners when space is available helps his budget. There will be an end to it because Oconto County is now moving forward with plans to build a new jail, but it will not be ready for a few years. Sauve added that Sheriff Mike Jansen of Oconto County supports the agreement, and they often help each other as neighboring sheriffs.

In the course of discussion it was mentioned that Menominee County Jail generally only has about 17 prisoners, compared to the 130 or so at its counterpart in Marinette County, and few supervisors were wondering why that happens. On recommendation of the Parks and Forestry Committee the board approved transferring about a quarter of an acre of tax deed property to the Town of Goodman upon payment of all costs of the transfer. The land is a 50’ strip that connects two roads.

In other action:

*The board approved Sorensen’s appointments of Jerome Reilly to the Veterans Service Commission; Nicole Swanson to the Local Emergency Planning Committee as a representative of Bay Area Medical Center; and Supervisor Nick Lakari to Twin County Airport Commission, subject to his remaining a member of the County Board.

*In a house cleaning action overlooked years ago, the board approved a resolution officially requiring the State of Wisconsin to perpetually manage the Old Veteran’s Lake Campground in the Town of Stephenson for public recreational purposes. The County established the Old Veterans Lake Campground in 1966 with the help of Wisconsin’s Land and Water Conservation Fund program, and then traded it to the state in 2006, in return for ownership of Twin Bridges County Park. Purpose of the resolution, which was forwarded to County Board by the Parks Committee on Thursday, Nov. 14, is to ensure that the property continues in its current use to comply with terms of the grant, a detail that was overlooked when ownership went to the DNR in 2006.

*Supervisors unanimously supported a resolution LRB-3015, “Fair Distribution of Tax Exempt Payments for Services,” which would require that all payments received from a non-profit entity that owns a tax-exempt property be divided among each taxing authority in the same proportion as the property taxes. The enabling resolution notes that more and more municipalities are reaching agreements with the non-profit organizations through which they receive payments for services, but other taxing entities, such as counties and schools, get nothing. Copies of the resolution will be sent to Senators Dave hansen and Tom Tiffany, Representatives Jeff Mursau and John Nygren, and Wisconsin Counties Association.

*A resolution opposing SB-349 and AB-475 was unanimously approved. The resolution states a February, 2012 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court expanded the authority of local governments to regulate use of its police powers and the two bills in question would take it away again. According to the resolution, the proposed bills would prevent local governments from enacting or enforcing standards related to air or water quality and in other ways limit local government’s ability to protect itself.

*A routine maintenance agreement of $1,694,400 between Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Marinette County Highway Department for maintenance of state roads within the county was approved by unanimous vote.

*A zoning ordinance amendment approved by the Peshtigo Town Board on Oct. 15 was also approved by the County Board.

*To settle a Workman’s Compensation claim, the board agreed that $43,245 can be taken from the Worker’s Compensation Reserve Fund to purchase a new 3/4-ton 4 wheel drive pickup truck for the maintenance department, pending approval of the Human Resources Director and County Administrator. Sorensen said due to the nature of the claim she could release no further information.

*A memorandum of understanding between Marinette County, Florence County and UWEX to share the duties of an Agricultural Agent for 2014 was approved. Marinette County is to pay 40 percent of the wages, and the state 60 percent, but Marinette County will get reimbursement from Florence County for four percent of the wages.

*The board approved spending $2,287 for architect fees to design a remodeling project at the Peshtigo Highway Department offices, which are now shared by the Parks and Forestry Departments. Keller questioned spending that much money to re-design two offices and an entry way. Schroeder said the county has been spending dollar after dollar to correct things, and the Building and Property Committee felt it would be better to spend the money up front and do it right the first time. There were requests for proposals for the designer.


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