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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Oconto Board Okays Airport Improvements

Oconto County Board on Thursday, May 22 approved a 6-year “statement of project intentions” that calls for nearly $2.5 million in capital improvements at the J. Douglas Bake Airport they operate in cooperation with the City of Oconto. But even if all the projects become realities, it won’t cost county property taxpayers a dime, according to Supervisor Gerald Beekman.

Beekman explained 90 percent of airport improvement costs are funded by aviation funds financed by taxes on airplane fuels, tickets, etc., and the City and County of Oconto share the remaining five percent. However, the airport sold almost a $1 million in sand to the state during construction of the Hwy. 41 bypass a few years ago, and from that money they pay the local five percent match that the city and county would each otherwise have to pay.

And, he explained, the projects are on the list, but whether they will or will not be done depends on whether or not the 90 percent funding is approved by the state and federal funding sources. The six year plan is required by the state, but it’s just that, a plan. “This is not projects you are approving, this is a plan that must be submitted to the state,” County Administrative Coordinator Kevin Hamann explained.

Plans are to reconstruct the ramp and parking lot and add a taxiway and perhaps add more hangars for small craft this summer, and in coming years do more runway and taxiway work, conduct a wildlife site visit, install PLAPI and REILs, clear approaches, build hangars, and buy land for future expansion. Sometime beyond 2020 there could be a new terminal building and a new airport beacon.

As the Green Bay airport has gotten filled, more pilots want to hangar their planes in Oconto, the board was told. “This airport is going to grow. In years to come, it will become a major hub,” Beekman declared.

On recommendation of both the Personnel and Wages Committee and the Health and Human Services Board, supervisors agreed, with one dissenting vote, cast by Supervisor Rose Stellmacher, to hire Jill Kozolowski for a vacant Community Support Worker position, at grade 1, step 8, which pays $24.42 per hour and allows 1 week paid vacation the first year. She “has significant experience in the human services field and the skill set required,” according to the enabling resolution. She will replace a person who was paid $25 per hour. Midpoint pay for the position would start at step 3, $21.52 per hour.

“I’m not quite sure why we had the $55,000 study done if we’re going to come in and ask for more than their recommendation for starting pay,” Stellmacher declared.

“Our job is to hire the best person we can get,” explained Health and Human Services Director Craig Johnson.” He agreed the position does not require someone with Kozlowski’s 21 years of experience, but as an adult protective services worker, she will work directly with law enforcement and go to court when necessary to commit incompetent people.

Supervisor Guy Gooding, Committee Chair, said she was the most qualified person they interviewed, and well worth the “little bit of extra money .”

On recommendation of the Land Information and Parks and Forestry committees, the board accepted a compromise agreement to settle a lawsuit involving a disputed boundary line between the properties of Oconto County and Darrell and Anita Wagenknecht, Timothy and Amy Kabachinski and Randy Robenhorst.

According to Land Information Director Mark Teuteberg, mediator Larry Jeske strongly recommended the settlement, and once the Circuit Court Judge dismisses the case the DNR will be notified so the appropriate changes can be made in the County Forest boundary. The settlement follows the line of surveys done in 2003-2004.

Extension Educators Paula Hoff and John Pinkart gave a presentation on 4-H in honor of that youth organization’s 100th anniversary in Wisconsin. Hoff said there are seven million 4-H members in the nation, and in Oconto County there are 17 separate clubs and 200 members. In addition to community clubs, there now are Teen Court and 4-H After School clubs. She said for a time 4-H had declined, but then some changes were made in the organizational structure. Things got better, “and now we’re looking at what can we do to become great!” Hoff declared. Over half of the 31 County Supervisors indicated they were once 4-H members.

By unanimous vote the board approved Chair Lee Rymer’s appointment of Gerald Beekman, Derek Henning, Randy Anderson, Alane Roberts, Doug Kurek, Loretta Shellman, Diane Nichols, Ruth Carriveau, Sue Cota, Jon Hanchett, Mike Reimer, and Kathy Gohr to the Community Options/Long Term Support Planning Committee.

Before the vote, Supervisor Gary Frank said he was not familiar with many of the people listed. He was told they are advisory, and each appointee by law must represent a specific user group. Beekman and Henning are from Oconto; Anderson represents a consortium facility; Roberts is from Oconto Falls; Kurek, Gillett; Shellman, Oconto Falls; Nichols, Pensaukee; Carriveau, Lena, and Cota, Oconto. Hanchett and Reimer are employees of Health and Human Services and Gohr is a citizen’s advocate from Krakow.

At the start of the meeting Supervisor Allan Sleeter offered the invocation. County Clerk Kim Pytleski read a letter from Sen. Dave Hansen congratulating Rymer on his reelection as County Board Chair. “We are blessed with the people we have representing us in Madison,” Rymer declared.

Pytleski also read a letter from Lena School Counselor Shelly Meisner strongly complimenting Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Zahn for his volunteer work in helping to set up and carry out the school’s “Every 15 Minutes” program. “I was extremely impressed with Deputy Zahn’s ability to coordinate the program, his enthusiasm for bringing this program to our district, and his level of professionalism. His hard work was definitely appreciated and didn’t go undetected by the students, parents, staff and community members,” Meisner wrote.

The board approved seven zoning changes as requested by the owners, and sent one back to the drawing board.

Zoning Administrator Pat Virtues explained the Planning, Zoning and Solid Waste Committee recommended denial of a request from Valerie DeBoth, owner of Northwoods Storage, LLC in the Town of Riverview to rezone from rural residential district to residential single family district and general commercial district. He said the property is just west of Mulligan’s Bar and Grill, and the comprehensive plan designates that area near Hwy. 32 for commercial use.

Zoning staff recommended instead that the zoning be changed to neighborhood commercial, which will allow the owner to keep her house and the storage shed business for now, but allow the property to go entirely commercial in the future if that is the owner’s choice. Virtues said DeBoth has now applied for the neighborhood commercial designation.

The zoning changes approved were:

*A .29 acre parcel in the Town of Brazeau owned by Harvey Mooren/Brian Mommaerts et al, from forest to residential single family to correct a property line overlap error;

*A 1.2 acre property owned by Leonard Hansel in the Town of Lena from agricultural to residential single family to separate buildings from farmlands so the owner can sell the farm land;

*A 4.7 acre parcel on County A in the Town of Little River owned by Thomas Desjarlais, who wants change from agricultural rural residential so he can sell the improvements and keep the tillable acres;

*A 1.12 acre property owned by David LaCount in the Town of Little Suamico, to be changed from agricultural to residential single family so it can be joined to an existing residential lot, which is a compatible use;

*A 2 acre parcel owned by Sievert Dairy Farms in the Town of Pensaukee to change from agricultural to rural residential to allow separating the buildings from the farm land; and

*A 2.76 acre parcel owned by Dan and Melissa Winter in the Town of Pensaukee, from agricultural to rural residential, to separate improvements and allow him to sell to his son, who wants to build a new home on the original home site.

The board approved a resolution declaring the month of June to be Fair Housing Month in Oconto County.

Hamann explained the resolution is required by the federal housing grant that the county receives as part of the Northwoods Housing Region along with Langlade, Florence, Oneida, Taylor, Menominee and Shawano counties. Marinette is the only county in the northeast corner of Wisconsin that does not belong, and they have joined with Brown county and others, Hamann said. He said the state pushed them to go regional. There is money available for repairs to homes of people that meet the income guidelines. Notices to apply were sent to the 61 people on the waiting list but so far only six have replied and two of those were refused because their income exceeded the legal limit, Hamann said. He urged anyone with low to moderate income and homes needing repairs to call 1-800-762-0665. “We still have $95,000 left and we’re going to try to get that money spent before the end of the year,” Hamann declared.

Paul Ehrfurth was proud to report on behalf of the Oconto county Economic Development Corporation that in terms of tourist spending, Oconto County now ranks 35th among the 72 counties in the state. “We can never hope to match the huge counties, “ he declared, but we had the second highest rate of growth in tourism spending in the entire state. “I do believe sincerely that some of the things we have done in the last few years are paying off,” he declared.

Supervisor Al Stranz invited everyone to attend the June Dairy Month Breakfast on the Farm to be held this year on Sunday, June 8 on Kruse Farm in Morgan, 8716 CCC Road, Oconto Falls.


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