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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Design Work Starts on New Oconto County Jail

Design work for the new Oconto County Jail and Law Enforcement Center will officially begin on Thursday, Aug. 7 at a 9 a.m. meeting between members of the County Board’s Law Enforcement/Judiciary and Public Properties committees, other county officials and Potter Lawson of Madison, architects for the project.

Administrative Coordin-ator Kevin Hamann advised County Board of the tentative date for the design kickoff sessions at its monthly meeting on Thursday, July 24.

There will be a follow-up meeting with the architects at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 18 to allow others, including the City of Oconto’s Ad Hoc Committee, state and city officials, etc. to provide input into the project. At noon on that day, Potter Lawson people will meet with the Criminal Justice Coordination Council, which includes the sheriff, judges, district attorney, public defender and state probation and parole. Hamann said format for the meetings will be informal, with ample opportunity for public comment.

The Law Enforcement/ Judiciary and Public Properties committees were to meet jointly at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 6. They were expected to approve a process for disposing of debris and removing structures and other improvements from the 14 properties the county has purchased on the north side of the Courthouse for the Law Enforcement Center projects. Hamann said SRF Consultants will have a recommendation and he may have another. He said there has been a request from Habitat For Humanity of Marinette to come in and salvage building materials for their work projects. After an update on property acquisitions the committees were to go into closed session to discuss possible property purchase.

The July 24 County Board meeting also included a half hour closed-door to discuss or negotiate for purchase of public properties. There was no action when they returned to open session. There are five remaining properties to acquire. Timeline calls for acquisition of all properties by late 2014 or early 2015, and all properties to be cleared by July of 2015.

One property still under discussion is the USDA building and parking lot at 111 Arbutus Street. Hamann reported they received permission from the property owner to enter the building to do an appraisal, which SRF will do at a cost of $4,690. The appraisal is to be completed by the end of September. This will go to committee in October and at its October meeting County Board will be asked if they want to make an offer, and if so, what the offer price will be.

Tentative budget for the overall project is at $30 million of which $25 million will be from bonding, and $2 million from a general fund transfer in 2014. There was $3 million transferred for the project in 2013.

At the July 24 meeting, County Board approved a resolution designating the additional $2 million from the General Fund balance for the project. They had previously approved the $25 million bond issue, and the $3 million allocation from 2013. According to the resolution, the recently completed 2013 audit shows the county had $9,920,056 in its unassigned General Fund. Of this, $4 million is to be retained as working capital and $2 million in contingency, which is in accord with county policy. After reserving $760,000 for the 2014 budget there would be $3,209,056 remaining unassigned, and the Finance Committee recommended using $2 million of this to bring total funding for the Law Enforcement Center to $30 million, which Hamann predicted will be the total cost, “when all is said and done.”

“We were told all along it would be $25 million and now it’s $30 million,” Supervisor Rose Stellmacher objected.

Hamann agreed, but explained that was because they added some things, for example acquiring the USDA building (appraised at $191,000), and putting in a $4 million contingency fund, “which we hope to never use.” He said if they do not need to use the contingency fund, they will be very close to the $25 million originally projected. After taking out the $2 million the remaining unassigned general fund balance drop to approximately $1.2 million, which Hamann admitted is low. Stellmacher cast the sole opposing vote.

Amounts roughly included in the $30 million but not yet specifically determined include payments to the City of Oconto in lieu of taxes and for utility relocation, tax loss, and possible acquisition of Adams Street.

Projected acquisition costs are $2,415,000, somewhat over the original $1,700,000 budget. This includes $200,000 for SRF Acquisition Services, $1,700,000 for acquisition of properties on the north block, $200,000 for the USDA Building, $65,000 for additional services from SRF, and $250,000 for soil tests and demolition.

Design contracts are in place, and only $5,000 over the $13,000,000 budget. This includes $4,000 for Samuels Group for handling the RFPs, $25,000 to the Samuels Group for design review and pre-construction work, and $1,276,000 to Potter Lawson for the design itself.

Construction is slated to begin in August of 2015 and be completed by November of 2017.

With little discussion or debate, the board agreed to transfer $191,000 from the Contingency Fund to various departments to cover the costs of implementing the Carlson-Dettman wage study that they accepted in March. The enabling resolution explains that costs were not known when the 2014 budget was completed, but $250,000 had been set aside in the 2014 contingency fund for that purpose. Now that calculations have been completed, the transfer totals $191,000, $59,000 less than the amount set aside to implement the study.

At the start of the meeting, former Supervisor Louis Winkler was presented plaques by Jane Severt, Executive Director, on behalf of the Wisconsin County Forest Association and Shelly Wrzochalski, Forester, on behalf of the Wisconsin DNR Division of Forestry for over 25 years of outstanding service to the Wisconsin County Forests. A tearful Severt said Winkler will be greatly missed. He had served over 34 years as a member of WCFA, and was a member of its board of directors for 25 years.

Wrzochalski noted the Oconto County Forest now has over $1 million in forest crop sales each year, which will greatly help the county budget in future years. Winkler said during his 34-year tenure on the County Forestry Committee over 2 million trees were planted in the Oconto County Forest. Wrzochalski presented Winkler with a plaque from DNR Chief Forester Paul DeLong, noting he had planted that 2 millionth tree. Wrzochalski told Winkler state’s county forests are in better condition because of his leadership.

The awards were originally presented at the state WCFA convention earlier this year, but Winkler had been ill and unable to attend to receive them personally. Winkler said he spent 14 days in the hospital and 49 days in a nursing home.

Personnel from the county’s Forestry Department were on hand for the presentation and extend congratulations to Winkler.

Clerk Kim Pytleski read e-mails from Shawn O’Connor, addressed to Hamann, expressing thanks for the outstanding service he received from Child Support Agency Director Joy Hogan. County Board Chair Lee Rymer introduced Hogan to the board and thanked her for her good service. “We like getting those types of e-mails,” Hamann declared.

Pytleski also read a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs awarding the county a $10,000 Veterans Service Grant for 2014.

Bridge Aid Petitions for work on 14 roads in the towns of Bagley, Brazeau, Breed, Chase, Gillett, Morgan, Oconto Falls, Pensaukee, and Stiles totaling $42,213.30 were referred to the Highway Committee.

Generally zoning changes are somewhat routine, but the first rezoning request dealt with by the board at its July 24 meeting was anything but. It included requests for zoning 34 parcels in the Town of Bagley that previously had been unzoned, but with a Conservancy overlay.

“This not a normal application,” Zoning Administrator Pat Virtues explained. He said the properties involved are mostly wetlands, so the Conservancy overlay was basically correct, but some of the properties do contain upland areas, and base zoning is needed if the owners want to do anything on the properties they own. Many of the properties involved are in the area along Hwy. 64 near the muck farms.

Stellmacher asked if the owners were opposed, and Virtues said they are not, in fact the owners of one property wanted to build a small cabin, and this will allow them to do that. Supervisor Alan Sleeter explained most owners were pleased. This change will make it easier to work with their towns and develop their properties.

Except for one property zoned Community Service due to a WPS pipeline, the properties were all put into either Agriculture or Forestry zones, with woodland being the primary intended use. Two of the owners indicated residential with woodland being possible future uses.

Hamann asked if any of these types of rezones existed before, and Virtues said there were about 70 parcels done previously in the Town of Brazeau.

All 31 supervisors voted in favor of the rezone.

Next rezone was for Van Hefty Acres, LLC, for an existing mobile home park in the Town of Chase. The rezone, which changes a quarter of an acre from residential single family and general commercial to mobile home park and residential single family, will bring the 12.24 property into compliance. There are no plans for added sites, Virtue said.

Supervisor Dennis Kroll asked if there would be conditional use restrictions, and Virtues said there will not, because mobile home parks are a permitted use, not conditional. He said neighbors have raised some management issues, and they will be advised that will be on the agenda for discussion at the next zoning committee meeting.

Again, all 31 supervisors voted in favor of the rezone, as they did on the rezone ordinance amendments for the remaining three properties.

A 1.58 parcel owned by Howard Pethke in the Town of How was rezoned from Agricultural to Residential Single Family to permit splitting the residential portion from tillable acres and a barn. Virtues said the residential district is consistent with zoning in the area.

A 5.54 acre parcel on Hwy. 32 owned by Tim and Joyce Fifield et al in the Town of Maple Valley was rezoned from Agricultural to Rural Residential to permit a son to build a residence on the property.

A .53-acre parcel owned by James and Margaret Fischer in the Town of Stiles was rezoned from Forest to Rural Residential to eliminate an easement concern and bring the property into compliance.

After an explanation from Oconto County Economic Development Director Paul Ehrfurth, and on recommendation of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, the board approved a $24,500 loan to Executive Enterprises, LLC, for 10 years at 2.6 percent interest, guaranteed by a second mortgage on the real estate involved and personal guarantees of owner Tricia Ascher, Adam Ascher and Ascher’s Janitorial Services. Ehrfurth explained Tricia Ascher lives in Abrams and will purchase the Old Clock Tower there as a headquarters for her janitorial service business.

He described Ascher as “a dynamic business person,” who recently added 35 new clients and gives lectures all over the country on the LEAN process. The Abrams facility will be for corporate management, now for use by day to day work.

“This is a very good loan,” Ehrfurth declared. “I wish we had more like this.” All supervisors voted in favor.

According to information provided for the meeting, money for the loan will come from the Oconto County Business Development Loan Fund, which has an available cash balance of $579,606 and eight outstanding loans receivable totaling $407,838. There is no tax levy involved in the revolving loan fund activity.

Routine updating of the 2010 Land Records Modernization Plan was also approved without dissent. There is no funding involved, but submission of the plan to the state Department of Administration keeps the county compliant for grant applications and the Wisconsin Land Information Program.

The board unanimously supported state legislation and budget action to provide more funding for the 911 system.

The resolution notes that revenues from the 40 cent per phone landline fee are declining due to the increased use of cellular telephones and the fee is often insufficient to cover the cost of these services, thereby requiring any difference to be paid for with property taxes and asks the state to fully fund the County and Municipal Aid Program (shared revenue) with state General Purpose Revenue, rather than the Police and Fire Protection Fee raised from taxing phone lines, establish a technology-neutral fee on all cell phones, landline phones, and other devices capable of dialing 911; and uses the revenue from this fee to fund a grant program to pay for equipment purchases and training for county 911 programs.

Hiring of an additional Child Protective Services Initial Assessment Worker for an estimated cost of $41,000 for the remainder of this year was unanimously approved following an explanation by Greg Benesh, Deputy H&HS Director and Misty Hommerding, CST/Child Protective Services Supervisor. Cost next year will be about $80,000.

Benesh explained a few years ago the county eliminated a third position, but now the position is needed again. Hommerding explained when the third position was dropped in 2011 the number of cases per investigator had dropped to 99, which two investigators could handle. Currently each investigator is handling at least 160. In June alone, 21 new cases needed investigating, she said. ‘Workers can’t take vacations, comp time, or other time off.”

Stellmacher explained the neglect the investigator must interview every child and adult that lives in the household. They also must interview doctors, teachers and others who may be involved. They must make entries into the stat window within a 60-day window. Stellmacher said there are no state recommendations for work load, but in counties of our size the workers generally have four cases a month, and Oconto County has been averaging 6.6 cases per worker per month.

After the board voted it unanimous approval, Benesh said they would offer the position that day to a person who has already agreed to accept. He expects the person to be working by mid August. “We need that person in that office ASAP!” Hamann declared.

Because only one employee has signed up, Hamann recommended ending the Mass Mutual Deferred Compensation Plan. Hamann said he will negotiate with the law enforcement union, which would like the county to take their plan.

Supervisor Gerald Beekman reported they have been able to use money gained from selling sand on the airport property to pay the local share of some major improvement projects in recent years.

“We’re very fortunate to have that airport here. I think they’re doing a great job,” declared Stellmacher.

Pytleski reminded everyone of the poartisan primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 12.

Rymer and sujpervisors Richard Nelson and Doug McMahon gave announcements related to the County Fair on Thursday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 17, and the Horse Show and Dog/Cat/Exotic Animal show the previous weekend.

Supervisor ron Korzeniewski invited everyone to attend the Morgan/Green Valley Fireman’s Picnic on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Hamann announced WCA Conference updates, and that Cindy Polzin from the Governor’s office will be in Oconto County on Aug. 14. He said the 2013 audit is complete and can be viewed on the county website.

Employee report showed that two persons hired as corrections officers in June were terminated for failing to pass their probation period.


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