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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board To Consider Funding Half Time DA Post

Issue Date: July 19, 2017

The trend toward turnover on Marinette County Board continues. At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 25 the board will be formally informed that Supervisor Chris Schmidt, who represented District 17, Town of Grover Wards 1 and 3 and Town of Peshtigo Ward 5, has resigned. He won his first term on the board in April by defeating Thomas Mandli to replace Cindy "CJ" Barrette, who did not seek re-election. Earlier this summer Schmidt had asked to be excused from attending meetings until fall due to the demands of his new business, Peshtigo Stone and Garden, and that request was granted.

The regular board meeting starts at 9 a.m, but the day for some supervisors will begin at an 8:30 a.m. special meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee that was called to consider recommending that the county fund a half time Assistant District Attorney position for 2018 and 2019. The request from newly appointed District Attorney DeShea Morrow, has already been considered by the Personnel and Finance committees.

Personal Committee, by a 4 to 1 vote on Thursday, July 13, agreed to recommend funding the position. The opposing vote was cast by County Board Chair Mark Anderson, while supervisors Russ Bauer, Mike Behnke, Ken Keller and Joe Policello were in favor.

Finance Committee on Monday, July 17 after long discussion moved the request along for County Board action without a recommendation for or against. Here the vote was 3 to 1, with supervisors Vilas Schroeder, Don Phillips and Don Pazynski in favor, Supervisor Rick Polzin opposed and Supervisor Janis Porfilio absent.

District Attorney salaries are paid by the state. The Marinette office is authorized to have one full time District Attorney and one and a half assistant District Attorneys. Currently, the only attorney in the office is Morrow, who had been the Assistant DA and was appointed DA after Allen Brey resigned, at least partly because of the county's refusal to fund added help for his office. He said everyone had been working overtime without added pay, but nonetheless a 400-case backlog had built up.

A new Assistant District Attorney has now been appointed to fill the vacancy left when Morrow was moved up to the top job in the office, but efforts to fill the half time post have been unsuccessful. Morrow had been the half time assistant DA until Kent Hoffman left to become a circuit court judge in Sheboygan County.

If County Board approves Morrow's request, the county would pay half of the pay for the new person and the state would pay the other half, which is already authorized. Cost to the county, if Morrow's request is approved, would be $11,305 for the remainder of this year; $35,484 for 2018 and $38,288 for 2019. The hope would be that the state will fund three full time attorneys for the Marinette office in its budget for 2020/2021.

That cost would be reduced by $8,400 a year, the amount the county currently is paying an outside attorney to handle CHIPS (Child In Need of Protective Placement) services that neither the DA nor the Corporation Counsel were able to handle. Morrow reportedly has said her office will be able to resume CHIPS work if the three attorney posts are filled.

Anderson's arguments against paying the half time salary were partly based on conversations the state legislators, who had told him that other counties in the state need added help even more than Marinette County does, based on the caseload. He said if any additional state funding is approved it will not be for Marinette County.

There have been discussions at Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Information Sharing committee meetings on ways to cut back on the case load, and do some programming to reduce the number of repeat offenses and cut back on the number of prisoners being sent to the Marinette County Jail. Anderson suggested if this happens, the reduction in costs might be used to pay for some added help for the District Attorney.

County Administrator John LeFebvre said he has talked with Morrow and she is willing work toward establishing diversion programs for minor offenders similar to the Drug Court that has proven very effective for non-violent drug-related offenders.

Agenda for the July 25 County Board meeting includes a report by Keith Montgomery, Dean for UW Colleges North Region, which includes the Marinette campus; annual report by Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner, and 2016 end of year budget information poresented by Finance Director Pat Kass.

The board is expected to approve appointment of Michael McGowan for a Veterans' Service commission term that expires in November, 2018, as well as Eric Franz to represent the City of Niagara for a term expiring in December of 2019, and Jenny Hipke to represent the City of Peshtigo for a term expiring in December of 2018 on the Marinette County Consolidated Library Board.

Approval is also expected for an agreement with WisDOT for the Marinette County Highway Department to do routing and crack sealing on Hwy. 141 between Wausaukee and Beaver for $175,279.31; purchase of a 4X4 tractor from Reisterer and Schnell for their bid price of $109,000, and purchase of a 2017 side mower and rear mower with boom mower equipment for $76,660, all as recommended by the Highway Committee.

Forestry and Parks Department purchase of two rotary motors from Horst Distributing for their bid price of $48,495, and transfer of not more than $70,000 from Highway Department Operating Revenues to help pay for acquisition of a Highway Hot Patching machine as requested by the Highway Committee and County Administrator John LeFebvre.

There is time provided for public comment at the start of each full board meeting. Advance registration is suggested.


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