County Board Members Agree To Look At Committee Restructure Issue Date: December 20, 2017
The 30 supervisors on Marinette County Board have been wrangling for months how to handle a controversial proposal put forward by Board Chair Mark Anderson to revamp their committee structure. A major bone of contention was whether or not the full board would be allowed to share in the decision.
That issue was settled at the board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19, when supervisors voted 21 to 9 in favor of a motion authorizing Anderson to work with Vice Chair Vilas Schroeder, County Administrator John LeFebvre and County Clerk Kathy Brandt to design a plan laying out structure and duties of the committees and bring it back to the board for discussion and possible action at the regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
A proposal to move that meeting to Jan. 23 due to a grant application deadline was rejected after objections from a number of supervisors, including five who said they had planned winter vacations around the scheduled date and would be unavailable. Anderson was authorized to call a special meeting if earlier action is needed on a possible broadband grant application that LeFebvre had discussed earlier in the meeting.
Voting in favor of the motion to do the proposed plan and bring it back to the full board for consideration were supervisors Mark and Josh Anderson, Joe Banaszak, Mike Behnke, Penny Chaikowski, Ginger Deschane, Tricia Grebin, Bob Holley, Ken Keller, George Kloppenberg, Tom Mailand, Tom Mandli, Fred Meintz, Don Pazynski, Don Phillips, Joe Policello, Rick Polzin, Vilas Schroeder, Bill Stankevich, Cheryl Wruk and David Zahn. Supervisors opposed were Russ Bauer, Glenn Broderick, Gilbert Engel, Paul Gustafson, Shirley Kaufman, Al Mans, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve and Clancy Whiting.
If restructuring is approved the changes would take effect at board reorganization following the April elections.
The discussion came to the board floor as a result of a petition, signed by 17 of the 30 supervisors, "Requesting the full County Board be given the opportunity to discuss and debate the structuring and duties of the standing committees."
At meetings earlier this year the Executive Committee had twice rejected motions and a previous petition to allow the proposal to come to the full board, once on a tie vote. Much of the discussion preceding the vote at Tuesday's meeting centered on legality of the petition, and authority of the Executive Committee, which is comprised of the board chair, vice chair and heads of each of the board's 10 current standing committees. Many supervisors were upset with the Executive Committee action that prevented full board discussion on the issue, whether they favored restructuring or not.
The petition that brought the issue to the board floor this time had 17 supervisor signatures, and a few others said they would have signed but were not asked.
At the start of the discussion Pazynski questioned legality of the petition. There are state laws that prohibit a "rolling quorum", which would be a majority of a governing body reaching decision by discussing issues consecutively with one another outside of a public meeting. Pazynski felt with 17 signatures the petition constituted an illegal walking or rolling quorum.
"It absolutely is not!" Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison told him. She said supervisors who circulated the petitions had talked with her in advance and she had given advice on how to do it legally. "I have confidence in them," Mattison declared. "I trust that they did it properly. There was not discussion back and forth and there was no walking quorum."
Supervisors Kaufman, Pazynski, Broderick, Bauer and Mans opposed to allowing open discussion as requested in the petition, but the other 25 supervisors approved.
Anderson explained proposed restructuring would be for five committees, each with six members, to give each supervisor an appointment to one standing committee. He explained his support for that idea came after discussions at a Wisconsin Counties Association meeting earlier in the year with Steve O'Malley, who had been Marinette County's first county administrator nearly two decades ago, and now is LaCrosse County Administrator. He said O'Malley told him it is important for the county administrator to interact with each committee, and having too many committees makes this "too burdensome."
Anderson said this county needs to loosen control on the County Board side and put the administrator more in charge of operations as chief executive officer, while County Board sets policy.
Anderson said with the current committee setup new supervisors feel disadvantaged, since they generally get only one assignment to a less important committee, while more senior supervisors may get two or three appointments. Often when issues get to the board floor they are very little acquainted with the issues they are asked to vote on.
Polzin said the full board should discuss it, "and then decide which way we want to go."
Board rules apparently require recommendation by some committee before being placed on the agenda for full board consideration.
Suave, a veteran board member, asked if the recommendation now would go back to the Executive Committee.
Anderson told him it was rejected there twice, and sending it there again "...would be a death sentence." He added that a majority of the board has asked that it be a full board decision and those wishes will be honored.
Holley supported the idea of five committees with six members each, so each supervisor would have one assignment. This would reduce the number of committee meetings each month. Members receive per diems and mileage for each committee meeting they attend, but there is no reimbursement for non-members who attend as observers unless so assigned by their committee.
"We've asked our employees to do more with less, but we haven't asked ourselves." He said the change would save taxpayers $18,000 to $20,000 a year, mainly because there would be fewer miles traveled. Lots of committees have overlapping duties, he added. He said it is a hardship also for supervisors who live far from Marinette to drive an hour and a half each way to attend a one hour meeting.
Pazynski argued County Board's duty is to oversee operations. "It's not our convenience, it's achieving objectives that are our responsibilities!" He told LeFebvre he should not have to sit in on every committee meeting, "you should delegate responsibilities!"
Chair Anderson repeated that the idea for the change came from him, not from LeFebvre, and repeated his contention that each supervisor, each committee, should have a relationship with the administrator, and as it is, some supervisors see him only once a month, at the board meeting.
Stankevich and others felt it would be nice to see what Anderson would come up with, and said it does seem to him and other new people that there is an overlap.
"When we applied for committees years ago, we had to put down our qualifications," Mans said. Then attempts were made to assign supervisors where their expertise would be of service. He said for example, he would "not have a clue" if he were assigned to the Ag and Extension Committee. "If it's not broke, don't fix it...I don't see anything wrong with the committee structure as it is now."
Engel felt maybe a couple of committees are not needed, but shrinking numbers proportionately increases power to a limited number of people.
Sauld agreed with Engel. He said he was opposed in Executive to the committee change, but did vote to have the entire board make that decision. "I remember a few years ago, they had a great idea to combine the Highway Department and Parks and Forestry departments," and added that the highway commissioner - one person - was going to run them all, "but that didn't work." After a short period the departments were separated again.
Engel and Sauld, who represent the Niagara area and have nearly the greatest distance to travel for meetings, both said they have no problem with spending whatever time is needed, "Driving from the north isn't an issue at all!"
Greben said her issue is with efficiency. She noted the county has a chance for a state JEM grant for tourism marketing and has been sitting on the issue for five months, going from committee to committee.
Keller said he favored full board discussion, "but if we are going to do this we should have a presentation on what it would look like."
Schroeder, who had previously been opposed, said he now agrees this might be a good time to consider the idea, "let some people look at it and come back to the board with some suggestions and then have a full discussion with the full board." He too agreed there might be some overlap in committee duties.
Pazynski also agreed a review of committee duties might be good, but agreed with Mans that people should be on committees that match their areas of expertise.
"I don't think it's broken, but I do think it could be tweaked," Stankevich agreed.
Motion to have a plan drawn and brought back to the board for consideration then passed with the 21 to 9 margin. Anderson said if there are changes they will need time to draft and approve ordinances before April, but agreed if more time is needed the board could postpone action until February.
During time for public comment at the start of the meeting, Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke had high praise for County Water Resource Specialist Charles (Chuck) Druckrey, and for the work he has done to help the City of Peshtigo.
Malke said the city wants to construct a fish viewing platform that will cost $460,000. Druckrey first successfully applied for a $41,288 Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Grant for Phase I, the engineering portion. This was a 50/50 match, and the city's portion was raised through donations.
Druckrey then applied for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant and the city is tentatively approved to receive $285,030 in funding for the project.
"Competition was great, having 97 applications to receive funding from a pool of $19.7 million," Malke said. "Mr. Druckrey then applied to the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program for Phase II for additional funding for construction in the amount of $184,016, which we are awaiting to hear."
"Since the bypass of Hwy. 41 around the city, receiving this funding for the construction of the Peshtigo River Fish Viewing Platform at no cost to the city, will increase tourism and have an economic impact on the city," Malke said. "I want to thank Mr. Druckrey again for all his hard work in making this project become a reality."
"In closing I want to thank this board for having the insight of having this caliber of staff available to communities to work with and represent our needs for future development project," Malke concluded.
Next speaker was Jim Brien of Wausaukee, who identified himself as a successful organ donor recipient, and asked the board to support a non-exclusive tissue recovery agreement between the County Coroner and RTI Donor Services Inc., at no cost to the county, ending in 2020. County Coroner George Smith was present for the meeting, but was not called on to address the issue. County Board approval of the agreement later in the meeting was unanimous. No one spoke against it.
Appointment of Suzanne Hinch as Child Support Director effective two days before the board meeting was also approved without dissent. LeFebvre said Hinch, an 8-year employee of the department, has been doing a superb job as interim director for several months. Hinch in turn had high praise for the Child Support staff.
Several Health and Human Services Department contracts were approved without dissent, as was composition of the Comprehensive Community Services Coordination Committee.
The board agreed unanimously to work in conjunction with Elderly Services on application for a $132,935 transportation grant for one year, approved a contract with Frank's Logging for ruffed grouse habitat work, approved a BayCom Service for county dispatch for $18,367.83, created and/or renamed a number of county positions, amended some personnel policies, and purchased a number of vehicles.
Motion to provide space in the old Ella Court Street law Enforcement Center building at no cost to CASA, a youth services organization, was approved without dissent.
After a bit of discussion, with negative votes from Shirley Kaufman and Ag and Extension Committee Chair Cheryl Wruk, the board approved renting office space to UWEX for use of UWEX Area Director Nancy Crevier, with price to be negotiated. LeFebvre said cost of the office, with telephone and other services, will be $200 per month. UWEX may or may not accept the offer. Crevier was the Marinette County Family Living educator prior to her promotion to the director position. She serves as director for Marinette, Oconto, Shawano and Menominee counties but has said she would like to keep her main office in Marinette.
At the start of the meeting, with assistance from Dan J. Peterson, president and CEO of Stephenson National Bank and Trust, the board participated in an hour-long presentation and discussion on economic economic development presented at no cost to the county by POLICOM Corporation President William H. Fruth.
Major expenditure approved at the meeting was purchase of a new Public Safety software package from Spillman Technologies for a total cost of $907,488. Of this, $190,550 will be reimbursed by the City of Marinette, which will share the package and the extended service agreement. Information Services Director Kevin Solway noted maintenance for the old and outdated AS400 system costs the county $80,000 a year, while the purchase agreement for the new system includes three years of no-cost maintenance, so there is an additional $240,000 savings, in addition to economies and safety features of the newer system. In any case, the current company will not provide support for the AS400 after 2019, Solway said.
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