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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Okays TYCO Water Filter, View New Budget

Issue Date: September 20, 2018

Among other actions at a busy meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, Marinette County Board approved a 5-year access easement that will allow TYCO/Johnson Controls to construct a system that will remove contaminants from water in a surface runoff ditch before it enters the Bay of Green Bay in the area near Runnoe Park and the UW-Marinette campus.

Jim Cox, communications manager at TYCO and its predecessor companies for 38 years, explained plans with input from Chris Behrend. He described their system, for which they also need approval from the DNR, as something like a "giant Britta water filter," and described its location as down a hill from the road and partly hidden by a fence. They also will do landscaping to make sure the University, the county and park users are comfortable, and assume all liability.

Behrend said they had found PFCs in the ditches, and determined that it is surface runoff water from their firefighting test site. They want to clean up that water and return it to the ditch in very clean condition, with PFCs removed before they enter the Bay. The original treatment is proposed for five years, and they may need to ask for a 5-year renewal. The easement, with a rental of $2,000 a year, is for less than an acre of land located east of West Bayshore Street, generally known as Runnoe Park. "We're trying to do the right thing here, but quite frankly, we need your help," Cox told the board."

Supervisor Don Pazynski asked about cleanup in other ditches and Cox said they do plan to do the same thing in at least one other ditch, but it apparently does not include county owned land. Cox said status of Runnoe Park will not be affected, and none of their activity is planned in the beach area.

All County Board members present voted in favor. Supervisors Tom Mailand and Al Mans were absent and excused.

By unanimous vote the board approved County Administrator John LeFebvre's appointment of Laura Mans as Interim Finance Director, effective Sunday, Sept. 16, when retirement of Finance Director Pat Kass officially began. In reality, Mans, as deputy director of the Finance Department, has been handling the Interim Finance Director duties since June 22, Kass announced his retirement and began using up vacation days.

LeFebvre presented a summary of his proposed budget for 2019. The budget as proposed puts the tax levy at the maximum allowed under Wisconsin State Law but still allows for a slight decrease in the tax rate, thanks to a 1.55 percent "new growth" in county property values while keeping spending allocations in line. If the budget is approved as proposed, the operating levy rate for 2019 will be $4.192 per $1,000 of equalized value, down 6.5 cents from last year's rate. A debt service levy of 25 cent per $1,000, the same as last year, will be added, bringing the total rate to $4.442 per $1,000. The board also received copies of LeFebvre's annual budget message, accompanied by a brief explanation by LeFebvre.

The proposed budget was recommended for approval by a 4 to 2 vote of the Administrative Committee on Thursday, Sept. 13, with Board Chair Mark Anderson and Supervisor Rick Polzin opposed. Polzin and Anderson felt the debt service levy should be eliminated, and part of the county's unassigned fund balance used to pay the 2019 debt service. County policy calls for maintaining an unassigned fund balance of not less than 17 percent of the operating expenditures. The existing $9,172,652 is equal to 38 percent of the proposed expenditures, and is in addition to numerous other funds, including the debt reduction fund. The county currently has over $41 million in invested funds, according to the August financial reports presented at the Administrative Committee meeting. Anderson and Polzin argued that the county should take no more than it needs, and that taxpayers should be allowed to invest their own money instead of having the county attempt to do it for them.

Administrative Committee members in favor of keeping the 25 cent levy and presenting the budget as proposed were chair Vilas Schroeder and members Tricia Grebin, John Guarisco and Don Pazynski.

Schroeder argued that one major disaster could wipe out the entire Unassigned General Fund. There also has been discussion on plans to pay off the county's existing long term debt as soon as the bonds become callable, and the last $3.8 million of bonds owed for construction of the Law Enforcement Center becomes callable in late 2020, and a portion of this payment may need to come from the Unassigned General Fund balance.

County Board is expected to hold its annual budget hearing at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30 and then vote for adoption of the budget and tax levy, with or without changes, at the regular monthly board meeting that follows. LeFebvre asked supervisors to go over the detailed budget that is to be posted on-line on the county web site.

LeFebvre told the board his proposed budget includes an allocation of $5 per capita for Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI), up from the current $2 per capita. However, he said that money, allocated for economic development, will not be paid to MCABI unless and until Marinette County Board approves a new agreement with them. LeFebvre had previously informed the MCABI Board of Directors that he will not recommend approval of a new agreement with them unless there is are substantial changes in the board of directors, including a reduction in number of members and replacing most of the elected officials with representatives of various businesses.

The budget also includes funds for some work on the old Ella Court Law Enforcement Center and jail adjacent to the courthouse, including HVAC upgrade and demolition of the old jail cells on the top floor. There is added funding for Health and Human Services, which has been using up its fund balance due mainly to temporary closing of Crossroads juvenile group home and high cost placements of other HHS clients, and for the Sheriff's Department to provide for the added deputy position of recreation officer that was approved last month. Most of the cost of the Recreation officer will be paid by the state, but Sheriff Jerry Sauve stressed when that post was approved that the officer will normally be assigned to recreational duties, including ATV/UTV and snowmobile trail patrol, but will be called on whenever needed for ordinary work of the Sheriff's Department.

In other business at Tuesday's meeting the board spent a brief time discussing the special County Board meeting with a business summit and round table discussion on economic growth planning and general development of the county to be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sep. 27 at the UW Theatre campus in Marinette.

LeFebvre and Anderson asked supervisors to turn in questions they would like to ask the panelists. They have six to 10 possible panelists lined up, but are still seeking more from outlying areas of the county, including possibly Iron Mountain, Mich., where many Niagara area residents are employed.

Supervisor Rick Polzin and several others stressed that municipal officials should also be encouraged to attend. LeFebvre commented that this is a County Board meeting that is open to everyone, but said there is a Wisconsin Towns Association meeting at Wausaukee that evening, so he wondered how many town officials would or could attend both. Anderson encouraged supervisors who know of any business people willing to be involved in determining what changes or projects are best for future growth of the county to let them know, and repeated that all businesses, all municipal leaders, everyone in Marinette County, is invited to the meeting.

The board also heard annual reports from BAMC CEO Ed Harding, who described the hospital's move from the old Marinette General Hospital building on Shore Drive into its new facilities on University Drive; Communications Director Kirsten Burmeister, Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas, and Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger.

All supervisors were invited to attend the Marinette County Health Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 3.






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