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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Approves $180,000 Armed Rescue Vehicle Purchase

Issue Date: January 17, 2020

Thanks to action at a long, hard Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, Sheriff Jerry Sauve and his officers on the Sheriff's Department as well as the City of Marinette Police Department will be getting the armored vehicle they have wanted for over a decade, the City of Niagara and Village of Wausaukee will each be getting approximately $480,000 of Community Development Bloc Grant-CLOSE funds to help finance major community improvements; contract for remodeling the old jail building on Ella Court Street behind the courthouse will include the first "green roof" in downtown Marinette, and there will be an added case manager for the highly successful TAD Drug Court so it can help keep more people off drugs and out of jail.

Also, after much discussion and several split votes, County Board directed the Development Committee and County Administrator John LeFebvre to prepare job descriptions and potential budgets for two potential new county employees, one to be a Tourism Director and the other a Community/Economic Development Director. These apparently would be in addition to the position LeFebvre recommends to work on promoting and developing county-owned tourism assets - specifically the parks, campgrounds, boat landings and recreational trail systems - as a Parks Department employee. Work is already underway on that position, which has been approved by the Infrastructure Committee. The Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over Parks, Facilities Maintenance, Highway, and Forestry departments. Committee Chair Al Mans referred to the position as "a no brainer," and other committee members agreed.

Proposals to purchase the refurbished Lenco Armored Rescue Vehicle from a Massachusetts firm in partnership with the City of Marinette had been approved by the Public Services Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 7, with the county and city to each pay $90,000 toward the $180,000 purchase price of the vehicle. They had referred it to the Administrative Committee to authorize funding for the County's $90,000 share, but instead that committee on Thursday, Jan. 9 approved a motion to authorizing the county to spend $180,000 from the Contingency Fund and be sole owner of the vehicle, but with a memorandum of understanding through which the city police and county Sheriff's Department would have joint operating authorization and responsibilities. Marinette City Council had not yet approved the purchase, and Supervisor Rick Polzin, who serves on both County Board and Marinette City Council, had suggested postponing the decision for a month.

Instead of that County Board Chair Mark Anderson argued in favor of having the county provide the entire purchase price and be sole owner. He declared the City of Marinette is part of Marinette County and its residents should not have to pay double for a vehicle that will help keep everyone safe. He commented that it will respond to emergencies in the City of Niagara, Village of Crivitz and elsewhere in the county and they are not being asked to pay extra for it.

At the Administrative Committee meeting, and at the full County Board meeting numerous representatives of City Police and Sheriff's Department, including Lt. Jason Ducane, Sheriff Jerry Sauve and Police Chief John Mabry were on hand to urge approval of the purchase. They stressed that it is imperative for police and Sherif's department officers to work and train together as an emergency response team on use of the vehicle. The vehicle is to be kept in the city, at the Sheriff's Department at the county Law Enforcement Center. Whenever it goes out and wherever it goes, it will be manned by a driver and spotter who are trained members of the emergency response team.

Sauve cautioned at the time that he will not be sheriff forever, and whoever succeeds him may or may not be willing to have city officers share use of a county-owned vehicle. He said that issue will be resolved if the city and county both approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that guarantees joint use for the entire life of the vehicle. That agreement was also approved unanimously by the full County Board on Tuesday, and now goes to Marinette City Council for their approval.

At a special 8:15 a.m. meeting prior to the 9 a.m. County Board session the Public Services Committee voted in favor of the proposal for the county to provide funds for the entire purchase and recommended that County Board approve the MOU.

At the County Board meeting Ducane explained four years ago they had talked about buying a Bear Cat armored vehicle, which would have cost about $225,000 and today would cost about $300,000. County Board had rejected that proposal. It had been identified at the time as an assault vehicle.

The Lenco vehicle is lighter and can be driven at highway speeds on regular roads. Sauve said it will do everything they need it to do for response to emergencies such as apprehension of armed suspects and rescues of hostages. With the amount of use expected here it should last 25 to 30 years, Sauve said. It is built on a Ford F-550 frame, can be serviced locally, and comes with a two year warranty.

Ducane said it is a 2004 unit that has been fully refurbished. It formerly was used 24/7 to patrol a Navy shipyard, and the drive train got worn out. Ducane said the armor has capability of resisting up to a 50-caliber rifle.

Sauve said with the vehicle law enforcement people will be safer and the people in danger will be safer. Sauve said his department has called on Brown County to assist with its Bear Cat in Marinette County, but it takes nearly an hour of added time for them to get here and the vehicle may not always be available when needed here.

He said they will respond to mutual aid requests from Menominee County, and others, including northern Oconto and Forest and Langlade counties. "If they have a mutual aid request and we're able to go, we're certainly going to go and help them," Sauve said. That's how mutual aid works in this state. That's a wonderful thing in law enforcement."

Anderson said the idea of buying the armored response vehicle had resurfaced during the drive home from the County Board Convention and Supervisor Glenn Broderick had gotten things moving toward the purchase this time around. Delivery is is expected to be nine months from the time the vehicle is ordered. Funds will come from the county's $250,000 Contingency Fund, and LeFebvre said he will find money elsewhere in the budget and in money left over from 2019 budget accounts to replenish it.

County Board votes in favor of the purchase, funding and MOU were unanimous.

Also unanimous were votes approving use of the CLOSE funds for the Niagara and Wausaukee projects. LeFebvre explained the money is available to the county for distribution to municipalities with a poverty rate above 50 percent, and Niagara and Wausaukee both qualify. The money came to Marinette County originally through a state Community Development Bloc Grant revolving loan fund program which is being phased out by the state. The county had to return remaining funds to the state, which in turn has agreed to reallocate them as grants to help finance for eligible projects in the county.

Wausaukee will seek another grant to help pay for converting the former Stephenson National Bank and Trust building into a community center, library and home for village offices. The Niagara project is related to reconstruction of Hwy. 141 through the city and involves adding sidewalks and lighting improvements for the entire length of the corridor through the city. Wausaukee Village President Hilbert Radtke and Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Pullen were both present for the County Board meeting in support of their project.

Approval was contingent on state approval. The money must be spent by the end of 2022 or the county will lose it.

Approval of the $4,274,000 contract with SMA Construction for renovating the Ella Court Building generated a great deal of discussion and several votes. Vote was 27 in favor approving the contract and Supervisors Ginger Deschane and Shirley Kaufman opposed. All board members were present.

A subsequent motion to remove the green roof from the contract failed, with Penny Chaikowski, Deschane, John Guarisco, Kaufman and Gail Wanek in favor, and the other 24 supervisors opposed.

LeFebvre had explained the overall renovation plans in detail, and said the green roof will increase the life span of the roof from 20 years to perhaps 30 or 35 years, help alleviate flooding problems from storm sewer overflows during heavy rainfalls, and help the environment by cooling rain water before it gets into the storm sewer system and eventually the Menominee River.

In other action, County Board approved appointment of Joan Rocque to represent the Goodman/Dunbar area on the Elderly Services Board; approved renewal of CDW Cisco hardware and software support a a cost not to exceed $51,711 for the year; approved a 1-year agreement with Cellcom not to exceed $30,000, approved continuing NACO membership ; and authorized the Public Health Officer to apply for and administer a Birth to 3 Program grant of $250,000 for an Innovation in social-Emotional Development Grant, and the 2020 Child Support Agreement with the state Department of Children and Families in the amount of $326,507, subject to Corporation Counsel Approval.

The County Board meeting lasted until 12:30 p.m., which caused rescheduling of a closed session of the Executive Committee for job evaluation of Administrator John LeFebvre until 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 21. That meeting had been scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. after conclusion of the County Board meeting.


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