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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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DeSmidt/MarOco Suit May Soon Be Settled

Issue Date: September 18, 2013

The long-standing lawsuit brought by Charles and Colleen DeSmidt against Marinette and Oconto Counties and their jointly owned MarOco landfill may be nearing settlement.

After conferring for over an hour in closed session with legal counsel on Tuesday, Sept. 16, Marinette County Board unanimously approved a settlement agreement of the case, provided Oconto County approves the same. The Oconto County Board is expected to take up the issue at their meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Marinette County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder said after the meeting that no details of the settlement can be released at this time, but he expects if the agreement is approved by Oconto County the details will be made public.

The DeSmidt lawsuit contends that odors and debris emanating from the landfill have damaged their golf course business and reduced the value of a residential development on property they own that adjoins the landfill and the golf course on Shaffer Road west of Crivitz.

Wisconsin Counties Mutual Insurance attorneys have been handling legal defense for both counties, and Attorney Andrew Smith of Phillips Borowski, S.C. was in the board room for the closed session.

The board, on advice of Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, denied a notice of claim in a suit brought by Jane Nickel of Mayville against the county. The Nickel suit seeks a total of $25,000 for injuries allegedly suffered by Nickel as a result of a loose toilet seat on a commode in the Goodman Park rental cabin on July 4. The claim states she rested her hand on the commode lid and it slid off, causing her to fall. She seeks $10,000 for pain and suffering, $10,000 for permanency, and $5,000 for medical expenses at Froedtert Clinic. She allegedly sustained a concussion, chipped bone in her right thumb, chipped bone in her right ankle, and pain in her lower back, right knee and right hip.

By a vote of 23 to four, County Board approved a $3,080 raise for County Administrator Ellen Sorensen for 2014. This is in accord with portions of the WIPFLI study that are already complete for some positions and were approved for implementation last month by County Board. Supervisors C. J. Barrette and Lawrence Nichols were absent, and supervisors Gilbert Engel, Russ Bauer, Shirley Kaufman and Ken Mattison were opposed.

I don’t feel we need that kind of raise, Engel said when Sorensen’s raise came up. If we’re in a money crunch, I don’t see this.

That’s a raise I don’t think our constituents are going to agree with, commented Bauer.

Supervisor Paul Gustafson said they had applied the same rationale and as for other positions approved for raises in the WIPFLI study.

You pay for what you get. You have to make the job attractive, urged Supervisor Don Pazynski.

The board without dissent approved appointment of Kirsten Bellisle as Director of Dispatch and 911 Communications, effective immediately. Bellisle has been employed with the county since 1993, serving most recently as interim director of dispatch and 911. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Northern Michigan University with a double major in law Enforcement and Security Administration and a minor in Business Administration. She also is a graduate of Northern Michigan Police Academy as a certified police officer.

Marinette County Association for Business and Industry will be moving from its offices in Crivitz into the conference rooms adjoining the County Board room in the courthouse.

Location of the Tourism Coordinator’s office on a one-year trial basis has not yet been determined, but Sorensen has offered an office adjacent to hers in the courthouse annex, with much equipment available and herself and her staff to help answer the telephone as needed. The Economic Development and Tourism Committee at their meeting Monday, Sept. 15 considered proposals from Sorensen and the Marinette Menominee Chamber of Commerce and then agreed to postpone their recommendation until October. The Tourism Alliance, with no cost figures available to them, agreed by a one vote margin a week earlier to have the office remain in its present quarters in the Chamber building.

Schroeder reminded everyone to attend the Marinette County Health Fair on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the UW-Marinette Field House.

At the start of the meeting Elderly Services Director Pam Mueller Johnson explained they are among 250 finalists in a national contest to win one of 100 new Toyota cars that would be used for their home delivered meals program. Winners will be determined by the number of votes they can generate on Sunday, Oct. 6, on 100carsforgood.com, and she urged everyone to vote and ask their friends and neighbors to do the same.

MCABI Director Ann Hartnell urged everyone to attend an Economic Development Seminar for Local Leaders from 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the Wausaukee School auditorium. The training session is sponsored by MCABI, Wisconsin Economic Development corploration (WEDA), and Marinette County Board’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee. Hartnell asked supervisors to talk their local town, village and city officials into attending as well.

The board was treated to a demonstration by 4-legged Marinette Sheriff’s Department Officers Rocker and Nina, along with their trainers Sergeant Mike Sievert and Deputy Adam West. The county’s third police dog died recently, and is not being replaced, at least for the time being. The dogs cost $7,500 to $10,000 each and are purchased with the help of donations rather than the tax levy. Karl Schmidt Unisia recently donated $2,500 to the program in thanks for the drug detection work the dogs do there.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve had high praise for the work the dogs and their officers do, whether on drug detection, searches for lost persons, or bite work connected with apprehension of fleeing criminals. He said one of the dogs tracked the perpetrator of an armed robbery over the weekend at the Country Convenience Store west of Crivitz.

A report on the value of tourism to the state and Marinette County economies was presented by Tourism Alliance Chair John Guarisco, Vice Chair Amy Shaffer and Interim Director Becky DeWitt. The data showed that tourism growth in Marinette County for 2012 exceeded that of the state as a whole, and tourism is the third largest employment field in the county.

Dean Paula Langteau presented the UW-Marinette quarterly report, including new personnel for the fall term.

On recommendation of the Executive Committee, the board eliminated the old Budget Repair Bill Transition Committee and assigned the duties to the regular committees of jurisdiction, and okayed some Personnel Policies and Procedures changes as they apply to health reimbursement arrangements.

As recommended by the Finance Committee the board approved some health insurance changes including assisting retired employees that pay 100 percent of their own health insurance costs to find other policies by the end of the year since only COBRA will be offered after Dec. 31; assisting eligible retired insurance premium contribution payers to convert to medi-gap insurance policies at county expense, and taking steps to ensure that only eligible active and/or retired county employees are enrolled in the county plan as of Dec. 31.

To questions from Supervisor Robert Holley, Sorensen said this change will save the county about a quarter of a million dollars a year. Mattison added it definitely is an advantage to some of the retired employees to buy a different insurance rather than staying with the county policy.

The board approved some changes in the user fee schedule for 2014. They included:

*Increasing the annual permit for camping in the county forest from $10 to $12 per party, and raising the cost for group campsites in Goodman Park from $50 to $60 per night for groups up to 50 persons, removing the campsite reservation cancellation fee.

* Increase in TB skin testing from $10 to $15, hepatitis B vaccine from $35 to $40 per dose, Zoster Vaccine from $40 to $200, Flu Vaccine rom $20 to $25 except that high dose for persons over 65 will be actual cost of $40 each, and will now be offering long term radon kits at $20 each;

*Increase of the small tool charge by the Highway Department from 1.3 per cent of labor to 1.5 percent;

*Change in the transportation permit fee from $75 to $50 per load, but separate permits for over weight and over size;

*Raising the non-resident library card fee from $20 to $25;

*Increase the Master Gardener fee from $160 to $165 per couple, with the individual rate to remain at $100 per person.

In other action:

*MarOco Landfill’s Administrative and Operational budgets for 2014 were approved as prepared by Landfill Administrator John LeFebvre, head of the Marinette County Land Information Department;

*Mattison noted she and the County Board had been contacted by a Connie Wolf from Chilton, who wanted to know why Marinette County was considering purchase of an estate property. She had reviewed the property in question, that the Forestry Committee had considered buying for an addition to the County Forest, and found that it is indeed part of an estate that is still in probate. She said the County Forester had not been given accurate information and after learning details the county will no longer pursue the purchase.

*Supervisors were invited to attend the annual county budget hearings on Wednesday, Oct. 2;

*An agreement with Johnson Controls for HVAC services was extended for one year at a cost of $39,738, with the addition of all highway department buildings at an additional cost of $15,782, subject to Corporation Counsel review;

*Approved purchase of three Ford Fusions from Witt Auto Sales of Crivitz for the motor pool at a cost of $52,428.66, and designated a used motor pool vehicle for use by UWEX personnel;

*As recommended by the Agriculture and Extension Committee, the board approved contract services for UWEX agent/educator positions for July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, at a total of $120,870;

*Approving transfer of $25,000 from the Heavy Equipment Fund to Forestry Outlay for purchase of a truck for the new forester;

*Approving purchase of a truck and grader blades from DA MacPherson, Inc. at a cost of $74,852.27 for the 2013/2014 seasons; and

*Approving the 2014 Marinette County Forest Annual Plan as prepared by Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas and approved by the Parks, Forestry and Land Committee.


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