County Board Plans To Add $6,269,090 To Debt In 2015
Arguments for and against including the proposed purchase of a $252,000 BearCat armored vehicle for the Sheriffs Department in 2015 flew hot and heavy at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, July 29, but a motion to cut it from the budget failed, with 15 opposed to the proposed cut, 10 in favor and three absent.
That vote came despite opposition from County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder, Vice Chair Kathy Just, Law Enforcement Committee Chair Ken Keller, and a number of other supervisors who also said their constituents were strongly against the purchase.
Keller said he had more calls on that issue than any other since he has been on County Board, one from a relative who hasnt spoken with him in five years.
The capital improvement plan and the borrowing it requires were discussed at the June County Board meeting and then went back to committees with a request to cut wherever possible, then sent it back to Finance for a recommendation. There were very few cuts made, and Finance discussed the issues at length and finally returned it to County Board without a recommendation. Their main objections were to the BearCat purchase, although other items were scrutinized as well.
At Tuesdays meeting of the full board, Sheriff Jerry Sauve and Lt. Jason Ducane, head of the Sheriffs Department Special Forces team that would use the BearCat, argued strongly in favor of the vehicle, and presented examples of ways in which it might save lives, including perhaps evacuating an entire classroom of threatened students, serving warrants on buildings occupied by drug dealers, and apprehending a subject known to be armed and dangerous, as in the capture last weekend of a rifle-wielding shooting suspect in the forests of Goodman.
Motion to remove the BearCat from the 2015 Capital Improvement Plan was made by Just and seconded by Keller. Other supervisors voting in favor were Joe Banaszak, Russ Bauer, Ken Casper, Melissa Christiansen, Fred Meintz, Don Pazynski, Clancy Whiting and Schroeder. Voting against the motion, and therefore in favor of keeping it in the plan, were supervisors Alice Baumgarten, Mike Behnke, Russ Bousley, Mike Cassidy, Gilbert Engel, Paul Gustafson, Shirley Kaufman, Nick Lakari, Al Mans, Larry Nichols, Joe Policello, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve, Cheryl Wruk and David Zahn. Don Phillips and Bob Holley abstained and Tom Mailand, Ken Mattison and C. J. Barrette were absent.
However, the BearCat was just one comparatively minor item in a long list of capital improvements and purchases totaling nearly $8 million for 2015. Final votes of the day were 15 to 12 in favor of the overall Capital Improvement Plan and 17 to 10 in favor of the funding plan to pay for it.
The funding plan calls for borrowing $6,269,090 in 2015, in addition to using $635,000 from the highway restricted account , $75,000 from Forestry and Parks reserve funds, $100,000 in grants and aids, and $925,000 from operating revenue. The original plan had called for buying eight squad cars for the Sheriffs Department with $325,000 of sales tax revenue, but at the request of Finance Director Pat Kass the board agreed to add that to the proposed borrowing instead and use none of the Sales Tax money for the approved capital purchase items.
With the 2015 bond issue added to the $9 million borrowed earlier this year for 2014 capital projects, the countys debt will climb to $27,519,090 by the end of 2015.
Largest chunk of the 2015 borrowed money will go for highway projects. An attempt to cut nearly $2 million in overlay projects from the proposed $5 million to be borrowed for highway spending was defeated by margin of 22 to 5. Voting in favor of that motion were Baumgarten, Just, Keller, Al Mans and Pazynski.
However, there still could be some reduction. Highway Commissioner Ray Palonen told the board he expects this years debt-funded projects to come in at least half a million below budget, and perhaps near your goal (of $1 million) if all the stars line up. Kass explained any amount under budget this year in capital improvement spending from last years bond issue will be applied toward next years projects and reduce the amount of borrowing required for 2015.
During time for public comment at the start of the meeting, Town of Amberg Supervisor Ron Holmes had urged the board to eliminate the BearCat if necessary but include the two new deputies and the new squad cars requested by the Sheriff. He said as a town supervisor, he understands the difficulty of budgets, even though our accounts have fewer zeros.
While he recognizes the value of both the BearCat and the deputies and cars to go with them, I believe our deputies are spread too thin now. He said he also believes in the one man, one squad car concept, for several reasons, among them the cars are good for only so many miles in any case, and when a deputy needs to be called in, he has the car with him, ready to go. However, given a choice, he believes the deputies are needed every day, not just once in a while.
The board continued with regular business of the meeting, then took a short break before tackling the Capital Improvement Plan issues as their last items of the day.
Motion to approve the Capital Improvement Plan was made by Christiansen, seconded by Phillips, to get it on the floor. Schroeder explained he wanted each department head to go through the plan and defend their needs. He said right now, Im concerned with 2015. The rest (of the years) are chalk marks out there.
I feel the Finance Committee shirked their responsibility! declared Supervisor Larry Nichols. We sent it back to you, and you just sent it back to us!
We looked at it, Schroeder assured him. We painfully looked at it. We decided this was something that should be decided by all 30 people.
We did look into it at length, Just agreed. We really felt this was important enough to be a full County Board issue!
Supervisor Clancy Whiting said he had attended the Finance Committee meeting, and assured fellow board members there had been much consideration. He felt they should put the full $60,000 back into the budget for the jury room and courtroom furniture, Whatever we do should be done right the first time. Late in the meeting he proposed returning the $40,000 to that allocation, but received support from only two other supervisors on a voice vote and the motion failed after the board was told the jury room furnishings were taken off the list.
First to defend departmental budgetary needs was Behnke, chair of the Buildings and Properties Committee. The Facilities and Maintenance portion of the plan started with with total projects at $1,045,000 for 2015, and ended with another $130,000 added to move construction of a new Fairgrounds Cattle Barn from 2016 to 2015. Behnke said the $75,000 allocated for the Niagara Senior Center will pay for repairs that have been put off for six or seven years, Its getting to the point where we have to do something or well end up tearing it down. Work includes replacing the front walk, doors, windows, insulation, the vestibule floor and ceiling tile.
As to the $100,000 for the new roof on the UW-Marinette Campus, $700,000 for heat exchangers there, and $150,000 to refurbish the campus administration building elevator, Behnke said the roof is getting bad, and has been there since the building was constructed. The heat exchangers are also as old as the building, and repairs for them are getting costly. The time to replace them is when the roof is done, since they go on the roof. The elevator, he said, has no phone aboard, has leaky hydraulics, and I dont know that it meets building codes.
Last item on the original Facilities and Maintenance budget had been $20,000 to replace courtroom furniture that he said has grown old and shabby. That request started at $60,000 and was reduced to $20,000.
However, Behnke then proposed moving the new cattle barn for the Fairgrounds in Wausaukee from the 2016 budget to the schedule to 2015, because a generous contractor has offered to donate labor costs worth $20,000, provided the work is done in 2015. He said the Fair Board does much of its own work, but weve got to take care of our buildings, or somebodys going to get hurt sooner or later.
No one on the board objected to any of the projects he had explained.
Next up was Highway Commissioner Robert Palonen, who explained proposed road projects totaling $4,909,767 for 2015, without including federal bridge aid of $240 for replacement of the County BB Little River Bridge; $452,923 of CHIP funding to help pay for reconditioning of County B from Belgium Road to County W, and $106,470 of HRRRH funding for County U from US 8 to the north county line.
The plan calls for equipment purchases of $635,000 and $75,000 to replace drain tile in the floor at the Crivitz shop, with money for those portions of the plan to come from operating revenues. There are no road improvement projects slated to be paid for from operating revenues.
Roads on the to do list for next year are reconditioning County BB (Shore Drive) from the curve 2.7 miles southeast of B to Pond Road, $820,000; County BB Little River Bridge replacement, county share $60,000; recondition County B from Belgium Road to County W, $1,022,077; and overlay on County Q from Pound east to Hwy. 64, $594,000, and west from Hwy. 141 to Hwy. 64, $725,000; County X from Wasco Road to Old Rail Road, $976,000, and finally, County U from Hwy. 8 to the north county line, county share of $2,650.
Palonen said the section of BB slated for reconstruction in 2015 has a rating of 3 on a road rating scale of 1 to 10, and is nearly deteriorated to gravel. It has a traffic count of only 220 vehicles a day, but because of its condition has become very difficult ford highway crews to maintain. Redoing this section of the road would complete the BB reconstruction that started this year and reshape a curve that has a history of flooding.
The section of B to Belgium Road is a continuation of a project begun last year, but not done this year because it is being used as a detour for Hwy. 64. It has a pavement rating of 4 but carries 1,300 vehicles a day. It has become rutted, which makes it difficult to plow to dry pavement in winter, meaning it is hard on equipment and requires more salt than it would otherwise.
Palonen said the price tag for work in the five year plan relates to lack of maintenance of roads in the past. Safety is a major concern, he said. When we cant remove snow and ice from ruts, cars skid and accidents happen. He agreed an overlay would cost less, and perhaps last 10 to 15 years, but said the full repair will last 25 years.
As to County Q overlay projects, he agreed the road is low traffic, with only about 250 cars a day, but said the pavement of the road east to 64 has a pavement rating of 4, but west to 64 is in terrible condition. He said there are drainage issues, and they really struggle to maintain the road, with areas where culverts are either plugged or nonexistent and there are problems with water on the road.
The section of County X from Wasco to Old Rail Road carries 340 cars a day, and has a 4 pavement rating. East and west ends of X have already been redone, and doing this portion now will equalize wear on the entire route.
Whiting asked who rated the roads, and Palonen said he and his three supervisors are all qualified to do that.
Sauld asked how simple it would to put off the east portion of B, just to whittle away at bonding, and Palonen agreed they could do that, but if we put it off well again be faced with all these expenses at one time, and thats what put us into the condition were in today.
It would be psychologically real good if we could cut back at least a little, declared Pazynski. He noted the borrowing last year was $9.4 million, and now this will add $5.8 million to the debt next year. As it turned out, he was wrong. The motion in the end added $6,269,090 to the debt for 2015.
Pazynski suggested taking off the three overlay projects for 2015, to give our taxpayers a breather. Palonen agreed the roads slated for overlay road could last at least another year.
Supervisor Sauve noticed there was no work listed for County G to Loomis, which he said is in very rough condition and serves as a major pipeline for commuters to get to Marinette.
Palonen said it was approved by the state for design and construction, but then was taken off the state list, and now it will be another 3-year process to get funding. He agreed it is in terrible shape, and said they will need to do patching in between.
Palonen said he anticipates savings from work being done this year, and suggested the board give him a dollar amount to work with and he and the Highway Committee could decide how to allocate it.
Schroeder agreed the board never really set any guidelines last year when they told department heads to work out their 5-year capital plans.
Just suggested taking $1 million from the amount allocated for road work borrowing, and let Palonen decide where to use it.
Pazynski commented just changing the County BB plans for 2014 saved the county $1.4 million, and felt that should be available. Were not here to say no, he commented, But were here to say yes responsibly.
Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, one of the 3-member team heading county government until a new county administrator is hired, suggested she could move to remove $1 million from the Highway Departments portion of the plan.
Kass, another member of the administrator team, said savings carried over from this year will further reduce the borrowing.
Engel felt they should wait to see what the savings are, and apply that to 2015. Im real uncomfortable with continuing to delay and let the roads deteriorate.
Kass, Mattison and Palonen conferred briefly on what could be done. Kass said Palonen told him he might save $800,000 on work this year, but that couldnt go to other projects, it would go to reduce next years bond issue.
Later Pazynski, with a second from Mans, moved to delete the three overlay projects from the 2015 schedule, which drew objections from Casper, whose district includes Clancy. That motion failed, 22 to 5, with only supervisors Baumgarten, Just, Keller, Mans and Pazynski in favor.
There was no debate on Capital Improvement projects not slated to be financed by borrowing. One of those was a $100,000 orthophotography project for the Land Information Department which is being financed by a bond issue.
When the Sheriffs Department allocations came up in the department head presentations, Keller said the Law Enforcement Committee had discussed the vehicle, and cut the price by $34,000 by eliminating some features.
Pazynski quoted the late Sen. Dirksen, A few million here, a few million there can add up to real money.
Sheriff Sauve stressed the life saving possibilities of the vehicle. Your perspective is a little different when youre on the floor fighting the bull than when youre in the stands watching, he declared.
Mans asked if the county had received a bill for the times the BearCat vehicle was called in from Brown County, and Sauve said it fell under Wisconsins Mutual Aid and there was no bill.
Just declared there are 118 people waiting for help from Health and Human Services that cannot be served due to lack of funds, and said with interest that $252,000 vehicle will cost taxpayers $316,000 without delivery, training and maintenance costs. I know its an important wish, but we need to look at what we have to have, she declared.
Lakari said he too had many constituents opposed to the purchase, and asked if there had been exploration of a multi-county approach to the purchase.
I see bunch of headaches, Sauve said. He mentioned issues with where to keep it, who would maintain it, and what if it were needed in two places at one time.
Zahn asked if there were other armored vehicles out there, and if comparative prices had been obtained.
Ducane said Oshkosh manufactures a slightly smaller similar vehicle, but the cost is $250,000 fully equipped, so the price is very similar.
Events of last week with the shooter in Goodman fueled support for the BearCat. In that incident, an individual started shooting at people for no particular reason, Sauve said. Frankly, we needed protection. He described knowing the shooter was in the forest with a high powered scooped rifle, and having officers surround the perimeter while waiting for the armored vehicles from other counties to arrive.
One of the Mrap vehicles donated by the military to local law enforcement agencies was the first at the scene to help apprehend the shooter, who eventually shot himself. Sauve said he didnt know Forest County had acquired that vehicle until it arrived, in advance of BearCat vehicles from Brown and other counties.
He described it as really not road ready, and said the huge machine came lumbering through the forest at not more than 30 miles per hour. On highways it requires a police escort. It arrived in advance of the other armored vehicles because Forest County people were out training with it when the call came.
Ducane felt the BearCat will not add to training expenses, just change how training is done. As to maintenance, he said it has a simple Ford F550 engine, so that would be no problem, while maintenance of the Goliath Mrap would be a serious issue.
The Lenco (BearCat) vehicle is tailor made for our purposes, Sheriff Sauve said. I believe we could evacuate an entire classroom safely. He said every police chief in the county supports his efforts to obtain the vehicle.
Supervisor Ted Sauve, father of Sheriff Sauve, defended need for the BearCat. Think of it as an insurance policy for protection of citizens and department personnel, he urged.
One life saved would be worth more than what we paid for it, Whiting agreed. However, he referred to the country as being rudderless in the absence of an administrator, and felt they should wait to be sure all opportunities for grants and other funding sources have been researched.
Bauer said based on what his constituents have been telling him, I have to vote no.
I live in Goodman, Cassidy said., referring to the shooting incident. They needed it! Its a jungle out there!
Sauld commented the vehicle costs about the same as a tri-axle truck. He lives near the area of the Niagara train bridge shootings a few years ago, and also knows first hand the value of such a vehicle.
Whats somebodys life worth? asked Mans. He mentioned the overtime costs of keeping numbers of officers on duty to contain the subject in a forest while waiting for the armored vehicle to arrive, or being involved in a standoff when they otherwise could enter a building.
Behnke said he often goes on ride alongs with officers, and sees many times such a vehicle would be used.
He also spoke of attending the ceremonies each year to honor law enforcement people, and declared, I dread the day we have to go there for one of our officers because they didnt have the proper protection... We need this to protect the citizens and our law encforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day!
Keller said in discussions at the Law Enforcement Committee he had asked how many other counties have purchased a vehicle like this for themselves, and he since has learned there are none. He said he had heard not a single comment in favor of the purchase.
However, he suggested if they could save by not adding the two officers, they might find the vehicle more acceptable. He said if the decision was to purchase the vehicle, to him it made more sense to purchase it from the firm at Oshkosh rather than on the East Coast, which would save the $3,000 delivery cost, be for a slightly lower price, and make service more readily available.
He asked Sauve how many officers the department has now, and was told there are 61 people in the department, including jail corrections officers and other staff.
Kass urged the board, if they planned to add the two officers and provide them with cars, to finance the $325,000 for the vehicles from the bond issue borrowing rather than the sales tax as originally planned. The sales tax money, he said, will be needed to pay for the officers and other equipment they will need. A motion made later by Behnke and seconded by Gustafson to follow through with that request and free up the sales tax money passed on a voice vote.
In Finance Committee deliberations the possibility of going to the voters on a referendum to exceed the state levy limit instead of running up the county debt was briefly suggested by Christiansen and then discarded, when other committee members wondered what they would do if they did that and the referendum was defeated.
Holley said he had attended town meetings in Beaver and Pound, and everyone was opposed. I will not support it. He quoted Thomas Jeffersons sentiments that lawmakers should be as prudent with our money as if it was incumbent on us to pay.
Lakari said he had come to the meeting prepared to vote no on the BearCat, but had changed his mind after the discussions. Our constituents need to understand that if we cut costs their services will be cut....I for one dont feel Im in a position to pick and choose which to approve.
My heart goes out to the 118 people waiting for services, Sauve said, but the need for this is just going to increase.
There are tough decisions here, Schroeder said. We struggled with this for 45 minutes in Finance...The bottom line is, whats it going to cost, and wheres the money going to come from? There is no easy solution!
Before the final votes, motion was made by Whiting, seconded by Bauer, to return the courtroom furnishings allocation to the original $60,000, but that failed with only four votes in favor after Kass explained that Judge Jim Morrison and Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke felt the $20,000 was adequate. Voting in favor were Bauer, Kaufman, Lakari and Whiting.
The overall Capital Improvement Plan for 2015 was approved, 15 to 12, with three excused. Voting in favor were Banaszak, Behnke, Casper, Cassidy, Christiansen, Engel, Gustafson, Kaufman, Lakari, Mans, Nichols, Phillips, Policello, Sauld, and Wruk. Opposed were Bauer, Baumgarten, Bousley, Holley, Just, Keller, Meintz, Pazynski, Sauve,Schroeder, Whiting and Zahn. Mailand, Barrette and Mattison were absent.
Motion then was made by Lakari, seconded by Policello, to approve the funding for the Capital Improvement plan. Kass explained that included $6,269,090 in bond debt, $635,000 from Highway Restricted Cash, $75,000 from Forestry and Parks funds, $100,000 from Grants and Aids, and $925,000 from operating revenues, for a total of $8,004,090.
Before the vote, Holley asked when the debt would be paid off, and Kass said he will work with Bonding Consultant Jeff Belonga on that. Belonga last estimate was that the debt would be paid off by 2033, but that might change now because the $9 million addition to the jail planned for 2019 is apparently being removed from the list.
None of us in this room will be alive when that is paid off, Holley declared.
Mans asked if the countys bond rating would be affected, and Kass said it will not. He said the county is well under its debt capacity, and could borrow up to $150 million. However, bonding agencies also look at leadership, general economy, area economy and other factors to determine the debt rating.
That motion passed, 17 to 10. There was no sales tax applied.
Voting in favor were Banaszak, Behnke, Bousley, Casper, Cassidy, Christiansen, Engel, Gustafson, Kaufman, Lakari, Mans, Nichols, Phillips, Policello, Sauld, Schroeder, and Wruk. Opposed were Bauer, Baumgarten, Holley, Just, Keller, Meintz, Pazynski, Sauve, Whiting and Zahn.
The meeting adjourned at 12:16 p.m. Discussing on the Capital Improvements and the borrowing to pay for it had lasted for more than two hours.
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