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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Removes Squad Cars, BearCat From Borrowing List

Marinette County Board appears to have made an about face on its intentions to go forward with the 5-year capital improvement plan and the $37,335,000 they had planned to borrow to finance it. At its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 26 the board reversed its approval of plans to buy a $225,000 BearCat armored vehicle for the Sheriff’s Department and approved a motion removing two additional squad cars from the proposed 2015 list of planned purchases.

After those decisions were narrowly approved, County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder announced he was sending a proposed initial resolution authorizing the $37,335,000 in borrowing over the next five years back to the Finance Committee.

The board did approve a Scope of Engagement Letter with financial consultants to handle the 2015 bond issue, but only after being assured it would be for $5,941,140, not the $6,270,000 that was initially proposed.

At the July County Board meeting supervisors had approved the Capital Improvement Plan with the two additional squad cars, even after Finance Administrator Pat Kass told them the cars were for the two new deputies that had been requested by Sheriff Jerry Sauve. Kass also said that he and the other two members of the triumvirate administrative team heading Marinette County government since the abrupt resignation of Ellen Sorensen in May were not recommending the two new positions. The other co-administrators are Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison and Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger.

At subsequent meetings Kass told the Personnel and Finance committees that he interpreted County Board’s approval of the added cars and equipment to mean they also intended to approve the new positions. However, they did not. Only the Law Enforcement Committee supported Sheriff Sauve’s request. Backing of all three committees was needed to bring the requested positions to the board floor for consideration.

Listed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting for discussion and possible action was: “Motion will be brought by Supervisor (Ken) Casper to rescind or reconsider July 29, 2014 action taken by the County Board of Supervisors approving 2015-2019 Capital Improvement Plan.”

“I - and a number of other supervisors - didn’t really understand the implication that adding the two extra police cars also meant we were approving two additional deputies,” Casper said when his turn came up at the meeting. He attempted a motion to remove the two cars from the capital improvement list, but Mattison advised him first the board would need to approve a motion to consider the action taken on July 14.

Casper made that motion, and Supervisor Shirley Kaufman promptly seconded it. Vote was 19 to 10 in favor. That action brought the entire capital improvement list up for possible action.

Voting to reconsider were supervisors C. J. Barrette, Russ Bauer, Alice Baumgarten, Russ Bousley, Casper, Mike Cassidy, Melissa Christiansen, Bob Holley, Kathy Just, Kaufman, Ken Keller, Nick Lakari, Al Mans, Ken Mattison, Fred Meintz, Don Pazynski, Don Phillips, Clancy Whiting and Board Chair Vilas Schroeder.

Supervisors Joe Banaszak, Mike Behnke, Gilbert Engel, Paul Gustafson, Larry Nichols, Joe Policello, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve, Cheryl Wruk and Dave Zahn were opposed. Supervisor Tom Mailand was absent.

Casper then moved to remove the two squad cars and equipment from the Capital Improvement list, along with the $75,950 that would have been borrowed to pay for them. That motion was promptly seconded by Lakari.

Bauer suggested they amend the motion to do only a yearly capital improvement plan, not a 5-year plan. “I don’t think we should lock into a 5-year plan without an administrator,” he declared, adding they should leave that flexibility up to whoever will be hired.

“I’d like to move to remove the BearCat,” Just declared.

Mattison said she could either add that removal to Casper’s motion, or offer it later, as a separate motion. She chose the second option.

Removing the two squad cars and the $75,700 to go with them was approved by a very tight 15 to 14 vote.

The 15 in favor were supervisors Banaszak, Barrette, Bauer, Baumgarten, Casper, Christiansen, Holley, Just, Keller, Lakari, Mans, Mattison, Meintz, Pazynski, and Whiting.

Supervisors Behnke, Bousley, Cassidy, Engel, Gustafson, Kaufman, Nichols, Phillips, Policello, Sauld, Sauve, Schroeder, Wruk and Zahn were opposed.

Just then moved to remove the $225,000 BearCat from the list, and received a prompt second from Kaufman. “I’ve had more calls from constituents on this than on any subject in all my years on County Board,” Just declared. She noted she has been against this expenditure from the beginning.

Holley wondered if she too would need a first motion to reconsider, but Mattison explained once they agreed to reconsider, “the capital improvement plan is now up for all kinds of modifications.”

Seated in the back of the room facing disappointment was Sheriff Sauve, who has for two years been seeking the two additional deputies, and for several months has been presenting his arguments in quest of the Bear Cat to the committees involved, as well as at the County Board meeting last month, when it was approved.

Behnke, a member of the Law Enforcement Committee, spoke eloquently in favor of the BearCat. “I’m concerned how we’re reconsidering everything we take action on,” he declared. “The handful of people who call aren’t representative of everyone...The rest of them aren’t opposed,” he argued.

“Our officers...What are their lives worth,” Behnke asked. “I don’t know how you guys can even consider not giving them the protection they need on their jobs....I don’t know how you can live with yourselves if you do!”

Supervisor Sauve, father of Sheriff Sauve, agreed. He called the vehicle “cheap insurance,” and cautioned, “We’ve got a lot of crazies out there...” He mentioned recent shooting incidents, including the railroad shooter in Niagara a few years ago, and very recently a shooter in Goodman who shot at several people and shot the windshield out of a passing car before armored vehicles from Florence and Brown Counties were called out to help hunt him down. He shot and killed himself before he could be apprehended, but the officers were protected in an armed vehicle when they went into the woods to flush him out. He also mentioned dangerous drug arrests, family violence, other shooting threats. “I firmly believe we need this thing,” he declared. “Give the Sheriff’s Department the protection they need.”

“There are people out there in desperate need of services who can’t get them,” Just, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, told the board. She said there are currently 118 people on the waiting list, “People are being taxed out of their homes...We must pick the things we have to have, not the things we want.”

“I tend to agree,” said Keller, despite the fact that he chairs the Law Enforcement Committee. He mentioned articles in newspapers about other counties getting free surplus military vehicles, and wondered if that had been thoroughly investigated. He said Marinette County is looking at a new vehicle, while Brown County got a second hand one from the military. “How many counties with our population have one of these?” Keller asked.

Mans acknowledged a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money, “but when you consider it has a 30-year life expectancy, when you spread that cost over 30 years, it’s not an extreme amount,” he said.

“How many other departments in this county are not asked to hold the line in regard to their budgets?” asked Meintz.

Kass said he is half way through his meetings with department heads, “and there have been no requests so far for this amount of money.”

“We need the big picture,” said Phillips. “We need to know where we are going to land budget wise. I’m in favor of waiting to see what other departments come up with.”

Engel commented there have been criticisms about “militarizing” sheriff’s departments, but argued, “this isn’t militarizing, this is to benefit the Sheriff’s Department to recruit and protect the officers.”

“I voted against this before and the Sheriff chastised me,” said Bauer, adding he would go about it another way. He asked what the maintenance costs alone would be over 30 years, and said it isn’t the kind of vehicle that can go in for service just anywhere.

“It’s a big initial cost that taxpayers don’t need,” he added. Referring to the fact that items purchased by borrowing are exempt from the state-imposed levy limits that prevent the county from raising the levy beyond a specific amount for operating costs, but the repayments can then go as additions to the tax bill. Bauer said the tax levy could go up 29 cents per $1,000 of equalized value to repay the money the county is planning to borrow. “We could be jacking people’s taxes up $600 to $1,000 a year...and I don’t want to be responsible for that!”

“We’re not spending money we have, we’re borrowing to spend money we don’t have,” declared Pazynski.

During time for public comment at the start of the meeting District Attorney Allen Brey had made a strong plea for County Board to return a position to his office that they had taken away “temporarily” a decade ago. He cited a huge backlog of cases, and urged the board to change a policy he believes is illegal in that it prevents elected officials from approaching County Board committees to explain their personnel needs without prior permission from hired administrative personnel.

“In Health and Human Services we have a 118 person backlog. Our District Attorney just told us about his case backlog,” Just declared. “We’ve got to make a decision here... We can’t afford this... We all love our deputies, but somewhere we’ve got to draw the line!” She said there is a difference between needs and wants that should be recognized.

Engel asked about maintenance costs of the proposed BearCat, and Sheriff Sauve was called to the podium. He said Bauer did not speak correctly when he talked about half maintenance costs, and added, “I did not chastise Mr. Bauer, or anybody else...(for their vote)... None of this is personal. I’m the Sheriff and it’s my job to protect my officers!”

He said the Bear Cat is mounted on an ordinary Ford F550 frame. Servicing it will not be a big cost and can be done at any local dealership. The “MRAP,” a tank-type vehicle they might get from military surplus, cannot be serviced locally and is too heavy, too big and too slow to meet his department’s needs.

Mans said most of the bridges on county roads cannot bear the weight of the military surplus vehicles.

Discussion ended and vote was called. The BearCat lost, 16 to 13.

In favor of removing it from the purchase list were supervisors Banaszak, Barrette, Bauer, Casper, Christiansen, Holley, Just, Kaufman, Keller, Lakari, Mattison, Meintz, Pazynski, Phillips, Schroeder, and Whiting. Opposed were Baumgarten, Behnke, Bousley, Cassidy, Engel, Gustafson, Mans, Nichols, Policello, Sauld, Sauve, Wruk and Zahn.

With those actions approved, Schroeder announced he was removing “Item 14-B” and sending it back to the Finance Committee. That item was the initial resolution that would have been the first step toward borrowing up to $37,335,000 “for projects listed in the county’s 5-year capital improvement plan.” As explained in committee, the specific bond issues each year would still have required separate board approval, but approving this resolution would have made the process one step simpler each year. Finance Committee support had not been unanimous.

In a fiscal note attached to the agenda, Kass had advised supervisors if the $37 million of notes were issued, the yearly debt service expense would range from $250,000 to $5,250,000 over 20 years, and as currently structured was estimated to create a debt service tax rate range of approximately 19 to 27 cents per $1,000 in property valuation over the 20-year life of the debt. State law allows the levy for debt service to be added to the amount the county is allowed to levy for operations.

Next item was a resolution approving the “Scope of Services” engagement letter with financial consultants Hutchinson Shockey Erley & Co. as underwriters for the proposed $6,270,000 bond issue. That firm employs Jeff Belongia, who has personally handled Marinette County’s financing issues for many years. The letter lists no specific costs, and is something new that spells out what the county can expect from the consultants, and what the consultants can expect from the county.

Holley asked what dollar amount, or what percent the consultants will get, and Kass said he did not recall for sure, but believed on the $9 million bond issue approved earlier this year the fee was in the $150,000 range. He said neither he, nor anyone else currently employed by the county, has the time, knowledge and expertise to handle underwriting services.

Christiansen asked if the amount of bonds in the resolution should be changed to reflect elimination of the BearCat and the two squad cars. Kass said the amount doesn’t need to be specific.

Among the acknowledgments in the “engagement letter” is listed, “HSE’s compensation under this agreement is contingent on the closing of the offering of the Securities. Such contingent compensation presents a conflict of interest, because it may cause HSE to recommend the offering even if it is unnecessary, or to recommend the size of the offering be larger than necessary.”

Baumgarten was concerned about a statement that interests of the county may differ from those of HSE, and wondered which way they would swing if those interests differed greatly. She said she would like to see things spelled out much more clearly.

Mattison said the county has no in-house underwriter, and HSE has a company that makes money. She reminded the board that, “Historically, HSE has done an excellent job for the county,” and added that suggesting they modify the contract to say they will act in the county’s best interests, “that’s not going to happen.”

“They aren’t going to stiff us,” Phillips declared. “They want our business and they want to make money.” It had also been noted in discussion and in the letter that the transactions are governed by Federal Securities laws.

“I’m not sure why we don’t wait to approve this until after we do the 5-year plan,” Engel suggested. Mattison told him this document applies only to the 2015 bond issue.

Kass said the new amount proposed for borrowing will be listed at $5,941,140.

After all the discussion, vote in favor of accepting the scope of engagement was unanimous.

Mattison introduced new Information Services Administrator Kevin Solway, and said he has been doing a fine job. Solway thanked the board for giving him an opportunity to serve the county in another capacity. He had been a deputy with the Sheriff’s Department for many years.

The board approved:

*A contract with Northeast Asphalt for the county R (Mine Road) reconstruction for $260,013.60, to be done in accord with WisDOT requirements.

*An addendum that adds $267,400 to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation agreement with the county for routine maintenance of state highways;

*Creating four additional LTE positions plus three additional Equipment Operator 1 positions for the Highway Department, effective Jan. 1, in connection with the additional $267,400 in state funding;

*Transfer of $7,000 from Consultant Fees to Human Resources LTE salaries, subject to review a healthcare consultant if reinstated;

*Transfer of $8,017 from the Forest and Parks Development Fund to pay for new office furniture and computers for remodeling updates at the Peshtigo Highway, Parks and Forestry office was approved with opposing votes from Kaufman and Baumgarten, and

*Wisconsin Lock and Load Prisoner Transports Agreement to provide intrastate conveyance and extradition services for the Sheriff’s Department.

Before voting on the Highway Department positions there were some questions. Commissioner Ray Palonen explained the state is giving the county the additional $267,400 to pay for extra work they want done on state roads, and to help cover the costs of a severe winter. He said they will need no new equipment, and can actually make more money because they will be putting the existing equipment to better use. The total state maintenance agreement this year pays the county $1,961,800 for routine maintenance like snow plowing, etc.

Engel drew an angry response from Mattison when he asked if female applicants would be considered for the Highway Department positions. “The answer to that is 100 percent yes!” was Mattison’s response. “This is an equal opportunity county.” “I’d like to hear that from the Highway Committee,” Engel said. “I think that’s inappropriate!” Mattison retorted angrily.

“I’m going to oppose this...The District Attorney presented a good case,” Engel declared when it came to using $7,000 to pay for the Human Resources limited term employee. He said he preferred to see that money go to the DA. Kaufman agreed.

There were explanations that the money came because the contract with the insurance consultant was discontinued and that work is now being done in the Human Resources office. Mattison said they are doing an excellent job.

Engel attempted a motion to move that money to provide more help in the DA's office, but was told it was not on the agenda. He, Kaufman and Bauer voted against the motion giving the part time help to Human Resources and the rest of the board voted in favor.

At the start of the meeting James Golembeski, Executive Director of Bay Area Workforce Development Board, gave a report on that agency’s activities and responsibilities.

UWEX Extension Department Head Scott Reuss distributed questionnaires related to the “visioning process” being used to fill the vacant Community, Natural Resources and Economic Development Educator position in the Extension office. He asked supervisors to fill one out themselves and pass the other along to someone whose judgment they respect for more input.


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