County Board To Meet On Tuesday May 26 At UW Theatre On The BayIssue Date: May 20, 2020
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, government business must go on. And despite the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision overturning the stringent "Safer At Home" orders issued by Gov. Tony Evers, the monthly Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, May 26 will be held in the Theater on the Bay on the UW-Green Bay's Marinette campus to allow for social distancing.
Once again, the agenda includes no provision for public comment. However, in accord with a suggestion made by Supervisor Ted Sauve a few months ago there is to be an address by Legionnaire Roy Berto commemorating the 75th anniversary of the ending of the European portion of World War II on May 8, 1945 when surviving German officials signed an unconditional surrender.
Supervisors are expected to adopt the county budget policy as proposed by Administrator John LeFebvre and approved by the Administrative committee at its meeting on Thursday, May 14, hear a report on renovation of the old Law Enforcement Center building, and approve a number of appointments to various committees, commisisons and councils as recommended by the Administrative Committee.
Much of the groundwork for the May 26 meeting of the full board was laid at a meeting of the Administrative Committee on Thursday, May 14. It was the first meeting of that committee since the annual County Board reorganization in April, and there were several new members.
Committee members present in person were supervisors Don Pazynski, Rick Polzin and Board Chair John Guarisco. Supervisors Tricia Grebin, Stan Gruszynski and Connie Seefeldt participated by telephone, as did Treasurer Bev Noffke.
Others on hand in person were County Clerk Kathy Brandt, LeFebre, Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, Finance Director Laura Mans, Assistant Finance Director Hollie Viestenz, and members of the news media.
First order of business for the committee was election of a chair. Grebin and Pazynski nominated Polzin, and he was elected by unanimous ballot. Next came selection of a vice chair, and Grebin and Guarisco nominated Pazynski, who also was elected by unanimous ballot.
After an explanation by Pazynski of what the Wisconsin Counties Utility Tax organization does, the committee agreed to recommend County Board approval of Gruszynski as the Marinette County member. Pazynski has been serving on that group, but agreed he would "not be offended" if someone else would take it. They are attempting to convince the state to return more of the money they collect from utilities in lieu of property taxes to the counties and municipalities in which their facilities are located. Pazynski said he has been participating by phone rather than drive to Madison, and does not charge for attending. He said their group has an advantage by having Rep. John Nygren in this district. Marinette County and the Town of Peshtigo would benefit from more equitable distribution of funds since there is a large gas and turbine generator facility here in addition to dams and other WPS properties.
Membership costs $700 a year and Pazynski felt if they could get legislators to return more of the money to the local taxing districts it would be well worth it.
During the meeting, LeFebvre announced that within the last 12 hours the Wisconsin Supreme Court had overturned Governor Tony Evers' order extending the Safer At Home mandates until Tuesday, May 26, and immediately after the meeting he, Mattison, Guarisco, Health Officer Mollie Bonjean and Highway Commissioner/Emergency management Director Eric Burmeister would meet to determine what Marinette County would be doing about that.
LeFebvre said until Tuesday, May 26, the day after Memorial Day, the courthouse offices would continue to be open to the public only from 8 to 9 a.m. daily or by appointment. Although the offices will reopen, LeFebvre pledged: "We will continue to protect our employees from the public and will continue to maintain social distancing."
He expects the courts to re-open also on May 26, and said they may require people in court to wear masks. Guarisco asked if the judges and staff will be masked as well, and LeFebvre was not sure, but said they will be shielded.
"This is continuing to be a moving target," LeFebvre said of the coronavirus restrictions.
Information Technology Director Kevin Solway reported on changes in work methods his department has handled in putting the Safer At Home orders into practice, including setting up laptops and computers so county employees can work from home.
Grebin asked if the new laptops will continue to be used when employees return to work in the courthouse, and Solway said they will, and as desktop computers are replaced they will be replaced with laptops, which are a lot cheaper and more efficient in case there again has to be more work done from home.
Solway said the county is able to conduct remote meetings via WebX but there are difficulties because of poor connectivity in some areas. Also the program has a limit of 100 participants and needs a person on-site to facilitate the meeting, and there is no provision for public comment.
Mattison said there is no legal requirement for public comment, but they do need to allow the public to see and hear proceedings. Solway said as to public comment, they could provide access space in the courthouse for them.
Mattison said once the restrictions are lifted typically the county meetings will get back to normal and not be held remotely.
As to connectivity problems, Grebin said an AT&T spokesman had contacted her about their services and offered to address the County Board.
After considerable discussion the committee agreed to have no in rem tax foreclosure proceedings this year and adjust the process to schedule them each May, starting in 2021. One benefit of this would be to avoid having the county responsible for winterizing properties that were taken for unpaid back taxes close to the start of the winter season.
With strong recommendations from LeFebvre and Mattison the committee agreed not to recommend approval of a resolution that could allow the county and municipalities to waive interest and penalty on unpaid current property taxes from July 31 to Oct. 31 this year. Both said it would apply only to those whose property tax payments are up to date, would create bookkeeping and administrative nightmares, and would benefit only a limited number of property owners for two months' worth of interest on current taxes due.
They also agreed to recommend added funding to provide continuing the services of part-time assistant District Attorneys for the county while two new hirees just out of law school are trained.
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