Jefferson County Board will seek new chair for upcoming election

The Jefferson County Board met Oct. 22 to discuss upcoming projects including the renovation of the Jefferson County courthouse and the Badger State Solar project.

County Board Chairperson, Jim Schroeder announced he will not be running in this year’s election.

The Proposed Budget

The proposed 2020 budget will decrease the mill rate from 3.99 to 3.80.

The proposed expenditures for 2020 is estimated at $85,139,626. The main expenditures include general government, public safety and health and human services. 

The main sources of revenue will come from taxes, intergovernmental revenues, and public charges for services.

A major expenditure for this upcoming year and the years that follow will be the renovation of the courthouse.

Ben Wehmeier, Jefferson County administrator said the condition of the courthouse has been overlooked for many years.

The courthouse will need several maintenance upgrades. The analysis of the facility will start in 2021.

Dick Jones, Jefferson County board supervisor said, “The duct-tape solution is creating a downward spiral.”

These new renovations will transform the 50-year-old courthouse into a more modern building. These changes will ultimately provide better services, efficient communication and incorporate newer technology.

“We have little room for debt”, Schroeder said in regards to how the renovations will be paid utilizing the 2020 budget. It could take up to a few years to get all the renovations completed.

Badger State Solar Project

Badger State Solar is a proposed 149-megawatt solar farm located between the towns of Oakland and Jefferson.

The project will feature rows of solar panels that absorb sunlight throughout the day. The solar farm will generate clean power for Wisconsin for 25 to 40 years. Once the project’s life is over, the land will be restored for agricultural use.

The project will be a significant source of local tax revenue with over $550,000 expected in annual shared revenue. There will be over $2.6 million in local earnings during construction for Jefferson County, as well as over $446,000 in long-term earnings annually.

Jefferson County is negotiating an agreement with the developer. There are many phases to this project: planning, approval, and construction.

There are a lot of studies being conducted regarding the negative consequences of a solar farm. Some of those being, the glare off the panels, sound impacts, magnetic frequent studies, drainage and waterway concerns, and fencing.

There are also a lot of positives to having a solar farm in Wisconsin. This project will create hundreds of jobs, bring in more revenue for the county as well as the farmers and produce clean energy with no emissions.

“For many farmers that’s quadrupling their income over night”, Wehmeier said in regards to the economic sustainment for farmers who are participating in this project.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has jurisdiction over this project because the farm is over 100-megawatts.

There will be a chance to comment on the project at a public hearing at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Nov. 6. To learn more about the project, visit their website or call.

In other action Tuesday:

  • Gary Lex’s vehicle was damaged on I-94 while driving behind a Jefferson County dump truck.  A rock was thrown from the truck and allegedly caused damages worth $388.85.  The claims of auto damage against Jefferson County was disallowed by the board.
  • Melissa Mason’s vehicle was damaged by loose gravel on Highway A. She believes the county is responsible because of poor highway maintenance.  The alleged damages cost $543.99. The claims of auto damage against Jefferson County for Melissa Mason was disallowed by the board.
  • Jefferson County created a “broadband working group” to help bring the access of high-internet to its rural residents. Wehmeier hopes to get 70-75-percent of the underserved covered with this project. There are two private providers the county will utilize.
  • The Parks Dept. received several grants to make their projects successful.
  • Anita Martin testified at the public hearing regarding the proposed 2020 budget. She inquired about a position that needs to be filled for the Jefferson County Land and Water Dept.

For more information on the Jefferson County Board, including meeting agendas and minutes and videos, visit https://www.jeffersoncountywi.gov/

The proposed city budget for 2020 revealed

The Whitewater Common Council on Tuesday revealed the proposed 2020 city budget. This new budget is around $9.8 million which is a 2.5 percent increase from last year’s budget.

The money for the budget will come from mainly property taxes and intergovernmental revenue from the State of Wisconsin. The rest comes from fines and fees.

City Manager, Cameron Clapper stated that gradually they are shifting funding from state funds to the city’s tax base. He said this process will continue to happen as long as state laws remain the same regarding different revenue streams.

 This shift will cause the tax levy to progressively rise.

“Our residents over time will be asked to contribute more and more of that tax base versus the intergovernmental revenues that come into the city,” Clapper said. 

 The city’s expenditures mainly include general operations, public safety, public work and transfers.

City employees might see a wage increase coming soon. There will be up to 1.5 percent in additional budget dollars that could be allocated to wage adjustments for positive performance reviews.

Yet, Clapper noted that there will be a 4 percent increase that is around $60,000 in additional costs for health insurance coverage in 2020.

This is a balanced budget, but there are still some challenges that remain. In the upcoming weeks, the Finance Review Committee will take a look at the proposed budget and make necessary changes.

On Nov. 5 there will be a final presentation to the Common Council and on Nov. 19 there will be a public hearing and a vote of approval to set the budget in stone.

Palmyra-Eagle school issue

The Palmyra-Eagle school district may be broken up. If approved, the changes would not take effect until July 2020.

Mark Elworthy, Whitewater district administrator and Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson, Whitewater School District business manager presented an update on the dissolution.

The Palmyra-Eagle school board voted July 1 to dissolve. The dissolution of Palmyra-Eagle still needs to be approved by the state School District Boundary Appeal Board and will have to make a decision by Jan. 15, according to Sylvester-Knudtson.

If approved, the School District Boundary Appeal Board will redraw the boundaries of the districts. The Whitewater school district could inherit a piece of the Palmyra-Eagle district.

Sylvester-Knudtson said, “we started planning internally for a couple of different scenarios” and they have been meeting with the seven school districts around the Palmyra-Eagle area as well as the Department of Public Instruction to get guidance on the process and funding.

In other action Tuesday:

  • Clapper declared Oct. 6 as CROP Hunger walk day. This walk will help raise awareness in the community about hunger related issues locally and globally. These events are sponsored by Church World Service and organized by religious groups, businesses, and schools. The funds raised will help to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world.
  • The Common Council approved Brad Marquardt, the DPW director’s request to paint a center line on Whitewater St. at its intersection with Janesville St. to alleviate traffic congestion.
  • Elworthy presented the Whitewater Unified School District Annual Report. Some of the topics included: Jerry Award winners, Ferradermis- Robotics competition, National Board Certified teachers, National FFA winners and playground updates allowing for more accessibility.
  • Clapper noted some major capital projects in regards to the 2020 budget. These include: lakes draw down project, amphitheater installation, police dept. radio console upgrades and Clay St. reconstruction.
  • James Allen, council member, urged a future agenda item to include code enforcement or a look into ordinances in regards to tarped cars on people’s properties.

For more information on the Whitewater Common Council, meeting agendas or meeting broadcasts visit:  https://www.whitewater-wi.gov/308/Common-Council