Fewer and Newer Satellite Shops for Jefferson County

The final decision to build two new satellite shops during the Jefferson County Board meeting Tuesday evening was approved.

County Administrator Ben Wehmeier and Highway Commissioner Bill Kern presented the positive effects and the costs of building two new satellite shops in Jefferson County.

Jefferson currently has five satellite facilities, located in Waterloo, Lake Mills, Ixonia, Concord and Palmyra. In 2013, the board approved the addition to the main highway facility in Jefferson, as the original shop was built in the 1930’s and was in need of care.

By eliminating the facilities in Waterloo, Ixonia and Palmyra, and building new shops in Concord and Lake Mills, benefits will be seen in reducing critical response time in winter maintenance and emergency responses by 30 to 45 minutes, as well as creating more efficient routes for plows.

Other benefits of the new shops would include primary savings on fuel, opportunities for sale of existing sites not in use and the ability to store emergency items for accident scenes.

Savings accumulated over the years from the construction of these new shops would also be beneficiary. Board member Dick Schultz supports the new shops and illustrated the longevity the shops would bring. Schultz explained that two of the current shops have lasted an upward of 70 years, and the addition of two new shops would save the county about $1.4 million just in the first 20 years.

Counterarguments were raised as members wondered if the cost of savings only serve to liquidate construction cost, as well as do we really need to be spending the money on this project right now.

Board member Carlton Zentner said “this is a poor idea for right now.”

The resolution was adopted after a roll-call vote resulted in 25 – yes, 4 – no, and 1 – absent.

The board also amended the resolution to delete part of the construction cost per site from $590,000 to $500,000 in a “surprisingly unanimous vote,” according to County Board Chairman Jim Schroeder.

Another item on the agenda included the approval to send two appointees from Jefferson County to the Southeastern WI Regional Planning Committee (SEWRPC). This committee from the US Department of Transportation is looking to include 2.7 miles of Jefferson into the Milwaukee urbanized area. This would be of no cost to Jefferson County as SEWRPC would take over that area of money for transportation and roads.

By approving to send two appointees would give Jefferson a seat at the table during SEWRPC meetings and allow them to know what would be taking place of that area as it would be controlled by SEWRPC.

In other news Tuesday, the board:

  • Had a unanimous consent on approving March 13 as the official K-9 veterans day. Three service dogs attended this part of the meeting, showing their support for their right to be honored and remembered. There are currently 239 service men serving as dog handlers and 232 military working dogs serving the nation.
  • Approved the proclamation to make April: Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.
  • Approved to replace radio systems for Jefferson County as the 9-1-1 System needs to be replaced as they have exceeded their life expectancy.

State Budget Cuts will Affect All

The Whitewater Common Council approved Tuesday the city’s support of UW-Whitewater’s opposition to the proposed state budget cuts.

In an emotional discussion, council members discussed the potential effects the state budget cut will have for not only the university, but the city and its residents. In a resolution decision, the common council decided to send a letter to the Senate, regarding their concerns.

With Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cut, UW-Whitewater could see a potential of $6.4 million to $8 million cut from the university’s general purpose income in the 2015-2017 school years. This cut would require the university to pay it themselves, or find necessary places to eliminate cost. To further the limited income, the university will most likely see a continued tuition freeze for in-state students.

The budget cut would also be close to home, as Councilmember Brienne Diebolt-Brown expressed that her husband is a faculty member at UW-Whitewater, and if the cut is approved, a few changes would be a possible loss in tenure or roll-over sick days, which would have a great impact in their personal life. It also “won’t attract professors” to the university, Diebolt-Brown said.

City Manager Cameron Clapper said one possible solution to help cover the loss in funding would be to raise “out-of-state tuition by $5,000 per student.” Further stating that this solution would possibly see a drop in students from out-of-state and it would be unfair.

The initial review for the final approval of the budget cut will not be until June and would then take effect July 1.

Council members discussed the impact this budget cut would have upon the Whitewater School District as well. Clapper discussed that $150 per pupil would be eliminated in a “categorical aid” cut, resulting in a $290,000 for the 2015-2016 year for the school district.

Clapper reminded everyone that this cut would impact the “quality of life issue” here in Whitewater; as UW-Whitewater is a significant driver to the Whitewater economy, the community would see its effect.

Other notable changes due to the State budget cut would include economic development in the purchasing of land, as well as funding for housing, parks, trails, and natural resources, and transportation and recycling funding.

In further news Tuesday, the council:

  • Approved an agreement with the Wisconsin Independent Network for the use of City conduit along Main Street.
  • Gave consent to Strand Associates engineering services to repair the Downtown Armory ramp and replace the stairs. The projected cost of the project is around $100,000 with a 20-25 percent cost in architectural components. Councilmember Lynn Binnie approved the replacement as long as Strand looked into using an electric lift instead of repairing the ramp, which might eliminate some of the cost.
  • Made a quick approval for the City of Whitewater and UWW Police Services use of the City’s Emergency Operations Center in the event of an emergency.