Jefferson County Board approves new satellite facilities

By Bethe Croy

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors approved the construction of two new satellite facilities in Lake Mills and Concord during their meeting last Tuesday, March 10.

The county previously had five satellite facilities in Waterloo, Lake Mills, Ixonia, Concord and Palmyra, which are used for emergency weather response and maintenance equipment.

The new facilities would reduce critical response time and overall public safety due to better and more accessible locations. Furthermore, these facilities are overdue for updating and are in poor condition, Highway Commissioner Bill Kern said.

The cost two 12,500 square-foot facilities, previously not to exceed $590,000 per location, was amended to not more than $500,000 per facility.

Some board supervisors were unsure whether the cost was worth the benefits, however, especially considering the county already has the other locations.

“They may not be perfect, they may not be big enough, but they function,” Supervisor Carlton Zentner said.

Supervisor Amy Rinard also questioned why two new sites were needed when the county already had the others, but Kern explained that the positioning of the current locations is what lowers response time.

Supervisor Dick Schultz also pointed out that the county could save up to $1.4 million simply because of the better locations for the new satellite facilities as well as using less fuel.

Despite the controversy, the board ended up voting in favor of the satellite locations with 25-yes, 4-no and 1-absent votes.

In other news, the new highway shop is about 90 percent completed, Supervisor George Jaeckel said.

The board approved issuing $3.98 million in general obligation bonds, down from $4.39 million in order to fund the last portion of the project.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

  • Approved an agreement with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to represent Jefferson County concerning planning and discussion of regional transportation, particularly to the segment of Jefferson County located in the “Milwaukee urbanized area.”
  • Approved spending for new public safety radio and dispatch equipment for the Sheriff’s Office.

    The old equipment has “exceeded its life expectancy,” Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said.

    The new communication system will cost $281,467, $162,460 of which will be funded through a carryover from the Sheriff’s Office department budget last year. The remaining cost, $119,007, will be paid for with contingency funds.

  • Extended sympathy to the family of Kathleen Groskopf in memory of her and her work with the county.
  • Proclaimed March 13, 2015 as K-9 Veteran’s Day in honor and support of military and police dogs.
  • Proclaimed the month of April 2015 as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Proposed budget causes concern for UW-Whitewater and the city

By Bethe Croy

The Whitewater Common Council met Tuesday, Feb. 17 to discuss the potential impact of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 biennial budget on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the city as a whole.

Council members expressed concern over the future of the university enrollment and quality, the effects on teachers and the potential harm it would cause the city.

“What it means is amazing professors won’t come, and they won’t teach all of our children and our kids,” Brienne Diebolt-Brown, Aldermanic District 3, said. “It means they’ll leave and they’ll go places that actually respect education.”

The proposed budget would cut $300 million from the UW System over the course of two years. This would lead to over a 30 percent cut of the general purpose revenue (GPR) for UW-Whitewater, translating to a loss of between $6.4 to $8 million per year.

City Manager Cameron Clapper said the university could try to make up for these cuts by raising the out-of-state tuition by $5,000 per person, but then the issue becomes a highly likely decline in enrollment of out-of-state-students. Therefore, with the devastating effect this could have on the city as well as the university, this is clearly a “quality of life issue,” he said.

The university undoubtedly plays a large role in the economic success of the city.

Although municipalities will potentially face much less struggle than the universities, there are still issues that the proposed budget would create that will have a negative effect on local budgeting.

Some of these issues include less funding for parks, trails and natural resources, loss of land purchasing power, a loss of control in general concerning specific city issues (rather than at the county level) and “categorical aid” cuts to the K-12 school district by $150 per pupil in addition to a revenue limit freeze.

“The concern is that that’s a significant step backward,” Clapper said.

The council discussed the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ Partnership for Prosperity agenda which highlights the importance of municipalities in state job growth and economic development.

The agenda would encourage state leaders to collaborate with municipal leaders through assisting local communities to provide services without sky-rocketing property tax, supporting and funding local transportation and “enhancing and promoting economic development best practices” in order to reach economic goals.

Clapper and Council President Patrick Singer went to the capitol Wednesday, Feb. 18 to lobby state lawmakers on these issues. Walker’s budget will not be finalized until summer.

In other business Tuesday, the common council:

  • Approved the Wisconsin Independent Network (WIN) agreement which would allow WIN to install fiber cable using part of a city conduit under Fremont Street.
  • Discussed the costs and potential solutions to the downtown armory construction work.The project is estimated to cost $100,000 in total because it would entail taking the entire ramp out and replacing it rather than just a portion of it, as well as ensuring the new ramp would work with the existing building design and adhere to ADA requirements. Council members suggested using the electric lift as an alternative to the high cost of the project; however, a $20,000 contract to manage the construction was approved.
  • Approved agreement between UW-Whitewater Police Services and the city which grants UWWPS access to the city’s Emergency Operations Center in case of an event that would require relocation.