County Board Approves Satellite Shops

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the construction of two new Highway Department satellite facilities in Lake Mills and Concord.

“The existing sites, based on where they were placed many years ago, are in very inefficient spots,” Highway Commissioner Bill Kern said. “Not only are the facilities old facilities that are not working out, but they do not have salt at them and they are at locations in the corner of the county, so you are not going to see the benefits of having a site in a more central region.”

The board’s Highway and Infrastructure committees initially approved a $1.2 million project proposal at last week’s joint meeting. The county staff has since reduced the costs to $500,000 per satellite site.

“Based on feedback we received from staff, we looked for an opportunity to do better,” Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said.

The main objective for the new satellite facilities is to reduce critical response time during winter storms and emergencies. The locations would minimize the amount of overlap on current snowplow routes and ultimately reduce the manpower required for winter maintenance.

The approval of the satellite shops required the board to also pass the issuing of $3.98 million in general obligation bonds.

“I think the timing is particularly bad,” Supervisor Carlton Zentner added. “We have already hooked up 83,000 people that pay taxes to paying for the original, big shop, and now to tack on a couple little guys at the end. We don’t have to spend all that money.”

Despite mixed feelings about the project, the County Supervisors approved the resolution to cover the remaining cost of the project through bonds. The total project, which includes the main shop and the two satellite facilities, will cost $17.22 million.

The Concord site is projected to save the county about $30,000 per winter season by reducing 150 to 200 miles of snow plowing overlap. The Lake Mills site is projected to save about $20,000.

Ultimately, the satellite shops would enable the Highway Department to utilize their employees in the most efficient way possible by having them report to the satellite location they are in the closest proximity to, according to Kern.

Supervisor John Kannard did not agree with the notion that the satellite facilities will save the county money.

“In 50 years, we wouldn’t break even,” Kannard said. “It is amazing to me that we have a taskforce trying to figure out how we are going to survive five years down the road and at the same time, we are adding more infrastructure.”

The county’s Highway Department currently operates out of three additional satellite locations other than Lake Mills and Concord.

The Ixonia and Palmyra sites are in poor condition and do not offer salt storage. The Ixonia site was built in 1959 and does not fit modern-day trucks. The Palmyra site was constructed in 1941 and has since become mostly abandoned.

The Waterloo site is difficult to operate out of due to its location in the utmost corner of the county. The site does include a 575-gallon diesel tank for refilling, but the overall shop is in poor condition. The satellite location was built in 1945 and does not include salt storage, according to Kern.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved an agreement that grants the county’s interests are represented in regional transportation planning in regards to the portion of Jefferson County included in the Milwaukee urbanized area.
  • Authorized a $281,467 contact with General Communications to upgrade the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office’s dispatch system. The sheriff’s office allocated about $162,000 in the 2014 budget for the system upgrade, and the balance will be funded by the county’s contingency fund.
  • Remembered former County Board Supervisor Kathleen Groskopf who passed away at the age of 76 on Feb. 16, 2015. Groskopf served on the board from April 1996 to April 2002 and from May 2003 to February 2007.
  • Proclaimed March 13, 2015 as K-9 Veterans Day.
  • Proclaimed April 2015 as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

City Relies Heavily on University

Alderman Lynn Binnie and the Whitewater Common Council passed a resolution on Tuesday in response to Gov. Walker’s proposed 2015-2017 state budget that would cut UW-Whitewater’s funding in upwards of $6 million.

“The university is a very significant driver in our economy’s health not to mention all the other benefits that we gain from having the university here in terms of cultural life and the student population,” Binnie said. “I share the concern that so many have about the potential impact of these reductions on our university’s budget.”

If passed into law, Walker’s proposed budget would cut an estimated $6.4 million from UW-Whitewater’s current budget. Some estimates of the cuts are as high as $8 million.

Binnie (4th District) introduced the resolution due to the fact that the city of Whitewater’s economy is dependent on the university’s ability to bring in outside revenue in the form of students. Any disruption of revenue opportunity would have devastating effects for the community. Enrollment would likely drop, and a student’s ability to contribute to the city’s economy would lessen.

Alderman Brienne Diebolt-Brown (3rd District) is married to a professor and has been in the academic community for about 15 years.  Brown talked about the need for a resolution and the toll it was taking on the state.

“It’s a bit emotional for me,” Brown said. “Chancellor Telfer announced today that means professors won’t get rollover sick leave. They won’t get tenure. They won’t have a chance to have sabbatical which means they can’t do their research. These are things that attract amazing professors to Wisconsin. What it means is amazing professors won’t come, and they won’t teach all of our children. It means they’ll leave and go to places that actually respect education.”

Despite her political affiliation, Stephanie Abbott (2nd District) agreed that something must be done about the proposed budget as she credited UW-Whitewater for her successes in life and growth as an individual.

“I do share the fear of a lot of people that this would be a major hit not only to the university but also our city as well as the people who choose to live here,” Abbott said. “I’ve been part of Gov. Walker’s party most of my life, but I also consider myself more Whitewater than anything else. I really do hope and sincerely believe that the people who represent Whitewater at the state level will make the right decision and find a better way.”

City Manager Cameron Clapper expressed to the council that it would take raising out of state tuition by $5,000 a year to make up the difference in the proposed budget cuts. Clapper felt like this was not a realistic option and enrollment would certainly decrease to the point that the university would simply be creating a different problem as opposed to a solution. Wisconsin residents currently enjoy an in-state tuition freeze.

Sarah Bregant (5th District), a current UW-Whitewater student, stressed that the proposed education cuts are not just a university issue but rather a city-wide issue.

“6.5 million is no small figure,” Bregant said. “That’s not money that we’re going to find in back office savings. This is money that is being used for academic programs, and its drawing students to our excellent university. I hope this resolution will reach people in decision making capacities at the state legislature. I hope it makes them realize that they would make us suffer quite a bit, and I hope that ultimate cut gets reduced significantly.”

In other action Tuesday, the council:

  • Granted the Wisconsin Independent Network access to city-owned conduits along Main Street for fiber-optic cable.
  • Endorsed relocation of UW-Whitewater police to the city’s emergency operations center in the event of an emergency.
  • Approved construction on the handicap-access ramp at the downtown armory that does not meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The entire project is estimated to cost $100,000. The project would also include the armory stairs are repaired.

The Greatest Non-Catch in NFL History

With under five minutes to play and trailing 21-26, Tony Romo lined up in shotgun formation for a 4th and 2 that will forever go down as what could have been.

The Cowboys had to, at the very least, move the ball to the Packers 30 in order to keep its NFC Championship hopes alive. With the game on the line and the focus on him, Romo dropped back and faded ever so slightly to his left to avoid the impending corner back blitz.

The often criticized quarterback was on the verge of getting hit. Romo quickly let it fly down the left sideline to one of the best clutch receivers in the NFL, Dez Bryant. It was a throw that had a substantial amount of risk but one that sometimes you have to make to win a game.

Bryant, who was being faced with press coverage, had less than a step on his man as the ball was seemingly up for grabs. The pro-bowl wide receiver left the ground at the 9-yard line and hung in the air for what seemed like forever in real time.

Bryant came down with the ball at the 5-yard line and set in motion one of, if not, the most controversial endings to any NFL game let alone a playoff game.

The Dallas wide out proceeded to go to the ground with the ball in his possession. He fell forward and was initially ruled down at the half-yard line. After a challenge by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, the officials ruled that “the receiver did not maintain possession throughout the entire process of the catch.”

That phrase in itself is more than problematic. It puts more onus on the officials to try and interpret more than they should ever have to. As an official myself, I know they have one of the toughest jobs in the world. They have more than enough to worry about without having to try and decipher the code that is “the entire process of the catch.”

Due to the overturned catch, the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs with four minutes remaining in the contest. I think it would be more than fair to say that the officials “interpretation” took what would have been six points off the board.

A preceding touchdown, from a half-yard out, would have given Dallas a 27-26 lead over Green Bay even if the Cowboys decided to go for two and failed following the score. I don’t think it is, in the least, a stretch to say Dallas would have punched it in from such a short distance.

After extensively reviewing the play, I can confirm that Bryant took three steps after initially possessing the ball even before he touched the ground. It is important to focus on the steps he takes after he completes the catch in the air.

Bryant’s third and final step is the part the officials should have been focusing on. I believe this is where they would have seen the “football move” term they like to throw around.

If you look closely, and believe me I realize it is somewhat subtle, Bryant digs his left foot into the ground to produce a tremendous amount of forward energy. He does this in order to lunge himself into the end zone and score the go-ahead touchdown.

Therefore, it is my understanding that if a “football move” is made then “possession has been established.” However, the NFL does not view Bryant’s third step, plant or lunge as a “football move.” That in itself is definitely something that should be addressed in the off-season to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Bryant’s left elbow does hit the ground and the ball without a doubt becomes dislodged. This is where the real controversy stems from. NFL rules state that you have to maintain possession while going to the ground. I firmly believe that he did just that.

Under review, the ball squirts upwards and Bryant maintains possession throughout the “process of the catch.” Although part of the ball does make contact with the ground, Bryant has his hand and arm under the ball in order to legitimatize the catch.

The hypocrisy in this rule is overwhelming. If an offensive player catches a pass in the open field and makes a football move but loses the ball at any point after said move, the ball is considered a live fumble. At the same token the  “ground cannot force a fumble and the player is considered down at the spot the lose ball occurred.” This disconnect must be reviewed to repair the integrity of the game.

Once again, the NFL was in the minority in believing that the ball made substantial contact with the ground and at that point the receiver dropped the ball. After a couple days had passed and I let the debacle settle in, I took to twitter.

“As a league you have to take a real hard look at yourself when the only ones that don’t recognize that @DezBryant made that catch is you.”

I feel like my tweet more than encompasses the feeling that the majority of fans and players held. Even Packers’ corner back Sam Shields, who was covering Bryant on the play, admitted that the 6′ 2” wide out made the play of the game and should have been rewarded possession.

I’m not saying the Packers could not have marched down the field and at least scored a field goal to either win the game or force overtime but, with only one timeout, Green Bay would have likely only had one decent crack at it.

Had this been the case, Dallas would have been headed to CenturyLink Field to take on Seattle and its highly touted 12th man instead. The Cowboys would be facing a Seahawks team they had readily dominated earlier in the season, 30-23, despite the final score.

A Super Bowl berth was by no means a guarantee, but it may have been Romo’s best chance to squash the negativity that has often downplayed his elite ability. The players should have decided that game as opposed to the officials.

That was the travesty in this all. The officials took the game right out of the Cowboys hands. They did not allow Dallas the opportunity to decide the game for itself.

More specifically, the NFL allowed too much room for interpretation on a play the officials initially called correctly on the field. An officials job is not to interpret the rules. It is to enforce them.

The catch passed the often dismissed eye test without a doubt. Too many times we over complicate things in sports. There is a reason the officials called the play on the field a catch. If it looks like a catch and feels like a catch, it probably is a catch.

This idea is by no means conclusive. Officials make mistakes. They are only human and although the NFL has the absolute best out there, mistakes still happen. That being said, instant replay is a tool that can assist and correcting human error.

Which leads me to an overlooked scenario that took place during the review. In order for a play to be overturned there has to be “100 percent conclusive evidence” to suggest that it should be.

It is hard to imagine that happened during the conclusion of the review. Since the play was ruled a catch on the field the officials needed “conclusive evidence” to support overturning the defining moment of the game. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the officials “found” the evidence they needed.

Ironically, there is nothing “100 percent conclusive” on any of the replays to suggest Bryant didn’t make that game-changing play. The only thing that was for certain is the NFL overstepped its bounds and created something that was, quite frankly, not there. They flat out ignored the visual evidence.

The initial call on the controversial review is crucial. A similar review took place earlier in the game. Just before halftime, Aaron Rodgers “completed” a pass for 12 yards to Randall Cobb. With 22 seconds left in the first half, Green Bay was now just inside Dallas territory.

The play was reviewed by the judges upstairs. It is important to remember that the officials initially ruled that Cobb caught the pass. As Cobb is falling to the ground to try and reel in the pass, the ball clearly hits the ground. It then pops up and hits Cobb in the chest before hitting the ground once more.

After review, the officials confirmed the call on the field. In their minds there was not enough evidence to overturn the call. A clear botch by the officials but nevertheless they stuck with what they initially called on the field.

How the officials didn’t see enough evidence to overturn the Cobb catch but did on the Bryant “non-catch” is beyond comprehensibility.

The officials and the NFL essentially applied the “Calvin Johnson rule” incorrectly. Although the two plays are similar they are by no means the same.

Certainly the argument could be made that Johnson made the catch, but he foolishly lets the ball go as he goes to the ground. The ball comes loose completely, and Johnson doesn’t maintained possession for the ball squirts out and rolls around on the ground.

The officials ruled Johnson’s catch as incomplete on the field and under review confirmed their call. Point being, there was not enough conclusive evidence to overturn the call and award Detroit the game-winning touchdown.

All of this made the Packers meltdown in Seattle that much more satisfying to watch. They stole an opportunity that the Cowboys rightfully deserved.