October 2020
Jefferson County Board Meeting

Broadband to be introduced into rural areas of Jefferson County 

By Cameron Slate/Capstone 

JEFFERSON— The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance on Tuesday, related to broadband internet access in some rural areas.  

A working group is set to address broadband internet access as well as future funding possibilities for certified rural communities. In a December 2018 meeting, the board approved an ordinance that would allow the county to hold a Broadband Forward! Certification.

A Broadband Forward! Community Certification signals that “a local unit of government has taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment.” 

The ordinance, created by the Public Service Commission (PSC), was designed for statewide consistency to level the playing field with persons who reside in urban areas. It was noted that the ordinance does not allow a community to discriminate between service providers. 

County board Chairman Jim Schroeder said it simply, “Internet access in 2019 should be like water or electricity.” Meaning, every household in any community needs it, and should have it. 

The chairman wasn’t the only person who thinks the committee should move forward with its internet access plan. A handful of supervisors noted how often county voters had called them in an effort to urge the board to get the ball rolling on the Broadband Working Committee. 

On Tuesday, the board made some steady progress in starting off the new broadband initiative by appointing a group of supervisors to serve on it. 

The working committee now consists of five people, four will come from the Economic Development Consortium, Executive Committee, Finance Committee, and the Planning and Zoning Committee. The rest of the vacant positions will be appointed by county board Chairman Jim Schroeder. 

The lack of broadband in the Jefferson area is concerning for any individuals without access, but it also hurts the working force in and around the county. Schroeder mentioned, “60% of the Jefferson population works outside of Jefferson, and many people might not be able to get there daily.”

While this seems like a transportation issue, it could be the product of hardworking individuals in rural areas not having access to proper opportunities, much like broadband internet. Schroeder went on to say, “we have people who live in rural areas who would like to run business out of their homes.”

County Supervisor Amy Rinard, of Ixonia voiced her approval on the broadband issue and her reasons for backing Jim Schroeder. 

“We really believe having access to broadband Internet is an economic development tool and helps increase property values and makes Jefferson County a more desirable place to live.”

Barb Frank’s Retirement 

It was before the approval of the working committee when the board decided to take a few minutes to congratulate Barbara Frank on her 38 years of service. While she did not work with the Jefferson County board for all 38 years, she served the county of Jefferson for the majority of her tenure. 

Several peers, including Barbara, said a few words while colorful pieces of cake made their way to each county board member. 

“They were 38 long years in Jefferson County, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world,” Frank said. 

“Thank you to the friends who have helped me over the years, and all of you for making my Tuesday nights very interesting.” 

The surprise of the night came from Schroeder and County Administrator Ben Wehmeier. Together they read a special proclamation, designating this Election Day, April 2, as Barb Frank Day in Jefferson County.

Barbara Frank will retire immediately after the 2019 spring election. 

In other County Board news Tuesday:

  • Approved having the Parks and Recreation Department apply for an Outdoor Recreational/Development Aids Grant to fund a snowmobile trail maintenance program.
  • Approved a $71,000 contract with Bos Design Builders for a storage building to be built at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office training facility in Lake Mills. 
  • Approved $50,500 contract with Sun Mechanical LLC to replace two boilers in the Human Services Workforce Development Building.
  • Approved a proclamation supporting April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

• The next board meeting will be held on April 16, at 5:00 p.m. The schedule has been altered due to the spring election.

Whitewater council votes to approve fares for Shared Ride Taxi Program

Whitewater council votes to approve fares for Shared Ride Taxi Program


WHITEWATER— A quick meeting between curious Whitewater citizens and the Whitewater Common Council was all it took for some important fare structure increases to be approved to the city’s Shared Ride Taxi Program.

As recommended by the city’s Finance Committee earlier this year, this meeting focused on the beneficial increases in taxi fares for the Shared Ride Taxi Program. The council passed the fare increase on a unanimous vote.

City finance director Steve Hatton explained the current problems the Brown Cab Taxi and Shared Ride Services are sharing, along with some feasible solutions for each to consider.

Hatton noted that the Shared Ride taxi program in Whitewater has declined in ridership over the past 10 years. According to the informational packet put together by Hatton and the Finance Committee, the program has seen a decrease of almost 8,000 riders since its peak of 32,795 riders in 2011.

The true issue lies within the funding of the Shared Ride Taxi Program. The taxi program receives most of its funding from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal transit Administration (FTA).

Meaning, state and federal funds help pay for the system to get up and running, then the revenue collected from various riders make up the rest. Pretty straight forward, however, because Whitewater is the official sponsor for the program, the city of Whitewater is responsible for bridging any financial gap those social-service agencies and the revenue collected from riders can’t account for.

Hatton detailed that ridership has been in steady decline since 2013, with around 10-percent fewer trips logged since 2017. The Finance Committee and the Shared Ride Taxi Program have projected a shortfall of $22, 934. A shortfall is when a financial obligation, or budget, creates a situation in which there are not enough funds to cover the obligation it has considered. The shortfall is expected to increase even more in the 2019-20 program to about $32, 370.

“We want to increase the fares to what they are in other areas and communities in Wisconsin,” Hatton said.

As recommended, the agency fares, agency pre-paid fares, and package delivery fares will all increase to $9.50 each per trip. That means a $3 increase for agency fares, $3.65 increase in agency pre-paid fares, and a $5.05 increase in package delivery fares. The rates for additional wait time will also double to 40 cents per minute from its current 20 cents per minute.
There will still be fares not in need of changes. Regular adult fares will remain at $3.25, along with student fares at $2.50. Disabled/elderly riders, extra riders and extra stops will stay at $2.25 each; and children under 6 years old will continue to be free.

Whitewater resident Brienne Brown was the lone citizen commenting during the meeting. Brown stated she was told by two disabled persons that the taxi hours of operation did not fit their schedules.

“I know they have moved to Fort Atkinson because the taxi hours didn’t work for them and they didn’t feel like they were being helped in the best ways possible,” said Brown.

General Manager of the Brown Cab, Karl Schulte, noted that all vehicles are handicapped-equipped and capable of helping any customers who need it. Schulte also noted that the taxi company has a “hard close” at 7 p.m. during the school year, which has been in place for many years.

The council unanimously approved the new fares on a 6-0 vote.

Cameron Clapper’s visit to Madison

City Manager Cameron Clapper lead the second half of the meeting, as he announced he would be attending the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Lobby Day on Wednesday.

According to Clapper, this Lobby Day is designed for local governments to meet with state representatives concerning current issues impacting local communities.

With a mental list already in place, Clapper turned to council members for ideas on what topics he should discuss with state legislators.

Most of the discussion in Madison will include an increase in funds from the state. For things like restructuring city sidewalks and drainage systems. As well as the desperately awaited U.S. Highway 12 expansion and other local infrastructure projects.

Clapper also plans to address and restore a common ground to the property tax system. Details of the Lobby Day meeting will be discussed at the next council meeting on March 5.

In other action Tuesday:

-There was a slight technical glitch with the live television feed from the Feb. 19 meeting. The situation will be monitored and a full recap of the meeting will be posted on the Whitewater Common Council website as soon the glitch is corrected.
-City job openings are available. Including vacancies on city boards and commissions.
-Clapper applauds Whitewater residents and municipalities for their snow/ice removal efforts this year.
-Approved a formal agreement through 2019 with the Downtown Whitewater Inc. organization.
-Approved a change-of-agent for a Class B beer and wine license for Cozumel Restaurant. The new agent is Jose J. Lopez.