Jefferson County Board builds broadband group

Broadband internet connection in rural parts of Jefferson County has become a focus for the Jefferson County Board.

The board voted at its March 12 meeting to assemble a broadband working group to focus on improving broadband internet connection and speed in rural areas of Jefferson County.

“That’s really important for economic development because now people can run highly sophisticated businesses out of their home, and they may prefer to live in a rural area because of the amenities we have out here,” Board Chairman Jim Schroeder said.

“That would be a big boost for us economically,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

The group will be made up of five members of the board appointed by Chairman Jim Schroeder. Amy Rinard of Ixonia is one of those supervisors selected to serve on the group. She said at the meeting she is motivated by the topic because she has experienced the issue herself.

“Even though I live about six miles west of the City of Oconomowoc, in Waukesha County, where people expect that they’re going to have wonderful broadband access – and they do – once you get across the line into Jefferson County, it’s a whole different story,” she said.

Rinard mentioned area children needing internet for their homework and education and added that it could also increase property values with higher quality internet available.

County Facilities to get upgrades

The board is giving two county properties an upgrade in equipment.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will receive a new storage shed to be built at the County Sheriff’s Office Training Facility in Lake Mills. The County Board accepted a bid from Bos Design Builders in Fort Atkinson for a project not to exceed $71,000.

The County Board will also replace a pair of boilers at the Human Services Workforce Development Building for just over $50,000.

Barb Frank honored for service

After 35 years as county clerk, Barb Frank was honored at the meeting for her service to the county.

Frank said that despite the occasional stressful day, there was “no better place to be” an employee and  that she appreciated her coworkers. Frank’s term will end after the Spring elections.

Jefferson County to fight child neglect in April

A proclamation at the meeting deemed April 2019 in Jefferson County as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

The county will sell t-shirts and lead other projects to help increase awareness on the topic during the month of April.

“We have a number of employees of our Human Services Department who care deeply about that issue,” Schroeder said. “That’s a topic that’s near to my heart as well. One of the main reasons why I do this is for children.”

The next Jefferson County Board meeting takes place Tuesday, April 19 at 5 p.m. The meeting is on a different day because of the Spring elections.

Shared-ride taxi program to see cost increase

by Benjamin Pierce

Taxi riders in the City of Whitewater will see a slight bump in cost for their trips.

The City of Whitewater Common Council voted unanimously (6-0) at its Feb. 19 meeting to increase the fares of the shared ride taxi program overseen by the city. Brown Cab, the taxi company that is used by the city to offer the shared ride program, said the increases would put them closer to other area neighborhoods.

Agency fares, which involve trips paid for by local social service agencies, will see a $3 increase. These fares are now $9.50 apiece. The service will also increase its per mile charge by 25 cents, bringing the cost of a taxi ride to $2.25 for every mile traveled.

“We are looking to increase those agency and per-mile fares to what they are in other neighborhoods,” said Brown Cab general manager Karl Schulte.

The shared taxi program is funded largely by operating grants from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Federal Transportation Administration. In the case that there are still costs leftover, the local municipality is responsible for covering those costs.

A decline in ridership is estimated to create a $32,000 shortfall from the expected revenue for this year, which is the price the city needed to cover. This motivated the fare changes.

Despite the fact that ridership is down this year, Alderman Lynn Binnie noted that the program is one of the only options for locals who may not have access to their own transportation.

“This really is one of the only options we have for those who don’t have a car, or their car is maybe not functional. This is the only way they have to get to work,” Binnie said.

And while Schulte said the fares will bring Whitewater closer to the local average for these service costs, Binnie mentioned that Whitewater will be on the higher end of similar local programs with the new pricing.

“I look to other municipalities, and this type of increase would put us pretty much at the top,” she said.

As the program moves forward, Whitewater resident Brienne Brown also asked the Council to consider people with disabilities when dealing with the ride share.

“I have met a few disabled people in town in wheelchairs. They said they could not get service right around dinnertime,” Brown said, asking if there are accommodations for those who are handicapped.

Schulte mentioned that dinnertime could be a busy time for all riders that use the program, but that all vehicles in the taxi service are handicap equipped.

The program will continue to service all riders, just at a slightly higher price.

City headed to Madison Conference

City of Whitewater manager Cameron Clapper attended the League of Wisconsin Municipalities annual legislative session in Madison.

The state reimburses just 38% of all funds that municipalities direct towards state sponsored facilities such as the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities is meeting to see what options are on the table to get a higher reimbursement rate.

Clapper, who described the event as a “lobbying arm”, took place Feb. 20.