Broadcast, Budget, and the Interurban Trail


            Broadband, county budget, and the Interurban Trail were the main topics of discussion at a recent Jefferson County Board Meeting.

            The first topic on the agenda was the broadband agreement with Jefferson County,

            Broadband is the gathering of data from the internet at very high speeds. It is important to Jefferson County because it impacts everybody in the County including rural residents, urban residents, and local businesses by providing access to education and lifelong learning. The importance of broadband expansion was brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic.

            Jefferson County, with the help of the Broadband Working Group, was able to engage in conversations with broadband service providers Bertram Communication and Netwurx with its goal being to expand broadband coverage. As a result, the partnerships resulted in $1,118,000 in funding.

            Bug Tussel, a subsidiary of Hilbert Communications, would primarily pay for the project, with Hilbert Communications covering the rest. The project would consist of the construction of three cell towers, over 100 miles worth of fiber optic cables and the connection of numerous Jefferson County communication systems.

            The proposal was well received by board members such as Supervisor David Backlund, who represents Supervising District 20.

            “We felt it important for the community and the county to be able to go forward and build this and this seemed like a really good intention of being able to finance this going forward with the partnership.”

            The partnership that Supervisor Backlund is talking about is that of Jefferson County and Bug Tussel/Hilbert Communication LLC.

            Amy Rinard also expressed her support of the resolution by saying that it is the biggest proposal that the board has ever put forward.

            “This is really the biggest project we’ve ever proposed, it’s [huge]. And that’s why it’s so important that we could move forward regardless of whether we got a grant or not. It covers the whole county. We’ve never done that before.”

            While proposing resolutions is important, the county budget is what keeps these proposals and resolutions moving.

            County administrator Ben Wehmeier spoke at the board meeting and said that the county’s budget is in good shape.

            One of the areas that was in good shape was the results by fund.

            “The thing that is positive here for the most part is you see surpluses across the board, with the exception of some small areas. We saw revenues better than projected in most cases and we saw expenditures underneath budget in most cases as well.”

            He goes on to say that because of the positive surpluses, it puts the county in the positive fiscal picture.

            Another key area that Wehmeier touched out was the sales tax.

            He said when they put the budget together for the county, the year was 2020 and nobody knew what would happen.

            Some of those budget numbers include: a sales tax of $7.9 million, TIF (Tix Increment Finance) dissolution-$93,000, transfer fees at $356,000.

            The last major topic of the night was the Interurban Trail. The Interurban Trail is an in-progress trail being constructed on the former interurban rail line between the cities of Watertown and Oconomowoc. The trail would be primarily used for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. It would be a 10-mile-wide asphalt surface trail with 2-foot-wide-aggregate shoulders. The trail would be primarily in Jefferson County with 10 miles and 1 mile of the trail would be in Waukesha County.

            Amy Rinhard once again offered her thoughts, but this time on the Interurban Trail.

            “This trail project has been in the works, as Ben [Wehmeier] said. It’s gone through different phases where it’s kind of lingered, then the speed has picked up. I’m very happy to see it moving forward or make plans to make it more forward.”

            She goes on to say that she thinks that the trail will be a benefit to the community of Ixonia.

            The Jefferson County Board meeting was very eventful as many agenda items were resolved.    


Allen’s Agitation

            Whitewater Spectrum Equipment

            During a recent Whitewater Common Council meeting, there were many key issues that were discussed. One of those issues was the Spectrum the direction of Spectrum equipment used to broadcast council meetings to the public.

Councilmen James Allen requested this issue to be put on the agenda and was a bit “agitated” as well.

“So, Council found out several weeks after our equipment, which is dated mid 90s, completely broke down, and we were no longer broadcasting council meeting live.”

He goes on to say that the city needed to do some upgrades, which they did by buying new equipment, but he says now they need an additional part.

“What’s needed now is a piece of equipment that allows that signal to go through fiber optic cable to Janesville where they can rebroadcast [the meeting] so our customers can see it.”

He says it has taken almost six months to get that part and that it is kind of ridiculous. In addition, he blames Charter Spectrum for the delay.

Fellow council member Lynn Binnie urged Councilmen Allen to keep his comments short and to stay on topic.

“Excuse me Mr. Allen, but I think we need to keep the comments short and directed as to why this is urgent.”

Councilmen Allen then proposed to the board that they come up with a formal letter that they could send to state representatives and state senators to pressure Spectrum into acting. The council voted unanimously to approve a motion.

Another item on the agenda that Councilmen Allen was “agitated” about was the Youth Build Program.

The Youth Build Program is a non-profit organization that provides education, skills training and leadership. There are over 275 YouthBuild programs in the United States and around the world and has impacted over 180,000 youth.  

Councilmen Allen is concerned that, by participating is program, without secured land for housing, they run the risk of losing students to another school district, which creates revenue for the city.

“I think we are all in agreement that this is a great, great program, we just want to wait for our high school to get up to gear for it to apply here in Whitewater.”

Larry Kachel gave his thoughts on the matter

“Our district met with one of the founding members of the YouthBuild Program in Elkhorn this week, and moving forward with the program, not saying it is going to be up and running in September, as you all know, government is very slow.”  

Andre Svec, who is running for Whitewater School board, also gave her thoughts on the matter.

“I think that we have an obligation to our students to find a way to keep this YouthBuild here in our own city. We have a lot of kids that need paths to go on.”

In other action

  •    The council voted to discuss the situation related to LSP or LS Power plant in Whitewater. The city entered into a development with the plant where every five years, the plant has to give Whitewater an approximate appraisal fee for decommission or tearing it down and redevelopment. The plant used to provide steam to the University and its facilities but has since taken the smokestack down from its power plant located behind Esker Hall. Councilmen Allen wanted it remove from the agenda because he had some questions on it from the public
    •       For item C1 on the agenda, public works director Brad Markhort began to discuss the matter, but about halfway through, one of the council members cut him off and requested that there should be public bidding.

Councilmen Allen was agitated about many items and hopefully the items that were discussed in this story are resolved.