Jefferson County Board addresses rural broadband solution resolution

Jefferson County Board discussed positive financial outlook including expanding broadband services to rural communities Mar. 8. Parks Committee reported updates with Interurban Trail contractor selection and bidding process.

County Administrator Ben Wehmeier shared Jefferson County’s financial forecast during his “2022 Budget Amendment/ Carry Over Update” presentation. Line Items 10 and 11 on the agenda provided insight regarding the selection of both a broadband tower installation contractor and a newspaper publisher.

The Jefferson County Board provided development overview with Interurban Trail competitive bids for next phases.

“We want to present the story of the 2022 results. We have roughly 13,000-line items on our accounts that the finance department manages. I do promise we will not go through all tonight,” County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said jokingly as he opened his report. “I will hit the key variances we have to help explain the key picture where we are at, which is positive.”

County Administrator Financial Report

Part of Wehmeier’s report pointed out his “2021 Revised Budget and Actual Revenue” comparisons. While fines, forfeitures and taxes increased, Wehmeier’s report noted public charges decreased.

Wehmeirer’s slide presentation provided data and forecast for Jefferson County’s future budget.

  • Revenue from fines and forfeitures increased 13.8 percent from $463,950 to $528,085.55. Speeding violations provided a revenue stream of $40,000 being allocated to the Sherriff’s Department allotting funds for overtime with an additional $23,295 from seat belt enforcement.
  • Money collected from taxes increased 5.1 percent. Interest on delinquent taxes totaled $370,000 versus the budgeted amount of $300,000.
  • Public charges included dental premium coverage for employees, land records and reversed seating fees, which all went over budget. Luckily, fines and forfeitures help offset costs. Public charges decreased 4.3 percent.

Upcoming Grant Funded Projects

Grant funding discussion brought forward sought “authorizing creation of a public-private partnership,” which explored financial options for broadband expansion. Broadband provides high-speed internet to users.

Jefferson County resolution 10 discussion addressed the needs of broadband.

“Broadband has often been referred to as the infrastructure of the future impacting business investments, education access, residential attraction and quality of life,” Supervisory District 9 and Vice Chair Amy Rinard said as she addressed item 10 a. on the agenda. “During the development of Jefferson County’s strategic plan, broadband expansion to underserved and unserved parts of the county was highlighted as a key initiative of the county.”

Rinard’s address noted her Jefferson County Broadband Working Group’s guidance provided certifications for integrating communications systems for those in need which include:

  • Broadband Forward Certification and the Telecommuter Certification, which allows for the expansion of broadband in Jefferson County.
  • Jefferson County received $1.118 million from the Cares Act for building four “fixed wireless towers” erected by Bertram Communications.
  • Rinard explained how Cares Act grant funds remedied the problem of reaching rural users who are without access. The Jefferson County Broadband Project improves communities and their emergency communication systems.

Publishing and Paving: The Road Ahead

The members of the Jefferson County Board addressed ongoing publishing contracts with the Jefferson County Union, who received the unanimous approval for contract renewal.

Jefferson County Board members unanimously agreed the Jefferson County Union’s coverage of county grant funded projects like the Interurban Trail deemed worthiness of recognition.

Executive Committee Chair Amy Rinard gave her report stating The Jefferson County Union will be “the county’s official newspaper for the next two years commencing Apr. 19, 2022 and ending Apr. 15, 2024.”

Rinard also spoke in favor of supporting the ongoing development of the Interurban Trail stating, “Once completed, you’re going to be able to ride your bike from Watertown to Lake Michigan.”

As of 2020, phases one through three received funding from grants totaling approximately $2.31 million. The project provides recreational opportunities year-round including cross country skiing.

The trail is located on the Interurban Railway, which spans from Watertown to Oconomowoc. The trail offers both Waukesha and Jefferson County the shared value of a “wonderful recreational opportunity” according to Rinard, who expressed her passion for continuance speaking in favor of the Interurban Trail project development.

Supervisor Jeff Johns reported ongoing bid development of phases one through three, who shared the Parks Committee report regarding paving and construction.

“The Parks Committee considered the proposals at its Feb. 28, 2022, meeting and voted to forward this resolution to the County board,” Johns said. “We move to accept the bids of Janke General Contractors Inc. and Wolf Paving Co. Inc. as the lowest bidders.”

As the Jefferson County Board bids farewell to their Coroner Patrick J. Theder, the group leaves on a positive fiscal note. Jefferson County strives to meet the needs of rural users requiring broadband services by working with Hilbert Communications LLC, who provides private-public partnership services.

The Interurban Trail paving and construction phases move farther on down the road with progress while Theder, whose memory lives on in the words shared during his memorandum, brought Jefferson County together Mar. 8 whose “report everyone looked forward to hearing” will be missed.

Bradley J. Burt serves the Dane County community as an American Legion Dane County Service Officer. Burt assists those in crisis with his multimedia reporter service as a blogger to distribute virtual information at his Social Media Writing final project called "Outpost 422." Burt returned as a Wisconsin State Certified Journey worker after finding out he could receive 39 credits for his journey worker certificate. The Technical Studies Journey Worker Associate's Degree helped him transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he received a waiver. The waiver allowed him to pursue the field of journalism bypassing general education requirements. In 2014, Burt uncovered information about the Wisconsin G.I. Bill as a Veterans Committee Chairperson. Burt joined the American Legion to investigate benefits further. After being elected to Service Officer in 2015, Burt began noticing college benefit opportunities in Wisconsin. In 2017, Burt left his job due to physical limitations from his military service-connected injuries. ​ The Wisconsin G.I. Bill became his life preserver. Burt returned to school to survive unemployability while waiting in appeal for VA benefit denial. Being a Service Officer taught him how to find resources to survive appeal. After interviewing Sgt. Gary Brynjulfson from "The Reflections of Vietnam" and reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Burt decided to develop a therapeutic writing style to help him cope with anxiety. Outpost 422 developed and journalism became his pursuit. ​ Burt works as an American Legion Service Officer who is surviving by going back to school and writing about his college experience. Burt's portfolio is his passion to pay forward to the next struggling veteran to offer avenues of hope to encourage veterans to try going back to school no matter where they are in life.

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