Need for Broadband the Utmost Importance at County Board Meeting

A Jefferson County Board Meeting was held on March 8th, 2022 at 7pm in the Jefferson City Courthouse, and the board members had several topics they wanted to discuss.  

One of the biggest focuses the members wanted to discuss is the lack of broadband transmission in the county. Broadband is the process of transmitting signals on several frequencies to send out many messages at once, and since part of the county struggles to get the messages, the group decided to resolve this problem. The shortage of broadband signal was Jefferson County noted that this was important to fix on its Comprehensive Plan, stating that broadband was a “demonstrated need” that was brought forth by stakeholders. There were many businesses and families that were not able to a strong signal, so they approved a public and private partnership with Hilbert Communications LLC to expand its broadband service. Once the deal gets going, they decided to build 3 towers and have 187 miles of optic fiber that connects to over 10,000 address points to cover all needed areas in the county. 

The county is attempting to get a grant to help finance this plan, along with support from Hilbert Communications. They also have $2 million set aside for needs like this. The plan is said to be around $11 million. 

“Broadband has been referred to as the infrastructure of the future, impacting business investment, education access, residential attraction and quality of life,” says Amy Rinard, the Executive Committee Chair. She is the one that is leading this plan. 

Another thing that was discussed was the budget situation. Ben Wehmeier, the county administrator, said the budget this year is in “good hands” and that is because the revenue of the county was more than expected, with a $13 million surplus from the previous year. The county had a proposed budget of $81 million, but they earned a total of $85 million, and the reason was because they set the budget very low because they had no idea what 2021 would have brought, and it turned out better than expected. However, they went over the sales tax budget by $1.6 million, and the tax was almost $8 million, too high for the county.  

Wehmeier says this growth could be sustainable, but with some fluctuating prices like gas recently, things could change.  

Later on, the construction of the Interurban trail. This trail is a recreational trail that can be used for biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing. The trail is almost 11 miles long and is located between the city of Watertown on Oconomowoc. The board agreed to get funding to pave 4.7 miles of the road.  Two phases will take place. Phase one will be funded by a stewardship grant, along with carryover funds from the previous year and phase two will be funded by transportation alternative program grant for over $1 million.  

“Path cross-section will consist of a ten-foot-wide asphalt surface with two-foot-wide aggregate shoulders,” said Jeff Johns of the Parks Committee. Johns believes that everyone should have a trail to exercise and get from one place to another.  

There is a lot to look up on over the past year in Jefferson County. Higher revenue plans to improve quality of life, and many plans are being put forth to make life easier. It is just a matter of time before we see if the county will maintain its budget.