Jefferson Agrees to Crawfish River Solar and Courthouse Renovations

By Danielle Kronau / The Capstone

     The Jefferson County Board passed resolutions for the Crawfish River Solar generating facility and Courthouse renovations assessment on March 9.

     According to Corporation Counsel J. Blair Ward, in trying to receive final approval in the Joint Development Agreement for Crawfish River Solar, the Jefferson County Board has entered further negotiations with them, finalizing recent requests.

     “Just on the motion, I know all of you have read this very carefully and compared it to the first version that you saw in December,” says County Board Supervisor Amy Rinard, “But it has changed a little bit and…this version differs from even the one that the Executive Committee saw.”

     As Corporation Counsel Ward said on Tuesday, the Crawfish River Joint Development Agreement is similar to a previous Joint Development Agreement passed on Badger Solar across the road.

     According to the Crawfish River Solar Web site, the generating facility will be around for 30 years, using about 500 acres of land. It will be implemented in the Town of Jefferson south of Wisconsin Highway 18. The substation itself is located by the intersection of Wisconsin Highway 89 and County Road Q.     

     According to the Web site, landowners volunteered to participate in the project, without using eminent domain. According to the Web site, the growth of solar panels will not likely have a meaningful impact on the overall amount of County or state agricultural land.

     Also, local farmers will be provided income diversification from the leased land payments which will simultaneously protect and preserve agricultural land for generations.

     According to the Web site, the project will be a big source of tax revenue with $125,000 per year. This is expected in new shared revenue for the Town of Jefferson and $175,000 per year for Jefferson County. The purpose of Crawfish River Solar is to generate clean power for Wisconsin for 30 years or longer.

     All facilities will be removed once the project is finished, and the land will be used for agriculture once again.

     The Courthouse renovations resolution was the other big topic of the night. The County Board majority agreed to continue providing authorized funding by amending the existing contract with Potter Lawson so additional services did not exceed $150,000. According to the agenda, this funding was designated in the 2021 budget.

    According to the agenda, last year in October, a report presented to the County Board included an analysis of the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems.

     It also included three primary Courthouse additions. During that time, the cost of the total project was estimated at $33 million with $17 million to replace the three systems. The County Board was presented financing options which included discussion that interest rates were historically low. 

     “I’ve been in all of these meetings and I am completely in favor of the renovations but I’m not in favor of the final cost,” says County Board Supervisor James Braughler, “And I am certain that we need to trim that. So if the cost remains at the condition it is right now, I will be voting against it in the long term. There’s just too much going on right now. We need to trim.”

Finance Report

     County Board Supervisor Richard Jones discussed the Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company’s denied claims and year-end requests for carrying over unspent funds from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021.

     The County Board followed up on a damage claim from a homeowner regarding a Jefferson County plow and alleged damage to a mailbox. Corporation Counsel Ward met with their insurance company and decided to disallow the payment for the damage, but the constituent can still negotiate the County through other avenues.

     The County Board also discussed the possibility of adding when amendments are added to the budget. According to the County Board, because there is approximately $50 million left over from fiscal year 2020, the finance committee recommended bringing the money to fiscal year 2021.

     According to the agenda, of the amount, the approximate $2.2 million would restore employee compensated package steps and increase the cost of mid-year living of 1%. It would restore the Water Resource Manager position to full-time status with the remainder salary and benefits to meet full-time status. The sales tax revenue budget increase would fund the position.

     “Based on the discussion here…I think our present system is pretty civilized and I think we do a pretty decent job,” says County Board Supervisor Richard Jones, “And it gives everyone a chance to have that opportunity to speak.”

Also on Tuesday:

  • The County Board congratulated the Lake Mills High School Girls Basketball Team on their Division three State Basketball Championship.
  • The Jefferson County Board accepted the proclamation for the month of April 2021 being Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

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