Bigger, But Not Long-Term (J486)

The Jefferson County Board held a meeting at the Jefferson County Court House on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. The main point of interest in this meeting was the introduction of the 2019 proposed county budget, presented by County Administrator Ben Wehmeier.

Tuesday night marked the first showing of the 2019 proposed budget, after the budget committee spend a week reviewing the full budget.

The proposed county budget for 2019 is close to $81 million, which is an almost $20 million increase from the 2018 budget. However, this budget amount is not long-term. There multiple “one-time capital” projects—park and road renovations—that are increasing the budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

The budget breakdown includes $6.325 million in sales tax and online sales tax, general state shared revenues, utility state shared revenues, transportation, advanced funding and capital.

On Oct. 23, there will be a public hearing for a chance for community members to comment on the proposed budget. In the weeks following the meeting, the budget committee and supervisors will go through an amendment process on the budget. The proposed budget must be finalized and sent to the state by Nov. 15.

Wehmeier explains the proposed budgeting process as a priority-based system. With resources becoming tougher and tougher to come by, it is especially important to focus on priorities.

“We have to look at [the budget] program to program,” says Wehmeier. “A lot of it is related to our strategic vision.”

Board Chair Jim Schroeder continues by discussing the need for a common system among departments. There are 26 departments in the Jefferson County system and it is important that each department is cohesive and effective. Schroeder explains that it is more important than ever that people trust the system.

Although the county is currently in a good place, there are always worries that accompany the budget. According to Schroeder, the county has to look at inconsistent entities long-term, like state budget and economics.

Luckily, the only debt Jefferson County has about $14.27 million left in payments for the highways shop.

“By the end of this calendar year, we will be fully closed on all projects,” says Wehmeier.

Wehmeier ended the presentation by encouraging community members to attend the public hearing on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Jefferson County Court House.


Additional news from the Jefferson County Board meeting on Oct. 9 includes:

  • The resolution in remembrance of Leon Zimdars. Zimdars, of Palmyra, served on the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors for 12 years, from 1988 to 2000. He served on the Agriculture Committee, Board of Health, Countryside Farm Board, Health, Land Conservation Committee, Planning & Zoning Committee and UW Extension Education Committee. The resolution was unanimously accepted.
  • The sale of the Lake Mills highway satellite shop. The Jefferson County Highway Department no longer used the Highway Department satellite shop in Lake Mills, so the building was sold to Chandler White of CRW Company, LLC for $60,000. The sale was approved by the board.
  •  The denial of the claim by Joanne Vonachen. During the Jefferson County Fair, the scheduled Travis Tritt concert was canceled due to inclement weather. Vonachen purchased reserved seating tickets to the show, in addition to fair admission. She requested a refund for both purchases but was denied because the County was not legally responsible for refunds. The vote was unanimously approved.
  • The proclamation for 4-H week. 4-H is America’s largest youth development organization and is recognized nationwide during National 4-H Week. This year, the week of recognition was Oct. 7 through Oct. 13. Over 710 youth are active in 4-H in Jefferson County, in addition to more than 280 volunteer leaders and alumni. A proclamation was made that Oct. 7 through Oct. 13 is proclaimed as National 4-H Week in Jefferson County. All board members voted in favor of this proclamation.

More Fines, More Money (J486)

The Whitewater Common Council met at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Whitewater City Hall, in a regular council meeting.

Many topics were discussed, but the major point of interest was the debate about fines for historical landmark sites. A discussion that comes after multiple changes to fines of other offenses.

Due to previous destruction of historical sites around Whitewater, the council members discussed the topic of implementing a harsh fine to deter people from damaging historical property.

The current fines for damage to historical landmarks are $450 to $700. The new proposed amount for the fines is $1,000, in addition to costs of property damages.

All landmarks are considered in this ordinance, including public and privately-owned landmarks with proper signage. Each privately-owned historical house is marked with a boulder and plaque, dubbing it a landmark—thus, including them in the fines—according to a Landmark Committee member.

The ordinance was moved in attempt to deter future vandalism of property, based on events that happened earlier this year. However, it was agreed that all landmarks need to be marked in order to differentiate the historical properties from others.

“Not all of the historical sites are marked,” says Stephanie Vander Pas, councilman. “We need to discuss signage before we discuss fines.”

Vander Pas explains that there needs to be a clear and prominent sign stating that the land, private or publicly-owned, is a landmark site.

A question still stood regarding the proposed ordinance. How will people be made aware of this fine change?

Councilman Jim Schulgit argues that people will commit vandalism whether there is a landmark sign, or not. “Someone committing vandalism is not looking for a sign,” says Schulgit.

The audience was assured that, if the ordinance passed, the news of the fine changes would be made public and posted accordingly. The matter will be handled in the same manner as the previous fine changes.

Ultimately, the matter was deemed unsettled and tabled to discuss at a later meeting. The councilmembers will continue to research the matter and make a decision on the final amount for fines.

City Council Budget 2019

On Tuesday, Oct. 2 City Manager Cameron Clapper discussed the proposed 2019 city budget.

The expected Whitewater budget is $26,259,403, along with a general funding amount of $9,658,650.

The city of Whitewater is expecting to see a decrease in funding from the state, due to the shared services between the City of Whitewater and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Clapper expects to only receive 38% of the $281,417 expected state payment.

This funding decrease is contributing to the increase in city taxes.

Additional news from the Oct. 2 Common Council Meeting includes:

  • The great officer turnout at the Pick a Day, Come and Play event at Washington Elementary, Sept. 27.
  • Coffee with a Cop at Jessica’s from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Oct. 3.
  • Whitewater’s fall Food Truck Fest on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. There will be food, fun, pumpkin painting and pumpkin catapulting. Donations are encouraged for the new library.
  • Whitewater’s 28th CROP Hunger Walk raised $186,243.94 over the last 25 years. The organizers hope to continue to raise money to end hunger.
  • The Discover Whitewater Series run/walk/fun welcomed 749 participants this year. There are hopes to grow the event and highlight what Whitewater has to offer.

Let’s Hear It for the Dream Team

This past weekend, Sept. 28-30, four Jefferson County 4-H members took a nine-hour trip to Grand Island, Nebraska for the AKSARBEN Livestock Judging Competition.

The senior team competed all summer at county, district, regional and state livestock judging events. Their hard work prevailed after winning the state competition, securing their spot at the national competition.

4-H is America’s largest youth development organizations. The organization spans across every county in every state, focusing on developing skills and friendships that will last a lifetime.

One of the most popular 4-H programs are the Career Development Events. Here, students can participate in livestock, dairy and meat evaluation contest. The goal for each participating team is to win state and earn a spot at the national competition in Nebraska.

Jefferson County’s Senior 4-H Livestock Judging team—made up of Danielle Chwala, Alexis Schultz, Trevor Messmer and Colton Klecker—accomplished the goal, in the livestock judging portion.

“I’ve been doing livestock judging for 10 years and I’ve finally made it to AKSARBEN,” says Chwala. “I’m nervous, because I’ve never been to a national competition.”

Livestock judging consists of four main skills including animal evaluation, oral reasons, industry questions and data analysis. Contest participants typically spend eight hours at a competition moving from station to station. Each section receives a score out of 50. A team is allotted four members to contribute to the overall score. There are individual placings awarded, as well.

“The worst part are the reasons,” Chwala says. “We usually have to do three sets, and it’s all memorized.”

This is the second time, in four years, that Jefferson County has had a national livestock judging team. Before that, the county was on a losing streak for 12 years.

“I’m very proud of my team this year and the team that fueled the fire under the county, four years ago,” says Ed Bielinski, Jefferson County livestock judging coach. “These kids have been working so hard, and that’s all I can really ask of them. I’m very proud.”

The team finished the competition in 17 place and a great experience under their belts.

“This was kind of like my last hoorah,” says Schultz. “I’m in college now, so I can’t compete in 4-H anymore. It’s bitter sweet, really.”

Although an unfavorable placing, the team plans to return to competing—apart from Schultz—in hopes of winning state and having a second chance at the AKSARBEN national livestock judging competition.