Taylor County Board Has Full Agenda
The Taylor County board room included at least 2 dozen spectators for an emotional start to the board meeting. The board voted unanimously to approve a resolution commending officer Chad Kowalczyk for his bravery and professional response. Sheriff Bruce Daniels became emotional when he read from the resolution that officer Kowalczyk was shot twice while in the line of duty on September 8th. Daniels said the officers are in fact his “second family” and they believe in what they do. Kowalczyk was awarded a medal which enrolled him in the “Police Legion Of The Purple Heart”. Following a standing ovation, Officer Kowalczyk told the group he was strengthened by the prayers and support which he received from people he didn’t know. Next the board approved a resolution commending Detective Steven Bowers for his actions at the incident. Bowers negotiated with the defendant resulting in an arrest and no further injuries. Accepting his “Outstanding Commendation Award” Detective Bowers indicated he felt it was a group effort. Families and friends of the officers shared their appreciation in the courthouse hallway following the presentation.
As the board was expressing thanks to the Westboro and Rib Lake fire departments for their assistance with traffic control following the September 8th shooting incident, supervisor Rollie Thums took the floor. Mr. Thums expressed his frustration with the county’s new digital radio communication system. He indicated that as assistant chief of the Rib Lake fire department, the new system isn’t working and is possibly putting emergency responders in harm’s way.
Sheriff Daniels spoke up indicating that a consultant had been hired to deal with the shortfalls of the system. Supervisor Bob Lee asked, didn’t we spend $1.3 million to upgrade from analog to digital?
Currently, due to certain frequencies not functioning properly, the sheriff’s department is simulcasting on the fire frequency. Daniels told the board that some issues are related to the weather sirens. Daniels concluded saying that the radio system today on the fire frequency is better than several years ago.
The county board expressed appreciation to Steven Oberle for his years of service as County Conservationist.
They approved the 2014 Highway Department Equipment Schedule, the 2013 Bridge aid expenses, and appointed Jess Sakmann as highway commissioner.
Medical examiner Scott Perrin and Corporate Counsel Ken Schmiege were reappointed.
The board approved a resolution requesting powerline impact fees of up to $20,000 for half of the expenses to renovate the Westboro Area Senior Citizens Center over the next 2 years.
The bulk of time was spent on implementation of a new job classification and compensation plan for Taylor County positions. Carlson Dettman Consulting prepared a new job classification system for county employees. The county currently has 73 pay grades. Under the new system that will drop to 18. Anybody under the new plan would to the step which provides a pay raise. Future pay raises would increase by a 2.5% step. For employees who feel they were not classified fairly they must approach their supervisor who in turn would contact H.R. supervisor Marie Koerner. Appeals would then be handled by the Carlson Dettman firm beginning next week.
One big change in the county compensation plan is the health insurance. The county hired a consultant who put the plan out on bids. The result was a $260,000 savings with premiums reduced by 10%. However, the out of pocket expense for family plans for health insurance will increase from $4,600 to $7,500 per year. Prior to employees receiving pay raises they will need to have a satisfactory job performance review. The new job classification procedure will cost just over $100,000 to implement. Pay back for the county will be realized by lower pay raise steps and lower minimum wage for future new hires.
The 2014 budget which calls for just over $25 million in expenditures, saw considerable discussion on a request to quadruple wages for county fair officials. The original budget called for $2500. Fair committee member Chuck Zenner requested doubling the wage for the fair secretary and establishing a per diem for board members. Zenner indicated he didn’t think it was right that board members were paying some expenses out of their pocket.
Supervisor Lewis indicated all surrounding counties pay in excess of $10,000 to support their fairs. Supervisor Mildebrand said he could support increasing the amount to $5,000 but not quadrupling it to $10,000. Supervisor Krug echoed those sentiments saying that doubling the secretary’s wage and adding per diem wouldn’t solve any problems.
Supervisor Bizer said he took the capitalist approach. If the fair makes a profit, perhaps the fair board could keep a portion of the profits. Rollie Thums asked if they really needed to pay volunteers. Zenner responded they were having a hard time finding volunteers.
The vote to increase funding to the fair to $10,000 failed on a 5 yes and 11 no vote.
The amended vote to increase spending to $5,000 passed on a 15 yes and 1 no vote.
The board gave a unanimous approval to the amended 2014 budget. The tax rate will be $8.17, compared to $8.11 in 2012. This will result in a 6 cent increase per $1,000 of full equalized value of property. The budget levy of $10,281,679 is an increase of $270,170 or 2.6%.
Taylor County property owners will see a slight increase in their property taxes. The Taylor County portion of property taxes will increase about 9 cents per $1,000 of equalized value as a result of the 2014 proposed budget which was passed by the county’s budget committee on Monday.
County Clerk Bruce Strama indicated that a significant savings in health insurance had an impact. Because of changes in the health insurance program the county is saving over $240,000.
In an effort to boost the amount of roadway improvements, the highway department budget included funds for additional road paving and maintenance.
Total budget expenditures are increased by approximately 3%.
The Medford Planning Commission met Monday night. They considered a request from Kylene Abbiehl for a conditional use permit to allow an in home day care for 8 or fewer children in the home located at 710 N Second Street. The request prompted discussion regarding Medford’s current code which allows an in home business office to occupy up to 25% of one floor of the structure. According to Bob Christensen, the code may be too restrictive for a day care operation. Mr. Christensen noted that daycares are a vital component to a city. Kylene Abbiehl’s request for an in home daycare was granted, but the planning commission is expected to meet again in November to address the language of the in home business code. Changes to the code would need to be approved and recommended by the Planning Commission, for approval by the city council.
The Westboro man accused of shooting Taylor county deputy Chad Kowalczyk was in Taylor County court Tuesday. Alexandar Schneider, who observed his 28th birthday in the Lincoln County jail recently appeared for his initial appearance with attorney John Voorhees.
Vorhees was appointed as Schneider’s attorney on October 4th.
Court records indicate that Schneider waived the reading of the complaint and time limit for the preliminary hearing scheduling.
Judge Ann Knox-Bauer scheduled the preliminary hearing for December 5th at 3 PM. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for December 12th at 11 AM.
Schneider is being held facing 7 charges including Attempted 1st degree intentional homicide in the Lincoln County Jail on a one million dollar cash bond.
Deputy Kowalczyk continues his recovery from the gunshot would.
The Taylor County Building, Grounds & Parks committee met Tuesday. The courthouse will be 100 years old in 2014. The treasurer’s office and the 3rd floor former Circuit Court rooms are relatively unchanged from their original appearance. The committee approved the planning process for a rededication on the Saturday after Labor Day.
Looking ahead to winter snow plowing, 2 bids were received for snow plowing county-owned parking lots. JR’s Snowplowing gave a bid of $6,975 and Dave Hartl & Sons bid $8,000. The JR quote indicated they would remove any snowfall over 1 inch, while the Dave Hartl quote indicated they would remove snowfall in any amount. Committee members awarded the job to Dave Hartl & Sons for the higher bid amount to try and eliminate potential complaints.
The cell tower which is located at the NTC campus building was recently purchased by the county for $25,000. Cell service providers including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint want to upgrade their hardware to 4G. To achieve this a heavier tower is needed. The committee approved the construction of a 265 foot free-standing tower and dismantling of the current tower. AT&T would apply for all permits and build the structure, ultimately selling it back to the county. County Clerk Bruce Strama estimated that the county gets about $6,000 per month for rent of the tower. The committee approved the erection of a temporary tower to be utilized during construction of the new tower near the campus.
The group discussed the future tenancy of the campus building after NTC moves to their new building which is scheduled for early 2014. Lester Lewis indicated he’s heard several ideas regarding moving departments, and not everyone would be happy with a move. Jeff Ludwig felt it would be a mistake to occupy space “just because we have it”. Ultimately Mr. Ludwig felt it would be best to reduce the amount of space the county occupies, possibly by vacating the Ag. building. Mr Lewis indicated he was aware of several non-profits who were interested in the Ag building, but not willing to pay any rent. Mr. Ludwig was directed to bring back a set of current and proposed floor plans. In the interest of security it was hoped that all departments housed in the courthouse would have the same operating hours.
To notify the sheriff’s dispatch of trouble in courthouse offices, an updated Duress system network would add 12 areas of the building which are currently unprotected. Jeff Ludwig indicated total cost of the system is $5,102. The issue will be taken up by the finance committee.
The county’s maintenance crew is continuing work on the remodeled Winter Sports chalet. Ludwig told the committee the project should be completed for the $100,000 budgeted amount.
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