Taylor County Board: Covid, Wolves, Broadband And More 9/30/20
The Taylor County Board of supervisors met on Wednesday. Just 12 hours after the presidential debate debacle, Pastor Daniel from Immanuel Lutheran opened the meeting with a prayer seeking common sense from our leaders. Chairman Jim Metz recognized Patty Krug, the director of the Taylor County Health Department. Ms. Krug gave an update on the Covid situation in Taylor County. The number of positive cases has been on the rise with 10 new positive cases reported on Tuesday. The energies required to follow through with the contact tracing process has resulted in the Health Department staff working many extra hours. Patty Krug indicated that they have received push back from some individuals who are upset about cancellations. She asked that citizens remember the guidelines objectives are to minimize the spread of the pandemic. In the wake of dealing with upset individuals, Ms Krug asked that upset individuals “Remember that we’re people too”. Prior to the Health Department staff leaving the room the board gave them a standing ovation.
The board recognized Jeff Ludwig upon his retirement after 35 years of service which resulted in being promoted to the director of the county’s buildings, grounds and parks. Mr. Ludwig thanked his co-workers and committee members for their dedication.
The next resolution was a classic “Not in my backyard” with the board going on record as opposing the relocation of problem wolves in Taylor County. One of the management control methods which the DNR has used to address depredation by wolves is to trap the wolves and move them to other counties. This methodology has been found to be ineffective as these wolves continue to cause damage after relocation. The board went on record as opposing the relocation of wolves into Taylor County. It’s estimated that Wisconsin has 256 wolf packs.
The board showed their concern for the recent closure of the Verso Mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth. The forest products industry is the number one employer in Taylor County based on both employment and economic output. Over the last 5 years 10% of all mixed hardwood pulpwood from the Taylor County forest was purchased by Verso. It’s estimated that the Rapids mill utilizes over 25% of all mixed hardwood produced in the state. The board passed a resolution which requested state officials to direct energies to allow continuation of the mill operations.
The board approved an amendment to the county’s code of employment which struck a sentence which read “Except Accountant who will work a 35 hour week”.
The Taylor County Board had approved the concept of moving toward high speed internet and a new highway shop in previous meetings. Funding for those items and other projects would be from borrowed money. To begin the process of borrowing money the board must approve an initial resolution authorizing the county to borrow up to $14 million. With interest rates at historic lows, Forest County recently borrowed $5 million for 1.3%. As required by law the subject resolution sets forward the intent to borrow. Each specific project will require future board approval for the requested amount. The board unanimously approved the borrowing of up to $14 million for the cost of a broadband project, highway shop replacement, highway and road projects, dam repair projects, cell phone tower construction and the acquisition of land and equipment.
There were two requests for funding from the county’s powerline impact fee fund. Al Riemer addressed the board with a request from the Village of Stetsonville for $15,000 to be utilized for restoring the village pond. The pond provides water for fire suppression and recreational opportunities. The pond has been damaged by muskrats and the edges have eroded. The vote to approve $15,000 for upgrades to the Stetsonville pond was unanimously adapted. The second request for funding was from the Centennial Community Center in Stetsonville. Ron Zuleger told the board that a 40 by 75 foot shelter which is adjacent to the community center needed extensive repairs and a walk in cooler was failing. Several board members recalled approving a cost sharing contribution to Jump River, Gilman and Rib Lake for repairs to community buildings. The board voted 12 yes and 5 no to provide half of the requested $15,000 and granted $7,500 to the Centennial Community Center for repairs. Gene Knoll asked how much money is in the Powerline Impact Fee fund and Larry Brandl indicated that at the end of August the fund totalled $569,682.
A new county highway shop is proposed to be built in Rib Lake. The building is planned to be 120 feet by 130 feet. The project includes a salt and sand storage building. The resolution called for the county to purchase just over 15 acres of land from Joe Desris for the sale price of $63,400. Supervisor Rollie Thums expressed his concerns about putting a salt and sand shed so close to Highway D. He proposed pushing the building to the back of the Desris property. It was pointed out that a natural gas line crosses the parcel, in addition to the additional cost of a long driveway and utilities. After discussion the board voted unanimously to approve the purchase of land for a new highway shop across the street from the Rib Lake middle school. The purchase will be contingent on approval from the Rib Lake Village Board.
County Clerk Andria Farrand told the board that the Taylor County Child Support Agency received the Federal Fiscal Year 2019 Certificate of Excellence award. The agency was one of 17 child support agencies honored this year.
In other correspondence to the board, Ron Lekie thanked the board for the $5,000 donation toward the Whittlesey Lions new childrens park which had a total cost of $15,000. Mr. Lekie invited all area families to stop by and enjoy the beauty of the Whittlesey Lions Park.
At the present time the city of Medford and two townships in Taylor County have zoning. The townships include Grover and Little Black. Hammel town chairman Steve Deml addressed the county board indicating that Hammel officials are considering adapting zoning ordinances. Mr. Deml indicated that the town board is trying to be proactive in protecting water quality and to make future development more orderly. To avoid possible conflicts he asked the board if the county was considering zoning. Lester Lewis indicated that he supported zoning at the town level and not the county level. The county board voted unanimously that there is no county plan for comprehensive zoning. Recently in an effort to deter a super dairy, Little Black adapted zoning. The next township to be zoned may be the Town of Hammel.
Mike Bub gave an update on the county’s efforts to provide county wide broadband coverage. The plan includes setting the infrastructure for fiber optics. Recently the group has applied for a portion of a $25 million grant program from the state. Mike Bub told the board that more information and alliances with various providers are being forged. It is hoped that the project can be completed in 2022.