County board remains at 30

February 22, 2019

JEFFERSON -- After a monster of a January board discussion on the subject, as well a subsequent meeting of the minds at the committee level, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday evening in a regular session for February agreed it’s best the panel remains at 30 members.

Jefferson County board Chairman Jim Schroeder said in late 2018 that county officials should broach the always touchy subject of downsizing the county board first thing in 2019. And in a “be-careful-what-you-ask-for” scenario, the chairman received an earful between the moment he mentioned the possible board redesign Jan. 8 and Tuesday, when supervisors’ votes permitted their roster to remain at 30 players.

The board addressed several separate resolutions related to what supervisor numbers could be. The members first had the option of reducing their aggregation from 30 to 15. This failed but was supported by George Jaeckel, Blane Poulson, Jim Schroeder and Brandon White. The next resolution asked supervisors if the board should be reduced from 30 to 25 members. This failed but was supported by White, Schroeder, Poulson, Jaeckel, Matt Foelker, Mike Wineke and Roger Lindl. Supervisors then voted on whether their number should remain at 30 and this passed by a vote of 19-8 with three members, Russell Kutz, Richard Jones and Augie Tietz, absent. Dissenting were Jim Braughler, Dwayne Morris, Dick Schultz, Schroeder, Poulson, Jaeckel, Lindl and Foelker. Supervisors were finally unanimous on one thing, however -- that a committee to review the size of the board should not be formed.

“It’s time to move on,” Schroeder told his colleagues and in an interview Wednesday elaborated on his feelings about county leaders’ attitudes and actions toward the concept of possible board downsizing.

“I was directed to address the subject of board size by the county’s strategic plan committee,” Schroeder told the Daily Times. “My initial feeling was that it would turn out the way it did. But what I was surprised by was the reaction to the idea.”

Schroeder said he was floored by the immediate opposition many board members showed toward possible shrinking of board size.

“There was immediate opposition and it was really widespread,” he said. “People came out with both guns blazing in opposition. There was almost an emotional reaction,” he said.

According to Schroeder, supervisors “missed a chance to lead by example.” He said in the county’s current attempt to implement the concept of priority-based budgeting, its leaders want respective departments to take a hard look at what they do and how they do it. Amy Rinard of the board said she participated in priority-based budgeting exercises at the courthouse this week and said they can be truly eye-opening.

“And I think it’s reasonable the board would do the same with its own operations,” Schroeder said about the board perhaps lingering a bit longer on the subject of its own size. “Board members missed the opportunities. The reaction was so swift and so emotional, there was no objective, outward-looking consideration of the topic.”

But Schroeder said it’s time to leave the subject of Jefferson County board size alone until the next chance arrives to address it. That will be in the next board term following the April 2020 election.

“It’s back to business and I was glad we were able to resolve this last night,” the chairman said. “This is just one action item in the county’s strategic plan. Now we can move on with that plan and keep moving Jefferson County forward.”

Also Tuesday, the board was introduced to new Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission member Joseph Naylor, who also took time during his introduction by Veterans Service Officer Yvonne Duesterhoeft to present the commission with a check for $4,000 from his Naylor Classic golf tournament. (See page 2 for donation photo).

The board heard encouraging annual reports from Barb Morrison Gudgeon of the Community Dental Clinic, the Rock River Free Clinic’s Kristen Wallace, Lynn Forsyth of the Jefferson County Literacy Council, as well as Chrissy Wen and LaVern Georgson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.

Georgson’s report focused on Jefferson County’s hosting of 2019 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days July 23-25 at Walter Grain Farms near Johnson Creek.

According to Georgson, the event will attract tens of thousands of people to the area during its run and, if the weather is nice, could hit 40,000 attendees. He said planning for the mammoth gathering is going well.

“We think we have a very good plan going,” he said, adding event organizers are hoping to put what he called the county’s “uniqueness” on display for all to see.

“We want to show Jefferson County’s capabilities in agriculture. This will show off the uniqueness and ‘specialness’ of our area that maybe we sometimes take for granted,” he said.

Georgson stressed the need for volunteers to help with almost every aspect of the event. He said the county’s need could be met by volunteer groups that wish to do fundraising at the same time. For more information, contact the county at 920-674-7295.

“We are really hoping our prep work turns into a pleasant experience for those who attend,” he said, adding the event is only 151 days away as of today.

Supervisors also approved a resolution that addresses how the county will deal in the future with employee absences and corresponding sick leave due to dangerously cold weather conditions. This matter comes up as a result of the recent intense cold spell that overtook the Midwest and caused dangerous travel conditions for county employees and the community in general. The resolution addresses how sick leave may be used on dangerous weather days so employees can remain safe and be appropriately compensated.

Also among resolutions approved Tuesday was one calling for the adoption of a public participation plan for the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan and Agricultural Preservation and Land Use Plan.

Project manager Paul Chellevold of SRF Consulting Group of Madison presented a summary of how the process will be conducted over the next 21 months.

He said the goal is to finalize the plan in September/October 2020 over the course of approximately 25 public meetings.

“It is a plan that is going to set the tone of the next 10 years for the county,” he said.

Resolutions related to the county’s Veterans Foundation, Inc. made it a tax-exempt organization and created a Veterans Service Commission Revolving Loan Guarantee Program.

Not on the original agenda, but added and approved by the board Tuesday, was a resolution that allows for acceptance of a bid for construction by Bos Design Buildings/Cleary Building Corporation of a swine barn and animal wash rack for the Jefferson County Fair Park. The cost of the project will be $83,417, with $75,000 of this amount already budgeted. The remainder is expected to be collected through fundraising. The new barn will measure approximately 40 feet by 120 feet.