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December 5, 2019

11/18/2019 10:57:00 AM
Iowa County Board sets budget, approves broadband partnership

When Iowa County Board chairman John Meyers called the meeting to order he told the supervisors this would be a lengthy agenda.
He was not kidding.
The board's first 6 p.m. meeting of their winter schedule lasted over 2 ½ hours for the public session and was followed by a closed session review of the County Administrator position held by Larry Bierke. Included in the public session was the board's annual budget hearing.
Construction has been started on phase one of the Badger Hollow Solar Farm and Wind project and there has been a small amount started on phase two, the Supervisors learned from the project manager. He added a security fence will be in place soon. He also said there are currently 35 people on staff for the limited activities that can take place with the weather and he expects that to grow to 300 people next summer. The targeted completion date is the end of 2020 for phase one. Phase 2 would have a completion date of 2021, There are three companies wanting to buy into the project for their energy needs.
Dan Litchfield told the Supervisors there are possibilities of a wind power project and more solar in the future if the market is there.
In response to a question about how much of the power would be used locally Litchfield said it will be used locally as well as throughout Wisconsin.
In answer to a question about how the power will be moved along and an answer that transmission lines are the only way to move it, Supervisor O'Brien reminded Litchfield that it had been stated that the ATC line was not needed for this project.
"We have been in your corner and have gone on record opposed to the ATC project," O'Brien said. "I would hate to have that not the case now."
Litchfield clarified that the project only needs the lines which are currently in place and the ATC project has nothing to do with the Badger Hollow project.
'We like working in Iowa County and hope to do more," Litchfield said. "We will see you again."
Supervisor Deal asked clarification on the motion passed at the last meeting to appropriate $50,000 to the CHC legal defense fund. He said since then a proposal has surfaced to take $25,000 from this year's budget and $25,000 from next year's funds. He said he felt the issue is timely and funds should come out of this year's budget.
The matter was referred to the budget hearing.
Supervisor O'Brien updated the board on the fundraising efforts undertaken by the SUN program. There will be an annual appeal letter sent out, a share day at Culvers, a possible golf outing among other appeals. Funds will help the SUN program budget in the future.
He also talked about the Birch Lake ongoing project.
Also reporting were Supervisors Paull about a housing project and Benish about the upcoming Airport meeting.
Supervisor Nankee thanked the Chronicle for their article on farm suicide and added that the HHS is continually working on the suicide problem in the county.
Nankee also added suicide is a problem among veterans.
A letter from County Conservationist Katie Abbot informed the board that the Birch Lake dredging project is postponed until next year. The postponement is needed because of fluctuating water levels being detrimental to overwintering turtles and other aquatic life and because the siphon pipes would be at risk of freezing and cutting off water to the stream below. The DNR ordered the lake level to be brought back to normal in October.
When it comes time, the DNR will extend the necessary permits. The DNR has approved allowing most of the siphon set-up to remain on the dam over the winter.
Under public comment, Kasi Greenwood of The Dodgeville Chronicle discussed news coverage in the wake of the Lafayette County movement to manipulate the press and threatening prosecution. She said that part of the proposed resolution has since been amended but the public has the right to know. She added she feels there is a good working relationship between the Chronicle and the Board and thanked the Supervisors for their transparency.
Eight land use changes were approved by the Supervisors. They were for Bilse Farms, LLC and Lorenz LLP in the town of Brigham, Glen and Gertrude Miess in the town of Dodgeville, Jameson Pustina, Rodney and Connie Gard in the town of Eden, Jason Kleist, Larry Bomkamo fir Amy and Curt James and Robert and Robert and Agnes Rose in the town of Highland, Tracy Kruschke on behalf of Kyle brown and Hasen Hicsazmaz and Ryan Walmar and Rick Beerkircher I the town of Linden.
Allison Leitziner showed the Supervisors an employee relations video that featured Iowa County employees on why Iowa County is a great place to live and work.
The board held its budget hearing and started with passing a series of resolutions. Approved was a resolution accepting county aid to town road bridge construction, along with a resolution awarding the financing for capital projects, a resolution giving notice on the intent to issue financing regarding the purchase of highway equipment and a carryover resolution from certain accounts added to the budget.
When the budget hearing got underway Iowa County District Attorney Matt Allen spoke in favor of funding the OWI program he supervises for the county. He indicated OWI offenses are alarming and there is a need to help offenders so they do not go out and have a repeat offense. He said some of the fund balance could be used to fund the program.
Both the OWI and the addiction program discussed their value for the Supervisors, indicating a lot of people are helped through the programs. The addiction coordinator said there have been 250 people go through the addiction program since it started and 30 this past year.
Supervisor Peterson said the late Larry Nelson is looking down on this and was a firm supporter of these programs.
"This one's for you Larry," Peterson said.
Supervisor Forbes said his issue is the third and fourth plus offenders and where is the accountability?
Allen agreed and said the multiple offenders face jail time along with treatment plans.
Board Chairman John Meyers questioned if those who can pay for the help can contribute more to help others.
Supervisor O'Brien noted that funds were added for the OWI program.
Supervisor Benish said he feels there were some items in the budget that are not fiscally responsible, citing the ATC attorney fee and funding two OWI programs. He said he considered voting against the proposed budget but did some soul searching and decided the mill rate was not out of line. He made a motion to approve the budget and asked the board to have the two OWI programs prove they are successful before being considered for next year's budget.
Supervisor Peterson reminded the board that the funds from the solar panel project goes 80% to highways. He asked for the remaining 20% be used for the defense fund to reimburse the general fund when the money is taken out. He then offered it as an amendment which was seconded by Supervisor Gollon.
Meyers cautioned the board that this would be subject to what the next board would want to do.
Gollon said that is why he offered the change to $25,000 for this year so the next board would not be saddled with a decision made by the present board.
Supervisor Meek said he is under the impression that the attorney who is taking the ATC case feels he will receive the full $50,000 so he should be notified if this changes.
Supervisor Forbes asked why we are not following what the board said and that is the money would come out of the 2019 budget.
County Administrator Larry Bierke said what was approved was the $50,000 and it was not specified when it would be available and from which budget.
Supervisor Davis said she felt her motion implied the $50,000 would be available now but Bierke said it was not established where the money will come from which would need a budget amendment and a 2/3 vote. He added he has no idea what the attorney bill will be by the end of the year.
The amendment to take the attorney fees from the solar fund to pay back the $50,000 which would be taken from the general fund was approved 15-4.
Meyers told the board he is opposed to this budget and he has heard from several people they are opposed to funding the attorney to fight another government agency. He said it will also have an impact on money the county will receive..
The budget was then approved on a 15-4 vote.
The tax levy for 2020 is $12,965,519 which is a $22.05 increase over last year. A $100,000 home would incur a tax of $614.20. The mill rate is .0006140731 which is a 3.7% increase over last year.
In other business the board set fees for manure storage and management with 100% of the fees going to the Land Conservation Department. They also approved a resolution to participate in the DNR municipal dam grant.
Also approved was a resolution for the employee flex spending plan.
Bierke gave the board a power point presentation for a private partnership with Bug Tussel which would allow the county to apply for matching funds for the broadband project. Bierke said Bug Tussel will be paying the costs. The project would be in three phases with an additional request needed for a phase three grant. The phases would be completed in five years.
Bierke reminded the supervisors that the county is all hills and valleys so fiber optic to each home is out of the question. He said getting fiber optic into the ground will be a good start and towers, etc will follow. He would like to see as much internet access as possible. He reminded the supervisors that phase one and two are at no cost to the county. Phase three funding would have to be considered at the next grant funding cycle.
Bierke advised the board to consider a policy about projects like this in the future. For companies coming to the board to partner.
Supervisor Deal said he feels the county has bigger things to do than be in the utility business.
Supervisor Storli thanked Bierke for doing what the board asked him to and bring back something that would work. Supervisor Nankee also thanked Bierke and added it seems this is the best we can do.
The resolution to create the partnership was approved and was followed by approval to apply for the matching fund grant.
Meyers discussed establishing a temporary committee for future funding for highways and appointed Peterson, Gollon, Nankee, Ray and himself.

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