|9/23/2019 10:48:00 AM|
CHC appeal, law enforcement
center, occupies board's night
For those who packed the Iowa County Board meeting room Tuesday hoping for a decision for the county to join a legal appeal of the Public Service Commission's recent support of the Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission line, the wait will be longer.
After hearing testimony from 13 area residents and later a host of county board members the board voted to postpone a decision until they can have corporation counsel present to advise.
Testimony was taken at the start of the meeting under public comment and became so heated that one person had to be escorted out of the meeting by Sheriff Steve Michek and Chief Deputy Austin Durst.
The decision to postpone came three hours into the meeting and followed a lengthy presentation and discussion about the Iowa County Law Enforcement Center and its guaranteed maximum price.
County Board Chairman John Meyers relinquished his chair to Vice Chairman Ron Benish to finish the meeting.
Benish, who was one of four members opposed to the proposed cost presented by the architect firm Potter Lawson and general contractor Kraemer Brothers, cautioned the board they have authorized a lot of money to be spent already tonight and asked them to make sure they are aware there might be a big cost if they join a lawsuit.
That came following a presentation by county administrator Larry Bierke who had researched what legal costs could come the county's way if lawyers get involved.
Bierke said he was cautioned by two lawyers about joining a lawsuit or an appeal as it could cost $50,000 to $100,000 easily. He said he was advised to have the county pass a strongly worded resolution expressing disappointment with the PSC and wait until the final ruling is made.
Several supervisors agreed that they have no idea what costs could be with legal action.
"We need legal counsel to advise us," said Supervisor Bruce Haag. "We are not lawyers. I move we table it."
The motion to table drew protests from some supervisors who wanted to be heard and from those who waited until the end to see how the county ruled. It got especially heated when Benish told the gathering a motion to table kills all action unless it is brought up at a later date.
Other supervisors said they did not realize tabling would kill it and instead wanted the matter postponed until next meeting October 15.
At that point Supervisor Dave Gollon moved to have the matter postponed and have legal counsel at the next meeting. The motion passed 16-1 win Myers abstaining.
The ejection from the meeting earlier came when Meyers told Al Jewell his two minutes of testimony were up which was the guideline set at the start of public comments. Jewell had been telling the supervisors that ATC is "stealing our land, our livelihood and taking our dignity which causing a fiscal cancer in our communities."
"I was going to speak," came from the audience. "Give him my two minutes."
Meyers told him he wasn't going to do that..
"You are in their pocket!" the irritated member of the audience said then proceeded to further insult Meyers.
"Sheriff, remove this person," Meyers said and that is what happened.
The testimony was a mini-recap of the hearing before the PSC held earlier this year at Dodger Bowl. During the two sessions held in Iowa County that day, 500 people attended asking the PSC to deny CHC's powerline project.
"We were ignored," said Betsy DeAngelo, who has been an opponent of the project from the start. "Our only recourse is to appeal and we are asking you to join the appeal."
Now a decision to do so or not is a month away.
The board then heard a lengthy explanation of the Law Enforcement Center project and learned the guaranteed maximum price would be $29,895,800.00.
Representatives from both the architect firm of Potter Lawson and the general contractor Kraemer Brothers went through a power point, both explaining the concept and building plans and how the GMP came about.
The timeline for the project starts with the construction document phase from September to January 2020. Bidding will take place in January and February with approval to proceed in March 2020. Construction is scheduled to start April 2020 with completion in fall of 2021.
The presenters told the board that the costs involved in arriving at the GMP came partially from the county and mostly from subcontractors who provided their best estimates free of cost.
"These are all trustworthy contractors who provide the service to get an early look at the documents," they said. "They still have to bid if they want to be part of it."
Twenty to 30 subs were involved in the process and the presenters said those involved are really good at budgeting.
Supervisor Ron Benish, James Griffiths, Kevin Butteris and Mel Masters were all opposed to the GMP. They agreed the Law Enforcement Center is needed but the price is too high, especially with other pressing needs in the county that will no doubt require funding.
But the other supervisors felt the need is now and going back to the drawing board will force costs up both with document preparation and in construction cost/inflation with waiting.
Benish compared the costs of the proposed project with the recently completed Grant County Jail and found the square footage costs higher by a couple hundred per square foot. He felt the costs associated with the GMP are too high.
"You can do better," he told the presenters.
Supervisor Jeremy Meek said, "I don't believe I am saying this but I am in favor of going ahead with this. We have a real safety issue at the present jail and it is dangerous for everyone. This has to be done."
The presenters reminded the board that the design is done so there is room for flexibility in the future. The facility will have 69 beds and will be a two story building. Square footage proposed is 73, 926 with the original starting point being over 89,000 square feet.
Gollon asked the presenters if maintenance costs have been figured in.
"I know what this building (HHS) costs to heat and maintain," he said. "We don't want to mortgage our future to take care of it."
No maintenance costs have been estimated and figures are being developed on a project 65% planned.
Gollon also asked if the board has another kick at the can in March when bids come in. The presenters said they do.
Griffiths reminded the board that a recent study by Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning states that population growth will come from those 65 and older and the 17-65 population is not expanding. He questioned building a facility this size that would no doubt serve a small amount of the population.
Meyers said he was recently asked why there is a need. for a building that would serve one percent of the population.
"I told them so the other 99% can be safe," he said. "A new facility will also provide space for rehabilitating prisoners and make them less likely to reoffend when they get back on the street."
The motion to accept the GMP passed 14-4 and the motion to proceed to bid passed 14-3.
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