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Vilas proposes public works panel for county facilities PDF Print E-mail
By Ken Anderson

News Correspondent

Creating a Vilas County Public Works Committee by combining the Public Property and Highway committees to have oversight of county facilities was approved last week by the Legislative & Judicial Committee, though there were objections from the chairman of the Forestry committee.

The new Public Works committee would become effective at the April 2014 reorganizational meeting of the county board and would consist of seven supervisors. However, the question of having them appointed or elected is still to be decided. The present Highway Committee is elected and supervisors choose their own chairman.

Ralph Sitzberger, chairman of the Forestry, Land & Recreation Committee, stated his concerns about management of county facilities.

“It’s not clear on the overall management of all facilities,” Sitzberger started out saying. “Does that include shooting ranges, boat landings, picnic areas, parks, piers and county campgrounds? I could see all county-owned buildings except these (outdoor recreational) facilities. What about tax delinquent properties? What are facilities? Maybe it should be changed to buildings rather than facilities?”

Supervisor Jim Behling didn’t see a need to make the language more confusing.

“Public Property does not have a budget except for lights and heat, and they manage solicitation of bids but budgets would still come through departments,” Beh­ling said. “Forestry would still budget for their needs on recreational facilities and Public Works would oversee the process. I don’t see a need to make this more complicated.”

But Sitzberger was ada­mant on making the change clear.

“Now it says in charge of all county-owned facilities, so if we’re going to do this, put in the exceptions,” stressed Sitzberger.

County Clerk Dave Alleman addressed a question of leases, indicating the standing rules address how they are split between Law En­force­ment for communication towers and Forestry for Oldenburg Sports Park.

“The administration of a lease is the nuts and bolts of the action and we could say Public Works looks at the leases, but Forestry manages them,” Alleman said. “You’re looking for a comfort level for Forestry and then other county board committees will also be looking for that same type of comfort level.

“The first question that needs an answer is should Public Works be in charge of all facilities and infrastructure and if the answer is yes, there would be no exclusions,” Alleman said.

Supervisor Kathleen Rush­low, a member of the Highway Committee, suggested putting Public Works in charge of all leases, but state they will assign them to a committee of jurisdiction to administer.

Gary Peske, chairman of the Legislative & Judicial Committee, suggested any supervisor could submit an amendment at the county board meeting.

The resolution creating a Public Works Committee will require a two-thirds vote for county board approval.


More restructuring

The first draft of combining conservation, education and economic development functions under one committee also was debated. Behling suggested the county tourism and publicity department be to the proposed restructuring.

But Sitzberger objected that it include the Land & Water Conservation Department.

“I don’t see a need for a change in Land & Water and ask it be a stand alone committee due to its work and the way it’s funded mainly with grants,” Sitzberger argued. “They share their staff with forestry, highway, zoning, mapping and UW-Extension and I just feel they would get lost in combining a whole lot of committees together.”

Behling said it was fear of the unknown, limiting supervisors to have an open mind on committee consolidation.

“Nothing in this structure prevents any of that (cooperation with other departments) and it’s a fear we have to overcome,” Behling re­spond­ed.

Supervisor Chuck Hayes said many committee meetings are simply listening to department activity report, he would like to see a draft with the tourism department added to the new committee.

The Legislative & Judicial Committee will be meet again July 10.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 7:14 PM

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