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County Plans

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 11:50 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
To the Editor/ Dec. 12 Tomahawk Leader

At last Lincoln County Board meeting a “solid majority” as one paper quoted accepted a conceptual plan to address space needs. Although this is a plan to do something and we all know we need to do something, this plan does not address court security well and does nothing for jail cell shortage for five years. There are no hard cells in the first phase of jail remodeling. It does call for immediate construction of a county office building at $6.25 million-plus, with a total cost of $16 million. Prisoners will still be hauled by sheriff deputies across the street to court. Prisoners will still be hauled by sheriff deputies to other counties for housing, some as far as Portage and Shawano Counties. Outside county housing costs the county about $400,000 per year or more. Moving prisoners across the street to court is not free either! Plus officers are off the road not doing what they were hired for.

I have always believed we need to address jail shortage and court security first.

This can be done for $10-12 million depending on the existent of jail remodeling. This plan would consist of a new jail pod, a new adjacent court facility and addition and remodel of current jail. Prisoner transport by deputy for courts and outside housing would end. This plan will save taxpayers $3-4 million compared to the concept that received a “solid majority” and will be long term solution to the two main problems.

Office overcrowding will be relieved by using the offices the court system have vacated in the historic courthouse. They will vacate 18 offices. There will be little or no remodeling of the courthouse.

Four of the five supervisors who voted against the concept presented at the last board meeting have served a year and one half on the space needs committee. We all know which plan has proven best, cheapest and most long term for the county. Plus providing the most long term usage of the existing courthouse with the last remodeling. This concept could end jail, court and office crowding within two to three years. I don’t understand the thinking behind the “solid majority” vote.

If this makes sense to you, call your county supervisor.

David J. Fox
County Board Supervisor District 19

Re: County Plans

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 11:51 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
Not the best proposal …
To the Editor,

First of all, I want to make it clear that I respect and applaud the democratic process. I respect difference of opinion and robust debate. I also recognize that the democratic process makes no guarantee that decisions by the “body politic” are always the best decisions for the citizenry.

Case in point, the Nov. 14, 2006, Lincoln County Board decision to move forward with a $16.1 million building expansion that begins with a new Administration Building at a cost of approximately $6 million. The second stage of this construction schedule provides for an overhaul of the historic Courthouse to continue its use as a courthouse. The third stage of the construction schedule provides for the construction of a jail pod three to five years down the line.

The decision was 16 in favor and five against the proposal. I, along with Dave Fox, Ron Mittelsteadt, Bill Zeitz and Gene Simon, voted against the project. Those voting in favor were Supervisors Dick Berndt, Wayne Plant, Ron Krueger, Bob Weaver, Dan Caylor, Graham Rankin, Arlene Meyer, Frank Saal, Gail Schneider, Bob Lee, Mike Loka, Carl Short, Bob Lussow, Curtis Powell, Jeff Kahle and Greta Rusch.

The reasons I voted against this proposal are as follows:
1. The proposal does not address the problem of jail overcrowding for three to five years which is costing approximately a half million dollars per year for out-of-county transport of prisoners.

2. The proposal is viewed by the Ninth District Court (the court that governs our county Circuit Court system) as an interim solution in addressing the court needs in Lincoln County. We will then be left to support a historic clock tower building with no useful purpose whatsoever.

3. The proposal is the most expensive of the building options available to the County Board for consideration.

4. The proposal creates an administration building away from the Merrill downtown. The Merrill downtown needs infrastructure in order to survive.

5. The proposal adds between eight and 15 new staff positions to the county tax levy. The court/jail pod creates zero new positions.

Your input and influence are needed in order to bring some sense of order back to this process. Please contact your representative with your views. Thank you.

James Alber
District 13 Supervisor

Re: County Plans

Posted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:55 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
In case citizens of Lincoln County haven’t noticed, an old fashioned carnival attraction has set up shop at the Lincoln County Board. A “find the pea under the shell” game is being foisted upon the public by those supervisors promoting the current building concept and plan.

The first sleight of hand involves a splitting of the entire cost of the project into two payments. The initial up-front costs of over $6 million will pay for an office building to house current and additional county employees. Supervisor Lussow stated that our county employees deserve to be housed in a suitable workplace. When I pointed out that handicapped and elderly fair-goers did not have decent accommodations at the fairgrounds grandstand, I was ruled out of order. Handicapped seating at the grandstand should be addressed before we house more bureaucrats.

Last year Supervisor Powell, now County Board chair, wrote an article lauding the services provided to the public, while the media was highlighting the internal difficulties on the board. All of these services were provided by the county employees in their existing workplaces. A number of constituents have expressed concern to me about building a new office building when so many buildings sit empty in Merrill. I have named the new office building “Saddam’s Palace” because I believe it is not needed.
The second shifting of the pea in this con game involves the attempt to mislead the public into thinking that the current plan will solve the jail and courthouse problems. Supervisor Fox recently pointed out in his letter that under the current plan the problems will only be solved later and at a much higher cost. I believe we should address the jail and courthouse problems first, eliminating the “Palace.” This plan could solve the county’s problems quickly and frugally.

The last deception involves the votes needed on the board to fund the proposed project. Not only does the big spending “majority” of the board wish to exclude the public in a referendum vote but also they have now downgraded the vote on the board from 17 votes to a simple majority, thus assuring their project’s acceptance.

I can almost hear the carnival barker calling, “Step right up ladies and gents, play our game of chance, you cannot lose!”
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Update: The “pea in the shell” game appears to be a continual project of certain members of the Lincoln County Board. I found this out when I attempted to attend a joint meeting of the County Building and Finance Committee scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 11, in the basement of the courthouse.

When I arrived at the posted location at the posted time, I could not find either the pea or the committee. A decision had been made at a late hour on Friday to move the meeting to the Social Services building. The usual procedure is to notify supervisors with an amended agenda but this was not done. A sign on the courthouse door apparently satisfies the legality of the move but certainly strains the ethics of the change.

Upon arriving at the actual meeting, I had already missed most of the presentation on the financing by the “wizard” currently preparing the figures for the county. With profound apologies to all sincere used car salesmen, I though this financial plan was a pitch to sell this “lemon” to the county.

The committee voted to present two resolutions to the full county board for its vote on Dec. 19. Supervisor Simon to his credit voted no. Upon returning home, I discovered the committee had voted for the resolutions with exhibit A attached but with exhibits C through E all blank pages to be filled in later. Apparently even the committee could not locate the pea! Once again ethics is being strained.

Anyone wishing to help the county board to find the pea and stop the construction of “Saddam’s Palace” could circulate or sign a petition to have this issue put before the voters for the spring election. Please contact either myself or Supervisors Fox or Alber to help out.

Sincerely and Merry Christmas,
Bill Zeitz, Lincoln County Board
District 9