Lincoln County has been boiling under pressure the last few months dealing with issues of relocating county services from the Courthouse to the East Eighth Street Lincoln County Annex in Merrill.
We are glad to see that select County Board supervisors, including the chairman, have taken pause and asked committees to review the situation in detail prior to finalizing all the moves. The Zoning Department is already there, but many aren't sure who told them to do so.
Without a long- or short-term plan to guide this move, a red flag has popped up for many county citizens, and they deserve to have their questions answered.
It seems that no one has been able to answer inquiries about the moving services: why, how, when, where, and ultimately put a price tag on the relocations. And no one has the same story when asked. Yet, these moves have been plunging forward without much "rhyme or reason," as said by County Board Chair Gene Simon.
We ask, where did the "okay" originate from to relocate county departments? Where is the plan? Why does it keep changing? What is the fiscal impact? Has there been a public hearing to address citizen concerns? What will the physical limitations of a move mean for personnel? Where are staff/customers going to park at the Annex?
It is our feeling that if each and every County Board supervisor could not address these concerns, they shouldn't have voted to withdraw the resolution submitted at the March County Board meeting. Proposed by Supervisor Robert Lussow, Tomahawk, the resolution requested authorization and asked to review feasibility of office moves to the Annex. The resolution asked the board to suspend moves until determining if they were in the best interest for taxpayers of Lincoln County, which seemed reasonable considering the whirlwind of uncertainty.
To much disappointment, Lussow withdrew the resolution after discussion matured and Simon presented an amendment.
Simon's proposal projected all plans for reorganization of county government, including moves of personnel and services; that they be assumed by the county administrative coordinator with guidance from the Administrative and Legislative Committee. Stating that this was not the time for back door politicking, Simon wished the amendment to be added to the end of the resolution in attempt to clear the issue at hand and take on problems in the future. It was not welcomed by all supervisors, however, and died with its extraction.
Diana Smith, Tomahawk, has since taken legal action against the county to stop the movement. Smith, among others, have asked how the Public Property Committee decided which service departments would be affected. Due to "complete lack of action on part of the County Board," Smith decided to get answers through legal action.
We're not really sure if this is the motivating committee, or if there is one or a few individuals who are pushing for relocation. What we do know is that in the midst of these discussions, numerous phrases have been tossed about, labeling this committee as dysfunctional. Even the Lincoln County Board has been called a "joke," containing members who partake in "dirty politics."
Accusations have blossomed from individual people conducting business outside open committees to threatening county employees. Salaries have been negotiated behind closed doors, supervisors say, leaving county department personnel feeling confused and caught in the middle. Is it all true? We don't know. But the suspicion has been planted throughout the county.
So now we ask, what is the real driving force behind the moves? It appears there has been a rush, and a quiet one at that, to move these services and no one is sure why. The ultimate question is, where is county government going?
Perhaps it is not the move itself that seems so perplexing to Lincoln County at this point, but simply the process in which it has evolved.
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