JEFFERSON — The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved creating a “working group” to address broadband internet access, and funding possibilities, for rural communities.
During its December 2018 meeting, the board approved an ordinance that would allow the county to obtain Broadband Forward! Certification under the authority of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The ordinance, based upon a model provided by the PSC, was designed for statewide consistency for the Broadband Forward! Certification applications by local governments.
A community that adopts the ordinance will be considered “broadband ready” by the PSC, meaning that it has “taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment” for telecommunication firms in terms of applications, fees, permits and review processes.
The ordinance does not allow a community to discriminate between service providers.
It first was introduced at the board’s November 2018 meeting, but went back to the county’s Executive Committee for further consideration after some board members voiced concerns. The committee reintroduced the ordinance resolution in December 2018 with no changes, and it was approved on a unanimous voice vote by the board.
Prior to its passage, multiple supervisors spoke about how often they have been contacted by their constituents to move forward on internet access in rural areas of the county. Additionally, two residents spoke in favor of the ordinance during the public comment period of the December meeting prior to the board’s formal vote.
On Tuesday, the board took two related actions to advance the process. First, it approved the committee itself, and then appointed five supervisors to serve on it.
The working committee consists of five to seven people, four of whom will come from the Economic Development Consortium, Executive Committee, Finance Committee, and the Planning and Zoning Committee.
The remaining positions will be appointed by county board Chairperson Jim Schroeder, who said he “may or may not make future appointments.”
Supervisors appointed to Broadband Working Committee — and representing the other committees listed above —will be Supervisors Jeff Johns, Dick Jones, Russ Kutz, Jim Mode and Amy Rinard.
Supervisor Dwayne Morris asked if this would become a standing committee.
Schroeder said “it was a possibility,” but, the final decision to make it a standing committee would be made through the Executive Committee. As stated in the resolution, the working committee is planned to be dissolved by the end of the term for this board, which will be April 2020. The board passed the resolution on a unanimous voice vote.
Schroeder commented on the county moving forward on the broadband issue.
“The Broadband Committee comes out of our strategic plan, where one of our main goals was to increase broadband in the rural areas,” he said.
“This is important for economy. We have people who live in rural areas who would like to run business out of their homes, and in some cases, there are some robust, large businesses that do not have adequate broadband service. Bit by bit, we aim to improve that.”
In other matters Tuesday, the board:
• Was presented a report on the county government’s committee structure from the Executive Committee chairperson, Supervisor Amy Rinard.
In January, Schroeder presented two proposals to the full county board. One was to reduce the size of the county board from 30 members. After a long discussion and committee consideration, the full board turned down that proposal in February with three separate votes.
However, at the same time as the board size-reduction proposal, Schroeder also proposed combining the board’s standing committee structure so it would reduce existing committees from 11 to seven. The proposal also called for an increase from five to seven members for each committee.
In February, the board directed the Executive Committee to create an ad hoc committee to research the impact of the committee restructuring proposal separate from the board size decrease.
Initially, as proposed, Schroeder said his goal was to be more efficient with committees. As he noted at the time, business before the full board routinely went through two or more committees prior to coming to the full board for action, and county staff is busy in committee meetings when they should be implementing the actions approved.
On Tuesday, Schroeder and the full board were presented a brief written report from the ad hoc committee. Rinard wrote the report, which concluded with this finding:
“Following the county board’s decision to continue the current number of supervisory districts at 30, the Executive Committee at its Feb. 27 meeting continued its discussion on whether or not the county should create a committee to review the structure and organization of the county committees, boards and commissions. The Executive Committee determined that there is still a need to move forward with reviewing the structure and organization of county committees, boards and commissions; however, it was determined that the best method to accomplish this was for the Executive Committee to assume this responsibility as part of its normal review and updating on the County Board of Supervisors Rules of Order. It is the Executive Committee’s intent to develop a timeline for completing this review at its next meeting scheduled for March 27.”
The board did not discuss the report Tuesday before moving on to other matters.
• Heard three annual reports, from Register of Deeds Staci Hoffman, County Treasurer John Jensen and County Clerk Barb Frank.
Additionally, this was Frank’s last report before her retirement next month. A cake was served in Frank’s honor, marking her 38 years of service to the county.
Unbeknownst to her, Schroeder and County Administrator Ben Wehmeier read a special proclamation designating Tuesday, April 2 — which is Election Day — officially as Barb Frank Day in Jefferson County.
• Approved six other appointments to various county or county-related commissions or agencies.
Approved were Tim Anhalt, to the Veterans Service Commission; Carl Jaeger Jr., Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission; Dan Jaeckel and LaVerne Behrens, Zoning Board of Adjustment as first alternate and second alternate, respectfully, to fill the unexpired terms of former members Paul Hynek and Donald Carroll; Augie Tietz, tWisconsin River Rail Transit Commission (WRRTC); and Carol Battenberg, the Nutrition Project Council.
• Approved Schroeder’s partial appointments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. Appointed were Steve Nass, George Jaeckel, Jon Kutz, Adam Lindl, Nata Sala, Matt Trebatowski, Kyle Ellison, Eugene Kapsner, John Thoma, Jennifer Bakke, Steve Board , Megan Hartwick and Tina Crave.
• Passed four individual resolutions disallowing claims from four area residents who held the county responsible for damage to their vehicles. The disallowance, which is a formal action, now sends the claims to the county’s insurance company.
• Approved a $71,000 contract with Bos Design Builders for a storage building to be built at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office training facility in Lake Mills. Bos was the lower of two bidders on the project.
• Approved $50,500 contract with Sun Mechanical LLC to replace two boilers in the Human Services Workforce Development Building. Sun was the lowest of five bidders on the project.
• Approved several routine contingency fund transfers to make up departmental deficits from departmental budgets for 2018. The transfers were to cover items such as, for example, legal fees for foreclosed properties being higher than project and overtime costs for the county jail.
In a separate, but semi-related action, the board approved various routine department carry-over fund request from the 2018 budget to the 2019 budget.
• Approved a formal resolution allowing the Jefferson County Human Services Department to join both the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers and the National Association of Counties organizations. By joining both organizations, the department plans to prioritize services for families who have prenatal to three-year old children.
• Approved having the Parks and Recreation Department apply for an Outdoor Recreational/Development Aids Grant to fund a snowmobile trail maintenance program.
• Heard human resources director Terry Palm-Kostrowski give a presentation on the county’s newly installed MUNIS Employee Self Service system.
• Approved a proclamation supporting April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.
• The board will next meet at 5 p.m. on April 16. State law requires that county boards meet on the third Tuesday in April. It is meeting two hours earlier than normal because that is also city council meeting night.