Iron County Supervisor, District 15, Quarterly Report
After speaking with some of the citizens of the Town of Sherman, I have agreed to write a Quarterly Report to try to keep folks up on the goings on of their County Government, and especially my work to represent them. Everyone, whether voter, resident, or simply interested person, should always feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, or ideas.
In general, Iron County has been running in a business as usual fashion this Summer. You can decide if that is good, bad or otherwise. County Highway crews are doing seasonal maintenance and repair work, with no major projects in our Town. The Sheriff's Department and Jail continue to be efficient under new Sheriff, Paul Samardich, especially in the wake of some high profile cases in the past year or so, and challenges related to increasing drug problems. At the Courthouse, we have upgraded the computer infrastructure and are advertising for a full-time I T position to keep costs down on computer services and provide consistency. Human Services continues to struggle with issues related to the Drug Crisis and it's ramifications for families and the community.
Everyone is concerned with the proper use of their tax dollars, and the services those dollars provide. I don't have the time here, or a complete understanding of every nuance of County finances, but will say a few things. Iron County is fortunate to have nearly 200,000 acres of County Forest Land. In addition to all of the recreational opportunities implicit in that, it is a very significant driver of our economy. Our County Forest is managed like a big bank account, with annual interest and an to the future. Every year we sell a portion of the Timber to loggers and reap a reward. The timber to be sold is determined by a long range forest management plan designed to create maximum yield, yet sustain the forest health in perpetuity. For the last decade, we have averaged $2+ million in timber sales. After paying the Forestry and Parks budget, the rest goes into the County's general fund to pay for everything from squad cars to phone bills. Clearly, Iron County's tax payers benefit from this.
There are three major financial challenges that the County faces right now. Number one is costs to us related to the Drug Crisis. Two years ago, when faced with $1.2 million in costs directly related to this, we decided to obtain a loan as the best way to manage this issue. Recently, we (reluctantly ) approved a $900,000 loan for last year's costs. Sounds like " kicking the can down the road ", I know. Simply writing those checks out of the general fund would eventually bankrupt us. As, it is, all counties are in a similar situation, and we are doing our best to convince the State that something needs to change.
The second financial challenge facing Iron County is that for almost a decade, counties have been prevented from exceeding their tax levy limit. 0% increase, while costs of everything, from road salt, to paper clips, to insurance has risen in that time. Again, we are hoping that the State will realize that this formula is hurting Local governments and their constituents.
Those two issues are not at all unique to Iron County, but Saxon Harbor is. Two years after the storms that destroyed the Harbor, marina, and campground, we are still struggling to rebuild. The challenges of working through the bureaucracy that is involved when faced with the combination of FEMA, WI emergency management, DNR, Army Corps of Engineers, etc, has been trying at best. Our best alternative to financing this was again, to get a loan, and wait for all the Federal, State, and Insurance moneys to reimburse us. Despite that, progress is being made, with the harbor and marina set to open very soon, and the new campground to be finished this fall, ready for a Spring opening. Surveys have shown that many consider Saxon Harbor to be the County's most important recreational resource (I might make an argument for the Flowage), so I have been deeply involved in the planning and implantation process.
So that's a recap of the County in general. Now to my specific committees and responsibilities:
I continue to serve on and support the County Extension Committee. Some changes have occurred at the State level, but we have worked hard to maintain our level of service here in Iron County, including choosing to fund on our own positions that UW was going to take away or combine. Every citizen has the opportunity to take advantage of Extension's wide range of services and I know that many here in Sherman do, especially youth programs, nutrition and wellness activities, and adult learning.
I serve as chair of this group that oversees Emergency management, preparedness, and planning.
I serve as chair of this committee that is tasked with improving transportation availability and opportunity for County residents, especially elderly, physically challenged, and other residents who face difficulties in getting around our rural county. Improvements continue to be made, albeit at as lower than needed pace. Call Becky at 715-561-3636, if you have questions or needs regarding transport.
I serve as vice-chair of this dynamic and interesting committee. Permit requests are up this year, especially in the Southern half of the County. I have pushed for and we now maintain Zoning office hours in Mercer two days a week, which is a reflection on growth in our area. Call Zoning office for specific details( 715-561-5414). Also as part of zoning, I have been instrumental in the creation of a CWD sub- committee that is currently researching, and will soon make recommendations to the County on what steps a county can take to halt slow the spread of this disease in our wild deer (and Moose!) herd. There is a general feeling that the State has not done enough to control CWD in captive deer farms and wild deer. Currently, Iron is one of six Counties tackling this daunting issue. Hopefully, DNR and Department of Agriculture will step up.
BOARD of HEALTH
I chair this board and fully support the work of the Iron County Public Health Department. The department continues to offer many services to county residents, including well water testing in our own lab, inspections of bars, restaurants, reports, and other facilities, as well as basic health services.
LAND and WATER CONSERVATION
I chair the Land Conservation Committee, and am proud of the work this department is doing to protect, preserve and conserve our County's natural resources. From shoreland protection, to invasive species control, to outreach and education, Iron County's Land and Water Conservation does more with less than just about anyone. I am proud to serve the Northwest Area (11 counties) on the WI Land and Water Conservation Association Board of Directors. This state group advocates for best Land management practices throughout the state, lobbies the Lawmakers in Madison to protect the State's surface and groundwater and provide funding to do so, and provides educational opportunities to youth, landowners, and conservation professionals. Additionally I am one of three County officials to sit in the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Board (sounds the same, but is not) at the Department of Agriculture in Madison. This board is tasked with overseeing County Resource Management Plans and making recommendations to the State. These responsibilities are above and beyond the average County Supervisor, but I feel strongly that we in the North (especially Iron County), need to have our voices heard at the State Level.
Well, that's enough for now. I want you to now that I'm out there fighting for the Town of Sherman and Iron County. Eight trips a month to Hurley, plus overnights to Madison and Stevens Point don't leave a lot of time for other meetings, but know I'm always willing to talk via phone or email.
Your County Supervisor,