County Council Meeting Notes – April 17, 2023

Agenda: County Council Meeting Agenda – Revised April 17, 2023

This post at Brown County Matters

Courthouse Additions – Funding Approved.  Council unanimously agreed with a change proposed by the commissioners allowing more of the ARPA funds to be used for the courthouse.

      •  $500,000 ARPA
      •  $130,000 ARPA         (Originally earmarked for a “Quality of Life” Project)
      •  $175,000 3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for Helmsburg Stormwater Project) (Leftover after project finished)
      • $136,000 3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for A/C replacement at Jail)
      • $50,000   3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for 911 and Sheriff Radios Update) (Leftover after project finished)
      • $35,000   3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for Siding on Senior Citizens Building)
      • $20,000   3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for Security Improvements)
      •  $15,000   3M Loan   (Originally earmarked for IT Tech) (Leftover after project finished)
      •  $1,061,000  Total
      • *The County Council needed to approve the change to the ARPA Plan to move the $130,000 “Quality of life” Project to the Courthouse funding.

Please let me know if there is anything else I need to do or provide.

County Wastewater Strategic  Plan – Phase 1. ($50.5 million). Matt Hanlon, a BCRSD board member appointed by the council, provided a brief overview of the strategy and results of the watershed study.  No substantive questions or discussion. The applications for funding via the Preliminary Engineering Reports (PER), were submitted by the April 1 deadline.

Public Hearings. The required public hearing may be scheduled in the early July timeframe.   The PERs were derived from the County Wastewater Strategic Plan and Watershed Study developed at a cost of over 100K provided through a grant and some county matching funds.

No Public Meeting. The BCRSD Board with the support of the Commissioners and Council determined that no public meetings would be held to present the plan to county citizens.  The video presentations and actual plans and study were determined to be sufficient.

Case Study. Review and Approvals. I’ve made initial contact with state and federal officials to obtain more information on their respective review and approval processes.  I plan on developing (and publishing) a case study that will include a rather extensive assessment with questions that I will share with the approving officials, their respective auditors, and on social media. I will also include the documentation and correspondence that I receive back from these agencies.  State and federal elected officials can also be helpful in navigating any issues with the respective bureaucracies. The public hearings can provide additional information as well.

The Process.  In developing proposals for major changes, there are two general approaches. In this case, appointed officials with funding from the county and state, identified what they believe to be the best options for the county with no public input. The required hearings are often considered just a formality.  This approach is less transparent, can be problematic, and can be fraught with more risk, suboptimization, conflict, and drama.

Failed project. A recent example of this approach was the project to develop a new sewer plant in Bean Blossom. The public hearing (which was contentious at times) was conducted in June 2018 with the expectation that approvals and construction would begin within 18 months. The Letters of Support included in the PER were from “1998.”  The project was canceled when land could not be acquired.

Collaborative Approach. In contrast, the aim of our system of government (local and national) is to work together to implement solutions that lead to “more perfect” outcomes where everyone benefits or at least, is not any worse off. This approach requires that you identify all the stakeholders (aka – We the People) affected by the change in the near, mid, and long-term, their respective needs, and the feedback they will need throughout the lifecycle of the project to assess if changes resulted in improvement. This helps to identify opportunities for improvement. Starting with these steps helps to identify the scope and extent of the problem (s) to be “solved,” the decision criteria, and the associated risks.  The outline of this approach is provided through the Brown County Leader Network.

I encourage everyone to review the videos and scan through the supporting documentation. Write down any questions you may have and present at the public hearings. Your questions (and responses) become part of the record.

A Successful Small Projectthe Courthouse Additions. At least two previous attempts were made to add a major addition and replace the courthouse with a Justice Center that was not supported by the community. Judge Wertz applied an incremental approach and obtained grants and some county funding to make needed renovations.  On the new courthouse additions (around a million), she obtained a grant for funding the plan, identified the critical priority (sally port) and a “good to have “(security entrance), and made her case at numerous commissioner and council meetings.  The trust she has built within the community was another advantage. I never heard anyone object or question the need for the project.  Both the council and commissioners worked to identify the needed funding.

2024 Budget.  Regarding increases in tax revenue from sources such as income and property taxes, the state applies a formula (a growth quotient) that determines how much additional revenue the county will have available in the 2024 budget process. The council can either accept or reject the resulting tax increase. In the past few years, the council has always voted to accept.  Background info – the 2023 Budget Hearings

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