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County approves 2020 budget

A 2020 budget of $24,331,245 with a tax levy of $9,343,479 was unanimously approved by the county board at the regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors Nov. 12 in Phillips.

The board's approval was preceded by a public hearing, during which no comments were received from members of the public.

Two new positions created to meet the needs of a new dispatch plan

The board approved the creation of two new positions of Sheriff's Department correction officers, who will also serve as civilian dispatchers for the county's 9-1-1 system.

Currently, the dispatch is operated by Sheriff's Department deputies — all 13 of which have been trained as dispatchers. In order to enable the deputies to dedicate more time to law

enforcement related duties in the community, county administrator Nick Trimner said the county is transitioning toward training the county's jailers to handle the majority of dispatch calls.

In order to meet the increased responsibilities, the number of jailers has been upped from eight to 10. The cost to the county will be $87,000. The new positions approved by the county board will bring the total number of employees to 12.

County approves moving forward with 2021-22 airport project

The county board authorized moving forward with a 2021 airport project, with engineering beginning in 2020. The project encompasses replacing the landing lights off one of the runways, resurfacing the service road, parking lot, and hanger access roads with hot mix asphalt, and rehabilitating or replacing the airport's gate system.

Ninety percent of the project costs will be covered by Federal Aviation Administration, with another 5% coming from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, and 5% from the county.

The county's share of the project costs are estimated at $12,500 for engineering and $29,500 for construction; a total of $42,000 to be paid out of the capital improvement fund.

Appointments made for governmental bodies

A number of individuals were appointed by Trimner to a variety of boards and committees and were presented for the county board's approval.

Terry Hainy will serve a three-year term on the Veterans Services commission, ending Dec. 31, 2022.

Sandra Behling and Shirley Smith will serve two-year terms on the County Election Board of Canvass, expiring Dec. 31, 2021.

On the Health and Human Services board, county supervisors Bruce Jilka and Jim Adolph, and Dr. Peter Dahlie will serve three-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2022.

County chairman Bob Kopisch noted that the same people tend to get appointed to the Health and Human Services board year after year.

"There's a point here where maybe some of the members that keep getting on time after time may vacate to allow someone else the experience of being on that board — because you learn a lot being on that board that you don't generally get being a board member," he said. "I know consistency on the board is important, but it's worth having other people get involved with that area of our government."

Jilka noted that the Health and Human Services board is quite intricate, with numerous different programs and funding sources, and said it takes two or three terms before gaining a comprehensive understanding of the process.

"It's a big part of our budget and we need to understand the programs we're doing ... and funding sources for that," he said.

The county board unanimously approved all appointments.

Park Falls Area Community Development endorsed by the county

In order to become more efficient and streamlined, the Price County Economic Development Association has merged with the Park Falls Area Community Development Corporation, effectively dissolving the PCEDA.

The county board unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the PFACDC as the county's official economic development organization, beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Kopisch will serve as the county representative to the PFACDC.

Parliamentary authority approved in order to create consistency

The county board unanimously adopted a resolution creating consistent parliamentary authority among county board committees, boards, commissions, and councils.

Parliamentary authority will require each of these bodies of county government to follow the same rules as the county board — creating and posting agendas, appropriately determining the meeting quorum, running orderly meetings, and keeping accurate minutes.

Other business

* The Highway Department is scheduled to hold an open house from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5.

* Chief deputy Brian Roush reported to the board that the receipt of the new squad cars from the manufacturer has been significantly delayed, and the county will likely not see the new cars on the road before 2020.

Phillips considers wastewater plant options

After an extensive evaluation of the 38-year-old Phillips wastewater treatment plant found a long list of much-needed repairs and upgrades, the city needs to determine how to address the issues and fund the estimated $4.6 million in total costs.

One option for funding is to seek a principal forgiveness loan through the Department of Natural Resources.

At the city's regular meeting on Nov. 5, city engineer Mike Stoffel of Ayers Associates notified the city council that paperwork had been filed with the DNR, stating the city's intent to apply for a loan.

Based on the needs identified at the wastewater treatment plant, the city's population, the median household income, and the county's unemployment rate, the city should qualify for approximately 60% of total project costs in principal forgiveness, according to Stoffel. The maximum amount of principal forgiveness per community is $750,000.

This could be coupled with a $1 million Community Development Block Grant, which the city would need to apply for by May 2020.

In order to apply for principal forgiveness, the city would need to complete an extensive facility plan, estimated to cost $40,000. While those costs could eventually be reimbursed to the city through grant funding, the city would need to front the costs for at least a year.

The facility plan will need to be submitted to the DNR by May 30, 2020.

If approved, the city would be eligible for funding in 2021.

The council requested city clerk Shelby Prochnow look into the city's finances to determine if the city can afford $40,000 next year. The topic will be revisited at a future meeting.

City attorney authorized to move forward with lawsuit to close contaminated well in city limits

A contaminated well located within city limits has been an ongoing issue for years, and the city council has reportedly made numerous attempts over the past several months to encourage the property owner to hook onto the city's water supply. The connection would be made via a long lateral running from the city's water main located under South Argyle Avenue, through an easement on a separate individual's property, and under Eyder Avenue to the house located at 586 S Eyder Avenue.

After failing to reach an agreement with the property owner, Anne Collins, city attorney Bruce Marshall requested the city council direct him to start enforcement proceedings — forcing closure of the well through a court order and declaring the house uninhabitable as there will be no water supply to the residence.

Marshall said that the city had received direction from the Department of Natural Resources to handle the issue under the city's ordinance, which states that any contaminated wells within city limits must be closed and the houses hooked up to city water.

While Collins had reported that an extensive filtration system was installed in the residence, Marshall said that the well itself will remain contaminated although the water coming through the tap will be filtered. Since the well remains contaminated, Marshall said the filter will not meet the DNR's approval.

The legal process for pursuing a court order to close the well and declare the house uninhabitable will likely take until spring. If the property owners were to decide to connect to the city's public water system, the legal process would be halted, according to Marshall

A motion was made and unanimously passed by the city council, directing Marshall to proceed.

Update provided on ongoing water leak at city residence

As of the committee of the whole's Nov. 5 meeting, it was reported that while a water leak located under the house at 241 Germania Avenue was still not repaired, a licensed plumber had been contracted by the homeowner and had checked out the issue.

Marshall reported that the process was slowly moving forward and the homeowner is working to get a loan to cover the project costs. If the leak is not repaired before the ground freezes and work is unable to be done this year, Marshall said the city could permanently turn off the city's water supply to the residence, after which the house would be declared uninhabitable.

No formal action was taken by the city council.

Creation of an ordinance regarding hemp processing in city limits discussed

A new business specializing in hemp processing has started operations in the Phillips Industrial Park located on the north end of town has raised concerns for Phillips Police Chief Michael Hauschild.

Hauschild reported the business itself is not problematic, as it is in an industrial-zoned area, and is well contained on site.

The concern Hauschild raised is that citizens may begin processing hemp on residential properties, which could result in a strong, potentially offensive odor. He requested the city council consider crafting an ordinance prohibiting processing hemp on residential properties and requiring a conditional use permit be obtained before such processing can begin.

Marshall recommended the topic be referred to the Phillips Planning Commission for further discussion. The Planning Commission could then make a recommendation to the city council on the best course of action to take.

A unanimous motion was made referring the issue to the Planning Commission.

Permit for construction of self-storage unit building approved

The Phillips Planning Commission made a recommendation to the city council that a conditional use permit be granted to Price County Mini Storage for the construction of a new self-storage unit — with the contingency that the north 10 feet of the storage unit lot be landscaped to the standard of a residential property.

On Oct. 24, the planning commission met with the two parties involved in the matter — Dick Heitkemper, one of the owners of the storage unit, and Gail and Joseph Huycke, the neighboring residential property owners.

Both parties presented their arguments, along with photos of the lots in question. After considerable discussion, the planning commission decided that in order to reach a solution agreeable to both parties, the owners of the storage unit should maintain their property to the standard of a residential property with appropriate landscaping and regular maintenance.

On Nov. 5, the city council approved the permit with the contingency. In his role as alderman, Heitkemper abstained from the vote due to the conflict of interest.

Other business

* At a Nov. 12 meeting of the CDBG housing committee, Peterson appointed Ted Kempkes as a member of the CDBG Housing Committee, replacing Jenny LaChance.

* The city council ratified their previous approval, transferring the land at 309 Hickory Hills Lane to the Northwest Regional Planning Commission for the new business incubator building. The previous incubator building was sold to manufacturing company SRC America earlier this year for their new facility in Phillips.

* A class A retail combination license for the R-Store was approved unanimously by the city council.

Deer cull planned at Park Falls airport

Deer at the Park Falls Municipal Airport are creating a dangerous situation for aircraft, leaving the city little choice but to cull the herd.

"We've had deer on the runway itself," city administrator Brentt Michalek explained to the Review last week. "The planes have had to kind of sweep down and chase them away before they land. Just last week there were deer just on the side of the runway."

The city has applied for and received 10 permits from the Department of Natural Resources to remove the deer, which are inside the fencing that surrounds the property.

Some areas of the fence are in need of repair due to downed trees and other normal wear and tear, according to Michalek.

"The hope is that once we cull the deer that we have there now, the rest of them will scatter. I think they'll go back onto private lands and away from the airport," he said.

Park Falls police will be charged with dispatching the animals.

Park Falls Police Chief Jerry Ernst, at the Nov. 11 common council meeting, asked city officials to be mindful of how removing the animals may affect the public.

"I know this has been done at the Price County Airport, and actually lead to some hard feelings ... so I anticipate there might be some blowback from people living in the area," said Ernst. "Some of those people hold those animals really near and dear to their hearts. The fact that some of them are going to be taken is going to be upsetting. But, it's being done for specific purposes."

All of the deer culled from the property will be processed in Butternut. Afterward, the venison will be donated to the Lord's Cupboard Food Pantry

in Park Falls. Heads from the deer will be donated to the DNR's chronic wasting disease screening program.

Assessor and building inspector position changed; safety director removed

At the council meeting, alderpersons approved changes to the municipal code governing the appointment of a city assessor and city building inspector. The two roles were previously combined into a single job description assigned to a full-time employee, most recently Phillip Bochler.

By passage of charter ordinance 19-004, the titles are split after sixty days pass from the time the city posts the ordinance.

In a related measure, the council approved the changes to the municipal code governing the position of city safety director, which was created in 1998 when Bochler was hired as city assessor and was still filled by him until this October. Council members removed the position entirely.


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