A proposed resolution that would have declared Price County a Second Amendment sanctuary failed to make it beyond the June 12 Law Enforcement Committee meeting.@
Similar resolutions have come before several counties in Wisconsin, passing in some and failing in others. These resolutions — which contain wording supporting the constitutional right of citizens to bear arms and opposing any legislation that would restrict those rights, directly or indirectly, such as additional taxation on firearms or ammunition — are generally considered symbolic and not legally binding.
Some of the resolutions, including the one presented for Price County, also state that no county funds will be spent on enforcing laws or restrictions on firearms deemed unconstitutional and indicate support for the sheriff in not enforcing such laws or restrictions.
Newly elected county supervisor Waldemar Madsen made a motion that the resolution be forwarded to the full county
board for review, but no other committee members seconded the motion. Having failed in committee, the proposed resolution will not be pursued further at this time.
The law enforcement committee, composed of chair Jim Hintz, Bruce Jilka, Mark Kyle, Waldemar Madsen, and Larry Palecek, first received a request to consider the resolution back in February from county resident Janene Ravet and Mad sen — who had not yet been elected to his role on the board.
Based on a video that was circulated on Facebook, the request had the support of a number of community members who attended a Feb. 14 committee meeting.
On June 12, Madsen said he had continued to hear support for the resolution from constituents located throughout the county.
Hintz said he had heard from people in opposition to the resolution. Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Kopisch, who attended the committee meeting, reported hearing similar feedback.
Madsen suggested the topic be put on the November ballot in Price County.
The chief issue committee members found with the resolution was the burden it put on the county government and the county sheriff to determine what is or isn't constitutional.
"We are not the judges of what is constitutional and neither is the sheriff," said Kopisch. "... this applies to any resolution that tends to be somewhat political, and this is a political issue ... We try to keep these issues out of the county board room. If we go ahead with this, we will have other things come before us; other issues that are political. It is not a county issue. Our job is to perform the duties we are charged with by the state, and that's our scope of influence."
Sheriff Brian Schmidt, who was also in attendance at the meeting, was invited to give feedback.
Schmidt said that he wanted to remain a neutral party, saying he understood both sides of the argument.
"I'm all for the Second Amendment, I don't think anyone's going to argue that," he said. "I think historically, this is what our culture is up here — having firearms in our homes, hunting, personal safety, if you enjoy having a firearm collection."
Schmidt commented that if the county board's stance is to not address political issues beyond their scope, they should be cautious about approving other resolutions that are unnecessary or merely propping up laws that are already in existence.
In a 7-3 vote on June 9, the Price County Fair Board determined the show will go on this year despite uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Five out of eight neighboring counties have already canceled their 2020 county fairs, including Iron, Lincoln, Vilas, Oneida, and Taylor. Rusk and Sawyer counties have decided not to cancel their fairs, and Ashland County has yet to make a decision.
Local fair board members determined they would reach out to the county's public health officer Michelle Edwards to discuss possible steps that will need to be taken to go forward with holding the event.
Details are yet to be worked out, but preliminary discussions indicate fairgoers may need to have their temperature taken prior to entering the fairground, and masks may be either offered or required.
The bulk of the public attractions to the fair will be held on Friday, Aug. 21, and Saturday, Aug. 22, with carnival rides, live music, food, and other entertainment. The majority of the exhibit and animal judging will be taking place on Thursday, Aug. 20, and animals and exhibits will be allowed to go home Sunday morning.
Fair board member Michelle Drobnik voiced support for going ahead with the fair during the meeting, presenting her fellow board members with a variety of adaptations that could be made in order to accommodate for an unusual year. These would include limiting the number of days the carnival is at the fair, condensing judging to one day, and utilizing other building space in order to make up for the loss of two fair buildings that have been deemed unsafe for public access this year.
Fair board president Peter Dahlie provided the dissenting argument, saying, "I feel strongly we should cancel this year's fair. I think the responsible thing to do is to try to limit large social gatherings to decrease the rate of infection until we have more ability either in immunization or treatments [for COVID-19]."
Financial risk to the future of the fair was another point Dahlie raised, saying that there is uncertainty whether enough people will attend the fair this year to make it economically viable and lack of access to the livestock barn will limit the amount of revenue the fair is able to bring in by offering winter storage space.
"I think it would be irresponsible to try to encourage people to gather in groups of 1,000 or more, and I think it's a real financial risk to the fair because our revenue is very speculative," said Dahlie. "If we don't get 4,000-6,000 people, we're not going to be able to cover our expenses. Because of COVID-19, there are people who are not going to come, who are not going to volunteer, who are not going to work at the fair. I think the safest thing to do is cancel this fair and plan for next year."
Fair board member Wyatt Lebal gave voice for those in favor of going forward with this year's event, saying he believed there were ways to make it viable.
"We've hit an obstacle, but I think ... we've seen that there are alternatives to make it work as far as shrinking it down and cutting costs," Lebal said. "Sure, some people aren't going to come and we're going to lose revenue but we're going to reduce the expenses as well.
"If we cancel this year, it will show that us as board members just called it quits — we didn't look for alternatives to give the public an event. I don't think that's fair to a lot of people, because the people that are willing to come to this fair are still going to go to Pick 'n' Save, A&W, and out on the lake, and they're going to come into contact with the same people that they're going to come in contact with here. We could take some precautions ... but I feel like there are probably going to be quite a few people who are willing to come here knowing the risks of getting sick because it's not something we can hide from."
One board member abstained from the vote, and another board member was absent from the meeting. The fair board is composed of citizen members from north, central, and southern parts of the county with up to three at-large positions.
Some buildings currently unusable
In addition to the complications presented by holding a fair in the midst of a pandemic, the fair board is challenged further by the unavailability of two buildings. After a wing of the livestock barn collapsed early this spring, the building has been declared unsafe for public access. The Open Class building has also been closed off to the public due to structural concerns.
While planning is yet underway, it appears some livestock will be brought to the fairgrounds for one day only, being sent home at
The fair may also utilize other building spaces for exhibiting items brought to the fair that would normally be showcased in the Open
The fair board will next reconvene at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, to discuss further planning.
Samuels Group, a general contractor from Wausau, has been hired by the county at the rate of $7,500 in order to evaluate options for repairing or replacing two age-damaged buildings at the Price County fairgrounds.
The collapse of the west wing of the historic livestock barn earlier this spring initially prompted the county's insurance firm, Municipal Property Insurance Company, to conduct a structural evaluation of the barn, as well as the Open Class building.
The evaluation, conducted by Minnesota based firm Abbott Consulting Forensics & Design on behalf of the insurance company, revealed that both buildings, which have been on the fairgrounds since the early 1900s, are structurally unsound and unsafe for people to enter.
Based on the results of this evaluation — which claims the collapse of the barn and the structural damage to the Open Class building result from age, deficient design, and deterioration — the insurance company has denied the county's claim, paying out a mere $5,000 for new shingles.
In order to consider how to address the damage to the buildings — which will not be available for this year's fair — an ad hoc committee has been formed, comprised of county supervisor Paula Houdek serving as chair, county supervisor Jordan Spacek, county
supervisor Jeff Hallstrand, and non-voting advisory members Michelle Drobnik, Keith Laatsch, and Jim Palmquist.
The committee met for the first time on June 4 and concluded by recommending the hiring of Samuel Group to the executive committee, which approved the hiring on June 11. The committee also requested that county administrator Nick Trimner look into the denied insurance claim, to determine if any further coverage could be received, and how the buildings would need to be restored in order to be insurable in the future.
The ad hoc committee will reconvene at 9 a.m. on July 9, when a variety of options and price points will be presented by Samuels Group.