Three choices for redrawing Sawyer County's supervisor districts will be offered at a public hearing this Thursday, Sept. 16, as part of the monthly Sawyer County Board meeting.
The county is required to look at the boundaries of its 15 supervisor districts every 10 years after the census is completed. Census data usually is available in the spring but this year it came out later, at end of August, compressing the timeline counties have to consider changes to the boundaries.
This year the county has to redraw boundaries to accommodate an additional 1,500 people who have moved to the county since 2010. Most of the new arrivals have come since the COVID-19 pandemic appeared in early 2020.
At the board's Administrative Committee meeting Thursday, Sept. 9, members recommended Choice 3 for the full board to adopt as a "tentative plan of choice." Brian DeVries, GIS specialist in the Land Records office, said Choice 3 had the lowest deviation from the desired number of persons in each district, 1,205, at 4%.
Choice 3 also mirrors existing district boundaries the closest and keeps current supervisors within the districts they currently represent.
Choice 1 had the highest deviation at 9.71%, and the deviation for Choice 2 falls in between Choices 1 and 3 at 6.64%.
DeVries said the boundaries are created around census blocks, areas with defined borders that can include edges of lakes and rivers or roadways. He said the census blocks in Sawyer County are not uniformly shaped as they would be in mostly agricultural area with rectangular fields.
Besides population deviation, DeVries said, other issues to consider when redistricting are compactness, being contiguous and crossing municipal boundaries. To create more equitable, less deviated districts, he said, it doesn't make sense to cross into another town just "to pick up 10 to 15 people."
He noted an issue with one county supervisor district covering different municipal boundaries is that each municipality has to create its own unique ballot for elections.
Concerning the last redistricting effort after the 2010 census, DeVries said the driving factor wasn't "population compactness" or "concerns for municipal boundaries" but rather ensuring that supervisors remained within their districts.
"We made a lot of concessions to make sure that every supervisor was in their (sic) district," he said.
During the Sept. 9 discussion, many committee members asked repeatedly if supervisors would remain in their current districts under each of the three choices.
This choice presents the biggest difference from current district boundaries. Under Choice 1, the large District 15 in the towns of Winter and Draper and the Village of Winter, would be divided into Districts 12 and 14, and District 15 would replace District 5, mostly in the Town of Hayward, and District 5 would take in portions of existing Districts 2, 4 and 12.
Supervisor Ed Peters, currently in District 15, would be located in District 14. District 5 Supervisor James Schlender would remain in District 5 but many of the electorate who've voted for him in the past would be in the redrawn District 15.
Like Choice 1, Choice 2 also didn't consider current supervisors' residences but has less deviation from than Choice 1. Choice 2 keeps the City of Hayward in three districts, which it currently is, whereas Choice 1 would divided it into two.
In Choice 2, District 10 is extended much further to the north. Also, District 12 would move from the northeast corner of the county to the southwest corner, replacing parts of current Districts 10 and 11, with 11 moving north where District 5 is mostly located now and 5 would encompass the northern portion of the current District 11.
Supervisor Tom Duffy of District 7 would no longer be located in that district; however, DeVries said he believes the boundaries could be tweaked to keep Duffy in District 7.
Choice 2 would place District 12 Supervisor Dawn Petit in District 13. Supervisor Schlender, currently in District 5, would be placed in the western area of District 13.
When asked by Schlender, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe, where the majority of tribal members would live under Choice 2, DeVries responded they would be located in Districts 5 and 9.
Supervisor Ron Kinsley, currently in District 13, would be in the same district as Supervisor Ronald Buckholtz, District 14. And Supervisor Dale Olsen, currently in District 11, would be located in District 12.
Linda Zillmer, a Town of Edgewater landowner, noted Choice 2 would remove all the residents of Lake Chetek, who live in the Town of Edgewater, from District 10 to District 12.
Choice 3 follows the current district boundaries the closest and keeps all supervisors within their current districts. It also has the lowest deviation from the desired population in each district, at 4%.
Notable, District 14 would extend a sliver into District 13, and a portion of District 15 would extend west into District 14. Also, a portion of the southern end of District 12 would move to District 15.
Some minor adjustments also would be made to Districts 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11.
Zillmer expressed concerns that some of the newly redrawn districts — in particularly Districts 12, 13, 14 and 15 — would place the towns in those districts into multiple supervisory districts, potentially confusing voters about which district they are in and making more work for town clerks.
However, DeVries and County Clerk Lynn Fitch said there are easy online methods to track addresses to a district and they did not think multiple districts in one town would be an issue.
Zillmer said she was also concerned that if the board decides on Sept. 16 on Choice 2 the Town of Edgewater Board would not have time to meet and offer its input on that choice.
Legal Counsel Rebecca Roeker said that after the county board approves a "tentative map" the towns, villages and City of Hayward must create a plan for their wards. Then the process comes back to the county, with the newly approved wards, for final approval.
With the input from towns, villages and the city, Roeker said the county could amend the maps right up to their final approval in November.
Kinsley said he liked Choice 3 because it provided the "best balance."
The committee then voted unanimously to recommend Choice 3 to the full board on Sept. 16.
Schlender said at the public hearing and full board meeting on Sept. 16 all three choices would be viewable for consideration by the public and board members.
Online maps, providing information on each district (including demographics), for all three choices are available for viewing online. The links are:
Choice 1: wisedecade.legis.wisconsin.gov/WISELR_Viewer. aspx?shareID=0WGI49MSK63326V0
Choice 2: wisedecade. legis.wisconsin.gov/WISELR_Viewer.aspx?shareID=95HFVARMJR3DSJQ6
Choice 3: wisedecade. legis.wisconsin.gov/WISELR_Viewer.aspx?shareID=DHEMYZDEL1O9J6AO
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers stopped by the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Ojibwe K-12 School and the Boys and Girls Club, Thursday, Sept. 9 and even had some time to process wild rice.
Evers arrived at the school after attending a noon meeting at the Landing Restaurant on the Chippewa Flowage for meeting with tribal members over fishing rights.
He arrived at 2:30 p.m. at the K-12 school to be greeted by Superintendent Jessica Hutchison, Dean of Students Jason Bisonette, Principal Brad Cody and Vice Chair of the Tribal Governing Board (TGB) Lorraine Gouge.
The four sat outside under an awning to talk to the governor what it had been like to conduct school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I believe we're the only school in the northern part of the state that has mandated mask wearing for all our students and staff in the building," said Hutchison.
She said the decision to require masking had been an easy one to make because it is supported by science and the school board.
"We also had one of the first vaccine clinics for 12 and up in the country," she said. "We held it two days after it was approved."
Hutchison noted 84 % of the staff and 56% of students over age of 12 had been vaccinated.
The previous Friday, Sept. 3, Hutchison said the school had its first COVID positive student. Of the 12 students exposed, she said, only three had to quarantine because the other nine had been vaccinated.
"Are the students pushing back against wearing masks?" asked Evers.
Bisonette said there had only been few students who had resisted. He credited the community along with the tribal governing board for being very supportive of preventive measures.
"We are seeing, unfortunately, some parents weaponizing the mask issue," responded Evers.
Mandatory mask wearing became very controversial at the nearby Hayward Area School District when the board of education voted to mandate mask wearing until Oct. 18, a vote that was reversed a week later after some parents opposed the move and the board relented making mask wearing optional for students and staff.
Hutchinson said even on field trip for wild ricing many of the students wore a mask in a canoe on a lake because they were being safe.
However, Bisonette said, the pandemic had widen the "achievement gap" for some students, but he also said some of the kids who were "super engaged last year were also super engaged this year."
Hutchinson said some of the students opting for a virtual education had not been attending in person for over 18 months, and some who had come back to in-person were struggling with anxiety of being in school and the stress of following a schedule again.
Adding yet another stress, she said, there had recently been three deaths in the community that had also impacted students.
Evers said he had observed that a death in Native American communities involved grieving by multi-generations.
Gouge added that traditional mourning lasted for several days.
Gouge also wanted Evers to know the TGB supported offering mental health services to students struggling with the stress over the pandemic and other issues.
She also noted one of the struggles for providing virtual education for students is that some don't have access to high speed internet at home.
And yet another issue, she said, is homelessness.
"We're seeing homeless and how that impacts the families, including mental health," she said.
Hutchison said of the school's 380 students somewhere between 90-92 are "technically homeless by definition," meaning they don't have a permanent home of residents and often live with others or at a hotel.
Gouge said the school had provided crucial support for families and students who were struggling.
Bisonette noted that students, even homeless students, were still attending school.
"We've got homeless kids and we've got hungry kids, but we have kids that show up and want to be here," he said.
Hutchison said kids were coming not just for food programs but because the school had trained staff on the stresses facing students and had emphasized the importance of emotional health and connections with kids and making strong relationships with them.
Wild rice processing
After talking with the four, Evers was introduced to cultural educators Michael DeMain and Kristen Sullivan.
DeMain talked about the school's program to introduce middle school students to wild ricing, learning the traditional ways of harvesting wild rice on local lakes and processing it, including drying, parching, threshing and winnowing.
DeMain also shared some concerns over non-tribal members harvesting rice in ways that damaged the rice beds.
With instruction from DeMain, Evers parched rice over in a metal bucket heated by an open fire and tasted the rice to see if had obtained the proper "crunchiness."
Evers said he often ate wild rice. DeMain suggested he try it with blueberries and maple syrup.
A group of middle-school students arrived to work on the rice. One of the students, Gary Clause Jr., asked Evers several questions about how he became governor and even asked him how he would commemorate 9/11.
Gouge thanked Gov. Evers for attending and acknowledged his support and respect for tribes and his efforts of keeping people safe through the pandemic and his support for education.
"So we appreciate and respect you for being here today," she said to Evers. "We want our students to know who you are and how important you are to our people."
Boys and Girls Club
Heather Peterson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of LCO, gave Evers a 15-minute tour of the facility.
Peterson noted during the pandemic while many students were studying virtually, the club provided the internet resources they needed.
Evers was shown the schedule of daily activities and he asked several question about how the facility is used and how it supports the school.
For another week, Sawyer County remains in the high, "red" risk level of COVID-19 transmission.
The seven-day rate of new cases per 100,000 rose to 38.8 as of Monday, Sept. 13, from 30.2 on Sept. 6. Most of Wisconsin also remains at the high transmission level, with a seven-day average per 100,000 of 31.3.
Thirty-nine new cases of COVID have been reported in Sawyer County in the last week, rising from 2,012 on Sept. 6 to 2,051 (1,925 confirmed and 126 probable) on Sept. 13.
On its online Data Dashboard the Hayward Area School District also is reporting at 5 p.m. each day the number of students and staff impacted by COVID.
As of Monday, Sept. 13, the district reported three students and one staff member had been identified as testing positive. Eleven students were being quarantined due to close contact with someone who tested positive.
Information on where to obtain a free vaccine is available by calling Sawyer County Public Health at (715) 634-4806 or going online at sawyer-county-covid-19-response-sawyergis.hub.arcgis.com.
The 38th Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival (formerly titled the Fat Tire Festival) will be held this Saturday in the Hayward-Cable area, featuring as many as 3,500 riders in two pointto-point races.
The Festival is produced by LifeTime of Chaska, Minnesota, and presented by Trek Bicycles of Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The main events are the Chequamegon 40, which starts on Main Street in front of the Hayward Primary School, and the Short and Fat 16-mile race, which starts on Randysek Road in Cable. Both races begin at 10 a.m. and finish in the American Birkebeiner start-finish chute in the Town of Cable.
The Chequamegon 40 has a separate start on Main Street in Hayward for the pro-elite women at 12:30 p.m. and proelite men at 1 p.m.
The races traverse a variety of trails and fire lanes, as well as portions of the Birkebeiner Trail, through the Sawyer County and Bayfield County forests.
The Chequamegon 40 racers have a controlled roll-out, led by four-wheelers and squad cars, down Main Street, turning left onto Railroad Street and then right onto Highway 77. After two miles, the mass of cyclists will turn left onto the trail next to Hatchery Road, go through Hatchery Creek Village Field and enter the Birkebeiner Trail in the Sawyer County Forest.
The first race finishers are expected at the Birkie start area near Cable at 10:45 a.m. (Short and Fat) and noon (Chequamegon40).
Other events on Friday and Saturday will include a vendor and sponsor expo at the Birkie start area, and children's races at 6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday in the same venue.
The Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival was not held in 2020. The pro-elite winners of the Chequamegon 40 in 2019 were multi-time women's champion Jenna Rinehart of Mankato, Minnesota, and men's champion Alexey Vermuelen of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The festival supports CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association) as well as the Wisconsin and Minnesota prep cycling leagues.
Friday, Sept. 17: 1-8 p.m., bib pick-up, food trucks, sponsor and vendor expo, Birkie start venue, Cable; 6 p.m., Little Loggers race, Cable.
Saturday, Sept. 18: 6-8 a.m., bikes can be placed in assigned start corral, Main Street in Hayward or Randysek Road in Cable; 7-9:30 a.m., bib pick-up at Hayward Primary School (Chequamegon 40) and 8-9:30 a.m. at Great Hall in Cable (Short and Fat);10 a.m.— Chequamegon 40 start (downtown Hayward) and Short and Fat start (Cable); 1 p.m.—Chequamegon 40 pro-elite men and women race start, Main Street, Hayward.
10:45 a.m., Short and Fat first finisher, Birkie start venue; noon, Chequamegon 40 first finisher.
10 a.m.-6 p.m., finish vestival, sponsor and vendor expo, Birkie start area, Cable; 4 p.m.—all awards presentation, Birkie start area, Cable; 5 p.m.—Little Loggers race, Birkie start area; 6 p.m.—CAMBA after party, Sawmill Saloon, Seeley.