The county sales collected for Sawyer County from May 16 – Sept. 15, 2022, the summer season, set a record at $1,155,083.
For the same four month summer period in 2021, a summer many area businesses said was phenomenal, one of their best ever, $1,098,756 was collected or $56,327 less than the summer of 2022.
For further comparison, the summer county sales tax for 2020, also a very good summer season, was $882,828 or $272,255 less than in 2022.
The county sales tax is that half-percent of the 5.5% of sales tax added to most retail purchases.
The county sales tax goes back to the county to help fund county government, and it is also one indicator of local economic activity.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue reports county sales tax by the month representing a time frame from the 16th of the previous month to the 15th of the month reported, so the month of June 2022 county sales tax of $243,472 represents county sales tax collected between May 16 to June 15.
For this article, the county sales tax reported for the
For this article, the county sales tax reported for the summer season included the following:
June: $243,472.50 July: $277,796.40 August: $338,391.82 September: $295,422. 85
An increase of $56,327 in county sales tax from 2021 to 2022 would appear reason to celebrate, but for 2022, inflation needs to be factored in as one of reasons for the positive change as cost of goods have gone up noticeable from 2021 to 2022.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis puts inflation for "all goods" at 6.5% higher for May 2022 vs. May 2021; 7% higher for June 2022 vs. June 2021; 6.4% higher for July 2022 vs. July 2021 and 6.2% for August 2022 vs. August 2021.
Averaging inflation for those four months – 6.5, 7, 6.4 and 6.2 – it comes to 6.52%, so for the 2022 summer sales tax that comes to $75,311, which would more than account for the $56,327 gain from 2021 to 2022.
However, the Bureau also includes inflation rates for items excluding food and energy where month to month comparison, May-Aug from 2021 to 2022, is much lower: 4.9% for May, 5% for June, 4.7% for July and 4.9% for August for an average of 4.87% that would represent $56,252 or almost exactly the 2021-2022 increase of $56,327.
Another factor to consider is that even if county sales tax for 2022 and 2021 are comparable, the cost of running a business has been driven up with increases for wages and also cost of material to businesses, which is also impacted by inflation, that puts a strain on net profits.
So it's very probable that even though overall summer sales are up in 2022, the net profit (income minus expenses) for many businesses is probably lower than in 2021.
Sawyer County Record asked a couple of local experts for their take on the summer county sales tax data.
"We are of course very happy to see county sales tax collections increase given the direct correlation to business revenue," said Chris Ruckdaschel, executive director of the Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce. "Having said that, the abnormally high inflation rates we've been experiencing means we are not comparing apples to apples when looking back to just a year ago. So while we feel it's been another solid year overall, the increased prices of the same goods and services have also inflated the sales tax numbers."
Sherry Beckman, executive director of Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau also added her thoughts.
"The sales tax numbers indicate that tourism is going strong for another year after the phenomenal summer we had in 2021," said Beckman. "Travelers are still choosing Sawyer County as their destination even though Canada opened and rising inflation. Tourism continues to function as the front door for economic development."
A high note of the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Ojibwe University on Thursday, Oct. 13, from Sevenwinds Casino Convention Center was President Dr. Russell Swagger announcing the Eck Family Foundation had committed $450,000 to use as leverage funds to support the creation of a new vocational trade program facility for the university, one part of the $100 million-plus proposed master facilities plan.
"That will give us the jumping off point to be able to do the vocational trade programs, but it will also be able to help us create a story that we can talk to other potential donors about us," said Swagger.
Prior to the announcement, the history of the institution was reviewed from its start in 1982 as LCO Ojibwe Community College offering associate degrees and certifications to becoming LCO Ojibwe College in 2020 with the addition of bachelor degrees and then in 2021 after offering master degrees becoming LCO Ojibwe University in 2022.
In the summer of 1982, a needs assessment and planning efforts launched the institution after a task force asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct a feasibility study.
In August 1982, the LCO Tribal Governing Board gave a charter for the college with articles of incorporation and classes for the first academic year, 1982-83 began, supported primarily with volunteers and part-time instructors.
Dennis White, who offered the opening prayer, talked about being one of the first math professors there in 1984 and how many of his students had gone on and had long careers in education.
The first certificates of completion were offered in community healthy education in June 1985 and in May 1986 the first associate degrees were awarded.
In 2018, the community college began offering bachelor degrees in human services and business administration.
The Board of Regents approved the name change to LCO Ojibwe College in 2019 to recognize that the institution was offering bachelor degrees and the Higher Learning Commission accredited the degrees in May 2020.
Also in 2020, a master facility plan was approved that includes a new campus to the north of the present location, a $100 million-proposed plan that includes student housing along with a new campus.
Besides the $450,000 Swagger announced, the master facility plan has also attracted $5 million federal grant for housing.
In the fall of 2021, master degrees in human services and business management were offered and fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission in June of 2022.
To recognize its new range of offerings, in August 2022, the college's name was changed to LCO Ojibwe University.
Remembering, expanding the vision
Dr. Swagger has been the visionary for the expansion.
"At the ripe old age of 53 years, I still have a little fight left in me," Swagger said. "As long as I have that fight in me, I want to be able to give back to the communities that I love, and those communities are indigenous communities, but especially my Ojibwe brothers and sisters and all my ancestors that have come before me, and so I'm very fortunate to be able to be in the role at this time with Lac Courte Oreilles people."
Swagger noted his LCO connections with his grandmother, Sara Winters, an LCO member who married his grandfather, Henry Hart, a St. Croix Tribal member.
"When this college was thought about in the early days when those challenges confronted people and they stood the test of time and they stood withstood those challenges, they made it possible for people like us to come after them and earn a college education, and be able to go back into our communities and serve our peo ple, and lift our people up and create jobs, and create opportunities for people and to hopefully eliminate poverty and all the issues that are associated with that, so that we can have healthier, thriving and prosperous communities," he said.
Dr. Swagger asked the audience when the walked the halls of the university and viewed the photos on walls to image the obstacles those people overcame and the sacrifices they made, saying that should fill each of them with a sense of responsibility to honoring their vision.
Swagger talked of taking over the helm in 2018 and asking for input on where the institution should go and from that input bachelor and master degrees were offered.
"And so those were all the things that we were hearing from people that said those programs would unite our communities and be able to create economic opportunities and be able to create social programs that address the many needs that face our communities," he said.
Swagger noted that many people in the convention center were responsible for the changes.
"I get comments all the time about how the things that they talked about are actually becoming a reality," he said.
And he noted proposed initiatives, including an athletic program and offering housing, are other examples of what the communities would like to see to encourage students to pursue their education locally.
Swagger then recounted how the relationship began with the Eck Family Foundation during the COVID pandemic when the family wanted to give $30,000 to help students, but the foundation was invited was invited to be a partner in a larger vision and how that $30,000 grew to $180,000 in scholarships.
And then Swagger said the foundation became a supporter in the master facility plan of creating vocational trade programs, such as in carpentry and welding, for those who don't want to pursue a college degree, but have abilities and skills they want to develop in the trades.
Swagger ended his speech by saying the challenge for the university is to stay focused on the larger objectives and not become entangled in external or internal politics, that he said, often sidetrack tribal colleges.
"But the reason we've been successful is because each and every one of us has stayed committed to what that vision is, that vision is to build a quality education for all future generations that are to come," he said.
During an Oct. 11 appearance in Sawyer County Circuit Court, a town of Ojibwa man, Van Kirk Fairbanks, 32, was sentenced to one year in prison plus five years extended supervision and was fined $654 for first-degree felony recklessly endangering safety by hitting and dragging a man with his car on Hwy. G north of Ojibwa Dec. 20, 2021.
Fairbanks, of 8589W Hilltop Lane, also was sentenced to 60 days in jail and fined $1,618 for causing injury by intoxicated driving (second or subsequent offense) in the incident.
He was credited with 21 days served in jail and has Huber privileges. His license is revoked for 18 months and any vehicle he owns or drives must be equipped with an ignition interlock device (IID) for 18 months. He must complete OWI and AODA assessments, attend a victim impact panel, obtain a driver assessment and maintain compliance with a driver safety plan.
Dismissed but read in were charges of resisting a sheriff's deputy and causing injury by driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration (second or subsequent offense).
According to the criminal complaint, at 7:29 p.m. Dec. 20, 2021, deputies responded to a report of a crash on Hwy. G south of Dam Road. A deputy saw a truck in the ditch with no one around. A witness stated he heard the crash, saw a white SUV leave the scene, proceed to the Wannigan Bar parking lot about 50 yards away and do several "doughnuts" in the parking lot. He then saw a man walking down the road, very bloody, who told him he had been run over by the white SUV.
The witness gave the 31-year-old injured man a ride to the intersection of Hwy. G and Dorscheid Road, where the man said he would walk to his friend's house. A deputy located the injured man, who was being given a ride home by a friend on Dorscheid Road. He had ripped clothing, blood near his legs and road rash or burns on his back.
The man stated he had been trying to help his friend, Fairbanks, by pulling his Mercury Mountaineer out of the ditch. He stated that Fairbanks was highly intoxicated, accelerated and struck the man, who was standing in front of the SUV, dragging him approximately half a block while yelling "I'm going to f . . . kill you."
A deputy transported the injured man to the man's residence in Ojibwa, south of Hwy. 27-70. Sawyer County EMS responded and took the man to the Hayward hospital. He had two large scrapes on his back, a leg puncture wound and a possible leg fracture.
Another deputy located Fairbanks, who was parked in the lane of travel on Hwy. G north of Hwy. 27-70. The deputy smelled the strong odor of intoxicants coming from Fairbanks, who had slurred speech, bloodshot and glossy eyes. While being transported to the jail, he kicked at the cage and roof of the squad car, after which deputies placed him in shackles.
Fairbanks' probation for possession of methamphetamine on Nov. 27, 2018, was revoked and he was sentenced to one year in jail, consecutive to his other incarceration time.
Fairbanks received a concurrent one year in jail after his probation was revoked for feloniously spitting on an LCO police officer, resisting an officer and disorderly conduct on Aug. 14, 2017, in Hayward. He was credited with 295 days in custody.
The Sawyer County Public Works Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 12 heard from six ATV/UTV riders who have asked the committee amending the county's "All-Terrain Vehicles and Utility Vehicles Ordinance" to allow more opportunities for applying for a designation of an ATV/UTV route over a county highway than just once a year.
Specifically, Cathy LaReau of the Sawyer County Snowmobile & ATV Alliance (SCSAA) requested that route requests be accepted quarterly.
However, committee members appear to be leaning toward bi-yearly, but no decision/recommendation was made.
By law, ATVS/UTVS are not allowed over roads unless a route has been designated over a section and that section has also been posted with signage.
The current ordinance states that "all requests for new or revised ATV/UTV route designations first be submitted to the Sawyer County Highway Department for review prior to the second Wednesday in January for any request to be considered for the calendar year."
The current ordinance also requires that request also be submitted to the SCSAA and be accompanied by a "copy of approved local jurisdiction minutes approving the route/route," meaning the town, village or city also approves the request, and when a request is within the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation, it must be sent to the tribal governing board (TGB) for "input prior to approval."
The Public Works Committee reviews route requests under the scrutiny of "appropriate criteria."
The existing ordinance says "... safety of the traveling public is of great concern for Sawyer County."
A partial list of factors the committee is to consider includes average daily traffic, Sawyer County Sheriff concerns, accident history over the proposed route, school zones and whether the route connects segments of the ATV/UTV trail network.
All approved ATV/UTV routes, by existing ordinance, are reviewed by the committee in February to "...consider the continued value, efficacy or need for the ATV/UTV route" including a "...a report from the Sheriff's Department on ATV/UTV violations, crashes and safety concerns."
Some proposed changes to the existing ordinance include the following:
1. Removing a restriction for operating ATVs/UTVs from between 1-5 a.m.
2. New language regarding wearing a helmet for those under 18 years of age, that "...All ATV/UTV operators and passengers under the age of 18 are required to wear a minimum DOT standard ATV or motorcycle helmet with the chinstrap properly fastened."
3. New language for those under 12 and 16 years of age that reads: "No person under 12 may operate an ATV. No person under 16 may operate an UTV. All ATV safety certified operators age 12-15 must also be accompanied by an adult while operating on a designated ATV route. Accompanied to be defined as subject to continuous verbal direction or control, but not necessarily on the same machine."
4. And changing from "Sawyer County Sheriff's Department" being the enforcement agency to "This ordinance shall be enforced by all enforcement jurisdictions as list in Wisconsin Statute 23.33 and Wisconsin Administrative Code NR64, as amended," a change that would appear to cre ate broader enforcement reach.
Linda Zillmer requested the committee not approve any new routes until the ordinance had been revised, but the committee approved three requests that night.
Jane Schroeder of Hayward, a SCSAA member and representing Hayward Power Sports, a business selling ATVs and UTVs, said she is an outdoor enthusiast and against the once a year restriction.
"I'd also like to know if there's any other user groups that are restricted to once per year request," she said.
She also noted the area is a tourist destination and expressed concerned that ATV/UTV users recreate in other counties and not Sawyer.
Bill Noonen, past president of SCSAA, speaking for himself, said section 2.02 of the ordinance is a "duplicate" of the state's statute and questioned the need to have in the ordinance.
But like Schroeder, his biggest concern was the yearly restriction and said factors that can impact requests are the "... process can drag on and on," delays because of spring elections and the winter season.
Noonen pointed out the SCSAA publishes between 20,000-25,000 trail/route maps every year and those maps are also available in different electronic versions, and maps are changed with revisions.
Recently, Noonen said, he had returned from South Dakota where there are very few restrictions on ATVs/UTVs outside the interstate highway.
"There's another way to do business," he said.
Kris Treland-Neuman, owner of Pats Landing Resort off the Chippewa Flowage and SCSAA liaison with Sawyer County Forestry, who also is a SCSAA volunteer also was concerned over the once a year requirement and noted that other areas, such as zoning, allow for requests, such as conditional use permit (CUP), more than once a year.
"I think if we try to compromise and maybe do quarterly, instead once every month, I would appreciate looking at that," she said.
Treland-Neuman also noted that ATV/UTV use in the county had "exploded" in popularity and the sport is important to the local economy.
Tim Dawson of Hayward said he had talked with people in the logging industry if they were concerned with ATV/UTV traffic and none offered a negative comment and were supportive of the sport.
Dawson said a town's approval could be a "stalemate" that could only be resolved by an election and he didn't think that was fair.
"I think that this board (committee) or the county board should be able to have the right to make that decision for the route," he said.
Jim Strandlund, Town of Round Lake where he is also a town supervisor, said he supported SCSAA's "amendments and recommendations" to the ordinance.
Like Noonen, Strandlund said, he had recently returned from the State of Wyoming where there are few restrictions on ATV/UTV use other than additional equipment requirements – such as turn signals– and licenses and user fees to drive on roads.
Strandlund also pointed out the economic impact of the ATV/UTV user on the local economy, specifically how riders patronize local restaurants and bars, where at times 20-50 vehicles can be seen parked outside a business.
Supervisor Marc Helwig expressed concerns over more than yearly request keeping up with map revisions of new approved routes.
Highway Commissioner Gary Gedart also asked how quarterly request would be handled by the committee.
Helwig also expressed concern that route request be restricted to connecting trails or a business to a trail and not from a personal residence to a trail.
Supervisor Brian Bisonette, a LCO tribal member, expressed concern that the tribal governing board (LCOTGB) be consulted in the revision process.
Gedart said he had reached out TGB but had not received any response.
Helwig also expressed concern over removing the 1-5 a.m. restriction and noted where he lived in Hayward there is an ATV driver who drives by his residence at 3 a.m. and he questioned why anyone would need to be riding at that time.
Gedart said most counties have no restriction on time use.
Gedart also noted that he and Sawyer County Administrator Andy Albarado had reviewed the existing ordinance and that the proposed changes includes additions that are marked in yellow, rewrites marked in green and suggested removals in blue.
Chair Ron Kinsley said he understood that "... once a year it's kind of limited,' but added, "I believe other counties only do once a year."
Gedart noted that Washburn County also only considers route requests once a year.
"I reached out to them when I started getting these comments and he (Washburn County representative) said they have no issue at all; everyone understands the rules," said Gedart.
Kinsley said he would consider twice a year enough flexibility for requests and to make mapping changes.
"I could see doing it twice a year," said Gedart.
But LaReau said the SCSAA would find twice a year restrictive and requested a quarterly system and she noted that in the last year there hadn't been that many requests to the county, but Gedart noted in past years there had been several.
LaReau noted that many who want routes are seasonal persons and not in the county when the committee meets and are unable to speak on their behalf.
"I think that quarterly is a good compromise," said LaReau.
Bisonette noted the LCOTGB would not put up with a "free for all" regarding designating county highway routes over the reservation, and he suggested a contact for submitting proposed changes to the county's ordinance.
No action was taken and it was noted by Kinsley the ordinance would be reviewed again at the November committee meeting.