Sunday, May 19, 2019

Monroe County Board approves deputy additions for 2019, 2020

Monroe County Sheriff Scott Perkins recognizes it's been a disturbing trend in his 30 plus years working for the department.

As the number of service calls for deputy response continue to increase across the county, the number of deputies to respond has decreased. Perkins is hopeful action taken by the Monroe County Board Tuesday night serves notice the trend could reverse. Supervisors voted unanimously (13-0) to add one patrol deputy in the 2019 budget and if funding is available, add another deputy in 2020. But it's noted in the resolution, the positions are contingent upon funding. The fiscal note for each position was listed at $164,535 for each year.

The number of response calls increased in 2015 (24,353), 2016 (25,010) and 2017 (25,437). That number sits at approximately 7,250 at this point in 2018. Perkins provided candid numbers for the board. To cover over 900 square miles, the department relies on three deputies on duty per shift, divided into two sectors and one float patrol.

"During my years we have lost three to five (deputy) positions through attrition and they were never reinstated," Perkins said. Calls for service have gone up. Serious calls have gone up."

Supervisor Paul Steele felt the original resolution still short changed the department.

""Our deputies run from call to call," Steele said."Personally I feel we need to add six positions. But I understand budget constraints."

Steele proposed an amendment to the resolution that removed 'if funding' is available from the language. He also asked the board to consider adding a deputy in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Steele was adamant the county commit to making public safety a priority in the future. The amendment fell short with six supervisors in favor and seven opposed. Supervisors Allen McCoy, David Pierce and Sharon Folcey were absent.

Supervisor Doug Path asked the board to recognize the possible financial hurdles the county could face over the next few years. Supervisor Mary Cook supported Steele going one step further saying the department could use two additional deputies in 2019.

Cook hears from rural county residents they are concerned about the lack of deputy presence in Kendall and Wilton. The department became more stretched when Warrens eliminated its police department and deputies absorbed the response calls, which include a busy seasonal presence at Jellystone and 3 Bears.

Cook said the county needs to reassess some positions for possible elimination to help pay the cost of additional deputies. Steele concurred.

"This needs to be a priority," Steele said. "We need to get more deputies on the road."

On a related noted, the board approved a resolution to add one jail sergeant position by the promotion a current jail officer. It goes into effect Aug. 1. The resolution passed by a 12-1 vote with supervisor Mary Von Ruden opposed.

A resolution for the county to purchase 160 acres in the Town of New Lyme for county owned forest property eked by with a 7-6 vote. Supervisors Wally Habhegger, Nodji Van Wychen, Gregg Vinslauski, Mark Halverson, Dean Peterson, Pete Peterson and Jim Schroeder voted in favor. Cedric Schnitzler, Mary Von Ruden, Doug Path, Rod Sherwood, Paul Steele and Mary Cook voted against.

County forester Chad Ziegler presented the benefits of adding another 160 acres to the approximate 7,300 acres of county owned forest land. The trees have potential to generate revenue through timber sales. It would provide an additional natural buffer to the northern end of Fort McCoy and its northern impact area. The land could support tourism and recreation.

The asking price in the beginning was $500,000 by the land owner. That figure was reduced to $376,000.

The forestry department will fund the purchase through an interest free state project loan and application f a Knowles Nelson Stewardship Grant.

Some opposed to the purchase feel the county owns enough forest land.

"I don't think the county needs any more forest land," Path said. "Use that money for what we have already. Let's make what we have better," (referring to improved trails and other enhancements).

Schroeder recognizes the value in the New Lyme forest, but added the county should consider selling other forest parcels. Ziegler noted several counties in Wisconsin that own in excess of 100,000 acres of forest, locally including Jackson and Clark counties.

The board approved the purchase of a house at 206 South K St. The purchase is part of a long range plan for departments to relocate from what is called the '48 building" at Rolling Hills. Plans call for the UW-Extension staff to move into the South K location.

Tentative plans are for the home to be vacant by the end of August and the tentative date for Extension to move by Oct. 1.

The board approved a budget adjustment of $157,050 for purchase and improvements.

The board approved hiring a mechanic for the Monroe County Highway Department. The resolution was unanimous. It was noted the position would offset the cost for sending repair work to vendors due to staff shortages. There would also be a cost savings by reduced overtime for current mechanics.

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