Highway facility moves forward by 'baby step' - Watertown Daily Times Online : News

Highway facility moves forward by 'baby step'

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 12:05 pm

JEFFERSON -- With the now usual substantial debate, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took what one supervisor called another "baby step" toward possible realization of a new Jefferson County Highway Department headquarters.

The building being proposed -- and strongly recommended by county highway Commissioner Bill Kern and the highway committee, among others -- would sit on county-owned land at the site of the former Countryside Home facility on Jefferson's southwest side.

The step that was eventually taken Tuesday evening by the board -- after two amendments to the original resolution -- calls for the county to spend $199,319 for a design development analysis, survey, geotechnical exploration analysis and wetland delineation. The work is to be conducted by Barrientos Design. Barrientos has been working with the county for years on its highway department needs.

The $199,319 expenditure for the analysis was cut via the amendments from a proposed amount of $619,999 originally recommended by the infrastructure and highway committees for the design, plan development and construction oversight for the new main facility for the highway department.

The first amendment from Pam Rogers, which was approved by a vote of 24-6, called for the expenditure of just $177,720 for the design development analysis. Dissenting were Greg David, Amy Rinard, Greg Torres, Jennifer Hanneman, Jim Schroeder and Carlton Zentner.

Board's Chairman John Molinaro supported the amendment. He said he has heard critics say the county is moving too fast in the process of creating a highway department headquarters and the amendment would allow the county to move in "incremental steps," with its ultimate project time line not affected.

Torres said if the county keeps spending money in such incremental steps, it will just make it harder to turn back on the project as time goes on.

"If we keep spending money, it will make it harder to turn back," Torres said, adding his Johnson Creek constituents, with whom he has talked recently, do not support the project.

An obviously frustrated Rick Kuhlman of the board said the county is "riding a vicious roller coaster back and forth" on the project.

"We aren't relying on people we pay to do this work. We need to pay attention to our constituents, but we also need to pay attention to our employees. The current highway facility is dangerous and unsafe. It's getting very frustrating to say we don't need to spend this money. The highway and infrastructure meetings are all open. It's time to get off this amusement ride."

Zentner said the entire process has "been backward."

"People from the county should be doing this needs assessment," he said.

"This has been going on for 10 years," Ron Buchanan countered Zentner. "You have to invest sometimes. We need to do this for the highways. The lives of people down there are valuable. We have no security there at the current site. This is wearing thin on a lot of people. Approve this and let's get on with this."

The second amendment, calling for the addition of $21,599 for a more detailed study, passed by a vote of 25-5 with Rinard, Torres, Schroeder, John Kannard and Zentner dissenting.

Prior to the final vote on the matter, Schroeder said the county should "start over."

"Let's kill this tonight," he said. "We all agree something needs to be done, but we want this done right and first, let's bury this."

Kuhlman said he felt the county should do the project now, because bonding conditions are favorable, and the county is debt-free and has the property.

"The time is now," Kuhlman said.

"This could go on for years," Supervisor Dick Schultz said. "We've got to decide if we are going 'you know what,' or get off the pot."

Glen Borland of the board said he, personally, and the board of supervisors, would be negligent if they did not go forward with the project now.

The final vote on the matter was 19-11 in favor of spending the $199,319 for the limited study. Dissenting were David, Rinard, Al Counsell, Torres, Steve Nass, Hanneman, Schroeder, Kannard, George Jaeckel, Sarah Bregant and Zentner.

Jefferson County Presiding Judge Randy Koschnick appeared before the board to offer his annual report and in the process thanked supervisors for their agreement to create a secure entrance to the courthouse.

"We are 'conflict-central,' Koschnick said. "We need to make sure firearms are kept outside the building and the new security entrance will be a big improvement."

He said the county is again the most efficient in the state for processing court cases. It has been the best in the state for the past five of six years.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Koschnick said, adding great care is always taken as cases are adjudicated, but it is best for everyone when the courts work swiftly and efficiently.

"We have worked very hard to redesign our systems so justice delivered is of the highest quality," Koschnick said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, the Friends of the Glacial Heritage Area (GHA) thanked the county for its efforts at creating the GHA and said they see it all paying off.

They called the GHA "a very unique asset" to the county that will help to preserve open spaces and the county's agricultural heritage as it also spurs healthy economic development, as intended.

The Friends of the GHA said they are sensing an increase in interest and excitement on the part of the public as the project moves forward.

In other business, the board approved:

-- A contract for professional services to replace the internal geographic information system interface and the public GIS interactive map portal.

-- County opposition to placement of election day voter registration under the direction of the county clerk's office.

-- Creation of one part-time, non-exempt WIC Dietetic Technician position at the health department. This position is covered by grant funding of $15,000. The person will specialize in helping children with obesity problems. Jefferson County Health Department Director Gail Scott said the obesity problem in Jefferson County is extremely serious.

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