jefferson

JEFFERSON -- The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday helped the city of Watertown move closer to realizing its goal of creating a park/greenspace and engendering a safer street design at the site of a former Marathon Gas Station on the city's east side.

The property, located at 905 E. Main St., was addressed Tuesday evening by the county board at its regular session for June.

The Watertown Park, Recreation and Forestry Commission recently recommended the purchase of the property, with Randy Wojtasiak, director of the Watertown Park, Recreation and Forestry Department, in favor of the proposal.

According to the county resolution, due to environmental contamination from the site being a gas station for many years, the property qualified for remediation funding through the Department of Natural Resources. This remediation was completed and the city expressed its interest in acquiring the land.

As a result of a recommendation by the county finance committee and action taken Tuesday by county supervisors, the county will sell the property to the city for $25,000.

"I'm personally very excited about the possibilities of what can be done with that parcel, even though it is a small area," Wojtasiak said.

The property would be used as park space. Wojtasiak said they had various ideas for the property, such as placing a wooden structure or a sculpture to welcome drivers into the downtown area.

This offer from the county will go to the Watertown Finance Committee and the Watertown Common Council for review and approval in coming days.

The county board passed the resolution unanimously with little discussion.

There could be other benefits to making the purchase. Wojtasiak said he spoke with the engineering department about extending Market Street through the property on to East Main Street.

"The thought would be that College Avenue would then end at this park instead of extending to East Main Street, because that's such a dangerous corner," he said. "There's a lot of hoops we need to jump through before that would happen."

Also Tuesday, the board heard an annual report from Jefferson County Finance Director Marc DeVries on "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats" to the county's finances as the middle of 2019 arrives. DeVries said the county currently has a $33.7 million fund balance at this point in 2019.

"We have a strong fund balance," DeVries said.

The director noted, however, that a "threat" to the county includes its seriously aging infrastructure.

"Infrastructure concerns come up on an almost weekly basis here," DeVries said, noting the air conditioning system at the courthouse was in need of repair as of Tuesday's board meeting -- and soon.

On the brighter side of infrastructure needs, DeVries said roads and bridges in the county are in good condition, on the whole, because they are a priority and are watched closely for deterioration.

"But we have to be asking (in general), 'What are we going to do?'" he said.

DeVries said the county also has a concern in terms of its reliance on revenue sources over which it has no control.

DeVries closed his annual report by stating the finance office has been in the midst of almost constant change over the past two years and the future holds much more.

"Everything we did two years ago is changed, with more to come," he said.

Jefferson County Health Department Director Gail Scott reported in her annual address that high praise is to be given to her five public health nurses who work in the field and the one nurse who staffs the office. She also thanked the county health department's board of directors for its support over the past year.

She said it is becoming more difficult to recruit nurses to the health department because there is more demand for them than there is a supply nationwide and wages are being driven up. She said her department's response, in part, has been to implement a program of creative recruiting.

The parks committee presented a resolution that was ratified by the county calling for support of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program that has been a big help to the county in terms of allowing it to pay for recreational development projects and land acquisition.

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