Broadband, mining committee among topics at county board meeting
Creating consistent county wide broadband, cellular and Internet service was a point of discussion for supervisors at Oneida County’s monthly meeting held last Tuesday. While supervisors ultimately passed a resolution to form a committee to study this, three supervisors voted against it.
Board chairman Ted Cushing brought the resolution to the board, but it was Supervisor Dave Hintz who explained the resolution. “We want to form a committee to look at this issue throughout the county,” Hintz said. “The purpose would be to look at the situation and map out services in the county.”
Those included on the committee would be Hintz; supervisors Billy Fried and Bob Martini; Don Sidlowski, Town of Three Lakes chairman; and Dan Hess, a lieutenant with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. “This is very important to develop in this county,” said Hintz. “It will be a way to protect the tourist industry we have up here in addition to enhancing the possibility of businesses starting and growing here.”
But supervisor Jack Martinson thought forming a committee wasn’t necessary. “We should be listening to the people who are not getting service, not forming a committee,” he said. “I think providers (of these services) should be answering these questions.”
Hintz explained that Three Lakes faced a similar situation where some parts of town had good service while in other areas it was non-existent. “What they did was basically map the area,” said Hintz. “The mapping was done by volunteers and current providers. The project was basically an economic program facilitated by the Town of Three Lakes.”
Another opponent of forming a committee was Supervisor Jerry Shidell. He also had a concern about how the resolution was worded. It stated that a “county-wide Wi-Fi committee” should be formed and that “there exist many partners in the community that the county-wide Wi-Fi committee should work with including (but not limited to) Oneida County ITS, Oneida County Economic Development Corporation, the Town of Minocqua, the Town of Three Lakes and One Prospect.”
Shidell had some reservations about including One Prospect, which, according to the company’s website, “was founded and is based in Crandon and is wholly owned by the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation” and encompasses “a group of passionate technicians, engineers, sales people and administrative staff focused on our clients.”
“Once again I’m going to be a lone voice in the wilderness,” Shidell said. “I think we’re putting the cart before the horse and we’re giving a leg up to a private business here, which I don’t agree with. Also, there are townships in the county where you couldn’t build a tower if you wanted to.”
He also felt that spending county money on forming a committee wasn’t necessary. (All members of the committee except county employees would be entitled to per diems and mileage.) “This is a special interest here,” he said. “If you live in the boondocks, you chose that. Should I have to be responsible for providing you with this service? We shouldn’t be enhancing this with county dollars.”
The resolution also stated that the Wi-Fi Committee should report back to the county board by October, 2013, with their findings. “Why a year?” asked Shidell. “How about in June? That’s enough time to gather information about this.”
With that, he made a motion to amend the resolution to strike One Prospect from it and that the newly formed committee should report back by June, 2013. Both amendments passed. The board also voted to take Wi-Fi out of the name of the committee and change it to technology. The board then voted on forming the committee, with Billy Fried abstaining and Shidell, Candy Sorenson and Martinson casting no votes.
Also discussed was a resolution brought to the board by Supervisor Paul Dean, who wanted to strike all mining language from Oneida County’s general code. The board voted in August to stop pursuing mining as an economic development in the county, which has been proposed in the Town of Lynne since the 1990s. “For those that don’t know, we don’t have mining in Oneida County because it’s a dead issue now,” Dean said. “So, since we don’t have mining, I don’t feel we should have the mining oversight committee language, which we do have. In the future, whoever wants to start this up, it will make it harder.”
Dean also had concerns about Native Americans who are vehemently opposed to mining not only at this site but throughout the state. “We have to think about the needs of the American Indians and if we decide to have mining, we have to face the American Indians,” Dean said. “They have the resources to fight this. Do we?”
Supervisor Tom Rudolph was opposed to Dean’s resolution. “It doesn’t do any harm to anybody and we should leave it on the books,” he said. “Then if it does come up again, we don’t have to draft a new ordinance. This (issue) is water over the gate. We don’t need to mess with this.”
Supervisor Bob Mott asked Brian Desmond, corporate counsel, if the mining language just applied to the Town of Lynne or was county-wide. “Well, it killed it in the Town of Lynne and there were no other (mining) projects in the county,” he explained.
Shidell suggested the issue be referred back to the committee. “We have questions and until those are answered, I think this needs to be looked at by the committee,” he said. The motion was then made to send it back to committee with Supervisors Romelle Vandervest, Billy Fried, Bob Martini, Martinson, Candy Sorenson and Dean voting no to that proposal.
In other business, the board:
• Voted to increase the medical examiner’s position from a 35 percent part-time position to 100 per cent.
• Renewed a community policing deputy sheriff’s position for 2013, contingent on grant money from the Wisconsin Community Policing organization.
• Appointed Jean Hansen as the county conservationist.