County Board backs purchase for forestland expansion
Buying two properties in Enterprise contingent upon grant funding
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The Oneida County Board spent the most time at Tuesday’s special meeting on the final resolution, which supervisors voted 17-4 in favor of purchasing two properties in the town of Enterprise to add more than 200 acres to the county’s forestland.
Supervisors Scott Holewinski, Mike Timmons, Billy Fried and Lance Krolczyk voted against the purchase.
The possibility of purchasing the properties was initially considered by the County Board in June when supervisors passed a resolution to authorize the county’s Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee to pursue the purchase of adjacent properties known as the Haug and Houle parcels. That resolution also called for any agreement to purchase any or all of the property owned by the Haugs or Houles to be brought before the County Board for final approval.
The Haug parcel surrounds Gillette Lake and the Houle parcel encompasses Wickham Lake with the acreage of both properties having primarily hardwood trees.
Though the approved purchase price for both properties combined comes to $910,000, the sale is contingent upon the county obtaining Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program 50 percent grant matching funds, which would reduce the county’s cost by half, or $455,000.
In addition, county forest director John Bilogan said the county could obtain another $154,000 in Knowles-Nelson Stewardship land matching funds to offset the purchase price by placing some parcels currently in the county’s forest boundary, but not enrolled under the county forest law, into the county forest law program.
“We would just manage it as if it’s county forest from this point forward, as we have been doing anyway,” Bilogan said.
Supervisor Jack Sorensen, who chairs the Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee and introduced the resolution to purchase both properties, said a sale of a portion of Town Line Lake Park, which was closed several years ago because of the problems with invasive species in the lake, could generate another $143,000 to go toward the acquisition of the two properties in Enterprise.
“The timeline may not all come together in a perfect world, but that $143,000 would bring (the county’s cost to purchase both properties) down to approximately $150,000,” Sorensen said.
Bilogan also noted the estimated revenue that could be raised from timber sales on the two properties would conservatively be $90,000 with the initial cut.
“It doesn’t mean we would immediately have the revenue – the contract might be a two-, three-year contract – but within three years of the contract being purchased by a logger, we would see at least $90,000 in revenue that the county wouldn’t realize if the parcels obviously aren’t purchased,” Bilogan said.
Holewinski questioned the benefit of purchasing the properties and taking them off the tax rolls, noting the money put toward buying and developing the land could be used for other projects in the county.
“There’s no doubt, in my mind, over the years this will come back and there will be improvements to that property…,” Holewinski said. “I’m voting against this. I don’t think this is a wise thing at this time. There’s too many projects that have to be done first.”
Sorensen said his “personal vision” for the property would be to have a park for handicapped veterans.
“When you say handicapped and veterans, that wouldn’t be the limitation, of course, because any handicapped person would be able to use it, as would be all of the people in Oneida County, or whoever ventured up here to enjoy that particular property,” Sorensen said. “As a veteran myself, who was very fortunate to come through Vietnam without a scratch, and I see all the things on television for all the needs for veterans, I personally would hope that we would be able to go forward and look for veteran-type grants that would enable us to target this area as something special for people who served this country.”