County board votes against resolution prohibiting metallic mining
By Lori Adler, reporter
In 2018, a referendum to allow non-ferrous metallic mining in the Town of Lynne was voted upon by Oneida County residents and failed. A resolution in support of that vote was brought before the Oneida County board of supervisors meeting Tuesday by supervisor Alan VanRaalte.
VanRaalte explained, “The resolution is intended to codify the results of the November 2018 referendum when the mining question was put to the electorate. Over 82% of eligible Oneida county voters weighed in on that referendum with 62.59% voting No and only 37.41% voted Yes, a landslide I think by any definition.”
“I would be derelict in my responsibilities to the people of Little Rice and Nokomis, as well as the other citizens of Oneida county who voted No by a large margin on this referendum if I did not bring this resolution to the full county board for consideration,” VanRaalte stated.
While the 2018 referendum prohibited non-ferrous metallic mining on county lands within the Town of Lynne, the resolution brought by VanRaalte included all county lands anywhere within Oneida county, and this was a point of contention among board members.
“If this had Lynne in it specifically, I would vote for it in a minute because that’s what the citizens of the county were asked to vote on,” supervisor Bob Mott stated, adding “What’s happening is that you’re extending the opinion expressed in that vote to the whole county, and I’m not sure that was true.”
“Any time this may come up, and there may be locations, in my opinion, in the county that don’t threaten water, don’t threaten society, don’t threaten air resources, and we have to look at those, those separate areas, on an individual basis when they come up,” Mott said.
However, board member Jim Winkler responded, “I fully support this resolution as it is. I disagree with supervisor Mott. I don’t think Oneida county has any business doing any kind of metallic mining because of our water resources. We need to protect those at all costs.”
“This has gone on ever since I’ve been on this county board,” supervisor Bob Metropolus added. “We voted No, we voted No, we voted No, and here we are after five No’s trying to squeeze it off a little here and a little there,” he said, later noting, “It’s about time we just close the door to mining. We can say let’s look for that magical piece of land where it’s not going to affect anything. It’s not going to happen. Believe me, it won’t happen.”
Board member Bill Liebert responded, “I think we have enough language within our county ordinance currently that there’s probably no need to just weld the door shut to any opportunities that might exist in the future.”
Many other board members weighed in on the discussion, both for and against the ordinance, before a vote was finally called. Votes were as follows: 11-No, 8-Yes and 2-absent. Supervisors Paszak, Kelly, Liebert, Fisher, Mott, Oettinger, Sorensen, Jensen, Ives, Hintz and Fried voted No. Supervisors Schreier, Pence, Winkler, Metropolus, Krolczyk, Almekinder, VanRaalt and Cushing voted Yes. Supervisors Holewinski and Timmons were absent.
Staffing restructuring in Building and Grounds
A resolution (#82-2019) was brought before the board to consider a staffing adjustment in the building and grounds department. As a result of both the recent Carlson Dettmann study, which looked at wages and benefits of county positions in comparison with national averages, and the request by the county board to have departments look for cost savings in their respective budgets, the buildings and grounds department requested the elimination of a position.
The elimination of the full-time assistant maintenance technician position, which is responsible for the upkeep of the ADRC/Public Health building, would allow the remaining positions to be brought up to a full-time schedule of 2080 hours per year. Currently, all buildings and grounds maintenance and cleaning positions work 37.5 hours per week. The remaining six techs in the department would be asked to cover the work currently being done by the assistant maintenance tech. The department feels this could be done with eight hours of maintenance work per week and three hours of cleaning per day.
Several members of the board pointed out, however, that when looking at employee hours from the past year, a large amount of overtime by each buildings and grounds employee showed that all employees were already working at the 2080-hour level or more. This made several board members question whether the remaining six employees had the capacity to absorb the additional hours made by the elimination of the assistant tech position.
Supervisor Robb Jensen remarked, “I just don’t think the numbers add up, that when we get to the end of 2020, that the savings are going to be there,” later adding, “I want to see us be more efficient, but I’m just not sure this is more efficient.”
In response, though, other board members stated that the point of all the recent budgeting meetings was to look for areas to reduce costs so more money could be spent on programming.
“We talked when we formed the funding committee that there were going to be difficult decisions to be made, and this is one of them,” supervisor Ted Cushing stated. “The departments were charged with coming up with ways to save some money so we could implement programs. Evidently we’re not interested in coming up with money to implement programs. We just want to keep it where it is. Let’s leave everything the same, and we’ll start our budget hearings all over again,” Cushing said.
Following several other board members voicing their opinions, the vote was called. The resolution to eliminate the position passed with a vote of 10-Yes, 9-No and 2-absent.
The next meeting of the Oneida County Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, November 12, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. at the Oneida County Courthouse.