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Terry Kohlman, volunteer with the Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, spoke at the Marquette County Towns Association last week when they met at the Crystal Lake Town Hall. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Senator Herb Kohl and Representative Tom Petri that, if passed, will designate designating approximately two miles on either side of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers from Green Bay to the Mississippi, a National Park Service Heritage Area. (Photo by Kathleen McGwin)

Towns Association gathers in Crystal Lake for semi-annual meeting

Elected officials from the 14 Towns in Marquette County met in the Crystal Lake Town Hall last week for their semi-annual Towns Association meeting. They heard from State Representative Joan Ballweg, State Senator Luther Olsen, and from members of the Fox River Heritage Parkway, among others.

Information about Emergency Planning Mitigation Grants was shared. The bulletin can be viewed on the Marquette County website, http://co.marquette.wi.us, under the Emergency Management Department. The county has received a planning grant for hazard mitigation. Examples of hazard mitigation given at the meeting include putting in larger culverts or building shelters in vulnerable occupied spaces like mobile home parks. Les Crandall, Marquette County Emergency Management Director applied for the grant. Community members, according to the communication from Crandall, may give input to the plan by contacting Emergency Management at 608-297-3022.

Senator Luther Olsen told the Towns Association members that Governor Walker signed about 300 bills into law and that about 96% of them were passed by a bipartisan vote. He said that business is being done in Madison, but that the most important issue is getting the economy going. Two bills that passed that he helped author regard gasoline drive offs and domestic abuse. The “TraJa” bill increases penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders and Senate Bill 314, introduced with State Representative Ballweg, allows gas station owners access to license plate information so that they can contact the owner of the vehicle witnessed driving off without paying for gas and proceed with a civil suit to collect court costs and the amount of gasoline stolen.

State Representative Joan Ballweg reminded people that she now represents all of Marquette County except a portion of the Towns of Buffalo, Douglas and Moundville. The redistricting based on the 2010 census, moved the 41st District boundaries and Ballweg’s district changed to replace Representative Fred Clark.

Sheriff Kim Gaffney reminded the members of the Towns Association that the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department “can’t enforce local ordinances.” He brought this up because of increased calls about lake associations and Towns enforcement of local lake ordinances. Gaffney said that the department will respond to all dangerous situations, but cannot write a ticket on a local ordinance.

“When I say we can’t enforce, that doesn’t mean we won’t protect and respond,” he said.

He recommended that Towns consider hiring enforcement officers themselves and that lake districts, which are taxing bodies, can tax to cover such costs.

Town of Neshkoro Supervisor Mark Milbrandt questioned the “83.62% fringe benefit” charge on the highway department invoice when Highway Commissioner Brent Rhinehart spoke. Rhinehart said it, “Covers the cost of administration, office, outside time and is a catchall for all that,” besides paying for vacation days and sick days. When asked why townships pay this and why it hadn’t gone down with the employees now paying some of their retirement and health insurance, Rhinehart said because of “retirement payouts” and the number of retirements in 2011, that that effect won’t be seen until 2013.

Representatives of the Fox River Heritage Parkway initiative gave information about the legislation that is now in Congress designating two miles on either side of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers from Green Bay to the Mississippi, a National Park Service Heritage Area. The legislation was introduced by Senator Herb Kohl and Representative Tom Petri. No land is owned or managed by a heritage area, but the designation opens up economic opportunities for communities along the route. The speakers said that the average tourist who visits a National Heritage Area spends $914 during that visit. John Muir Park has been chosen as a Gateway site in the parkway.

For more information about the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, go to www.heritageparkway.org. Communities along the parkway are urged to become a partner in this initiative. The Town of Packwaukee is the only municipal partner from Marquette County at this time.

The next Towns Association meeting will be held on October 22 at 7 PM at the Douglas Town Hall.