New ad hoc building committee moves forward

County will seek out members of the public to serve with supervisors
By: 
Kevin Passon
Editor-in-chief

Shawano County officials will once again work toward a long-range building plan, with members of the county’s executive committee reaching a consensus on the idea at their June 19 meeting.

Kurt Berner, vice president of The Samuels Group, Wausau, which was recently tasked to review the county building plan studies over the past 40 years, told County Board Chairman Tom Kautza he is willing to donate his time to facilitate the meetings.

Earlier this month, the public property committee members talked of handling the planning while also expressing concerns over how and where to start and what is needed, among other questions, Kautza said.

“He will help lead us through that process at no charge,” he said. “The way they’ve always done it in the past, he said, is an ad hoc committee, and it’s not a bunch of board members. What that ad hoc committee really does, he said, is put together kind of like a comprehensive plan of what you want to see out of the county in the future.”

The ad hoc committee would make any recommendations to a regular committee, with any decision there passed to the county board for final approval.

The size of the committee was not decided.

Supervisor Kevin Conradt wants a county board majority on the committee.

“If you went with, say, seven or nine, that we should still have a majority from the county board,” he said. “We’re ultimately responsible.”

Kautza, relating Berner’s comments, said it should be more about what the public wants and not the supervisors.

“If it’s all county board members, what’s going to be the public perception?” he said. “We’re just shoving something down their throats.”

Jim Davel, administrative coordinator, said there will be a cost no matter the decision of the ad hoc committee, whether that decision is to build new government facilities, remodel existing ones or do nothing at all.

“The hard part of all this is you really have to consider the future,” he said. “Shaking the crazy 8 ball: What does the future look like for our community? And how can we best position ourselves?”

Supervisor Theresa Serrano said it’s a mistake to overlook having someone from the sheriff’s department or jail on the committee, especially if they are going to discuss whether to build a new jail or justice center.

“You need to have their input,” she said.

“That’s not going to happen,” Kautza said. “That’s taking away from the whole point of what he was getting at, and that is a committee that is more public, and they make the decisions.”

Sheriff George Lenzner said that at a minimum, someone with knowledge of jail operations would need to address the committee members.

“It’s very important to get the community on board, but you need somebody there to advise. The community does not understand the state statutes, what’s needed in the jail. I’m not there to rubber stamp anything. I’m a taxpayer, too,” he said. “When you build a new jail, it’s a lot different than what we have now. If you don’t have anybody advising the public on why you need a new jail, a lot of people think, ‘Oh, we’re just building it, because they want a new jail.’”

Davel said subject-matter experts would be brought in when necessary to address the ad hoc committee.

Kautza warned about starting the process by loading the committee with county employees or supervisors.

He suggested residents with select skills and backgrounds should be on the committee. Once the backgrounds are determined, residents who meet those skill sets would be approached about serving.

kpasson@newmedia-wi.com