Monday, March 2, 2020

April 7th, a crucial Election Date

YOUR VOTE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!  GET OUT AND VOTE ON APRIL 7TH!  

Tuesday, April 7th marks yet another crucial election day for the residents of Kewaunee County.

Most importantly is the Presidential Primary and the Election of a Supreme Court Justice for the State of Wisconsin.  Please cast your votes for President Trump and Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly!

 From the perspective of the County, you will be installing a new board of Supervisors.  Fifteen of the 20 Districts do not have a contest as only one candidate filed interest in becoming a Supervisor.  Following is a list of those candidates by District numbers.  If you don't know your district, click on any of the Districts, a map of that District will open in another tab.

Important Note- there is a misconception among many residents that their voting districts line up with the township lines.  Although that is true in some cases, the majority of the voting districts are comprised of physical area from more than one mapped township. To see your district, click on any of the Districts, a map of that District will open in another tab.


District 1 Gary Paape, N8272 Maple Court, Algoma WI 54201, 920-487-2292, paape.gerold@kewauneeco.org.  Gary is uncontested, an incumbent with several years of experience on the board.  

District 2 Nicholas Guilette, E3088 County Rd K, Casco, WI 54205, 920837-7295, no email address provided.  Nicholas, is uncontested and a new entrant to the board of Supervisors.

District 3 - Chuck Wagner, E1934 County Rd. S, Luxemburg, WI 654217, 920-837-7712, Wagner.Charles@kewauneeco.org.  Chuck, an incumbent is uncontested.  Has been on the board for some 14 plus years.

District 4 Doak Baker, E0565 County Rd K., Luxemburg, WI 54217,  920-360-8618, no email provided. Doak is uncontested and a new entrant to the board of Supervisors.

District 5 - Kent Treml, 361 Brookview Dr., Luxemburg, WI 54217, 920-370-8991, Treml.Kent@kewauneeco.org.  Trent is uncontested an incumbent headed into his second two-year term.

District 6  - Daniel Olson, 104 Woodview Lane, Luxemburg, WI 54217, 217781-3278, Olson.Daniel@kewauneeco.org.  Dan is the incumbent and is being contested by Donna Thomas, 206 Rueckl Drive, Apt 1, Luxemburg, WI. 920-366-4134, Donna.thomas1940@yahoo.com.

District 7 - Timothy J. Kinnard, 429 Main Street, Casco, WI 54205, 920-837-7156, no email provided and Lisa Cochart, 108 West Ave, Casco, WI 54205, 920-255-3637, cascokidzone@gmail.com. Both these candidates are new entrants in the race for this seat.

District 8 - Douglas Doell, E2440 Church Road, Luxemburg, WI, 54217, 920-360-2638, superiorsidingandgutters@gmail.com. Doug is the incumbent and is being contested by Frank Madzarevic, N3733 Cedar Lane, Luxemburg, WI 54217, 950-366-0722, frankmadz2011@gmail.com.

District 9 - Scott Jahnke, N2499 Jahnke Rd, Luxemburg, WI 54217, 920-845-5306, scottjahnke@centrytel.net.  Scott is the uncontested and is the incumbent.  

District 10 - Thomas Cretney, N2401 Vanderloop Rd, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-362-1313, Cretney.Tom@kewauneeco.org.  Thomas is the incumbent and is being contested by Richard Wochos, N2112 Sleepy Hollow Road, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-360-4104, no email.

District 11 - Aaron Augustian, E4857 Lakeshore Drive, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-388-1092, Augustian.Aaron@kewauneeco.org.  Aaron is the incumbent and is uncontested. 

District 12 - Mary Dobbins, N2734 St. Peters Rd, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-388-4178, Dobbins.Mary@kewauneeco.org.  Mary is the incumbent and is being contested by Milt Swagel, E3246 Krok Rd., Kewaunee, WI. 54216, no email.

District 13 - Kim Kroll, N5076 Valley Road, Luxemburg, WI 54217, 920-621-5507, kroll.kim@kewauneeco.com.  Kim is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 14 - Thomas Romdenne, 70 Sunset Avenue, Algoma, WI 54201, 920487-5130, romdenne.tom@kewauneeco.org.  Tom is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 15 - Linda Teske, 1002 Adams, Algoma, WI 54201, 920-487-5119, klmteske@charter.net.  Linda is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 16 - Virginia Haske, 720 Third Street, Algoma, WI 54216, 920-304-3289, vhaske@yahoo.com.  Virginia is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 17 - Joseph Lukes, E3802 Church Rd, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-837-7293, no email.  Joe is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 18 - Jeffery Vollenweider, 705 N. Main Street, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-388-3565, cohomotel@doorpi.net.  Jeffery is a new entrant and is uncontested.

District 19 - John Mastilar, 1454 Sundancer Lane, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-388-4717, mastilar.john@kewauneeco.org.  John is the incumbent and is uncontested.

District 20 - Joanne Lazansky, 713 Milwaukee Street, Kewaunee, WI 54216, 920-242-7999, joanneoneil3@hotmail.com.  Joanne is a new entrant and is uncontested.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Give Bob Weidner a "Thank You" if you see him.

For those of you who know me well, I am quite straight forward in my opinion, fairly critical,  and  not the type to praise people for their work and dedication unless they truly deserve it. Especially when it comes to people who hold public service jobs.

I am, quite frankly, disgusted with the way we fawn over politicians who are, our employees.  They are treated, in many instances like "rock stars".   We pay them to do a job, period.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a politician.  I will tell you the way it is, I won't sugarcoat an issue.  Just the facts.  And by the way, one thing I have learned in my years in running businesses is that "people lie", numbers don't (unless your working with erroneous numbers).

On the April 7th election, there is a local election for new Kewaunee County Board members.  A name that will no longer be on the ballot is that of Robert "Bob" Weidner.  After serving over a decade on the Kewaunee County Board Bob is hanging it up.  The majority of that decade, Bob served as the Chairman of the County Board with only a two year break when I served as the Board Chairman.

I have been critical of Bob's style of leadership on the board, I always thought he should be more of a leader rather than a hands-off approach.  However, purely from a political position, his approach has kept him on the board as the Chairman.  I want to publicly thank Bob for his support when I became Chairman.  We spent a lot of time together and Bob was very helpful to me, teaching me some of the salient points of Chairman's authority, etc.  We became friends during that difficult time as we were handling the economic issues surrounding the shutdown of the Kewaunee Nuclear plant.

Having been the Chairman, I can tell you that is is a thankless job and requires a lot of time and work.  So, if perchance, you see Bob, express your thanks for his many years of great service on the County Board.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

I'll make you a bet for $100

I will make you all a bet on this one.

OK, much to my dismay and to the dismay of many, our County Board did pass a resolution to spend $40,000 to build a WIFI access tower in the Town of Lincoln.  That $40,000 was matched by the State in some bogus grant. 

So here is my bet for $100 ( First come, first served, limit, one bet)

I WILL BET YOU THAT IN ONE YEAR FROM NOW, AFTER THAT TOWER IS INSTALLED, IT WILL HAVE PROVIDED WIFI ACCESS TO LESS THEN 10 HOMES IN LINCOLN TOWNSHIP! 

FURTHER WHEN THE FINAL NUMBERS ARE PROVIDED, we know a minimum of $80,000 and it will probably be in excess of $100,000 for this one tower that the average acquisition cost per customer on that service will be about $8,000. 

WILL ANY PERSON, LIKE THE COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR WHO DREAMED UP THIS SPEND BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE?  THAT WON'T HAPPEN BECAUSE THERE WON'T BE ANY ACTUAL REPORTING DONE AFTER THE FACT.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.  MEANTIME, WITH THE RISING WATERS OF LAKE MICHIGAN, FLOOD DAMAGE IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Another unforeseen Wind Energy expense/dilemma

I have been, and continue to be a staunch anti-wind turbine person.  We fought them off in our neighborhood about 8 years ago and now the developers (now out of Western Canada) have cancelled their leases in Kewaunee County and are moving to Manitowoc County.  They are planning on installing 80 - 3.5 Megawatt Wind Turbines along Hwy 42 from County Trunk B to just North of Two Rivers.

Well, at the time we were waging the war with a local developer (who later sold to the Canadians), we sited all the horrible truths about the worthless wind option to include; billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize this industry.  For without subsidy they don't exist, it's not a viable business.  

There were many issues of complaint concerning the idea of placing wind turbines here, but one of the biggest issues was the idea of decommissioning.  Who's going to be stuck with the bill on this? Were adequate monetary accruals going to be made by the company to ensure the neighborhood wouldn't be stuck with taking those worthless machines down later?  Although the company struggled to provide answers on that issue, they never adequately provided any security that made sense. 

Quite honestly, we had no idea of the total costs of decommissioning nor the issues surrounding it. 
Here is a good AP article on an issue we never even addressed at the time because we didn't understand or foresee it.

In this Nov. 5, 2019, photo, a worker monitors a hub replacement from atop a wind turbine in Walnut, Iowa. MidAmerican Energy's wind farm in Walnut, Iowa, has started repowering turbines, some of which have had their original blades since 2004. Blades can weigh up to 11,500 pounds. 

WALNUT, Iowa — At a western Iowa wind farm, a demolition crew saws through red slashes marked on 120-foot turbine blades, cutting them into thirds before stuffing the thinnest piece inside the base's hollow cavity, giving workers room to load more blades onto a flatbed trailer.
The work is part of MidAmerican Energy's efforts to "repower" nearly 110 turbines, updating existing towers with longer blades, new hubs and refurbished generators. When the work is done, the wind farm will generate nearly 20% more energy, MidAmerican says.
But the upgrades for Iowa's growing wind industry, which is already among the nation's largest, are creating some unexpected challenges.
MidAmerican's retired blades, destined for the Butler County Landfill near David City, Nebraska, about 130 miles away, are among hundreds that will land in dumps across Iowa and the nation. Critics of wind energy say the blades' march to a landfill weakens the industry's claim it's an environmentally friendly source of energy.
"This clean, green energy is not so clean and not so green," says Julie Kuntz, who opposes a Worth County wind project. "It's just more waste going in our landfills."
Daniel Laird, a U.S. Department of Energy researcher, told The Des Moines Register that most of a turbine can be recycled, including "a lot of metal — steel and copper."
He acknowledges, though, that disposing of the blades is a challenge. Wind energy generation, now topping 100 gigawatts nationally, will create 1 million tons of fiberglass and other composite waste, said Laird, director of the National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
"The scale of the issue is quite large," said Laird, whose group is working to develop new blade materials that will enable reuse. "It's quite a bit of material. And it's a larger sustainability issue. We would like everything that's manufactured to be reusable or recyclable."
Disposing of turbine blades is an issue that will likely linger for years in Iowa. Large, investor-owned Iowa utilities are investing heavily in wind energy as well as replacing blades to extend the life of older turbines.
MidAmerican will have spent $11.6 billion on wind from 2004 through this year, and Alliant Energy is spending $2.4 billion to build wind farms in Iowa. Iowa had 5,073 turbines last year, seven times more than in 2004, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show.
Kerri Johannsen, the Iowa Environmental Council's energy program director, said more recycling solutions are needed. But, she added, it's not a reason to "turn away from wind energy — a solution that can help mitigate the most dangerous threats from climate change."
With older wind farms getting a power face-lift, Iowa landfills are just beginning to accept unwanted blades for disposal.
Landfill operators thought the composite blades, cut in 40-foot or larger sections, could be readily crushed and compacted. "But blades are so strong — because they need to be strong to do their job — they just don't break," said Amie Davidson, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources solid waste supervisor.
"Sometimes pieces fly off and damage equipment" in the compacting process, she said. "Landfills are really struggling to manage them, and they just decide they can't accept them."
So far, only one facility in north Iowa is taking the blades, while other landfills are assessing whether they will.
Bill Rowland, president of the Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operations, said he's unsure "we as a society" considered what would happen to the blades as older turbines are repowered.
"There wasn’t a plan in place to say, 'How are we going to recycle these?' 'How are we going to reduce the impact on landfills?'" said Rowland, director of the Landfill of North Iowa near Clear Lake.
"One way or another, we have to deal with it as a state. They've been promoted. They’ve been built," he said. "In our opinion, there needs to be a way to handle the waste that’s derived from them."
The difficulty in reusing blades adds to the complaints opponents make against wind energy. Some who live near the turbines complain that low-frequency noise and light flickering from the blades make them ill. And the spinning blades can kill migrating birds and bats.
Blade disposal is "just one of many factors we're concerned about," said Kuntz, the Worth County wind farm opponent.
Des Moines-based MidAmerican, which began building its own wind farm in 2004, said it relies on wind turbine manufacturers — who then hire contractors — to decide how best to dispose of old blades, hubs and electronics in the nacelles.
When it started investing in wind, the utility believed a blade recycling option would emerge. "Thus far, it hasn't," said Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for MidAmerican, adding that the company is talking with other wind developers that may be interested in using the blades for their own projects.
In South Dakota, Donny Kuper, superintendent of the Sioux Falls Sanitary Landfill, said the landfill created new requirements for accepting turbine blades after studying how much space 100 blades from an Iowa wind farm took up.
Concerned that accommodating the massive pieces will shorten the life of the landfill, Kuper said, the operation will require the blades to be cut up in smaller pieces so that they can be compacted like other waste.
That should make it easier and safer for Kuper's crew to manage the blades, one of which got caught in a 120,000-pound compactor wheel. It flew up and broke the machine's windshield, idling the $900,000 piece of equipment for a week.
"There's definitely risk involved," Kuper said. "The blades themselves are pretty slick, so compactors can get on top of a blade and slip off. It's not happened to us, but I've heard it happened in other landfills, where a compactor has tipped over."
The Waste Management facility near Lake Mills in north Iowa is accepting the blades, but its workers are "shearing" them — or cutting them into smaller pieces, said Julie Ketchum, a Waste Management spokeswoman.
The facility takes in about six blades a day, or the equivalent of two wind turbines, she said.
DNR's Davidson said other landfills are discussing whether they can accept the blades. One of the issues that has emerged is who should be responsible for cutting the turbines into smaller pieces, she said.
"We can't make anybody take a waste," so it's up to individual landfills to decide if they will accept blades, she said.
Davidson said she's unsure whether many recycling options are available. DOE's Laird said most uses involve cutting up the material and using the pieces in other products. But it's still unclear whether that's financially viable over the long term.
Global Fiberglass Solutions of Bothell, Washington, says it recycles wind turbines, planes, boats and other fiberglass products in Newton, Iowa, and Sweetwater, Texas. The company didn't return calls asking for more information, but says on its website it uses recycled fiberglass to make other products.
The problem with recycling blades, Laird said, is that there is no easy way to separate the materials used to make it.
Using food analogies, he said some materials in the blades are like a fried egg. Once they're cooked, they can't be changed. If those materials were more like chocolate, they could be melted, reformed and used to make something else.
His team is working to see if blades can be manufactured differently, maintaining their toughness while allowing for reuse when they've done their job. The blades must be able to last 30 years under stressful conditions.
"The blade manufacturing process is sensitive to changes," Laird said. "It could throw off the whole manufacturing process."
MidAmerican's Greenwood says the utility plans to spend $2.3 billion to repower 1,215 turbines across the state through 2022.
Consumers will pay none of the wind costs, Greenwood said. In fact, MidAmerican has said the utility will receive about $10 billion in federal production tax credits for the investment, covering the capital costs needed to build the wind farms.
MidAmerican Energy has set a goal to create as much energy from wind as its 770,000 Iowa electric customers use over a year. So far, it's reached about 50%.
Despite the big investment, coal is still Iowa's largest source of energy to produce electricity, followed by wind and other renewable energy and natural gas. Iowa gets 34% of its electricity from wind, the second-largest proportion in the nation after Kansas at 36%.
Michael McCoy, executive director of the Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines, said Iowa needs to figure out how best to recycle the blades, given wind energy's growing presence in Iowa.
"Whether it's blades or tires, we'd rather see materials recycled. But you've got to have an end market for that, and I'm not sure" there is one, said McCoy, whose operation is beginning to discuss if it would take blades.
"I'd be interested in finding out if they can be grinded ... but a grinder would have to be massive. The question would be: 'At what cost?'" McCoy said, adding that he would like to bring utility executives, landfill operators, researchers and other leaders together to discuss ways to recycle the blades.
It's a process Metro Waste Authority tackled when a company that recycles construction and demolition waste closed, leaving mountains of unprocessed waste.
Frank Peters, an Iowa State University associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, said graduate students looked at whether chopped-up blades could replace gravel in making concrete. But it wasn't financially viable, given how much energy was needed to process the blades.

"Unless there's a better solution, they are going to get landfilled," Peters said. "But if you look at the total economic and environmental costs of reprocessing that blade, landfilling may be the best solution."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Broadband's Economic Impact Remains Unclear, Contested

I have said from the very beginning of this "high speed internet quest" for Kewaunee Co. that the County is misdirected and is wasting a lot of time and effort on a problem, that for the most part, doesn't exist.

I have suggested from the very beginning of this complex discussion that the only way to really determine any shortfall of internet service is to complete a door to door survey so the "true picture" of any discrepancy/shortfall can be determined. 

The following well-written article helps to further explain the broadband issues.

NOT ONE PENNY OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS SHOULD BE SPENT TO SUBSIDIZE ANY COMPANY OR ANY INTERNET USER IN OUR COUNTY.

Broadband's Economic Impact Remains Unclear, Contested

by Jed Pressgrove | September 23, 2019 AT 3:01 AM

Internet access is a critical concern across the United States. Countless news reports chronicle a trend of states and local areas working to expand broadband Internet for unserved and underserved populations. One assumption driving these efforts is that improved broadband coverage will lead to better economic outcomes.

Here’s the complication: Research on broadband doesn’t necessarily confirm that assumption, even though certain pieces of research seem to suggest the case is closed. The literature on the relationship between broadband and the economy often focuses on two types of broadband: rural and municipal. Both types have distinct academic arguments associated with them, though observations about one type can sometimes be applied to the other.

RURAL BROADBAND

At the beginning of this month, the American Action Forum (AAF) released a podcast titled “The Economics of Rural Broadband.” The podcast frames the issue by referencing billion-dollar plans from Democratic presidential candidates to increase rural broadband access. During this conversation, Will Rinehart, AAF technology and innovation policy director, shares a cautionary perspective about these plans.

“When you look at the data itself, it’s not as simple as just not having Internet access,” Rinehart said on the podcast, adding that he doesn’t believe anybody has a “very, very good sense” of how to implement rural broadband correctly on a wide scale.

The primary reason for this lack of clarity relates to data. Many studies about rural broadband’s positive economic associations use Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 477 data. This data, however, has been criticized by Microsoft and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, among others, for overestimating the reach of broadband. In response to this criticism, the FCC established in August a more “granular” method of data collection that “will collect geospatial broadband coverage maps from fixed broadband Internet service providers of areas where they make fixed service available.”

The more detailed FCC data, when it’s made available, should help researchers paint a more accurate picture about broadband. But that data measures the concept of broadband coverage. As suggested by Rinehart, the concept of broadband adoption is more strongly associated with economic benefits.

“Everyone has a better time, and the deployment is cheaper, if you have a higher amount of people that are actually going on and using the technology,” Rinehart said on the podcast. “So to me, that’s really the big missing step in all of these plans.”

But wouldn’t people surely use broadband if it were available to them? That’s not the story told by Census results.

“When you look at Census data, the vast majority of the people that are not currently connected to the Internet aren’t connected because they don’t think that it’s relevant in their lives,” Rinehart said on the podcast.

As stated by telecommunications policy analyst Rafi Goldberg, “The proportion of offline households citing lack of need or interest has increased from 39 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2017.” Furthermore, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey indicates that 80 percent of “non-broadband users say they are not interested in getting high-speed connections at home.”

Such findings reveal limitations in research that implies rural broadband projects will bring a good return on investment. For example, a 2018 Purdue Center for Regional Development study estimates that, over a 20-year period, “Indiana would receive about $12 billion in net benefits if the broadband investment were made statewide.” This projected figure relies on a number of factors, including the idea that residents across Indiana would indeed adopt broadband.

Alison Grant, lead author of the Purdue publication, said the study’s ultimate message is its finding of a 4-to-1 benefit-cost ratio, meaning that for every dollar invested in rural broadband, Indiana would receive four dollars in return. In regard to broadband adoption, Grant pointed out that farmers in Indiana would be very likely to adopt, as their scanning drones operate more efficiently with faster Internet. For other residents in Indiana, she believes adoption would come down to a simple variable.

“It all depends on the price,” she said.

The holes in rural broadband research have less to do with the researchers themselves and more to do with the relatively small number of studies, Rinehart said in a phone interview with Government Technology. One of the challenges with rural broadband deployment is that it must be “very contextual,” meaning that more research is needed to account for a wide variety of factors, especially in cases involving massive programs.

“I would hope that there’s more work on it, but there isn’t,” Rinehart said. The potential economic benefits of rural broadband also depend on businesses and the workforce. If an area doesn’t have
workers qualified to take jobs that involve high-speed Internet, businesses may have to get the talent they need by outsourcing.

In other words, rural broadband is a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. “[Broadband] doesn’t solve the fundamental problems of education and workforce training,” Rinehart said on the podcast.

MUNICIPAL BROADBAND
Municipal, or government-owned, broadband projects have received considerable attention from scholars because of their controversial nature, according to a 2016 State Government Leadership Foundation study written by George S. Ford. In the study, Ford said a municipal broadband project poses “an enormous financial risk,” but hundreds of cities have gone in that  direction “out of desperation for modern communications services (i.e., very high-speed broadband) and the benefits they are believed to provide.”

Research on the assumed benefits of municipal broadband showcases the risk of such projects. In a 2014 study, author Brian Deignan, using a sample of 80 cities with municipal broadband, concluded that “[i]nstead of increasing private employment, networks increase local government employment by around 6 percent.” Deignan did add that more research is needed to fully understand these cases.

Just two months ago, a Technology Policy Institute study by Sarah Oh indicated that it could not “prove that municipal broadband yields any effect on changes in household broadband subscriptions, unemployment rates, or labor forc participation rates.” However, Oh’s sample of places with municipal broadband was only 22. Moreover, the Technology Policy Institute is supported by a variety of private vendors, which, if nothing else, speaks to the tension involved in municipal
broadband projects.

Ford’s 2016 piece mentioned several studies that link broadband to economic growth. Ford nonetheless suggested caution. For instance, in regard to the successful broadband system in Chattanooga, Tenn., Ford said the city gained businesses after establishing faster Internet, but many of them relocated from other places. Such industry gains are good news for Chattanooga
but bad news for the cities that lost the businesses, which raises the question of whether a given municipal broadband project will lead to a better economic outlook for society as a whole.

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD?
Given the mixed results on the association between broadband and economic growth, what can leaders do as they plan to bring broadband to their communities? In Grant’s opinion, governments must consider the number of people who would receive broadband in a given scenario versus
the cost of the effort. Spending taxpayer dollars could be more difficult to justify when fewer people receive service.

“The cost per line per mile seems to be quite large when we move it up to rural areas,” she said.

Rinehart emphasized broadband adoption as a “key component” of any government initiative. He said it’s important to strategically use institutions to help increase broadband adoption numbers. Rinehart also believes governments should try to identify all of the potential paths to broadband and how feasible those paths are.

“A lot of times, local leaders don’t know what their options are,” Rinehart said.
Ford said he would caution governments not to believe most of the hype about the payoff of broadband to the economy. He also suggested that they work as closely as possible with existing providers to try to get expansion at the edge of existing networks. However, he said if a government does want to go into the broadband business, it should recognize that it’s going to be
subsidizing the business forever.

“Go in with your eyes open,” he said.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Update on Kewaunee Broadband Boondoggle



Thought it was time to have an update on how the County Administrator is working hard to blow a million or more of your tax dollars on a broadband boondoggle.

You know if something smells like horse dung, looks like horse dung, it probably is horse dung!

First, here is the Mission Statement of the Broadband Committee taken right from their minutes.
Read this mission statement carefully word by word.  Notice, there is no mention of spending tax dollar one in this statement?  What it does state is the committee will research, gather info, and educate the board and encourage third party investment.  That's all good, but it seems this is horse dung as well because, on the 21st of June, our County Legal Counsel Jeff Wisnicky who sits on that committee told me directly they want to spend the first million we've received from Dominion and maybe more on this broadband project.  I called the Administrator Feldt on this issue, he didn't answer, I left a message and he didn't return the call.

Last meeting of this Broadband Committee was on May 22.  Those minutes are now posted on the county website.  In those minutes, Administrator Feldt reported Door County Broadband had established a tower in Lincoln Township.  Could it possibly be that Administrator Feldt has a "special relationship" with Door County Broadband as he never talks about, or has talked to other broadband providers that are providing service in the county to include Bertrand and Mercury.

The committee is now reportedly investigating "Mesh WiFi"  opportunities and how to perhaps co-op with some company like Public Service in using their power poles to mount internet boosters on their poles or use other services they might have.  A mesh technology system works very much like a network of cell phone towers only with different technology.  One tower serves multiple customers and the towers are close enough that if one fails another tower picks up the load.  This is what broadband vendors are doing already.

Let's tear into this a bit. 
The whole idea sounds wonderful to residents.  They think if the County provides access points they will have free internet.  NOTHING IS FREE, there will be monthly fees of $60 to $100 or more for service which is available today through various vendors.

This whole idea was hatched by the County Administrator along with Board Member Lee Luft.  This is a bit complicated, so I would suggest you go back to review my earlier articles on this subject.  Go to www.ronheuer.com and review the Oct 26, 2018 article and the Jan 18, 2019 posts I have made on this subject. You can review the budgeting debacle by reading these two posts.

A Slight of Hand/Obfuscation?
According to Mr. Weidner, the County Board Chairman, he had no prior knowledge of the fact that the County Administrator Mr. Scott Feldt had added $1,000,000 to the budget to be spent on broadband in the County.  Thank God, Weidner worked with the board, and had that removed from the budget. That is when the Broadband Committee was established.

Mr. Feldt insisted the money from Dominion was to be used for "Economic Development."  Turns out that was a boldface lie, and by the way, it didn't take long before Administrator Feldt had other board members like Luft espousing the same lie.  (This is consistent with the idea, "Tell a lie over and over, and pretty soon people will believe it). The payment from Dominion was clearly and simply provided to the County to fill a budgetary gap left in the County budget with the closure of the Nuclear Plant.  There were no strings attached to that money.  The County can use that money for roadwork, tax rebate, you name it.

This whole dung stinking public broadband idea has come from a couple of people on the board and the KCEDC who say "We need high speed internet to attract businesses to Kewaunee Co."  They believe that "If you build it and they will come."  They believe that, if Kewaunee County has "extraordinary" high speed internet, there will be traffic jams on Highways 29, 42 and 54 with people wanting to relocate here.

But let's face facts.  The 1900 census showed 17,212 people in Kewaunee Co., and the 2010 census showed 20,574 people in Kewaunee Co.; a growth over 110 years of 3,362 people or an average of 30 people a year.  Four generations of growth or so, not impressive at all.

Reality, Growth has never been on the radar for the County
This County was an agricultural community 110 years ago and it still is.  In fact many townships have had, or do have restrictions as to how many acres of land you must own before you can build a house on your own land.  These restrictions were in place to preserve agricultural land.  BTW, if you haven't noticed, we don't have an Interstate Hwy touching our County, and if I am not mistaken, there is one rail spur left in the County that goes to the feed mill in Luxemburg. For years local residents of Kewaunee Co. have shunned growth, they wanted Kewaunee Co. to be kept pristine and did not seek growth.  Further, look no further than the City of Kewaunee.

Under the leadership of the previous Mayor, John Blaha the city received over $4.2M in State grants to redo the sea wall and develop the port area which was intended to draw construction of a hotel, restaurants and shops .  What happened after Blaha was not reelected?  Well, the State finished the sea wall and port development two years ago and it's been sitting there just as they left it.   With the current leadership in Kewaunee, my guess is that two years from now the answer will be the same on that project, Nothing done!

Why Should Our Taxpayers fund a portion of the broadband development?
They shouldn't!  High speed internet service by definition of the FCC already exists in the County, you just have to pay for it.  According to the FCC 10 MBPS per second download and 4 MBPS upload is considered to be the current "high speed" standard.

Internet users that demand high speed like Pagel Ponderosa and Kinnard Farms invested directly with providers to pull in fiber which gives them super access, probably up to 100 MBPS dedicated download.  Businesses can get fiber here if they want it or need it.  Heck, the County Administration building on Lincoln Street has fiber pulled to it.

There are a number of internet service providers like Mercury.net that will, at their expense, install high speed distribution systems if there is a demand (install meaning a mini-tower or nodes on a silo, or other high points).  By demand, I mean, a group of customers in a specific area that are willing to sign a one year contract for their high speed services.

I ran a consulting company from my home and had need to video conference and transfer large packets of data.  I made that work at my expense by paying about $210 per month with Verizon to have 4G access at my home with download speeds averaging about 20 MBPS and uploads of 7 MBPS.  It was adequate, but the data limits sometimes shot my monthly costs up quite high over the $210 figure.  I could stream Netflix HD movies, but the cost of doing so was prohibitive.  I didn't expect the County to fix my issue.  I fixed it myself as have hundreds of other people in the County have done themselves.

Even though I had a visual view of a Bertrand tower to my South and a Mercury.net tower to my North.  I couldn't access either tower because the trees were in the way.  So, I worked with Mercury.net.  I put in 600 feet of underground wire to get electric to a location where I had clear line of sight to the tower North of me.  It cost me, all in, about $600 to do this, but now I have consistent speeds of 20 MBPS download for 200 Gigs per month (that exceed the FCC standard) I pay $100 a month for this service.  And, my speeds are not slowed down after 60 or 80 Gigs.

So What Should the County's Role be?
Nothing.  It is a business that is driven by demand and best left to the private sector to own and manage.

Unfortunately, the whole high speed internet picture is really complicated and ever changing.  Most people cannot get their minds engaged to understand it fully.  The only role the County should/could play in this initiative would be to conduct comprehensive surveys to the inhabitants of the County.  Unfortunately developing a comprehensive survey that the rank and file person would understand is a challenge.

Go back and review my Oct blog where I have listed a number of companies that already provide service in the County.




Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Your County Board Per Diem and Expenses 2018/2019

Here are the final numbers for the 2018/2019 Kewaunee County Board per diems and expenses. 

Once again I will preface this is nothing more than a report of the monthly numbers as compiled by the County Finance Director Paul Kunesh. 

2018 / 2019 County Board Per diems and expense totals by board member

Name of board member      Per Diem         Expenses        Total
Augustian/Aaron                   $1,680.00          $405.56           $2,086.56
Cochart/Cory                         $2,360.00          $476.86           $2,836.86
Cretney/Thomas                    $2,380.00          $404.03           $2,704.83
Dobbins/Mary Ellen            $4,610.00          $793.73           $5,403.73
Doell/ Doug                           $1,850.00          $341.92           $2,191.92
Haske/Virginia                     $7,170.00          $1,620.68        $8,790.68
Jahnke/Scott                          $2,150.00          $429.01           $2,579.01
Kroll/Kim                              $1,950.00          $293.03           $2,243.03
Luft/Lee                                 $2,180.00          $0.00               $2,180.00
Lukes/Joe                               $1,580.00          $155.54           $1,735.54
Mastilar/John                         $3,320.00          $0.00               $3,320.00
Olson/Dan                              $1700.00           $390.40           $2,090.40
Paape/Gerald                        $6,590.00          $2,545.06        $9,135.03
Romdenne/Thomas              $6,560.00          $1,887.28        $8,447.28
Schmitt/Charles                     $1,580.00           $226.04            $1,806.04
Schillin/Kaye                         $3,990.00           $27.11              $4017.11
Teske/Linda                            $2,940.00          $572.00            $3,512.00
Treml/Kent                             $3,540.00          $319.38            $3,859.38
Wagner/Chuck                     $4,600.00           $2,907.98         $7,507.98
Weidner/Robert                      $3,220.00          $822.47            $4,042.47

Totals                                     $65,710.00          $14,404.16       $80,569.08

Couple of notes on these per diems. 
*  Board members are assigned to various committees and those board members who serve on more committees will, as a result of those committee meetings have higher per diems. 
*  Robert Weidner is Chairman and as the Chair he also receives an annual stipend of just over $8,000

Here is something interesting.  Notice above, the 5 names that are highlighted?  Four of the five (Dobbins/Haske/Paape/Romdenne) have held public paid positions before they got on the board.  Wagner has been on the board the longest of those who are currently on the board.

Remember, there are 20 members of the board in total.  If you add up their per diems, the five of them represent $45% of the total per diems.  Do the same with their expenses and those five represent 68% of the total expense of the board.  Coincidence?  Do you find that to be a bit odd?