Thursday, January 4, 2018


It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about Kewaunee County, but given developments of late, I feel compelled to do just that.  As many of you know, I served as a member on the County Board from 2012 -14, and 2014-16 as Chairman/Member. 

I am a true conservative who was, and still am, laser focused on watching out for the interest of the taxpayers of the County, without impinging the County’s ability to deliver services.  I do not obfuscate facts or sugar-coat anything.  I tell it like it is, like it or not.  I was not, am not, and will not become a politician.  

When I was elected to the board in 2012, I found the board had no leadership.  Bob Weidner was the Chairman and had been for the prior 8 years.  For 45 years I had senior management experience in running large privately held companies or managing large divisions for publicly traded companies.  Rather than using my experience for the benefit of the County, Weidner appointed me to one committee (Health/Vets/Child Support), a committee that has little or no impact on the budget one way or the other.  Weidner’s rationale was: “The board members who had seniority had the right to be appointed to the major committees of finance, highway, law enforcement, etc.”

What we had the tail wagging the dog!  As the Chairman of the Board, Weidner failed to lead.  This opened the door for the Administrator, Mr. Dorner, to do as he pleased.  He ran the County, and in fairness to him and given the personnel assets he had at that time he, did a fair job.  Where he failed, in my opinion, was trying to do everything by himself, including finance, and also not making radical management changes in two divisions that cost the County large losses.  So, during my first two years on the board, I listened, learned and pressured for change.  In the spring of 2014 after being elected as Chairman by the board we began to change the way business was transacted in the County.  We enacted many changes that benefitted the taxpayer without affecting the services the County was charged to deliver.

I bring this brief history up because now, December 2017, we are right back where we were in 2012, with the tail wagging the dog!  We have a strong, capable Administrator (Scott Feldt) with weak leadership on the board (Weidner), so the leadership vacuum is once again being filled by the Administrator.  This is NOT the way the county should be run.

I am sure by now you have received your property tax bill from Kewaunee County, along with the “CAREFULLY” crafted letter written by the Finance Committee Chairman Lee Luft with implied input to that letter from Chairman Robert Weidner and the County Administrator Scott Feldt.  (I HAVE PLACED A COPY OF THAT LETTER AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE)

I want to elaborate a bit on Supervisor Lee Luft.  Luft has a penchant for not telling the truth. He bends facts to fit his narrative, and he is a mouthpiece for the Kewaunee Cares group.  With Luft on the board, he has the visibility to reach out to various media venues, newspapers, radio, television, etc.  So he could represent the Kewaunee Cares group position on groundwater issues. 

Early on in the groundwater story, whenever the Milwaukee Journal environmental writer, Lee Bergquist, wrote articles about Kewaunee County water quality, Bergquist would reach out to Luft.  Luft consistently reported to Bergquist and other media outlets the following statement: “30% of Kewaunee County wells were contaminated.” 

Luft knew full well that was wrong.  And why?  Because the fact was, at that point in time, 30% of wells that were tested had been found to be contaminated.  I called out Bergquist on this directly when his article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal.  He confirmed the information he reported was provided by Luft. I demanded a retraction from the Journal and received it, but the damage to our county and our property values was already done.  Other news organizations published this story with incorrect information further damaging the County’s image.  I now refer to Luft as “Lyin Lee!” 

Let me explain why this is so important.  The County has some 4,752 wells.  From 2004-14 only 620 of those wells had been tested, with 30% (or 180 wells) contaminated with nitrates or bacteria.  BTW, since these numbers were released it was later found that nearly 50% of those wells were contaminated with either animal or human feces or a combination of those bacteria.  What Luft was representing would have translated to (4752 x 30%) 1,425 wells “contaminated.”   Do you not find it irresponsible for a member of the County Board to be misrepresenting information to news organizations that are very willing to print articles that are destructive to the welfare of our County without any fact checking?

Luft is not to be trusted; he is a surrogate for the Kewaunee Cares entity and is quite consistent with bending the truth.  He will put his arm around your shoulder and say “I agree with you on an issue” while he is sticking a knife in your back.  One other issue surrounding Luft is that he is focused on increasing taxes and fees in the County with little or no focus on tax reduction.  Be aware, Luft has his eyes set on the Chairman position for the Kewaunee County Board.  I will be updating you on the board election process in the next week or so.

So it should come as no surprise that Luft (rather than the Board Chairman) included in your tax bill his explanation of the property tax scenario.  As usual for Luft, he has not been totally honest and forthright in his reporting.  Because of that, I feel compelled to inform the taxpayers as to the truth!  Why is the Board Chairman Weidner not taking the lead on this?  Quite simply, he is not a leader; he wouldn’t want to take the chance of reporting anything that he might be held accountable for as that might impact his chances of being the Board Chairman once again.  Have you noticed in life; people that don’t do anything or accomplish anything don’t worry about being held accountable or criticized?

So I would like to point out a few omissions and half-truths as they appear in the letter presented by the Finance Chairman Luft.

Under – Why is the Kew Co. portion of my property tax bill higher this year than in 2015 and 2016?
Fundamentally correct in presentation, however there was no detail to explain how, or why, those taxpayers in the Kewaunee School District, (with exception of the folks in Carlton Township) experienced an abnormally large increase in their taxes.  Finance Chair Luft would say: “Not my job.  That is a Kewaunee School District job to tell their story.”  In as much as this was part of the Dominion settlement, it should have been covered in the letter.
For example, I live in West Kewaunee Township and my taxes went up $1,817 over last year.  I anticipated my taxes would be going back up after the Dominion settlement so I wasn’t that shocked with the increase as it brought my taxes back to the levels prior to the Carlton/Dominion lawsuit debacle.

So, the reason Kewaunee School District taxpayers, (with exception of Carlton Township), were hit with a large increase is that during the past two years while the assessed value of the Dominion plant was in the $460 million plus or minus, Dominion was paying an extraordinary amount of taxes in the County.  The State of WI DOR (Department of Revenue) has a school tax levy formula that considers a running three-year period.  So, when the numbers were plugged into the formula, Carlton received a pass on the increase because of the Dominion payments the previous two years.  The balance of the Kewaunee School District bore the brunt of the school taxes.  Because this formula considers a three-year running period, next year 2018/2019 Carlton will again receive a favorable tax, but in the 2019/2020 year, Carlton taxes will be at par with the balance of the taxpayers in the Kewaunee School District. 

Under – Taxpayer Questions
Is my property tax rate also going up because of increased spending by Kewaunee County?
His answer was: “No.”  I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t you call an additional $417,565 salary/wage 2018 budget spend an increase?   This salary/wage increase was for regular employees (this excludes temporary employees, contracted, per diem and overtime).  The breakdown of the $417,565 is: $120,199 for cost of living increase, $149,782 salaries for added positions, and $147,584 were salary increases per the step plan.  BTW, about 15 employees received merit increases and those increases are included in the $147K number.  No doubt a few of these employees did deserve an increase, but 8 of the employees were with the County for less than 3 years.  

On the cover letter to the 2017/2018 County Budget, the Administrator Feldt has a table that displays comparisons 2017/2018 budgets.  In that table the expenditures are increased by $2,622,582 year over year.  The tax levy is increased by $458,932 year over year.  Granted, when it comes to expenditures there are items that are controlled by the State and Federal governments the County has little control.  I point this out to further clarify that Luft has a problem with the truth.  He knows full-well that the average citizen won’t take the time to delve into these issues.

One of the salary increases granted by the board was for the Administrator, Scott Feldt.  This was clearly out of bounds.  Why the board bought into approving a two step, $10,442 salary increase for the Administrator is unexplainable.  The Board Chairman, Weidner, and the Finance Chairman, Lyin’ Lee, were big supporters of this increase and they both urged other board members to support the increase.

When the Administrator was hired in Feb 2018, he had not only the Administrative responsibilities, but he also had the Finance responsibilities.  Remember, Ed Dorner was paid $88,000 and handled both functions.  That was not working for the county, so we hired Paul Kunesh as Director of Finance and added $79,000 to our budget at that time.  Yes, it is the responsibility of the Administrator to manage the Finance department, however, we hired a very experienced, capable person in that department who has proven he can do the job.  This move essentially removed about 34% of the Administrators job.  The County also added a new position of Tourism/PIO which removed another responsibility from the Administrator’s plate.

Part of the responsibility assigned to the new Administrator Feldt was for him to develop a compensation plan for the county employees.  He accomplished that in 2016 and put in place a plan that considers longevity, a plan that included step increases for employees.  The step pay plan was designed to incrementally increase employee’s pay through the salary ranges related to their job titles and considered one step per year of employment. 

Now in the fall of 2017 it was proposed to increase Feldt’s salary to $103,771 which would have represented a 3 step increase in one year, an 8.9% increase of  $11,565.  What are these board members thinking?  Keep in mind, most counties in Wisconsin the size of Kewaunee County are operating their counties with “Coordinators,” not Administrators, and Coordinators are paid anywhere from $65K to $80K annually.  At the end of the day the two step, $10,442 annual increase was approved for the Administrator by the board.  The question every taxpayer should be asking is: “Why?”  What were you thinking?  BTW, the Administrator salary study that was used by the Personnel Committee to approve this salary was completed by; you guessed it, the Administrator!

Note:  All 5 of the elected officials; Jamie Annoye, County Clerk, Michelle Dax, County Treasurer, Matt Joski, County Sheriff, Rebecca Deterville, Clerk of Circuit Court, and Germaine Bertrand, Register of Deeds all deemed the issue of the Administrator’s salary increase to be out of bounds with the step policy that was put in place by the Administrator.  They also pointed out this salary increase action would set a precedence that would be difficult to manage, and the action was unfair to taxpayers.  They each submitted letters to the entire county board prior to any action by the board on this issue.  The Board members were largely mum on the issue. 

It was only after both the Personnel Committee and the Board approved the increase, that the Personnel Committee Chairman, Weidner met with these elected officials.  He expressed his disappointment that these elected officials had issued these letters.  He interpreted the letters to be an attack on the Board.  He listened to the concerns of the elected officials and then pivoted to what ideas these people would have to create harmony in the organization.

The next question would be:”Why didn’t the board reduce the taxes to the taxpayer with the additional money received from Dominion and the sales tax that was imposed?”  Well, this gets a bit dicey. 

The sales tax was established in May of 2017 and is averaging about $90K per month.  For the following 2017/18 budget year the county is budgeting over $1M in sales tax revenue.  Remember, ostensibly, the sales tax was enacted by the county to replace revenue lost from Dominion. So, now on top of the sales tax income, Dominion agrees to give  $485,468.37 per year to Kewaunee County for the next 10 years.  So, the county could have said, let’s provide some relief for the taxpayer and give them the $1.5M back in tax relief. 

Initially it was communicated by the Administrator that Dominion required that the first two years of Dominion payments of $485K each or $970K to be placed in an economic development fund for the County.  When the Administrator was pressed to provide written proof of that claim, the story changed to: “Dominion asked the county if they would place the money into this economic development fund.”  Dominion had no authority to place any demand on the county as to what the county did with these funds.  I confirmed that in a telephone call with Paul Briggs of Dominion.  Quite frankly, Dominion didn’t have to give the county a cent, so we should be thankful for what they have allocated to the County. 

So, once again, Lyin’ Lee and the Board Chairman jump on the idea of holding two years of Dominion funds in some account tagged for economic development.  There is an ulterior motive here I believe. 

There are a number of outlying expenses the county is facing that haven’t really been talked about much and have been kept in the background.  Here is as short list of those:
  • The landfill owes Kewaunee County $600,000 from a loan taken years ago from the county when they were developing some landfill cells.  That money will have to be paid back to the general fund of the county.
  • As the accounting for landfill closure trust account and costs are currently calculated; there may be a $20K or more shortfall in that account.
  • As of December 2017, the Long Term Care (LTC) Trust account has a balance of $1.725M.  As of 2007 the DNR required an LTC balance at closing of $2.322M.  In the event DNR does not adjust that number there will be another $580,000 required to balance that account.
  • The county has a negative $804,000 in the Human Services area.  Somehow the county has to fill/balance that account.
  • The County received a fine from the State of $147,698 for improper billing in the Human Services area.  This will need to be paid out as well.

So, you can see, there will be a shortfall of an estimated $2.1M that will need to be covered.  My guess is that setting aside the first $1M from Dominion provides a little financial cushion to draw down and partially settle these outstanding negatives.

There are a couple of other inaccuracies and obfuscations in Luft’s letter.  Luft’s claim they have been responsible in lowering costs is incorrect.  He indicates the county over the past 4 years has reduced the staffing from 176 to 146 and the cost of insurance was reduced. 

Let me set the record straight.  The reductions in both insurance and employee head count occurred while I was chairman, not under this administration.  That was two years ago.  Here are the actual headcounts of County employees by year: 2013 – 176 / 2014 – 163 / 2015 – 149 / 2016 –144.5 / 2017 – 147 / 2018 –146.  Notice in 2016 we were at 144.5 employees and now we are at 146.  So, his claim for reduction of salary costs over the past two years is bogus. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Vote Representative Joel Kitchens November 8th


The Oct 2015 article below tells you a lot about Lynn Utesch, a Democrat, who is running against Joel Kitchens for the 1st Assembly District.  

This is a person you do not want in the assembly!  Lynn Utesch is a typical Democrat that says “do as I say, not as I do”.  Lying, distorting the truth, obfuscating are daily activity for Mr. Utesch.  Oh, and by the way, Nancy Utesch, his wife is of the same caliber. They are deserving of each other.

Lynn and Nancy are the folks that migrated to Kewaunee County, Nancy from Illinois met Lynn on Washington Island where the couple was involved in environmental movements.  After coming to Kewaunee County, they initiated the Kewaunee Cares group.  Yes, these are the same folks that have been obfuscating the real facts about well contamination in our county.  And yes, the same folks that, as a result of their false reporting of well contamination through the last couple of years have driven down the price of our homes in the county.

As you read this article, you get a sense of how these two Democrats relay how they are entitled and above the law.  LYNN UTESCH IS NOT THE MAN YOU WANT IN MADISON REPRESENTING THIS AREA!  

Lynn & Nancy Utesch 



A Wisconsin farming couple that leads an anti-dairy farmer campaign and recently won a friend-of-the-environment award was investigated by the state for complaints that they allowed their cattle to contaminate a wetland.

The agency had received “multiple complaints” against Lynn and Nancy Utesch, according to state Department of Natural Resources records.

Nancy Utesch, who owns a beef farm with her husband in the Town of Pierce in Kewaunee County, initially refused to allow inspectors to check the full property, the documents show.

The most recent complaint, received by the county Land and Water Conservation Department on April 14, was “for cattle having full access to waters of the state, resulting in direct discharges to the waters...”
Investigators met heavy resistance when they suggested they would need to examine other parts of the 150-acre farm that might contribute to manure running into the wetland.

Nancy Utesch “was adamant that (the DNR) would not be able to inspect the farm” until she got more information about the complaint, according to an April 22 email from the DNR inspector.

The inspector told Utesch that “the purpose was to determine compliance with state runoff rules.”
Inspectors were able to examine the property nearly 10 days after the complaint and were unable to identify direct discharge.

Under the umbrella of the activist group Kewaunee Cares, the Utesches repeatedly have attacked farmers with large-scale dairies. They and fellow activists from outside the state point to complaints made against farms, even though some of the complaints are unfounded.

The couple also points to voluntary and limited well tests as evidence that 30 percent of the private drinking wells in the county are unsuitable for use.

In reality, only 620 of the county’s 4,600 wells (13 percent) have been tested during the past decade, according to county officials. Of those, 180 (4 percent) were found to have elevated levels of unsafe substances. How much of those substances come from septic systems, farms and other sources has not been fully determined.

Here is another story you may want to read that concerns the Uteschs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kewaunee County Sales Tax Meeting - Monday, August 29th 6:30 P.M. Luxemburg Fairgrounds Expo Bldg

As you are already aware, the Kewaunee County Board is attempting to pass a 1/2% Sales Tax in the county without having the public weighing in on the matter. At the August 16th board meeting a motion was made from the floor to refer the approval of a sales tax to a referendum, thus allowing the taxpayers of Kewaunee County the ability to weigh in on the issue.  The vote ended with five members of the board in favor of sending the issue to referendum with 14 of the board members voting against the motion.  Here is the way the vote ended. 

Those supervisors who believe the taxpayers should have a say:
Chris Rasmussen, Dennis Cravillion, Doug Doell, Scott Jahnke and Kaye Shillin

Those supervisors who believe they have the right to impose this tax without the taxpayers having a  voice:

Lee Luft, Bob Weidner, Pat Benes, Virginia Haske, Larry Kirchman, John Mastalir, Gerald Paape, John Pagel, Tom Romdenne, Ron Paider, Linda Sinkula, Linda Teske, Donna Thomas and Charles Wagner  (There are 20 board members, however Mary Dobbins was absent, not present for the vote)

Those supervisors that voted to bypass the taxpayers will tell you there are going to be meetings set up for taxpayer input, the first of those meetings will be on August 29th at 6:30 PM.  I have embedded the announcement of that meeting here, and attached the official notice as a PDF......Note, although this upcoming meeting allegedly set to solicit input from the taxpayers as to whether or not to go to referendum, there is no mention of referendum in the official release. 

According to a phone conversation I had with the Administrator Scott Feldt on Aug 23rd, Mr. Weidner, the County Board Chairman had been informed by Mr. Feldt that the County would not be in financial difficulty for FY 2017 without the 1/2% sales tax.  That tidbit of information was not revealed to the board by Chairman Weidner.  Why not?  Your guess is as good as mine.  So the question should then be why the rush to impose yet another tax on the taxpayers of the county?

Attend the 8/29 Monday 6:30 PM meeting in Luxemburg and let your voice be heard in this matter! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Must Attend Meeting - Aug 9th 6:30 PM Northbrook CC

Chris Rasmussen is a friend and is working hard to try to hold the spending line in Kewaunee County.  He has asked for my assistance in distributing the letter that appears below.  Mr. Luft, Chairman of the Finance Committee is hell-bent on increasing taxes and fees.

You must get involved now, or it may be too late.  Attend the Aug 9th meeting to get the details and let your elected Supervisor know of your position on these taxes and fees.

August 3, 2016

Dear Kewaunee County Taxpayers:
My name is Chris Rasmussen and I’m a first year Kewaunee County Board Supervisor from the 5th district, and I need your help!  

On Tuesday, Aug 9rd, 6:30 PM at NorthBrook Country Club, I am hosting a meeting get your feedback on a variety of new taxes and fees currently being considered by the Finance Committee and ultimately Kewaunee County Board. 

I serve on the Finance Committee and have learned over the last few months that Kewaunee County is facing significant budget deficits this year and the foreseeable future.  Finance Committee Chairman Lee Luft and the other Finance Committee would like to address this issue by creating new taxes and fees.  In fact, they voted 4-1 last night to recommend a county-wide sales tax to the full board – specifically denying input from the public by intentionally refusing a referendum.  Furthermore, they have not formally proposed even one spending reduction on almost $29M of spending before passing this tax out of committee! 

I fundamentally disagree with this approach, but my appeals have fallen on deaf ears.  A sales tax should be the very last resort – but they’re not even giving spending reductions a chance.  Without your help, they will pass their new sales tax without going to referendum, and along with it a whole host of new fees!  I NEED YOUR HELP AND VOICE!!

Kewaunee County Financial Forecast
The financial issues facing the county are relatively complex and span multiple decades and countless poor decisions by our elected officials.  Prior to the May County Board meeting, the County Administrator at the direction of Mr. Luft presented a five year Kewaunee County Financial Forecast showing a 2017 budget deficit of $1.0M, growing each year of the forecast culminating in 2021 with a $3.5M budget deficit. 

During that five-year span, they forecast spending to increase on average by almost $800K annually.  $800K per year!  While over the same span, property tax and other income is only forecasted to only grow by $210K per year.  Left untouched, the average spending growth outpaces income growth by almost $600K per year!  THIS IS NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM – IT IS A SPENDING PROBLEM!

Their original forecast included 15% year over year health insurance increases, a clear overstatement of expenses in order to “sell” their wish-list of taxes and fees.  After facing continuous scrutiny by me in that and follow up meetings, Mr. Luft and Mr. Feldt revised their forecasts, backing off of the 15% to 10% and eventually 5% year to year health insurance increases.  Although slightly more palatable, these versions still forecast average annual spending increases to outpace income growth in the county by $400K and $250K, respectively.  There is no tax and/or fee that will continue to grow by $600K, $400K, or $250K annually.

Mr. Luft & the County Administrator’s forecast included the following wish-list of new taxes and fees along with the extra spending money they predict each would generate:
A.      Referendum to Increase Property Taxes beyond Legal Limit - $2,000,000
B.      Wheel Tax - $360,000 ($20 per vehicle under 8,000 pounds)
C.      ½ % County-Wide Sales Tax - $1,300,000 (county-wide sales tax)
D.      “Increased Fees” - $350,000, comprised of some combination of the following:
·         Overweight Vehicle Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         ATV Park Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         Animal Waste Storage Unit Inspection Fee (annual) - $360,700
·         Agricultural Land Inspection Fee (annual) - $271,030
·         Private Well Registration & Inspection Fee (annual) - $40,000
·         Manure Spill Response Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         Increase Fine related to Winter Spreading Ordinance from $250 to $2500 - no total dollar amount assigned

Their own projections show the result is a 3-year Band-Aid that would leave us further in the hole!  Not including the Property Tax increase because they know it would face certain defeat at the polls, but, if they were to impose their new wheel tax of $360K, half percent sales tax of $1.3M, and increased/new fees of $350K, they still generate huge budget shortfalls again by 2020 ($600K), and 2021 ($1.4M). 

That’s right – according to their forecast they would raise taxes and fees by $2,010,000 and still be in the hole by 2020.  THIS IS NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM – IT IS A SPENDING PROBLEM!
When I asked the County Administrator if he thought this was a Band-Aid, he told me that it would buy some time and that our “wake up call” would be in three years.  I suggest to you that the wakeup call has been ringing for some time now and we’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too many years.
What Are Our Options
Those on the Finance Committee keep saying the answer has to come from both sides – some spending reductions and some “revenue enhancements.”  And although this sounds great, but the fact of the matter is that they have not considered a single spending reduction.  I have brought forth a dozen ideas or more of areas to reduce, but they are unwilling to listen.  Their forecast is a reflection of what they will do with more tax revenues – not one area is reduced.  Not a single one.

I NEED YOUR HELP AND VOICE! – On Tuesday, Aug 9rd, 6:30 PM at NorthBrook Country Club!   I hope to see you there.

Best regards,

Chris Rasmussen
County Board Supervisor, District 5, Kewaunee, WI

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Are You Ready for More Taxes in Kewaunee County?

Your Kewaunee County Finance Committee led by Lee Luft is on a path that will substantially increase taxes and impose new fees for Kewaunee County Taxpayers. According to projections produced by Luft, the County Administrator, Scott Feld and Finance Director, Paul Kunesh, - even with their proposed tax increases - the county would still experience an operating capital shortfall in five years.  There is one Supervisor on that committee, Chris Rasmussen, that is in opposition and is demanding all options to reduce spending are considered first.

Following is a list of Revenue Generation Items that are being considered by Lee Luft’s Finance Committee for implementation:
  • 1/2% Kewaunee County Sales Tax (without going to referendum)
  • Referendum to Exceed the Tax Levy Limit(supposedly off the table now)
  • Wheel Tax (up to $20 per vehicle) (supposedly off the table now)
  • Overweight Vehicle Fee
  • Other fees being considered;
    • All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Park Fees
    • Animal Waste Storage Unit Inspection Fees
    • Agriculture Land Inspection Fee
    • Private Well Registration & Inspection Fees
    •  Manure Spill Response Fee
    • Increased fines for Winter Spreading Ordinance
Lee Luft, along with County Administrator Mr. Feldt, have been out presenting expense-heavy financial forecasts to Town Boards overstating the case; educating them, and soliciting their support for these tax increases and new fees.  In those presentations, Luft is saying all spending cut opportunities at the county have been explored and completed; there is no room for additional reduction in spending.  That simply is not the case. At the same time, he is saying that the numbers he is projecting shows the county will still have a revenue problem in five years, even after implementing his new taxes. WE DO NOT HAVE A REVENUE PROBLEM, WE HAVE A SPENDING PROBLEM!  AS WE ALL KNOW, GIVE ANY GOVERNMENT ENTITY MONEY AND THEY WILL SPEND ALL OF IT AND MORE!

This is the way the process works. The finance committee under Luft’s leadership is charged with providing a resolution for the financial budgeting direction for the county.  That committee will pass a motion, or a series of motions, for the tax increase resolution(s) that would go to the full board for approval.  You, the individual taxpayers, must get involved in this process. The numbers are complex, but they are forecasting expenses to grow by $4.0M from 2016-2021, while revenues from taxes (without the newly added fees and taxes) only grow by $1.1M.  When expenses outpace income by almost $3M annually, the proceeds from all of their new fees and taxes get swallowed up quickly leaving us in the same boat we are in right now in five short years.  Then what? 

Kewaunee County has about 20,400 total people, and they aren’t all taxpayers! The County simply cannot afford some of the services other counties provide.  I have asked for a list of services the county must provide by law, but never received it.  Assuming the county puts that list together, one could then assess which services are being provided beyond those required, and complete an analysis upon which services could be eliminated that would reduce expenses.

A few short months ago, it appeared the shortfall for operation in budget year 2017 was approximately $700,000. Now according to new projections put together by Luft and the Administrator, that shortfall has grown to $1,047,408 - an additional $300K!  Really?  One can only conclude the numbers have been fudged a bit to bolster Luft’s position on the imposition of new taxes and fees.

Keep in mind, Luft’s ultimate goal is to have enough money in the budget so eventually he can add additional enforcement staff in the Soil Conservation Group.  That staff would monitor farm practices relating to manure application.  Luft has wanted to follow Door County and their implementation of Chapter 23.  Chapter 23 is an onerous, heavy handed, ordinance that provides the county a free hand in fining farmers for infractions whatever they might be regarding manure application.  In Door County, this ordinance has, driven many farmers out of business.

Kewaunee County Residents are already highly taxed. Not only does the county want to zap you with additional taxes, but keep in mind Luxemburg-Casco School District is considering a referendum for $25M in school improvements and updates of which $17M would need to go on referendum.  Kewaunee School District just passed a $6.8M referendum and Algoma a $3.6M referendum.  For the most part, this money is earmarked for updating the mechanical infrastructure of the schools and for improving the sports venues at the schools. At the same time, the school districts are competing for enrollment. Algoma even has a billboard along Hwy 42, touting the virtues of their school system. The reality is the population of the County is not growing, nor is student enrollment. Additionally, we have an aging population living on a fixed income and most cannot afford higher taxes.

Be cautious as to what you read in the Kewaunee Star News
Karen Yancey Ebert, the Kewaunee Star "Ace Reporter" gets most of her information on Kewaunee County business from Luft. Although Luft claims he is not a member of the Kewaunee Cares group, he attends their meetings, espouses their doctrine and follows their lead.  Karen Yancey is biased in her reporting.  She is an environmentalist and has a long history of affiliation with environmental groups as outlined below. 

Luft often misrepresents both financial projections as well as any information concerning the County water issues. He often spouts numbers that are not verified or are just outright incorrect.  For example, a week or so ago, Luft stood up at a meeting and said, “Kewaunee County has 100,000 dairy cows.”  The statement is not true, but he says it anyway. He also has reported over and over that 30% of wells in Kewaunee County are contaminated. This also is not true, but he knows if you report untruths repeatedly, they soon become fact.
So you can understand, if Reporter Yancey is getting her info from Luft, and she does not verify the information, the story you read in the Kewaunee Star is usually incorrect or so grossly slanted and biased that it is quite often not factual.

Ms Yancey is an environmentalist so being objective is a problem for her.  The following information has been copied from Ms. Yancey’s LinkedIn account:

Board member, Chairman of Washington Island Project Committee.

Door County Land Trust

June 2000 – Present (16 years 2 months) Environment
I initiated a committee on Washington Island, Wisconsin, to protect open space and was then asked to serve on the Door County Land Trust board. During my 14 years of volunteer work for the land trust, we have protected almost 1,000 acres on the island and I have organized and participated in many capital campaigns, fund-raising events and land stewardship projects. For a decade (from 2000-2010), I chaired a committee of 10 people on the island with the goal of protecting important natural areas. I also co-edited, and obtained a grant to publish a book with renowned regional writer Norbert Blei on 20 special places in Door County. In 2008, I received the land trust's highest volunteer award for my work, 2008 Door County Land Trust Distinguished Service Award.  (This is where Ms. Yancey made the acquaintance with Lynn and Nancy Utesch.  They lived on Washington Island and were part of the same organization.)

Board member
Citizens for Conservation
June 1993 – February 1999 (5 years 9 months) Environment
I served on the board of directors of this conservation organization from 1993-1999. I helped organize special events, co-chaired the educational committee and participated in stewardship projects. In conjunction with this role, I also served as a Nature Lady for Barrington schools and took third-grade classes on tours of native prairies. I continue to serve as a consultant for the organization on land protection projects.
Your Involvement is crucial
It will take courage for this board to face the spending problem head-on.  They need your encouragement and input.  Let them hear from you.  If you are not keen on the ideas of the additional taxes and fees, those folks on the Finance Committee need to hear from you right now.
BTW, something else that will be rearing its ugly head shortly is the Kewaunee County Jail project.  Sheriff Joski is prepping the Law Enforcement Committee now for the building of a new jail facility that will cost the County an estimated $15-$20 Million.  Do we really need a jail?  Perhaps we do, but the bigger question is can we afford it?  What about increased staffing and maintenance costs? Could we, or should we be working right now with Brown County on a partnership as they are completing their analysis on expanding their jail facility at this time?

Ron Heuer
Kewaunee County Taxpayer

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Your tax dollars are already allocated at the federal level to address the issue of treating water for small wells (private).  Kewaunee County, nor the State of Wisconsin need to re-invent this process.  Read on................

Over the past couple of months Mr. Lee Luft, Chairman of the Groundwater Task Force and Chairman of Finance Committee along with the "Kewaunee Cares" group have been bantering about, the idea that $10,000 of Kewaunee County Taxpayer money should be budgeted to provide "free water and delivery of that water" to county residences who may have a contaminated well.  

Since when is the county in the "grant" business?  And the next question I would ask is, "what is the next item(s) the county is going to be providing?"  Granted, clean water is essential for life, but knowing government it wouldn't be long before they would find another cause to fund!

As we have learned, drilling new wells in high risk areas where a well has gone bad (like the karst areas of Lincoln, Red River, Casco and Luxemburg Townships) is not the answer as in most instances a new well is very likely to go bad in a short period of time.
So, I have been working with Brian Deaner, Community Programs Director Rural Director, of the USDA in an attempt to find a way to provide small well water treatment systems at reasonable costs. 

Subsequent to our initial conversations, Brian set out to find a possible option for us in Kewaunee County.  Brian was able to make contact with a Debra Martin of Great Lakes RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) out of Ohio regarding our wells situation.  In collaborative conversations with WEP (Water Environmental Program) and RCAP, the consensus was to put forth a treatment solution for our contaminated wells rather than investing in drilling new wells which we have found often times are re-contaminated. 

WEP has determined that the purchase and installation of household well treatment equipment is eligible under the HWWG (Household Water Well Grant) program, and that a packaged membrane filtration system that includes a reverse osmosis filter and an Ultra Violet light (to be placed in the basement where the well water enters the hydro tank) would address the immediate well contamination problems we are experiencing in Kewaunee County.  

Great Lakes RCAP  have received approval to modify their existing HWWG work plan to include serving Kewaunee County. This modification now allows Great Lakes RCAP to offer loans at 1% for up to 11 years to individual homeowners to address the contamination.   The program can be available to Kewaunee County residents within weeks providing it is implemented now by the County.

These treatment packages are estimated at $500-$1,000 per well.  Assuming an average installation of a treatment system is $800, the cost per month to the homeowner with this program would be about $8.00 per month.  This doesn’t include any annual maintenance costs. This should eliminate any idea that local tax dollars would be used to pay for free water, paid for, and delivered with County taxpayer money.  The cost of gasoline to get to a free water location and/or the cost of purchasing bottled water would be more than the $8.00 per month cost. 

I have passed on the entire plan to County officials, so now it will be up to them to implement this program.  

Ironically, the folks at USDA also believe a longer term solution includes treating manure, reducing the amount of water that goes to the fields.  They may be a source of funding going forward to assist Kewaunee County in a Project Phoenix scenario if that proves to be both beneficial and practical.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Peninsula Pride Farms

Yesterday another major positive step in the overall effort to work towards protecting our water in Kewaunee County was taken with the establishment of Peninsula Pride Farms (PPF).  PPF was formed by a group of environmentally concerned farmers and others who will work to improve the watershed areas of our county. I have included their press release in this email.

It should be noted, the initial number of farmers who have joined is near 40 and totally they represent some 31,000 cattle and about 48,000 acres of tillable land. It is anticipated the number of farmer members will grow significantly going forward, as a conscious decision was made to keep the number of participants at a manageable number to start with.    

If you have been following the water issues in the County, you are aware the County Board has been working on this problem with the various agencies, DNR, NRCS, DATCP, etc.  Now with the added voluntary involvement from the stewards of the land, our farmers, taking this important step, I am more convinced than ever that Kewaunee County will produce positive solutions to the problem.

Ron Heuer
Kewaunee County Board Chairman

March 31, 2016

For more information, contact:
Don Niles
Peninsula Pride Farms
Phone: 920-621-3253

Farmers Launch Watershed Initiative in Kewaunee, Southern Door Counties
KEWAUNEE, Wis. (March 31, 2016) — Thirty-five farmers in northeastern Wisconsin, with a handful yet to be counted, announced today they have formed an environmental stewardship coalition.  The goal  of the organization, whose members range in size from 66 cows to 6,000 cows, is to leverage the ingenuity of the agricultural community, university research and scientists to meet water quality challenges.
The group, Peninsula Pride Farms, will focus on more innovative ways to protect and improve ground and surface water through conservation practices and technology in Kewaunee and southern Door counties.
This is the first local collaboration of its kind in an area dealing with decades-long water quality issues.
“Farmers, by nature, are innovative problem solvers,” said Don Niles, a dairy farmer in Casco, Wis., who led the planning for the group. “We can be most effective by working toward solutions in a collaborative manner.”
Peninsula Pride Farms, formed as a nonprofit, will focus on promoting farming methods that create measurable and sustainable improvements. A key to the initiative will be to create benchmarks to for continuous improvement for individual farms that take into account the unique characteristics of each farm’s systems and environmental characteristics.
The group also will provide education and outreach through things like on-farm demonstrations for both farmers and the public.
“We will empower farmers with knowledge, training and shared experiences,” Niles said. “And we will demonstrate how the agricultural community is committed to doing its fair share in making improvements.”
U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble endorsed the approach. The congressman from northeastern Wisconsin has led an intensive collaborative effort to reduce phosphorous runoff in the bay of Green Bay.
“It is vitally important that Kewaunee and southern Door counties work to improve water quality, and I commend local farmers for stepping up and working together to find solutions,” Ribble said.
Niles said Peninsula Pride Farms’ diversity will be a strength.  At the initial meeting, there were forty-six farmers, crop consultants and agri-business leaders participating.
“We are finding ways that dairy, beef, hog and crop farmers, on farms large and small, as well as non-farmers can combine their ideas and energy to shape common, effective solutions that are socially, economically and environmentally sound,” he said.
Dennis Frame, who designed the country’s first Discovery Farms Program while at the University of Wisconsin, is assisting Peninsula Pride Farms. He sees great potential in the initiative.
“This program can bring about dramatic positive changes to farming systems, and I believe that this has the potential, if given adequate time, to be a national model for farmer-led watershed projects,” Frame said.
The new organization also has the backing of one of the most respected and influential environmental groups.
The Nature Conservancy partners with individuals, businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations across the U.S. and 68 other countries to implement science-based conservation practices.
“We recognize agriculture is critical to healthy lives and a strong economy.  In Wisconsin and across the U.S. we are working with farmers and the industry to develop collaborative solutions that help increase productivity while minimizing environmental impacts,” said John Nelson, a project manager for the conservancy.
Nelson, who has been extensively involved in efforts to improve water quality in the Sheboygan River basin and Lake Michigan, was part of the Peninsula Pride Farms steering committee.
“We work with farmers to improve tillage practices, manage manure and other nutrients, utilize cover crops, and develop other innovative solutions to keep nutrients and soil on the land and out of our waters,” Nelson said.
A similar farmer-led alliance in the Yahara River watershed has kept thousands of pounds of phosphorous out of Madison area lakes in the past two years in an effort to reduce algae growth.

Frame, a professor at UW-Extension for the past 33 years, helped get that group off the ground.
“Farmer-led watershed programs have a significant potential to protect water quality because recommendations are coming from people who understand farming and the challenges of making changes to a farming system,” he said.

Mission statement: As farmers and caretakers of the environment, we are committed to protecting, nurturing and sustaining our precious soil, water and air. To foster environmental stewardship, we will promote practices with measurable outcomes that secure and enrich the future of our shared community. 
Philosophy: Our culture is one in which farmers are empowered to continuously improve on practices that affect the environment. Through peer-to-peer mentoring and other forms of support, we challenge ourselves to be models of sustainability. Goals and expectations are high and so, too, is our commitment to each other’s success and the well-being of our community.