Your County Board is at work and doing their best to deal with the unknown financial impact of the closure of the Kewaunee Nuclear plant. The county is preparing for the loss of $713,000 loss of income while faced with a levy limit freeze. To accomplish that, the Finance Committee headed up by Supervisor Luft, have focused their attention on the budget to see where they might find savings without impacting county services or imposing undue hardship on the employees.
It was determined that by making changes to the health insurance program that it would be possible to save an estimated $300k-$350K with reasonable changes. Our current insurance cost for 153 employees cost the county $2,565,770.
A group of 16 county employees have been working with the Finance Committee to assist in making the decisions on the health plan, looking at deductibles, copays, and premium distribution. This group of employees have been a great help and most cooperative in wading through this complicated issue. Another meeting is scheduled for August 5th to further discuss and decide which parts of the health care will be changed.
Assuming a $300K plus savings in this area can be realized, we still have to find another $350K plus in the budget. The Finance committee have directed Mr. Dorner to work with the various county departments to find those monies in the budget. This can be challenging when we have departments that have 95% of their budget in salaries and benefits.
The Highway Committee put forth a resolution to move $1.4M from the Highway DK fund (old Hwy 57 roadbed) and to put that money to use on our county roads. This was a good move by this committee as the DK money had been given to Kewaunee County some years ago by the state for the maintenance of Hwy DK and this road is in good condition. This resolution passed with a unanimous vote.
Another resolution put forward by the Law Enforcement Committee to extend the County Sheriffs’ department management contract with the City of Algoma passed unanimously. Although when this program was started it was soundly criticized it has worked very well and the feedback now is all positive. This program just makes good sense, both economically and from an overall continuity perspective. In my opinion, this is a program that could be expanded to other communities in the county.
On the groundwater issue, the Land and Water Committee have been working with Andy Wallander to finalize an ordinance that will deal with the application of manure on certain Karst featured lands in the county. It now appears the new ordinance will be ready for first reading at the August 19th board meeting. Assuming that gets passed by the board in the September meeting, the actual implementation of the ordinance would not occur until each township was able to pass a referendum adopting the ordinance. That would not happen until the spring of 2015 and would go into practice for the winter of 2015/2016.
Another item on the groundwater. Conversations have already taken place with Door and Brown counties to have them consider and pass a resolution in their counties similar to the resolution we passed in June. The ultimate goal here is to have Door, Kewaunee, Brown, Manitowoc, Calumet and Outagamie counties all work together to convince the DNR and DATCP that our counties are indeed a bit different given our Karst featured land and given that, we should receive assistance to ensure our groundwater is protected.
Over the next month, we will be very busy trying to sort out the impact of the assessment of the Kewaunee Nuclear plant. The players, Carlton Township, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin Department of Revenue and Dominion have to figure out how to handle a problem never before dealt with in our state. I explained the complexity of this issue in an earlier article on July 2.
All in, we are making progress, we have a long way to go, but I am encouraged by remarks from the public that are supportive of actions this board is taking. The committees are working well together and it is not business as usual.