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Groups seek powerline funds from county

A request to use powerline impact fee funds to help pay for legal expenses in setting up a community homeless shelter got the cold shoulder from members of the county finance committee last week.

At the September 10 meeting, committee members reviewed requests from the village of Stetsonville for pond restoration, Centennial Community Center for help with a shelter repair, and Taylor County Supportive Housing to help cover legal fees for setting up a homeless shelter in the county. Under county rules, groups may apply for funding requests in either spring or fall with any allocations needing a two-thirds vote of county board to be approved. The fund is generated from impact fees paid each year for the Arrowhead to Weston transmission line that runs through the southwestern part of the county.

Taylor County Supportive Housing’s (TCSH) request for $6,080 received the most scrutiny from the committee members.

Jessica Mudgett of TCSH presented the grant request explaining that when the group applied and received Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money they anticipated having to pay administrative costs, but that they did not know the attorney fees charged by the county’s corporation counsel would also have to be paid from the CDBG funds. The group is seeking powerline funds in order to offset the legal fees and have more of the CDBG funds to use toward the set up and operation of the shelter.

“This one I have a problem with,” said committee chairman Chuck Zenner, expressing disagreement with using grant money from one area to cover legal fees for a different grant.

“I don’t know this is the right spot to get it from,” Zenner said.

“I personally don’t think this is what the power line money was intended for,” said committee member Scott Mildbrand.

With no one making a motion to approve it, the request for funding failed.

The village of Stetsonville is seeking $15,000 to help with the restoration of the pond along Hwy 13 on the south edge of the village. Work will include replacing the banks of the pond, installing blue granite along there and the installation of a handicapped accessible fishing pier.

According to village officials the pond was originally used for fire protection prior to the installation of a village water system. In recent years muskrats have taken up residence in the pond undermining the surrounding banks and making it dangerous to walk near the pond.

The village has contributed some budget dollars to the project with the hope of doing most of the work this winter when the ground freezes up. They are also working with local sportsman organizations to help with the project.

“I think this is exactly what that money was intended for,” Mildbrand said.

The request passed unanimously to go to the full county board.

A request from Centennial Community Center for help with repairing a 40 foot by 70 foot shelter adjacent to their hall met with mixed reaction. The shelter is rented out by the community for events and used to store campers and boats in the winter months. The project would include residing the structure and redoing the walk-in cooler. They are requesting $15,000 for the projects.

“Are you asking for the county to pay for the entire bill?” Mildbrand asked. Organizers responded “not entirely” noting the estimates came in above the amount being requested.

“I don’t think we should be funding these projects 100%,” said committee member Ray Soper adding that he felt the groups should be kicking in at least a little bit. He said in the past the county has been willing to use the grant money for half the cost with groups being responsible for the other half of the expenses.

Mildbrand agreed, stating he wasn’t sure if repairing the shelter was the intended use for the power line funds. The grant request was formally approved by the committee to send it on to the full county board where it was noted that amendments could be made.