“I was very shocked it ….
“I was very shocked it was a tied vote to deny it and I just wonder why we don’t keep saying we support the constitution,” Thums said.
As written, the proposed resolution highlighted the U.S. Constitution for being the oldest written national constitution and highlighted the Bill of Rights providing “specific guarantees of personal feedoms” and “clearly defined limitations on government. ” The proposed resolution also cited the Wisconsin constitution’s gun ownership rights. The resolution called on board members to reaffirm their oath of office.
Linda Daniels, who was serving as clerk at the meeting, read a letter from Judge Ann Knox-Bauer in support of the resolution as advocating for the constitutional rights of citizens Taylor County.
Supervisor Lester Lewis opposed the resolution.
“I have always been an advocate for the rights of our citizens,” he said, noting there are many on the county board who serve in multiple elected offices at the municipal and county level and who take the oath of office every year. He said through the work they do on behalf of residents they are constantly reaffirming their oaths.
Supervisor Chuck Zenner agreed. “I take this oath very seriously,” he said, noting that he did not think there was a need to take it again.
Supervisor Mike Bub spoke in support of the proposed resolution. “I think this resolution reaffirms to the citizens that yes we do take the oath seriously,” he said, noting that he was among the board members who take several oaths of office. “Right now, more than ever, our country seems to be divided. We have politicians at the state and federal levels that are working to find ways around the constitution rather than supporting it,” he said.
County resident Al Williams urged county board members to approve the resolution citing the actions they have seen at the state and national levels of elected officials also claiming to support the constitution and then trying to do away with everything the country stands for.
Lewis challenged anyone to show how he as an elected official worked against the constitution. “I do take it as an insult that I have to reaffirm my oath,” he said.
“This is to fortify the position, not to insult you,” replied resident Randy Gregory speaking in support of the resolution. “What is wrong with fortifying this?” he asked.
On a roll call vote, the resolution failed on a 9-8 vote with supervisors Bub, Scott Mildbrand, Diane Albrecht, Jim Gebauer, Thums, Ray Soper, Jim Metz and Rod Adams voting yes and supervisors Lisa Carbaugh, Tim Hansen, Dave Roiger, Knoll, Zenner, Cathy Lemke, Lewis, Myron Brooks and Ed Hinkel voting no.
After reviewing a laundry-list of ways to spend the nearly $2 million awarded to Taylor County as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), board members voted to designate the bulk of it toward the county’s ongoing broadband internet project.
“There are a lot of requests here, I don’t think any of them are bad,” Lewis said. He noted that one of the challenges is that there has not been a lot of guidance as to how the money can be used beyond explicit approval for rural broadband expansion projects.
The county currently has about $1.9 million in ARPA funds on hand with a similar amount expected to come from the federal government next year.
Metz suggested the board wait and see what guidance comes in the next few weeks until the October board meeting where the budget will be approved. “We are on hold right now,” he said.
Bub questioned the timing noting that the broadband project will need to make decisions before November about how they want to proceed specifically with installing towers to serve the scattered residential population of the northwest corner of the county with broadband. “Knowing which way to go would be very helpful,” Bub said.
Mildbrand suggested the board set aside funds for the broadband project so that it did not get delayed. “I think we should release $1 million immediately for broadband,” he said.
While it was on the agenda as a review item, Lewis noted the agenda also states that the board may take action on any of the items. His concern was if the county released the funds there would be a specific spot to spend the money on.
Knoll supported the idea of putting it into an account that could be tapped as needed. He said just knowing it was set aside for that purpose would help with planning.
“Everything is murky outside broadband,” said County finance director Larry Brandl, of the direction the county has received regarding how ARPA funds could be spent.
Knoll moved with Thums seconding to set aside $1.5 million for broadband as needed. Soper questioned if this would put spending $1.5 million into just five county board members to determine how it will be spent.
“I would hope not,” Bub replied.
Knoll said he felt it should run through normal spending channels with review by the finance committee before funds were actually spent.
Thums said there would be an advantage to the county setting the funds aside for broadband if nothing else as a way to leverage and provide for local matches for additional grant funding in the future. He said it would be an advantage for the county to do it.
In the end, board members voted unanimously to set aside $1.5 million of the ARPA funds for the broadband project use with specific spending authorizations to go through the finance committee process. No action was taken on the other requests for projects pending further direction from the state on how the money can be spent.
In other business, supervisors approved a resolution honoring Roxanne Kahan for 36 years of service to Taylor County starting as a clerk/bookkeeper in the health department in 1985 and retiring as chief deputy clerk in June. Also recognized with resolutions were David Wille and Michele Armbrust