Posted on

County OKs funds for fairground lights

Request was one of six for powerline grant funds at Tuesday’s meeting
County OKs funds for fairground lights
Members of the Taylor County Board of Supervisors recited their oath of office on Tuesday as they were officially sworn in by Judge Ann Knox-Bauer. Among those sworn into office were newly elected supervisors Karen Cummings and Darrell Thompson. Pictured here are (l. to r.): Rollie Thums, Bud Suckow, Cummings, Lynn Rosemeyer, Thompson and Rod Adams. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS
County OKs funds for fairground lights
Members of the Taylor County Board of Supervisors recited their oath of office on Tuesday as they were officially sworn in by Judge Ann Knox-Bauer. Among those sworn into office were newly elected supervisors Karen Cummings and Darrell Thompson. Pictured here are (l. to r.): Rollie Thums, Bud Suckow, Cummings, Lynn Rosemeyer, Thompson and Rod Adams. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS

Taylor County will tap into power line impact fee funds to replace three rapidly decaying light poles near the grandstand at the Taylor County Fairgrounds.

At Tuesday’s county board session, board members bypassed the recommendation of the finance and personnel committee and approved authorizing $100,000 in power line funds to go toward the replacement of three poles as well as necessary upgrades in the electrical and lighting for the poles.

Last month, the fair board had presented a grant request to the finance and personnel committee for the work to be done. Fair board member Tim Hobl explained that when attempting to do maintenance on the lights, there was concern about the condition of the cross bars and the poles themselves. He said there have been ongoing issues with the electrical wiring becoming exposed and the control box on the light pole filling up with water during rainstorms because it is no longer sealed.

While the fair board had requested $100,000 for the work, and to replace the existing incandescent lights with high efficiency LED lights, finance and personnel committee members had recommended giving only $20,000 to the project. Board member Chuck Zenner noted the intent was for the remaining amount to come from within the county budget somewhere. The county owns all the structures and land at the fairgrounds and is ultimately responsible for their maintenance and upkeep.

Since the finance and personnel meeting, the county’s buildings and grounds committee met. Board member Lorie Floyd reported that those committee members supported paying for the full cost of the pole replacement from the power line impact fee funds since there was little money in the county budget for facility improvements such as the light poles.

“Buildings and grounds doesn’t have funds for that,” she said. Committee See COUNTY on page 4 members had also directed Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Joe Svejda to have the poles inspected by an outside contractor to determine if they really did need to be replaced.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Svejda reported that the owner of the inspection firm used by both the city of Medford electric utility and the Taylor Electric Cooperative last week completed the inspection of the two poles requested by the fair as well as an additional pole on the grounds that he had concerns about. He said the inspector immediately flagged two of the poles as requiring immediate replacement while a third pole would need to be replaced within a year or two.

“They are rotten,” Svejda said noting the poles were installed in 1955 and have reached the end of their usable life. He said it is not a question of if the poles were maintained, they are just old and it is time to replace them.

Hobl noted that there have been quite a few repairs and maintenance to the lights and wiring over the years, it is just that the equipment is old and is wearing out and is now presenting a safety risk.

Floyd said the concern at this point is with the potential liability of the county if they were to decide to do nothing now that they know of the condition of the poles and wiring. Floyd made the motion to increase the recommended amount from $20,000 to $100,000.

In response to questions on if this would be enough to get all three poles replaced, Svejda said they could find the remaining funds needed to get the work done.

Board member Jim Gebauer questioned how many times the lights are used each year. It was noted that it is not just how many times they are used each year, but the potential of other uses.

Board member Mike Bub said it is not just looking at what the fairgrounds is used for today, but to look to tomorrow. “If we had better lights, could we use the fairgrounds for more things?” Bub asked.

Board member Tim Hansen said his biggest concern was with its safety and that the safety concerns there needed to be addressed.

“The poles have been in the ground since 1955, they have served their life,” Svejda said, noting there is nothing more the county could have done maintenancewise to prolong their lives further.

Board member Rollie Thums asked why this is a surprise thing now and why the county isn’t checking these types of things. He questioned if this was a maintenance issue with the county not keeping up on things.

“It’s not Joe’s fault,” said board chairman Jim Metz, saying it didn’t pay to criticize people now for something that should have been done 20 years ago. “The past is the past, let us deal with it now,” he said.

Resident Larry Brandl, who up until his retirement earlier this month served as the county’s finance director, said it is an issue of prioritizing things to be done. “We can’t budget enough to have replacement for every asset,” Brandl said, noting this leads to prioritizing one thing over another.

Zenner said he was in favor of fixing the fairgrounds but noted that the challenge is in having the money to do things under the state-imposed levy limits.

Board member Karen Cummings questioned if those involved with the request had approached local electric cooperatives or electric companies to see if they would be willing to donate poles for the project. She noted that in the past she knows they have donated to nonprofits.

Bub agreed and noted the city electric utility has a rig to install poles, and could probably have it installed in under a day. “Maybe the county and city can work together on it,” he said.

The motion to increase the request from the $20,000 recommended by finance and personnel committee to $100,000, the originally requested amount, passed 12-5 with members Darrell Thompson, Lynn Rosemeyer, Cummings, Thums and Scott Mildbrand opposed. The motion to approve giving the funds passed on the same margin, just meeting the 2/3 majority needed under county rules to spend power line funds.

As part of the Arrowhead to Weston electric transmission line being built, the county received a base pay-out and annual impact fee payments which go into a special fund. The county uses this money to award grants to local organizations primarily for recreational activities. Requests are made in early fall and late winter and are reviewed by the finance and personnel committee before going to the full county board for final action at the April and October sessions.

In addition to the fairground light poles, the following projects were approved for funding: Artificial ice in the city of Medford — The city requested funds to help with the purchase of artificial ice which would be placed in the winter months under the newly built RCU Shelter along Whelen Ave. in the downtown. The plastic surface would allow skating regardless of the weather conditions and has an expected life of more than 20 years. According to city coordinator Joe Harris, the maintenance would include a polymer being applied to the surface and it would need to be buffed using a floor scrubber monthly when it use. The city had initially requested $15,000 for the project — which would be about half the overall cost, however finance and personnel committee members recommended only giving $5,000.

“I don’t support this,” Bub said, noting he is not in favor of the project. It has yet to be formally approved by the city council with Harris noting they are in the fundraising phase and that it has not been through Medford city council yet.

In response to concerns about the project not reaching its fundraising goals, Harris said the city would return the money to the county if the project did not take place. The request was approved on a 13-4 vote.

SandBox Daycare, which is 501c3 not for profit agency, asked for and will receive $10,000 toward playground improvements at the center specifically for the toddler area. According to Sandbox board president Bryce Kelly, the total cost of the project is just over $73,000 for the equipment and the solid base similar to the accessible one installed in the city park. He said it is being done in two phases with the county funds to finish up being able to get the equipment ordered and installed. He said they are continuing to raise funds to do the solid base phase. The $10,000 in funding was approved on a 17-0 vote.

Representatives from the Jump River Community Center requested $7,500 to make upgrades to the center including the replacement of old ceiling tiles and to the flooring. The facility serves as the nutrition site for that region. The main structure and exterior is maintained by the town of Jump River while the center runs the inside and does maintenance and improvements. The center was last remodeled in 1985. Mildbrand noted that in the request the group had said it had never received funds from the county but that in 2014 the county gave them $9,400 in power line funds. It was noted that it is likely this was well before any of the current people working there were involved. Cummings explained that the ceiling tiles were originally white but have yellowed with age and with the smoking that was previously allowed in the building. She said they want to make it look nice as a central gathering point for that region of the county. The request was approved 17-0.

A request from the Holway Sluggers for $25,000 to make improvements to their ballfield complex was reduced at the last minute to $20,000 due to an amendment from board members questioning it in comparison to what has been given in the past to other baseball fields in the county.

“It seems a little high to me,” said board member Scott Mildbrand. Board member Jim Gebauer said he agreed.

Organizers with Holway Sluggers noted they have recently added a girls softball team to their offerings. They also noted that they are inclusive to having special needs youth participating on the teams.

“This is what this money is supposed to be for,” Bub said, noting the pride all the communities have in their ballparks and the work they do to keep kids active and outdoors.

The vote was being called on the request when the motion was made to amend it to a slightly lower amount. That amendment was approved and ultimately board members voted 17-0 to grant $20,000 to the Holway Sluggers.

A request from the Spirit Lake Association for $5,000 to help with installing a new dock at the boat launches on Spirit Lake was approved without discussion on a 17-0 vote.

e can’t budget enough to have replacement for every asset,” — Larry Brandl, about why money isn’t set aside for all the county facility needs.

“They are rotten,” — Joe Svejda about the condition of the light poles near the grandstand.