County to Buy 60 Acres, Allow Hunting and Trapping
August 16, 2013
County Board Chair John Hendrick 608.446.4842
The Dane County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of 60 acres on County Highway M, in the North Mendota wetlands just across from Governor Nelson State Park, for $929,000, with $422,500 of the price paid by the Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Fund. The grant requires the land be open for hunting, hiking, cross-country skiing and trapping.
“It’s very erodible land,” said Supervisor Tim Kiefer. “It’s very important to our water quality that it not be developed.”
Earlier, the Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee had recommended purchasing the land without the state money, and not allowing hunting and trapping.
“Let’s just pony up the whole nine yards and make what is a good purchase,” said Supervisor Patrick Downing.
“This is about principle. Do we want to facilitate a cruel and inhumane practice when there are millions of acres in Wisconsin to hunt, fish and trap?” said Supervisor Dave DeFelice. “We’re being blackmailed here. We’re knuckling under for money. Why can’t we say to the rest of the state, we’re not falling for this blackmail?”
But the majority of the board voted to accept the state money and purchase the land, noting that the land is not likely to be the site of much hunting or trapping.
“This is a horrible place to trap. There’s nothing there to trap,” said Supervisor Dave Ripp, himself a hunter and trapper. “Anyone who would go in there to trap is an idiot wasting their time. This trapping issue is a lot of hot air. This is prairie. There aren’t going to be rifles being fired.”
“Rejecting $422,500 is really poor stewardship of our county tax dollars,” said Kiefer. “To say to the state when they’re coming to us with a check for $422,500, ‘No thanks, we don’t want it,’ is a very foolish decision.
The authorization for the land purchased passed with 29 votes in favor and six opposed.
In other business, the County opted not to repair a deteriorating stretch of County MM in the City of Fitchburg because Fitchburg has declined to pay the portion of the cost required by longstanding cost-sharing policy, which would amount to about $90,000. The County would have been responsible for about $200,000.
The Public Works and Transportation Committee recommended the County cover the entire cost of the repair on the condition that the County not perform any more transportation projects requiring cost sharing in the City of Fitchburg until the City had paid its portion of this repair.
“Ten thousand cars a day use this section of road,” said Supervisor Jerome Bollig, who represents the Village of Oregon, which is the destination of many commuters who use MM. “It’s a safety hazard that will become worse.”
“I recognize this is not an ideal situation,” said Supervisor Robin Schmidt, who chairs the Public Works and Transportation Committee. “We’ve done everything we can to send the message to the City of Fitchburg and other communities that this is not the way we do business in Dane County. However, I note that at certain times we need to make exceptions, when we have to step up and do the right thing.
But most supervisors were reluctant to set a precedent of paying the full costs of projects that are meant to be shared responsibilities.
“I don’t believe there’s a safety issue there,” said Supervisor Patrick Downing. “Other municipalities are going to be watching this. It will haunt us.”
“The end result of this is setting a precedent,” said DeFelice. “I don’t see how it doesn’t. It’s giving one municipality an exception from cost sharing. What’s to stop another municipality from saying hey Fitchburg did it? We’re giving them a pass. What are we going to tell them? Fitchburg is special?”
DeFelice noted that the City of Fitchburg was participating in another cost-sharing project, contributing $235,000 to build a splash park that opened today.
“I have to wonder about the priorities here,” DeFelice said. “We’re talking about public safety. Where’s the City of Fitchburg on that? They can fund a splash pad but not road improvements for public safety? What if someone gets into an accident on the way to the splash pad?”
DeFelice suggested that the County Board not approve the $250,000 it had promised for the Fitchburg splash park until Fitchburg agreed to pay its share of the County MM repair, but that motion did not muster enough votes to pass, and the splash park was funded.
Ultimately, the road repair was rejected in an unusually close vote, with seventeen voting to reject the project with fifteen voting in favor.
Also on Thursday, Bollig introduced a resolution to accept a new County Employee Handbook that would maintain many protections for workers under new state law that prohibits collective bargaining for public employees.
“This sends the positive message that Dane County is committed to treating its employees fairly,” said Bollig. That resolution will be up for a vote at a future meeting.
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