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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
“We've hired good people, let's trust them”
By Lynda Berg Olds
At the recent meeting of the Balsam Lake Village Board, trustees sought to streamline village activities by altering the purchasing policy. On the agenda was the item: “Discussion and possible action on amending Resolution 2012-11 Purchasing Procedures.”
The upshot of the deal was that purchasing power was significantly raised for village employees, department heads and the village president (or in her absence, a committee chair), with the board approving the recommendations of the Finance Committee.
Trustee Jim Duncan, who chairs the Finance Committee, commented that the purchasing policy is outdated and stressed that the village could run more effectively and efficiently if the authority existed to make necessary purchases in a timely fashion – without needing to go through this and that committee, and ultimately the board.
Village President Kathy Poirier, who also sits on the Finance Committee along with Trustee Corby Stark, concurred:
“We're just getting closer to reality with everything day to day,” she said. “We've hired good people so let's put our trust in them. Otherwise the process is so slow.”
With the premise of doing their best to serve the needs of the village and its residents, the following changes were made by Resolution 2019-02, amendment to R-2012-1:
First off, purchases of up to $250 may be authorized by a Village Employee. The former amount was just $100. Secondly, purchases up to $2,000 may now be approved and authorized by a Department Head, whereas this number used to be just $750. Third - purchases up to $5,000 may be approved by the Village President. This is a significant increase over the prior policy, which limited presidential purchasing power to $1,500. Fourth: Purchases of $2,000 to $5,000 may be approved by the appropriate committee.
The resolution also contained the following language:
“All purchases above are subject to the appropriate fund’s adopted budget.
“Purchases over $5,000 are subject to Village Board approval.
“Purchases over $10,000 require at least two bids.
“Emergency repair/purchase up to $5,000 can be approved by Village President - or upon his/her absence, the Committee Chairperson.”
The resolution was formally set in place upon its unanimous approval as of the meeting on Sept. 3.
September 12, 2019
Two teens killed in crash
By Lynda Berg Olds
It was 1:49 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center began receiving calls regarding a vehicle versus semi truck and trailer crash on Highway 63 at the intersection of 60th Avenue, in the Town of Clear Lake.
Clayton students were off on Monday and Michael “MJ” Magnuson was driving with classmate Grace Schradle, both 16 years-old. They were in a 2017 Toyota Camry when they came through the intersection at 60th Avenue - evidently without coming to a full stop - and crashed into a northbound semi.
Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak said information was given that after the crash the vehicle had entered the ditch and was on its roof. His press release to Ledger Newspapers stated, “Upon arrival of the initial officer, it was deemed the occupants had sustained life threatening injuries. Upon arrival, of other deputies, it was learned that the semi truck was pulling a trailer and traveling northbound on Highway 63 approaching 60th Avenue. At that time, a sedan was traveling eastbound on 60th Avenue, approaching Highway 63.”
The release continued, “According to witnesses on scene, the sedan slowed, but, traveled onto Highway 63 without stopping for the stop sign. The semi truck was then halfway through the intersection when the sedan impacted the side of the trailer.
“After the initial collision the sedan continued into the trailer, until the rear trailer tires impacted the side of the sedan. The sedan was then redirected to the north and west, where it then entered the west ditch, north of 60th Avenue. The sedan then rolled onto its roof where it came to rest. The semi-truck and trailer continued to the north where the driver was able to maintain control and pulled the unit to the east side shoulder of Highway 63, north of the crash.
“Both occupants of the sedan had suffered fatal injuries at the scene.”
Assisting the Polk County Sheriff’s Office with the crash was Clear Lake Police Department, Clear Lake Fire and First responders, Clayton Fire and First responders, Amery area ambulance, Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The crash remains under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
When Waak released the names of the teens on Tuesday he stated, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and community as we all continue to get through this tragic event.”
Both students were reportedly very active in school and community activities. One news source said, “Purple and gold 'Clayton-Strong' could be found all around town Tuesday, where Schradle was remembered as a three-sport athlete who looked after all of her little cousins in the school and was always full of smiles, laughter and love.
“Magnuson, a member of the National Honor Society, played football and basketball and served the junior class as vice president and treasurer.”
Magnuson's funeral will be held this Saturday, Sept. 21 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Amery at 11 a.m., with visitation on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The funeral for Schradle will be held on Monday, Sept. 23 at Zion Lutheran in Turtle Lake at 11 a.m., with visitation two hours prior to service.
September 19, 2019
More questions than answers
By Lynda Berg Olds
In this day and age of rising costs, it is no wonder municipal governments struggle to make ends meet, much like any median income and below family.. Hence, when the Village of Balsam Lake came to find themselves without a police chief, they began to explore the possibility of joining forces with the Village of Centuria. At first blush this concept of having a joint police force with another municipality may not seem too complicated – but it turns out there are a great many details and legalities to consider prior to firming an agreement up.
In fact, right out of the gate at the joint meeting of Balsam and Centuria's Public Protection Committees held in Centuria Monday night, Centuria Village Attorney Tim Laux stated:
“We think we have way more questions than answers...the main question is whether or not the two communities really comprehend what would be entailed in creating a separate legal entity to manage, administrate, run, operate a joint police department. If the answer is yes, then from that point I can tell you there are some questions that we can't answer right now (By 'we,' Laux meant Balsam Lake Village Attorney Paul Mauer) and they come down to two or three main things:
“This proposal that you put together, spring-boarding off the Village of Hobart/Town of Lawrence format really is a statement of intent and very close to simply a contract for services...with a Joint Police Commission, which is not a legal entity for taxing, finances, organization, operations...in other words, the functions that now both of your municipalities perform independently – would join together the commission and the document that is in the draft doesn't do that.
“Number two, if you were to put together a police department, the question is still, 'Who is the employer?' That is a really big deal. Would it be the entity you create, or still each village? Who takes care of payroll? Compensation? Fringe benefits? And the one that really sticks out as a potential problem is the WRS Wisconsin Retirement System. What entity would it be that pays those retirement benefits on a monthly basis?”
Laux said that at the very least, they would need to talk with the WRS and see if this “merger” is even possible. He brought up the issue of being a taxing entity, which both Trustee Chuck Ellsworth, of Centuria, and Trustee Jim Duncan, of Balsam Lake, objected to. Duncan said, “We weren't looking at this as their being their own taxing entity at all. If you are saying that this is a contract for services, is that possible?”
“Yes,” stated Laux, who said a contract for services is far more typical and is a simpler agreement, which does not require an additional entity and does not bring in issues about who is the employer, who is the boss, who is in charge of hiring, who is in charge of firing, who takes care of issues having to do with discipline, demotion or discharge.
Ellsworth said he thought Centuria's biggest concern was what would happen if, say in three years, one of the villages wants out – and the other loses everything. He was concerned with financial protection. Laux pretty much said there isn't any.
Duncan and Trustee Stan Swiontek indicated this is one reason why they were looking at a joint force as opposed to a contract for services, where, if it works, all the money goes into one pool – and all the expenses come out of it.
Laux said he did forewarn, “The devil is in the details. These employment issues are real. And they have substantial impact on whomever your officers are and whomever is doing the bookkeeping.”
It appeared to be something of a stalemate for a bit and then they got into the nitty gritty of the “contract” where it spelled out that Balsam Lake shall serve as fiscal agent for the joint department and make disbursements.
“If we can do that, that means that everybody is basically a Balsam Lake employee for WRS pension purposes,” Laux said.
Duncan asked if there was an option that they are still joint employees even though they were paid through Balsam Lake?
Laux wasn't sure, but he did agree, “If we are going to do it we have to get answers to some of these questions.”
Swiontek said he wants to see a joint department with both names on the sides of the police cars.
Duncan wondered if they need two attorneys working on this now, or if it made more sense to let Laux run with the ball and and Centuria can bill Balsam for half his time.
Swiontek said he didn't think they need two attorneys, but Centuria Clerk/Treasurer Karen Edgell cautioned to the Balsam contingent, “Don't you want your attorney representing your best interest? Not that Tim wouldn't...”
Duncan noted that Laux has evidently spent considerable more time on this matter than Mauer.
“So all of a sudden you guys are going to have $5,000 invested in an attorney and we are going to have $1,000. It should be joint.”
So Duncan thought Laux should run with it (at joint expense) and when they get it all figured out, their attorney can look at it.
Laux indicated. he and Mauer have had no disagreements or any kind of adversity to date. He was pressed on the point, “Can this be done?”
“I think it can be done,” he said.
Balsam Trustee Faye Brittan asked if he had an idea of the time frame, to which Laux responded, “No.”
Duncan asked if they were on track for possibly the first of the year and Laux said he thought so. He said there didn't appear to be anything insurmountable, but there are a number of serious questions.
And so the wheels of government are ever so slowly moving forward. Hopefully the track is clear for proper police coverage for all concerned.
The joint committees will meet again Oct. 21 in Balsam Lake.
September 26, 2019
Fifteen year-old fatally injured on bicycle
By Lynda Berg Olds
Last Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:58 a.m., the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center received a call of a motor vehicle and pedestrian (bicyclist) crash on County Road M, just to the west of Mulligan Drive, in the Town of Osceola.
The bicyclist who was fatally injured was 15 year-old Isaiah Munn, of rural Osceola.
The press release issued to the County Ledger Press from Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak states, “Upon arrival of the Osceola Police Department and Sheriff’s Deputies, it was learned that the bicyclist had been traveling out of a driveway and facing northbound onto County Road M to travel to the west on County Road M. At that time, a vehicle was traveling eastbound on County Road M, approaching that driveway.
“When the bicyclist entered onto the County Road M, it traveled into the path of the eastbound vehicle. The vehicle impacted the left side of the bicyclist. The bicyclist was thrown from the bicycle and redirected to the north and east. The bicyclist tumbled into the north ditch where he came to rest. The driver of the motor vehicle continued to travel east on County Road M and pulled over after the collision.
“The driver indicated that the bicyclist pulled out in front of her and she was not able to see him until it was too late. She did indicate that environmental factors made it difficult to see.”
Waak noted that young Isaiah Munn was transported to the Osceola Medical Center where he later succumbed to the injuries and passed away. He stated, “I would like to express our sympathy to the family and community of Osceola for this tragic loss.”
Assisting the Polk County Sheriff’s Office with the crash were the Osceola Police Department, the Dresser Police Department, the Allied Fire Department and First Responders, the Osceola Area Ambulance Service, and the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office.
This crash will remain under investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
October 3, 2019
Hog factory opposed by all speakers
By Lynda Berg Olds
In last week's issue of the County Ledger Press, top of the fold, was a press release stating, “Town Hall meeting: Pros and Cons of hog factories. The release invited to the public to discuss the large-scale “hog factory” proposed in Northwestern Wisconsin (Trade Lake) for a farrowing operation. It went on to say, “A group of private citizens believe the time has come for a non-political discussion on the pros and cons of industrial swine operations in Northern Wisconsin.”
Mike Miles was one of the coordinators, along with the first speaker who identified herself only as “Mary.” Mary said they just wanted a public discussion so people could “learn what they need to know.” She made the point to thank Luck School for providing the facility – and to note the school is neutral on the subject. She was also enthusiastic about this grassroots effort.
Miles said he works with the Northwest Wisconsin Grazing Network and is on their board of directors. He noted that he is into animal agriculture – and was amazed by the panel of experts who agreed to come. Without too much further ado, Miles turned the mic over first to the moderator, Doug Grow, who was a (very) longtime columnist for the StarTribune.
Ramona Moody, who has been a real estate agent for 30-plus years was present to educate about how (horribly) property values can be affected by CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).
Andy Marshall introduced himself as a lawyer and a litigator and he was the resident expert on ordinances and moratoriums.
Then came Dr. Richard Huset, on public health – and he expounded on the close relationships between humans and hogs – and how quickly and easily disease can be spread – through soil, through water and even through bird droppings. Moody added that Trade Lake has only one aquifer.
Howard Pahl, of the Iowa Policy Project, has been quoted recently at length as he has spoken before the Polk County Board of Supervisors on a number of occasions. Readers may recall how he talked about Dickinson County in Iowa and how they don't allow CAFOs – as they know where their bread is buttered in terms of water quality and tourism. Both Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake are big tourist draws in that county. To hear him speak, the rest of Iowa is akin to being a trash can with the CAFOs.
Tom Quinn, representing Dunn County and the Wisconsin Farmer's Union also spoke at length, making suggestions as to how to best try and stop the large-scale hog farming.
Dr. Bob Baker, Geologist, also had frightening news to share insofar as no land is safe. That is, he said with the two glaciations over the past 20,000, the geology is variable. That is, manure, antibiotics, urine, etc., can go directly into the water table – or runoff – but there is no magic layer to stop water from seeping ultimately, into the water table.
Finally, conspicuous by their absence, was any representative from the Burnett Dairy Co-op. As they, apparently, would have been the only supporter of CAFOs, this did not seem to surprise anyone.
One of the first questions poised by the group of about 65 had to do with composting. Evidently dead pigs are squished through a tube – or layered with sawdust and ultimately spread as compost on the fields – to the tune of 37.6 tons per year. So into the soil goes everything that is in the pigs and piglets and placentas, including a lot of antibiotics. The good doctor said he would scare the group – and he did. He discussed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It's tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus - or staph - because it's resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. VRSA is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to the antibiotic called vancomycin. The acronym, VRSA, stands for vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
There was much talk about numbers – 225,000 pigs with 18,750 piglets born each month – and 8.8 million gallons of manure from said swine, which evidently does not include urine.
And the pigs are apparently stacked in crates, whereby any infectious disease could quickly spread. Examples were given about swine outbreaks in Iowa – and Dr. Huset was quick to note that Polk County, and specifically the Trade Lake area where the proposed pig farm would be, are on the same flyway as Iowa.
Much reference was given to purchase agreements and other documents that evidently the attorney and others had seen. In it was a contingency Attorney Marshall had not seen before – one of public opposition.
“What that says to me is there is an opportunity to make them really uncomfortable and maybe they will back out of the deal.”
Marshall said the purchase agreement (which is with a Limited Liability Corporation, where only two of several actual buyers are known) has a number of contingencies and is not a foregone conclusion.
The public seemed hungry for any and all ways to stop what they believe is a threat to their livelihoods (as other farmers) or even their very lives. Dr. Huset talked about a syndrome called “Blue Baby,” where infants cannot process nitrates – and they die. The issue went beyond individuals and was considered an affront to a way of life. Some spoke about the very idea that big farmers could come and scarf up valuable land and deplete it for a profit, selling to China, who has apparently developed a voracious appetite for pork – is reprehensible.
And that everyone needs to care for their neighbors in time-honored fashion – and their land.
The public was strongly encouraged to attend the meeting of the Polk County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 15 to show support for passing a moratorium on large scale hog farms. It is already scheduled to be held at Unity School (at 6 p.m.) as such a big turnout is expected.
Another grassroots gathering called, “Feeding our Community” is being held Oct. 24 at the Amery High School Audiorium. This is about small farms and rural economic development.
October 10, 2019
Moratorium on swine facilities enacted
By Lynda Berg Olds
Well over 100 people were in attendance at the county board meeting Tuesday night, which was held at Unity's Performing Arts Center to accommodate the crowd. Most in attendance were farmers - farmers who have been pitted against each other over the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) controversy.
After a great deal of positioning, with amendments offered and withdrawn, the board finally voted on Resolution 33-19: “Creating a Polk County Ordinance regarding a temporary moratorium on livestock facilities.”
The vote was 11-3 and the resolution was adopted as amended. The three supervisors voting against the moratorium included Supervisors Joe Demulling, Brad Olson and Brian Masters. Supervisor Chris Nelson said after the vote that he wanted to point out that this was originally Olson's resolution. That he signed it, but it was Olson's.
After all was said and done, only two of the amendments came to fruition. The first was to strike all but swine from the “livestock” resolution. Cattle, poultry, sheep and goats were removed from the language, leaving only swine. This amendment was a tight vote and passed 8-6. Voting against this were Supervisors Joe Demulling, Brian Masters, Michael Prichard, Jim Edgell, Larry Jepsen and Mick Larsen.
The other amendment that was approved was to strike the following paragraph:
“The Polk County Administrator, the County Board Chair and the Chairman of the Environmental Services Committee, or designee, shall work with staff from the departments listed above and shall coordinate additional participants, if deemed necessary.”
The reference to the “above paragraph” lists the Polk County Land and Water Resources Department, the Land Information Department and the Health Department. They are the ones directed to research the impact of livestock facilities on ground water, surface water, air quality, and other environmental impacts that may impact the health, welfare and safety of Polk County, its residents and visitors.
One of the amendments offered was ludicrous and was evidently put out there to make a point. The resolution was specifically for livestock facilities where the number would exceed 1,000 animal units. Supervisor Brad Olson tried to amend the number to one, just one animal. This amendment failed by a vote of 13-2.
The upshot of approving this resolution was it rendered the next resolution “moot.” That, is, Resolution 36-19 was regarding the creation of a moratorium on large scale hog/swine farming facilities, which for all practical purposes had already been done.
The moratorium begins effective immediately for a duration of six months, and includes a proviso for another six months should it be deemed necessary to complete the research.
October 17, 2019