Letter to the editor: ‘We got the shaft’

By BOB JANOVICK | Sparta

Karen Parker authored a fine piece in the Herald’s March 2 edition titled, “They got the sand mine, we got the shaft.” While making her point, some facts were — by necessity (a book would be required to get them all in) — left out.

By my recollection, it was a requirement of the DNR that sufficient monies — for reclamation — be deposited before permits were issued. There was no mention of the $279,000 that was collected by the county treasurer for ‘14, ‘15, and ‘16, along with $70,000 in interest. (No comparison was made on the amount of taxes that would have come from the “ … what had often been considered a worthless chunk of ground … “.) And, there was gainful economic (good job, David Pierce) activity by workers in development and daily operations. It is regrettable that some entities have to experience loss.

We got the shaft. Let’s talk about the Monroe County Board. How about the new Justice Center? It was to cost $25 million, with an understanding that extras could come to another $2–4 million. They solicited architects’ proposals to accomplish the county’s needs. Architects said that they could get it done. It got done to the tune of about another $9 million. We had a building committee and a PE (professional engineer) overseeing the project, that ended up with a county board that CHOSE to NOT go to court to rectify — what I believe to be — a fraud. The architects had designed and specified a jail that could not be operated in the state of Wisconsin. (We got to pay for the fixes AND the overhead and profit of the contractors AND architectural fees for new drawings and specifications.) They had specified a two-phase project that could not be heated until the second phase had a roof to put the heating system on — which was to be above the old jail — which had not yet been demolished. (Thankfully, we had Multistack to the rescue.) Architects put “the cherry on top” (of a long list of discrepancies) by adding a floor — to an existing elevator! Any construction company or journeyman trades worker KNOWS that if you alter an existing feature — during a remodel — the feature must be improved to meet the present building code. The “new” code also required a new machine room, which was not in the architectural drawings.

We got the shaft. Again, the county board. The Rolling Hills Committee (RHC) found a reputable architect (with numerous Wisconsin completed projects), who projected that they could get the county’s needs in place with the $16 million budget. (They had testimony from other counties, with costs coming in either below or at the budgeted amount with Community Living Solutions.) The plan reduced the county’s operating help from about $1.4 million per year to about $100,000 with the bond payments covered by Rolling Hills’ savings. A resolution was passed that approved moving forward on a $16 million bonding for construction and related costs. An “informational meeting” took place with the future neighbor homeowners. Concerns were addressed and objections resolved. Water and sewer requirements were studied, and reports were generated. Additional money would be required at the site east of County B — to guarantee proper pressure for the fire sprinkler system.

Planning was progressing well, and then the Tomah’s city administrator made an announcement at an RHC meeting; the county could save a million dollars by building on Tomah land under the control of the hospital and the Department of Agriculture. December ‘17: the board voted to build in Tomah. FOIA request: January 10. City of Tomah sent a letter to the county stating that they would buy the land at $10,000/acre and give it to the county. January 22: City of Tomah sent a follow-up letter stating that they would provide the county with up to $250,000 to buy the land and an additional amount of up to $250,000 to MATCH the costs of utility site work (water & sewer). After a cost analysis was done on both sites, the “savings” had shrunk to the neighborhood of $180,000.

But, since the delays caused by the need for new plans and the costing review that had disrupted the bid/build schedule, the original budget was history. And, due to a civil lawsuit (a jury ruled against actions by 10 county supervisors), there is a number that has been speculated. It is said that the project will need about another $4 million due to increased costs. It has also been said: “Never Holler Whoa in a Horse Race!”

To recapitulate: The county needed two projects that totaled $43 million to $45 million that will have a total cost of about $58 million. (In round numbers; 30 percent extra.) Two years of bond payments have been lost. Thank you, Karen Parker, for the reminder of “we got the shaft.”

Several Monroe County Board positions are on the April 7 ballot. Do yourself a favor and get in contact with the candidate in your supervisor district. Remind them that the power of the people is on loan to supervisors, and they should not take it on as their own. It’s our money!

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