All You People, Gather ‘Round

Annual Town Meetings nearly here

If you have a healthy FOMO (fear of missing out) gene and live in a Door County town, listen up: annual meetings are almost upon us which, by Wisconsin statute, are held on the third Tuesday of April and which, whether you’re there or not, will be the place your neighbors are gathering to make decisions about your community. 

Door County’s 14 towns (Baileys Harbor, Brussels, Clay Banks, Egg Harbor, Forestville, Gardner, Gibraltar, Jacksonport, Liberty Grove, Nasewaupee, Sevastopol, Sturgeon Bay, Union and Washington) will hold their annual meetings on Tuesday, April 16, to participate in what many consider to be one of democracy’s purest forms (11 towns this year, as the towns of Clay Banks, Jacksonport and Sturgeon Bay have rescheduled – see below).  

Town electors are not the same as voters. They must be legally qualified to vote in state and federal elections, but they don’t have to be a registered voter. Neither do they have to own property; electors can be renters – or anyone who is 18 or older and has lived within the town for 10 consecutive days prior to the annual meeting. Annual meetings do not apply to villages (Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Forestville and Sister Bay) or cities (Sturgeon Bay), which operate on a government model different from towns.

Town electors have direct powers over certain decisions and they exercise those powers during the annual town meeting. Some of those powers are binding, meaning the town must follow whatever a majority of town electors vote upon. Those binding powers include the ability to set the town’s tax levy and to authorize the town to exceed the levy limit (though this is done in the fall, rather than at the annual meeting in the spring); fixing compensation for town offices; combining certain town offices (such as a clerk with treasurer); and establishing or eliminating the office of constable.

The electors can also grant the town authority to do certain things, but these granted authorities are not binding upon the town board, which may decide not to do what the town electors authorized. There’s a list of 11 of these areas, and among those are the purchase or sale of town property, for example.

There’s no requirement for the town to have a set agenda for its annual meeting. Electors from the audience can bring up topics whether on the agenda or not. If a discussion and vote follows, any consensus is advisory only. 

This means you never know what your neighbors may bring up at an annual town meeting. If you miss the meeting, you may miss out on making decisions that will help lead your town into the future.

Two years ago, for example, two items backed by the majority of voters present at the Nasewaupee annual meeting were later adopted by the town board and took effect last year – namely, Nasewaupee’s separation from the Southern Door Fire Department to form its own department, Nasewaupee Fire Rescue, and the town board expanding from three to five members.

Although there’s no requirement to have a firm agenda for an annual town meeting, many towns do set one and have specific topics upon which they want electors to weigh in. 

To learn if your town has an agenda, head to your town’s website or check out the public notices in the Peninsula Pulse, or read below for a recap of what we learned about possible topics of discussion this year on April 16. 

•Baileys Harbor electors are expected to talk about new and old business, such as marina costs and the need to sign up to get fiber for broadband run to their homes or businesses for free. The meeting will be held April 16 at 6 pm at the town hall, 2392 County Road F.

Brussels electors are set to meet on April 16 at 6:30 pm in the Brussels Community Center, 1366 Junction Road. The town board’s regular monthly meeting will follow the annual meeting.

Egg Harbor has nothing specific on its agenda for its annual meeting April 16 at 7 pm, at the town hall, 5242 County Road I, east of Carlsville.

Forestville Town Chair Kevin Guilette said he isn’t expecting any controversial items to be brought up when electors gather April 16 at 6:30 pm, at the town hall, 7705 County Road H. Guilette said Forestville is still moving forward with its plan to bring fiber internet to all addresses. 

Gardner electors will meet April 16 at 6 pm at the town hall, 2344 County Road CC. The agenda includes approval of the annual report.

•Gibraltar electors will meet April 16, 7 pm, at the Old Gibraltar Town Hall, 4176 Maple St. in Fish Creek. Town administrator Travis Thyssen didn’t anticipate any unusual agenda items, but plans to report on the town’s efforts to acquire grants and donations to purchase the Redmann property, its progress expanding sewer lines to the upper bluff portion of the town, and other ongoing projects. 

Liberty Grove electors will vote to approve any special town meetings held in the past year and the annual report presented by town auditors, said town administrator Walter Kalms. The meeting will be held April 16 at 7 pm, at Liberty Grove Town Hall, 11161 Old Stage Road in Sister Bay.

•Nasewaupee electors will discuss a town-wide revaluation of property planned for this year, said town chair Steve Sullivan. Nasewaupee’s 2023 annual report will also be presented. The meeting takes place April 16, at 7 pm, at the town hall, 3388 County Road PD. 

•Sevastopol Town Chair Dan Woelfel said the town board has not proposed any unusual agenda items, and he was not sure what advisory motions from electors might arise at the meeting April 16, at 6 pm at the town hall in Institute, 4528 state Hwy 57. 

Union electors will be able to set the town’s salaries at the annual meeting set for April 16 at 6 pm in the town’s community center, 905 County Hwy DK in Brussels. An update on the Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Department will also be on the agenda.

•Washington electors will review the town audit if it’s done by the meeting date, April 16 at 6 pm at the Washington Island Community Center at 910 Main Road. Clerk/treasurer Alexandria McDonald said the town wasn’t anticipating any specific advisory motions from the electors. 

Annual Town Meetings Rescheduled for Other Dates

•Clay Banks electors will meet April 18 at 6 pm at the town hall, 6098 County Road OO. Town Chair Myron Johnson said there are no special agenda items planned. The town’s regular monthly meeting will take place immediately following the annual meeting.

Jacksonport electors will meet April 17 at 7 pm at the town hall, 3365 County Road V. Town Board Chair Thomas Wilson said the board may invite electors to authorize the town to pursue grant funds for the possible purchase of real estate across the street from the town hall and fire station.

•Sturgeon Bay town electors will meet April 22, 6 pm at Arle Memorial Hall, 692 Tacoma Beach Road. No special agenda items are planned for the meeting, according to town clerk Nancy Anschutz.