An Exercise in Democracy

The Gibraltar Town Board held its annual town meeting at the historic Old Town Hall in Fish Creek on April 15.

The annual town meeting required by state statute that took place throughout the county and state the evening of April 15 (with the exception of the Town of Washington, which will hold its annual meeting on April 22) is a grand example of the democratic process.

Of course, you could say the same of any town or village meeting, but the annual meeting is different. It’s the time to ask about the municipality’s business and pose questions to the elected officials and representatives of the various agencies that serve the community.

We couldn’t possibly hit all the annual meetings. We chose to attend Gibraltar’s meeting in the historic Old Town Hall in Fish Creek. The setting lends a greater air to the feeling that this is the sort of governance that was intended by the founding fathers.

After each department or independent organization that receives funding from the municipality delivers a report on where things stand in the year since the last annual meeting, the public is invited to ask questions of department heads and elected officials under both old and new business.

Town Board Chair Dick Skare advised the close to 40 people in attendance that anything brought up under new business would be advisory in nature, even if a motion were made and passed.

One of the powers of the annual town meeting is being able to “fix the compensation of elective town offices,” and such a vote is not advisory. Resident John Young brought up under new business a three percent across the board pay raise for Gibraltar’s Town Board.

An audience member asked what they are being paid now. The town chairman received (last year) $11,605.64, and supervisors received a range from $6,047 to $6,244. Town Clerk Beth Hagen said they receive monthly base salaries of $881.72 (chairman) and $418.53 to $424.50 (supervisors), and the rest depends on how many meetings they attend and how long those meetings are. They receive $50 for meetings less than two hours; $75 for meetings more than two hours; $100 for the annual meeting; and $75 for the budget meeting.

Hagen also explained that if approved, it wouldn’t take effect until the next election cycle and only for those newly elected.

Young’s motion was passed unanimously.

The board also heard from several people, including several who had questions about land that is for sale next to Fish Creek Town Park and includes wetlands and Niagara Escarpment land. The group decided the town Plan Commission should look into the property.

Resident Dave Lea brought up the use of chemicals on lawns. Clerk Beth Hagen said the town is working toward Travel Green Wisconsin certification and wants to be the first in Door County to attain the designation, so the use of herbicides and other chemicals will be examined.

Resident Tom Thurman asked when the road-brushing practices that were outlined in a January meeting would be available for public viewing, and was informed that document is available and that the town will conduct a road-by-road appraisal on April 25 in order to have a road-brushing schedule available for the May meeting.