At the April 18 meeting of the Door County Board, Supervisor Susan Kohout brought up the issue of meeting times, suggesting that a larger pool of candidates might be available for the board if meetings were held at night instead of during the day.
Supervisor Megan Lundahl agreed and said she regularly hears from people who might want to attend meetings or run for office but find the daytime board meetings prohibitive.
Supervisor Steve Sohns said when he was first asked to serve on the board, he had to consider his family first. He has taken a financial hit by losing overtime hours to board meetings. “I can understand why young people don’t get involved in county politics,” he said.
County Board Chair Dave Lienau said he would bring the issue of meeting times to the Administrative Committee he chairs.
Supervisor Don Sitte suggested the committee investigate county board minutes from the 1980s and ’90 when there were county board recall elections and the new board members changed the meeting time from day to night.
“But it didn’t make any difference in attendance,” Sitte said, “so they reverted back to morning meetings.”
Kohout also suggested the county examine its policy of sending board members to out-of-area meetings and conferences.
“Some are valuable for the county, but I would like us to be frugal and look at how many meetings we go to, how many people go, and does the county get its bang for the buck,” she said. “That’s a whole can of worms, but I put it out there on the table. I would really like us to look at it seriously.”
Lundahl said she was both concerned and surprised that board members attend these affairs without bringing back information to the board or the community.
Lienau said the Administrative Committee would also discuss this.
The board members were issued a warning by Corporation Counsel Grant Thomas regarding the open meeting statute and the issue of supervisors attending committee meetings they are not assigned to serve on. Thomas said if there is the potential for a quorum of another committee attending, the supervisors who do not belong to the committee in session must leave.
This comes on the heels of a decision by Assistant Attorney General Paul M. Ferguson regarding a quorum issue that turned into a dispute between the deputy district attorney of Winnebago County and Winnebago County’s Corporation Counsel.
“The best practice is for people to leave until that quorum no longer exists,” Thomas said. “I certainly don’t like it and don’t think it strikes the appropriate balance the open meeting law is trying to achieve. I’m just reminding everyone to be cautious of it.”
In other matters, the board:
- Accepted two grants for fighting invasive species. One is a DNR aquatic invasive species grant for $85,957.08 that the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Dept. had previously been told it would not receive. They learned last week that they would receive the grant. The other invasive plant species grant was $50,000 from the U.S. Forest Service.
- Approved releasing funds for Phase 2 of the Cana Island restoration project. Phase 1 included outside restoration of the lighthouse and keeper’s house. Phase 2 includes restoration of the three outbuildings on the property – the oil house, privy and shed. Supervisor Dan Austad pointed out that this project is being done without property tax dollars. Along with some grants obtained by the Door County Maritime Museum, which administers Cana Island for the county, the restoration money comes from admission costs and gift shop sales on Cana Island.
- Approved exceeding the $350,000 already budgeted to replace the county’s 10-year-old computer platform. Interim IS Director Jason Rouer said another $47,341 is needed to purchase the system, and there is a five-year maintenance cost of $73,692.