Door County supervisors heard loud and clear from their constituents that Door 2 Door is a valuable transportation service for the county, and, accordingly, voted 20-1 at their May 28 meeting to continue funding the service.
David Enigl was the only supervisor to vote against the plan to move $600,000 from the undesignated reserve fund into a transportation fund in order to bid out the contract for three years, transfer oversight from Human Services to the Administrative Committee, and hire a part-time manager to oversee Door 2 Door.
In addition to supervisors mentioning they had been hearing from constituents about saving the transportation service, the meeting began with people speaking about its importance, including Jim Schuessler, executive director of Door County Economic Development Corporation, as well as users of the service.
Schuessler said the transportation service adds economic vitality to the county. Misty Powers of Sturgeon Bay said the service offers her legally blind son the freedom other children have. Everett Lang of Brussels attended with his guide dog, Sunny, and said Door 2 Door “is one of our major ways of getting around” and pointed out the economic impact. “We do go into the community, and we do spend our money.”
The question about the future of Door 2 Door came as the contract with service provider Abby Vans of Neillsville, Wisconsin, neared its end. As the watchdog of the county budget, Administrator Ken Pabich thought it was time to assess the value of the service and proposed three options: continue the service as is, continue with reduced service or discontinue the service. The reduced-service option was quickly dismissed.
Pabich said the county has been meeting with the City of Sturgeon Bay – where 80 percent of the Door 2 Door rides are provided – and other entities about helping to fund the service. So far, he said, only Pick ’n Save has stepped up, offering $2,000 annually for the next five years.
The service costs the county $170,000, and those costs will continue to climb to $200,000 for 2020.
Pabich said balancing that with all the mandated programs the county must provide under levy limits makes the question of continuing the service a very difficult one.
“It’s not simply black and white,” he said.
Should the board decide to continue the service, Pabich recommended bidding out the contract for three years, with a two-year renewal option, in the hope of getting a more competitive bid.
He also pointed out that voting to continue the service is really just kicking the problem down the road three years.
Supervisor Megan Lundahl responded that the board cannot simply vote to continue the service and forget about it, but instead must continue to seek a long-term solution.
“I want the conversation to continue,” she said.
Supervisor Bob Bultman suggested there should be “more input from other players” – particularly the city because the bulk of the service is used within its borders. He asked why the city couldn’t run its own service and the county provide service to the rest of the county.
Pabich said that was looked at, but the way federal transportation grants work, there wouldn’t be the level of service now provided.
Supervisor Dan Austad pointed out that the city is part of the county and pays county taxes.
Several supervisors questioned the manner in which the service would be funded for the next three years.
Pabich said if they were not comfortable using undesignated reserve funds to start a transportation fund, they could deny that part.
“You can do that and tell me to find the money,” he said, but added, “It’s got to come from somewhere.”
The 20-1 vote followed in favor of continuing the service.
In other matters:
• The board voted to approve the second round of bids for a number of projects in Phase 3 of the Cana Island restoration project. Facilities and Parks Department head Wayne Spritka said costs were lowered $94,000 through rebidding, bringing the total cost of Phase 3 to $600,090. He said there is also a contingency cost of $32,000 that they don’t expect to spend, but with water depth up 18 inches, it could happen.
• Voted to use up to $32,000 to purchase and install automated fee machines to collect boat-launch fees at some Door County parks.
• Voted to put out a request for proposal to see whether anyone is interested in taking possession of and moving the county-owned house at 442 Michigan St., which has served as the archive for its neighbor, the Door County Historical Museum. With the county’s recent purchase of the Younkers building as the new archive, it has no use for the four-bedroom house. If there is no interest in moving the house, the county will have to pay to raze it. Supervisor Bob Bultman asked why the county doesn’t just sell the property; Pabich said the county can use the property as parking for the museum.
• Voted at the request of the Sevastopol Town Board to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph on County P, starting at the intersection of North Country View Road to Highway 57.
• Added several items to rules for public comment before the board, including keeping comments “germane to or within the jurisdiction of the County Board or its sub-units” and preventing repetitive comments. When a group is presenting, a spokesperson should speak for the group. To the first item, Supervisor Bultman said that because the county board is an official local arm of the state, issues of statewide importance are germane to the board.