Door County Board of Supervisors News Notes

Pilot Island Is for the Birds

And the county board does not want it to be 

The Door County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Feb. 24 that “strongly disapproves of the current use of Pilot Island as a colonial bird rookery and asks that approval be given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to restore the local environment, wildlife, fisheries and historical structures, removing the problems on Pilot Island that impact the surrounding Door County communities and its citizens.”

The USFWS-owned island located halfway between the northeastern tip of the Door peninsula and Detroit Island is part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge and home to protected colonial nesting birds such as cormorants and other species. The island is not open to public access and contains the old lighthouse and fog-signal buildings.

Supervisors said a large population of cormorants is reducing the local fishery and has turned the once-green island into a guano-decimated strip of land that gives off an offensive smell. They also said the birds have degraded the water quality surrounding the island and that pollution likely drifts to Washington Island beaches.

“Let’s look at this as an entire system, and the impact not just on the island, but the water quality,” said Ken Pabich, county administrator. 

Supervisors Vinni Chomeau and Claire Morkin were the only two to vote against the resolution.

“I understand the look or smell isn’t appealing, but it’s bird habitat, and they can’t have that habitat [on the mainland] because of development and people and boats,” Chomeau said. “So without hearing their [USFWS] point of view, I can’t support it.”

The Washington Island Sportsman’s Club also wants the USFWS to remove the birds and restore the island and had a meeting toward that end scheduled with USFWS staff members for March 1, 5-7 pm, after the deadline for this issue of the Peninsula Pulse

Underpaid Overtime Owed to County Employees

The supervisors agreed to transfer up to $75,000 in unbudgeted funds to pay for overtime to Door County Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been underpaid due to a county miscalculation between collective-bargaining agreements and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The statutory limit of two years is how far back the county will go to correct the miscalculation. Ken Pabich, county administrator, said during the county’s Administrative Committee meeting Feb. 21 that they’re also doing an audit for all employees to ensure that no other mistakes have been made. 

The $75,000 is expected to cover the overtime owed to the sheriff’s deputies of roughly $8,600 and mandatory damages for almost as much, as well as attorneys’ fees and any other underpaid overtime they may find. 

The miscalculations have been “going on for as long as we can remember, but no one knew it was broken,” said Door County corporation counsel Sean Donohue during the Feb. 21 Administrative Committee meeting. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. When it was set up, it was calculated that way.”

The county’s payroll software does not calculate FLSA overtime accurately, which has required the Door County Finance Department to calculate FLSA overtime manually. The $75,000 also covers $16,400 to hire Wise Consulting Associates, which will correct the county’s payroll system to automate the FLSA calculation.

More Opioid Settlement Money Coming

Door County was among the state’s counties and cities slated for a slice of the $26 billion opioid settlement of 2021 from drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three companies that distributed opioid painkillers while addiction and overdose deaths skyrocketed in the United States.

There’s now been another settlement with two pharmaceutical manufacturers and three pharmacies – CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – to resolve thousands of U.S. state and local lawsuits that accused the parties of mishandling opioid pain drugs. The latest settlement is for $17 billion, said Door County corporation counsel Sean Donohue. 

Door County’s share of that first settlement was roughly $633,591, to be paid over 18 years, though lump-sum payouts are being discussed at the national level. The payout for individual municipalities from the latest settlement is not known yet, and the county will have to formally opt in at a future meeting.

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