Voters at the annual town meeting held in Jacksonport on April 18 voted to increase the three-member town board to a five-member board, which will break the tie between the number of towns in the county that have three- versus five-member boards.
Of the 14 towns in the county, only six will now have three-member boards – Brussels, Clay Banks, Forestville, Nasewaupee, the Town of Sturgeon Bay and Union.
Jacksonport Town Clerk Elissa Taylor said moving to a five-member board would increase the town’s administrative budget by about $7,900.
Asked of the advantages of a five-member board, town Chair Randy Halstead said it would bring more diversity and input into the board’s decisionmaking.
“I think it would help make things run a lot smoother,” he said.
Another resident asked if there was really enough work in Jacksonport for a five-member board.
Town Supervisor Tom Wilson said the town board has been blessed with dedicated committees that have tackled a lot of the work that used to be done – or not done due to time constraints – solely by the town board.
When asked about the diversification angle of the five-member board, Halstead said it would be good to have someone on the board with other interests in the community because, “Basically now, it’s three farmers,” he said, referring to himself, Wilson and third board member Tim Bley.
Another resident mentioned that since there has not been a contested election recently in Jacksonport, where would the candidates come from? Another mentioned the town is running pretty smoothly as it is.
The major impediment of a three-member board is that due to the state’s open records law, any time two board members talk about governmental business outside of a formal meeting, they are in violation of the open records statute because with just two, there are sufficient numbers present to potentially decide a course of action. That means the three board members are never able to discuss town business outside of official town board meetings.
“I think this will make for better communication all around,” Halstead said.
The voters passed the measure and it will be placed on an upcoming town board agenda so the candidates can begin preparing for the spring 2018 election.
Voters also learned that Town Clerk Taylor and Town Treasurer Carol Oram are retiring at the end of the year, which brought up the opportunity of considering hiring a single clerk-treasurer rather than two separate part-time positions.
Taylor explained that the town expense for the two positions is $25,236. She said if they hired one person for the two positions at an annual salary of $22,500, that person could spend more hours at the village hall for the benefit of residents, but it would also mean hiring a CPA to do an annual audit as a means of achieving the checks and balances inherent in the current two-person system, where each keeps a set of books. She said the cost of the annual CPA audit would be about $8,500, which would bring the total to $29,000, or about $3,800 more than now paid for the two positions.
Town Supervisor Wilson said while there are real advantages to having two people double-checking each other all the time, it is also very hard to fill two part-time positions.
The town voted unanimously to go for the expanded hours of a one-person clerk-treasurer.
When the floor was opened to elector concerns, Lisa Bieri, who serves on the town’s Plan Commission, pointed out that the town was officially formed in 1869, which means 2019 is the town’s 150th birthday. She suggested an ad hoc committee be formed to plan for the town’s sesquicentennial.
It was also suggested and decided that the town board would look into purchasing video equipment to record town board meetings for the website in order to reach more residents.