Ag group presents plans, requests support

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Friday, February 28, 2014

JANESVILLE—Use of the county's logo, a letter of support and the possiblity of “future committee meetings.”

Those three requests came from the Southern Wisconsin Agriculture Group (SWAG)—and were made at Thursday's meeting of the Rock County Board.

SWAG is the nonprofit organization that hopes to build a $33 million ag education, advocacy and expo center on 217 acres in Evansville.

Nicole Reese, SWAG executive director, told the board that her presentation was an update, and one of a series of informational meetings she will be holding in the next two years.

The capital campaign for the center will begin in March. The earliest date they could break ground would be in 2015. 

The group's first two requests, the logo and letter of support, are symbolic. The county's logo would be added to a page of other groups that have endorsed the idea, including the city of Evansville, Blackhawk Technical College, John Deere Co. and others.

The letter of support would be used in a similar way.

The third request, for “cooperation in the establishement of future committee meetings for project request and aid in potential grant funding,” would be way for the group to raise money.

Nonprofits don't always have access to the kinds of economic development grants that muncipalities do. But Rock County Administrator Craig Knutson said he wasn't aware of any “pass-through” grants or funds that the county could use to aid the group.

Pass-through grants allow one organization to apply for  money and then pass it one to another.  For example, at Thursday's meeting the board approved a resolution to “accept funding for juvenile early intervention services.”  The Wisconsin Department of Corrections awarded the county's human services department $87,415 in juvenile justice early intervention funds.  Part of that money will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville and the Stateline Boys and Girls Club to providing after school programming for at risk children.

The board did not take any action on SWAG's request.

In other business, the board:

—Approved increasing base wages by 1.5 percent for county employees not represented by a baragaining unit.

The eight non-law enforcement bargaining units and one of the law enforcement bargaining units received a 1.5 percent increase earlier this year.

—Approved increasing the county administrators salary by 1.5 percent. Knutson, who is retiring later this year, receives a base salary of $129,605.  With the raise, Knutson's total compensation package comes to $200,047.

—Approved a resolution supporting the creation of new, nonpartisan procedures for legislative and congressional redistricting.  Currently, redistricting is done by whatever party is in power, and the end result usually favors themajority party.

Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, spoke in favor of the measure.  She said that she didn't blame the Republicans for the system, but was frustrated that the Democrats hadn't enacted redistricting reform when they were in power.

The last redistricting cost $1.9 million in legal fees. 

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