Janesville54.1°

County gets two requests for same $1.8 million

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 16, 2009
— It's a first, according to the collective memory of Rock County officials.

The county board soon will take action on two resolutions from two county committees vying for the same pot of money.


A vote on the one-time, $1.8 million payment from the American Transmission Company could come at the board's regular meeting Feb. 26. Chairman Russ Podzilni has the authority to decide when the resolutions are put on the agenda for board action, Corporation Counsel Jeff Kuglitsch said.


ATC in 2009 will pay Rock County $1.8 million for a high-voltage transmission line that will be built across the county.


While planning the 2009 budget, the county board voted to put the money into a special fund for parks and conservation projects.


County Administrator Craig Knutson had recommended the money be used instead of the county's savings account to pay for operating expenses.


Struggling over the money are the land conservation committee and the parks committee. They met jointly on Jan. 19 but were unable to write a resolution to split the money.


Here's what they plan to ask for, according to committee documents:


Land conservation

The land conservation committee Feb. 4 approved a resolution to split the money in half. The committee wants to spend the money in three places:


-- $740,000 for a purchase of development rights program. County planning officials are interested in developing a program that protects farmland while letting farmers get money for their property.


One option could be a purchase of development rights program. While farmers would retain ownership of their land and farm it or use it as appropriate, the right to develop the property would be sold, permanently protecting the farmland from development.


The money for the purchase of development rights could come from grants, donations or public dollars.


A Jefferson County non-profit accepts land easement donations in a similar program. The farmers are rewarded through tax write-offs.


The committee plans to use the $740,000 to staff and maintain the program and bank money to make matching grant requests.


This money could be a "one time shot" to get the program started, committee member Robert Fizzell of Beloit said at the Jan. 19 meeting.


-- $150,000 for an annual hazardous waste clean sweep program. That's how much it would cost to turn the county's temporary hazardous waste collection program into an annual one, according to the committee's executive summary.


The money would last seven to 10 years, depending on state grants. No additional staffing would be necessary.


-- $10,000 to restore county-owned property on the county campus along Highway 51. The idle property has been taken over by invasive species. The money would be used to remove trees and stumps and buy prairie grass seeds and new trees.


Parks

The parks committee Feb. 10 approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to land conservation and the restó$1.56 millionóto parks.


The county is poised to approve a five-year parks, outdoor recreation and open space plan, said Kurt Yankee, chairman of the parks committee.


That plan includes $15 million in possible projects. They might not all happen, but the county can't ask for matching grants if it doesn't list projects, according to the committee's executive summary.


The projects include:


-- $825,000 for Carver-Roehl Park. Most of tható$775,000ówould be added to the $75,000 already budgeted to fix the culvert at the park entrance to reduce flooding.


-- $350,000 for Gibbs Lake Park. The money would improve trails, buy land and improve shelters and restrooms.


-- $260,000 for Happy Hollow Park. The money would improve trails, shelters and erosion control.


-- $450,000 to Magnolia Bluff Park. The money would go to improve trails, buy land, build shelters and control erosion.


The summary plans for invasive species control at all four parks.


Yankee said there's no way the county could get all the money it wants to complete every task on the parks committee "to-do" list.


But $1.56 million would help.


"We plan to get a good start," Yankee said. "The things we do there will benefit all the residents of Rock County."



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