Janesville39°

County board evenly splits ATC money

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GINA R. HEINE
February 27, 2009
— Farmland preservation advocate Julie Backenkeller was so excited by the Rock County Board's decision and its implications Thursday night she quickly punched out an e-mail to her Rock Environmental Network group.

"What this decision means is the county supports a PDR (purchase of development rights) program," she said. "This was a huge win."


Now, she hopes Janesville officials will reconsider land use in its comprehensive plan and "put the wishes of farming families over the wishes of landowners that are not working the land," she said.


The County Board ended debate over how to spend $1.8 million from American Transmission Company by splitting it 50/50 between parks and land conservation programs.


Eight residents spoke unanimously in favor of evenly splitting the money, many urging the board to take advantage of conserving land for future generations.


"I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to designate money for land conservation," Sheila De Forest said.


ATC made the one-time, $1.8 million payment to Rock County for a high-voltage transmission line that will be built across the county.


As a Beloit City Council member, De Forest said she cares about development, but the money would allow the county to do land conservation that it otherwise wouldn't have funding for.


"We have an opportunity to tap into state matching fund for PDRs—purchase of developmental rights—and I'm afraid if we don't use as much money as possible to take advantage of this opportunity, we will be kicking ourselves in the future," she said.


The approved resolution designates the land conservation half to be spent:


-- $740,000 for a purchase of development rights program.


-- $156,000 for an annual hazardous waste clean sweep program.


-- $10,000 to restore county-owned property on the county campus along Highway 51 on Janesville's north side.


How the parks portion of the money will be spent has not been designated, Assistant County Administrator Phil Boutwell said. The Parks Committee will need to allocate the money into the parks department budget line items, he said.


The board vote was 23-4-2, with Supervisors Eva Arnold, Richard Ott, Kurtis Yankee and Betty Jo Bussie voting no. Supervisors Mary Mawhinney and James Joiner were absent.


"Major initiatives of this sort often have once chance in a generation to do it, and to do it right. This is our chance," Supervisor Robert Fizzell said. "Our grandchildren will not forgive us if we miss it."


Editor's note: Quotes used from the meeting were taken from WCLO Radio's recording of the meeting.

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