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Walworth County Board opposes member increase

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 11, 2010
— The Walworth County Board is less than half the size it was in the summer of 2007.

But the variety of opinions about the board's size is by no means diminished.


Residents and county board members Tuesday shared a spectrum of opinions about whether the county should increase the number of board members from 11 to 15.


The board voted 8-3 to recommend the executive committee reject an increase when the committee meets later this month.


Board member Jerry Grant in July wrote a letter encouraging the board to talk about the issue.


Grant on Tuesday said the small board size leads to a large workload that could prevent some people—primarily those with full-time jobs and families—from running for a seat on the board.


Board member Joe Schaefer feels the board could be even smaller.


"Sometimes I tell my constituents we could go with seven," said Schaefer, who has served on the board since 1969.


Board member David Weber said the board has reached "new levels of efficiency" since 2008, when the 11-member board took office for the first time.


Residents in the audience also had a variety of opinions.


Some residents said a larger board would mean nothing more than larger, more expensive government.


Others said a 15-member board would work more efficiently and better represent constituents.


The citizens group that rallied to cut the size of the board is ready to do it again.


Citizens for Responsible Government in 2006 petitioned to cut the board from 25 members to 11.


That led to a binding referendum in 2007. Voters approved the change.


Spokesman Bret Strong on Tuesday said the group already has met and is prepared to retaliate should the county try to increase the number of board members.


"If you make a move forward, we'll spearhead an effort to take it down to nine," Strong said.


The results of the recent U.S. census will trigger a short window in which the county could change the size of the board. If it doesn't do so in 2012, the next opportunity will be in 2011, board chairwoman Nancy Russell said.


In other news, the board voted 6-5 in favor of continuing county support for the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance in the form of $50,000 in the county's 2011 budget. The vote is advisory to Administrator Dave Bretl. The matter could come up again in September when Bretl proposes a 2011 budget to the board.


The alliance uses public and private money to promote businesses and administer grants and loans for business development.



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