Walworth County has positioned itself as perhaps the only debt-free county in Wisconsin.
TOWN OF LA PRAIRIE
A proposed large-scale chicken and egg farm in the town of La Prairie passed a crucial checkpoint Wednesday.
The La Prairie Town Board unanimously approved a conditional-use permit and zoning change, giving S&R Eggs permission to occupy more than 100 acres in the township west of Belding Road and continue its work toward building the farm.
To deny the conditional-use permit, the township would have had to point out inaccuracies or fact-based concerns over the health and safety of the community. The township had until mid-November to rule on the proposal.
The proposed farm would begin with 900,000 chickens in three buildings. It would eventually hold 3 million birds in 10 buildings, Town Chairman Allan Arndt told The Gazette in October.
Arndt said as of Wednesday, S&R hadn’t submitted any building applications, but the agreement and conditional-use permit will allow the town to hold the farm to its standards for such rules as lighting, setback limits and other requirements.
“The purpose of the conditional-use and road permit tonight was to recognize and get S&R Eggs to recognize that this is the standard we will hold them to, and the agreement says that they accept that standard and will live to it,” Arndt said.
If the company violates a term of the conditional-use permit, the township would notify S&R Eggs of noncompliance and the company would have 30 days to remedy the situation.
Town resident Shirley LaPointe said her understanding of the process was that if the company follows state and county rules, town residents don’t have much say in the decision.
LaPointe grew up on a farm, she said, and while S&R Eggs claims the farm won’t have a strong odor, LaPointe said other industrial farms in the area have said the same thing but still smell.
While she lives a distance from the proposed project, she has concerns.
“I’m not 100% happy with it,” she said. “I live a distance from it, but I feel for the people that are going to be looking at it and having the trucks drive by,” she said.
LaPointe said she hasn’t heard much conversation about the farm in the community day to day, but she’s worried about health problems.
“I just hope it (the farm) doesn’t become a problem,” she said.
Arndt, the town chairman, visited the company’s Whitewater location, where he said there was no odor. He expects there to be no issues as S&R moves into the township.
“I believe that if this facility runs the way that one (in Whitewater) does, I don’t anticipate problems,” Arndt said. “I haven’t lost sleep over this because I think this is a reasonable use and expectation for agricultural lands in the town of La Prairie.”
At a meeting in October, S&R environmental engineer Todd Watermolen said initial construction would begin in 2020 before building construction starts in 2021.
Over his 19 years working for the county, Walworth County Administrator Dave Bretl has overseen projects that gave several buildings and facilities new looks.
Those projects included the new courthouse, health and human services building, sheriff’s office, public works facility and Lakeland Health Care Center.
And before his retirement in early 2020, Bretl also could see the county’s administrative building in downtown Elkhorn display a new name over its doors.
County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell proposed a resolution that would authorize naming the county’s administrative building in downtown Elkhorn as the David A. Bretl Government Center.
She said she expects the matter to go before the executive committee at its Monday, Nov. 18, meeting—where she has “no doubt” it will pass—before coming back to the full county board for approval Tuesday, Dec. 3.
“It’s a real honor,” Bretl said. “It was a surprise and a deep honor for them to consider something like that.”
He said he has been “blessed” to have so much help and so many talented people around him for all those projects, including renovations to the very building that some at an earlier time “neglected and ignored” and could soon carry his name.
The resolution also praises Bretl for leading the county toward paying off the money it borrowed and becoming debt-free in 2018.
“I usually don’t like a lot of attention,” he said. “I feel like I did my best here. I worked my hardest. ... I’m just very, very humbled.”
Walworth County has positioned itself as perhaps the only debt-free county in Wisconsin.
Bretl appreciated seeing this come from Russell, who joined the county board in 2002, the year after he started with the county as administrator and corporation counsel.
“That’s what she wanted to do. And when Chair Russell wants to do something, well, she does it,” he said with a laugh.
Russell said Bretl, 55, who lives in Wauwatosa, wanted to spend more time relaxing and being with family. The application deadline to find his replacement recently closed, and Bretl said he thinks interviews will start in the coming weeks.
Russell praised Bretl for his collaborative working style, for rarely taking days off, for his committed involvement in every meeting and for the humor he brings out in his column he writes for local newspapers.
David Bretl said he has tried to effect change during his 18 years as the top administrator in Walworth County government. Now, change is coming for him.
But she knows that “nothing lasts forever.”
Russell, who said she got the idea from a similar situation in Washington County, thinks the whole county board agrees Bretl deserves recognition.
“He’s done a remarkable job,” she said. “Nobody will ever really be able to replace him.”
Linda L. DeKelver
Linda L. Everson
Karen A. Frie
Patricia Lynn Giles
Mary E. Jackson
Barbara and Ferd Klobucar
Eugene D. “Gene” Polzin
Janet C. Prusansky
Russell A. Rieck
Connie L. Schreiber
Judith Ann Schweitzer
Kathleen Jan Tague
Mark T. Wolfe
House Democrats have released a 324-page transcript of the testimony last month by William B. Taylor Jr., the top U.S. official in Ukraine who was the first witness to provide evidence of a quid pro quo in the President Donald Trump impeachment inquiry.
Taylor recounted for lawmakers last month how Trump directly prevented the release of military aid to Ukraine until the country’s leaders publicly announced an investigation of alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democrats in the room for Taylor’s deposition Oct. 22 said it was remarkably “thorough.” His account has since been corroborated by other officials, including Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who amended his testimony earlier this week after claiming that depositions given by others involved, namely Taylor, had “refreshed” his memory about his telling Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the security aid wouldn’t be delivered until a public statement was made about an investigation.
Taylor described a Sept. 1 phone call with Sondland, who “told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskiy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”
He continued: “Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskiy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskiy in a box by making public statement (sic) about ordering such investigations.”
Taylor also explained a Sept. 8 text message to Sondland where he described such a public statement by Ukraine as “a nightmare” and threatened to resign if such a statement were made to satisfy Trump’s demands and pressure from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s unofficial diplomatic channel, especially because there was still no guarantee the aid would be released. Security aid is vital to the country’s ability to defend itself against incursions by Russia.
The nightmare, Taylor explained, was that Zelenskiy would mention Burisma, the natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter served for five years on the board, “get himself in big trouble in (the U.S.) and probably in his country as well, and the security assistance would not be released.”
Such a scenario, Taylor worried, would weaken Ukraine and further embolden Russia.
“The Russians want to know how much support the Ukrainians are going to get in general, but also what kind of support from the Americans,” Taylor told lawmakers. “So the Russians are loving, would love, the humiliation of Zelenskiy at the hand of the Americans, and would give the Russians a freer hand, and I would quit.”
Taylor was explicit in two issues that are central to the investigation: that Trump was demanding an investigation that could impact the 2020 campaign in exchange for a White House visit and that the Ukrainians wanted no part of it.
“It was becoming clear to the Ukrainians that, in order to get this meeting that they wanted, they would have to commit to pursuing these investigations,” Taylor testified.
He said that Ukraine’s former finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk “understood—and I’m sure that he briefed President Zelenskiy, I’m sure they had this conversation” that “opening those investigations, in particular on Burisma, would have involved Ukraine in the 2020 election campaign. He did not want to do that.”
Taylor, who came out of retirement in June to serve as a special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, will be the first of two witnesses to recount their private testimony in a public setting, as the impeachment inquiry enters a new, more television-friendly phase.
Taylor and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, are scheduled to testify in a public hearing Nov. 13, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., announced Wednesday.
Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. “Masha” Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post by Trump, is scheduled to testify Nov. 15 in a public hearing.
Yovanovitch’s initial testimony was released this week.
Schiff, whom Republicans have attacked for presiding over what they claim is a partisan impeachment process, told reporters Wednesday that the public hearings will allow the public to hear the evidence and “to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also to learn firsthand about the facts of the president’s misconduct.”
Despite the mounting evidence of the quid pro quo, Republicans have continued to excuse the president’s actions. In recent days, several GOP senators said that such behavior, however problematic, doesn’t rise to the level of a crime or isn’t an impeachable offense.
On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered a new defense, suggesting that the Trump White House was too inept to execute a quid pro quo.
“What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to,” Graham told reporters. “They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.”