Jul. 22—Sauk County supervisors tabled a measure Tuesday that would have mandated a reduction in the size of the government body over concerns about rural representation and a lack of information.

Supervisor Mike Flint, who represents the town of Excelsior along with portions of the town of Reedsburg and Rock Springs, moved to withhold the resolution that shrinks the number of supervisors to 25 from the current 31 until Sauk County has received the U.S. Census numbers from the state.

"I want to see some figures as to where on Earth the population is in this county before I make any kind of a decision on it," Flint said.

Supervisors Rob Nelson, Smooth Detter, Carl Gruber, Joel Chrisler and Tim McCumber voted against postponing the resolution. Brandon Lohr was absent.

The measure may have to be decided in a special meeting as no date was set during the vote. In June, supervisors unanimously agreed to allow the Executive and Legislative Committee decide whether to reduce the number of supervisory districts and authorized the members to redraw maps due to a short window of time for redistricting.

But U.S. Census numbers have been delayed. Census operations changed in 2020, when the decennial census was scheduled to take place, which meant figures that were supposed to be released around March 31 will likely be given out at the end of August.

Sauk County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond said while the current timeline has the counties receiving numbers from the state Aug. 23, that's more of an "aspirational" date than a reality. County officials have roughly eight days to spare in the process of redistricting based on population numbers, which is what prompted the authorization for committee and staff members to make decisions regarding the new electoral maps for Sauk County.

Counties are tentatively scheduled to host a public hearing and adopt a draft plan that is then sent to individual municipalities within the county to allow officials to outline their ward boundaries before transferring the plan back to county officials by Oct. 18. Cities need to pass the changes by ordinance by Nov. 10. Notice of the new map would need to be published by Nov. 23, leaving less than two weeks for the districts to be updated before nomination papers can be requested by candidates in the first week of December to be circulated and returned by early January for a spot on the spring ballot.

Supervisor Wally Czuprynko, who serves on the E&L Committee, said the reasoning behind the reduction is largely due to the new structure of the county government.

"Primarily, this is the first time in Sauk County history that we have a county administrator," Czuprynko said. "A county administrator, statutorily, has more responsibility than the administrative coordinator ever had, and because the county administrator has more on his or her shoulders, that just naturally alleviates the responsibilities and the duties placed upon the county board."

Czuprynko said there would be an estimate of roughly 488 additional residents per district, from 2,032 to 2,520 people. The resolution specifies that the reduction would result in a savings of $8,376 per year for meetings and roughly $600 per supervisor for software and equipment.

"I don't think the effectiveness of our constituency's representation would be diminished in the least," Czuprynko said. "The fiscal impact is minimal. That's not even worth discussing. It's more a matter of the county board operating more efficiently."

Some supervisors shared misgivings about the plan affecting primarily rural residents. Some saw it as a way to ensure representatives want to be in their seats.

McCumber, who was first elected to the board in 2018 and chosen as board chairman in 2020, said there needs to be elected officials who fight to be representatives of their district, citing declining numbers in interest to serve on local governmental bodies around the area and majority uncontested races.

"That's not representation at all, folks," McCumber said. "That's people putting their name on a piece of paper and sitting in this room. When I recall, before this board, all hell broke loose over the last four to six years because we had people sitting in this room who didn't have to run accountable to anybody other than themselves and a piece of paper."

McCumber echoed Gruber, who also disputed an assertion by former supervisor Jean Berlin of Hill Point during the public comment portion of the meeting that there are members of the board who seek to reduce the number of representatives for their own gain.

"If you're lowering the number you're not really doing it for your own interest," Gruber said, pointing out that he and fellow supervisor Brian Peper were the only contested candidates in the last two elections still serving on the board. "I want people who will be involved."

Berlin and fellow former supervisor Tom Kriegl, of Greenfield, asked the board not to reduce its numbers, primarily citing a concern over the loss of representation for rural residents.

Peper said he felt the same and would not vote for a measure if he didn't know how it would impact those outside of cities and towns within the county. Nelson said districts shouldn't increase in size as a result of the county operating efficiently due to a newly organized staff structure.

"It's kind of like having your school district ranking high on all of your educational values and then saying, 'Hey, our kids are outperforming the average, let's dumb them down a little bit,'" Nelson said.

Other supervisors said they could not make an informed decision without census numbers. Supervisor Marty Krueger said after three decades of being involved in redistricting projects, he needs "to see the numbers."

"It's not about what committees you're on or how many committees you're on, it's about representation," Krueger said. ""I'm totally prepared to look at any outcome. After I see the numbers."

Supervisors also:

— Approved a resolution allowing for the Driftless Area Dual Sports Riders to apply for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant to host a special two day dirt bike, or off-highway motorcycle, race at a cost of roughly $2,000 at the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area within the next year on a 24-6 vote. Nelson, who said the land was not intended for that type of use, voted against it, as did Gibson, Tom Dorner and David Riek.

— Approved the potential use of American Rescue Act Funds for up to 11% of the cost of broadband expansion projects in conjunction with LaValle Telephone Cooperative, townships, neighboring counties and the Reedsburg Utility Commission, which County Administrator Brent Miller said were contingent upon the approval of a grant application by RUC from the state Public Service Commission

— Approved an ordinance amending the zoning map for less than an acre of land along State Highway 58 at the intersection of Rabuck Road in the town of Ironton to be changed from exclusive agriculture to agriculture to allow property owner Dannie Miller to operate a wood fabrication business

— Approved an ordinance amending the zoning map for more than 1.8 acres of land along County Highway G in the town of Ironton to be changed from exclusive agriculture to agriculture to allow for a landscaping center to be added to a current greenhouse business operated by owner Levi Borntrager

— Approved the replacement of the West Square administrative building lightning protection system, which does not meet the current protection standards due to it being nearly 20 years old, at a cost of $13,900 taken from the approved building services capital outlay budget

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.


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