The St. Croix County Board of Supervisors postponed discussion and action on the intergovernmental agreement regarding the Hudson Area Joint Library at its Tuesday, June 7 meeting.
The library serves four municipalities: the city of Hudson, town of Hudson, village of North Hudson and town of St. Joseph.
Instead of each participating municipality levying money for the joint library, the levy would be done by the county.
Residents in the four municipalities that the library serves will see their city, town or village taxes go down and their county taxes go up.
Local municipalities cannot raise their contribution due to strict levy limits. There is an exemption in the levy limit law for county library levies. The proposal is a creative formula to leverage the exemption to benefit the joint library.
“There are still some disagreements as to the mechanics of the agreement,” board Chair Bob Long said. The postponement will allow for additional time for review of incoming information.
Jim Wood with Competitive Wisconsin presented to the board. He reported that Wisconsin is at least 100,000 workers short. Revenue is being lost throughout the state due to the inability to fill those vacancies. “We find ourselves facing historical challenges,” Wood said. “There aren’t enough bodies.” In order to be able to compete, communities need to be more competitive. Energy, healthcare, broadband and a load of other infrastructures help add to that competitiveness. He requested that the board think about their role in contributing to the competitiveness of the state and contributing to a sustainable economy.
HHS Director Bob Rohret presented the board with the department's 2021 annual report, which can be found in the meeting agenda.
The county board approved a resolution allowing for an expansion of the total number of county snowmobile miles eligible for the State Snowmobile Aid program to 237.7.
County Administrator Ken Witt appointed Audrie Haycraft as the Human Resources Director.
County board Chair Bob Long recommended the re-appointment of citizen Jerry Ries to the Ethics Inquiry Board.
Youth homelessness grant
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a new grant opportunity, the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, that is part of an initiative designed to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness.
In 2021, $72 million were awarded through the program to address coordinated community approaches to reduce homelessness for youth aged 10-24.
West Central Homeless Coalition, of which St. Croix County is represented, with the Rural North Homeless Coalition has a coordinated community plan to support an application for this grant.
“We have issues with youth who are aging out of foster care,” Scottie Ard, previous St. Croix County supervisor, said. “Homelessness is growing in Wisconsin.”
By getting to youth before they are adults will reduce the cycle of homelessness.
In 2020, the Department of Public Instruction reported 18,349 homeless students (children and youths who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence) in Wisconsin schools.
The county was not asked to take on any responsibility regarding the grant. The Salvation Army, who houses Grace Place in New Richmond, will be applying for the grant and asked the county to vote to establish their support in this endeavor.
The vote to provide support was passed, after concerns were addressed about the Housing and Urban Development’s description of “youth,” being those up to age 24 and about the conflicting data provided on homeless youth who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Supervisors Shawn Anderson of district 2, Lisa Lind of district 1, Ryan Sherley of district 13, Mark Carlson of district 15, Mike Barcalow of district 16 and Jerry Vansomersen of district 18 voted no to provide a letter of support.
No supervisors abstained from voting.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is currently reviewing grant applications. They’ll likely select 20% of the 194 applications, County Administrator Ken Witt said.
Until those grants are awarded, we won’t know which St. Croix County projects will be funded.
“It becomes more and more expensive the further apart these properties become,” Witt said. This grant funding could make a significant dent, but a new federal program called the National “Internet for All'' initiative, is also estimated to provide some cushion.
The initiative will provide $45 billion to states across the country, bringing affordable and reliable internet to Americans. When a state joins, there is a guarantee of at least $100 million for broadband.
Wisconsin is on board, Witt said.
Again, the cost is no small feat, but in Witt’s words: “I guess it depends on if you believe broadband internet is as important as electricity.”
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