The Oneida County Board of Supervisors voted to merge the county’s emergency management and sheriff’s departments at their Tuesday morning meeting last week. The decision to merge the departments was originally suggested as a cost-saving measure, but the numbers reveal that the convergence will basically cost the county about the same as far as operating costs go.
However, as Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman pointed out to board members at the meeting, the county will realize a much more efficient operation with the combining of these departments. “I believe we’re gaining numerous positives from this merger,” Hartman told the board. “By combining, we’re going to be able to share many skills within these departments such as radios, fire departments and ambulances. Emergency management will be running the dispatch center, which will bring some consistency to both departments.” He also explained that the departments can make use of such skilled personnel as grant writers and support staff.
Lisa Charbarneau, human resources director, also explained more details to the board about the merger. “We have this set up as a 20-month trial period,” she said. “The Public Safety Committee as well as other committees will get updates on how this merger is working.”
In other business, the board listened to a presentation by board member Dave Hintz on how to make the budget process more productive. He outlined several areas where this could be done, such as setting an overall direction for the budget process before it begins; outlining budget priorities; and getting department heads to make sure their budgets are given to committees of jurisdiction in plenty of time to make decisions on those numbers. “Sometimes, these budgets are given to their committees of jurisdiction right before the entire budget process is started,” said Hintz. “There’s no time to look them over carefully and they are approved too fast.”
Hintz also gave a presentation on the progress of the technology committee. “Right now, we are looking at broadband Internet access,” he said. “What this is, is fast speed Internet.”
Hintz explained that this service should be available to everyone and that without it, the community could be at a disadvantage as far as growing and attracting new businesses and even tourists. “I believe the reason we have Printpack here is because of high speed Internet,” he said. “It is the way of the world now and we need to work on getting everyone in the county the option of having high speed Internet.”
The board also:
• Approved making changes to the county’s floodplain maps using aerial photography and improved technology to map flood plain areas;
• Approved posting minutes of board and committee meetings on the county website within 10 days of a meeting;
• Approved consolidating with Langlade, Forest, Vilas, Florence, Marinette and Oconto counties in a Northwoods Regional Revolving Fund that will utilize U.S. Housing and Urban Development monies targeted through the Small Cities Program;
• Approved supporting the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport in a petition for airport improvement aid.