The former WPS building remains under ownership of Oneida County after three options to purchase it were rejected by county supervisors at their monthly meeting held last Tuesday. The county purchased this building in 2008 at a cost of $500,000. It is currently is for sale for $365,000.
Mike Boyd, a Rhinelander businessman, presented the options which the board took under consideration in a closed session.
The options included the county providing a $450,000 remodel fund and Boyd purchasing the building for $1. He would then “rent” back to the county 60 percent (about 4,000 square feet) of the space to house the Land and Water Department as well as UW-Extension that are currently renting space in the lower level of the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport. The county would pay no rent for those two departments for 15 years to offset the cost of the remodeling.
The second option would allow for the building to be purchased for $1 with a lease agreement that the county would pay $3,750 per month in rent for 4,000 square feet and provide a $450,000 zero percent loan to Boyd to remodel the structure. The lease would include a five to 15 year time frame.
The third option was that the county would remodel the structure with the specifications Boyd presented and he would rent 40 percent of the building for $3,000 per month.
All three of the options were rejected by the majority of board members although three supervisors, including Tom Rudolph, Bob Martini and Bob Mott supported at least one of the options.
That support may have come from wanting to move the Land and Water Department and the UW-Extension closer to the courthouse as those departments are currently housed in the lower level of the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport. In fact, later on in the agenda the board did vote to move the Land and Water Conservation Department into the Planning and Zoning Department office to give more room for UW-Extension to expand into the airport space. Currently there is some remodeling taking place at the courthouse due to the health department moving into the Oneida County Department on Aging which is located near Trig’s.
However, Erica Brewster, UW-Extension director, told the board the lower level of the airport presented health concerns for employees because they could smell jet fumes and one employee had broken out in a rash. The issue of moving this department into the courthouse has been one talked about for close to two years.
“We’ve been talking about this for 18 months and nothing satisfies them,” said Scott Holewinski, board supervisor. “Moving Land and Water back to the courthouse should eliminate space needs for UW-Extension.”
However, Rudolph disagreed.
“It’s an unhealthy environment for our employees and is not suitable for space,” he said. “Are we going to let our employees work in these conditions where we could incur tremendous liability?”
Martini thought waiting to move the Land and Water Department would be a good idea.
“Conditions would be better at the WPS building,” he said. “If we move Land and Water, we are foreclosing any possibility to move them into the WPS building in the future.”
In a 12-8 vote supervisors approved splitting the departments and moving Land and Water to the courthouse.
In other business Charles Carlson, a consultant with Carlson Dettmann Consulting LLC, gave a presentation on ways the county can structure pay for county employees. This company has been comparing wages paid to county employees in Oneida County to what employees earn in the private sector. In one graph he demonstrated that some employees in Oneida County are paid at or a little below private sector employees but the majority of employees make more than private sector workers who have comparable jobs. Carlson is only partially finished with gathering statistics on this study and is coming back at the February meeting to give his final recommendations.
The board also:
• Tabled a resolution asking them to wait to sell a piece of foreclosed property bordering the Wisconsin River off Hwy. 47. Ben Loma, a town of Newbold supervisor, told the board that he was looking into how that parcel could be turned into a boat landing.
• Approved creating a full-time Community Health specialist that will be funded by grant money.