On April 30 and May 1, 2003 one hundred Door County residents, business leaders and local government officials participated in the first Door County Legislative Day event in Madison, WI. The purpose of the event was to communicate to the State the important local issues confronting Door County and to seek State assistance to help address these issues. As part of the event our delegation met with several State agencies and teams of 3 or 4 delegates met with every State Assembly and Senate office to review our Legislative Agenda. Our Legislative Agenda was developed over several months with input from dozens of local residents and many business and local government groups.
Below is a summary of the five major issues that were included in our Legislative Agenda and a brief summary of some results or progress that has been achieved on these issues that can wholly or partially be attributed to the Legislative Day event.
1. Water Quality and Safety of Beaches
Our Request: Reorganize and reassign existing resources to help preserve our water quality and insure the safety of our beaches.
Results: Issue Co-chair Bill Schuster reports the following progress.
“The 2003 Legislative Day raised Legislator awareness of the challenge Door County has to define, identify and address the factors associated with the contamination of the near shore beach waters. Legislators have subsequently expressed the expectation to the State agency representatives that they want State government to assist in Door County’s efforts. The task to identify and address the beach contamination sources is a multi-year, ongoing, effort that will benefit from continued State technical and financial assistance. Continued attention and focus on this project from our informed Legislators will aid in our local efforts. Door County received a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program in 2004 to help fund our source investigation research.”
2. State Highway 57 Four-lane Improvement Project
Our Request: Commit sufficient funding to complete the State highway 57 four-lane improvement project from Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay as scheduled by 2008.
Results: At a Legislative Day meeting with the WI Dept. of Transportation, Deputy Secretary Ruben Anthony promised our delegation that the project is scheduled and budgeted to be completed by 2008.
3. Supporting Education Through Fairness and Equity in Education Funding
Our Request: Change the Wisconsin State statutes governing the formula by which the Wisconsin Tech School System is funded, eliminating the reliance on property taxes.
Results: Issue Co-chair Charlie Most reports…
“Having the NWTC funding issue as part of Door County Legislative Day brought attention to this issue and resulted in the formation of the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force to study the Technical College System. I had the honor of serving on that task force. Without the exposure provided to the issue by Legislative Day the Task Force would not have been formed. The attention provided to the issue also motivated the Wisconsin Tech College System to look for ways to reign in their spending and growing reliance on the property tax for funding.”
4. Improve the Door County Business Climate
Our Request: Increase the priority of State business and economic development marketing initiatives to severely distressed rural communities such as Door Co.
Results: At the Legislative Day event Dept. of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dave Storey promised to provide State assistance to the County so that we could prepare an economic development plan that would help us deal with the loss of manufacturing and other jobs and help chart a course to expand our economy. DCEDC and the County received a $75,000 grant to help prepare such a plan. DCEDC has engaged NorthStar Economics and Grant Thornton to prepare the plan, which is scheduled to be completed by April 05.
Our Request: Modify the Wisconsin Technology Zone Tax Credit Program to allow Wisconsin S Corps, LLC’s and partnerships to fully utilize the program incentives and allow businesses to sell earned tax credits if they are not able to use them.
Results: The State Legislature did approve most of the changes that we requested concerning this program.
Our Request: Amend the TIF Reform Bill to extend the life of Sturgeon Bay TIF District # 2 by 5 years for the purpose of expending funds, issuing debt, collecting increment, and repaying debt.
Results: The Legislature approved a sweeping TIF reform bill that accomplished our request plus provided additional important benefits that will enable the City of Sturgeon Bay to use this economic development tool in the future.
Our Request: Maintain current State tourism marketing budget levels.
Results: The Department of Tourism was able to maintain the tourism marketing budget but mandated cuts in the department budget came out of staff and administration.
Our Request: That the WI Public Service Commission encourage CenuryTel, SBC and Charter Communications to work together to provide redundancy for Door County telecommunications infrastructure.
Results: Commission Chairman Bernie Bridge promised that they would assist us in our efforts to improve our telecommunication services. Since this meeting, SBC has deployed a divergent and redundant fiber line from Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay, SBC has introduced high speed DSL broadband service to Sturgeon Bay, and Charter has deployed high-speed cable broadband service to several communities in the County.
Our Request: Direct a State agency to develop assistance programs, which will help rural communities implement telecommunications infrastructure improvement projects where existing providers are not.
Results: The State Dept. of Commerce has expanded the eligibility for the CDBG Community Planning grant program to include telecommunication projects. DCEDC and Door County have received a $75,000 grant to assess the feasibility of a County-wide Fiber To the Home and Business Telecommunications Deployment Proposal by Brilliant Cities, a MN based telecom company. The feasibility study is nearly complete and will be presented to the public by March 05.
Our Request: Do not approve any legislation that prohibits municipalities’ from becoming Competitive Local Exchange Carriers.
Results: The State Legislature passed a bill that regulates but does not prohibit municipal telecommunication initiatives. The Sturgeon Bay Utility Commission is currently investigating the feasibility of providing telecommunication services to their customers.
5. Construction of a New Bridge in Downtown Sturgeon Bay at the Maple Street to Oregon Street Crossing (Michigan St. Bridge Replacement)
Our Request: Honor its 1997 agreement with the City of Sturgeon Bay to construct, own, and maintain a new bridge in Sturgeon Bay with the preferred option on the Maple to Oregon St. corridor. Work collectively with the City of Sturgeon Bay and the federal government to fund the project, and implement any necessary statutory changes if needed to address future ownership and maintenance issues.
Results: Issue Chair Jay Krause provided the following report.
“Although the City has yet to accomplish its objective of a new bridge built on the Maple to Oregon Street corridor, it has made progress on the various complex issues related to bridge construction. First, subsequent to Legislative Day, the WI Dept. Of Transportation Secretary announced an administrative determination accepting WDOT responsibility to own and maintain both the existing Michigan St. Bridge and any new bridge built over the Bay. Second, the State has pledged $24 million to the rehabilitation of the Michigan St. Bridge and construction of a new bridge. Last, although funding remains an obstacle to the City achieving its objective of a new bridge, the State has affirmed its commitment to provide a new bridge on the Maple to Oregon corridor. I personally believe these outcomes have been strongly influenced by the coordinated efforts of the 2003 Door County Legislative Day.”