Feb. 19, 2007
County, township officials address chamber Thursday
By Ryan Gueningsman
Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek and Franklin Township Supervisor Bill McMullen presented information on outlooks for the new year, as well as some background on their positions.
At the monthly Delano Area Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday at B’s on the River, Russek said one of the most frequently asked questions he receives is what a county commissioner do. He explained that most of what the county board does is mandated by state and federal law.
The county board establishes its ordinances, and works on grants and budget issues. He compared budget numbers from when he first became a county commissioner to today’s budget
Russek also said the population of Wright County in 1992 was 68,000, and the population now is between 115,000 and 120,000 people.
“St. Michael is now the largest city (in Wright County),” Russek said. “It has surpassed Buffalo.”
He said the biggest issue presently facing the commissioners is the new jail facility. He said ground could be broken for the new facility this spring, and said the new jail will hold 348 beds.
In the past, Russek said the county made money housing inmates from other counties, but now, many inmates from Wright County are being housed elsewhere.
“In 1993 and 1994, the county collected $400,000 for boarding prisoners,” he said.
Russek also mentioned a project in Otsego, as well as Wright County Road 17, south of Delano, being reconstructed.
He said plans call for the road to be worked on this fall, and said it will be widened to 12-foot lanes with eight-foot shoulders. He said construction should be complete by fall of 2008.
After the meeting, Russek said there are plans for a walking/biking path on the east side of the roadway that will run south from Delano, that eventually might hook up with the Luce Line State Trail near Watertown.
McMullen began by giving a brief history lesson on township government, and its role in the overall picture of things.
He explained township government as a “between” government not governed by a city or directly by a county.
He said Franklin Township is larger than most, due to border expansions to follow the Crow River to the north. Its main two functions are to maintain roads, and to oversee long-term land use planning.
The township is supervised by a board of three elected officials, with one up for election every year, McMullen explained.
He said this year, the chamber is sponsoring a “meet the candidates” forum that will take place Thursday, March 8 at the town hall, located south of Delano on Wright County Road 16. This is a chance for residents to have the opportunity to meet the two candidates who filed for the township supervisor position that is up for election Jamie Pogue and Mike Barfknecht.
McMullen also explained that each year, the township conducts an annual meeting, which determines the needs of the township for the upcoming year, along with setting the budget.
Some facts about the township McMullen presented include that the township is 43 square miles, its population is 98 percent white, and 76 percent of township residents have lived there more than five years.
“That’s as high as the statistic goes, but I’d be willing to bet most have been there 10 or 15 years,” he said. Its population sits at about 2,800, and he also touched on how the city’s growth affects the township’s land and population
He said for 2007, spending looks to be about the same as 2006, and doesn’t expect an increase.
“Hopefully, there should be a slight net reduction in taxes people pay,” he said.
He said the township also maintains about 70 miles of roads, most of which are gravel, and said road upkeep is always a challenge townships face. He said it’s the township’s responsibility to not only keep the roads smooth, but safe.
McMullen also discussed the proposed plans for an industrial park in the township along Highway 12.
After their presentations, McMullen and Russek answered several questions posed to them by chamber members.
A “state of the city” address will take place at the monthly meeting Thursday, March 15, at noon at the Delano City Hall, and feature Mayor Joe McDonald and City Administrator Phil Kern, noted chamber president Wendy Gilmer.