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EDITORIAL: County execs ill prepared for their jobs

Douglas County Board supervisors like to fashion themselves as conservationists. After all, they're mostly Democrats, and all good Democrats are environmentalists. But their rhetoric seems little more than hot air.

Douglas County Board supervisors like to fashion themselves as conservationists. After all, they're mostly Democrats, and all good Democrats are environmentalists. But their rhetoric seems little more than hot air.

Last week, members of the board's Administration Committee drew a blank when it came to setting aside $600,000 for conservation projects. The money already is available, having been "gifted" to the county for playing nice with American Transmission Co. in exchange for permission to run a high-voltage power line across public land. Even though the Wisconsin Public Service Commission wanted the sum allocated toward conservation, Douglas County has already found a way to spend $1.2 million elsewhere. The remaining $600,000 represents just one-third of the total.

Nonetheless, several Administration Committee members were gripped by indecisiveness. County Board Chair Doug Finn said he needs more information before taking action. County Administrator Steve Koszarek said he's "not so sure" the money could legally be held in escrow.

Information is power. So one must question why the county's top two officials did such a poor job of informing themselves prior to this meeting. At most workplaces, ill-prepared employees are shown the door. Douglas County residents deserve more from their elected and hired officials.

Although others at the meeting didn't prevail, they deserve credit for taking the time to understand the issue and having the fortitude to speak their mind. Supervisor Mark Liebaert correctly stated that land conservation and forestry was the most logical use for the entire sum. Zoning Administrator Stephen Rannenberg added that a large portion of the $1.8 million already has been "nibbled away" and, lacking Administration Committee action, more could be spent on non-conservation projects.

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Committee inaction is among reasons that prompted residents to advocate a smaller board. Perhaps, however, the board's size isn't the problem. Maybe taxpayers would have more confidence if supervisors and county staff simply prepared themselves sufficiently to make timely, intelligent decisions.

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