Author Archives: Jeff Ankrom

Milwaukee… and then the Home Stretch

We took a trip to Milwaukee for a fun getaway over the 4th of July holiday.The students went to SummerFest, a huge music festival on Lake Michigan, went to a Brewers game, and to the Jelly Belly factory. We topped off the drive back to Eau Claire with some fine cuisine and shopping at Cracker Barrel. And the narrative would not be complete without an account of Terrence and Bri's interesting trip to Taco Bell! Let's leave it at that….

The students probably did other stuff unknown to Professor Ankrom.

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This is likely the last blog post for our group. In the remaining four days, we have to get the "deliverables" to supervisors, complete any remaining tasks and hand off projects that will be taken over by city and county staff after we leave. 

The chemistry among the group has been quite good, socially and professionally. But I am pretty sure they are ready to return to family anf friends and dear old Wittenberg.

Student Presentations

As the students continue to work on their projects, when possible they are asked to present their work product to the appropriate governing bodies.   Two presentations were made this week, for example.

The first one was by Ben and Karen who were assigned the task of generating revenue ideas for county land conservation along with working on stormwater mitigation. The presentation was made to the County Land Conservation Commission. From their research they developed the following options:

1.  Continue with no funds,

2.  Increased request from Tax Levy,

3. Increase permit fees,

4. Pursue Adaptive Management (watershed management),

5. Charging additional fees for program inspections using Brown County's example, or

6. Establish a Stormwater Utility that generates Fee

They decided to recommend option 6, and here is their proposal and justification:

Why?  ¨Some surfaces prevent water (rain or melting snow) from seeping into the ground. Because of this, large amounts of water accumulate above the surface. This water will run off before eventually entering into our lakes, rivers and streams.

Who Benefits?  ¨Whole public: Cleaner drinking water, greater preparation against flash floods, decreases pollution, ¨Farmers: This fund acts as a “reserve” for farmers, ¨Towns: For financial assistance in stormwater projects and ordinance compliance, Fishermen/lake users: Lake rehabilitation possible, Ex. Lake Altoona, and ¨LCD: A source of revenue to complete these projects.

The Specific Proposal to be put to the voters as a referendum:  ¨A referendum asking for a payment of stormwater service according to the square footage of impervious land: Should the Stormwater Utility Fee of $0.10-0.40/month per household be initiated effective Spring 2014 to support conservation efforts such as lake rehabilitation, agricultural improvements, reducing water pollution and prevention of flash floods?

Definitions:  “Impervious surface” means: An area that releases all or a large portion of the precipitation that falls on it, except for frozen soil (Title 17): Conventional rooftops and asphalt, driveways, parking lots and streets are typical examples of impervious surfaces, Typical gravel driveways and other examples listed shall be considered impervious unless specifically designed to encourage infiltration or storage of runoff, and Sidewalks and roads were not included in this case study.

The higher contribution of stormwater runoff, the higher proportion of payment through a tiered system of payment, and landowners may receive credit for displaying conservation efforts on their lands via infiltration systems.  Examples include (residential): Rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens.  For agricultural land,  “Infiltration system” meanns a device or practice such as a basin, trench, rain garden or swale designed specifically to encourage infiltration, but does not include natural infiltration in pervious surfaces such as lawns, redirecting of rooftop downspouts onto lawns or minimal infiltration from practices, such as swales or road side channels designed for conveyance and pollutant removal only.

Credit up to 100% of Stormwater Utility fee back to property owner is possible depending on the type of conservation practice that is used.

Anticipated Revenue:  $31,436 for conservation purposes.

Anticipated Effects:  ¨Minimal average cost for citizens, $0.10-.40/month = $1.20-4.80/year, 100% of revenue will be used for stormwater conservation efforts, Rehabilitation of lakes, ease persistent flooding, Reduce amount of pollution from runoff, Reserve for farmers and towns.

There were lots of questions, and some opposition from the members of the Commission, but Ben and Karen responded and look forward to seeing how the proposal is dealt with by the County.

The second presentation was made by Terrence to the City Council.   He was tasked with developing a "Travel and Training Policy" for the members of the Council as well as Chairs of the City's various citizen commissions.   Here he is making the presentation and answering questions from members of Council.  They all praised him for his good research and understanding of the issues, as well as his lucid presentation, and then voted unanimously to approve the policy.  To view his presentation, click on the following link:  http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01614&video=158990.  His presentation begins at 34:48 and the vote is taken at about 58:00.

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WCMA Conference on June 20th

We were afforded the opportunity to attend the Wisconsin City/County Management Association meeting on June 20th.  It was held in LaCrosse, and the theme was "Strategies for Modern Leadership."   The day we attended, the keynote speaker was Ted Gaebler, co-author of the best-selling book Reinventing Government which served as the basis for President Clinton's efforts to restructure the federal government in the 1990s.   Mr. Gaebler is currently the city manager of Rancho Cordova, CA, which has only been incorporated for 10 years.   Since it was a newly-incorporated city, the elected officials had no previous expectations, and were ready and willing to innovate and allow the city manager to be entrepreneurial.    Mr. Gaebler's talk was provocative and engaging.   We enjoyed it immensely, and were able to relate his points to our classroom discussions on the nature of the city manager form of government. 

The afternoon consisted of two breakout sessions from which to choose.  One was on the effects of the Affordable Care Act on local governments in Wisconsin, and the other one was on the need for communities to consider passing "anti-scrapping" ordinances to prevent less-than-honest developers from coming in and clearing a vacant property of scrap materials and then leaving without doing approporiate redevelopment.    Dr. Baker, Tom, and Russ went to the ACA session, while the students attended the "anti-scrapping" sessions.   Both were very informative.   We were also able to reconnect with Scot Simpson, city administrator at River Falls, WI, who hosted the LGMIP in 2010. 

Here is a picture of Ted Gaebler making his presentation:

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And, here are the interns listening intently to him:

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Student comments/reactions:

     Today we took a nice trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin to attend the WCMA and WAMCAM Annual Meeting and Conference. We ate a very nice breakfast, and then listened to Ted Gaebler, author of Re-Inventing Government. Gaebler is the city manager of Rancho Cordova, California. The city is around a decade in age, and Gaebler made it sound like a utopian neighborhood. As the city manager, he has done things that some would probably view as quite radical. While watching his presentation, I was very taken aback by how he runs his city. I think it is great that his city government works so well, but I don’t think that those ideas are practical for most local governments. As the only manager that the city has had, I think he is able to get away with things that most if not all other managers would not be able to get away with. His ideas about workplace events were neat. In Eau Claire, there are department outings, but as far as I know they do not have interdepartmental events. Another concept that I found interesting was the small group meetings about certain issues. He spoke of how some people have down time in their jobs, and that can be utilized by making them a member of one of these small groups. I am unsure if this is a widespread concept, but I thought that it was a very good idea and it should be used in all offices. After this presentation, we ate lunch while listening to the WCMA business meeting. After lunch we split off to two separate meetings, one about anti-scrapping and the other about healthcare. I chose to attend the meeting about anti-scrapping. The presentation was titled: "Remember the 'Music Man': Why Your Municipality Needs an Anti-Scrapping Ordinance." The presentation was very hands-on, as everyone was able to participate in different scenarios that were presented. I learned that an ordinance having to do with anti-scrapping would save a lot of time and money in the contracting process…. Karen Daniel-Hamberg.

 

June 18th County Board Meeting

Tuesday night we attended the regular County Board meeting.  The Board is rather large at 29 members, and therefore, they've been moving to electronic agendas, and just recently have purchased tablets for retrieving documents and for use with their new electronic voting system.   Aside from a few glitches, the members seemed to be adapting well to the new system.   One of the intern supervisors, Tiana Glenna, gave a report on the county's progress in the area of alternative sentencing systems.   Eau Claire County is a leader in the nation on this issue.  In fact, when we were here 6 years ago, one of the interns worked on the research necessary for implementing a Drug Court.   Shelby Knapp has been working this summer with Tiana on coordinating the data collection and reporting systems for the various alternative programs they have put in place over the last few years.  Below is a picture of Tiana reporting to the Board on the progress.

 

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A representative from the Wisconsin Counties Association was present to give a comprehensive update on the state biennial budget process.   The fiscal year begins July 1, and the State Legislature is working hard to finish the 2-year budget by month's end.   The news was generally not very good for local governments, including counties.

Another hot topic on the agenda was a resolution to encourage the State Legislature to accept money associated with the expansion of Medicaid.  This generated some public comments from interested citizens who were there to encourage passage of the resolution, and then when the Board took up the issue, a good discussion was held with several members expressing support, but a couple of members expressing concerns about the expansion, and therefore, their opposition.   When the vote was taken, the resolution passed by a good margin.   It remains to be seen what the state will do, as Governor Walker is not in favor of the straight expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

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Here are student reactions to the Board meeting.

     The county board meeting illustrated significant interactions between Eau Claire County and the state government. From the issues discussed in the board meeting regarding key issues that affect counties such as new state laws, seems like an attempt to micro-manage county governments. Examples of state interference in county governing matters include capping property tax levies and enacting unnecessary fees on counties in an attempt to twist the arms of local governments. This state really takes Dillon’s Rule to the max. In Wisconsin, counties seemed to be treated as "creatures of the deep."… Terrence Williams.

     While attending the County Board meeting yesterday, I noticed that it was more technologically advanced than the City Council meeting. Each member of the board was provided an Ipad and instead of the Clerk calling the roll verbally, the members used their Ipads to announce their presence! The members also used their Ipads to vote on the resolutions. However, the use of Ipads could be to save time because the County Board consists of 29 members whereas the City Council only consists of 11 members.  Another difference I noticed was that the County Board held their public hearings the same night as their meeting, whereas the public spoke the night prior to the City Council meeting.
     Although, it was interesting to see the public interact with the board members and speak in support or opposition of a resolution, City Council meetings tend to last longer than County Board meetings so I understand why the City would decide to have their public hearing prior to the actual meeting. The one thing that really grabbed my attention at the Board meeting was when my Supervisor, Tiana, gave a report on the CJCC; it's always nice to go to a meeting and actually have a clue what they're talking about. Tiana gave a brief overview of the CJCC and began discussing the Evidence-based decision making (EBDM) initiative that they're practicing in the court systems. One of the big things she discussed in regards to EBDM was the Community Service program. Tiana explained how the surcharges charged to the clients pay for the half-time position. However, Tiana was $1600 short last year and had to pay for the position with surplus money she found in her budget. Therefore, Tiana explained to the Board members that Lisa, Sean, and I will be working together to come up with a proposal to address this issue.  Another big resolution discussed at the meeting was BadgerCare. The purpose of the BadgerCare resolution was to improve BadgerCare by urging Wisconsin to use Federal Medicaid funding. It was interesting to see how the Board members responded to this resolution and I was pleased to see that most of the members were in support of the resolution. I was also surprised when I saw community members at the meeting with shirts and signs reading, "Say yes to BadgerCare;" it was obvious that BadgerCare really means a lot to the community. Furthermore, after a lengthy discussion about the resolution, a point of order was made asking the president to “call the question.” Receiving at least six seconds, the president was able to call the question and the resolution was passed with a vote of 20-7, which made the community members who were present extremely happy…. Shelby Knapp.
 

     Last night we attended the County Board meeting which I found to be quite different than a city council meeting. During the beginning of the meeting people are able to sign up to speak in front of the board, whereas that happens the day before in the city. Also, there were presentations from Tiana Glenna and Jon Hochkammer on the Criminal Justice Collaborating Committee and an update on the proposed state budget. They then went on to discuss the accepting of federal funding to improve Badger Care and Medicaid expansion. It was definitely interesting to see the County Board interact with one another, they seemed to like each other more than the City Council. Also, the way they operated was quicker and a little more efficient; even though people spoke on issues they still seemed to get through things quickly. I also noticed the compassion the board members had for the people of Eau Claire, a few board members spoke about how health care was so important and they believed it was their job to give it to the people of Eau Claire. This is when I could clearly identify the difference between the city and the board. The City Council members seem to be more concerned with the political aspect of things, especially when they would interject and do some position taking.  Where as the county board members spoke more freely of taking care of the people. Overall the County Board meeting was a very friendly atmosphere where they warmly embraced the people in attendance…. Brianna Betts.

     Last night we attended the Eau Claire County Board Meeting. Although we were unable to stay the entire time, I think we all had much better understanding of a Board meeting at the county level. At first glance, it was obvious that there were many more members on the County Board than on the Eau Claire City Council. Counterintuitively, it seemed as though there was less discussion prior to voting on resolutions than there was during the Eau Claire City Council meeting. The Board meeting also seemed to be much more fluid and concise than the City Council meeting. We heard about a few different topics, but the most significant were topics on the budget and Badgercare.  There was also a much larger public presence at this meeting. There were many public supporters present to advocate for their causes. Most of the support was there to influence the Board to vote in favor of the Badgercare resolution. The supporters’ wishes were fulfilled as the Board passed the Badgercare resolution on an overwhelming majority. It was great to see this public influence during the meeting because we missed the Public Opinion portion of the City Council meeting…. Ben Swegarden.
 

     When I first saw the signs for that said “say yes to Badger Care” I was confused. I had never heard of Badger Care before then and so I did not know what to expect when the first lady came to the podium to speak on behalf of it. She talked about how Badger Care had helped her with depression and anxiety and how important Badger Care is to people like her. I was still not completely sure what Badger Care was, I just knew it was a controversial issue that some were very passionate about.  Later on I learned that Badger Care is a health care plan that helps with many individuals. These people were faced with the potential end of the funding. In the end Badger Care was saved by the commission and the few that came to speak on its behalf were really excited.

        Tiana, the supervisor of the Criminal Justice Collaborating Council, discussed the treatment programs of offenders that I thought was interesting and progressive. The department has worked to make treatment available for offenders rather than putting them in jail for certain types of crimes. She discussed that these treatment programs have helped to keep first time offenders from reoffending. I feel like this type of system is not implemented in many places. This was really interesting to hear about. Overall the meeting was a lot less formal than the city-council meeting because it was open to the public. You could feel the tension between the members on controversial issues. At one point a member pointed out that another member had already spoken his maximum number of times and she seemed to look very annoyed about it. The meeting was interesting all around and it was great to hear all of the different viewpoints of the many members… Brittany Williams.

     The County Board Meeting last night was very interesting as well as informative. The beginning of the meeting started out when certain members of the public came in to voice their opinions. The first two people who voiced their opinions were talking about the importance of passing the clean energy law that will be coming up. The second group of people that came were users of Badger Care who wanted to let the board know how important it was to them and if they voted against it, how terrible their lives would become. After the public voiced their opinions a mayor from another town came up to talk about the WCA. The WCA talk was about the state budget and how it is affecting local government. The categories that he further went into were the state budget, taxation and finance, county organization & personnel, Judicial and Public Safety, Health and Human services, transportation, and Agriculture Environment and land use. The mayor went into depth with all of these categories and helped explain exactly what the state is doing with the budget. After the mayor's presentation, the Board discussed if they should help improve Badger care. The main points that were brought up about it were that it was a double positive for the county, as well as that it will help out many poor people in the state. One of the board members was completely against it and believed it would be better to give these poorer people money to buy private insurance instead. Over a large amount arguing back and forth between the one board member who opposed it they voted on it and it passed. Once Badger Care was voted on we left the board meeting due to the time… George Cooper.

Last night we attended the Eau Claire County Board Meeting. This meeting was very helpful to me in learning about the budgeting process. We were able to see a PowerPoint on the 2013-2015 proposed state budget from a WCA Legislative Director. It was neat to see what the state would be spending funds on in the next few years. We were also able to see some concerned citizens share their views on Badger Care. This was very cool to see; it was great to see that people were sharing their feelings on the issues that they cared about. These citizens wore matching shirts and even held signs that said "Say Yes To Badger Care." The board ended up passing the motion on Badger Care, which these people were very happy about…Karen Daniel-Hamberg.  

Out and About In Eau Claire

Although we're very busy with work, seminar, and meetings, we've tried to get out and about as much as possible.   One of the historic landmarks is Carson Park's baseball stadium where All-star baseball player Hank Aaron got his career started playing for the then Eau Claire Bears.  It is now home to the Northwoods League Eau Claire Express.  The league is similar to the Cape Cod League in that it's an amateur one in which current college players can hone their skills.  Here is a link to the league's website (http://www.northwoodsleague.com/).  They live with host families during the season, and provide a pretty good show for the fans.  We finally had a chance to go to a game, although the weather was still a bit damp and chilly.

Here is a picture of the park…

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… and the Hank Aaron exhibit under the grandstand…

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…as well as his bronze statue out in front of the stadium…

 

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 Like many communities around the country, summer time means music in the park, and every Thursday evening, there is music at the Sarge Boyd Bandshell in Owen Park right on the Chippewa River.   The Eau Claire Municipal Band, the city's oldest community musical organization, was founded in 1902 when August William "Gus" Bock purchased musical instruments for his sons—Joe, Edward, James and Leo—as well as other area boys. He hired Frank Wentworth to teach and conduct them while his role was that of manager and disciplinarian. The group achieved a certain amount of fame,sometimes travelling as far as Madison to perform. Originally called Bock’s Boys Band, it became the Eau Claire Boys Band in 1904 after Bock and Wentworth parted ways. When the boys reached adulthood, the group renamed itself Wisconsin State Band-Eau Claire. In the late 1910s and early 1920s it became known as the Liberty Band and in 1927 received its present appellation.

After class last week, Dr. Baker walked over to the park to listen to the band (wishing he'd brought his trombone)….

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Finally, June is Dairy Month in Wisconsin, and Chambers of Commerce all over the state sponsor some sort of event to celebrate.  In Eau Claire, the event is "Breakfast in the Valley" and we ducked out of work for 90 minutes last Friday to check it out.  The City Manager, Russ Van Gompel, was one of the contestants in the milk drinking contest, and we hoped to be able to watch the competition and cheer him on, but the line for food was so long that we missed it.   He ended up losing to Alice in Dairyland (seriously, that's her title).   We did enjoy our breakfast, though, and once again, our animal lovers, Karen and Shelby got to pet another animal.  This time it was a cow.

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Project Updates: Halfway Point

 

Eau Claire City Hall

It's hard to believe, but we've reached the halfway point of the program, so it's time to provide an update on the interns' projects.   Here's a brief synopsis for each.

     For my first project, I was supposed to update the information on the referral programs in the criminal justice system onto an Excel spreadsheet. The programs consist of the Intoxicated Drivers Intervention Program (IDIP), Community Service, Deferred Prosecution (DAGP), and Diversion. Each of these programs are meant to reduce recidivism and keep low-risk offenders out of jail, further preventing them from intermixing with medium and high-risk offenders. These programs also help out the community, reduce jail overcrowding, and save money- both for the tax payers and the County.

            I was given a summary from 2008 for each program so I used this information and template to update the information for 2012.  In order to get the additional information I needed I had to meet with the coordinator for each program. Each coordinator explained his/her program in greater detail and gave me numerous brochures and data tables. Using all these brochures and tables, I created an updated summary for each program. Most of the information for the programs was the same from 2008 to 2012- goals, incentives, sanction, eligibility, etc. Therefore, other than a slight minor adjustment here and there, the only things I really had to change were the data regarding the number of persons served in 2012 and the cost of the program. Once I compiled all of this information onto the spreadsheet I went back to each coordinator and had them make sure everything was correct and see if there was any additional information they wanted me to add. After all the information was correct, I created an additional summary page comparing the costs of each program; some of the programs require the client to pay for additional services and my supervisor, Tiana, wanted to make sure these additional costs were clearly laid out for the client to prevent any confusion.

            After the spreadsheet was completed, I made a Word document to further summarize the programs because the information on the spreadsheet is a little overwhelming and redundant. For this reason, Tiana wanted to make sure there was another source that made the programs a little easier to understand. Therefore, I chose the most important information for each program and put it on the word document. Because I already had all of the information I needed, creating the Word document didn't take long.   Tiana explained to me that she's been trying to update the information on the programs for the past two years but hasn't had the time due to other priorities. Therefore, it was nice to help her out by getting this project out of her way.   Beginning on Monday, I'm looking forward to transitioning over to City Hall to work on some Fire Division and Parks Division projects two days a week, in addition to continuing at the county the other three days…  Shelby Knapp.

City of Eau Claire City Council & Commission Chair Travel & Travel Policy Project

Writing travel and training policies for city council members and commission, committee, and board chairs has been no easy task. The project is coming to a close, pending a review by the city council president and an official vote from the city council.  In order to provide written guidelines for council members and create policies involving the use of funds allocated specifically for commission chairs to travel, there was a need for concrete policies that would guide council members and commission chairs as they gain skills in governance, present at national and regional conferences, and advocate for their community. The policies I have developed come in part from the framework of the employee travel, training policies and procedures and are modeled from other municipalities travel policies. The policy provides clear definitions of authorization for official city travel, designates sources of funding, and general information regarding reimbursable travel expenses. Upon approval by the city council, the proposed policies will be officially adopted for use by the city of Eau Claire…. Terrence Williams.

I have already finished one project for the Land Conservation Department, which was creating exemptions for localities in Eau Claire County under the Stormwater & Erosion Control Ordinance. These exemptions were needed so that the towns within the cities would be exempt from one or more of the parts of this ordinance if they already had a working system (I discussed this already in one of my journals).

                Ben and I have been working on another project for the Land Conservation Department, which involves a referendum fee in order to replenish one of the LCD’s funds. Initially, we had to come up with an idea about how to create a fee that did not target a single industry. We came up with the idea of making a fee based on the area of impermeable surfaces that a landowner had on his or her property. This fee will be broken up into tiers based on the total surface area of the property. To figure out probable fees for each tier, I have been working on GIS to find the averages for each division of properties (residential, agricultural, and commercial). Based off of these findings, we will determine a monthly fee that each property owner will have to pay. The fee will most likely be in the $.10 to $.50 range per month.

GIS project (maps available upon request):

I began with a map of Eau Claire County, with the red being the property lines. The areas that are more filled in are residential areas, and the more spread out lines are either agricultural or commercial areas.

I then zoomed in on an area of the map. This happens to be a neighborhood in Altoona. The area outlined by the light blue dots is the sample of 92 houses that I used for the case study.

I outlined all impervious surfaces on the properties, and figured the (impervious) surface area for each plot. The average surface area of impermeable surfaces is around 3,800ft.

I did the same for about 25 agricultural plots, and the average surface area came out to be around 35,000ft.

As of now we are still unsure about what to do for the commercial districts in the county. We cannot exclude them from this fee because these areas have such a great amount of impermeable surfaces. If anything they are the main source of the runoff problem and they need to be paying the most. We will be presenting this idea to the LCC on June 24th at their monthly meeting.

                In the county planning department, I have been working on a Non-Metallic Mining Addendum to the Eau Claire County Comprehensive Plan. I have been doing a lot of research on non-metallic mining (which in this case is frac sand mining). I have an outline of what I am going to add to the comprehensive plan; all I have left to do is begin drafting and meet with my supervisor to get the final addendum finished. I should be done with this project by the end of next week… Karen Daniel-Hamberg.

       After a very fast 4 weeks I finally have my project for the Clerk of Courts’ office done. Today I spent the time getting my project looked over and fixing all the errors. Now I can finally say I have a finished product. At the beginning of this assignment I actually had no idea what I was going to be creating, and even though I probably shouldn’t admit this ..I was kind of winging it. On the bright side, “winging it” definitely worked out in my favor. What I have done is created the Advanced OA Certification program, that will add improvements to the current training program. This 10-page mini-manual I have created includes job descriptions, and a break down of the Advanced OA Certification Program that I have created. This program is divided nto three phases that each OA will have to complete in order to become certified in any area of the court.

At first this project was more designed to just improve the transition from level three office associates to level five. The problem was “why create this when it’s only going to be used when an OA5 leaves or a job becomes available”. So moving in a slightly different direction, collaborating with my supervisor we came up with a new idea. Not only should level three office associates be trained but level five office associates should also have that option. This Advanced OA Certification Program serves as a cross training certification manual for OA5s but also a certification guide for OA3s that are transitioning.

It is separated into three phases that should be completed over a three month period. All of the office associates work in different areas of the court such as family, civil, criminal, small claims, and traffic. The difference in each area led me to create a structure that could be used as a base and molded to create a specific training program for each area. I constructed a basic task chart that has to be filled in by the supervisor. This chart keeps track of tasks and amount of errors that will allow supervisor to track progress. By maintaining less than 1% errors OAs will be able to move through the tasks so they’ll eventually become certified.

If there is anything I’ve learned so far over the past three and a half weeks it’s about getting out of my comfort zone and taking chances. I think the biggest risk I took was changing the job requirements without being asked to, which my supervisor actually liked. It’s definitely been great to be in a place where new ideas are wanted and accepted.  So hopefully to add the final touch I can bind it and use some color paper to spice it up a bit. So now I can breath a sigh of relief that I have completed my project…. Brianna Betts.

My supervisor had presented me with 3 different projects before she finally settled on one. Originally I was supposed to do research about a policy on succession planning, but then we learned that I would transfer to the Health department halfway through and decided my project was not doable. Then I was to provide a policy on work evaluation. Last week she decided that I would do my project on working from home because a lot of employees have asked about it. I did research from other organizations and found a lot of information on what is necessary in a policy. After I presented my research she asked me to draft a policy. I finished with the policy and now I am just waiting on her to review the policy. My policy includes: the purpose, the process, requirements, conditions, agreements, eligibility, considerations from staff members and department, and a safety check-list. It is very detailed and I think my supervisor will take a lot from it and will be able to create a great policy out of my draft…. Brittany Williams.

      I have been working a Stormwater Utility Expense proposal to establish a fund for the Land Conservation Division (LCD) at Eau Claire County. This fund will be used to finance local conservation efforts such as lake rehabilitation and financial assistance for farmers and towns.

This Stormwater Utility Expense would be assessed according to the square footage of impervious land surface on each parcel of land. We still have to decide on a specific monthly cost, but as of now, the average cost would be approximately $0.20/month for a household. This fee will be classified into different “tiers” of payment. After a certain square footage of impervious land (1000ft for example), the landowner will pay a higher rate. We are thinking about having approximately three different tiers.

In addition to creating revenue for the Conservation Department, this expense is an initiative to create awareness of damaging environmental practices and to promote conservation techniques. If landowners display a form of conservation effort (via an infiltration system), they are eligible to receive credit for their efforts. Examples of different infiltration systems a citizen may establish include rain barrels, green roofs, and rain gardens.

I have much of the project planned out, however, we are now onto our most tedious and time-consuming task: mapping the parcels of impervious land for the City of Washington. Taking this data from the Washington Case Study, we can extrapolate the data to the County of Eau Claire as a whole. This will give us a rough estimate on the projected cost and revenue for the Stormwater Utility Expense. We also still have to conduct some pre-election interviews that will provide us with a general idea of how the public may receive this proposal.

In the end, we hope that this fee will help the rehabilitation of lakes, ease persistent flooding, reduce amount of pollution from runoff, act as a reserve for farmers and towns, and fund a variety of the LCD activities. Because of these benefits, we hope to receive advocacy help from local conservation groups such as Lake Districts, 1000 Friends, and Trout Unlimited if the proposal makes its way to the ballot.  We will present our proposal on June 24th to the Land Conservation Committee.  Ben Swegarden.

EC County jail

June 11th Council Meeting

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This past Tuesday, we attended our first regular City Council meeting.   Interestingly, the Eau Claire City Council separates its public hearings from the regular agenda meetings by having the hearings the night before.  Since we were on our way back from South Dakota, we were not able to attend the public hearing meeting.  Apparently, it was pretty interesting because the issue of the siting of the new proposed skateboard park was up for discussion.   The skaters and the neighborhood association don't agree on everthing, but they were able to come to a consensus about the park, and it was then put on the regular agenda for construction bid approval at Tuesday's meeting.  As part of the agenda, we were introduced by the Council President, Kerry Kincaid, and each student had a chance to say a little about their project.  To view this portion of the meeting, click on this link:  http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01614&video=157301.  Our introduction begins at 271.40 on the counter, and ends at 278.09.

Part of the backdrop to Tuesday's meeting, and some of the difficult agenda items, is the passage of Act 10 a few years ago that affected public employees, and changed municipalities from "just cause" employers to "at will" employers.   For some local leaders across the state, this is a positive development because it gives local governments more flexibility regarding employee policies.   However, several cities, includng the City of Eau Claire, are trying to adopt new employee policies in order to add some additional protections and fairness to processes of employee relations.    As the Director of Human Resources for the City answered questions and explained proposed and existing policies, the City Council members wrestled with their policymaking responsibilities.   A great example of the "policy-administration" distinction we've discussed in class, and on which the Council-Manager form of government is based.   Here are the students' reactions to what they saw and heard.   As you'll see, they pull no punches in their frank assessments.

      Last night we attended an Eau Claire City Council Meeting. It was truly a beneficial experience as it displayed how a local government goes about its policy-making decisions. The discussion between Councilmembers was intense and thought-provoking. Because the Councilmembers are from a variety of backgrounds, it was interesting to see how many different opinions there were on a seemingly simple issue. I’m upset we missed out on the Public Opinion portion of the meeting that took place the night before, it would have been great to see the discussions from beginning to end. Nonetheless, the meeting provided me with terrific insight and how the community changes that take place around me are initiated…   Ben Swegarden.

     The city council meeting was a new experience for me. I learned a lot about the separation between the council members and the management. There were times that the city manager would want so badly to say something but back off because he didn't want to cross any boundaries., or maybe delay the meeting longer.  I also learned about the system that these meetings follow. I was completely unaware of the fact that they make amendments to each resolution and vote on each amendment before approving the resolution. Each member of the council seemed very opinionated about certain issues, and they had no problem telling the rest of the group their view on that issue. It was interesting to hear each member's opinion and how that opinion related to their personal views as well as the views of the public. Although long, this meeting was very informational and a great learning experience for all of us….  Karen Daniel-Hamberg.

    

      Although the City Council meeting was long, it was very interesting to see how the council members interacted with each other and the individuals bringing up the issues. Watching them discuss the skate park was interesting because you could cut the tension with a knife. Some council members were all for the park and others believed that there was still work to be done. One council woman was upset that the skateboarders were not treated like any other athletes doing other sports. She thought that an amendment proposed was redundant and  that it labeled the skateboarders as rebellious. She did not believe that it was necessary for the rules that already apply to be spelled out even further just because they were skateboarders. Another member of the council disagreed and not politely. He, in a few words, basically told her she was wrong and seemed as though he thought her opinion was offbase.

                With the passage of Act 10 in Wisconsin, you could see that the council was at a loss on some items they were now responsible for in the area of employee relations. They did not seem to know how to handle policies and referred to management frequently, while still trying to have all control. I also thought council woman Lewis asked interesting questions. She presented a lot of “what if” and "hypothetically speaking" types of questions. I was not quite sure of her point in that. I do not know if she really cared for an answer rather than to prove a point that things do not always go smoothly. For example, when they were discussing paying people for an automatic two hours if they are called in outside of their regular shift, she said where someone lives should not matter on how quickly someone can arrive. She stated that someone who lives 3 minutes away could be out of town and they should not be penalized for not showing up in the allotted time because they did not know they were going to be called in. It just seems to me that she was trying to find flaws within every situation. You could clearly see a division and some type of an alliance between certain council members. It seems as though certain members were always on the same side of an issue and other members were together on another side of an issue…. Brittany Williams.    

       Tuesday night we attended the city council meeting, which was very interesting to say the least. Last semester I read a book titled Congress: The Electoral Connection by Mayhew and he discussed a lot about Congressmen being single-minded seekers of reelection. He then goes on to discuss how they used certain tactics to get reelected such as credit claiming and position taking. During the city council meeting that’s what I thought about, how they (the council) were like a small congress, but also theatrical at the same time.  The council members asked questions they sometimes already knew the answers to, and said certain things so those who were watching at home or in the audience knew they were asking questions or participating in some way. At the beginning of the meeting they were discussing building a skate park.   It would have been very interesting to be there the night before to listen to the home owners' association and the skaters speak to the council about the pros and cons of a skate park. For the most I found it to be really interesting the way they interacted with each other whether it be supporting one another or the snide comments. Seeing the interactions between the council and the city manager also helped me to understand the reading material more by being able to see them interact with one another…. Brianna Betts.

     This particular city council meeting provided a great opportunity to see the dynamics between the role of elected officials and administrators. City administrators, especially the city manager, is called upon for expertise during the policy making process and other times he strategically interjects his knowledge of issues while council members are debating. Although the topics of this council meeting were unique to the issues the city faces in the state of Wisconsin, the dichotomy of policy and administration is a balancing game in any situation where elected officials and administrators are working with each other. Balance between the two is critical for effective public service… Terrence Williams.

     Attending the City Council meeting was very beneficial because sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the material from the textbook; therefore, actually seeing what the book was trying to explain helped put things into a better perspective. One thing our book discusses is the overlap of the council and administration. The council members are supposed to make policy and the administration is supposed to manage and implement the policy. However, council members frequently want to manage and administrators frequently want to make policy. We saw this at the City Council meeting when Dale Peters, head of Human Resources, tried to get the motion for the ordinance amending the City Pay Plan to pass.

            I assume Dale Peters was in charge with coming up with these new policies regarding city pay because he has a degree in something that makes him more qualified and experienced than the council members to deal with said issue. Regardless, the administration, Dale Peters, was setting policies in a way, and the Council was trying to administer these policies with some of their questions. However, this didn't seem to be a problem because nobody seemed to overstep their boundaries and push the envelope too much.

            Another thing I found interesting was the “show” the council members put on. I didn't notice it at first, but once Dr. Baker mentioned it in class I realized and better understood more of what was happening in the meeting. Dr. Baker told us that the Council meeting is watched faithfully by many of the Eau Claire constituents; therefore, the Council members have to make sure they please the constituents and do various things just to be able to say they did it. For example, I noticed that lots of the Council members asked numerous questions regarding the various motions. Dr. Baker then explained in class that even if the Council member already knew the answer to the question, he/she asked would often ask anyway just so the constituents could see, which makes sense…. Shelby Knapp.

 

 

 

Black Hills and Blue Skies

As part of the LGMIP, we take two extended weekend excursions.  We just returned from our first one which was to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  On Friday, we left at 6:30 in the morning from Katherine Thomas Hall, and drove the 10 hours out to Rapid City, stopping for a break at the world famous Wall Drug.   After checking into our motel, The Lazy U, we hopped back into the van for the ride out to Custer State Park in order to drive the Wildlife Loop during the evening grazing time.  It was well worth it as we saw bison, pronghorned antelope, donkeys (left over from when they were used in the park), prairie dogs, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and even the elusive elk!   It had rained quite a bit during our first 3 weeks in Eau Claire, but the weather was perfect (well, except for one night-time thunderstorm) in the Black Hills, sunny with high blue skies!  A welcome change.

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On Saturday, it was off to the monuments.  First was Mt. Rushmore, which always seems smaller in person, but still quite impressive.   Then it was over to the Crazy Horse Memorial (not sure they'll ever get it completed, but it's huge).

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Sunday, we slept in a bit and then got to enjoy the tasty breakfast buffet at the historic State Game Lodge which was used as a summer home by President Calvin Coolidge.   Then the highlight of the trip was hiking to the summit of Harney Peak.  The roundtrip is about 7.0 miles.  The peak is 7,242 feet, the highest one east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Great Pyrenees!    Since the weather was clear and beautiful, the views were tremendous.   Everyone made it back, even though it was a tough hike.

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We have no idea what we're about to do….

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It's looking very interesting, however, as we can see our destination, the Harney Peak lookout tower, 2.5 miles away from this spot on the trail…

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Wow…. we made it, and the views are worth the tough hike!

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This is the fourth trip to the summit for Dr. Baker…

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The classic group shot…

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One more view, and then it's back down to beautiful Sylvan Lake and the trailhead.  If you've seen the National Treasure movies, this is where they filmed one of them, and Sylvan Lake is in the movie…

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One last trip through the Wildlife Loop allows Karen and Shelby the chance to pet one of the donkeys.  We then say goodbye to Verlyn and Cindy, the proprietors of The Lazy U Motel, and hop in the van at 7:00 a.m. on Monday for the long drive back.   One last stop is the Badlands before we make good time heading east with the wind at our backs…

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A Few More Student Observations….

Eau Claire City Council

 

      After spending my day on Tuesday boxed up in my cubicle making final changes to my project, I met with Kristina to go over it. She flipped through all of my papers, for what seemed like hours, without saying a word or making a facial expression. But after a few minutes she actually told me she liked it very much and only offered a few changes, which was great! I actually did a little more than what I was supposed to do for my project by also changing the employee description layout. When she initially gave me the assignment she gave me lots of documents, one of them being the employee job requirements sheet and the layout was terrible. So I just went ahead and reformatted the whole thing by simplifying it and separating it into categories, which was actually more for my personal benefit. So meeting with her it was actually nice to hear that she loved that I reformatted it and that she wanted to use it.It just really feels great that I can create something using a little imagination and some templates and someone wants to use it. Even though creating something all along was my goal, it’s just good to know she really liked everything. She also decided to add a few things to what I was doing. Instead of this project only really benefiting the OA (Office Assistant) 3s, it will now also benefit the OA 5s. If the OA 5s also complete this process they will receive a certificate or some type of recognition that says they show mastery in that area. I think that by adding this aspect to the new manual and also giving OA 5’s recognition for their work will help improve the overall cohesiveness of the office environment

Bri Betts

     Today we completed our first project. The project was to compile exemption options for local governments under the Stormwater & Erosion Control Ordinance (17.05). The ordinance basically says that there are certain minimum requirements that you have to follow and if you don’t follow them you can get fined or even a lawsuit. The towns have their own ways of doing things that have worked for decades and they want to have exemptions made for them. We made a list of possible exemptions (below):

Stormwater Ordinance Exemption Options
Structural Exemption Questions
1) Urbanized Area Exemption?
-NR 216.023 #2. Less than 1,000 people
2) What kind of permits are already being acquired that might be sufficient to meet the intent of our County Stormwater Ordinance?
3) Definition for designation of a small MS4?
-Eau Claire County is greater than 10,000 people, but its population density is less than 1,000 people/mi2. So, specifically, how is that determined? Minimum requirements?
Application Change Proposals
1) Use of a single application or simplification of process.
2) In-Kind Replacement
-If not structural changes are made, is a phone call or e-mail sufficient?
Fee Change Proposals
1) A refund or partial refund to users who complete the application correctly the first time.
2) The towns have an annual fee based upon the number of average number of permits issued each year (perhaps 75% of fees). This annual town fee acts as a reserve for the County. Then the fee is waived for permits. LCD can then charge for each resubmitted or amended application that must be made.
a. Different classifications of an annual Stormwater Management Fees can be made according to the location and population of the area.
b. Classifications can also be made according to whether the project is an individual’s project or one for the town.
3) Another source for fee compensation?

… Karen Daniel-Hamberg

     In addition to the trip to meet with the Amish, we have also gone on a couple of other learning excursions. At both places, landowners were not up to code in their respective situations. The first was a business owner who did not keep up with rainwater runoff expectations. The second was a farmer whose barnyard runoff system was not up to par. We learned how they were not in compliance with State or County ordinances. It was very interesting seeing the confrontation between officials and landowners. The two situations were very different in this regard. In the meeting with the business landowner, he was not willing to comply and is therefore taking the matter to the courts to fight the County’s judgments. The farmer was willing to work with the County to make the changes necessary. It was interesting to see the two different perspectives.

… Ben Swegarden

     Today I found out that I will be moving to the Health department on June 17. Since my time has been cut short in Human Resources my supervisor gave me a new project that will be easier completed in a shorter amount of time. I will be creating a Performance Evaluation Program Review. My task will be to develop a training program for supervisors on how to evaluate based upon this competency model. This evaluation should fit different departments and not just one specific department. I will have to research and write a lot for the project, and I am responsible for presenting my findings to the HR director and possibly to other administration.  I also sat in on a meeting with the employees in HR along with another intern. In the meeting the director went over what HR needed to start planning for, such as: new employee orientation, training work session that takes place on MLK day, and even the Christmas party. There was talk of making the Christmas party a dinner murder mystery. The murder mystery was at last year’s party and it was a hit. They also discussed who they could have as a speaker on the training work session. It is important that a speaker touch base on civil rights. The other intern is in charge of planning the orientation.

… Brittany Williams

Rivers Are Up!

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The City of Eau Claire was founded in the 1850s by lumbermen who saw the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers as a perfect spot for setting up sawmills and sending logs floating downstream. The spring rains (and late spring snow!) have the rivers up and rolling along. The picture above is of the Chippewa River in front of Katherine Thomas Hall on UW-EC campus where the interns are residing.  When we were hosted by Eau Claire County Government in 2007, the summer was an early one, and hot.  The river was low, and most days it looked like a waterpark with people floating on inner tubes and enjoying the slow current.   We're wondering if we will get to see that sight again; as of now, it doesn't look promising!

The picture below is from the footbridge that connects the downtown to the area just in front of the County Government Building.   The confluence can be seen in the background.

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