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The St. Croix County Board room was packed to standing room only June 4 with concerned citizens as supervisors considered a resolution to privatize St. Croix Industries. The resolution was tabled until August. Photo by Jon Echternacht

St. Croix County board postpones SCI resolution

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

A resolution to privatize St. Croix Industries stalled on the floor and was postponed until August following a wave of citizen response at the county board of supervisors meeting Tuesday night.

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The move followed about an hour of public comment from some 21 citizens, all of whom supported the SCI program and its reputation for excellence over nearly four decades. Many had children in the program.

The proposed resolution developed because SCI has been running at a loss over the last two years. County records showed a $295,024 loss for 2012 and a shortfall of $92,000 for 2013 after some adjustments. Financial forecasts through 2016 projected a shortfall in excess of $1.6 million.

SCI is a program within the Department of Health and Human Services that provides work services, community placement and day services to adult county residents with developmental, physical and mental disabilities.

The Health and Human Services Board on May 6 recommended a resolution to take all necessary steps to turn SCI over to a private, provider.

The perceived speed at which the action came to the board concerned Supervisor Travis Schachtner, who immediately moved to table the resolution indefinitely, in effect killing the proposal. His motion failed by a 14-3 margin.

Schachtner then moved to table any action on the resolution until the next regular board meeting scheduled for Aug. 6 which prompted a round of discussion from the board. In the end, Schachtner's motion passed by a slim 9-8 margin.

Schachtner, Richard Ottino, Roger Larson, Fred Horne, Ron Kiesler, Andy Brinkman, Joe Hurtgen, Duane Russett and William Peavey voted in favor of tabling the measure. Agnes Ring, Tim Hood, Daryl Standafer, Fred Yoerg, Buck Malick, Chris Kilber, Dave Ostness and David Peterson voted no.

Tom Hawksford, out of town on business, and Brian Hurtgen, suffering from an illness, were absent.

The proposed resolution generated no little concern, particularly among parents of clients of the program who are worried private industry would shuffle out the unproductive.

Several residents with children who are in the program asked the board to take more time with the issue as transition is difficult for the clients.

Kris Ainsworth presented a petition with 1,700 names in support of SCI she gathered up in short order. "We as parents are pretty worried. We are asking you guys for some time," she said.

Melissa Warrick who has a daughter in the program said, "SCI is very important to our disabled residents. If it is sold, there is no guarantee that the non-productive wouldn't be let go. The county should be proud to continue this service."

Former board Marzloff said although "Service is our purpose" can no longer be found in the county's official directories, "those words still live in the hearts and minds of our county employees. Should these words not live on in the hearts and minds of our county administrator, board chair and each supervisor?"

County administrator Pat Thompson offered a proposal to slow the transition period.

"Rather than rushing the process, take 12-18 months to make the transition that would give us all of 2014 to work through a good transition. "I would commit to apply all excess revenues to SCI rather than the general fund. Then we could put together a transition team that will serve the people," Thompson said.

Supervisor Hood said, "We can do that with this resolution in place, we should pass the resolution. The Health and Human Services board wants to preserve it (SCI), but we have to balance the budget. It makes so much more sense to make it a private, non-profit (organization) as 64 of 72 counties (in Wisconsin) have.

CountyBoard Notes

--In an unusual move, the board passed a resolution to suspend rules requiring prior authorization for citizens to speak during the session. Supervisor Buck Malick protested the procedure but was overruled by chair Daryl Standafer. The resolution passed on a 14-3 vote.

--Next regular meeting is set for Aug. 6 in the Government Center at 9 a.m.

--The board approved a feasibility study to consolidate the St. Croix County and Pierce County 911 centers.

--The board passed a resolution establishing the county administrators pay for performance goals for July 1 - June 30.

--Guy Usher of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Hudson gave the invocation.

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