After more than two months since the “Safer at Home” orders were initially put out across the state, people are starting to get anxious.
Even more so since the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently struck down those orders, which were to expire on May 26. However, the Dane County Health Department is still imposing restrictions and released its own Forward Dane Plan to safely reopen the county in phases — similar to the Badger Bounce Back Plan.
Milwaukee County is under similar restrictions as both counties are two of the most populated across the state.
At its May 19 meeting, a few DeForest Village Board trustees voiced their displeasure with being singled out under those restrictions, especially with the smaller village being lumped in.
Trustee Jason Kramar was one of the board members who thinks that the village, and county, should be allowed to open all business, much like Columbia County and others are slowly doing.
A question was posed to Dane County Supervisor Maureen McCarville, who was in on the village board meeting, about whether the Dane County Board had any say on issuing the restrictions.
“The health department issued the order, it’s not coming from the board,” she said. “We are following what the health department is telling us.” She added that the board is aware that people are frustrated.
Kramar went on to question the maximum number of people allowed in a “gathering.” He wondered how 24 people in one area is now considered safe, but having 26 people causes everyone to be in danger. He expressed his desire for the board to take legal action against the county to remove all these restrictions.
Of the 14,396 confirmed cases in the state as of May 22, 587 are in Dane County. It was noted that there are 11 current hospitalizations in the county for COVID-19. Specific locations of where cases come from are not available due to HIPAA regulations.
“I’d be surprised if we had one case from here,” Kramar said. “When this was first issued it was a fear of the unknown … We’ve taken every reasonable effort we can to accommodate fears. Now, there’s no reason for all of Dane County to be locked down.”
Village Attorney Al Reuter said that the Dane County order can be challenged, but certain challenges are difficult to make. He added that this county order could be long gone by the time the case reaches the State Supreme Court.
A special meeting of the village board was to be held a few days after the May 19, but it was eventually canceled.
If the village were to go against the guidelines, it would be a violation of a county ordinance, Reuter said.
Village President Judd Blau agreed with the displeasure of the ongoing restrictions and would like conversations to happen with people in the county health department. He said that colleagues have called and received zero response in similar collaboration efforts.
“To me, this started as a ‘flatten the curve’ and protect the hospitals from getting overrun,” he said. “The hospitals are not overrun. Of a county of 500,000 people, there are (500) confirmed cases. The curve has been flattened.”
Blau said he has gone to Menards, Walmart, Home Depot and Pick n’ Save, noting that the stores have been as busy as ever. He added that small businesses are the ones being hurt, and with less or no restrictions in Columbia County — just three miles away — he is afraid some of those businesses may move out of DeForest.
While disappointed, Blau was not in favor of seeking legal action.
In a related matter, the board discussed what should happen to the Fourth of July fireworks display. Heike Compe of the Deforest Windsor Chamber of Commerce wanted direction from the board of what to do. The festivities leading up to the fireworks have been canceled, but she wondered if it was a good idea to pursue with just fireworks, since the surrounding areas have canceled theirs. She also wondered if they should try and have something later in the summer. The decision to go on or pull the plug is approaching.
Trustee Bill Landgraf said he wanted “all or nothing” of the event.
Kramar said he was not ready to pull the plug on things yet and having the fireworks would be a good morale boost.
Trustee Taysheedra Allen understood both sides of the argument, but is hestitent to allow the fireworks because of her nursing background.
Kramar also asked about a drive-thru style to the fireworks. The concern there was where to put all the cars.
Blau said that if the village has fireworks, it entices people to show up, and he doesn’t want the village to be liable for whatever may happen. He added that he wants to be on the side of having fireworks, but having a lengthy discussion about whether it’s safe or not plays to the point of cancelling them for July 4. Ultimately, the board voted against allowing the fireworks to happen by a 4-2 vote. Kramar and Landgraf were both in support of the fireworks display.
In other news, Blau introduced a new resolution to the board in regards to vacating and discontinuing a portion of Innovation Drive located west of the Tuscan Ridge condominiums and east of the Yahara River. It’s in conjunction with the completion of the Innovation Drive bridge. The vacated land will remain village property and a public hearing on the matter was set for July 7.
In actionable news, the board approved an ordinance to amend part of the DeForest Municipal Code to delegate operator’s license issuance authority to Village Clerk LuAnn Leggett.
The board unanimously passed a resolution that waves interest and penalties on certain delinquent property tax installment payments that are due in 2020. Village Administrator Steve Fahlgren said that the decision doesn’t not affect the village’s budget.
“The county passed this and is bearing the risk,” he said.
The board also passed a resolution to extend the emergency orders within the village that fall under previous resolutions.
The village set aside $50,000 in a contingency fund for spending during the pandemic. Fahlgren said only about $7,500 has been used thus far, with $4,000 being spent on technology for various staff working from home.
The resolution passed by a 4-1-1 vote with Bill Landgraf not in approval and Jason Kramar abstaining from the vote.
Committee of the Whole meeting
Up for discussion at the Committee of the Whole meeting was the water operating system for the new splash pad coming to Fireman’s Park no later than 2022. The two options were a circulating system or a flow-through system. Director of Public Services Kelli Bialkowski sent a memo to the village board and various department heads listing the pros and cons of both systems. Bialkwoski said the plan was to go with a flow-through system because it’s less expensive and comes with fewer restrictions. The extra budget could allow for more features to be put in place. Katie MacDonald, a consultant hired by the village who is an engineer with Parkitecture + Planning in Madison, said that they looked at using the existing bio-retention basin, but it was not sized properly to take on the quantity of water that will be potential put out by the splash pad.
MacDonald colleague, Blake Theisen, a landscape architect, added that most standalone splash pads use the flow-through system. They are able to use any feature, outside of large dump buckets. The system has a low-flow nozzle with the same effects as a recirculation system, but uses less water. He said when you have a recirculation system, it acts like a pool with various restrictions.
The village is still in the grant application process for $200,000 of the overall cost. The decision comes in August. If DeForest is awarded the grant, the funds are not available until summer of 2021, with construction in the fall and an opening date in 2022. If the grant is not awarded, the process comes back to the board with the hopes of immediate construction with a finished date of summer 2021.