Rarely are proclamations that come at the end of Jefferson County board meetings among the most meaningful items of the sessions, but the May 12 meeting’s “June Is Dairy Month” declaration carried considerable weight in the current COVID-19 environment that is severely affecting area farmers.
Presented by former dairy farmer and Jefferson County District No. 10 Supervisor Lloyd Zastrow, the proclamation declared June as “Dairy Month” in the county and state and offered “a dose of appreciation and encouragement” to area farmers.
Zastrow, however, remained at the microphone for several minutes after reading the proclamation to emphasize the dire situations that not only dairy farmers, but other agriculturalists in the area, are facing.
“The dairy industry and the balance of agriculture is really suffering in this pandemic,” Zastrow said, adding that, with schools not in session and restaurants closed, among other factors, milk is being dumped in large quantities in Jefferson County and statewide.
“And there was a milk surplus to begin with,” Zastrow said.
According to Zastrow, hogs are being euthanized, because there is not a profitable market for them and some beef animals are being kept on their farms when they would usually be at market, for the same reason.
“The price of beef is down,” Zastrow said. “Agriculture is in bad shape. Hopefully everybody can survive. These (small businesses) support families. People get concerned when we lose small businesses on Main Street, but these farms are also family supporting businesses and we are losing them.”
The county board and administration recognized several retirees Tuesday, among them Cheryl Streich of the human services department, who retired with 38 years and 10 months of service and Dennis Hummel of the highway department, who has 30 years and nine months in the county’s employ. Loretta Zick retired recently from the human services department with 26 years and six months of service, while Karen Tyne leaves human services with 13 years and four months in the office. Bonnie Peot leaves the health department with eight years of service.
As the county continues its work on the interurban trail, a 10.96-mile-long proposed recreational path between Watertown and Oconomowoc, the board on Tuesday authorized the parks department to seek funding from the Wisconsin DNR Natural Resources Stewardship Federal Recreational Trail Program and Land and Water Conservation Fund.
If the grants are awarded in sufficient amounts to help pay the cost of construction, Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier is authorized to accept the grants, sign grant contracts and perform all other duties necessary to comply with, and fulfill, the grant provisions. The grant would not exceed $875,753 and no tax levy is required for this request.
The board extended an emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 until June 9. The declaration makes it easier for the county to utilize contingency and other funds, as well as amend or suspend personnel policies in the best interest of the public, employee safety and county operations. It also can make the county eligible for emergency funds, and facilitates and expedites the use of various resources to protect people from the impacts of COVID-19 while maintaining continuity of operations for the county.
In the evening’s second public comment session, Jan Johnstone, owner of Highlights Media in Jefferson, spoke on behalf of small businesses in the city. Johnstone asked the county board for its assistance in allowing businesses to re-open in the City of Jefferson.
“I am hoping we can give places like salons and barbershops a chance to get their livelihoods back,” she said. “I am asking you guys to help us open up a little more quickly.”