January 22, 2023
County Officials discuss State of the County
The January edition of Eggs & Issues featured county officials Nick Smiar, chair of the Eau Claire County Board, Kathryn Schauf, county administrator, and Rodney Eslinger, director of planning and development.
Eau Claire county has elected a new sheriff, Dave Riewestahl and circuit court judge, Beverly Wickstrom, as well as appointed a district attorney, Peter Rindal. According to Riewestahl, the department’s mission is recruitment and retention. Externally they are also focused on mental health and meth. Wickstrom filled the new 6th court and has also taken over AIM (alternative to incarcerating mothers).
First the officials described the financial state of the county. Next, the county officials outlined some accomplishments from 2022 and some focus areas for 2023. Finally, the officials also went more in-depth on certain on-going projects throughout the county.
Compared to last year, interest/penalties collected on delinquent taxes, zoning/permits and register of deeds filing fees have fallen while real estate transfer fees, and inserted earned on investments have gone up. Sales tax is also projected to have gone up. The county is expected to have a $1.6 million surplus, down from $4.5 million last year. Officials also discussed ARPA funds stating that $14.6 million is going to the county, $2.3 million is going to community partnerships and 2.9 million is going to broadband.
Accomplishments in 2022:
The Eau Claire county parks & forest department installed four new kiosks at its parks for people to purchase park passes at the parks with a credit card. The county also received additional park land near the Chippewa river as the county works to get more people outside and active.
New 6th courtroom has helped to speed things up in the justice system.
New highway facility is expected to open soon and will house meals on wheels kitchen.
The county has dedicated staff time to work with the homeless community to provide resources, as well as 2 staff members to help guide those who have been released from jail. The county also now has a dedicated crisis member to help law enforcement on calls relating to mental health.
Renew emphasis on increasing cybersecurity and keeping information systems updated.
Will expand crisis services, in cooperation with the sheriff's office, with money provided from the state.
The state has given 1.2 million to enhance economic support services.
The county is looking to add patrol deputies, recreational patrol and a jail lieutenant.
Throughout the county of Eau Claire, outside of the city of Eau Claire, there has been limited broadband access. In recent years, the broadband committee has been working to fix this problem. According to Eslinger In 2021 and 22 the county was awarded PSC broadband grants. The six towns and the county have also committed a combined $2.2 million of ARPA dollars to help fund the projects. The current broadband work covers 70% of the county’s population, which mostly includes the western part of the county. Eslinger said they hope to expand broadband to the rest of the county as well and are hoping Spectrum and their Spectrum’s rural digital opportunity fund can help achieve this goal.
Wisconsin Opioid Settlement Funds
Wisconsin countries have been leading the effort to hold those involved in the opioid crisis responsible for their roles in the opioid epidemic. Eau Claire county will receive approximately $300,000. The county created the Eau Claire Opioid Abatement Taskforce. There will be 11 members appointed by the county board. The board will work to recommend uses of the funds which will be used for abatement purposes like addiction treatment and adoption of clinical best practices.
Rural Partners Network (RPN)
The rural partners network is run by the federal government. It is meant to help those in rural areas find resources. The funding is meant to help create jobs and build infrastructure in rural areas. In order to receive this aid Eau Claire county partnered with multiple nearby cities and counties
Where is my money going?
In Eau Claire county, for an average person approximately $1,065.77 of their income tax goes to the county. Approximately 34% goes to public safety, 24% transportation & public works, 17% to general government, 16% to health services, and the remaining amounts going to culture & recreation, judicial and conservation & economic development.