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Manitowish Waters town chairman stays after the DNR over boat patrol issues

Hanson: ‘We spend the time out there’

April 17, 2020 by Brian Jopek

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continues to tell the town of Manitowish Waters “no” with regard to any reimbursement costs for the town’s water patrol boat. 

The boat was purchased for $31,500 in May 2018, the understanding by the town being there would be some reimbursement from the DNR over the course of five years to help offset the cost of the boat. 

So far, the town’s reimbursement claims following two boating seasons have left it more than $12,000 “in the hole” as the DNR has denied the claims the town filed for the 2018 and 2019. 

The reason for the denials given by the DNR is the water patrol, using the new boat, didn’t issue a citation for every 16 hours spent patrolling, the DNR standard.

The situation has been a topic of discussion at town board meetings during the past year. 

In fact, during the December town board meeting, town chairman John Hanson brought up the possibility of doing something, such as painting the black water patrol boat a different color and maybe not making the “Police” decals on it so large. 

“It’s black, it sticks out like a sore thumb and you have those big police letters on there,” Hanson said at the December town board meeting. “We’re just not gonna catch anybody.”

At the same time, however, he also stressed the idea wasn’t to go out there and catch somebody, as he wasn’t in favor of some type of quota system. 

“But we’re kind of between a rock and hard place here,” Hanson said. 

See where it goes

At the March 10 meeting, Hanson provided an update, saying he sent a letter to Wisconsin DNR secretary Preston Cole and made sure Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Rob Swearingen also received copies. 

He said he’d received a letter from April Dombrowski, the DNR’s Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section Chief for its Bureau of Law Enforcement. 

“So, secretary Cole turned it over to her to respond,” Hanson said. “And it’s the typical bureaucratic jargon.”

Because the town didn’t issue enough citations or warning tickets, he explained, the town’s reimbursement, which he said would be for the partial expense of the water patrol and depreciation on the boat, was denied. 

“When we bought the new boat, normally we would get reimbursement for depreciation over five years, which would basically pay for the boat,” Hanson said. “That was also denied because we didn’t issue enough citations.”

Noting it is costing the town roughly $8,000 a year, he said he felt it was “a lousy criteria to use for reimbursement.”

“It could be one of ‘em but it’s a major one that they use,” Hanson said and told town supervisors Bob Becker and Mike Kramer he asked the DNR about issuing citations in the future and getting the town reimbursed for the first two years of missed boat depreciation. 

He said the answer was no.

“It’s not retroactive,” Hanson said. “So, as it stands right now, until such time that the regulations are changed, we just have to make sure we issue enough citations or warning tickets to get reimbursed which to me, is nothing more than a quota system.”

He said he asked if DNR wardens had their salaries docked if they didn’t issue enough citations or warning tickets.

“I didn’t get any response to that,” Hanson said. 

Becker said DNR wardens were on the Manitowish chain of lakes “a number of times” last year and didn’t issue anything. 

Hanson said Tiffany was looking into the matter. 

“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “We spend the time (required) out there, we haven’t had any reportable accidents in ... I don’t know how long. Quite awhile but that doesn’t count.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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