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Ordinance enforcement concerns come to a head in Winchester

January 14, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The Winchester Town Board approved a motion on Jan. 6 allowing the town’s planning committee to review and write additional ordinances to comply with changes in state statute and update verbiage.

“We need to look at sending the ordinance package back for review, one or two at a time per month, because the state statutes have changed on us and we need to update the verbiage on some of them, not all of them,” town supervisor Sulo Wainio said.

Wainio serves on the town’s planning committee.

While the motion passed unanimously, the agenda item sparked a larger discussion during the meeting’s public comment section.

‘We don’t belong sitting here’

Of the concerns raised during public comment, one of the more prevalent revolved around issues with ordinance enforcement.

“If you’re going to redo ordinances, it would be nice if there would be some specific enforcement action, or direction that would be taken to cover these ordinances and enforce them,” Winchester resident Dick Smith asked.

Winchester resident Lee Stengele agreed with Smith, bringing the snowmobile ordinance to the board’s attention.

“I wrote it, so I know it, but Papoose Lake Rd., that’s part of snowmobile trail and they are flying down there,” Stengele said.

Stengele said that, at the end of the ordinance, it mentioned town board approval was needed for moving snowmobile trails.

“Evidently, you didn’t read any of the ordinances,” Stengele said, referencing an instance where Discianno had moved a snowmobile trail.

“If there is a snowmobile ordinance, I was not aware of it,” town chair Joe Discianno said. “The main thing we were trying to do was take traffic off of Townshed Rd., because we didn’t want a collision happening with a snowmobile and a plow truck.”

Stengele said following and enforcing ordinances needed to “start at the top,” otherwise residents and visitors wouldn’t care about them. 

“If the Town of Winchester doesn’t take action on something like that, and an accident does happen, aren’t we liable, then?” Discianno asked.

“I think you are right,” town supervisor Galen Brownewell said. “You just said the Town of Winchester, but that didn’t come across the board.”

Discianno asked if others knew what the snowmobile ordinance said.

“He (Stengele) wrote it, I reviewed it,” Wainio said. “The three of us, actually the four of us at this table, should know and understand all the ordinances that we have in this town.”

Wainio mentioned a “heated” discussion taking place at the previous town board meeting regarding ordinances and stated all the ordinances were posted on the website.

“We need to educate ourselves on the ordinances, otherwise, we don’t belong sitting here,” Wainio said.

Why write them?

Wainio said many of the ordinances specified penalties for violations, but violations had to be caught or brought to attention.

“It’s a really technical thing, because how do we, as a town, enforce the speed limits? You have to get either the DNR or the police out there,” Brownewell said.

Brownewell and Wainio recounted times the Department of Natural Resources and the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office had been brought in to monitor speeding violations.

“Why take the time to write them if there’s not going to be any effort or any plan to make them enforced?” Smith asked.

Wainio said many of the ordinances in town were required to have to protect from liability.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Brownewell said. “But you have to have something in there in the way of speed limits because, if you don’t, then it does hold the town liable because we didn’t have anything in there.” 

Brownewell agreed with Smith and Stengele, saying the issues did need to be addressed. 

Smith brought up the previous town board meeting, saying Brownewell and Wainio had gotten upset with Discianno for enforcing ordinances.

“He didn’t enforce any ordinances, he bypassed the ordinances, that’s what the deal was,” Brownewell corrected. “I don’t even want to bring that up, because to me, that’s a dead issue.”

“It may be a dead issue to you, but it’s not to us,” Winchester resident Mike Bantz said.

“We’re talking about two things,” Brownewell said. “We’re talking about issuing fines that the ordinances write and following the ordinance at all, that’s a big issue.”

Lighting updates

The board also tabled a discussion regarding new lighting options for the original section of the fire station and town meeting room pending more information on costs.

Discianno distributed estimates from Mark Boeldt of Midwest Electric of Mercer, LLC and Williams Electric of Mercer for the lighting updates.

“There are some rebates out there, I actually talked to a guy that comes into our establishment. He’s an electrician,” Wainio said. 

According to Wainio, he had gone through the building on Saturday night with the electrician, who had suggested retrofitting the light fixtures rather than going with new ones to save the town money.

Discianno said though Boeldt had mentioned retrofits, he hadn’t requested a price for the retrofits, but could get one for the board’s consideration. 

Midwest Electric submitted three bids, two for the installation of new lights in the fire truck area of the fire station and one for upgrading lights in the board’s meeting room.

The one bid for the fire station included specs for a particular light fixture for a total of $10,450 with a second bid for $9,340 should the other light fixtures be unavailable.

The bid from Williams Electric was $14,000.

“I’m not against it. It’d be much brighter, without a doubt,” Brownewell said. “Right now, I’m just concerned about spending that kind of money that we don’t have budgeted.”

The discussion returned to electricians in public comment, when a resident brought up a light outside of the library that was out for a while.

“Well, Sulo, if the electrician that you’re talking to would be,” Discianno began, but was interrupted by Wainio.

“He can’t work in Wisconsin. He’s an Illinois electrician highly involved with this, but he has given us a recommendation of an electrician to use that is very reasonable,” Wainio stated.

Discianno asked who that would be.

“Discuss it later,” Wainio said. “I can’t even think of his name. Don’t want to bring it out in the open right now, either.”

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected].


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