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‘That’s the thing’

February 07, 2020 by Brian Jopek

After a discussion that at times got heated, in December the Winchester Town Board, voted to, from that point on, follow town ordinances and protocols. 
Town supervisor Galen Brownewell went over in detail how town chairman Joe Discianno circumvented, as far as Brownewell was concerned, the town’s nuisance ordinance in addressing complaints he’d received about four abandoned properties.
Instead, Brownewell said Discianno worked with Vilas County public health director Laurel Draeger in getting citations issued to the property owners.
During the course of the discussion, Brownewell made it known he had no problem with the citations regarding the properties; it was, rather how the whole thing was handled. 
Essentially, he said and the town’s other supervisor, Sulo Wainio, had been left out of whatever was going on. 
Monday at the town board’s most recent meeting, it heard a presentation from Jay Woolf, a member of the town’s planning commission.
His presentation encompassed, basically, what it is the commission is bound to do and who its members are responsible to. 
When he finished, the town board took questions and comments from the audience.

‘We’re doing it gratis’
A fellow planning commission member of Woolf’s, Lee Stengele, reminded the town board all seven members of the commission are volunteers.
“They’re going through state statutes on their own time, reading all this stuff, writing ordinances and what have you,” he said. “Just so you guys know, we’re doing it gratis so it’s kind of hurtful when people are doing whatever they want and not caring about them (ordinances).”
Brownewell said enforcement was brought up during the town board’s January meeting. 
“We all know these are written up and there’s fees put to ‘em and stuff, but you know, unless we’re there, unless one of the board members are there when these violations take place ...” he began.
“Or somebody reports them,” Woolf said. 
“Yeah, but they have to do it in writing,” Brownewell said. “They have to stand up, they have to have something in writing. Lee, you know, you mentioned the snowmobiles were going down the road.”
He said once he was made aware of it, he contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“We can’t enforce that, snowmobiles speeding down a road,” Brownewell said.
That’s when the discussion took a different turn, relating to what occurred at the December meeting.  
“But it also starts at the town board,” Stengele said. “The town board must follow them.”
“I agree,” Brownewell said. “Absolutely. You mean like speed and stuff?”
“You guys can’t say ‘We’re the town board — we can do what we want,’” Stengele said. “No, you’ve got to follow the ordinances also. That’s the thing.”
He said again it was “very hurtful” for the planning commission’s members to be putting the work they do into establishing town ordinances “and people are doing what they want.”
Brownewell said again he agreed. 
“That’s part of what the problems been over the past couple months,” he said. “We have to follow these ordinances as a board as they’re written.”
“Right,” Stengele said. “As I said at the last meeting, it starts up there, at that desk, you guys follow ‘em, then it goes right on down the line. But if you guys aren’t gonna follow ‘em, why are we volunteers doing it? Why are we spending our time?”
The rest of the discussion revolved primarily around how people would be able to register complaints for ordinance violations, Stengele asking town chairman Joe Discianno at one point if the town’s website, undergoing some changes, could be utilized. 
After the meeting, Brownewell said he’d asked to have the planning commission and ordinance discussion on the agenda and because, primarily, of what occurred regarding town ordinances and the allegations Discianno wasn’t following them during the December meeting. 
“This is how I look at it,” he said. “It was brought up at that (December) meeting and after that point, to me, it was a dead issue.”
However, Brownewell said even though he considered it a “dead issue,” he was approached by other people about it.
“That’s why I wanted them (planning commission members) here to explain these ordinances are there to be followed,” he said. “And we have to follow them.” 
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].

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