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‘We’ll know in the future how to handle it’

October 29, 2019 by Brian Jopek

The Oneida County board’s joint public works and highway committee on Thursday, Oct. 24 approved a motion to bring a financial resolution before the county board at its Nov. 12 meeting. 

The committee took the action after consulting with county finance director Darcy Smith. The resolution, essentially, would authorize the expenditure of roughly $50,000 from the county’s general fund in 2020 to cover costs associated with its bridge aid program and more specifically, financial assistance to towns for culvert replacement. 

However, Smith told The Lakeland Times on Friday, the plan has apparently changed from the meeting the day before. 

“I don’t think we’re going to end up doing that,” she said. “I don’t think there will be a resolution coming forward for funds from the general fund.”

What Smith said the committee will probably do instead is review different financial requests through the program from towns at its Nov. 7 meeting. 

“We’ll discuss it then,” she said. “I think what they’ll probably end up doing is making a motion to levy additional dollars for all the requests that come in that they approve.”

Also discussed at the meeting Thursday — and what has apparently helped lead to the situation — is the county’s lack of a bridge aid policy, designed to cover items such as culvert replacement towns could apply and receive some reimbursement for. 

After the meeting, committee chairman Robb Jensen said a written, approved bridge aid policy needs to be in place before the county’s 2021 budget hearing next year. 

“We’re gonna know what town requests are for bridge aid,” he said. “In the past, we’ve just said ... $25,000 and we’ve taken care of it.”

Jensen said what is happening is state statutes basically say there needs to be more available to the towns from the county which would need to put that money into its budget. 

“And so, when we get to August 2020, we’ll know what the bridge requests are for 2021,” he said. “This is one of those things where you can increase the tax levy outside of the net new construction to cover that bridge aid.”

Jensen said had a bridge aid policy, which will be developed and drafted in coming months, been in place for 2019, “we probably would have avoided having to do this.”

Highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek indicated during the meeting he hasn’t been able to find anything in writing as far as a county bridge aid policy.

“He can’t specifically find what it is,” Jensen said. “It’s one of those things, you know, it’s just an understanding.”

The county’s new bridge aid policy, he said, “would put it more in writing.”

“We’ll know in the future how to handle it,” Jensen said. “We still have to cover 2019 costs and then we’ll have some 2020 costs that the new policy doesn’t cover.”

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

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