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‘You’re attempting to connect it to something completely different’

February 14, 2020 by Beckie Gaskill

The Feb. 5 meeting of the Oneida County Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee began with a discussion regarding a road construction contract with the Town of Enterprise for the Hildebrand Lake Road extension. Assistant corporation counsel Michael Fugle spoke to the committee in regards to a recommendation from county board chairman Dave Hinz.
“There had been discussion at the last meeting regarding the approval of this,” Fugle said. “And Brian Desmond had drafted this contract. The idea is that it allocated any risk in terms of when the road is built in case any of the contractors would be on county land when building this road. It ensures that those contractors would have adequate insurance and that, related to the town road construction, that the town would be responsible to any damage to county land.” 
The town has irrevocable easement to construct a town road on that property, he said. The contract, he said, basically stated the town could not come back on the county for any damages.
“All we’re dealing here with is an insurance issue,” committee chairman Jack Sorenson said. “If the committee approves it, does it go any further?” 
He was advised the town had already signed it.
“Dave Hinz cannot be here today, because he is in Madison, but he had asked Brian Desmond, who asked me, to come here today and ask that you hold off on approving this contract until any outstanding legal issues relating to possible criminal charges and claims against county …” Fugle stated.
“What does that have to do with this?” Sorenson asked.
“Mr. Hinz would have been here personally,” Fugle said. “But he asked me to convey this to the committee.”
“So you’re indicating that we should delay — tell me if I’m wrong, because there’s outstanding legal issues in regards to Mr. Bilogan,” Sorenson said. “What does that have to do with this? This is a contract between the Town of Enterprise and Oneida County.”
Again Fugle stated Hinz indicated he wanted the committee to delay on approving the final contract and the county would then be legitimizing a process that was possibly fraught with legal issues. 
“I still don’t see the connection,” Sorenson said. “This has to do with the Town of Enterprise. You’re attempting to connect it to something completely different.”
“Dave would say the sole beneficiary of this town road is Bilogan’s property,” Fugle said.
“So what? So what?” Sorenson said. “The town already owns the right of way. This is nothing more than an insurance, telling the Town of Enterprise to get insurance to cover that. Am I wrong?”
Again Fugle stated he was conveying the wishes of Hinz.
“I’m asking you a question, counselor. Am I wrong?” Sorenson asked again. “I’m not asking what you are conveying. I’m asking if I’m wrong.”
Committee member Alan VanRaalte said since the notice of claim was to come before the LRES committee the next day, and the practical fact that the road would not be constructed within the next month, he did not have a problem going with the recommendation to hold off on approval of the contract.
“I don’t have a problem with what Alan is saying,” Sorenson said after there was more discussion on the point. “I do have a problem with Oneida County holding up an insurance agreement with the town because of something that’s outside. That’s where I have a big problem.” 
The committee passed holding off on approval of the contract, with Sorenson the only “nay” vote.

Problem wolves
Laurie Groskopf from Wisconsin Wolf Facts also spoke to the board at the February meeting regarding problem wolves being moved into Oneida County. Problem wolves are often relocated, she said, and due to that relocation, often meet with an untimely end. Those animals are unfamiliar with their surroundings or may find themselves near a pack of which they are not a part. Many wolves, she said, had met with a bad end for reasons such as this. 
Groskopf has sent a request to the county clerk. In 2010, she said, many counties, including Oneida County, had passed a resolution stating the county felt the wolf population was sufficient and asked the Department of Natural Resources follow the wolf plan, which at that time, was for 350 wolves.
Groskopf asked the county consider amending the current resolution or drafting a new resolution stating the county does not want problem wolves relocated to the county from other areas.
“Thirty-six counties passed this resolution,” Groskopf said. “In the beginning there was no language in there about moving wolves to another county that were causing problems. The reason we might want something in there like that is because wolves learn behaviors. Once they learn them, they tend to be habitual.” 
She said not only can relocated wolves themselves run into problems, but humans in those areas could also have issues with a wolf with problem learned behaviors. 
She also presented the committee with payments made due to wolf depredations and harassments. A wolf got into Forest of Antlers near Harshaw and killed a trophy buck. The reimbursement on that, she said, was $9,500. The wolf returned and continued to kill deer. While the owner did not continue to ask for reimbursement, they very well could have, she said. The payment list from the 1990s showed a total of $55,000 reimbursed in one facility in that year. It was decided to move that wolf in order to not have to pay more reimbursements, effectively creating a problem for another county.
In the 1990s, she said, a female wolf was moved to the Alvin and Nelma area, which quickly moved down to the Pelican Lake area. Forest County, she said, was “quite mad” about this, and then created a stand alone resolution stating they would not accept problem wolves from other counties.
“Keep in mind, the state does not have to honor an advisory resolution, and you’ve had experience with that in other areas of your deliberations. So they can ignore you on this,” Groskopf said. 
She said she was not aware the relocation program was still going on until she learned about it in Jackson County.
She said she went through the 36 resolutions that had passed, noting 15 of them passed before the Forest County ordinance stating they did not approve of problem wolves being relocated to their county. Oneida County, she said, was one of the 15 who passed their ordinance before this language came to be. 
Groskopf said the easiest thing to do is to amend the current resolution with one line regarding relocation. While the state and federal government have both told her they “don’t care” what counties have in a resolution, but that did not make her want to “go away.” If the animal in the Oneida County situation were not on the endangered species list, it would have been destroyed, because they did not want those big payments being made.
“My personal opinion is, the DNR should be given the authority to euthanize any role wolves and to test the entire pack to determine whether there are cross breeds in there, which might be one of the issues,” said committee member Alan VanRaalte. “But that’s not where we’re at.”
Groskopf said a wolf delisting would be announced again in March, which looked favorable, but would likely be held up by pro-wolf groups who would sue, unless congress were to intervene.
“The other thing I would say, I’m just not inclined to put a lot of time and effort on my own part, and on part of the staff, when we are coming to a trying period when we are hiring people and are training people, and before we know the outcome in Douglas County, I’m not inclined to spend any more time on this,” VanRaalte said. He said he would vote no on any resolution, as the state and federal government would not pay attention to it anyway.
Groskopf said it could be as simple as adding one line to the existing resolution. The motion to amend the current resolution passed, with VanRaalte the only “no” vote. The amended resolution would be updated and brought to the next committee meeting, to be considered to be sent to the full county board.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].

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