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Citizens oppose Baldwin Ag Center move

A proposal to close and sell the Baldwin Ag Center and move the offices to the Government Center in Hudson met with stiff opposition Tuesday morning at the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Concerned citizens in the eastern part of the county, most of them farmers or with a connection to the 4-H programs, lined up to voice their disapproval of plans to move operations to Hudson.

The plan was unveiled at a public informational meeting Sept. 25 at which some 50 persons attended.

“Keep the extension office in Baldwin. The Ag center is in a perfect location. This is where agriculture is in the county. I hope the county board considers this. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said John Van Dyk, chairman of Erin Prairie town board.

Susan Gausman urged the board to consider the importance of the Baldwin center to 4-H clubs in the county.

“There are 18 4-H clubs in the county, 12 are located east of Baldwin. You don’t realize how much we use the Ag Center after hours, evenings and Saturdays,” she said.

She was concerned the same kind of access wouldn’t be available with the facility moved to Hudson.

“To move would have a negative impact,” she said.

Jackie Mitchell, town of Erin Prairie, asked, “Why would anybody break apart one of the most efficient government services?”

Don Schumacher, who farms south of Baldwin asked the board to “hold off on a decision so county and federal government can work out a rental agreement.”

Gerald Croes, town of Stanton and a Farmers Union representative, said, “The core of agriculture in St. Croix County is Baldwin. If you move 4-H to Hudson it’s going to disappear.”

Dave Kruschke, a town of Stanton farmer said, “Keep the Ag Center in Baldwin where it is. It’s a one-stop shop. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it should be.”

During administrator Pat Thompson’s report, he acknowledged the concern and said he would be in contact with those who spoke.

He said the marketing and soliciting of bids for the sale of the Ag Center has been authorized but there is no final proposal on the plan.

The cost to maintain the building is $55,000 a year.

“The sale proceeds will reduce future debt and tax levy,” Thompson said. Final sale and terms must be approved by the county board. About 20 staff members would be moved to the Government Center from Baldwin.

Supervisor Ron Kiesler proposed seeking a short-term lease for the Ag Center until things are settled.

County Board Notes:

• Scott Cox, 50, was appointed corporation counsel filling the position vacated by Don Gillen. Cox has been corporation counsel for Dunn County since 1995. He was scheduled to start Nov. 4. In announcing the appointment, County Administrator Pat Thompson said Cox has over 24-years legal experience in both the public and private sector. Liz Rohl has filled in during the interim.

• Pam Bellrichad, victim witness coordinator, received the Victim Service Provider Award from Attorney J.B. Van Hollen in May. District Attorney Eric Johnson acknowledged her efforts for victims and witnesses in the Schaffhausen murder trial.

• Tabatha Hansen, financial director, recently reported the cost to the county for the Schaffhausen trial and related matters currently totals $126,000.

• Lisa Leahy was recognized for receiving the Wisconsin Nursing Home Social Workers Association 2013 social worker of the year award.

• Pat Thompson was awarded the International City/County Management (ICMA) 30-year service award.

• Pastor Arthur Lee Parks III of Hope Fellowship in Somerset gave the invocation.

• The next regular board meeting was set for Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. in the Government Center.

• Tom Krueger of Deer Park spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked for a reduction of the speed limit on County Rd H near the village to 45 mph.

• The board passed an ordinance in regard to amending, repealing and reenacting portion of the zoning of agricultural districts by a 15-1 margin. Fred Horne voted against the measure and Fred Yoerg, Tom Hawksford and Brian Hurtgen were absent.

• The board approved a resolution for county conservation aid grants for 2014-18 by a 16-0 margin.

• The board passed a resolution opposing Wisconsin ACT 20 of 2013 by a 14-2 margins. Tim Hood and Richard Ottino voted against. The Act requires law enforcement employees to live with a 15 mile radius of a certain point in the county but not necessarily be residents of the county.