CRAWFORD COUNTY - The Crawford County Land Conservation Committee took up a variety of issues at their March 14 meeting. The meeting is divided into two sections – Land Use and Soil and Water Concerns.
The Land Use portion of the March 14 meeting started with Real Property Lister Gigi Collins reporting that all property assessment workbooks have gone out to the assessors. She reported that the mapping polygons for the Town and Village of Wauzeka are complete, and that when the process is completed for the Village of Gays Mills, then the whole county will be completed.
Next up for Collins was discussion of the project to verify property lines and ownership for an area in the Town of Clayton. She has proposed creation of an Assessor’s Plat, similar to the one recently successfully concluded in the Town of Seneca.
“Since our last meeting, I have sent a letter to all involved landowners,” Collins reported. “The county has delinquent tax property in the area, and our parcels constitute almost half of the total area.”
Collins pointed out that in the Town of Seneca project, landowners were required to pay the cost of creation of the Assessor’s Plat. She said, given the high percentage of county owned parcels in the area in question, she proposes to try to secure grant funding for the project. She said that this would mean delaying the project for a year until the grant funding could be acquired. Otherwise, the cost to landowners would be about $800-$900 apiece. She said that completion of the project under her proposed plan could take up to two years.
“Is it okay to delay the process that long?” committee member Supervisor Gary Koch asked.
“Yes. One landowner, Mr. Hadley, has already paid to have a survey done,” Collins responded. “As a result of that survey, he has an estimated location of his house and property lines.”
“How far are the property lines in the area off?” committee chairman Supervisor Dave Olson asked.
“They’re off a lot,” Collins responded.
Collins explained that unlike every other township in the county, Town of Clayton did not have a ‘Section 16,’ for a school, and she said this had complicated determination of the property lines. She said there are also problems with deeds regarding the river edge versus the river center.
“We need to figure out exactly what the county owns so we can sell it to recoup unpaid property taxes,” Collins explained.
The committee voted unanimously to have Collins look into securing grant funding for the project.
After that, the committee reviewed and approved a list of Certified Survey Maps (CSM). One CSM in the Town of Seneca presented some thorny issues regarding the county’s authority to vacate a road right-of-way.
“There are 17 lots on the road in question, which is not a public road, on a cul-de-sac,” Collins reported. “The landowners association is willing to vacate the road right-of-way so the landowner can build.”
Collins reported that assessor Rich Marks had expressed concern about the ability of plows and other emergency vehicles to be able to turn around in the area if the right-of-way is vacated. She pointed out that to do so could potentially prevent the road from ever becoming a town road.
The committee moved to approve the CSM contingent on reviewing agencies, but make it clear that the county cannot approve vacating the road right-of-way, which it has no jurisdiction over.
“I recommend that we act to ensure that all of the landowners are aware of our concerns and the implications of vacating the right-of-way,” Collins said.
Zoning and Sanitation Technician Jon Mayer reported that “everything was going well,” and that he had been working with landowners around flood plain and shoreland zoning issues.
Mayer led discussion of an issue in the Town of Freeman with a resident that had been living on her property for over 25 years without running water or a septic system.
“She has paid her fine, but beyond that, we really don’t quite know what to do,” Mayer reported. “You can’t install a septic system without water, and she’s been there for 25 years.”
County Conservation Director Dave Troester reported that Crawford County would be included this year in an audit by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). He said that each year, DSPS would audit several counties in the state.
Troester went on to report on his department’s septic system compliance project.
“We’ve wrapped up the 2022 folks, and have sent letters out to those who will be required to come into compliance in 2023,” Troester said. “From 2022, we have seven-to-eight septic system owners that have received an extension until May 1 because they are on a pumper’s list, and about a dozen that have a court date on May 15.”
Troester said that of those cited by the county, none of them have responded or made contact with his department. He said those septic system owners are in the process of receiving a second offense, with higher fines than for the first offense. He said there are also two septic system owners that are in the process of receiving a first offense.
“Of those sent a letter in 2022 that didn’t sign for the letter, we had those served to them by the Sheriff’s Department,” Troester said. “The Sheriff’s Department does not want to do this in the future, so we will just send them letters. If they ignore the letters, then the fines will be added to their property tax bills.”
Troester said it was odd that the letters could not be delivered since his department sends them to the same address where property tax bills are sent.
“About 10 percent of the letters we send are returned, but 10 percent of property tax bills are not returned as undeliverable,” Troester pointed out.
Note: reached after the meeting, Troester told the Independent-Scout that Jon Mayer has resigned his position to pursue opportunities elsewhere. His last day on the job will be April 28, and the department is actively recruiting for someone to fill the Sanitation & Zoning Technician position.
Soil and Water Concerns
First up in the Soil and Water Concerns portion of the agenda, Troester reported on the results of the Conservation Poster Contest. He said that students from the Seneca and Wauzeka-Steuben school districts had entered – 75 entries in all.
“Our first place winners in each age category went on to the area competition in Viroqua,” Troester explained. “Coming out of the area competition, two posters from our county went on to the state competition, and Seneca’s Paxton Martin took third place in the Kindergarten/First Grade category.”
Next, Troester reported that the focus of this year’s Aquatic Invasive Species grant would be control of Purple Loosestrife. He reported his department is in the process of applying for a permit and looking for sites to release beetles, which can help to control the invasive plant.
“So far, we’ve received no applicants for the summer intern position,” Troester told the committee.
“I’m concerned to hear talk of releasing beetles for this,” committee member Mary Kuhn said. “I remember when they released Asian Beetles to control aphids, and now we have a beetle problem and no aphids.”
Troester responded that use of the beetles for this purpose is a technique that has been in use for a long time now.
“Purple Loosestrife is mainly a problem along waterways, for instance near Lynxville and Ferryville,” committee chairman Dave Olson observed.
Conservation Specialist Travis Bunting reported that he has worked with USDA-NRCS, and has gotten the NRCS funding for the year pretty well figured out. This means that he had a good idea of what his projects for the year will be, and said he expects to start bidding his projects out in the next few weeks.
Bunting also told the committee that he still has not heard back from the DNR about plans for repairs at the PL-566 flood control dam on Johnstown Road in Utica Township. He told the committee he expected to put the project out for bid the next week.
USDA-NRCS Resource Specialist for Crawford and Richland counties, Karyl Fritsche reported to the committee on a variety of matters:
“We are working on obligating the applications that were selected for funding in the first round of EQIP,” Fritsche said. “About half of our high priority ranked applications were funded.”
Fritsche said that the Conservation Stewardship Program application deadline had been extended to March 17, and that General Conservation Reserve Program is open for applications.
Last, Fritsche said that Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding allocations have been released. She said the money is not in the state yet to start obligating, but there will likely be many opportunities for participants looking for assistance with Climate Smart practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, grazing, pollinator habitat establishment, etc.
In the public comments part of the agenda, Forest Jahnke of Crawford Stewardship Project that his group supports more funding for county conservation staff. He also inquired about whether the department had received the updated Nutrient Management Plan for the proposed Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO in Marietta Township.
“Roth’s updated nutrient management plan is due to Wisconsin DNR by the end of March,” Jahnke observed. “I wondering what actions the committee plans to take once the updated plan is received, and whether you plan to verify that the acres contained in the updated plan are actually available for spreading. Do you plan to have an agronomist review it?”
“We can’t act on it until we see it,” committee chairman Supervisor Dave Olson said.Note: reached on Monday, April 3, Dave Troestr told the Independent-Scout that he has not yet received the updated NMP for Roth Feeder Pigs II from the DNR. He said, “lots of people are asking about it, though.