Close to 50 people from all around Lafayette County participated in a listening session hosted by Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Todd Novak at Town Bank on Monday, Jan. 23.
Several citizens stood up to voice many concerns, with most of them including broadband, transportation, water quality and education. The number one problem was the lack on money coming to Lafayette County to help with these many issues.
Sen. Marklein had mentioned that about this time last year during a meeting in the same room, several people voiced their concerns about broadband internet in the area and that they worked on writing a grant application. They have since received a grant in September 2016 for $86,086 to expand broadband access in Lafayette County.
Bob Beech from rural Argyle and Ted Gisske from rural Blanchardville commented that internet service is hard to come by but has become a must to do any job from sheep farming to running an engineering business. Gisske stated that the state should have a mandate on internet providers to be required to show up and help customers get their internet. Beech mentioned that if “we want to be competitive in the world, we need to have the tools as good as those who we are competing against.”
Others wanted to see more funding for rural roads like James Metz of Gratiot and Dale Wiegel of Darlington. Wiegel commented, “Just step out my front door and you will see one of the worst roads in Lafayette County.” Darlington Mayor Dave Breunig echoed that instead of raising taxes on gas or creating tolls to raise the sales tax. Dennis Lobdell stated that the roads are bad and getting worse and “if you cut out rural Wisconsin and these rural roads, then the state can’t prosper.”
Kriss Marion, Lafayette County Board Supervisor for Blanchardville and a spokeswoman for Pecatonica Pride, a small local group that recently received a $20,000 grant from Wisconsin’s DATCP to help water quality monitoring, spoke up about ground water and how Lafayette County has nine impaired waters, which is a lot. She stated that she would like to see funding for karst mapping as Lafayette County has several karst features and more well testing. Both Emmett Reilly of Shullsburg and Gary McCrea of Benton voiced their concerns about the wastewater treatment.
All around the room, people spoke up about not having enough money for the rural public schools versus voucher schools. Jeff Jacobson, District Administrator for the Dodgeville School District addressed his worries with revenue cap relief, summer school and the expansion of voucher schools not helping. Don Osterday of Darlington wanted to let Marklein and Novak know that guns on school or college campuses did not seem like a good idea and would cause more trouble. Osterday also mentioned having a better plan for Financial Aid for those who really need it would be better than the plan to cut everyones tuition by $100.
Jason King, Darlington Police Chief mentioned issues facing law enforcement with immigrants not have access to drivers licenses and DNA testing taking a long time to get results back, which leads to the perpetrator being able to continue to wreak havoc.
At the end of the listening session both Marklein and Novak felt it went very well.
“Pretty much what we heard here today is what we have been hearing all over the district: transportation, school funding and broadband has been a big issue,” Novak stated.
“There has been good participation in all locations. We have had a lot of people with different backgrounds and concerns. I have an awareness on what is on people’s minds. Some things are not new to me but helps me reinforce how important some of these are,” Marklein added.