Think of this column as a collection of Thanksgiving leftovers in advance of Thursday’s holiday:
Come on down: On page 6A of your favorite weekly newspaper is a story about the “mixed signals” Grant County claims to be receiving from the City of Platteville over combining city and county dispatch.
There’s a good reason for those “mixed signals.” I have yet to find anyone in this city who believes that combined dispatch would benefit Platteville, the largest city in Grant County even if you don’t include UW–Platteville. This city spent $10 million for a police station that includes a state-of-the-art dispatch center. To close or reduce its operation would waste the city’s investment. On the other hand, Sheriff Nate Dreckman says county dispatch can’t handle the current call load as it now exists.
There’s also the sticky subject of which government would control dispatch operations — Grant County, the city, or a separate entity. The county board’s difficulties working together has created some skepticism with county government in general, which is the fault of the county board, not the county’s employees. (If Thanksgiving dinners were as fractious as county board meetings, Thanksgiving wouldn’t exist.)
There is, however, one scenario that on the surface might work — moving county dispatch to Platteville. The Sheriff’s Department is considering renovations of its building, including the jail. There doesn’t seem to be a specific reason county dispatch needs to be in Lancaster. (In fact, in a county the size of Rhode Island, decentralizing county functions might make more sense.) Deputies neither start nor end their shifts at the Sheriff’s Department, where all dispatching except for Platteville and UW–Platteville takes place, unless they have a compelling reason to be there. The city would also have more workers downtown, which has its own benefits for downtown.
Not to poo-poo this subject, but … Speaking of sticky subjects: At first glance, my inner seventh-grader laughed at the Fennimore Times headline last week: “Council talks animal feces ordinance.”
Read the story on page 12B, though, and you’ll find it refers not to dog droppings (which I noticed this summer show up in places they shouldn’t in downtown Platteville), but horse manure in Fennimore streets, usually from Amish buggies.
The former is bad citizenship by dog owners. (That’s the sort of counterargument to dog owners who ask why their dogs aren’t allowed in municipal parks.) The latter was a significant health hazard in major cities in the 1800s. According to Eric Morris, author of an urban planning master’s thesis on the reality of horse-based transportation in 19th-century cities, outbreaks of typhoid and infant diarrheal disease resulted from spikes in the population of flies, which are of course attracted to manure from various sources. Morris wrote that the development of the automobile was viewed in the early 20th century as an environmental and public health savior for large cities.
This is not an insignificant issue. Horse manure in the streets is unsightly in the cool times of the year, smelly during the warm times of the year, and not really a good way to promote business and tourism in any time of the year. Yes, this is an agricultural area, and farm animals don’t really care where they go when they go. But in areas that have regularly scheduled horse rides on municipal streets, accommodations are required for when the horses have to go, so to speak. Given the growth of the Amish population in this area over the past few years, Fennimore might be the template with which other communities handle this issue.
(Did I really think I’d be writing about animal waste when I came to Platteville six months ago? Better question; Did I think I’d be writing about animal waste when I graduated from UW–Madison 24 years ago?)
Being observant I: I went to cover the pickup truck–tractor crash on U.S. 151 Nov. 9, and noticed many of the Platteville firefighters were wearing their dress uniforms under their turnout gear. One of the engineers wore a reflective vest over his suit. The reason was that the firefighters were on their way to attending the wake for Audrey Izzard, mother of Fire Chief Dave Izzard, when the call went out. If there’s such a thing as appropriate irony, that’s it.
Being observant II: After the ribbon-cutting for Water Street (which you can see on page 1) Wednesday, it occurred to me that in the six months I’ve been in Platteville I had never seen North Water Street barricade-free and officially open to traffic. So I went for a drive on North Water up to a few miles north of Platteville on Wisconsin 80. (Which is a picturesque drive, by the way.) At one point I came upon a clump of something with several large birds on top of it. It was a dead raccoon, perhaps highway 80’s first official post-construction roadkill. To quote in Latin, sic transit gloria.
Does anyone else think it’s strange that the state Department of Transportation would put a roundabout near Platteville High School? I do not oppose roundabouts (they are vastly preferable to four-way stops and stoplights, of which Platteville now has one more), but putting a roundabout where a lot of brand-new drivers drive seems like a potential bonanza for body shops and auto insurance agents.
It’s Friday somewhere: While driving back from a future Journal story, I heard Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” which is destined to be as much an anthem as Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” or Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night.” The problem is that Toby Keith is not a rock act, so rock and classic rock stations are unlikely to play the song, even though rock music is an amalgam of country, jazz and blues, and even if red Solo cups are the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals. (Recall that Shania Twain recorded country and pop versions of “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”) The challenge, therefore, is for a rock act to record its own version so that all of America, regardless of musical taste, may proceed to party.