Iron County hires lawyer to assist with mine
HURLEY — The Iron County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to accept a recommendation from the Iron County Mining Impact Committee to hire a lawyer in assisting the county with the mining project in Upson, Wis., during a meeting Tuesday at the Iron County Courthouse.
Committee chair Leslie Kolesar recommended the board approve the hiring of attorney Christopher Jaekels, of Davis and Kuelthau in Milwaukee. According to Kolesar, Jaekels has “extensive” experience in mining litigation as well as municipal law and Native American affairs.
The committee interviewed four attorneys over the course of two meetings, and Kolesar said that they were all “excellent candidates.”
One thing that all four attorneys mentioned was that they would help the county find additional funds to help pay for legal fees, instead of having the county pay for it itself.
A motion was made and approved by the county board unanimously to proceed with Jaekels.
In addition to hiring Jaekels, the board briefly discussed the drafting of a mining ordinance for the county. The Iron County Comprehensive Planning/Land and Zoning Committee is holding a public hearing Monday to discuss the ordinance and possibly have the county board vote on the ordinance as soon as Tuesday.
Mining impact committee member and supervisor Larry Youngs, of Hurley, questioned why the ordinance had to be passed “so fast.”
According to supervisor James Kichak, the chairman of the committee was advised by multiple attorneys to draft an ordinance as soon as possible.
“All recommendations were to do this as soon as we could,” Kichak said.
County chairman Joe Pinardi advised county zoning administrator Tom Bergman to get in touch with Jaekels as soon as possible to have him look over the ordinance and see if he had any recommendations about it.
Bob Collins, of Oma, Wis., addressed the board about having septic pumps be throughly inspected or pumped every three years, as required by the state of Wisconsin.
Collins spoke to the board during May’s monthly meeting and said that he had been working with Bergman to raise the percentage of pumps and systems that are inspected each year.
“Right now, the county sends out about 300-400 notices to residents about getting their septic systems inspected,” Collins said. “The return rate on those notices is between 50 and 60 percent. That is not good enough.”
Collins cited Vilas county having penalties for residents who don’t comply with the requirements.
Bergman told the county board that currently, the county does not have a sanitary ordinance, and that he doesn’t believe that the county should have one because of regulations that are in place throughout the county when dealing with septic systems.
The goal, according to Bergman, is to complete the inventory of septic systems throughout the county by the end of the year, to “even the playing field.”
“My opinion is to look at fees for uninspected septic systems after the inventory is complete,” Bergman said. “Once the inventory is complete, the number of notices sent out each year will increase and then you can have a fair playing field, so you are not just going after residents with newer systems.”
In 2012, the county received a grant for software to help track septic systems, going as far back as 1992. That software will help complete the inventory.
Zona Wick, of the Iron County Health Department, said that her department will also assist in the effort. The health department, according to Wick, is called to areas where septic systems have failed, causing health hazards. Having properly maintained systems could help alleviate the problem.
“The health department is here to support the board in whatever decision they make,” Wick said. “Our department can certainly work with Tom’s department to help alleviate this problem.”
The board approved a motion to allow Pro Act to send discount prescription cards to Iron County residents, who don’t have insurance, to help pay for medications. The program is no cost to the county, and the motion was recommended by the finance committee.
Stumpage for the county was listed as $1,031,353.77. Last year at this time, the stumpage was at $597,596.57.