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Public comments show strong opinions on County Board size



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August 18, 2010 | 07:30 AM
Elkhorn — Board size may well be the "third rail" in Walworth County Board politics, at least for now.

Just the suggestion put forward through a letter by Supervisor Jerry Grant that the board might consider expanding, drew some passionate public comment, both for and against a larger board.

Those opposed had little sympathy for the claim that supervisors were overworked. An opponent of a larger board threatened to cut even more seats if supervisors continued to consider adding to the board.

"If it is too much work, quit," said Jim Simons of Spring Prairie. "People voted to have a smaller County Board. This is arrogant disregard of the people of Walworth County," Simons said.

"Revenues are decreasing," said Patricia Simons of Lyons. "To raise your costs (by expanding the County Board) is irresponsible."

"We are not in favor of increasing the board at this time," said Jennifer Karr of Elkhorn. "This is not a time to increase taxes and increasing the board would probably increase taxes."

Robert Arnold of Elkhorn, a former county board member, said the cut created efficiencies. "I have to congratulate Mr. (David) Bretl (county administrator) for reorganizing the committee system," Arnold said. Most supervisors knew what they were taking on when they ran for election, he added.

Bret Strong of East Troy, whose group, Citizens for Responsible Government, got the board-cutting referendum on the ballot, said taxes were not a consideration in cutting the board's size.

"It wasn't about saving money. It was about making rational decisions," Strong said. He said a smaller board meant a more efficient and reasonable county government. He said a cut to 11 supervisors was suggested because the average size of a county board in the U.S. is five members.

However, if the board persisted in talking about expanding, Strong left with this threat: "Next time we'll be taking you down to nine."

Not everyone was against the suggestion of a larger county board.

Mary Burpee of Elkhorn said the board works hard to accomplish its goals of servicing the county.

"I appreciate the hard work it takes to do these accomplishments," Burpee said. She said that 11 supervisors aren't enough to adequately represent everyone in their districts. "I want my county board supervisors to respond to me," she said.

. "It's important that board members not spread themselves too thin," said Loren Waite, the Sugar Creek Town Board chairman. Waite claimed that the citizens' group that pushed for the board reduction convinced voters that cutting the board would cut costs.

"I don't see it working that way," said Waite. Cutting the board from 25 to 11 saved only a few cents on taxes at most, he said.

Dorothy Burwell, former county board supervisor, said the larger districts make it hard for supervisors to fully represent the voters.

"It must be difficult to stay in touch with constituents with the larger districts," she said.

Burwell said that while the average county board may have just five members, most five-member boards had full-time supervisors supported by full-time staffs.

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