County challenges validity of air monitoring site

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – County officials continue to push for the lifting of air quality restrictions in Sheboygan County.

County Administrator Adam Payne reported to the County Board at their Dec. 19 meeting that he and County Board Chair Thomas Wegner testified in Madison recently in support of a bill that would end air quality testing at the Kohler-Andrae State Park monitoring site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“The EPA has a monitoring station on the shore of Lake Michigan that is capturing predominantly emissions from other areas,” such as Chicago, Indiana and Illinois, Payne explained. “That is really punitive and unfair.”

The result is additional regulations and costs to businesses and individuals in the county that put them at a competitive disadvantage and hamper growth and expansion.

Payne explained that three years ago, at the request of local governments and chambers of commerce, the state Department of Natural Resources set up an air quality monitoring station in Haven off the lakeshore.

“After three years of data it has been determined that we are meeting EPA requirements,” for air quality at the Haven station, Payne stated.

“The EPA needs to listen and to date they have not,” Payne continued. “It is important to make the community aware this is an unfair and punitive regulation the EPA hangs its hat on. It boils down to good science and common sense.”

The bills Wegner and Payne testified in favor of would direct the DNR to stop funding the Kohler-Andrae monitoring station and request that the EPA accept the Haven monitoring station data.

The board received good financial news on the sale of bonds earlier in the day to finance capital projects.

Because the cost of the new transportation complex at State 67 and County J in the town of Plymouth is coming in below budget, the county was able to reduce the amount of the bond issue by $500,000, from $7.18 million to $6.68 million.

Payne informed the board that the total cost for the transportation complex looks to be about $23.32 million, less than the $24.88 million originally budgeted.

Bradley Viegut of Robert W. Baird and Co., which handled the bond sale, said the bonds sold at an interest rate of 2.39 percent, less than the 2.42 Baird had projected, meaning additional savings for the county.

“This is a really good time to be in the market and lock in a very attractive rate,” Viegut told the supervisors.

The county's bond rating from Moody's for the bond issue was AA2, which Viegut said was a good rating.

In its report, Viegut related, Moody's said, “Sheboygan County's debt position is very good and the financial position of the county is very strong.”

The bond issue was also rated for the first time by S&P, which gave the county a lower rating of AA-.

Viegut contested S&P's characterization of the county's economy as “weak.” The rating firm penalized the county because more than 30 percent of its employment is in the manufacturing sector, without taking into account the strength of local manufacturers and employment, he explained.

“S&P really missed the ball on their economic assessment. S&P did not get the rating right,” Viegut stated.

The vote to approve the bond sale was 21-1, with Supervisor Fay Uraynar voting no and supervisors Keith Abler, Jim Glavan and Libby Ogea absent.

Uraynar said she was “struggling with the need” for the additional borrowing.

“I believe in Sheboygan County,” Supervisor Brian Hoffmann responded. “I believe we are on the right track. I think this was the way to go. Yes, it is expensive, but our future is bright.”

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