Pavelski vetoes county board decision
BY MIKE WARREN
STEVENS POINT – For the second time, Portage County Executive John Pavelski has used his veto authority. Pavelski has vetoed the August 2023 County Board agreement with Cinovations to provide consulting services related to Master Facility planning. The action was announced in an Aug. 25 press release from Pavelski’s office, and nullifies a recommendation made by the county’s Space and Properties Committee July 25. The amount of the proposed Cinovations contract was $31,500, with a completion date of Oct. 31.
“Master Facility Planning” is the catchall phrase referring to the ongoing action, or lack thereof, regarding building or remodeling the Portage County Courts and Jail, which have been acknowledged as needing security updates and general maintenance for decades, the release reads.
As every major action regarding Master Facilities has failed at obtaining funding, the key component to getting any plan from paper to reality, Portage County has proposed hiring a consultant to explore how to find a workable solution that is palatable to all decision-makers, the release continued.
“Some have referred to this as marriage counseling. While that is funny, it’s not actually that far off. Sometimes you need a mediator to find a reasonable solution for all parties. A mediator ensures that all representatives are heard and their concerns and viewpoints are acknowledged on an even playing field,” says Pavelski.
“I recognize that this [veto] initially seems counterintuitive to what I’ve been preaching. Make no mistake; I fully support the process of using a consulting service to find a middle ground and direction to move forward if that’s what it takes to come to a decision. However, we can’t ignore the fact that nine supervisors voted against a consultant. If we enter into a contract without all parties willing to participate, we’re wasting our money. I see my veto as a potential step forward to get the momentum needed to get to a decision. The cost of waiting has put our backs to a wall and a decision needs to be made.”
Building costs for a new Justice Center continue to rise. The cost of inaction has been estimated upwards of $800,000 per month for the county, according to the release.
Pavelski said he welcomes a veto override, which takes a three-fourths majority (19 “yes” votes). He would prefer a unanimous override. “I would like to see some evidence that we are not so divided and we can begin the responsible dialogue of agreeing how to solve our Justice Center concerns.
“It is my belief that if you are truly invested in being a representative of your constituency, you need to be willing to sit down and try to find solutions for the outstanding problems of the county. Sometimes that involves not getting exactly what you want, but what works best for all involved. We can’t let our idea of perfect be the enemy of good for all.”
The county board voted 15-9 in favor of the Cinovations proposal, which includes three distinct phases: Small group meetings of key stakeholders to advise the consultant in determining process, questions, and protocol – the planning/design group is proposed to be staff/professional experts or non-decision makers; Individual interviews with key stakeholders – to determine the status of where we are starting from and the potential of any ability to develop a consensus among the group in an anonymous manner; Report findings to the Space and Properties Committee and then report to the full County Board of Supervisors.
During the Aug. 15 debate at the county board level, several supervisors who voted against hiring Cino Adelson of St. Paul-based Cinovations to provide consulting services related to Master Facility Planning said they would not stand in the way of the process and would participate in interviews and open dialogue if asked to do so.
“I do respect this process tremendously, and I think it has advantages beyond what we can grasp as a board,” District 17 Supervisor Suzanne Oehlke said. “Cino, you would make your recommendations as to whether we can understand adverse perspectives. Now that’s an interesting mindset when we consider the discussion that we heard already. I would jump in both feet,” Oehlke added. “I’m not so sure everyone else will.”
“If I vote ‘no’ on this and the will of the majority is to go forward with it, I’m not going to sit back and be an obstructionist and decline to participate. That would be an undemocratic way to behave,” said District 10 Supervisor Bob Gifford. “And we all know what happens when somebody tries to overturn the results of an election that they clearly lost, so I would definitely attempt to be a good democratic participant.”
“If you look at our past Groundhog’s Day movie reel, you’ll see that we keep on spending thousands and thousands of dollars on consultants, and this is just more nickels and dimes of spending that we could avoid,” District 1 Supervisor Vinnie Miresse said. “There’s just a lot of distrust by everybody on this board right now that we’re gonna do the right thing, and I’d like us to trust each other again, and that requires having buy-in from more than just the typical stakeholders,” Miresse added. “We need to engage the public in a more fulsome manner and the people that utilize these services. And, I know this is a non-partisan position and a non-partisan office, but we do need to be reaching across the aisle in a way that’s honest, wholesome and truthful.”
“The idea of the proposal is to facilitate conversation with the county board and stakeholders to determine whether or not there’s a path forward regarding projects,” Finance Director Jennifer Jossie told Space and Properties Committee members at their July 25 meeting, which she reiterated to the full county board Aug. 15. “There might not be a path forward and I think we have to identify that that’s one of the options that we might learn is that we don’t have one, and that we need to assess where we’re gonna go from there,” Jossie told the full board.
This is the second time Executive Pavelski has used his veto pen this term. The first was when he vetoed utilizing Capital Improvement funds for the Nelsonville Monitoring Wells. Following that veto, the wells were then fully funded, as originally intended, through SLFRF (State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds) monies and were installed in May through Portage County Planning and Zoning, per Pavelski’s release.