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Community divided over downsizing Chippewa County Board

By: Amelia Cerling Email
By: Amelia Cerling Email

Imagine if you needed 29 people to make every decision. But that's exactly how many people it takes to run the Chippewa County Board.

And now the county is talking about reducing the size of the board. The board held a listening discussion Tuesday night, and we went to talk to people about how they felt about the proposed reduction.

Some say the reduction from 29 to 15 supervisors is an effort to save money, and to make the work more efficient. But we found, not everyone is happy about the idea.

Current Chippewa County Board Supervisor Michael Murphy is getting downright frustrated about the November referendum to reduce board members from 29 to 15.

“Yes, I think that's the only answer I can give, I’m getting sick of it,” Murphy tells us.

“I don't have a problem with the board coming down, I have a problem with the fact that if this passes we are stuck at 15 we can’t go back up. And that's one reason why I’m definitely gonna vote against it,” former board supervisor Dave Hillman told the crowd.

In August a petition with more than 1400 signatures called for a referendum vote on November 2 to downsize the current board.

But former county supervisor Don Sperber says there just isn't the need for 29 supervisors as there was in the past, not to mention it would reduce the county's budget.

“A few years ago we got a county administrator which takes a lot of the burden off the supervisors, I just felt that maybe this time we should really, really reduce it,” Sperber explains.

But John Reinemann with the Wisconsin Counties Association says there are more side effects to downsizing than meets the eye.

“If we have the same amount of work and the same number of county programs being supervised by a smaller board, our observation is that board members will have to meet more often and at longer intervals to do the work that is now facing the board at its current size,” Reinemann says.

There was also a lot of discussion that if the board is reduced to 15, that will force many working people to drop out, which will make the board less diverse with fewer opinions.

According to the Wisconsin Counties Association, the average board size in the state is 25. But nationally, the average number is six.


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