A lot of important items on the agenda for the La Crosse County Board’s monthly meeting, which takes place Thursday evening.
County Board chair Monica Kruse broke down some of those Wednesday on La Crosse Talk PM, including a report from a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant.
La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.
Asked if she was at all nervous as to what those findings might be, Kruse said she was not.
“I think we all kind of know what’s going on in our community,” Kruse said. “I think sometimes people don’t want to recognize it. People don’t want to admit that there are some issues but I think if you don’t own it, you can’t fix it. And so I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say and what our next steps will be to make this a more equitable community.”
The 30-page report by consultant Chanin Kelly-Rae states County Board members Mike Baroni and David Hundt declined to participate in what’s referred to as a Leadership Insight interview process. The report can be viewed here.
“I think she’s talked to 49 leaders in the community,” Kruse said of Kelly-Rae, “and gotten their opinion on what they feel is going on in La Crosse County, what the state of the county is in terms of diversity and equity and inclusivity, and she’s going to give us a report, share her findings and give out next steps.”
Also on the agenda is a resolution to increase highway and bridge construction by $3 million.
In the last budget, La Crosse County did increase funding for roads and such from $5 million to $7 million. Costs, however, could be a factor in this new allocation.
“Well, I think that is true,” Kruse said of costs. “I mean road construction has definitely become more extensive, for sure. Another issue is workforce. We have a hard time getting people to even bid on some of our contracts, because everybody else is in the same boat as we are and there’s limited workforce. I think that makes it, maybe, more expensive, too.”
If approved, where the funding would come from, Kruse wasn’t certain.
“Maybe the impetus to that is they feel that there might be some leftover ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money that they can snag for that — which there is not by the way,” Kruse said. “Or they feel they can take it away from other departments or maybe we could borrow more money. So, it’ll be very interesting to see how county board members feel about that.”
Another budget item is the creation of a La Crosse County Broadband Committee. This comes just days after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Public Service Commission chair Rebecca Valcq were part of a town hall of sorts on broadband Tuesday at the La Crosse Public Library.
“(Evers) sat at the tables and talked with each of us,” Kruse said. “So, I thought that was very engaged on the part of a governor, who normally drops, gives a 5-minute speech and leaves again.
“It was a very robust discussion with the Public Service Commission kind of doing a public hearing. Lots of community members were present and participated in these little round table talks, and I thought it was very worthwhile.”
As for the formation of a Broadband Committee coming right as state leaders are touring Wisconsin to do these talks, Kruse said that didn’t happen by accident.
“That is definitely not coincidence,” she said. “There is a statewide push, and actually nationwide push, to provide broadband across the board to everybody. There’s many underserved areas in Wisconsin where there is no connectivity to broadband, and so this is sort of like the equivalent of rural electrification but it’s rural broadband hook up.”