Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Summer Update

2014 Summer Update:

It’s hard to believe that it’s already mid-July!  The following is a brief update of what has been happening at the county.

The Day Resource Center for the homeless continues to move forward, however, not as quickly as I would like or without some twists and turns.  The County Board approved purchase of a building on Martin Street in the Town of Madison so that we could provide consolidated services for those who are homeless – showers, washing machines, access to computers and social services, to name a few.  However, the location continues to draw criticism from some who either don’t want the facility to be near their neighborhood or who want the facility to be located in the central downtown area.  I voted for the Martin Street location for several reasons:  it is the only permanent option that could be up and running by this upcoming winter – a commitment I feel strongly about; it is close to the central city; it is already used as a shelter and would have fewer barriers to overcome prior to occupancy.   While there is a proposal to commit $4 million to a downtown homeless shelter, I cannot support that proposal considering the many other needs of the County.  I will continue to work to ensure that this facility is available to meet this segment of our population. 

I’m excited to have a Monona Grove student as part of our new class of future leaders into the Youth Governance Program.  In this program, select high school students serve on County Board committees, participating in County government and casting advisory votes. This is the third year of the program, which is collaboration between the Dane County Department of Health and Human Needs and UW Extension.  Welcome Sam McCarville to the Public Works and Transportation Committee!

Alliant Energy Center Pavilions are being constructed this summer, ensuring the return of several key events to the local economy – the Midwest Horse Fair and the World Dairy Expo.  The pavilion construction will be completed early this fall.  In addition, the County Board signed a contract with The Hammes Company to initiate a SWOT assessment (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the Alliant Energy Center, its place in the community, and its future.   The City of Madison and the  Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau also contributed funding to this collaborative effort. 

In a bittersweet meeting, the County Board approved a contract with its largest employee union, AFSCME local 720 and 705, extending it through 2016.  What makes this bittersweet is it is the last time we will be allowed by law to use collective bargaining as a tool to negotiate union contracts.  This contract provides the County savings in employee health costs, which we were able to turn into a modest wage increase for County workers.  The contract demonstrates that local governments can bargain in good faith, respect their hardworking employees, and come to agreements that meet the needs of employees and taxpayers alike.

This fall when you go to the ballot to cast your vote for governor and other state offices, you will also have the ability to offer your opinion on two important issues.  The first relates to the State minimum wage.  The County Board approved an advisory referendum question on the following question:

“Should the State of Wisconsin raise the minimum wage to $10.10?”

Many of us on the County Board believe that the state should raise the minimum wage to decrease income inequality, lower reliance on government programs, allow lower-income workers to support a family and adequately reward hard work. And we think you’ll agree — but even if you don’t, we hope you’ll make your voice heard on the ballot.
The second question asks:
"Shall the next Governor and State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?"
By rejecting federal Medicaid funding, the number of Wisconsin residents who have healthcare coverage is reduced while the costs to the state for BadgerCare program increases.  Thousands of people are no longer covered by BadgerCare because we have not accepted these federal funds. 

I was proud that Scott McDonell, Dane County Clerk, was proactive and ready to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, starting the very day the federal court decision was issued.  Hundreds of same sex couples married in Dane County, in just one week.  I witnessed several of these weddings and the joy I saw will be in my heart for a long time!

The County Board will be spending a lot of time in the next year assessing the findings of a recently released Jail Study.  This study looked at how we can better meet the safety and security needs of our jail population, recognizing the impacts of mental health and drug/alcohol issues associated with those brought into the jail system.   The result of these discussions will help us decide if we need to build a new jail, either downtown or in a greenspace site outside of the City, or make other repairs to the existing facilities. 

The County Board passed a resolution authorizing County Executive Joe Parisi to intervene in the proposed MG&E rate changes.   MG&E has proposed increases to their service rates that will increase their base charge assessed to all customers.  The proposal will have a chilling impact on those with solar or alternative energy sources, who otherwise would have lower energy bills due to less energy usage.  The County Board approved intervening in the state rate change process, so that the county board can argue against these proposed flat-fee, regressive rate increases. 

We continue to move forward in expanding the Dane County Landfill, providing the county with another 30 years of capacity at 1/9th the cost of building an entirely new county landfill.  The expansion will also double the renewable energy generated by decomposing wastes in the landfill, from $3.3 million worth of energy to more than $6 million and is expected to be completed this fall. 

Lastly, we continue to work with the 911 Center Board to ensure that all calls received by the 911 center are quickly and effectively routed to the correct responding entity.  I am confident that improvements have already been made and that when you are experiencing an emergency , calling 911 will continue to provide life-saving responders to your aid.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Green" 2014 County Budget

I was pleased to receive a copy of this letter regarding the 2014 County Budget:
November 25, 2013

MEMO TO: John Hendrick, Chair, Dane County Board/All Supervisors, Dane County Board

MEMO TO: Joe Parisi, County Executive, Dane County

SUBJECT: Congratulations and Thank You for a very Green FY2014 Budget

 Congratulations to every Dane County Board Supervisor and the County Executive. The recently approved Dane County FY2014 Budget funds many important environmental programs, personnel and resources that are supported by many Dane County conservation and energy advocacy groups. CRANES is especially appreciative of your inclusion of the climate action inventories, Phase I of our DANE HEALTHY SKIES proposal.

On Monday November 18th, almost every supervisor voted for the budget proposed by the Executive, after adding amendments that made use of all the remaining funding capacity permitted under the levy caps set by the State of Wisconsin. On Tuesday, the Executive signed the budget without making any vetoes.

Importantly, with funding of DANE HEALTHY SKIES, the county will be expanding its substantial previous work on government-based climate adaptation to include preparation for work on climate mitigation across the entire county. This effort will implement the work product of the Work Group on Greenhouse Gas and Air Quality of the HUD grant-funded Capital Region Sustainable Communities Partnership.

There is substantial funding for new and much-needed human resources for environmental programs as well as land protection targeted at improving water quality. There's also funding for a Dane County Youth Conservation Corps, an idea that CRANES and other conservationists strongly advocated during formation of the 2012-17 Dane County Parks & Open Space Plan.

Again, thanks for all your efforts. This is perhaps the greenest county budget ever.


Gary Werner
President, CRANES 2010-13 Board of Directors


Sunday, October 20, 2013

2014 Dane County Budget Highlights

The County Board is holding a Public Hearing on the Dane County Budget on October 24th at 7:00 p.m. in room 201 of the City/County Building. 

When you look at your property tax bill, about 15% of those dollars go to fund County operations and programs.  That is the smallest share in comparison with costs for City and School operations.   The 2014 operating budget for Dane County is proposed at approximately $510 million and the capital budget is approximately $50 million.  Below is a brief highlight of the budget as prepared by County Executive Joe Parisi, which is now before the County Board for review.  I’m proud that County Executive Parisi has drafted a budget that mirrors our priorities and values, and I am sponsoring several amendments to further enhance this draft budget, as noted below.   

Human Services – this comprises  about ½ of the operating budget at just over $250 million
·         Supporting children and schools
  • Creating “Mental Health Rapid Response Teams” in two of our suburban school districts in partnership with the Verona and Sun Prairie School Districts
  • Partnering with the United Way of Dane County to fund an “Early Childhood Zone” to serve disadvantaged neighborhoods in Allied Drive and areas around Westside Elementary School in Sun Prairie.
  • $25,000 for a new “Youth Eviction Prevention” fund, administered by Dane County “Joining Forces for Families” for families with school aged children during uncertain times.
  • A $20,000 increase to Planned Parenthood of Dane County to expand education efforts both in schools and across the community
  • Creation of a new “Dane County Work Apprenticeship Program,” in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County
·         Support for vulnerable populations
  • funding in partnership for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS)
  • adding an Elder Benefits Specialist position to ensure seniors have timely access to services and information
  • $15,000 for the OutReach LGBT Community Center to expand its services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders in our county.
  • $16,578 in county money to cover a federal government budget cut to our senior meal sites and an additional $40,000 to ensure our seniors continue to receive warm meals
  • Continued funding for our developmental disabilities service organizations with $83,575,449 in 2014, of which $13,009,069 is county general purpose revenue dollars
  • Providing $750,000 to purchase a site for affordable housing units, in collaboration with the Madison Community Development Authority
  • Continued funding for the Tenant Resource Center
  • Funding a “Re-Entry Coordinator” position who will work with those soon to be released from jail to identify potential barriers to success and help them reintegrate into their families and communities.
Law Enforcement/Public Safety
·         Funding to continue assessing options for improving Jail space configurations.
·         Implementing “Accountability 24-7,” testing sites so individuals out on bail for alcohol offenses will report twice a day for mandatory screening. Should they fail, they go to jail.
·         Continuing capping of Deputy overtime expenses at 6.6% of total salaries.
·         Replacing nearly 20 outdoor storm warning sirens
·         Acquiring a new telephone system for the county’s Public Safety Communications (911) System.

 Lakes and Lands
·         Improving collaboration between agricultural producers especially relating to conservation education and enforcement of our manure management regulations (doubling fines for winter manure spreading ordinance violations and permitting agricultural producers who spread in winter).
·         Providing $2-million for a new 25% private matching grant program to acquire and remediate lands responsible for the highest percentage of phosphorus run-off in the Yahara System.
·         Establishing a community manure “drop-off” in the Town of Springfield
·         With $750,000 for Yahara Clean to continue the implementation of low-technology land restoration and conservation practices
·         Expanding the public access and enjoyment of the new 2.5 miles of acreage recently purchased from the Bruce Company, including parking lots, canoe launches and trail development along the river from the north end of the property straight to the shops and stores in Paoli
·         Developing a new off-road bike trail north of Lake Mendota, in partnership with the Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee, and City of Middleton
·         Creating the “Dane County Youth Conservation Corps” in partnership with Operation Fresh Start to work through the year on a wide variety of projects needed for upkeep of our parks
·         Creating a “Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator” position to build community support for our parks and coordinate enhanced private fundraising efforts to support our parks
·         Increasing funding for Rangers and parks staff as park use increases
·         Continued development of our newest county park - - Silverwood Park in the Town of Albion

·         Continued funding for the new Medical Examiner’s office adjacent to the East District Highway Garage, maximizing opportunities for heating and cooling systems powered from the adjacent landfill.
·         Continued funding for reconstructing Mineral Point Road and County Highway M on the west side of Madison
·         Continued work on County Highway J to complete an important connection to the Military Ridge State Bike Trail from Riley
·         Resurfacing County Trunk VV and planning for Highway P near Cross Plains, in conjunction with federal dollars to complete that project including bike lanes in 2016
·         Acquiring 13 additional highway trucks (including 8 snowplows) fueled by the much less expensive and more environmentally responsible compressed natural gas
·         Continued enhancements at the Alliant Energy Center (AEC) and Henry Vilas Zoo  
·         Constructing additional floors on the parking ramp at the airport

Climate Change
·         Creating a new fund to replace outdated culverts under roads
·         Establishing a new emergency sandbag fund for Dane County Emergency Management
·         Purchasing radios so Dane County Parks rangers can communicate on the new “DaneCom” interoperable radio system
·         Purchasing 4wd vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department
·         Retro-commissioning The Human Services building on Northport Drive to identify energy savings opportunities and implement cost-savings
·         Installation of a new climate change exhibit for the Arctic Passage project, including acquiring a vehicle scientists used decades ago to provide tours of the North Pole to evaluate the impacts of climate change

·         We saved $270,000 by assigning the county’s health insurance contract to WEA Trust.
·         Asking workers to voluntarily take leave time next year without pay, saving almost $200,000

 Proposed Amendments
·         Expanding the Urban Stormwater program to allow for municipalities and homeowners to implement runoff containment practices on properties
·         Increasing the Sustainability Fund to $2 million to continue to increase the County’s operating costs through sustainable practices
·         Continued funding for improvements at the Alliant Energy Center to retain world-class events including World Dairy Expo and Midwest Horse Fair
·         Funding assistance for the YMCA Job Ride program to help link workers to jobs on routes or at times when the Madison Metro buses aren’t viable.
·         Funding for the Healthy Skies initiative to inventory air pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions, throughout Dane County business, not-for-profits, and residences, inventory conservation and efficiency opportunities and renewable energy resources and the create a climate action strategic plan for the greater Dane County community

Friday, September 27, 2013

Transportation Assistance

Dane County supports a variety of transportation programs to help residents get to important medical appointments, shopping trips and other needed trips, helping people live independently in their own homes.  The following describes the programs supported by Dane County and contact information for those programs.   

One-Call Transportation Information Line:  (608) 242-6489
Anyone may call the Transportation Information Line for detailed information, referrals to programs or providers, eligibility determination, ride authorization, or other services.  Information on all available transportation resources is provided, including both county-funded and other programs.  There is no charge.   Available to anyone seeking information about transportation services in Dane County. 

Group Access Service (GAS)
Madison/Middleton/Monona adults aged 60 and over who live in their own homes or apartments receive rides to nutrition sites, grocery/general shopping, farmers’ markets, pharmacies and libraries.  Medical trips are not provided.  The fare is $0.50/one-way trip for nutrition and $1.00/one-way for shopping, but no one is denied service to meal sites because of inability to pay.  The service is door-to-door, and vehicles are accessible.  This is a routed, group service.  Routes are neighborhood-based, and cover the Madison Metro service area and Monona.  For information:  (608) 242-6489.

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Driver Escort Service
Adults aged 60 and over receive rides to medical appointments and other needed services.  Donations are accepted but no one is denied service because of an inability to pay.  The service is door-to-door, and drivers will assist passengers in getting to the correct location within the clinic or hospital.  Rides are provided in the volunteers’ own cars and are usually not accessible.  These are individual, not routed group rides.  Service is coordinated through RSVP.  Service area is all of Dane County.  For information:  (608) 238-7787.

Veteran’s Transportation
  • DryHootch Veterans Transport:  Veterans with any discharge and/or disability status receive rides to needed appointments and services.  Fares for routed services are $1.00/ride; co-pay of individual rides is based on ability to pay, but no-one is denied service based in inability to pay.  The service has scheduled stops, but individuals may receive door-to-door service, based on need.  Vehicles are accessible.  Rides are scheduled through the DryHootch of America Madison office.  Service area is Dane County and surrounding communities.  For information:  (608) 242-6489.
  • Ride With Pride: Veterans with VA disability status or have a needs-based VA pension receive a Metro Transit Commute Card (a bus pass).  There is no co-pay.  Service is curb-to-curb.  Metro mainline buses are accessible, but this is not a paratransit pass.  Service is accessed through the County Veterans Service Office.  For information:  (608) 266-4158.
  • Vets Helping Vets:  Veterans with any discharge and/or disability status receive rides to needed appointments and services.  Donations are accepted but no one is denied service because of an inability to pay.  The service is door-to-door, and drivers will assist passengers in getting to the correct location within the clinic or hospital.  Rides are provided in the volunteers’ own cars and are usually not accessible.  These are individual, not routed group rides.  Service is coordinated through RSVP.  Service area is all of Dane County.  (This program is not currently funded by Dane County, but listed here for clarity).  For information:  (608) 238-7787.
Caregiver Transportation Assistance
Persons caring for older adults receive rides to services such as support groups, workshops, or counseling, which enhance their ability to continue to provide care.  Rides are approved through Dane County Department of Human Services.  Service area is all of Dane County.  For information:  (608) 242-6489.

Supplemental Medical Transportation Assistance
Persons with medical treatments which are frequent or of long duration, or distant from the patient’s home, receive assistance with transportation costs not covered by Medical Assistance.  Passenger co-pay is based on ability to pay.  Accessibility is based on passenger need.  Eligibility is determined by Dane County Department of Human Services, and transportation and reimbursement are arranged through the Department or area dialysis units.   For information:  (608) 242-6489.

Persons with developmental or mental health disabilities receive rides to specified vocational centers and work places.  There is currently no donation, fare, or passenger co-pay.  The service is door-to-door, and vehicles are accessible.  This is a routed, group service.  Service is coordinated through case managers or service brokers.  Service area is all of Dane County.  For information, call your case manager or service broker.

Mobility Training Program
Eligible passengers of ADA complementary paratransit or other specialized transportation services receive training to permit them to use mainline transit.  Training is provided by Certified Occupational Therapists.  There is no fare during training, and if upon graduation, the rider migrates a sufficient number of trips from paratransit to fixed-route services, Metro Transit will provide a free commuter bus pass.  Service is coordinated through the Transportation Information Line.  Service area is Metro Transit’s paratransit area.  For information:  (608) 242-6489.

Bus Buddy Program
Persons unfamiliar with Metro Transit routes, shared-ride taxi transit programs, or county-funded group ride programs are assigned a Bus Buddy for route familiarization and other support while learning to use the service.  There is no fare while participating in the program.  Service is coordinated through the Transportation Information Line.  Service area is all of Dane County.  For information:  (608) 242-6489.

Non-County Programs to Which Dane County Contributes Funding Support:

Eligible passengers receive rides to destinations within the Madison Metro Service area.  Eligibility is determined by Metro Transit.  The passenger fare is $2.00/one-way trip; however persons eligible for Community Options/Integration waiver programs are not required to pay fares.  The service is door-to-door, and vehicles are accessible.  These are individual, not routed group rides.  Service is coordinated through Metro Transit.  For information:  (608) 266-4466.

YWCA Transportation Services
  • Employment Transportation:  Rides to employment for low-income persons without other transportation options.  Rides are arranged and provided by the YWCA of Dane County.  The service is door-to-door, and serves most of Dane County, but prospective riders in rural areas must have two co-riders to a similar destination, and make a three-month commitment.  For information:  (608) 316-6888.
  •  Safe nighttime rides are provided to women and children at risk for sexual assault, and to second- and third-shift workers without access to safe transportation.  Rides are free, and are provided by volunteers in agency vehicles.  Daytime rides to approved employment-related activities, food pantries, human service appointments, etc., are provided to eligible men and women.  Rides are arranged and provided by the YWCA of Dane County.  The service is door-to-door, and serves most of Dane County.  For information:  (608) 316-6888.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 2013 Update

I'm hoping to get back to regular posts to my blog, after an on-line gap in time.  I've been busy representing you on the Dane County Board, serving as Chair of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, serving on various other committees and participating in neighborhood association meetings.  While being computer savvy is not something that I excel at, it is important for me to get back to using this blog for sharing information with my constituents. So with that being said, here are some of the more recent highlights for District 24!  

Alliant Energy Center:  Serving on the Alliant Energy Center Commission, Task Force and Design Study Group has allowed me to be involved in many aspects of this unique facility.  Progress continues to be made at the Alliant Energy Center complex, ensuring that major events such as World Dairy Expo and Midwest Horse Fair continue in Dane County.  The contracts have been drafted for building two new pavilions at the AEC, which will be built with flexibility for various animal events as well as other non-animal events such as car or boat shows.  The $18 million project will be funded by a mix of private and public funding, embracing partnerships that benefit all.  In fact, at the August 16th board meeting, we approved a 20 year lease with the Midwest Horse Fair bringing in over $1 million towards the cost of the new pavilions and a 10 year lease for the World Dairy Expo and a $3 million commitment towards the pavilions. 

The exciting thing about the new pavilions is that they will have removable “stalls” so that they can be adjusted for various types of events, including upcoming animal shows for rabbits, cows and horses.  They can then be cleared out for non-animal events such as car or boat shows.  They will have efficient air ventilation and modern manure management to ensure our indoor and outdoor environment is clean and safe. 

Preserving Land and Enhancing Recreation: We also awarded a series of Partners for Recreation and Conservation (PARC) grants, including a $150,000 grant to upgrade the boat launch at Lottes Park in Monona, which will link with the new development adjacent to the park with a boardwalk.  Other grants included funding for the Aldo Leopold Center and the central skateboard park in Madison.

Lake Management:  I met with Monona Alder Brian Holmquist and city staff Janine Glaser regarding a potential program to reduce urban stormwater from flowing into Lake Monona.  We are hoping to have more information on that in the future.   Janine is also working with City of Madison and Dane County in helping design a program that will encourage individuals to help minimize runoff from getting into the stormwater outfalls.  

While lake levels once again were very high this year with the early summer rainfall events, the slow-no-wake order was limited to Squaw Bay, protecting the lakeshore properties from undue wave action until the levels near the summer maximum levels.  This represents a compromise in that Lake Monona can be more widely used by a variety of boats and yet the areas most prone to flooding are protected. 

2014 Budget Hearings:  We are beginning budget discussions for 2014, and I encourage everyone to participate in the two upcoming hearings on various County Department budgets.  The first hearing on the Department of Human Services budget is at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3rd at the Alliant Energy Center.  The second hearing for all other Departments is at 6:00 p.m. on September 11th at the County Board chamber, room 201 of the City County Building.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2013 Budget Highlights

As your County Board Supervisor, I spend the end of summer and most of fall participating in numerous meetings and discussions on the Dane County budget.  The following is a brief summary of the 2013 budget.  Many people testified before the County on their priorities and concerns, and I think the budget is a positive reflection of the needs of the County and the county priorities. 

The overall Dane County budget is approximately $525 million, of which more than half is dedicated to human services needs and another quarter dedicated to public safety needs.  The budget also includes provisions that give the county a strong reserve fund of approximately $12 million should another economic downturn occur. 
With respect to the Human Services programs, the county board approved a number of initiatives directed at the homeless, including funding for a temporary winter daytime shelter for the winter of 2012-13 and funding for a permanent daytime shelter for the fall of 2013.  In addition, the budget includes funding towards Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing as a permanent solution to homelessness and funding to keep homeless youth off the streets, replacing federal grant dollars that ceased. 

The county budget also includes funding for our youth in the form of an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program with expansion to Sun Prairie, funding to help expand the “Birth to four year old kindergarten” to Leopold School (South Madison / Fitchburg), three additional child protective services positions and a new juvenile delinquency social worker. 
Recognizing and honoring our veterans was also a priority for the county board, and to that the budget increases emergency aid to address homelessness,  provides access to bus passes and improves access to services by streamlining access to benefits and updating technology.   We also included funding for the DAIS housing vouchers for those fleeing domestic violence and reduced the waitlist for developmental disabilities support .  Locally, we were able to help the East Madison and Monona Coalition for the Aging so they can continue their valuable service to our community.

To support our public safety mission, we added funding for four additional drug court slots and expanded it to ensure racial diversity within drug court, we expanded the restorative justice programs to 3 middle schools to keep youth out of criminal justice system, expanded the Alcohol and Other Drug Additions (AODA) programs and updated the Sheriff’s Departments squad car video cameras. 
Other economic and community program support came in the form of funding for Partners for Recreation and Conservation (PARC) grants for municipalities and organizations to improve infrastructure and public spaces for recreation,  funding for BUILD grants which help communities and businesses by fostering job and economic development  and are supporting municipalities throughout the county by providing matching funds for new voter machines throughout the county. 

As a member of the Alliant Energy Center Commission, the Task force for the Expansion of the Aliant Energy Center and as Chair of the Public Works Committee, I am very proud of the support this budget brings to enhance the Alliant Energy Center and move it forward as an economic driver for the area.  To that end, the budget includes funding that will be combined with State and other private partner funding for an expanded animal barn, and funding for improvements to the Coliseum to allow for more intimate concert venues.  Lastly, the budget includes funding (along with funding from the City of Madison and the Greater Madison Visitor and Convention Bureau) to conduct a “visioning” for the future of the AEC.
Lastly, the County budget maintains critical funding for continued environmental improvements, such as efforts to remove carp as part of the County Board’s “Clear Lakes” initiative, adds funding to expand the county fleet that is fueled from Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) generated at our landfill, provides funding for county programs to become more sustainable. 

I’m proud of the balance that this budget brings and the priorities that are maintained in the County. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Soil Vapors

By now many are aware of the Perchloroethylene (PCE) vapors that have seeped into the Monona Grove High School, most likely from PCE contamination found at the adjacent Klinke Cleaners.   While this is undoubtedly a bad situation, in some ways we should consider ourselves fortunate.  I know that’s an odd statement but consider the following:

·          The drycleaner voluntarily investigated their site and is cooperating with the DNR and the School

The Klinke’s voluntarily investigated their site for contamination in 2008, in time to be eligible for the WI Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Fund program.   The contamination they found was reported to the DNR who oversees investigation and cleanup projects.  The DNR also works with responsible parties to establish a schedule for cleaning up sites.  The most logical time to clean up the Klinke site was when the building was being torn down and reconstructed in 2010 and 2011, giving the Klinke’s more access to remove contaminated soil beneath the building. 

·         The drycleaner has the resources available to take the immediate actions needed to protect the school
The Klinke’s have the resources available to hire an experienced consultant and continue their investigation and cleanup of this site.  As their sampling data showed more extensive contamination, they were also directed to investigate potential vapor impacts to the school.   Investigating contamination is an iterative process, in which you expand and refocus your efforts as new data becomes available.   Once vapors were found in the soils under the school, air in the school was immediately sampled and actions were taken to decrease those levels to ensure they were below the health-based standards.

·         Soil vapor intrusion is an emerging issue and WI DNR and DHS are requiring more investigations
Wisconsin is one of a growing number of states that now recognize the potential threats associated with vapors from contaminated soil or groundwater, and as such more frequently requires soil vapor monitoring at sites where the nature of the contamination is of concern (especially when there are nearby residences or other occupied buildings).   In the past, this pathway was not often investigated and people were unknowingly left exposed to contamination.  In fact, New York State has re-assessed contamination sites that were closed without investigating the vapor pathway, with very interesting results (see 

So with that I say we’re fortunate because you also have to consider the following:
·         Given the nature of the chemicals and the standard drycleaning practices that were used in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and even into the 1990’s, almost all drycleaners operating in that timeframe have some level of contamination.  This means there are hundreds if not thousands of drycleaners throughout the state – many closed and abandoned – where contaminants are likely to be found. 

·         While there is a program in WI to address contamination from those drycleaners who like the Klinke’s voluntarily investigated their sites, the fund is a reimbursement fund and a long wait-list exists for those paybacks.    

·         There is currently no federal or state program to identify where historic drycleaning facilities have operated and systematically assess the risks from those facilities (including soil vapor risks). 
The ultimate responsibility for cleaning up contaminated properties in WI is the party which caused the contamination and/ or the landowner.  In many cases, the current land owner may not have even been aware that the property once housed a drycleaning facility and the party causing the contamination is long gone.  Many landowners lack the resources to conduct lengthy investigations and there are inadequate funds at the state, county or city level for investigating or addressing abandoned facilities. 

I am concerned that no one taking a systematic approach to identify which of the known contaminated sites throughout the county are adjacent to schools, daycare centers or residences nor is there adequate funding for a systematic approach to assessing the potential impacts of soil vapors from those sites. 
So yes, this is a bad situation at the high school, but it could be so much worse.   My thanks to the Klinke’s for working cooperatively with the DNR and collaborating with the school to take action to prevent the vapors from getting into the school.   I am confident that they will continue with that cooperation throughout the entire investigation and cleanup process at their site. 

Lastly, I note that for those who wish to understand more about contamination from drycleaning sites, the States Coalition for the Remediation of Drycleaners has a document titled “A Citizens Guide to Drycleaner Cleanup”, which can be downloaded from this site

Note:  from 1997 – 2004, I was the DNR Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Team Leader, writing the rules for the program, staffing the Governor’s Council for the Dry Cleaner Environmental Response program and representing WI on the States Coalition for the Remediation of Drycleaners.