Monday, 17 October 2016 00:00

Rep. James Edming Opposes Removing Totagatic dam

Rep. James Edming (R-Glen Flora) of the 87th Assembly District told a gathering of Republicans Monday in Hayward that he would fight the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on removing the Totagatic Dam in Washburn County that creates the Totagatic Flowage in Sawyer County.

“I’ll do my best to assure it doesn’t get drained,” Edming said of the flowage.

Edming and Jim Miller, Sawyer County Republican chairman, earlier had toured the dam and flowage.

Edming told the gathering he often doesn’t agree with the DNR.

Many Sawyer County residents have voiced opposition to removing the dam because the flowage is a mecca for ducks and other waterfowl and they fear removing the dam would greatly reduce the scope of the flowage.

The DNR is considering removal because of the estimated $500,000 required to repair it.

Accomplishments

Prior to taking questions at the Republican gathering, Edming said his two proudest achievements during his first term in the Assembly are the passage of his bill that allows epinephrine auto injectors (“epi-pens”) to be stored in public places for such things as bee stings, and the requirement that students pass a civics test to graduate from public school in Wisconsin.

Edming said students could take the test any time from the first day of their freshmen year until the day they graduate. Students must answer 60 out of 100 questions correctly to pass, and those who flunk it can take it again.

A sample question, he said, asks how many stripes (13) are on the American flag and what does it represent (13 original colonies) and how many stars (50) are on it and what do they represent (50 states).

“There are seven states that have endorsed this,” he said. “Of all the people that have taken me to the shed for this are the school teachers, administrators. How ridiculous.”

Edming also discussed participating in an organization called Bugles Across America. It was started three years ago to commemorate the tragedy of 911 by playing taps at the times the four planes that were crashed on 9/11. While participating in the commemoration, Edming said, he was amazed that several seemed to have amnesia and had no idea why the bugles were playing on Sept. 11.

Budget bill

Edming said he voted against the recently passed Republican budget bill for several reason but the primary reason was because a Senate provision eliminated the requirement to pay a prevailing wage for public works projects.

Edming said he is neither for nor against unions, whose wage rates the prevailing wage is based on for public works project. But he said the impact of removing the prevailing wage is that neighboring states that have it will attract workers from Wisconsin, who can earn more in those other states.

Prior to the Senate’s addition to the bill, Edming said, 11 Republican representatives had proposed a compromise that would have exempted schools and other entities from the law while requiring others to pay it, but the Senate version eliminated all exemptions. He could not support it, he said.

Room tax

Miller, a Hayward alderman, raised a concern that the recently passed budget requires the city to submit more of the room tax it collects back directly into a tourism-related agency such as the chamber of commerce versus using those dollars, as the city has in the past, to pay for one police officer needed because of increased tourism.

With fewer room-tax dollars, Hayward City Police Chief Joel Clapero said, he feared losing $40,000 from his budget for funds for at least one officer.

“The tourists are not bringing the majority of our problems, but they bring the busy work, more accidents and just the business, so to me that amount of money is going to be huge to my department,” Clapero said.

“That’s an extra stress on our local communities and municipalities,” said Miller of the change to how the room tax can be used.

Miller said the city has five years to taper its room tax revenue from 65 percent to 30 percent.

The city also distributes room tax dollars for the sports center and public bathrooms.

Short-term rental

Edming was also made aware of an issue the city and county are facing regarding short-term rentals, or homes used for rentals of less than 30 days. These homes have not been inspected or licensed as tourist homes and do not pay sales taxes as required by state law.

Edming said he did not see a problem with using a home to house visitors for a couple of days for large events such as the American Birkebeiner.

It was pointed out to Edming that the state could easily match its list of licensed tourist homes against those advertised on the Internet to determine which are following the law.

It was also pointed out the state appears to have no will for going after violators and thus is leaving state and county sales tax revenue on the table.

Some of the homes, he was told, also have also been known for allowing more guests than a septic system can handle, threatening the health of the environment.

“The city, county and state have to address the issue,” Miller said.

Shoreland zoning

Edming was asked about the resolution in the budget bill that prevents counties from being more restrictive than the state’s NR 115 in shoreland zoning, preventing the counties from creating a lake classification system, with different lot requirements for developments based on the type of lake.

“I haven’t been involved with that one at all,” Edming said, adding he was unaware of the change to shoreland zoning.

Miller said he has heard from several Republicans who are upset over the change.

Edming was also asked for his take on the Joint Finance Committee adding resolutions to the budget bill, such as the change to shoreland zoning, after public budget hearings were held around the state.

“As a rule, what they threw in was not major,” Edming said.

However, it was noted that the shoreland zoning change could have a huge impact on development and the environment.