Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | NEWS
WITC president provides overview for Burnett County Supervisors
Jean Koelz|Staff writer
BURNETT COUNTY – The May Board of Supervisors meeting began with a brief but touching tribute to the men and women who sacrificially work to protect our freedom and secure our safety. The meeting, held on Thursday, May 22, was scheduled just after National Law Enforcement Week, during Emergency Services Week, and just prior to Memorial Day. Supervisor Gene Olson led the board in prayer and paused for a moment of silence to honor the fallen.
“I was saddened by the passing of (officer) Mike Severson,” Olson said. “When tragedies strike, we need to remember to offer the same kind of comfort we’ve received in our own difficult times.”
Conversation turned toward the future as the board welcomed Bob Meyer, the president of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. With campuses in Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake, Superior, Hayward and Ladysmith, WITC has 340,000 students, making it the largest higher-education system in Wisconsin. Meyer’s presentation was intended to highlight WITC as an asset to the 11-county area it serves, specifically demonstrating its contributions to the local and regional economy.
“Ninety-one percent of our graduates are employed within six months,” Meyer boasted. “Over 70 percent are employed in their field of study with an average starting salary of $36,000.” Meyer was quick to point out that only about 50 to 60 percent of four-year college grads are employed and only about half of them are employed in their field of choice.
“Two out of three jobs in our economy are tech jobs,” Meyer explained. “We offer more than 50 programs, and the good news is that grads tend to stay in the area.” Later Meyer posted the results of a survey that indicated that graduate salary levels increased anywhere from 35 percent to more than 100 percent in five years, “over some of the roughest years in our economy,” Meyer added.
WITC is distinguished nationwide as the only college in the country to rank in the top 10 for three consecutive Washington Monthly studies, most recently ranking 4th in 2013. Meyer said that WITC has standing agreements with all 46 school districts in their area in order to help students get a head start on earning credits. Interestingly, of incoming students, about half are directly out of high school and half are returning to school after already attending a four-year college.
Supervisor Dale Dresel appeared to surprise Meyer by suggesting that the school create a training program for operating heavy equipment. Nods around the room confirmed that there appears to be a high demand and a small pool of talent. Even the county has had difficulty finding candidates without offering to provide on-the-job training.
In other news, the board discussed a resolution to replace a telecommunications facilities ordinance to bring it more in line with new state regulations. The state is now severely limiting local control over requests to build towers. In exchange, the statute now allows local governments to charge up to $3,000 for land-use permits. Previously, Burnett County charged $250.
Supervisor Chuck Awe sparked debate when he noted, “We’re charging $3,000 because we can. Is that our new policy?”
Supervisor Maury Miller responded, “It was my understanding that the increased fee is a trade-off for surrendering control.”
Unconvinced, Awe asked the board to consider, “Are we here for profit? Or are we here to serve the public?” The resolution passed.
The board also passed a new investment policy, reviewed an updated state municipal agreement for the State Road 35/70 roundabout, and officially recognized May as National Foster Care Month. The next county board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 19, at 9:30 a.m. at the government center.