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For more information contact mark.a.kinders@uwrf.edu or brenda.k.bredahl@uwrf.edu.

Three-County St. Croix Valley Government Collaborative Incorporates

MAY 12, 2006--An intergovernmental collaborative available to the 99 local government units in Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties has been incorporated.

The Western Wisconsin Intergovernmental Collaborative, the product of a year's discussion, seeks to be a resource to local governments as they cope with change and growth as the Twin Cities continue to spill into west-central Wisconsin.

The organization arose following a series of five forums in the three-county area that were hosted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2004-05. Facilitated by the university, more than 100 issues related to rural-to-urban transitions were described by local residents and government leaders.

Among them were economic development opportunities, transportation, land-use planning, waste-water and storm-water pollution, leadership development and finding ways to ensure new residents are encouraged to become contributing members of their communities.

"This new collaborative will provide a network for communities to share information on the problems they are confronting and the best practices to solve them," said Buck Malick, chair of the St. Croix County Board and one of four interim board members. "The time is ripe for an organization like this, since it will allow us to consider a regional perspective as we address issues that are common to all of our jurisdictions."

Also serving on the interim board are Neil Soltis, administrator for the Village of Osceola; Theresa Johnson, chair of the St. Joseph's Town Board in St. Croix County; and UW-RF Assistant Professor Neil Kraus, who specializes in local government issues and who represents Chancellor Don Betz to the WWIC Board.

In bylaws that were adopted in March, the group expects to develop a regional identity and also pursue public policy issues that it will address with the Legislature and state government in Madison.

Its members also will explore cost-sharing and cost-reduction partnerships.

According to Johnson, the impetus to create the collaborative came from a meeting at UW-River Falls last year. At that session, representatives from some 30 town, village, city and county governments unanimously agreed to form the organization.

"The forums throughout the three counties were an eye-opener for everyone involved," Johnson said. "Residents in each community thought their issues were unique to them. But they weren't alone in the problems they faced, or their desire to find the best way to resolve them. The issues confronting local government are the same for Pierce County, or Osceola, or Amery, or the Town of St. Joseph.

"It quickly became apparent to everyone that we needed more communication between the leaders at all levels of our local government bodies."

Since that discussion, the communities have been meeting on a quarterly basis to share information. Meetings are now held at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College New Richmond campus. Among the topics explored have been an extensive overview of population demographic changes, industry cluster development, Smart Growth , the impact of methamphetamines and the implications of the planned Stillwater bridge on transportation corridors in the three-county area.

Meetings also allow for government leaders to get acquainted and network.

Soltis said the next steps will be to recruit more jurisdictions to participate in the collaborative and to elect a formal governing board. Collaborative bylaws allow for the election of either the chief elected officer of a jurisdiction or a key administrator.

"The board will include officials from the counties, cities, villages and towns, so all points of view will be represented," Soltis said.

Also playing a role in the WWIC will be UW-River Falls, which also holds a seat on the board.

"We're excited by the opportunity to assist local governments by drafting model ordinances, offering workshops and developing seminars and educational programs that can help local leaders adopt the best practices as they lead their communities forward," said Chancellor Don Betz.

"We'll bring our faculty and staff expertise to this process, and we'll provide hands-on learning experiences for our students, too. UW-River Falls will work with our partners in UW-Extension and other agencies and organizations to identify those with the best knowledge to effectively serve as resources to WWIC," Betz said.

Potentially providing some of the economic support for the collaborative is mitigation funding arising from the planned Stillwater bridge. Resources are expected to soon be available to WWIC and UW-RF to assist in workshops and forums, the WWIC board members said.

For more information about WWIC, contact Malick at 715-386-4605 or cmalick@co.saint-croix.wi.us ; Johnson at 715-222-6235; or Soltis at 715-294-3498 or neil@vil.osceola.wi.us            

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Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:07:25 Central Daylight Time

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