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October 2014
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Charging Fees for Public Record Requests of Electronic Records

Providing the public with information is an essential function of local government. But complying with public records requests take time and money. To provide some balance to this conundrum, the Wisconsin Public Records Law allows an authority to charge certain fees for complying with a records request. An authority may impose a fee for the “actual, necessary and direct cost” of “reproduction and transcription,” “photographing and photographic processing,” “locating,” and “mailing or shipping.” Wis. Stats. § 19.35(3). Furthermore, an authority can only charge fees specified in the Public Records Law. (See: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee, 2012 WI 65.)

 But that raises the question – how should an authority calculate the “actual, necessary and direct cost” of complying with a public records request in an electronic format? Read more »

Coping with Your Local Road Weight Issues at Fall Workshop

What if our town does not have large agricultural haulers?  Is there anything in The Fall Workshop for our Board?

“There sure is,” says Steve Pudloski of the UW Madison Transpiration Information Center.  “All communities must cope with heavily loaded vehicles, be they log hauling, manure hauling, sand and gravel trucks, construction 2014FallThumbnailborderequipment, garbage trucks or semis. We will be suggesting ways that a town board can better manage their roads to minimize damage due all kinds of heavy loads. The Implements of Husbandry Law is just the latest increase of allowable load, but every road experiences deterioration from heavy loads.

That’s where we have information to help.”

Register today for a workshop near you!  Workshops run September 9 to September 25, 2014.

2014 Fall Town Village Workshops Starting Soon

Click map to enlarge.

What can local governments do about large agricultural equipment damage to their roads?  What does Roberts Rules say about meeting by phone or over the Internet?  And what about levy limits, or preparing the DOR Form C?

Find out about these topics and more at the Fall Town & Village Workshops in September 2014.  Presented by the Wisconsin Towns Association and the UW Extension Local Government Center with speakers from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and UW Transportation Information Center.  Two concurrent sessions are offered.

Of interest to Clerks and Treasurer is the Finance and Budget session.BudgetPhoto2-2BW   Carol Doran, formerly with the Department of Revenue, returns to teach.  Comments from prior years asked for information on completing DOR Form C, and Carol will talk on that. DOR representatives will talk about levy limits and emerging issues.

The other concurrent session offers general topics.  The morning focuses on roads, especially responding to the impact of implements of husbandry on town roads practically and with new laws that can help as well as background on laws about roads generally.  Parliamentary procedure applied to technology and other modern issues is discussed in both sessions.  Also in both sessions you will meet Mike Koles, the new Towns Association Executive Director.

Nine locations around the state means a workshop should be located within easy driving distance from your community.  Registration is through the Towns Association, and full agenda, locations, registration form and other information is available here.

LGC Partner,Prof. Brian Ohm, Authors Extension Report on Changes to Planning Laws

A new Extension Report summarizing Wisconsin planning-related case law and state legislative enactments for the past year.  It is available at the UW-Madison Urban and Regional Planning Website website. 

Significant court cases over the past year eliminated the authority of towns to zone land within the shoreland area and further reduced the extraterritorial plat approval authority of cities and villages. Significant Brian Ohmlegislative developments over the past year include changes to the requirements for shoreland zoning in cities and villages, enabling a limited number of towns to use tax increment financing, and changes to the certified survey map requirements to encourage redevelopment and reuse of certain lands.  All these, and more, are summarized in the report entitled: The Year in Review: A Summary of Wisconsin Planning Cases from June 1, 2013 – July 1, 2014 and Recent Legislation.

The report is authored by Brian Ohm.  Brian is a Professor and UWEX Planning Law Specialist at both UW-Madison and UW Extension.  Brian has worked with the Local Government Center most recently as the co-moderator of the Local Land Use Planning and Zoning WisLine Series. 

Regulating the Rocket’s Red Glare

Local Governments receive many questions about fireworks, and especially during the July 4 holiday.  The Local Government Center has identified these online resources to help answer questions.f  Click the titles to connect to the information source.  And Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!

2014 Board of Review Training Returns

Local Government Center Board of Review Training with certification fromcropped BOR Department of Revenue returns April and May 2014.  Training is available in more than one format. The a basic program is an update of the dial-in WisLine Teleconference.  A DVD for continuing board members is being offered at a one-time program on April 30 at 9 AM to 11:30 AM at 31 sites around Wisconsin, followed by a Question and Answer session by WisLine with the panel of experts.  First time board members may view the video and be certified, but it is suggested they use one of the basic programs by WisLine, streaming or CD material bundles.

The video portrays a board of review hearing.  After each segment a panel Read more »

New Fact Sheet Helps with Electronic Meeting Questions

The Local Government Center routinely receives questions about an official wanting to participate in a meeting by phone or conducting a conference callcomplete meeting by teleconference.  Winter brings a lot of these inquiries when hazardous travel or absent “snowbirds” give rise to the desire or need for an official or several to participate in a meeting by phone or other electronic media.

A new Electronic Meetings Fact Sheet offers guidance on issues raised by these requests or by attempting to conduct meetings through phone or other communication means.  This fact sheet considers issues raised under Wisconsin’s Open Meeting Law and how Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised affect electronic meetings.  It also offers some practical thoughts on the challenges of chairing or participating in an electronic meeting.

The fact sheet gives more serious thought to practical issues amusingly illustrated in a recent You Tube video entitled: A Conference Call in Real Life.  In that video a group dramatizes conference call meeting mishaps as if everyone were in the same room, such as dogs barking or appliance noises or silence when an attendee is asked a question because the person responding forgot to take their phone off mute. Local Government Specialist Dan Hill authored the fact sheet and commented that the YouTube video points out many of the potential problems faced in an actual electronic meeting.  Problems we can hope to avoid by reviewing the Electronic Meetings Fact sheet today.  Find it on the Local Government Center web site: under the Documents tab.

In Memoriam: Ken Nelson

We at the UW Extension Local Government Center remain deeply saddenedKenNelson by the news of Ken Nelson’s passing on November 26, 2013.  Ken assisted in the formation of the Local Government Center over 20 years ago, and served as co-director until his retirement.   Ken helped guide many UW Extension faculty and local governments.  It was an honor to be a part of his life.

Quorum And Attendance Of Members At Local Government Meetings

Situation:  It is important that members of local government boards, councils, and committees attend every meeting in its entirety so that each decision made is as representative of the will of the body as possible.  In addition, it is required that a quorum, a specified number of members or proportion of the membership, be MC900438736[1]present at a meeting for any decisions made to be valid and binding on the body.  Non-attendance at meetings,  or early departure from them, can prevent the body from conducting business.

(Note that quorum requirements apply to local government bodies but not to meetings of the electorate as in annual town meetings or annual school district budget meetings.)

What is the number of members required to constitute a quorum?  Unless otherwise specified, a quorum of a public body is a majority of the members unless a greater number is set by law.  For example, the quorum of a city council having more than five members is two-thirds of the members. The governing body may set the quorum requirements for its committees.

[Note that “quorum” refers to the minimum number or proportion of the membership that must be present to have a meeting in which decisions that bind the body can be made.  The number of votes required to make some changes or pass some measures varies, so that in some cases the number of votes required to act is more than the number required for a quorum.  Local government officials should check the statutes and their own rules for specific vote requirements.] 

What is the effect of not having a quorum at meetings?  When a meeting is attended by fewer members than those required to constitute a quorum, Read more »

Legislative Update Teleconference Tailored for Local Government Officials

How has the recently-passed 2013-2015 budget impacted your ability to conduct your community’s business?

With the day-to-day concerns of getting things done in our communities, you don’t always have the opportunity to follow the legislative sessions and budget process as closely as you would like. Luckily there are people like Rick Stadelman, Mark O’Connell, and Curt Witynski, representatives from Wisconsin’s three major local government associations, who not only track developments, but have the experience and insight to see how legislation and the new budget will affect local government.

Don’t miss this chance to be updated and informed  by Mature couple with laptop.Rick Stadelman, Executive Director, Wisconsin Towns Association; Mark O’Connell, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Counties Association; and Curt Witynski, Assistant Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities. Read more »