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October 27, 2017


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Highway 154 Project Moved Up

The Department of Transportation announced this week that Highway 154 construction improvements will be moved up from 2020 to 2018. Construction to replace pavement and make intersection improvements will begin in spring of 2018 and is expected to be complete in summer 2018.

UW System Changes Must Prioritize Local Needs

A proposal will go before the UW System Board of Regents in November which would merge UW Extension with UW-Madison and the UW System. The plan also includes the merging of two-year colleges with a nearby four-year university. This type of restructuring is not new, as UW Extension recently underwent large layoffs and cuts as part of an effort to save money and streamline operations. At this point, there is little information available regarding the details of the proposal, but UW System President Ray Cross has said that this consolidation will help to standardize and regionalize administrative operations and services as well as address declining enrollment across two-year campuses.

The first element of the UW plan, relating to UW Extension, concerns me the most. UW Extension provides a unique set of services under the umbrella of UW Extension Cooperative Extension that caters to our rural and agricultural communities by bring continuing education to the community and the workplace. Home to Wisconsin 4-H, the cooperative extension plays a role to train leaders and develop skills in our young people. Extension specialists visit farms to share research-based information on issues ranging from agriculture to our dairy industry, and the Wisconsin Geological Survey studies the relationship between agriculture and ground water quality.

In our area, programs provided by the cooperative extension are important and rely on local relationships to be effective. I fear that the proposal to merge this program with UW-Madison will create an element of uncertainty as this focus on local activism could become less of a priority when it becomes part of such a large institution.

The second part of the plan addressing two-year campuses raises some concerns as well. While I agree with the need to address declining enrollment at these schools, it is important to remember why they were created. Campuses like UW-Baraboo and UW-Richland were created primarily to focus on developmental education. After high school, these colleges work with students to achieve the necessary milestones for admission and transfer to a four-year school. My experience with the foster care system has shown me the necessity of these schools. The opportunity for a fresh start after high school can be the difference between pursuing higher education and skipping it altogether.

The merits of both UW Extension and our two-year colleges are significant. Consolidating these organizations may very well prove beneficial, but only if it does not come at the cost of the quality services they provide. Should this change be approved, I hope these programs maintain their original missions that make them so unique and beneficial to the people in Southwest Wisconsin.

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Fighting for Local Control

On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Transportation held a hearing on Assembly Bill 485, which would allow for municipalities to pass an ordinance allowing the use of ATVs and UTVs on state highways with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less within the boundaries of that municipality. In many rural areas, the use of state highways are necessary to connect existing ATV/UTV routes. In authoring this bill, I believe we are giving the appropriate authority to our municipalities to make these decisions on their own.

Joining me to testify were Representative Travis Tranel, Darlington Police Chief Jason King, and Leon Wolfe. They agree that local governments are best suited to decide whether or not a road is safe for ATV usage.

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Eagle Scout Presentation

Congratulations to Stefan Lepinske on becoming an Eagle Scout. As a member of Wisconsin River District 65, his project involved installing three flagpoles with spotlights and landscaping the area by the poles at the Dodgeville Chamber of Commerce building.

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Southwest Wisconsin leads the State

September unemployment statistics were released this week by the Department of Workforce Development. Green, Iowa, and Lafayette counties are tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.3%. Sauk County and Richland County also fare well at 2.5% and 2.7% respectively.