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Smaller is not better, say some county supervisors

Disappointment and annoyance are good words to describe St. Croix County Board members' reaction to a referendum that will eliminate more than a third of their positions.

Last week county residents voted 31,460 to 9,358 -- better than three to one -- to cut the number of supervisors on the board from 31 to 19.

The county has until Nov. 15, 2009 to work out a plan for 19 supervisory districts.

Rather than saving money, the reduction might cost more as fewer people take on greater workloads, predicted Supervisor John Mortensen.

"It's going to be costly in the future," he warned.

"My disappointment is we couldn't do it voluntarily, and the public had to force us to do it," responded Supervisor Daryl Standafer.

A study committee supported a reduction and made its report in August 2006 but didn't bring the issue to a vote at the County Board level.

There was no point because it was obvious there wasn't enough support to adopt the recommendation, according to Tom Caflisch, one of five former County Board members who backed this fall's referendum.

The county has too many committees to supervise only about six functions, said Standafer.

He suggested the county study how it does business and then design a committee matrix accordingly.

"Over the next year we can thoughtfully and carefully look at how we do business," said Standafer. "I think this creates a real opportunity."

The 31-member board has functioned well, said Vice Chairman Richard King.

"I'm not happy about cutting the board to 19," he said.

The county won't save money with a smaller board, and people living in the more sparsely populated eastern part of the county won't even know the person who represents them on the board, said King.

The referendum was politically motivated and not an advantage to the voters, complained Supervisor Ken Kolbe, Hudson.

"I think (they) were not given the information to be able to know what the truth was," he said.

Kolbe worried also that there is a plan to develop "a super majority" in one area of the county.

He said when he asked citizens why they voted yes, they just said that 31 is a lot of people to have on a board.

In general reporting, County Clerk Cindy Campbell said St. Croix voter turnout for the November election was 78% with 14% voting absentee.

Campbell said there were a few small equipment problems, but otherwise Election Day was fairly quiet.

She said the last municipality, the city of River Falls, didn't get its returns to her office until 2 a.m.

"That was kind of late," said Campbell. She said River Falls, which uses a system different than the rest of the county, ran out of ballots. Election workers had to copy ballots and then count them by hand.