Chris Webb Candidate Chair- Town of Barnes Board

Background Statement
 
I was fortunate to be part of the community in the 60s and 70s. Almost every business had gas-pumps, almost every resort had a bait shop. There were supper clubs that had live music and dancing every weekend, multiple auto repair shops and gas stations, cabin rentals, dining establishments, multiple gift shops, and even a snowmobile dealership. These businesses provided many jobs in the community. I worked at my family’s business as store clerk and bartender, but also worked as a waitress in supper clubs, cleaned cabins at resorts and babysat for tourists who spent entire days skiing at nearby Telemark Lodge. There were community dances at the town hall and community fishing contests sponsored by businesses. It was fun. Although tourism was high in those days, it was the locals who supported these businesses year-round. The 80s found my focus revolving around children. My children attended Barnes Community Church and youth group. There were enough young families in Barnes providing leadership to enable the opportunity to have a local 4H, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Little League games, Hockey lessons, skating parties, teen dances, swimming lessons and even a triathlon, attend baseball and softball games, Halloween parties and other community events. It was fun. Focus on community broadened in the 90s as my family became more involved in organizations. The Webb family sponsored a VFW Post fund-raising event for 5 years straight in memory of a family member. Our family donated time, money, and auction items to make this a successful event for a very worthy cause. It was fun. Barnes has always been a caring community, wanting to provide for its citizens. This is the background that has shaped my commitment to this town.
 
 Why are you seeking this office?
 
I truly take pride in Barnes, living and working in the community. My family supports the businesses, and organizations that are so vital to small communities. We attend as many of fund-raising events as possible and volunteer when we can. Barnes shares the same issues as other rural areas with fewer businesses, vacant housing, fewer volunteers, less tourism, less EMTs and firefighters. Recent focus has been on emergency services and other responsibilities mandated by State Statutes. Land has been purchased to allow potential for expanding trails and recreational opportunities to improve quality of life for residents and visitors. Area organizations have use of public land for ski trails, hiking trails, snowmobile trails and ATV/UTV trails, while the organizations themselves maintain the various trail systems. I am not ready to be done. I enjoy working with people, listening to concerns and researching potential solutions. My discussions and decisions are based on as much fact and research as possible. I listen to various sides of issues from all sources in the community, make contact with state and county officials, contact researchers, educators and read, read, read, before determining my vote on an issue. I expect others to do the same. Fair decisions cannot be made based on special interests or personal feelings, or peer pressure from family or groups.
 
What experience (professional/personal/volunteer) will help you in office?
 
I have over 50 years of accounting and business experience, banking and financial experience, and many years in customer service. I began attending town meetings and school board meetings in the early 1980s. I co-organized community voters to support referendum to centralize elementary schools to Drummond. We had full buses of Barnes voters attend school district meeting to vote on referendum which was approved because of Barnes’ participation. In 1984 I was appointed Town Treasurer and was subsequently elected to that position. I learned much about town operations from the Town Clerk at that time. I joined the Recreation Committee at the time the skating rink was erected, Tomahawk swimming beach improved, and swimming lessons organized. As part of the Recreation Committee, I assisted the swimming instructor in a Triathlon for children for several years, managing advertising and registration for the event. My parents were successful, respected business owners in Barnes. My in-laws sparked my interest in serving my township, as my father-in-law served on their County Board and my mother-in-law served as Mayor of their city. I currently serve as Wisconsin Town Association secretary for Ashland-Bayfield Counties. I have established a network via WTA involvement, with other municipal offices throughout the County and other portions of the state, allowing me additional resources to gain knowledge about issues and methods to continue improvements within our township.

 

What issues are facing Barnes today and what actions would you propose to deal with those issues?
 
Wisconsin Statutes defines the critical responsibilities of the Town as: providing fire protection for the town, contracting for or operation of ambulance service for the town, care and supervision of all highways within its jurisdiction. There are other important responsibilities, but other municipal officers in the state of Wisconsin and beyond will list these as the most pressing issues.

 

EMTs, First Responders and Firefighters are in short supply everywhere. Plans are in the works to erect a new fire hall with ambulance bay. The goal when authorizing final plans is to relieve current overcrowded conditions, and to provide area for full-time EMT/Paramedic quarters. Whether the town hires a full-time EMT or contracts with a Paramedic service, it will be important to our citizens to have a building here that can function as a full-fledged emergency center, rather than have to wait for response from an out-of-town emergency station. There is a need for more collaboration between neighboring townships; creating pools of firefighters, EMTs,  and first responders and others to cover multiple townships when emergencies happen. Our hopes for the future are that Bayfield County will take a leadership role in providing staff while we provide building and equipment. At this time, we continue to consider contracting with paramedic service to provide staff.

 

Maintenance of town roads makes up most of the town’s budget. It is the town board’s responsibility to have safe, well-maintained roads meeting standards set by Wisconsin Statutes. The board has tasked the Roads and Right-Away Committee to create a five-year plan that will highlight critical road maintenance and prioritize road improvements based on state-based rating system, traffic counts and input from Engineering resources. This plan will be completed by September 2019. Over the past few years, road maintenance was under funded, and storm damaged roads became a priority allowing little to be accomplished on normal improvements. Future budgets will need to be redistributed to increase highway funding to allow necessary reconstruction of older blacktop roads.

 

The charge of fiscal irresponsibility toward the town board is inaccurate. Compare Barnes levy with other townships on Bayfield County’s website.

 

The town’s portion of tax levy has been maintained at one of the lowest rates in the county for years and increased only on short term basis when necessary. The amount allocated for highway/road maintenance over the past few years has not been sufficient to keep roads in repair. Storm events in the past three years have moved priorities and there will be a concerted effort to recover from these unexpected additional expenses this year. Another reason for the increase in tax levy this year is for planned improvement and staffing of emergency services. Since most park improvements will be completed this year, park funding may be reduced and redirected to next priority when planning the next budget.

 

 
 What is your vision for Barnes 2 years from now? And 10 years from now?
 
Barnes in two years will continue to be a great place to live. Emergency medical staff will be stable since the town will employ an EMT or paramedic, while we continue to work with Bayfield County, Sawyer County, neighboring townships, and area paramedic services to cement relationships and ensure expert medical treatment for our citizens and visitors. Continued recruitment of firefighters , EMTs and first responders will ensure support system to medical staff while also being prepared for any type of emergency. Road Management Plan will enable decisions based on critical need and priority, and be available to the public to increase awareness of timeline for roads of their own interest. Forest Management Plan will be implemented, ensuring protection and management of renewable resources on public lands, which is so important for air quality. Aquatic Invasive Species Committee will continue to monitor water quality and spread of invasive species on area lakes. Barnes will have recognition for being Telecommuter friendly, offering the potential for population growth from those who can work from home. Recreational opportunities of all kinds will rekindle tourism interest in our area.

 

I hope that in 10 years, Barnes will be more diverse with as many young working families as retirees. Businesses, churches and organizations flourish in more diverse communities. Northern Wisconsin will always be more of a tourist and timber area. Cottage industries and small businesses need local support as well as tourism to keep our community vibrant. Sometime between the 2 years and 10 years asked for, there will be a paramedic service/community paramedic serving the Town of Barnes. The quality of our natural resources, forest and waters will remain as good as they are today. Roads and parks will continue to be improved, and recreational opportunities will continue to grow maintaining health and quality of life for all.

 

How can voters reach you if they have questions ?:

 

Town of Barnes citizens and taxpayers are always free to contact me. I reserve Monday and Friday mornings for meetings at the Town Office, but willing to meet anytime, anywhere. I can be reached by email: cwebb@barnes-wi.com, by phone: 715-795-3425. In the past, I have met with concerned citizens at the office, at the hall, at my home, at their home, at business of choice or events.