Committee Again Votes to Cut Forest Patrol Officer Positions
09/12/2019- Although they were asked to reconsider, Marinette County’s Infrastructure Committee is standing firm in their recommendation to eliminate the county’s existing Forestry Patrol Officers. The item was sent back to committee after the County Board last month approved adding a second Recreational Patrol Deputy in the Sheriff’s Department, but also showed interested in preserving the existing FPOs in the Forestry Department. Retaining those two part-time FPOs would cost the county about $30000 and Supervisor Bill Stankevich says the county should consider wants versus needs.
“Do we want them? Yes. Are they valuable? Yes. Do we need an officer in the woods because of the climate of our country, of our county, of our state? Yes…Do I want to see us go 30-million in the hole like we did in the history of our boards? No. I do think we can afford one or two (forest patrol officers) plus an officer.”
One of the main justifications in eliminating the positions was the concern for these FPOs’ safety when approaching individuals in the county forests who may be violating the law. But, Gilbert Engel says they’ve gone years without incident and he sees the educational component of the work these employees do as a valuable service that they’re not likely to get from rec deputies.
“They are there not to write citations, but also to inform the public. I don’t think the county is so broke that it cannot afford $30000.”
Ultimately the Infrastructure Committee passed a motion to eliminate the FPOs on a 3-2 vote. That recommendation will again be sent to the county board for final consideration next week.