The Door County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program for new electronic beach testing signs and voted down a $965,000 proposal for a new facilities and parks maintenance building, among other actions taken at its meeting Tuesday.

The electronic beach signs under the pilot program would allow for faster alerts to beach-goers when water at a beach tests positive for harmful bacteria. It would allow county staff to update the signs remotely as soon as test results come back, rather than having to drive back to the beach to update signage in person.

An example of an electronic beach sign is shown in the Door County Board of Supervisors’ agenda packet for its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. While the example shown displays warnings based on wind and weather conditions, new signs in Door County will reflect the results of bacteria testing in the water.

The pilot program would install the new signs at Otumba Park in the City of Sturgeon Bay, the Sister Bay and Egg Harbor village beaches, and Frank Murphy and Ridges county parks in Egg Harbor and Baileys Harbor, respectively.

The pilot program is estimated to cost $32,000 for the first year, including installation of the signs and an annual fee and not including costs to run power to the signs. The County Board approved using up to $40,000 in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, a 2021 federal Covid relief law, to cover the costs.

County administrator Ken Pabich noted that the county hopes to apply for a grant through Destination Door County’s new Community Investment Fund to help support the project. The City of Sturgeon Bay and the villages of Egg Harbor and Sister Bay also are considering supporting some costs of the project, Pabich said.

A rendering of a proposed renovation and addition to a maintenance building for the Door County Facilities and Parks Department is shown in the Door County Board of Supervisors’ agenda packet for its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Concerns about cost of building proposal

The building proposal for the county Facilities and Parks Department would have renovated and expanded an existing building on the site of the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Sturgeon Bay.

It would have addressed a need the county has had for 15 years, department director Wayne Spritka said. The county’s facilities and parks staff have limited space available to them now for maintenance work, he said, and at one point in previous years some of that work was based in a hangar at the Door County Cherryland Airport.

The cost of the proposal had increased significantly from when it was originally put together, in part because the county decided to expand the project to ensure it met the county’s long-term needs, Pabich said. An initial version of the proposal, which Pabich said would not have met long-term needs, was estimated to cost around $300,000.

“Let’s not throw money at something that’s not going to be a long-term option for us,” Pabich said of the county’s thinking in expanding the proposal.

County supervisors were split on whether to approve the proposal, with some arguing it wasn’t fiscally responsible and others saying the staff’s needs needed to be met. Supervisors opposed to it suggested the proposal should be revisited in the future, in hopes that construction costs could be lower, and that other options should be considered.

Supervisors voted 10-9 in favor of the proposal, but the motion failed because it required a two-thirds majority to pass.

Among those who expressed concern about the proposal’s fiscal responsibility were supervisors Todd Thayse; who represents parts of the towns of Brussels and Forestville and the Village of Forestville; Jeff Miller, who represents part of the Town of Nasewaupee; and Nancy Robillard, who represents parts of the towns of Gardner and Nasewaupee.

“I was all for it at $300,000,” Robillard said. “At $900,000, I’m not so much.”

Supervisor Dan Austad, who represents part of the City of Sturgeon Bay, emphasized the importance of meeting the department’s needs.

“The parks department needs a home,” Austad said. “I have a feeling you’re doing to delay it, but you’re going to come back with basically the same plan, and it’s going to cost more money.”

Supervisor Vinni Chomeau, who represents parts of both the Town of Gibraltar and the Village of Ephraim, said she didn’t think it was responsible to wait 15 years to meet a need.

Supervisors Roy Englebert and Ken Fisher were absent. Englebert represents the Town of Clay Banks and parts of the towns of Forestville and Nasewaupee; Fisher represents parts of the Town of Sturgeon Bay and the City of Sturgeon Bay.