MENOMONIE — The governor’s budget, water rights and loss of state Department of Natural Resources jobs were some of the issues brought up to Rep. Rob Stafsholt at a listening session Tuesday.
Stafsholt, the Republican 29th Assembly representative from New Richmond, held the listening session at UW-Stout’s Memorial Center. Stafsholt was elected in November, replacing John Murtha, who retired. About three dozen people attended the listening session.
Stafsholt said for him it is important to hear from his constituents.
“The most important people are the people who live in the district,” he said. “It’s not so much what I want to do but what we want to do.”
Stout Student Association Vice President Gunther Melander expressed concern about the governor’s proposal to require students to opt in on allocated fees rather than making them required fees.
Melander noted those funds go to organizations on campus that in many cases are professional groups for students to learn more about their chosen majors and future careers.
“We are very hopeful that proposal does not make it through,” he said.
Chancellor Bob Meyer told Stafsholt he supports basing funding for campuses on performance. He particularly hopes that employment rates will be looked at considering UW-Stout has more than a 97 percent placement rate after graduation.
Meyer also urged changes that would allow universities to do maintenance on residence halls more quickly, especially when funds have already been saved for them through students’ room and board. He noted it can take seven to 10 years to get such projects underway.
Kitz Cleary of Menomonie told Stafsholt she is concerned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency being in the cross hairs at the national level, particularly when the DNR is losing positions.
“We need to preserve the DNR,” she said. “We need to preserve those 43 positions.”
Residents want to maintain water and air quality, she noted.
She said there is only one person supervising 72 counties on septic waste spreading.
“If we’re worried about groundwater, that is something you could make your mark on,” she told Stafsholt.
Menomonie Mayor Randy Knaack urged Stafsholt to be watchful of any move to privatize municipal water.
“That would be detrimental for companies to have control of our water,” Knaack said.
Stafsholt said he does see many red flags on privatizing water.
Lorene Vedder of Menomonie urged Stafsholt to support a referendum that passed in Dunn County saying corporations are not entities and money is not speech.
“We want to get money out of politics,” she said. “We feel we’ve lost our voice in government.”
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