The Barron County Property Committee considered a varied agenda on Monday, July 12, including changes related to the Barron County Government Center, a former Rice Lake school building and the County rifle range in Arland.
The Committee approved an ordinance prohibiting use of binary reactive exploding targets, such as Tannerite, and use of 50 caliber centerfire ammunition or larger. Hours of operation at the Owen Anderson Shooting Range, 760 9th Avenue (Hwy. D), are limited to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
County officials said the restricted hours and new regulations were brought on in part because of noise complaints from nearby property owners.
County parks staff also plan to raise an earthen berm to better block the sound, perhaps by adding wooden walls and filling with dirt.
Parks staff recorded decibels in the 90s and over 100 at a nearby residence.
“About 70 (decibels) is comfortable hearing,” said maintenance, facilities and parks director Steve Olson, “That’s the best we’ll ever get it there.”
County administrator Jeff French said the range has gotten more use over the years as other public and private ranges in the region have closed. Some shooters come from as far away as Minnesota.
“It’s full on a weekend. They’re waiting to shoot,” said parks/maintenance coordinator Ken Beranek.
As usage as increased, so has shooting of louder high caliber ammo and Tannerite.
Beranek said some people are putting Tannerite in old televisions, microwaves and other appliances, and blowing them up at the range.
Instances of people shooting after hours have also been increasing.
For any violation at county shooting ranges, the fine is $263.50.
The range is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except during deer gun hunting season and deer muzzleloader season, when hunting is permitted on the 105-acre shooting range property.
In other business, the Property Committee took the following actions:
• The Property Committee approved a recommendation to close the north entrance of the Barron County Government Center, effective August 7.
County Board chairman Louie Okey said limiting the building to one entrance on Monroe Avenue was a safety precaution.
“We need to make the building as safe as we can,” he said.
County Treasurer Yvonne Ritchie expressed some concern about closing the entrance. She said many people use the north entrance in the weeks leading up to the July 31 property tax deadline for easy access to the treasurer’s office.
She said some people still ask why the steps leading to the north entrance were removed from along La Salle Avenue.
Property Committee members indicated they would consider re-opening the north entrance during the 2022 tax time.
• Approved up to $300,000 that could be used for renovations at the Ann Street School in Rice Lake.
The building is intended for use by two Barron County social service departments after being used for many years by the Rice Lake Area School District.
Olson said that before county staff can move in, the building needs HVAC upgrades, IT updates and other remodeling. That includes replacing air handlers, ductwork and ceilings.
Future upgrades may include a new boiler, roof replacement, new wall and insulation and new windows, costing another estimated $270,000.
Alternatively, Olson said that erecting a new building of that type would cost about $3.8 million.
French said that some of the updates could be covered by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act—federal COVID-19 relief funding.
• Recommended moving forward with plans to renovate the Barron County Housing Authority’s Berger-Woodland Manor apartments in Barron.
Housing Authority executive director Meg Skemp said an elevator needs to be replaced, plumbing leaks stopped, windows replaced and the roof replaced, among other upgrades, to make the apartments more appealing to potential residents.
“We need to get this rehabilitated,” said Committee member Bob Rogers. “I firmly believe this is of value to Barron County residents.”
• Denied a refund request from someone who booked a campsite for the entire season, then cancelled. The County’s policy is that any camping reservations are nonrefundable.
The County is also now requiring that primitive campsites be reserved. Such campsites, located at Kirby Lake near Cumberland and Chain Lake/Twin Lake near Mikana, were previously first-come, first-served.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said that the sites have started to become home to squatters. He said that reservations are also preferable in order to “know who’s there.”
• Approved a request from the Wolf’s Den private campground on Prairie Lake to have music as late as 11 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, and until 10 p.m. other nights.
• Approved $1,495 to purchase nine new baskets for the UW-Eau Claire Barron County Campus Greens disc golf course. That covers half the cost of the baskets, while the rest was raised by community donations.
• Approved a land use agreement with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail organization.
• The Committee approved a loan to the Dusty Trail Finders ATV club for an equipment purchase.