Two running for Farmington town chair
By Robert Cloud
Two seats are contested in the 2017 Farmington Town Board election.
Caroline Murphy and Joel Bartel are running for town chair.
Phillip Durrant and Mark Jensen are seeking the supervisor 2 seat on the town board. An article about them will appear in next week’s Waupaca County Post.
The election is set for Tuesday, April 4.
Caroline Murphy is the current town chair. She was appointed to the position at the Dec. 19, 2016, Farmington Town Board meeting, following the resignation of Kevin Will.
She was first elected to the Farmington Town Board in 2009.
She is a retired kindergarten teacher who worked 35 years with the Port Washington-Saukville School District before retiring to the Chain O’ Lakes area.
She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“I see teaching as helping parents and children. It’s a matter of service,” Murphy said. “I see the same thing in being a town supervisor or chair. I’m serving the residents of the town.”
As a teacher, Murphy said she needed to constantly learn new things and new ideas.
She believes these same skills help her keep informed about changes that affect Farmington.
“As supervisor, I have attended conferences and workshops about town government, road maintenance, how to run meetings, what is allowed by state statutes and what is not,” Murphy said.
Murphy said she attends the workshops to learn new ideas.
“You ask how can I apply it, is it relevant and is it going to work,” Murphy said.
Murphy has learned about the growing importance of bike trails in rural areas.
The Farmington Town Board has approved a bike trail brochure for residents and visitors.
The board has also approved purchasing a bike rack for outside the town hall.
“A biker can stop here, use the restroom and fill their water bottles,” Murphy said.
Murphy also wants to have a picnic table outside the town hall.
“That’s on my to-do list for this spring,” Murphy said.
Murphy said she is also talking with the county highway department about putting a bike trail on King Road between Waupaca High School and County Trunk Q.
She is concerned about the safety of students who are biking to school.
Another road with safety concerns is South Foley between U.S. Highway 10 and Cobbtown Road.
“We applied for TRIP (Town Road Improvement Program) funds, but we didn’t get the grant,” Murphy said.
She said South Foley is a rustic road with a lot of drop offs along the shoulders.
“The road is so canopied with trees that the ice does not melt very quickly,” Murphy said. “It would be devastating if a car slid off.”
She has been meeting with the county highway department to discuss guard rails.
Murphy said she learned much about road maintenance from former town chair Dale Trinrud and former supervisor Eugene Engebretson.
She said Trinrud began the town board’s practice of inspecting town roads every April and October.
Murphy plans to continue that practice. She said Faulks Bros. will also provide a list of roads where there are potholes and shoulder damage when the company sweeps the roads in the spring.
Communications is an issue that Murphy said she has been concerned with since becoming a supervisor.
To help keep residents informed, Murphy launched the Farmington Town Newsletter.
“Our county government is a good resource,” Murphy said, regarding content for the newsletter. “We had articles on the DNR, waste management and recycling, emergency management.”
Murphy also wants to improve the town’s website so that it is easier to post new information on it.
“We just approved updating our website,” Murphy said. “Instead of seeing the names and telephone numbers of the town officials, residents will be able to send a written message.”
Visitors to the website will also be able to read resolutions and ordinances.
Murphy said she can be reached on her cell phone every day.
“Since I’m retired I can devote my time to making a serious commitment to the town of Farmington and its residents,” Murphy said.
Joel Bartel was first elected to the Farmington Town Board in 2009, after defeating then-supervisor Eugene Engebretson.
In 2011, Engebretson ran against Bartel again and won.
One of the issues in the 2011 election was that Bartel had not attended committee meetings and budget workshops.
This year, Bartel is running for town chair, in part so that he “can schedule the meetings during the evenings.”
“When I was supervisor, meetings were scheduled during the day when I was working,” Bartel said.
A graduate of Little Wolf High School in Manawa, Bartel earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a master’s in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University.
He has been involved in medical sales for 17 years.
Bartel also owns and operates a 300-acre corn and soybean farm near Symco.
He is an active member of the board of directors for the Waupaca Area Youth Hockey Association and was board president from 2014 to 2016.
“I think it’s time for a new generation to get involved in local level government and have some fresh ideas,” Bartel said.
He believes that Farmington, because it is Waupaca County’s largest township, should be given priority by its contractors, especially for snowplowing.
Bartel also wants to see more focus on safety in King and around the Chain. He proposes extending the shoulders for pedestrians, additional lighting and sidewalks where appropriate.
“King Road is a safety concern for both bicycles and pedestrians,” Bartel said. “The road leads right to the high school.”
He plans to apply for state grants to pay for the safety improvements.
Bartel said he is opposed to raising property taxes in Farmington.
He noted that Farmington has close to $1 million in its contingency fund.
“If I were to use the contingency fund, it would be strictly toward roads and road safety,” Bartel said. “I believe it’s important to maintain at least $750,000.”
Bartel favors opening all town roads north of State Highway 54 to four-wheelers, ATVs and UTVs.
“Hunters, farmers, landowners and people are doing it already,” Bartel said. “Let’s be a leader and make it legal.”
Noting that he was responsible for starting Farmington’s website in 2010, Bartel said he wants to improve communications with residents.
One way Bartel would encourage more communication would be to expand the time for public input during the board meetings.
“Our current appointed town board chairman does not allow comments during the meeting except during the public input time,” Bartel said. “If someone has a comment on an issue, I want to hear it.”
Another way to improve communications between town government and residents would be to extend town hall hours.
Currently, the town hall is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I want to make sure the town hall hours are extended to 5 p.m. on certain days of the week so it’s easier for people who work to come to the town hall,” Bartel said.
Bartel said he planned to model his chairmanship after Dale Trinrud, who served on the Farmington Town Board for 25 years, first as a supervisor, then as the town chair for seven years until he retired in 2014.
“I will have time to do this job,” Bartel said. “I’m an independent contractor so my schedule is flexible. Thanks to technology, I can be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”