La Crosse County Board District 16: Dan Ferries vs. Eric Wojta

La Crosse County Board District 16: Dan Ferries vs. Eric Wojta

From the Spring election: What you need to know before heading to the polls today in La Crosse County series
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Ferries

Dan Ferries

Political experience: Served on La Crosse County board for last 10 years; Served on Onalaska City Council four years

Why are you running for office?: Continue working for the county’s taxpayers and ensure the county is being fiscally responsible with their hard-earned money; help direct the best way to repair and pay for roads/highways; work on solutions to our opioid epidemic and homelessness; help prioritize county expenditures and keep levy limits in check.

The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: We need to continue to look at ways to fund the safety of infrastructure in our county through private-public partnerships. The county should continue its partnership with state and federal governments looking for additional grant opportunities that need to be sustainable in the future. Options that have been discussed at the county level include: additional taxes on tourist-related businesses, wheel taxes and additional borrowing.

Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: Communities need to be involved with discussions in the beginning of the project, whatever it may be. Each city, village, town, township and county need to prioritize items within their budgets while continuing to be fiscally responsible to the county taxpayers. The county has a budget of more than $160 million but needs to prioritize human services programs (especially with the pandemic we are experiencing currently), road/highway projects and the growing budget needs in each department.

Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: The county and state have made significant strides to help those struggling. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to this worldwide epidemic. This is an item that is very dear to my heart and am looking forward to the state, federal and local government partnerships in the coming months. I am optimistic the county will continue to find ways to also collaborate with private/public partners and help those struggling with chemical dependency, abusive behaviors and mental-health issues.

What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: Success: The county has several programs to assist in rehabilitating those who suffer from addictions, mental-health issues and harmful behaviors. These programs help reduce recidivism, reintegrate this population back into society, and give them hope to become a productive citizen. This is achieved through faith-based programs, drug court, mental-health assessments and counseling. Challenges: The District Attorney’s office and other aspects of the legal system are understaffed and underfunded. In our current situation with COVID-19, the county does not want to overload the jails and put additional people at risk. The question we all need to ask prior to incarceration of a certain population may be: Do we put them away because we are mad at them, or because we are scared of them?

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Eric Wojta

Political experience: No previous political experience.

Why are you running for office?: During the last 25 years I have been fully invested in the Onalaska community as an educator, coach, community volunteer and homeowner. I have also worked in community-based support systems that include the Onalaska School District, the La Crosse Family YMCA and the Family & Children’s Center. These opportunities have allowed me to be instrumental in working with incredibly selfless people that work together for the greater good. I have seen the positive impact that proactive support programs along with invested, caring workers can have in the community. My family and I enjoy the majestic natural resources in the Coulee Region and I desire to do whatever I can to help improve upon what we already have for the greater good. I have a deep passion for this community and am willing to invest my time and energy in helping the La Crosse area remain a choice destination for all.

The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: Maintaining high-quality county road and bridge infrastructure is of paramount importance to our community in order to maintain and create new economic development in the Coulee Region. County road quality is of immediate concern and it is quite clear that continuing to fund the repair of these roads is going to be a major ongoing expense. We must build upon the current partnership with the state to share responsibility in funding to maintain and raise the quality of roads and bridges. We must also continue to explore alternate long-term funding options such as the premier resort area tax in order to create long-term, fiscally responsible solutions that will be sustainable today as well as 10 or more years down the road.

Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: Working together with a common goal is going to be paramount to our community while we are currently attempting to deal with and recover from the threat of COVID-19. We, the members of the La Crosse community, have a history of working together and working for the good of all when we understand our shared goal. We must work together to develop a commonly shared infrastructure in order to reduce redundancy in services. Two-way collaborative efforts where all partners have shared responsibility and all have a voice at the table is essential to define our shared goals. Collaborative efforts are more impactful and will be the most cost-effective way to bring high-quality services at a responsible cost to all La Crosse County residents.

Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: In the La Crosse community there has been more of a focus in recent years on helping those who are struggling with drug abuse, but we can improve on the work that we are already doing. I believe that the La Crosse County board must not only continue to implement and evaluate current programs, but must also be proactive in looking for new collaborative partnerships. With all programs, we must be intimately involved in connecting and evaluating our operations to see what components are working and what needs revision. Encouraging additional collaboration and resources in order to implement evidence-based dependency and mental-health counseling practices is going to be needed to change behavior. We must focus on providing resources along with two-way communication and an evaluative process that will provide flexibility to meet the needs of the people that we are trying to serve and support.

What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: La Crosse County has made a concerted effort to provide treatment for those in jail and upon their release. There needs to be a continued effort to involve more community partners and resources in this reintegration and rehabilitation effort. For instance, the lack of safe and sober housing facilities is a major obstacle for many formerly incarcerated individuals leaving jail. When people do not have a safe place to live, or the ability to obtain and maintain meaningful employment, then the rate of homelessness and recidivism increases. One of the most pressing issues affecting our criminal justice system is drug use and the lack of reintegration resources to aid in long term behavioral change. I believe that we need to continue to look for cost-effective alternative options and partnerships that will focus on long-term behavioral change along with allocation of resources to facilitate successful implementation of these partnerships.

Dan Ferries and Eric Wojta face off in District 16.

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