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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City Exonerated in DNR Dredging Charge

Mayor Al Krizenesky announced at the Peshtigo City Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 6 that he has been informed by a DNR attorney that all charges against the city in connection with last fall’s dredging operations in the Peshtigo River near Trout Creek have been dropped. We are not guilty of anything! Krizenesky declared. Maximum penalty if the city had been found guilty would have been $1,000.

In a default judgment rendered by Marinette County Circuit Court Judge David Miron on Wednesday, July 24, the contractor, Iron Works Construction, LLC of Bailey’s Harbor was fined $400.50 for operating a vehicle in navigable water and placing a structure on the water bed without a bulkhead. The contractor had started placing equipment and beams for the job before the DNR permit was in effect and before the city had signed the contract. The guilty finding apparently came by default, since the contractor reportedly did not appear for DNR or court proceedings.

The same charges had been filed against the city, and a jury trial was requested. The complaint alleged that the contractor moved in some equipment for the planned dredging on the night of Nov. 22. At 10:52 a.m. on Oct. 23 DNR Warden Jeffrey Lautenschlager issued the ticket. The city had applied for a dredging permit and had hired Iron Works to do the work, but the city argued they had not yet signed the contract when the equipment was moved in.

With no discussion, Council unanimously approved a Water and Sewer Committee recommendation to draft specifications in preparation for obtaining proposals for operating the wastewater treatment plant. That job had been handled by BPM, Inc. in recent years, but when contract negotiations fell through the committee decided to seek outside proposals. BPM, Inc., is the single largest user of the plant. When roll was called several aldermen, in particular Alderman Cathi Malke hesitated, but finally voted in favor.

With a number of major projects drawing to a close, the Council at Tuesday’s meeting officially set the wheels in motion for two new projects.

Krizenesky has appointed an all-volunteer committee to work on plans for development of the area now known as Recreation Park, along the Peshtigo River on the south side of the Old Hwy. 41 bridge near the BPM, Inc. paper mill property, including the old railroad bridge.

Committee members in addition to Krizenesky are to be Ed Brandt from WPS, City Public Works Director George Cowell, City Recreation Director Dave Zahn, BPM, Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz, and Alderman Tom Gryzwa, who chairs the council’s finance committee. Krizenesky said Dan Segestrom, project engineer for the DOT, is sending information on possible grants. Krizenesky said he would like to develop a walkway and fish viewing area along the river, and possibly incorporate the old railroad bridge that was used for foot traffic across the river while reconstruction of the bridge on Business 41 (French Street) was in progress.

Krizenesky asked Alderman Mike Behnke if he had made progress on obtaining a grant for dredging of Trout Creek, and was told the work almost certainly will not get done any more this year. He said the window for grant applications had opened just over a week ago, and it closes in six days. Since the city had obtained prices for dredging when the water was drawn down and not for use of hydraulic equipment with the water present, none of the price quotes they had would apply.

I talked with Chuck (Druckrey, of the Marinette County Land and Water Conservation Department)... while the dredging can’t be done this year, it is not going to be put on a back burner either, Behnke said.

Krizenesky commented wryly that they had learned what can happen when they try to proceed too quickly with contracts involving dredging.

On request of Malke, with unanimous council approval, a volunteer committee was formed to look into options for management of Riverside Cemetery, with the goal of getting it back under control of the city. Members are to be Malke, along with Aldermen Deborah Sievert and Brigitte Schmidt, with Behnke to work with them as a non-voting member. Currently the cemetery is managed by an independent board of directors, financed by a $50,000 donation from the city each year.

Malke said no one could want better workers than the two men who currently maintain the cemetery, and their insurance is already paid through the city. She said it disturbs her to see city departments struggling to cut $5 here and $10 there, and then turn over $50,000 to the Cemetery Association with no say at all as to how it is used.

Krizenesky wished them well, but said they are in for a lot of work. He said four years ago he had checked with Herman Pottratz, Jim Finger and others who were involved when the Town of Peshtigo turned the cemetery over to the Association. He cautioned Malke there may be legal reasons why the cemetery management was set up as it is, and they will have hurdles to overcome.

After a bit of discussion aimed at getting the wording right, Council unanimously approved a motion authorizing City Attorney David Spangenberg to spend up to $2,500 to someone to do a Title Search, Certified Survey and other possible work needed to establish ownership of Dishaw Ave. Spangenberg had suggested they might want to limit the amount he can spend. Behnke asked if the $2,500 would be enough, with the added proviso that he can come back for more if needed. Spangenberg said that should work. In connection with the same issue, the extension of Dishaw Street, Spangenberg was authorized to draft a letter to allow backing up of vehicles on Mr. Richter’s property. Richter maintains he owns the end of Dishaw Ave. which prevents a turnaround there. The city disagrees. Residents had petitioned for a turnaround for safety reasons, and Richter had offered to allow vehicles to turn around in his driveway. Both issues came up for long discussion at a Streets and Drainage meeting on Monday, July 15, that resulted in both recommendations.

Council approved a Streets and Drainage Committee recommendation to pay $1,150 to Patrick and Rose Ann Harper for repairs to their driveway for damages caused by a city project.

Michelle Miller of Office Planning Group presented a proposal for a new copier lease agreement that she explained will save the city $157 a month. After an exchange of questions and answers, Council approved a recommendation from Krizenesky that they turn the proposal over to the Finance Committee for further investigation. The current contract expires late this month, but Miller said it will be extended until a new agreement is in place.

On recommendation of the Finance Committee, Council approved an agreement with Time Warner Cable to provide telephone and internet service to the city for $639.28 a month on a 3-year contract. Committee Chair Gryzwa said they had been studying telephone options for months and this agreement will save the city in the neighborhood of $200 to $300 a month.

Gryzwa reported there had been a mixup regarding credit cards for city departments from BMO Bank, but it has been straightened out. Department heads now have their cards and they are the only ones who can authorize use.

Without dissent Council approved a jurisdiction transfer agreement with the Town of Peshtigo through which parts of Schacht Road, Old Cedar Way (formerly Dolan Ave.) and Poplar Ridge Roads became town roads, but the city retained an easement for utility purposes.

Council also unanimously approved a request from Chamber of Commerce President Pat Roland to use the Drees community Center kitchen from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6 to prepare ingredients for the booyah for the Historical Day celebration on Saturday, Sept. 7.

On recommendation of Cowell, Council added a $5 fee for disposal of a single large item, such as a mattress or box spring, to the fee schedule for the dumpster disposal site. Cowell said many people were bringing in just a single item, not a truck load, but were having to pay the $20 truckload fee. He said otherwise things are going well, the amount of trash they are dealing with has dropped considerably, and the Experience Works people are a great help. The site is open Monday through Thursday, 7:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Cowell reported the new traffic control signs are up at East Park, West Park and Emery Ave. and a no U-turn sign is installed but more signs are needed in the school area, particularly signs prohibiting left turns.

There was some flooding from a recent downpour, and Cowell said he has listed problem areas with the intention of finding ways to prevent similar problems in the future.

Council unanimously authorized Cowell to get a proposal from Marinette County to seal coat roads in the Rainbow Court area.

Landscaping is complete in the triangle at Oconto Ave. and French Street, and to celebrate completion of the downtown reconstruction and beautification projects, engineers Robert E. Lee and Associates plan to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony, probably in the new city parking lot. Cowell was authorized to work with them to set up the event, which most likely will be held in late August.

Alderman Tim Colburn reporting as chair of the Personnel Committee, said they continued preparing for the initial exchange with Teamsters Local 662 who desire to open the current labor agreement, and have begun preparing for the initial exchange with the Peshtigo Police Department Association (WPPA/LEER) who want to begin bargaining for a successor agreement.

They formalized an agreement made last month setting starting salary for newly hired Parks and Recreation Director David Zahn at $42,000 per year during a 6-month evaluation period, after which he is to get a $500 a year raise, followed by another $500 raise after his one year evaluation, when the probationary period ends. His official start date was Monday, July 15.

Zahn presented an enthusiastic report of his first two weeks on the job. He said electric and water service has been installed at all 37 campsites in Badger Park. Formerly five sites had no electric service and none of the sites had water. A sewer line has been run to the designated host site as planned. Regraveling of the loop and sites affected by water installation is in progress.

Income reports show camping revenue at Badger Park is running higher than the last several years. He attributed that increase to word of the installation of water service spreading through the camping community, and to news getting out that Badger is one of the few campgrounds in northern Wisconsin that offer the 50 amp electric service needed by the larger camping rigs.

There was nearly a full campground for the Christmas in July weekend. Decorations are getting more and more elaborate and some campers are already making plans for next year’s decorations. He thanked everyone who helped with the event.

Progress had been made on getting Riverfront Park up to standard, Zahn said. The broadleaf weed issue in grassy areas is being dealt with manually. The automated sprinkler system has been installed and they are watering daily to keep things healthy and growing. Four of the dead or dying trees in the park have been replaced by the contractor, a couple of issues with the sidewalks and brick borders have been repaired, problems with lights have been dealt with, and they are still waiting for wooden gazebo support coverings to be installed by local volunteer craftsmen.

Geese and their exhaust continue to be a problem at Riverfront Park as well as other areas of private and city owned land along the river. The sprinkler system helps remove drippings from walkways. He said single goose control measures have not worked and they are considering a combination of theories.

The beach and swimming areas in the river at Badger Park have been very popular this summer. During a recent hot spell Zahn counted over 60 people in the water at one time on a hot Saturday afternoon. A cleaned out swimming spot from last year’s dredging helped immensely, as did a couple of fresh loads of sand for the beach.

The beach-side restrooms by the football field and skate park will be functioning by the end of the week. Hours will be limited during the week to when park personnel are on duty, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and weekend hours will be 9 a.m. to roughly 7 p.m. The building will be locked at all other times, Zahn said, and at the first sign of vandalism, which has been an issue with these restrooms in the past, they will be locked for the remainder of the season. Zahn expressed thanks to Sarah Schroeder and her family for helping paint the exterior of the bathrooms.

The T-ball program is in full swing, with about 20 youngsters aged 3 to 5 participating. The adult softball league has become a fall league. There are four teams. Games will begin Monday, Aug. 12 at 6 and 7:15 p.m.

All the worn wooden bleachers in the ball fields have been repaired and painted victory blue.

Zahn credited harbor master John Breault for doing a terrific job on the weed harvester this summer. He removed some pesky cottonwood trees along the river bank and cuts and trims areas along the river within the city limits.

All of the Parks and Rec employees are doing a terrific job, Zahn said, as are the community service workers from the county jail. Zahn expressed particular thanks to John Valitchka for his above and beyond work in dealing with the new Park/Rec Director and teaching me where everything is and how things operate out in the campground and the park system.

Behnke and Cowell had toured city streets to update Schedule A, which completes the city’s stop sign ordinance by listing official stop sign sites. The updated listing was approved and is to be placed on file in the City Clerk’s office.

A public hearing will be held on amendments to the speed limit ordinance that will place 25 miles per hour limits on all city streets, except where specified and signed at 35 mph. Speed limit on East and West Park Drives will be set at 15 mph, speed in alleys is limited to 15 mph, and the speed limit on Ogden Street south of Old Peshtigo Road will be 45 mph.

On recommendation of the Judiciary Committee, Council agreed agendas for all committee meetings will be forwarded to Spangenberg for review before they are posted by City Clerk/Treasurer Mary Ann Wills. Behnke pointed out the original discussion had been over concern with proper legal postings for closed meetings, but Wills pointed out in some cases committees may be putting items on the agenda for open sessions that should be discussed in closed meetings.

Operator licenses were approved for Elizabeth Steffel, Theresa Swiatnicki and Wendy Lynn Rogers.

There had been some question over the value of a sign on Hwy. 41 advertising Badger Park, and whether or not the contract with the state should be renewed. Malke said she was told by several campers that they learned about Badger Park because they had seen the sign.

Council authorized Wills to renew City and UDAG CDs that are due in August. There are two for $100,000 each and one for $1 million.

On recommendation of the Water and Sewer Committee Council accepted a chemical quote from Hawkins Chemical for $8,484 to treat one well and $4,602.95 for the other.

They approved payment of $22,300 to Elmstar Electric for regular contract work in connection with the Wastewater Treatment Plant rebuild, and approved a welcome $10,000 deduct from the Elmstar Electric contract.

Krizenesky noted happily that the Clean Water Fund loan has been approved, and the amount to be forgiven has increased from $74,000 to $230,000.

Copies of Marinette County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan are on file and available for public viewing in the Clerk’s office at the Municipal Building.


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