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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City OKs Wastewater Treatment Plant Loan

“The big thing is the city’s tax rate is staying the same as last year, there’s no tax increase,” declared Peshtigo Mayor Al Krizenesky at the budget hearing that preceded the City Council’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3. No one from the public spoke for or against the proposed budget, which was later approved without dissent by the Council, with Alderman Tim Colburn absent.

With levies added for Marinette County, Peshtigo School District, NWTC and the State of Wisconsin, the levy for properties in the city is .019752, which equates to $1,920 on a $100,000 property. Of this, $480 is for city purposes, $165 goes to NWTC, $426 to the county, $16.91 to the state, and $887 goes to support the school district.

Council approved a series of financial transactions for long-term financing of the recently completed Wastewater Treatment Plant reconstruction.

First came a financial assistance agreement with the DNR and Wisconsin Department of Administration for a loan of $1,808,056, with $232,628 of principal forgiveness, which leaves a balance of $1,575,428 to be repaid to the state.

Next came adoption of a resolution authorizing issuance and sale of up to $1,575,428 Sewerage System Revenue Bonds to back that transaction, and approval of hiring Quarles & Brady for a fee of $6,000 to serve as bond counsel for the Clean Water Fund loan transactions.

“This is a great thing for the city,” declared Alderman Tom Gryzwa, referring to the $232,628 of principal forgiveness, which equates to a grant for that amount of the reconstruction costs. Gryzwa, who chairs both the Finance Committee and the Water and Sewer Committee, expressed thanks to Taryn Nall of Kaempfer & Associates, consultants for the project, and everyone else who helped with the application.

On recommendation of the UDAG Committee, council approved a $100,000 loan at 2 percent interest for 15 years, to Faucett Forest Products LLC “or an entity acceptable to the Council to guarantee the debt.” The city is to share first position with the bank on real estate, and an appraisal is to be provided.

Wade Fronsee was present for the meeting on behalf of Faucett Forest Products. Gryzwa, who also chairs the UDAG committee, declared, “This is for a local industry that’s expanding!” He thanked Fronsee for expanding in Peshtigo and congratulated him on the growth of his business.

Over strong objections from Krizenesky, Council unanimously adopted a schedule of charges for a number of items either dropped off at the dumpster and recycling center at the city garage or picked up from residences on a call-in basis. “Property taxes are levied to pay for services to our community,” Krizenesky declared. “You’re double dipping when you charge for them again,” he declared. “We raised sewer rates, we raised water rates, and now we’re charging for garbage!”

“For four years I campaigned not to charge for services,” Krizenesky went on. He said he agreed they should charge at the dumpsters because residents from surrounding towns were bringing in their trash and taking advantage of the no charge policy, but felt residents shouldn’t need to come to City Hall for a permit, or pay $10 to have a television set hauled away. He threatened to veto the measure if it was adopted by Council.

“Our auditors say we’re in great shape,” Krizenesky remarked. He felt the $6,000 the fees would generate each year is insignificant, and declared, “I’m recommending that you don’t vote for this!” He suggested that in general, the aldermen earn more than many households in the city, and perhaps did not understand the impact a somewhat slight extra charge would have on lower income people.

“I don’t think we really balanced the budget,” Alderman Brigitte Schmidt replied, “We just applied a $45,000 band aid.” She said if eliminating the user fees raises taxes there is an even harder impact on low income residents.

Alderman Deb Sievert suggested if there are no user fees there is nothing to stop relatives from outside the city from bringing in their televisions sets and other trash.

“Where does it end, Mayor?” asked Alderman Mike Behnke. “What do we do when you can’t afford to provide services because we didn’t charge user fees?”

After the unanimous vote in favor of the user fee charges, Krizenesky did not indicate if he would or would not veto the measure. Charges are $15 for a TV, and $20 if that TV is partly dismantled; $5 each for computer/entertainment components, $5 top $20 for tires, and $10 for appliance pickup at curbside. Charge for trash brought to the dumpster is $10 per car load, $20 per pickup or single axle trailer load; $35 per double axle trailer load, and $50 each for single household furniture item.

After a bit of discussion, Council approved a request from River Road Riders Snowmobile Club to extend their trail on the east side of the city to the parking area at the end of the Peshtigo River Bridge on Business 41, where fishermen frequently park. The trail currently ends at the city garage. Pete Hass, club president, explained the parking area will be good for loading and unloading snowmobiles.

The trail will run along the river through properties owned by WPS and the Harper family, and Hass said the club has verbal agreements with both.

Before moving for approval, Alderman Behnke, who serves on the Parks and Recreation committee, said he had spoken with Hass on the trail request, and feels the extension will be good for visitors and residents alike.

Alderman Schmidt asked how a snowmobile trail will affect plans for a cross country ski trail through the area, which is the city’s newest park. Development there is just beginning. Behnke commented it is a wide slice of property, with plenty of room for both types of trails.

Krizenesky noted trail development work was started this summer by Parks and Recreation Director Dave Zahn, “but there’s a lot of work to be done there, and it takes time.”

Public Works Director George Cowell said the trail has been widened to about five feet, but more widening will need to be done by the snowmobile club.

Alderman Sievert asked if the club had considered having the trail cross the old highway to access business places, perhaps by using the old railroad crossing to the old Badger Paper Mills Pulp area.

Hass said for this year they want to end it at the parking area. Crossing at that corner would be hazardous, but in future they want to find a spot where they could cross. She asked if the trail will be marked, and Hass assured her it will.

Schmidt said she enjoys snowshoeing through that area and questioned the conditions to be placed on the snowmobile club.

City Clerk/Treasurer Mary Ann Wills wondered if it would be necessary to amend the city ordinance regulating snowmobiling, but City Attorney Dave Spangenberg advised they only need to amend the existing trail map. The ordinance already states snowmobiles can operate in the city only in designated areas.

Schmidt wondered if there would be a way to discuss the issue with the Parks and Recreation Committee prior to approval, but received no support from other members of the Council.

Cowell said there are already two trails through the area, and only one will be used by the snowmobiles. Work has been done on the trail closest to the water, but not on the other one. Hass said in other places the club successfully shares trails with cross country skiers and there is no conflict.

Gryzwa commented the snowmobile trails have been coming into the city at the east and west ends for three to four years. “It’s been very successful and they’re not going to screw it up now.”

Ultimately, Behnke’s motion to approve the trail extension was approved without dissent, with Aldermen Tim Colburn and Cathi Malke absent. Despite obvious misgivings, Schmidt also voted in favor. The motion included provisions that permission from the other property owners be obtained prior to trail development, and instructions that the club is to work closely with Zahn on location, development and signing of the trail.

“As long as we don’t have complaints, we won’t have any problems,” Krizenesky commented.

Malke, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, arrived shortly after the vote, and Schmidt asked her to put the issue on the next committee agenda to discuss snowshoe and cross country ski implications.

Cowell reported the city’s new plow and salt truck, still under warranty, had broken down. Snow was falling at the time. Cowell said they currently have one new plow truck, an older 5-yard truck, and no working salter, so he had made arrangements with the county to help if necessary. There is an old salter in the city garage that they may install on an existing truck as a fill in unit. Icy snow was falling at the time, and Cowell said plowing would start at 2 a.m. “We’ll do our best with the equipment we have,” he promised.

The first streets to be plowed will be French Street and Maple Street, which make up the old Hwy. 41 route through the city, plus East and West Park and Aubin to Rennes Health Center because of the school. Next in priority are Old Peshtigo Road to Jopek and Beebe Ave.

Cowell said despite an announced date weeks ago for the end of curbside leaf pickup for the year, leaf pickup is still going on. There are still leaf piles to be picked up on Aubin Street and Meadow Lane. In some places property owners were still raking leaves into the street two weeks after pickup was to have stopped, and if left there they will clog storm water drains. He suspects with the snow falling and plows out some of the leaves may be back in the yards that they came from.

In other action:

*Council approved proceeding with Tyler Technologies for an update to the city’s computer software, the first in 10 years. Price is not to exceed $35,000, including $5,000 for travel.

*The 2014 salary and wage schedule for non-union city employees was approved as recommended by the Personnel Committee.

*Labor contract with WPPA/LEER, the Police Department’s employee association, was approved for three years, with a 1 percent raise each year. The clothing allowance is to be increased from $450 to $500 each year, sick leave is reduced from 1 1/2 days to one per month, and a provision is added stating that regardless of promotion or rank, after 15 years of continued service to the city, the most senior bargaining unit officer will be compensated at the sergeant rate of pay.

Malke said the Personnel Committee wants to make sick pay equal for all departments, so it will need to be addressed for non-union employees next month. The two union contracts already have the reduced sick pay provisions. Malke noted the city’s insurance already provides long term and short term disability payment provisions.

*On recommendation of Fire Chief Steve Anderson, Council approved Ryan Haulotte for a position of firefighter for the city fire department. Anderson explained Haulotte had served on the department for four years before leaving to take a job in Wausau. He is now back, and is returning to the department. Another firefighter recently announced plans to resign, so Anderson still will be seeking another firefighter.

*A petition for detachment submitted by property owners Kyle and Megan Cheney was tentatively approved. Cheney explained that due to an old survey error, about four tenths of an acre of their property in the Shorewood Heights Subdivision lies within Peshtigo City Limits, and their remaining property, like their neighbors, is all in the Town of Peshtigo. Cheney said it is highly unlikely any city services will ever be extended there, and the property taxes come to about $15 a year. He said having the property split into two municipalities will impact the decision on where the house they may build can be located. It is currently a vacant lot. City Attorney Dave Spangenberg pointed out that approval by three quarters of the Council members is required for a detachment petition, which would be difficult with two members absent. However, that can be done next month, and all they needed today was a majority vote in favor of having the ordinance drawn up and setting date for the public hearing in January. Krizenesky jokingly asked if they wouldn’t prefer to have the whole property annexed by the city to take advantage of city police and fire protection. To accompanying laughter, Cheney declined.

*A letter explaining a Findings of Fact and order from the office of the Commissioner of Railroads was received and placed on file. The railroad and the city are each instructed to clear brush from their right of ways at the East and West Front Street crossing by May 31, and the railroad is instructed to install crossing gates at the crossing there, with work not to start until appropriate federal aid or other funding arrangements have been received and the Wisconsin DOT informs the railroad they may start work.

* Appointments to the Elections Board were approved for Beverly Kain, Irene Marquardt, Jeannine Hipke, Barbara Thompson, Donna Zeske, Mary Gansebom and Mary Seidl. Diedre McCormick, Donna Biernasz, Sharon Zehren, Shirley Olson and Mary Dahl were approved as alternates.

*Next year’s Historical Day will have fireworks. Council approved a fireworks permit for Spieelbauer Fireworks Co., Inc., for Sept. 27, 2014. Chief Anderson said he has no objection, provided the firm complies with requirements of the National Fire Protection Association for fireworks displays and prepares the proper maps. If weather makes the display a risk there will be no fireworks. Anderson said the fire department will need to stand by for the event. Behnke said the firm has a $5 million insurance policy, and has experienced operators and a good crew.

*Malke reported that concerns over what appeared to be a cut in pay for the Riverside Cemetery workers prompted another meeting of the Volunteer Cemetery Committee. However, it was found that the cemetery budget this year had separated take-home pay for the two employees from their withholdings so apparently the actual pay amount was unchanged.

*Sale of two old pieces of city equipment to the high bidders was approved. Andy Bergeson was awarded purchase of the 1986 pickup truck for $2,010, and Bob Nielson had high bid of $503 for the old Hustler Shortcut Mower. Krizenesky commented Cowell felt those prices were “just fine.”

*Council approved first reading of a proposed ordinance governing cross connection controls on water systems. Public hearing on the ordinance will be held before the next Council meeting.

*A Parks and Recreation Committee recommendation to raise rates for campground sites at Badger Park from $18 to $20 per night and to charge non-campers $5 for each use of the dump station was approved.

*On recommendation of the Water and Sewer Committee, Council approved hiring a licensed operator and appropriate labor and support personnel to allow the city to operate the Wastewater Treatment Plant “subject to cancellation of the operation agreement with BPM, Inc.” The BPM,, Inc. contract expires in 2015. Krizenesky hoped something can be worked out with BPM, Inc. to continue their operation. Gryzwa said they had sought bids for another outside operator, and prices came in between $199,050 and $249,000. He said to stay within the recently established rate structure the committee felt the city would have to take over the operation. There is a Water and Sewer Committee meeting slated for Tuesday, Dec. 10, and there will be more discussions with BPM, Inc. at that time, Gryzwa said.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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