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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Accepts Grants, Plans Old Hammes' Building Demolition

Issue Date: June 7, 2017

The City of Peshtigo has benefitted recently from several grants. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 6, Paula Gruszynski, Executive Director of M&M Community Foundation, presented the city with a check for $1,725 to be used toward expansion and improvement of the Disc (Frisbee) Golf Course in Badger Park, and a bit later in the meeting Council accepted a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor to be placed in a special account set up for maintenance of the skateboard park.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, thanked Parks and Recreation Director David Zahn for preparing and submitting the grant application.

Zahn said after the meeting that the grant will cover about half the work he wants to do on the project, but he has everything in place to start raising the rest of the money needed. Zahn also has been working on grants for improvements to existing baseball fields and possible creation of new ones.

Rev. Archer Leupp, pastor of Faith Baptist Church and chaplain for Marinette County Sheriff's Department and City of Marinette and City of Peshtigo Police Departments, was present for the meeting. Mayor Cathi Malke noted that he too had submitted a successful grant application. Leupp explained later that he had obtained a $1,000 grant for the Sheriff's Department chaplain program.

By unanimous vote, Council authorized Police Chief Joe FitzGerald to use up to $5,000 from the Carl Lukas Fund for the remainder of 2017 for expenditures to be approved by either the mayor or the chair of the License and Police committee. FitzGerald had also been authorized by the License and Police Committee to apply for a Cops Grant, with a determination to be made later if it is awarded.

Without dissent Council approved the street use permit for the Historical Day Parade on Saturday, Sept. 30 as requested by Parade Director Kris Karpowicz.

Council approved several steps needed to tear down what once had been the Hammes Appliance Store, then a sporting goods store and finally was owned by Oestreich, who attempted to start another business there. In February the city bought the property back at a Sheriff's sale after Oestreich defaulted on the $26,407 balance of $31,500 UDAG loan taken in 2006. The property, at 311 French Street, is located immediately east of the Municipal Building. There are no immediate plans for future use of the property, but the structure itself has been determined unrepairable.

On recommendation of the Fire, Lighting and Building Committee, Council approved hiring Pearson Asbestos Abatement Inc. to inspect and sample asbestos in the building, and authorized advertising for bids for demolition once the DNR approves the site as clean.

By unanimous vote Council accepted, with regrets, the retirement of part-time Police and Parks Secretary Rita Gulbertson effective on July 14. "She's been a faithful loyal worker during the years she's been here," commented Alderman Mary Lock. Malke agreed, "She will be missed."

Gulbertson currently works 20 to 25 hours per week in the Police and Parks and Recreation departments. After accepting Gulbertson's retirement, Council agreed without dissent to offer the current Clerk/Treasurer's Office Assistant up to 29 hours of work each week at $11 per hour, with the time to be shared between Police, Parks and Rec, andClerk/Treasurer's offices, as recommended by the Personnel Committee. The arrangement is to be reviewed in 90 days.

Malke cast the tie breaking vote in a dispute over wages to be paid the two summer helpers approved for the Public Works Department.

Who to hire and what to pay had apparently been discussed in closed session by the Personnel Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, May 30. Agenda for the City Council meeting called for hiring "two Seasonal/Summer Employees selected in Closed Session for the Public Works Department; one for 40 hours/week and one for 20 to 29 hours/ week at $15 /hour."

However, when Committee Chair Mike Behnke made that motion he was asked to identify the two being hired, and he said they would be Joshua Lapacz for the 40 hour position and Pauline H. Sedlar for 20 to 29 hours a week.

However, he then said he had been thinking since the committee meeting about what people in those positions had been paid in other years. Public Works Director George Cowell said in previous years the summer helpers were paid $4 per hour less than base pay for full time workers in that position. He said they have more responsibilities that many other part time employees. Pay last year was $16.07 per hour, and this year, based on the $4 under base, the wage would have been $16.24 per hour.

Behnke then moved to amend his committee's motion by setting the pay at $15.60 per hour rather than the $15. Alderman Tom Gryzwa seconded, but specified his second was only to get the amendment on the floor for discussion.

"I have a problem with that," declared Malke. "We have trained part time police officers that put their lives on the line for $17 an hour....to me that's not enough span!"

Behnke countered that the position involves working with garbage, which means they could get exposed to a number of bad things, including hepatitis B, for which they must get inoculated. "There's lots of nasty things they can come into contact with in the garbage," he declared. He agreed with Malke that they should also look into better pay for the part time police officers.

Gryzwa attempted to rescind his second on the pay portion of the motion, and was told he could vote against the amendment.

In answer to a number of questions before the vote, Council was told there had been only three applicants for the two jobs, and one of them was a 17-year-old who could not legally do some of the work the position requires. That left only the two viable applicants, both of whom were hired.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt asked if they had agreed to accept the $15 per hour.

Cowell said he had spoken with the applicants and assumed the pay would be as it was last year, $4 below base. Changing that now, he commented, "doesn't make me look good, and it doesn't make the city look good."

Alderman Mary Lock wondered if they would refuse the jobs at $15 per hour. She suggested in future the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments should advertise together for summer help positions. She also felt the pay rate or at least a range should be settled in advance, and listed with the ads.

Vote then was called, and aldermen Schmidt, Behnke, and Debbie Sievert voted in favor of the $15.60 per hour as proposed by Behnke, while Lock, Jillian Schutte and Gryzwa were opposed. Malke then cast the deciding "nay" vote, explaining again that her position was due to the small difference between that proposed pay and the amount paid the part time police officers.

With the amendment rejected, vote in favor of hiring the two at $15 per hour was unanimous.

Council approved repairing city hall restrooms as needed, and contracting with Klema Painting & Decorating, Inc., to do painting inside ($1,880) and outside ($5,770) of the Municipal building, and possibly having the police chief's office painted for an additional charge.

The Fire, Lighting and Building Committee had discussed having a farmer's/flea market in a city parking lot, and Malke commented when the city purchased the triangle area between French Street and Oconto Ave. at the stop lights the plan had been to hold city events, such as flea markets, there.

Council approved new the new logo design for city police cars, and Chief FitzGerald said the cars will be wearing the new emblems within the next couple of weeks.

As recommended by the Plan Commission, Council asked City Attorney David Spangenberg to draft an ordinance to rezone the back portion of the Charapata Seed property on French Street from R-2 Single Family Residential to B-3 Highway Commercial to allow for an addition to their building. The Council meeting on Wednesday, July 5 will be preceded by a 6:30 p.m. public hearing on the proposed zoning change.

With almost no discussion Council unanimously approved a Personnel Committee recommendation "to discontinue the taking of city vehicles to and from work, except for the police chief, effective (Wednesday) June 7." In making the motion, Behnke said to "discontinue allowing the Public Works Director to take a city vehicle to and from work," but others pointed out the recommendation was for all city employees, "except for the police chief." Behnke said he would "expand on that for next month."

Without discussion or dissent, Council unanimously supported a resolution opposing the Aquila Resources' Back Forty Proposed Mine as recommended by the Judiciary Committee.

The resolution urges Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to deny a mining permit for the Back Forty Project, which is a proposed open pit metallic sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River. It states the Menominee River empties into Lake Michigan, and is one of the largest watersheds in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It provides a unique habitat for species of special concern such as lake sturgeon and freshwater mussels, which would be negatively impacted by discharges, and potential impacts of the mine include that long term leaching of acid-producing wastes into the groundwater and hazardous wastes generated by the mine could degrade water quality and present risks to human health and the environment in Wisconsin and Michigan.

The resolution cites potential economic losses including potential reduction of property values and loss of tourism revenue, as well as stating approval of the mine "will resulting the irreversible loss of significant cultural resources of the Menominee Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, including Native American gravesites and other areas of historical significance."

All existing bartender licenses and beer and liquor licenses were renewed from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Three new licenses were issued for June to Jennifer L. Baker, Jenny Rose Hayes, and Ann H. Hoheneder, and new licenses for 207-2018 were approved for Theresa Maria Ainge, Shanon Marie Brown, Nicholas David Immel, Katlyn Marie Przewrocki, Rhonda Marie Tommarello and Ryan Edward Wortner.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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