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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Kurt Konell Named Wagner Town Chair

Issue Date: May 10, 2018

The Town of Wagner once again has a full slate of town officials - two supervisors, a chairman, a treasurer and a clerk. Appointment of a treasurer, supervisor and town chair were accomplished at a series of special meetings that began on Tuesday, May 1 with appointment of Ed Delfosse as Supervisor and ended on Monday, May 7 when former Town Supervisor Kurt Konell was chosen to fill the Town Chair position that Supervisor Mollie Arthur declined.

In a brief interview after the meeting, Konell said he lives on the Menominee River near the park. He served two prior terms on the town board, from 2007 to 2009, and 2015 to 2017. He did not seek reelection in 2017 because his wife was ill. He drove truck most of his life and has been retired since 1994. He became interested in serving with town government because he wanted to be sure taxpayer dollars were spent wisely. "Want and need are two different things," he declared.

On Thursday, May 3 Linda Larochelle was chosen to serve as town treasurer. Each newly selected official was sworn by Clerk Linda Wilke and seated with the board immediately. All terms will end after the elections in April of 2019, when they, or anyone else interested, can run for office.

The newly organized board was scheduled to hold its first regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 9 to deal with ordinary town business, some of it postponed from the tempestuous monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 18, when former Chair Lynn Hickey and Supervisor Allen Sievert resigned. Treasurer Bruce Meyhoff had resigned just prior to that meeting. He had been appointed to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of the former treasurer.

The April 18 resignations left Supervisor Mollie Arthur and Clerk Wilke as the only remaining town officials. Arthur assumed the duties of her office and completed the meeting before Sievert left his seat on the board.

Arthur then sought legal advice from Atty. Kim Coggins before deciding what to do next. Wisconsin law provides that when only one member remains of a three member board the clerk takes on voting duties. In December of last year Wilke was appointed clerk by Hickey. The prior clerk had resigned four months earlier.

On May 1, acting on advice from Coggins, Wilke and Arthur took suggestions from the floor selected Delfosse as the new supervisor, and he was sworn in and seated. The other suggested appointee was Kevin Wickman, and both had agreed to serve.

After the meeting, Delfosse told the Peshtigo Times he has lived in Wagner most of his life, and now lives on the family farm where he grew up. He is retired after working 45 years for Ansul. He and his late wife, Debbie had three sons: Christopher, of Minneapolis; Craig, of Green Bay, and Casey, of Oconto. There are two grandchildren.

At the May 3 meeting, Arthur and Delfosse selected Larochelle as the new treasurer and she was sworn in and seated.

Larochelle said she has education and experience in accounting. She holds an Associates Degree in accounting and worked in that field for more than 30 years, including four in the finance department of KSU, and retired from Ansul after working there for 15 years. She worked for many years in the payroll department for a New Hampshire firm with more than 10,000 employees and spent time in service in the Military Police. For one year after retirement she worked with Laird Appraisals when the town was being reappraised.

She has one son, Anthony, who lives in Menominee with his wife Kimberly and two children, and a daughter, Justine Hodge, who lives in Lena with husband Corwin and two children.

The other nominee was Don Wilan, who serves as fire department treasurer. When there were objections that holding both positions would be a conflict of interest he withdrew his offer to serve in favor of Larochelle. Wilke and Arthur had both been assured by legal counsel that there would be no conflict, but Wilan said he did not want any more controversy in the town on his account, and stood by his decision to withdraw and Larochelle was subsequently approved by Arthur and Delfosse. Before the evening ended bills postponed from last month because there was no one to sign the checks were approved and paid.

Public comment at the May 3 meeting included questions from Hickey as to how much the attorney was being paid for the advice Arthur mentioned. Arthur replied they have not been billed yet, but when the bill arrives the town will pay it. She had been assured by Coggins that it would not be out of line. Arthur said to her knowledge the town had no official town attorney so she had contacted Coggins, who serves as legal counsel for a number of other towns in the area. He is being paid on an as needed basis, not with an annual salary.

The meeting room was again filled to near capacity for the May 7 meeting, and again Arthur accepted comments and suggestions from the floor.

At the start of the meeting Assistant Fire Chief Mike Caylor reminded everyone that burning permits are needed for any outdoor burning except cooking and camp fires. Permits are free and numbers to obtain them are posted in the town hall and at the fire station. Even people with permits must call in before burning to check on fire conditions, he said.

Chuck and Sally Dedering suggested Hickey should be returned to the position she had resigned, if she would take it. They praised the job she had done during her five years in office. However, Dedering then complained about the conditions of town roads, particularly Rademaker road, and said too much money was spent on the fire department.

Lea Jane and Dale Burrie both also spoke in favor of Hickey.

Darcey Hermes and Mike Caylor both spoke in favor of Konell. Linda Caylor suggested Hickey should take the year off and run in 2019 if she wants the Town Chair position back.

"I would like to be sure we have a town board that will stay the course until the next election, and that's why I prefer Kurt," Caylor declared. He said he did not want the town to again be in the situation it had been in for the last month, without a town board.

There were arguments that Hickey has the strength and know how needed for the job, and that Konell, having been on the board twice, also has knowledge and experience.

A lady from the audience praised Arthur for stepping up and staying on the board. She said she had never seen such crowds at town meetings as they had seen in the last three months and hoped they would keep coming.

Burrie declared whatever they do, "let's do it legally and with respect. We're all neighbors and we have to work together."

Ember Rickaby, who works with the 4-H and Historical Society, said she wants a chair she can be comfortable with.

Dakota Suennen agreed, "Things need to be worked out.The bickering has to stop...We need to get through this so we can move forward. Both are very qualified...We have to stand behind whoever they select." He added that sometimes change is good, sometimes not, but repeated they need to support whoever is selected.

Arthur then moved to appoint Konell, Delfosse seconded, and everyone applauded the decision. Wilke administered the oath of office and he was seated. Talk continued in the audience and Hickey told the crowd to be quiet and listen to what their new chair had to say. That request was met with applause and then respectful silence.

Konell thanked Arthur for taking over, and for doing a good job. "I think you need a big hand," he told her, and that was met with a loud applause.

Agenda for the Wednesday, May 9 regular monthly meeting includes paying bills along with discussion and possible action on several issues, including Nature Conservancy concerns that three culverts are creating problems for fish passage, purchase or repair of the fire department tanker; getting lawyer correspondence on town issues in writing, removing "No Weapons" signs from the town hall and fire department buildings to allow holding Hunter's Safety courses there as was requested at last month's meeting; consideration of half and half sharing of maintenance costs for border roads, scheduling the spring road tour, Cottage Lane action, number of signatures on town contracts, and possible land purchase. Electors at the annual meeting on Wednesday, April 18 had authorized the board to look into costs connected to purchase of land and construction of a new town hall and fire station and fire department personnel had stressed the need for a tanker to replace one that has been taken out of service. They had been instructed by Hickey to check on what is available and come back with prices.

The Board of Review is set for Saturday, May 19, from 8 to 10 a.m.

Annual salaries for Wagner town officials are $5,000 each for treasurer and chair, $10,000 for clerk and $3,000 for supervisors.

An article in last week's Peshtigo Times incorrectly said Steve Renikow was an incumbent defeated when Sievert first won his seat on the board in 1981. After the May 7 meeting Sievert asked that the error be corrected. He said Renikow was never on the board, but had been a candidate competing against him in 1981. Sievert said he ran at that time because he wanted a Town of Wagner Fire Department and Renikow said the town was too small to support one.


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