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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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030619frontfishview.jpg

Artist Drawing Of Proposed Fish Viewing Platform

Peshtigo City Council Puts Plans For Fish Viewing Platform Back On Track

Issue Date: March 7, 2019

For more than five years, plans have been in the making to build a Fish Viewing Platform over the Peshtigo River below the WPS Dam at BPM, Inc. on pillars had once supported a "pipe tunnel" causeway for Badger Paper Mills. Blueprints have been drawn and contacts are being let for construction this year. Grants and donations sufficient to almost entirely pay for the$499,000 structure have been obtained.

The platform, accessible from Peshtigo River Recreational Park, is intended to be an educational feature and tourist attraction over a portion of the river where fish, mainly walleye, come upstream from the waters of Green Bay to spawn.

Everything was cleared to let bids soon and begin actual construction after spawning season ends in July, with completion expected before the end of the year.

Then, the project was threatened briefly by concerns that sometime in the future Peshtigo taxpayers could face a hefty bill to remove the supporting concrete pillars that are being donated by BPM, Inc.

Those fears were laid to rest at the Peshtigo City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 5. Mayor Cathi Malke obtained quotes showing removal costs, should that be necessary, are not as prohibitive as was originally thought. By unanimous vote, Council supported a proposal to use money in the Revolving Loan Fund to set up a special account for future maintenance of the structure and accept ownership of the pillars. Construction will go forward as planned.

Malke provided some background information in the informational packet for Tuesday's Council meeting. In an accompanying letter she reminded aldermen that in December the city was notified by Wisconsin Coastal Management (WCM) that they would receive the final $100,000 grant that they had been waiting for so they could complete the project.

She noted that one of the situations they had discussed was that WPS (Wisconsin Public Service) has to relicense its dam with FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) in 17 years. One of the WCM grant stipulations is that their grant is to be for projects lasting at least 20 years. The city will have to repay $5,000 for each year less if the platform needs to be removed sooner. For example, if removal in 17 years is required the city would need to repay $15,000.

Malke said while City Attorney David Spangenberg was preparing the response letter he asked her who owned the pillars. "I at no time thought we were taking ownership of them," Malke wrote. "I thought we were doing an easement or partnering with them (BPM, Inc.).

When she learned BPM wanted the city to accept ownership she did due diligence by contacting several contractors with requests for estimates on the cost to remove the pillars. "In good conscience, I could not have generations to come a financial burden if the estimates came in high," she wrote.

Price estimates varied by the way removal would be done, and she included copies of correspondence between herself and the three contractors who submitted estimates. Price estimates were $250,000 to $300,000 from Lunda Construction, $60,000 from McMullen & Pitz ($25,000 for sawing and $35,000 for cleanup), and $37,000 from Plutchak Fab, LLC. Some of the quotes were lower when she provided photos of how the old walkway was removed

Those photos were in the packet so everyone could see how the work was done by equipment in the water, as well as copies of correspondence from WPS on removal of the pillars, and from the DNR on their requirements for removal. She asked aldermen to read everything to be prepared, and concluded her letter: "Tuesday night we will decide if we will pursue this project. Please come with suggestions and opinions."

Before Council discussion began on Tuesday night, Malke called on former Mayor Al Krizenesky to speak. Known as an avid fisherman, he had been one of the first to promote the fish viewing platform idea and had been instrumental in creation of Peshtigo River Recreational Park.

He said back when those plans began WPS had been worried about their dam if the concrete abutments that held up the causeway were taken down.

He and others devised the idea of building a fishing platform on them instead, and the idea took root. They visited a completed viewing platform at DePere and were told visitors love it and their parking lot is always full. When the plans were unveiled the businesses wanted it and most people liked the idea. There were a few opposed because it might raise their taxes, "so we got donations and grants to pay for it." He said even people who do not live in Peshtigo donated because they wanted to see it done.

When they began discussing the idea he had asked a contractor how long those pillars would last, and was told at least a hundred years. He added that if they do need to come down in say 20, 30 or 40 years, "there were grants to put them up and there will be grants to take them down."

"I've waited a long time for this," Krizenesky declared, adding that he's 83 now, so it needs to be done soon. He said Mayor Malke's late brother also wanted it badly, as did many others. "I had no problem collecting money for it. I asked a fisherman from Marinette for a small donation, expecting maybe $50 - and he gave $500!"

He was a bit sad that there will be no fishing allowed from the platform, at least for now, but suggested if Council wants to change that years down the road they probably could.

He suggested that when the platform is done the city should focus on improving and beautifying the fishing walkway along the river. "That area is so beautiful," he declared.

Next, Marinette County Water Resource Specialist/Conservationist Chuck Druckrey asked Council to go forward with construction. He was a member of the committee that put in many hours of planning and work and served as chief grant writer for the project. "It will be great benefit to the city and we've got it 90 percent funded," he declared. "I'd hate to see it not be installed. Even if there are costs down the road I'd hate to see all the work that's gone into this go by the wayside!"

Malke then explained that the letter from Coastal Management announcing the $100,000 grant award included a stipulation that if for any reason it had to come down before 20 years had passed they would have to give a percentage of it back. While working with City Attorney Dave Spangenberg on the city's response, he asked who actually owns the pillars. She was not sure, so she called BPM, Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz, who had been among those working on the project over the years. He told her BPM, Inc. wanted the city to take ownership, and that's when she decided she would need to do due diligence before accepting.

"A lot of us put a lot of work into that platform," Malke declared, mentioning herself, Parks and Recreation Director Dave Zahn, Krizenesky, Koronkiewicz, Druckrey and others.

Trustee Jillian Schutte commented, "If we're going to take full ownership, any future maintenance would be up to us. Why are we talking now about taking them down?"

"I didn't want to put future generations at risk," Malke explained. She added that she does have a solution, and referred the discussion to Alderman Mike Behnke.

Behnke said they could start an account, with money that will come back to the city's Revolving Loan Fund from the state's close-out of the CDBG Bloc Grant program that is currently in progress. We could keep that money available just in case, and maybe occasionally add to it from the annual budget. He added that the cost of taking the piers down if it ever comes to that turned to be a lot less than they had first thought.

"I do appreciate the generosity of the mill in giving those piers to us," he added. He moved to accept that generosity and move forward, with the money to be kept available in case it ever needs to come down.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt, who chairs the Finance Committee, agreed, and said use of the Revolving Loan Fund be put on the agenda for their next committee meeting.

Behnke then formally moved to go forward with construction of the platform, take ownership of what is known as the pillars and refer the proposal to set up a maintenance account to the Finance Committee.

Schutte wondered about liability, for example if someone jumps off and if there would be added insurance costs for the city.

"We can't protect against everything, Spangenberg said, adding that they need to take necessary precautions like guard rails. He felt the city's liability insurance coverage would cover this as it does other facilities.

All aldermen present voted in favor of Behnke's motion. Alderman Debbie Sievert was absent and excused.

At the start of the meeting Malke had announced the city received a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Administration releasing the CDBG/RLF funds mentioned by Behnke, and gave an update on the contract with Bay Lake Regional Planning Commission for updating the city's Comprehensive Plan, which she said is badly updated. The contract price is $10,000 and they had been able to include only $5,000 in the budget, so the planning will start in June and be completed in 2020, when the second $5,000 will be budgeted.

During time for public comment LeRoy Spitzmacher told Council that his mail box at 408 S. Brown St. has been knocked down three times in a row by the city's plow truck, "and the only reason he missed last time is that I raised it up." He produced photos to show the damage. Malke accepted the photos and said she would refer them and the entire issue to the Streets and Drainage committee.

Next to speak was George Cowell, the city's Director of Public Works. Cowell said most of their time in the past month had been spent on snow plowing or snow removal. He thanked his personnel for the good job they've been doing and the long hours they have been putting in. He noted the ones who do the plowing and snow removal are the same ones who pick up the trash and take care of other maintenance projects around the city.

He added that he did have a conversation with the plow driver who had struck Spitzmacher's mailbox, "so that issue has been taken care of."

Malke and others on the Council also expressed appreciation for how hard the city crew members have been working.

Cowell asked that people be reminded that they need to shovel their sidewalks to the width of four feet for handicap access, not just the width of a shovel. He has been sending letters to that effect to people who failed to clear their walks. He said city people had to shovel at four places, and added that he would like something put in the city ordinance that adds an administrative fee in addition to the cost of the work when the city has to come in and shovel or hire someone to do it.

Alderman Archer Leupp asked if there are any agencies, services or other provisions available for city residents who are physically unable to shovel their own walks. It appears there are none, except maybe hiring a neighborhood kid.

Cowell stated the city allows 48 hours before shoveling becomes mandatory and then the letters go out. The four parcels his people shoveled had been ignored for some time, he said. He added that after the recent ice storm they did not send letters for failure to shovel, because they'd have had to go to everyone in the city.

People were also reminded that they are not allowed to shovel snow into the street from their walks and driveways.

Alderman John Berendt asked about cases when city plows push snow onto sidewalks.

Krizenesky commented that does happen, and said one Wisconsin city this year that has told people to quit shoveling their sidewalks because the city needs to plow snow onto them.

Cowell said his crews will continue removing as much snow as possible from streets and corners, but added,"We do need to watch our budget, and warm weather is coming."

Cowell said bids for removing sludge from the Wastewater Treatment Plat hd come in lower than expected, and in fact the cost is less than the present contract. Council later in the meeting unanimously accepted his recommendation to approve a 4-year contract with Full Service Organics Management, LLC, with base bid of $120,000 (four cents a gallon) for the first two years and $127,500 base at four and a quarter cents per gallon for 2021/2022.

Cowell reported Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Richard Sparks has completed his certification and has now become Operator In Charge at the plant. The DNR requires six years of experience or five years plus additional classes, which he has completed.

Other action at the meeting included approval of operator's licenses for Toni Stank and Tamara Wesolowski to work at The Store and Joshua Dura to work at The Office; accepting the low bid price of $30,766 from Ewald Automotive Group for purchase of a one-ton truck chassis for a Public Works department truck, approving some budget transfers as recommended by the Finance committee, accepting terms of a voluntary payment plan for the Faucett Forest Products deficiency judgment as discussed in closed session. and accepting the January building inspection report from tom Smith Inspections.

At the end of the meeting Malke, on behalf of all the citizens of Peshtigo, expressed sympathy to the family of long-time City Clerk/Treasurer Mary Ann Wills, who passed away last week.

She noted that Friday, March 8 is the 37th anniversary of the date that Police Chief Richard Badgley became a Peshtigo city employee, and suggested that on Friday, March 15, everyone should wish a Happy Birthday to Patricia Schneider in honor of her 80th birthday.

Mayor Malke also added that the city wished to congratulate French Street Floral best of luck in their new venture.

She announced that this was the first anniversary of the day that Tammy Kasal stated work for the city as Clerk/Treasurer. After the meeting everyone gathered in the hallway to share a decorated cake Malke had provided to celebrate the event.


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