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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Town Of Peshtigo To Create Water Advisory Committee

Issue Date: June 6, 2019

The main item at the special Town of Peshtigo meeting on Thursday, May 30 was possible action on a resolution presented at the 2019 annual meeting to create a Citizens Advisory Committee on the water contamination issue and also the resolution to continue using Cedar Corp as a consultant to the Board about the water issue.

Before the conversations started about the resolution, Chairman Herman Pottratz voiced his concern to Attorney David Spangenberg if they received any information from Tyco for commitment of paying for Cedar Corporation and said, "This is going to cost the town a lot of money".

Resident Joe Wilke asked, "Why is this going to cost the Town of Peshtigo a lot of money"? Pottratz replied, "Because we haven't gotten any money from Tyco yet. We are not going to sit by and let the public get stuck with this in the future".

Clerk Clarence Coble then interjected saying, "We are waiting for an agreement from Tyco that is in writing, stating they will be paying for Cedar Corp charges rather than just a verbal agreement to this point". Spangenberg responded with, "Yes, they want to try to stay neutral and are working on it"

Resident Chuck Boyle replied, "I think at some point we have to take a leap of faith and trust that Tyco / Johnson Control (JCI) will be paying for this". Scott Wahl from Tyco responded, "We will be taking care of it".

Pottratz questioned Spangenberg about Cedar Corp and the scope of work. Spangenberg responded saying, "Cedar Corp does have a scope of work and Tyco wanted an estimate of costs and expenses. Tyco does have an agreement roughed out and ready to go, they are waiting for a response from Cedar Corp which should come across soon."

Many residents spoke in favor of forming a Citizens Advisory Committee to address the contamination but were undecided as to if they should operate as an independent committee reporting to the board or operate under the realm of the Town Board being subject to open meeting rules and postings.

Chuck Boyle then asked, "If we operate as an independent committee, would we have access to the information from Cedar Corp?" Coble responded, Cedar Corp is working for the Board and information should be town record, unless there is something that is not releasable due to legalities of which we would have to then consult with the Attorney before releasing.

Resident Cindy Boyle's understanding of the committee would be for Cedar Corp to put strategies together of what their role will be and the Citizen Committee will hear the concerns of all affected by the plume and beyond the plume and then discuss with Cedar Corp, the board and residents.

Pottratz said, "Whatever happens good, bad or otherwise, Tyco will pay for this and clean it up, we are not going to let this get away".

Resident Wendell Johnson commented, "This is why an Advisory Committee is so important. There are a lot of educated people that know a lot and have expertise on this subject that want to help and be part of it".

Pottratz responded with, "We want our people to come out on top. Tyco wants you to have city water and we don't want that. Their stand is, my way or the highway and were not going to let them do that. That's going to cost a lot of money and we are not going to sit by and rot. We should drill new wells".

Joe Wilke responded, "Herman, you want wells? You have to take off your blinders and look at the whole situation. You have to do what is right for the whole town". Resident Ruth Kowalski responded, "I have an issue with your statement that you are making. You are making a decision for all of us that are in the contaminated area, for my property and other people's property".

Chuck Boyle asked Pottratz, "There are rumors that Tyco is being denied access to continue on the water access agreement, is that true"? Pottratz responded, "We don't have an agreement right now, it is in the works, but we do want to know where they are in our town?

With the Board's admittance of not knowing much about the contamination, Cindy Boyle asked each board member individually, "Do I have your support to be open and willing to understand and learn about this problem"? All members individually responded "Yes". Boyle then said, "I now have your commitment to learn, that will be a useful instrument to provide information to your constituents".

In discussing the format of the Citizens Advisory Committee and how many should be on the committee, Spangenberg commented, "I don't think the board should advocate your power. You need the committee to bring concerns to the board and the board needs to be willing to listen to them like you would listen to Cedar Corp and should be established by the committee".

Some citizens had concerns if they would be able to have an open dialogue with Cedar Corp and stressed they all need to work together including the committee, the board, Cedar Corp and Tyco.

Kowalski stated, "We really want this committee to be impartial". Other citizens also voiced their concern to include people in the contaminated and non-contaminated areas, because down the road those not contaminated now, could be in the future.

In the end, it was determined the committee would be independent of the board and provide updates to the board and residents at the monthly town meeting. Citizens also stressed they want Cedar Corp, Tyco/JCI and the Board to work together with them on a solution. Cindy Boyle said, "None of us caused this, we all need to remember we are all on the same team and need to stay together".

The committee will consist of between 10 and 12 members with some of the members including Kowalski, Marsha Rettke, Jeff LaMont and Cindy and Chuck Boyle, along with other residents, to be determined. The committee will keep the public informed with postings of upcoming meetings as well as they will be added to the beginning of the town agenda every month. Tyco/JCI will also be on the agenda every month for their updates and input. Pottratz also mentioned that the Town Hall is available for the Advisory Committee to use for their committee meetings.

The Board unanimously approved to hire Mark Pleshek as a town worker and to help the road crew. Pottratz said, "The position will not be considered full-time but on an as needed basis, but we will keep him busy with a lot to do".

After discussion, the board agreed on a starting pay of $18 per hour with a 90 day probation period and will be reviewed at that time to possibly raise the hourly rate.

Another item discussed was allowing ATV and UTV vehicles on Town of Peshtigo roads. Ron Rauscher from the Oconto ATV Club was present for advice and questions from the board and town residents. He left some maps of existing trails in surrounding towns that already allow ATVs & UTVs on town roads.

Pottratz said, he has been working on a memorandum of agreement and has talked to Cozzys, the Town of Grover, as well as residents interested in allowing these vehicles on town roads. The only glitch he came across is other towns have clubs that maintain and monitor and we don't have a club at this point.

Rauscher said he would help with whatever the town needs help with. He also commented that the only cost involved is signage and maintenance and he is willing to help put signs up. He also stated, "You can use gateway signs saying all roads are open unless otherwise marked and then you don't need any other signs throughout the area".

Coble said, "The Oconto ATV Club is willing to welcome any areas wanting to join their club. I think we should jump on board with them and connect with their trails. We need eyes and ears from this area and also need people to be eyes and ears from their club in our area as well". He also added, "Kamm Road and Kasal Road will be restricted and not open to ATVs/UTVs and the town will have jurisdiction to close a road if there is a problem".

Wendell Johnson commented, "We heard all positive comments, but everyone may not be in favor of opening up the roads to this. We need to come up with what roads are closed or open and a plan and post that plan for all residents to vote on."

Pottratz replied, "The board is interested in getting this going for the people that want it. We can make copies of the ordinances for people to take with them and we will post on our website as well".

Rauscher commented, "You have to follow the rules, tickets are $500 for offenders and the speed limit is 35 MPH or as marked. In other towns they always said, if there are any problems on a specific road, it can be posted as no use, nothing is set in stone".

The board decided to postpone the decision until the June meeting to allow time to create a map, review what roads should be open or closed, check into signage and give residents a chance to review the ordinance. Supervisor Jon Drees will be attending the Oconto ATV Club meeting at The Garage in Oconto on Wednesday, June 5.


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PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
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