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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Utility Is Part Of PFAS Research Group

Issue Date: November 7, 2019

Peshtigo Public Works Director George Cowell informed Peshtigo City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5, that the city's Water and Sewer Utility is participating in a special state-sponsored research project aimed at learning more about PFAS effects and handling methods. The study is being done by UW-Madison and the Wisconsin State Library of Hygiene in cooperation with Wisconsin DNR.

"There are major gaps in our understanding of PFAS presence and fate in wastewater treatment plants in Wisconsin and across the country, and without the participation of forward thinking organizations/facilities like yours, we will not be able to make rational science-based decisions on how to best address the many facets of the PFAS issue," project leader Martin M. Shaffer had said in an e-mail to Cowell. Shaffer is a senior scientist at the UW-Madison and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. The only cost to the city or utility is time staff members spend collecting samples.

Cowell said he was told the state agencies involved had hoped to sign up wastewater treatment plants in 10 communities with either known PFAS contamination problems or industries known to contribute to them to participate in the study. He also was told that only five or six other communities had agreed to participate.

He said the first stage of the project is a screening level sampling of all participating plants, which was done during the week of Oct. 14. There will be tests of the Wastewater treatment plant influent and effluent for PFAS determination, a walk through of the facility to identify where samples should be collected at each major treatment stage, and examination of the receiving stream or river near the effluent discharge. Requests for additional samplings are expected.

Cowell said being part of the research group means they are getting some free assistance from the state. Each lab test would cost $400 if the city was doing this on its own, Cowell said. The state lab is doing the testing for this project. Previously the city had to send its samples to a test lab in California.

"We have a known problem. Any testing we can do is going to help us," Cowell said.

The utility also renewed the discharge permit for BPM, Inc.

In his other role as head of the Streets and Sanitation Department, Cowell issued a reminder that Friday, Nov. 15 is the last day for city residents to rake their leaves into the street for disposal. If they want to rake after that they will need to find other means of disposal. He said meanwhile his crews have been busy cleaning up leaves all over the city to prevent future clogged storm sewers, and said once that is done they will start decorating for Christmas,"so please be patient."

Without discussion or dissent Council approved the proposed 2020 budget as amended by the Finance committee, and approved debt service levy of $222,000 for 2020. Finance Committee Chair Debbie Sievert announced that the public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, to be followed by a special City Council meeting to formally adopt it and set the 2020 tax levy. Detailed copies of the budget can be viewed at City Hall.

Also on recommendation of the Finance Committee Council also approved spending $58,919.30 to purchase recycling carts from next year's Capital Improvement Fund. The carts needed to be ordered in time for delivery before the new contract for automated recycling collection starts on Jan. 1.

The city is providing these initial carts, but they are to remain property of the city and if the cart is damaged beyond repair or taken away it is to be the property owner's responsibility to replace it.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt asked if any ordinance had been drawn up for that, and Alderman Jillian Schutte, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said she is waiting for input from the city attorney on another issue and would not set a meeting date until she has all the information needed.

Mayor Cathi Malke declared they really need to get going on that and other issues, and mentioned need for ordinances on maintenance of rental properties, sale of vaping/CBD products, ATVs and more. She said later the only meeting of the Judiciary Committee in the 17 months since she appointed Schutte to chair it had been on June 27 of this year.

Malke said there also had been discussion on setting ordinance provisions so assistance can be given to ill or handicapped city residents who are unable to roll their recycling containers to the street.

"This is the first time I've heard of rental property issues," commented Alderman John Berendt.

Alderman Mike Behnke advised Schutte not to try to have her committee handle all the ordinance issues at one meeting.

Schmidt agreed, and added, ""as former chair of that committee, it's hard to get multiple things done at one meeting"there are lots of things to consider when drafting an ordinance." Schmidt said the question to be addressed in the ordinance would be how replacement carts are to be paid for.

"I'll start putting meetings on every month, then, if that's what you want," Schutte declared. No one disagreed.

A Finance and Claims Committee recommendation to offer city employees a deferred compensation plan through Degeneffe Financial with an annual $600 fee to the firm for third party administration was unanimously approved, but only after Behnke voiced objections to the way the matter was handled, including that there were no requests for proposals from other firms. Malke said the employees had gone to Degeneffe, which has offices right across the street from City Hall. Employees hired in recent years are not accepted by the former deferred compensation plan, so they have no access to that benefit, while the older employees do.

Behnke had also objected about failure to solicit other offers at the Finance and Claims Committee meeting where the Degeneffe offer was made and recommended for acceptance. Before the vote by the full Council Malke asked Behnke if he wanted to wait a month for the vote. After asking City Attorney David Spangenberg if he saw any legal problems, Behnke withdrew his objections but said in future he would like to know about things sooner. He did reluctantly vote in favor as did the rest of the council. Under the Degeneffe plan employees invest portions of their own pay and there is no city money involved other than the annual $600 administration fee. At the start of the meeting Malke congratulated Police Chief Rick Badgley for receiving the "First Responder of the Year" award for Wisconsin's 89th Assembly District, and Evergreen Tool of Peshtigo for being named this year's recipient of the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce "Manufacturer of Distinction" award for small business.

Malke thanked Chief Badgley for all he has done and said as a member of the Rescue Squad she had been on some life saving calls with Chief Badgley, and thanked him for his service.

Malke said she had attended a session on allocation of state streets and roads funds for this year and was disappointed to learn that even private entities can qualify to receive some of the state-allocated taxpayer dollars.

Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce President Tony O'Neill informed the Council of a social media workshop and luncheon they are holding at Peshtigo Elementary School in partnership with inVenture North and Peshtigo School District from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 19. Cost is $10 for Chamber members and $15, and attendees are urged to bring their business logo, Facebook password, and laptop or tablet.

Shawn Northrop, who was named in October as the city's new Parks and Recreation Director, reported on his first three weeks on the job. He said it has been a busy three weeks, and expressed thanks to all city employees and community members who have been very supportive and accommodating.

He thanked the Howard Lock family for a $4,100 donation to purchase an ice rink for an event next winter. There has been hopes to hold the event this winter, but the rink will not arrive in time.

He also thanked a number of others, including Kevin Caebe, owner of Peshtigo Cedar Products for donations of cedar slabs to build a privacy wall between the Badger Park Campground and the warehouse building located there; Camp Host Mike White and park workers Jim Felker and John Valitchka for completing the memorial bench installation of "Badger" Bob VanVooren; Enid Behnke, who is currently resizing the city's Holiday banners so they will fit the new banner posts on the light poles; and Cathi Louis for organizing and planning the Fright Fest at Badger Park, as well as everyone who participated. He declared it had been "a fun and very, very successful event. All the city's parks and campgrounds have been prepared for winter, and the department has created a Facebook page that will include postings for all city events.

One of those events will be a visit from Santa Claus to Peshtigo City Hall on Dec. 21 from 1 to 5 p.m. Northrop said he had just received a letter from Santa confirming the visit.

A bit later in the meeting, at the request of Fire Chief Steve Anderson, Council approved hiring Northrop as the newest member of the city's Volunteer Fire Department.

Bartender licenses were approved for Jill Sharkey, Sarah Morgan, Jasmine Riedl and Tara Barbian.

Transfer of the Peshtigo Pub and Grill and Beer Garden Class B Fermented Malt Beverage and Intoxicating Liquor License from Dawn M. Wagner to Steven Wagner was approved. Schutte asked if a background check had been done on Wagner, and if it was satisfactory or not. She wondered if there was a problem explaining was why his name was not on the license.

Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal explained Dawn Wagner had owned the business before she married Steven Wagner, and since she has died the business passed on to him.

Schutte continued to be concerned, so the motion was amended to include approval "pending a satisfactory background check." It then passed without dissent.


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