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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Deputy Fred Popp Named New City of Peshtigo Police Chief

Issue Date: September 8, 2021

"It's an honor and a privilege to be here," new City of Peshtigo Police Chief Fred Popp told Peshtigo City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, shortly after his appointment to that position was confirmed by unanimous vote. He replaces Chief Rick Badgley, who retired effective June 30.

Popp, a 1986 graduate of Niagara High School, has 28 years of experience in law enforcement, and has been a Deputy with Marinette County Sheriff's Department since 2003.

He had been recommended for the Police Chief position by the Personnel Committee after applicants were interviewed in closed executive sessions on Aug. 26 and Sept. 2.

After Popp's appointment was confirmed he was introduced to the Council by Personnel Committee Chair Debbie Sievert, and Mayor Cathi Malke invited him to give some background on himself.

He and his wife, Melissa, live at 2829 Riverside Ave. in Marinette with their son, Vailen, but have very close ties to Peshtigo, Popp said.Melissa is employed as a dental hygienist at a dental office in Peshtigo. Grandmother Marie Finger is from Peshtigo, and he and his family attend New Life Church, also in Peshtigo.

"We love Peshtigo!...Peshtigo is a proud, historic city," Popp said, and concluded by declaring that his wife was so happy that she cried when he shared the good news that he had been selected for the Peshtigo Police Chief post.

He added everyone in Peshtigo has been extremely nice, and Mike Sievert, who had agreed to serve as interim police chief only until a permanent chief could be selected, "has been awesome."

Popp's work in law enforcement began when he enlisted in the U. S. Army in 1988 and served four years as a military police officer, advancing to rank of sergeant. He served in Germany during the first Gulf War. After discharge he went back to work at the Niagara Paper Mill until being hired by the Niagara Police Department. He received police officer certification from the Fox Valley Technical School Police Academy, and later was hired by a private investigation company in Green Bay, before being hired by Dane County Sheriff's Office. He was hired by Marinette City Police Department in 1995. Throughout his career he has attended numerous trainings and attained certifications in various areas of law enforcement.

Popp's confirmation came as one of the last items of business at the Council meeting, on a motion by Alderman Debbie Sievert, who chairs the Personnel Committee. The motion included provision for pay of $69,000 per year, with 4 weeks vacation in 2021 and 5 weeks in 2022.

Before the unanimous vote of approval, Alderman Katie Berman asked what the wages had been for Chief Badgley. Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal said salary of the former Police Chief was $63,000 a year, but he was grandfathered into an agreement in which the city paid the full amount of his retirement benefit premium, "so there wasn't a huge difference."

Earlier in the meeting council on a four to two vote had approved a Finance Committee recommendation to deny Badgley's request for payout of unused vacation hours left over from 2020. Aldermen Rick Berth and John Berendt had been opposed, and aldermen Sievert, Brigitte Schmidt, Katie Berman and Keith Klimek voted in favor. At the start of that discussion, Berth noted the payout for Badgley had been approved in April, and sent to Finance to determine where the money would come from.

Sievert, as Finance Committee chair, said there was no money in the police budget, and they would have had to take the payout from the Equipment budget. She said since Badgley started as chief three years ago he had not used his vacation time. He was paid out for unused vacation for 2018 and 2019, but was told to use it in 2020, which he did not, despite having ample opportunity. To a question from Berth, she said the amount was less than $3,000.

Before the vote, Berth pointed out Badgley had worked for the Peshtigo Police Department for over 40 years, and declared, "He''s given his life to this city and I believe he's got that coming."

Council approved Finance Committee recommendations to pay bonuses from ARPA funds to city employees on a schedule worked out by Kasal, with full and part-time employee bonus amounts prorated according to how many days they had worked through the pandemic, and $100 each for election workers. Total amount allocated for bonuses was $47,583, with the remaining ARPA funds to be used for Water and Sewer infrastructure capital improvement project costs.

Berendt cast the sole opposing vote on motion to pay the bonuses for full time city workers, Berman abstained on the bonuses for election workers, and Sievert and Schmidt abstained on bonuses for part time employees.

Berth thanked Kasal for all the work she had done to properly calculate the bonus amounts for essential workers.

The Council Chambers were filled to overflowing for the meeting, and during time for public comment at the start of the meeting 10 members of the public addressed the Council, all speaking in favor of a request from Mayor Cathi Malke to place an antique truck filled with flowers in the triangle parking lot across the street from city hall for city beautification. The truck, donated and refinished for that use, has already been on display there for several weeks, but had come under criticism from Alderman Berth as a violation of city ordinances.

Speakers complimented the truck as being welcoming, a good idea for a quaint, historic city; great, especially if flowers are changed for the seasons; a welcoming sight for anyone passing through the city, and more. One said it reminded her of years ago when trucks looking just like that one had used the filling station that once was located on that corner by the stop lights.

Later in the meeting motion was made by Schmidt and seconded by Berendt to allow the truck to be there. Berth questioned the legality, arguing that having the old vehicle there is against a city ordinance. He apparently was referring to ordinances prohibiting unlicensed vehicles on properties in the city.

Malke said it would be legal if Council voted to allow it, and added, "Besides you, I haven't talked to anybody who is against it!"

Berth ended up casting the sole opposing vote.

A request from Malke for authorization to place a decorative scarecrow in the parking lot across from city hall near the fence on the opposite end was approved without dissent. Malke said the scarecrow will be decoration for the Peshtigo Fire Sesquicentennial observances on Sept. 24-26, and will be removed after Halloween.

After brief discussion Council approved a Fire, Lighting and Building Committee recommendation to waive Community Center fees for Peshtigo Womans Club from now until the end of the year.

They also without dissent approved allowing the Fire Department to accept donation of an emergency response trailer and equipment from Marinette County Emergency Management Department. The fully equipped trailer comes with a stipulation that the Fire Department will use it to respond to mass casualty events in Marinette County.

A new snowmobile trail through the city was approved as recommended by the Parks & Recreation Committee.

After being advised by City Attorney David Spangenberg that a proposed motion from the Finance Committee to approve purchasing of an ADA fishing pier, kiosk, ADA picnic table and cement work to be paid for by a $32,176 donation from Peshtigo Area Chamber of Commerce might be legally questionable as a way to avoid paying sales tax, Council approved some changed wording, with the provision that proper documentation be provided by the Chamber, and the purchase be made directly by the city, with prompt reimbursement from the Chamber.

Council also approved accepting high bids of $8,678 from Mark Lundy for purchase of the 1970 Ford F-150 fire department equipment truck and $3,150 from Paul Thompson for the 1974 Howe Fire Truck. Before the vote there was discussion on handling of a sealed bids if they come via internet. That discussion led Berth to suggest the Council at some point should discuss procedures for handling these types of bid submittals.

Council accepted resignations of Sharon Anderson and Carol Belongia as Peshtigo Housing Authority Commissioners, and approved appointment of Jim Murphy to replace Anderson for a term ending in 2024. Belonga will be replaced by Pam Daye when the term ends in December 2021.

Malke mentioned "heartwarming" thank you letters from Zion Lutheran Church for help with their annual car show, and from the Village of Carney, Mich. thanking the Fire Department for response to a fire there. "Because of your preparation to serve and your commitment to respond, you spared the lives of our families, neighbors and friends from terrible devastation," the letter stated."Your service on August 5th will be long remembered within the deep roots of our small community. We hope that we can continue to show the gratitude you deserve whenever our paths cross again."

At the end of the meeting Malke thanked everyone for attending the meeting, and for the heartwarming comments. "Hopefully we'll see more of you in the future," she said, and added a reminder to enjoy all the activities at the Peshtigo Fire Historical Day Sesquicentennial on the final weekend of September.


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