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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Middle Inlet Cemetery Items Removed, Speakers Upset

Issue Date: June 16, 2022

Removal of privately owned items from graves in Forest Home Cemetery this spring, including some fairly costly decorative solar lights, wreath holders and shepherd's hooks for hanging baskets, along with general care and maintenance of the cemetery and its condition on Memorial Day generated most of the discussion at the monthly Middle Inlet Town Board meeting on Thursday, June 9.

It was the first meeting for Ronald Wenzel as Town Chair. He replaces Rich Wade, who resigned for personal reasons effective Wednesday, June 8. At a special board meeting on Wednesday, June 1, Wenzel was elected to fill the vacancy effective June 9, with Supervisor Don Van and Clerk/Treasurer Patricia Schutte voting in favor and Supervisor Chuck Stanek abstaining. By Wisconsin law, if one member of a three member municipal board resigns the clerk votes on the replacement.

During time for public comment near the end of Thursday's meeting, Joanne Lieck, Wenzel and several others expressed thanks to Wade "for the great job he has done for the Town over the past 14 years as Town Chair," and for all the extra work he had put in during those years.

In preparation for the new automated garbage collection, wheeled containers are being distributed to town residents and property owners, but apparently written notifications have only been sent to year-round residents. There was some concern that unless they are informed by their neighbors, seasonal residents will not be aware of the new rules and may set out their trash in bags as in the past, and it will not be taken.

Clerk Schutte and Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Naomi Blum told the board Spring Cleanup Day on Saturday, May 28 had gone well, and a a lot of people came then to pick up their garbage containers. People can still pick up their container during regular business hours at the Town Hall. Each residential unit, whether seasonal or full time, is entitled to one wheeled container, and additional containers can be purchased if needed.

Renewal of intoxicating beverage licenses for I Don't Know Saloon, LLC and owners Kevin and Renee Hood was approved without dissent, as were bartender licenses

Stanek reported men's restroom problem had been fixed. Dama Plumbing stated the boiler had been shut off and that was why the heat wasn't working properly.

As part of his monthly report, Fire Chief Jon Kleuskens asked the board to consider a 2-bay expansion of the fire station, saying they need more room. He was advised to get proposals or estimates, and Wenzel said the board would take it under advisement when they knew more about costs.

Issues with the cemetery were raised by Stanek, who is officially assigned cemetery duties. After considerable discussion at the board's May 12 meeting Stanek had agreed to take on sexton's responsibilities without pay except for his monthly supervisor salary. The board at that time, on Stanek's recommendation, had also approved reducing the fee for cemetery plots by $100 to reflect that change. Selling cemetery plots and marking burial sites had been among Stanek's responsibilities during his many years as town clerk before being elected to the board.

In late 2020, before Stanek was elected as a town supervisor and after the clerk/treasurer position became appointed rather than elected, the board had increased burial fees, and then created the cemetery sexton position and hired Kevin Schutte, husband of Clerk/Treasurer Schutte, to fill it.

Since being elected to the board Stanek had expressed concern several times about the increased burial and cemetery plot fees.

In his report at the June 9 board meeting Stanek said the cemetery was in deplorable condition for Memorial Day services, and the board agreed they need to talk to the maintenance contractor.

Stanek said he had received several complaints regarding removal of decorations from graves in the cemetery without the families having an opportunity to remove them, and told of an issue after the May 12 meeting when he had marked a cremation urn burial spot as requested by the family. Geraldine Schuster told Stanek the markers for a cremains burial were moved to the wrong spot on the family plot, and the 12-inch square hole that had been dug was too small for the cremation container, so the interment had to be rescheduled. The undertaker received an $85 bill from the town for the hole that could not be used, and paid it, so the family ultimately had that unnecessary cost added to their bill.

Keith and Judy Thoreson, owners of Tree Treasures, were among those who had registered complaints about the cemetery. Both his parents and hers are buried in Pine Hill Cemetery.

During time for public comment immediately after Stanek's cemetery report, Keith Thoreson presented the town with a bill for $85 to cover the cost of things taken from their family graves.

Thoreson said during the winter the cemetery gates are locked. He and Judy had gone there at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, to pick up the wreaths, solar lights and other decorations, but the gates were closed and locked. Seven days later, on May 5, they went back. This time the gates were open, but everything they wanted was gone.

Everything was gone from all the graves except from a few select ones, Thoreson said later. The outside wall on the north side of the cemetery storage building was stacked full of shepherd's hooks and light hangers taken from graves. The dumpster was completely full of everything they had taken off the graves. "Our small holder was gone. They stole our big one last year. The dumpster was completely full, of solar lights, clay pots, and other pots.

Thoreson said every year he and Judy custom make wreaths themselves for his parents and hers. Each year they take the wreath forms home to be refilled for next year. This year they were gone. He said even the solar light glass angel that was inside the tombstone on his parents' grave was taken. "They even took the flag off my brother's grave!"

He said town officials had tried telling them the cemetery sign said grave decorations must be removed by May 1, but they had taken a picture. The sign says summer decorations must be removed by October 15, and planting cannot be done until May 1 or later, but nothing about a date for removing decorations in spring. "I was really upset with that!" Thoreson declared. He said they never had problems with the cemetery until the last two years.

"Before that, nothing was ever stolen," he said. "We always got things off on time." Thoreson also said Nov. 1 is too early to be closing the cemetery for the winter. People with walkers and wheelchairs cannot get in once the gates are locked.

This year, since the cemetery remained locked, they could not get in to remove their decorations.

Mary Jo England, who lives next to the cemetery, had told him of solar lights being taken from her family graves. And another person said an angel solar light was taken off the top of their gravestone and thrown in the dumpster.

After the meeting Thoreson suggested there should be a a cemetery committee made up of people who have loved ones buried there. "None of the people on that board, and certainly not the clerk and sexton, have anybody buried there. We need a committee of people who are interested to come up with recommendations for rules that best serve the families, to make sure the signs say what the rules really are, and also to be sure grass is cut and the cemetery is generally cared for," he said and added, "That cemetery was a disgrace for Memorial Day! The American Legion Post came up and cut the grass in the circle of flags for the ceremony, but the rest of the cemetery was a mess."

Thoreson said when he had complained about items being removed from graves he was told it is difficult to clean and cut grass around decorations, but he said he was talking about things on the tombstones or directly adjacent to them being taken with no opportunity to salvage them, even though they would not have been in the way at all. The wreath form they took last year had also cost $30, Thoreson said, and his complaint on election day brought no real response except that things needed to be removed.

At Thursday's meeting, in regard to the $85 bill that Thoreson presented to cover the cost of items he believes were improperly taken from their grave sites, Wenzel said the board would take it under consideration. He also said the town will re-do the cemetery sign so it includes all necessary information, and will put information in the paper regarding gate opening and closing dates.

The board is in the process of updating ordinances, and Schutte asked Supervisor Stanek, who was town clerk/treasurer for many years, to come in and pull ordinances that were amended while he was clerk. Stanek asked that the board be a part of updating and/or amending the ordinances.

At the start of the meeting under communications, Carrie Brazeau, candidate for Marinette County Clerk of Courts, told the group about herself and why she is running for that position.

Minutes of previous meetings were approved, and bills and vouchers were approved for payment as presented.


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