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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City Property Tax Levy Is Up One Cent Per $1,000

City of Peshtigo property owners will see their tax bill go up slightly this year, but only one penny of the anticipated 28 cents per $1,000 tax increase is due to city expenses, and the remaining 27 cents is from the school district levy hike, Mayor Al Krizenesky pointed out at the conclusion of the City Council’s public hearing on the budget at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4. He said the increase for city and school purposes equates to $28 for the year on a $100,000 home.

The School Tax Credit allocation from the state is still not known, but when the money is designated it will be used to reduce the gross tax rate to the net rate listed on the tax bill, for which at least the first half is due on Jan. 31.

The gross tax last year, prior to subtracting the school tax credit, was $20.20 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value to support all the taxing entities - city, school, county, state and NWTC. This year the gross rate is $20.49 per $1,000. That rate will be reduced by whatever amount comes from the state for school tax credits. The bottom line of the total property tax bill will not be known until that number is announced.

There were no members of the public at the hearing, and no one spoke for or against the proposed city budget and tax levy. Budget and levy figures were read by Alderman Mike Behnke, chair of the Finance Committee. During the regular Council meeting that followed the proposed city budget and related tax levies were unanimously approved.

This year’s budget provides for city expenses totaling $3,116,319, offset by anticipated revenues of $2,507,218, requiring a city levy of $609,101 plus Tax Increment District levy of $170,466. Total assessed value of city properties is $159,207,843, plus $35,174,900 for the TIF District.

First item on the regular Council agenda was a letter from Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc., asking the city to contribute toward purchase of new vehicles, particularly a transport unit that costs over $120,000.

Alderman Mary Lock asked if the budget included money for the Squad, and suggested the request be referred to the Finance Committee. Clerk/Treasurer Mary Ann Wills said the city allocated $2,000 for the Squad this year, as it does every year. That payment will go out in January.

Alderman Cathi Malke, a Rescue Squad officer, explained the letter is a request for an additional contribution. “This is probably the only squad in the whole United States that does not charge for its services, so we are dependent on the communities for support,” she declared. She said the Squad needs two new vehicles and can save a great deal of money by buying them both at the same time. She said one of the vehicles being replaced is permanently stationed in Peshtigo.

Krizenesky commented there is probably money in fund balances to provide for an added contribution. The request was referred to the Finance Committee.

A proposal from Krizenesky that the city send a letter to the Peshtigo School District asking that a member of the City Council be part of closed meetings on buying land for a new school was changed to a proposal that instead the school board president or a member that he designates be asked to report to City Council, in open or closed session as necessary.

Krizenesky explained the city will be asked to play a big part in future plans for a new school, particularly in terms of requests for extension of sewer and water services and probable annexation of property, and should be kept informed and have input into school district plans. He said several alderpersons had approached him with requests that they be kept better informed of discussions in closed session school board meetings on the subject.

The school board has been looking into the possibility of building a new high school outside the present city limits.

“My feeling is we need to know what is going on,” Gryzwa agreed. “The school is the city’s largest employer, and the school is an important part of the city’s commercial district.” He said many city businesses are not in favor of moving the school away from downtown.

Lock commented there are three school board seats up for election this spring, “and if somebody was truly interested, they could run for school board.” She asked what good it would do to have one alderpersonn attend school board meetings, since they could not report back to the full Council in any case if the school board discussions were held in closed session. She suggested Council should have a closed session to hear a report from the School Board president or someone he designates, and that suggestion was ultimately accepted by the full Council.

Malke objected to the school board discussing the future location of the school behind closed doors in any case. “When they are discussing the future of the city everyone should have input,” she declared.

Krizenesky reiterated Gryzwa’s comment that some city businessmen want to keep the school in the city, since it is a benefit to their businesses.

There were comments that discussing possible property purchases in open session could result in a price hike.

Alderperson Fred Meintz commented the School Board did not keep the city informed the last time they were considering a property purchase that would affect the city by way of annexation and sewer and water services.

Meintz said the School Board should be asked to inform the Council what they are contemplating. Behnke noted the School Board could invite the Council to attend their closed sessions any time they want to.

Eventually Lock, with a second from Behnke, moved to invite the School Board president to report on proposals for any land purchase at a City Council meeting, in either closed or open session, as they prefer. That motion was unanimously approved.

Vernon Dumke was on hand to explain a request that the lien the city holds against a flat bed trailer as collateral for a UDAG be transferred to a skidder valued at $12,000 to $15,000. He explained he no longer uses the trailer, which is valued at approximately $4,000, and can trade it to Frank’s Logging for logs that he can use. He said Frank’s will benefit from getting a flatbed they can use, he will benefit from getting logs he can use, and the city will benefit by a lien on equipment with greater value.

Lock asked who set the value on the skidder, and wondered why the request went directly to Council rather than to the UDAG Committee.

Krizenesky said going through UDAG would delay the transaction by at least a month or two. Alderman Tim Colburn pointed out the city, not UDAG, holds the lien. “He’s been honest with us, and his interest payments are up to date,” Krizenesky added.

Dumke said business has picked up with Aacer and since Wade Fronsee bought the Forest Products business he no longer needs to haul his logs.

Gryzwa, who serves on the UDAG Committee, reminded Dumke and the Council that UDAG will rewrite the Dumke loan on March 31. He felt they should have an updated appraisal on all assets of the firm.

“We don’t want to bury another business,” Krizenesky declared. He felt who pays for the appraisals should be discussed, and Gryzwa agreed.

When the discussion ended everyone voted in favor of granting Dumke’s request.

City Engineer George Cowell reported there had been a pre-construction meeting on transportation enhancement grant project held earlier that day, and they hope to get electric conduit for the new street lights wired up to the bridge before really bad weather sets in. He expects construction will start Thursday morning. If all goes well they will have about a week and a half to get the conduit work done, and then when the new lights arrive they can be connected.

Lock asked what would be done about the bumps and the guard rail, and Cowell said the bumps will be fixed when spring comes and the DOT is looking into the safety aspects of the guard rail requests and will report back to the city in writing.

By unanimous vote Council approved Finance Committee recommendations to renew insurance coverage with EMC Insurance Companies for 2013 and authorized Krizenesky to sign the necessary documents. They agreed to retain Schenck to do the 2012 audit for the city at a cost of $19,120, and to have Schenck also audit Riverside Cemetery Association records for $1,030, with that cost to be paid by Riverside Cemetery.

Council approved a Taxicab Service license for Kenneth Coddington after Behnke, reporting for the License and Police committee, said all his other licenses and permits are up to date.

Council also approved a request from Nancy Bruce to transfer the Class B retail license to serve fermented malt beverages for BLB Enterprise LLC from 811 French Street to 101 S. Emery Ave. The license change will allow sale of fermented malt beverages at the corner restaurant that they expect to open on Friday.

Malke, as chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, reported there are still seats available on the bus trip to the Botanical Gardens Light Show in Green Bay on Saturday, Dec. 8. She said they will be eating at the Golden Corral, and not Old Country Buffet as previously announced. After the meeting Malke said the $15 cost of the trip pays for the meal. WPS, a sponsor of the trip, is paying for the bus and the Botanical Gardens admission tickets.

Council approved committee recommendations to remove the one week maximum for stays in the Badger Park cabins, approved plans for Christmas in July at the campgrounds on July 26 and 27, with campers to be allowed to stay for three nights while paying for only two, and agreed to advertise for campground hosts for Badger Park for the summer.

Also on Malke’s recommendation they agreed to pay Alfredson Brothers Construction Co. $95,219.19 and allow partial lien waivers for payment No. three on the Riverfront Park Boardwalk Development project.

In relation to that project, Malke happily declared, “I am proud to report there have been no geese in that park yet!” She said geese are reputed to prefer open and unrestricted spaces, so the bench, gazebos, lights, board walk etc. being installed there are making the park less desirable for geese and more inviting for citizens.

On motion from Colburn, as chair of the Personnel Committee, Council approved Fire Chief Steve Anderson’s recommendation to change the head truck driver from Joseph Bayer to Christopher Rhode, effective Dec. 1 at the established salary for the position.

Meintz, chair of the Water and Sewer committee, commented council was already aware of the $61,916 Focus on Energy grant.

On his recommendation Council approved partial payment of $463,431 to Oudenhoven Construction, Inc., for work on the wastewater treatment plant aeration system improvements.

Meintz said he, Cowell, Consultant Chris Kaempfer of Kaempfer and Associates and two workers from the Wastewater Treatment plant had an inspection on Nov. 1, and a list of things to be done will be compiled. The list may be long.

“There will be action to require better maintenance than has been going on,” Meintz declared. “You’ll be hearing more about that!” he promised.

As chair of the Fire, Lighting and Building Committee, Meintz noted the city received a letter from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin regarding the Strategic Energy Assessment for Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2018 advising them that copies of the projected energy needs document are available on-line and will be sent by mail if requested.

There were five building permits issued in November, the largest to Steven and Tammy Kasal for an estimated $535,000 commercial building at 830 French Street. The permit required a variance for less than a 20 foot rear setback and fewer than the required number of parking spaces. The variances were approved by the Board of Appeals on Tuesday, Nov. 27, so construction of what is to be a 91,000 square foot Dollar General store can go forward as soon as plans receive the required state approval.

There were comments that installation of the new city warning sirens is complete, and they will be tested on Friday, Dec. 7.

The next Council meeting will be on Wednesday, Jan. 2 because the first Monday of the month is also New Year’s Day.


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