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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Approves Billing For Fire Department Calls

By order of Peshtigo City Council, the city’s Fire Department will soon be sending bills for their services at accident and fire scenes.

At their first meeting of the new year, on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the council unanimously supported a Finance Committee recommendation that there should be charges for Fire Department responses to fire calls and accident scenes. However, just how actual costs or an alternative flat fee will be determined and how billing will be handled remains to be settled, and is to be taken up by the Finance Committee at its next meeting.

The Finance Committee action at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 31 had been to instruct the Fire Chief to start billing for all fires and motor vehicle accidents at the actual cost of manpower and equipment used.

When the issue came up early on the meeting’s long agenda, Alderman Fred Meintz commented it was nothing new. He said the Peshtigo Council voted six months to start charging, but it was not done. He wondered if they could charge retroactively to the date charging had been authorized.

Alderman Mary Lock agreed they did vote on it, but said there may be a problem with records. Alderman Cathi Malke was concerned about extra work they were putting on Fire Chief Steve Anderson.

Lock said Anderson already has to fill out reports for calls, and all he will have to do on the new policy is turn the information over to Rita Gilbertson. Parks and Recreation Director Dave Marquardt pointed out Rita works for his department and the police department, not the fire department. Mayor Al Krizenesky said Gilbertson has nevertheless agreed to handle the billing.

Anderson said he cannot simply start charging, the Council must first adopt ordinances setting policies and fees, and he will then follow their directives. “I’ve been told for years I’m only part time and I don’t set policies,” he reminded them.

There were comments that most other communities now charge for fire department and rescue squad calls, and insurance companies generally provide coverage to pay the bills.

Behnke said the committee motion was to bill for actual cost. He felt figuring manpower costs would be easy, but agreed that determining what to charge for various pieces of equipment and how to allocate other expenses would be much harder.

Anderson said the City of Marinette Fire Department charges a flat fee for vehicle accident responses.

Krizenesky asked if a flat fee would be easier for him, and Anderson said it would be easier for everybody. Lock said $500 is the maximum the Town of Peshtigo charges for manpower and equipment at fire and accident calls.

Behnke then withdrew his original motion, and instead asked Council to allow the Finance Committee to settle it, and that motion was unanimously approved.

Krizenesky stressed that there are to be charges only for actually fighting fires and cleaning up after accidents, not for false alarms or from people who want them to check if something is wrong.

Behnke said later that they don’t want to charge so much that people are afraid to call, and they don’t intend to bankrupt someone who cannot pay. He expects insurance companies will usually do the paying.

Anderson’s recommendation that Casey Behnke be approved for a firefighter post with the department was unanimously approved. Krizenesky asked if that appointment brought the fire department back to full strength, Anderson said it did not, because he had just received an e-mail that Jeff LeBlanc is resigning. When Alderperson Tom Gryzwa asked if there is a waiting list to get on the department, Anderson jokingly responded, “I think there’s a waiting list to get off.” He does, however, have two individuals who are interested in joining.

Council accepted the resignation of former Mayor Dale Berman from the Water and Sewer Committee. Berman, who is reported to have some health issues, recently resigned from some other public committees, including the Twin County Airport Commission.

“Dale was a real asset to the committee. His services were greatly appreciated,” declared Meintz, Water and Sewer Committee chair.

Council then unanimously approved Krizenesky’s appointment of Gryzwa to fill the vacancy left by Berman’s resignation.

They also approved the resignation of Clerk/Treasurer Mary Ann Wills as administrator of the UDAG and WDF programs and later in the meeting accepted a related Personnel Committee recommendation regarding disciplinary actions.

On recommendation of Krizenesky, Council authorized purchase of a 3.1 acre property adjacent to the Marinette County Highway Shop for industrial development purposes for $6,200, contingent on verification that the property is not contaminated. In accord with the city’s offer to purchase that has been approved by property owner Marinette County, the city is responsible for closing and survey costs. The purchase is subject to county requirements that construction be started within two years or the county will buy the property back for the original purchase price.

Council tentatively agreed to a suggestion that Robert Johnson be hired to do the survey. If all goes well, closing will be on Thursday, Jan. 31.

At the start of discussion on the proposed purchase, Krizenesky explained the plan is to sell the property to an individual who operates a factory in Menominee with 142 employees and has expressed interest in building a facility on the Peshtigo site. He expects to start with 10 employees and increase the work force to 22 employees within a year.

“The guy likes this property better than any other, and I think it’s a good fit and a good chance for more jobs in Peshtigo,” Krizenesky prompted.

He said the county had accepted the city’s offer to purchase and he had just that evening received the needed confirmation from Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.

City Attorney David Spangenberg, responding to concerns raised by Lock about buildability of the property, said Mattison had added a clause that if Peshtigo does nothing with the property within two years, a shorter time span than usual, it will revert back to the county.

Krizenesky commented that the county’s Forestry and Lands Committee had wanted to require construction to start within one year, which he felt could be extremely difficult. “It’s taken us three months just to get this far,” he pointed out.

Council was advised that no one had filed to fill the District 1 Alderman position that will be vacant when the term of Fred Meintz ends in April, so the post will apparently be won by a write-in candidate. Incumbent Mike Behnke has filed for re-election as a District Two alderman and there is no opposition. Two candidates, Don Richter and Michael Siebert, have filed for District 3, where incumbent Alderman Mary Lock is not seeking re-election. When names were drawn for ballot position Richter won the first spot and Siebert will be listed second.

City Attorney Spangenberg has been asked to proceed with legal action to collect delinquent personal property taxes.

On recommendation of the UDAG/WDF Committee, Council unanimously approved an additional $20,000 WDF loan at 3% interest to Dave Marquardt for Cherished Child, LLC day care center. Marquardt noted he is up to date with interest and principal payments on his initial $15,000 loan. An increase in children attending has created a need to expand the outdoor play area and the indoor cubby locker areas. He also needs to purchase a vehicle to transport children to and from school due to a recent decision by Peshtigo School District to cease bus service to the east side of the city.

After some discussion Council approved an extra $3,000 donation this year for Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc., with the money to come from interest earned on UDAG funds. The contribution request will be revisited again next year at budget time. The Rescue Squad had asked for the money to help purchase two new $120,000 vehicles, one to be stationed in Menominee and one in Peshtigo. Alderman Malke, a member of the squad, said they will borrow money for the purchase. They are saving $30,000 to $40,000 by buying both vehicles at the same time. Lock said she might be slightly prejudiced in favor of the contribution because of the excellent care the Squad gave her husband Howard recently, but would vote in favor anyway. Malke abstained from voting on the issue, and the rest of the Council voted in favor.

Malke explained the Squad, which serves Marinette, Menominee and Peshtigo, operates as a single unit, and provides services to all three communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She called the $3,000 donation, “the best investment this council could make for the 24/7 coverage provided.”

On recommendation of the License and Police Committee, Council approved an alcohol beverage retail license for Aaron Thomas Pecor of Pecor Ventures, LLC for the Peshtigo Corral at 811 French Street.

Installation of the city’s new emergency warning sirens is complete. They will be tested for the first time at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17. The public is to be informed of siren tests in advance through the news media and inserts with water bills.

Numerous recommendations from the Streets and Drainage Committee, headed by Malke, were approved, including sale of 14 street light poles and lights to the highest bidders. Four will go to Marinette County Fair at $125 each. The Fair Board’s original offer had been to buy all 14 at that price, for a total of $1,750. Four of the others will go to Ed Kasal for $211.10 each, and six to Steve Kasal at $306 each. Money from the sale will go to offset part of the $4,800 cost to buy a spare light pole for downtown so if a car hits one it can be replaced right away. Meintz explained it takes months to get a replacement pole, and there would be additional shipping costs if purchased separately.

Some street and road transfers with the Town of Peshtigo were approved. Lock voted against an agreement, subject to weight restrictions, for an all season road for part of Schacht Road that includes transfer of a portion to the town. Lock had also voted against the agreement in committee, stating the city had fought hard to get ownership and expressing concern over the weight restrictions the town might impose. Council also approved transferring a portion of Poplar Ridge Lane to the town.

A new fee schedule proposed by Public Works Director George Cowell for residential household waste delivered to dumpsters at the city garage was approved. No wastes will be accepted from building contractors or industrial facilities.

Meintz informed the Council that earlier in the day he had spoken with the WPS Focus on Energy representative, “and he assures me we can spend the entire $22,000 grant on our boiler.” Meintz said the city will save $1,100 a year on energy costs and is being given credit for savings resulting from wastewater treatment plant improvements, so concerns about meeting the grant requirements have been taken care of.

Council also approved an agreement with Rouse Heating for servicing HVAC equipment at City Hall in 2013. “I’ve given this lots of thought and we’re better off with the Rouse proposal,” Meintz explained. “There’s no contract. If we’re not satisfied with what’s being done we can just find somebody else.” Malke abstained from voting on the issue, stating she wanted to look a little more into the Rouse agreement versus a local business before making a decision. Meintz said due to the Open Meetings Law they could not discuss the matter until the committee has another meeting, but will do it then. All other aldermen voted in favor.

Council approved numerous recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Committee including:

*Donating a two night stay at Badger Park Campground to be used by Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce for a fund raising activity in 2013;

*Allowing Peshtigo Girls Softball availability of the Little League Field;

*Accepting a Dec. 3 change order from Alfredson Brothers Construction that results in a net decrease of $2,723 in the Riverfront Park project;

*Approving the Open Campground.com computer program for Badger Park campsite reservations and setting new rules for reservations and rental and use of the pavilion, and

*Referring billing of $975 owed by a construction crew worker for camping at Badger Park to the city attorney for further action.

Building Inspector Ron Banach issued only two building permits in December, one for electrical improvements on property owned by Nathan Hermanson at 220 S. Emery Ave., and the other for approximately $15,000 of interior and exterior remodeling to be done by Jerry and Lori Kobishop on their building at 460 French Street.


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