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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Rental Units May Face Mandatory Inspections

Issue Date: February 14, 2013

Peshtigo City Council’s Judiciary Committee had a busy meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12. They tentatively approved a proposed ordinance that sets up charges for some services of the city’s fire department, specifically those related to illegal or careless burning, traffic accidents, hazardous materials and power and gas line problems. They agreed parking should be restored on both sides of Maple Street from Wells Street to Beebe Ave., and the speed limit there should be cut to 25 miles per hour, as it is in other residential areas of the city.

After long discussion on provisions they would like to see included they asked City Attorney David Spangenberg to prepare a sample ordinance setting regulations and establishing some inspection perameters for rental properties with four units or less. Building Inspector Ron Banach said the biggest building code violation problems are with former single unit private dwellings converted to rental units for one or two families or more. The larger apartment complexes are generally subject to state building code requirements when constructed.

Members noted the City of Marinette requires a building code inspection and occupancy permit every time a new tenant moves into a rented unit.

The committee agreed on a new program and rate structure for handling trash - generally large items such as appliances - brought to the city garage site. Outline for the proposed program had already been approved by the Streets and Drainage Committee.

If approved by the full Council, construction and demolition debris will no longer be accepted at the city dumpsters. City Engineer George Cowell noted that several private companies in the area provide dumpster service for these projects and names and contact information can be provided for city residents. The site will be open only on Thursdays from November through May, and two days a week from May through November. No money will be handled at the disposal site. Persons wanting to use the service will first need to pay at City Hall and then present the receipt and proof of residency in the city along with their trash.

Fees, which Cowell said should come close to covering tipping fee costs, are proposed at $10 per passenger vehicle, $20 per pickup truck or single axle trailer, and $35 per double axle trailer. Regular vehicle tires will be accepted for $5 each, semi tires at $10 and heavy equipment tires at $20. There will be a $25 fee for anything with coolant - refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners and dehumidifiers. There is to be no charge for metals, large appliances, lead batteries, waste oil, leaves and lawn clippings. Pallets and unpainted wood that can be taken to the burn site will also be accepted without charge.

Paint, dried out in the can, will still be picked up at curb side, as well brush and stumps, but will not be accepted at the drop off site. Also not accepted will be propane tanks and recyclable items. No waste will be accepted from residential building contractors, commercial contractors, commercial businesses or industrial facilities.

Cowell, explaining the ban on building materials, explained there is danger of having hazardous materials like asbestos and lead based paint end up in the dumpsters.

The disposal service is to be manned, probably with an Experience Works employee. Cowell said he will prepare a service window and small office in the old lab area at the city garage. The person who works there will not help with unloading, except to verify the receipts and direct people to the correct disposal area of the site.

After hearing from Peshtigo Librarian Jenny Hipke, the committee agreed to recommend that Council eliminate the Peshtigo Public Library Advisory Board and designate the Peshtigo Foundation Board of Directors to serve as their advisory committee instead.

Hipke said the recommendation was being made at this time because Sharon Schounard, president of the Advisory Board, has resigned, most of the advisory board members also serve on the Foundation board and have asked her to help them be dissolved. Mayor Al Krizenesky had also asked her to present that request for Judiciary Committee and eventually City Council approval. She said the Advisory Committee is no longer needed because the city does not operate a municipal library. The library in the Peshtigo Municipal Building is a branch of the Marinette County Library system, and the Marinette County Library Board is the administrator of its policies, financial budgets, library services and hiring of library personnel.

The Peshtigo Library Foundation is a private nonprofit 501(3)(c) corporation set up to receive and dispense donated funds so they stay in the local community instead of being transferred to Marinette County Library Board control.

Alderman Mary Lock, who chairs the Judiciary Committee asked Hipke how she felt others on the Advisory Board would feel about the proposed dissolution, and Hipke said she had spoken with all of them except Don Belonga and Marian Devroy, who is out of town, and they were all in favor.

Members of the Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor, while the Foundation has an internal means of selecting members that Hipke said she was not privy to. She attends their meetings in an advisory capacity but is not a voting member. She believes they accept members from other municipalities the library serves, namely the towns of Grover and Peshtigo, who also help support the library.

To concerns from Alderman Tom Gryzwa that the city might eventually lose control by not having a majority on the board, Hipke said that will never happen, the city will always be a majority on that board.

Hipke said the foundation has more flexibility than the advisory committee can have, and is more active and better recognized. They stage fund raising events, sponsor library related programs for the community, encourages and supports use of library services, accept donations, and advise how the money should be spent.

Hipke explained persons who want to donate specifically for Peshtigo should give to the Foundation. Money given to the library itself has to go to the county system. If the funds are restricted they must be spent for Peshtigo projects, but the county board decides what those projects will be. Hipke said in recent years the county committee has designated donated funds for some projects needed at Peshtigo, and then cut their allocation for the Peshtigo library by the same amount, feeing up the money for use in a library elsewhere in the county.

Meintz, referring to the $5 million remodeling project at Stephenson Public Library in Marinette, said the county library board hasn’t done too well with its money. The county is difficult to deal with, he added. They haven’t raised our rent for years...we can’t even get them to listen!

After the committee’s unanimous vote in favor of dissolving the advisory committee, Hipke announced Kathy Selby is no longer going to represent the city on the Marinette County Library Board. She recommended that Lock be named to replace Selby if she was willing to serve on that board. She (Lock) works well with us and I think she would do a good job for all of us, from the youngsters to the aged, Hipke declared.

The committee discussed at some length how to make copies of recently adopted city ordinances or ordinance changes available to the public. A letter from Municode, the company that had prepared the city’s revised ordinance book published in December of 2010 explained their rates for preparing updates and posting them on the web. The committee was not impressed with the rates or the code book itself, which some described as repetitive and not user friendly. The three year contract expires in December of this year, but will automatically renew unless action is taken at least 60 days before the renewal date.

City Clerk Mary Ann Wills suggested the city itself could produce a few ordinance supplements a year, or print copies of priority ordinances at the rate of a few a year, possibly starting with those pertaining to law enforcement. Wills also suggested they could send copies of the ordinances to Municode, which would in turn provide an estimate of the actual cost to get them reproduced, codified, put into the book and posted on their web site.

Banach said Oconto keeps their ordinance code book updated in-house with their own staff. He suggested Peshtigo should notify Municode now that they will not be renewing the contract in December.

Eventually the committee approved a motion by Meintz as a recommendation to Council: That we put together a supplement of all the ordinances we have adopted since the book was published, with the work to be completed within a month.

Meintz said the ordinances have already been published, and assembling those adopted in the last two and a half years into a supplement package should not take months. He said once done, people with copies of the original code books should be given copies of the supplement package. It’s important to make those books and the supplements available to the general public as well, Meintz declared. He wondered if it would be a violation of the Municode contract to post them on the city’s current website prior to the December expiration.


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