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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee Town, Village Decline to Extend Fair Lease

The Town and Village of Wausaukee jointly own the Marinette County Fair site in the Village of Wausaukee, but it has been leased officially for $1 a year by Marinette County and/or the Marinette County Fair Association since 1946. Now the 99-year lease has only 33 years to go, and Marinette County asked for input as to the owners’ desire to continue with the current lease. Trustees and Supervisors from the two municipal boards by unanimous vote on Monday, June 24 declared the lease can be corrected if necessary but not extended.

County Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said in a letter to the municipalities that in addition to “problems inherent in the lease document itself, there has been disjointed discussion about the desire of the Village, the Town, the County and the Fair Board as to continuing the lease. Discussions and comments from members of the Fair Board seem to be of the nature of continuing the fair at the current location.”

“The County is seeking input from both the Town and the Village as to each entity’s desire to continue with the current lease,” Mattison’s letter concluded.

At the joint meeting on Monday the boards were in full agreement. They will allow the county, at county expense, to rewrite the lease so it includes a specific legal description of the fairgrounds, as it exists within the fenced area today, but they will not agree to extend the lease beyond its current expiration date.

Comments from both Village trustees and Town supervisors were that they do not want to tie the hands of future boards as to use of the property, and they feel the property is ideal for industrial development rather than as the site for the County Fair.

The lease specifies that if ever terminated, all buildings belong to the lessee, and may be removed at the lessee’s discretion. If the Fair ceases to operate for a period of three years the lease can be considered void, and it appears the county can also terminate the lease by giving 30 days notice.

Fair Board President David Gross, who was present for Monday’s Wausaukee town/village meeting, said the Fair Association prefers to keep the Fair where it is. Gross did not refer to the cost of moving the Fair, but other discussion at the meeting referred to a proposal a few years ago to move the Fair to a new location closer to the county’s Marinette/Peshtigo population center. There also had been a proposal from a Wausaukee industry interested in purchasing the Wausaukee Fairgrounds Fair property for expansion of its adjacent manufacturing plant but no agreement was reached and the company expanded elsewhere in Wisconsin.

it was determined at that time that moving the Fair buildings or building new ones and providing the needed infrastructure would cost approximately $5 million.

The property in the village, bounded by Fairgrounds Road and Cedar Streets, has a long history as the site of the Fair. By the time the lease was signed in 1946 the Fair had put up buildings and was operating there for many years, in fact since the Fair Association was formed in 1928.

The county does own a 40-acre parcel east of the fairgrounds which is used as parking area during Fair time but contains no Fair buildings or facilities of any kind.

Town Supervisor Bob Jicha recalled discussion on possible removal of the Fair from Wausaukee started years ago when the village had been using the fairgrounds for its Fourth of July celebration. Then the Fair Board totaled all its expenses for the year, including water, sewer, electricity, etc., and divided it by five - four for the four days of the Fair and one for the village celebration - and determined that was what the village should pay. The village moved its event to the parking lot behind Bank North.

The events Jicha referred to had happened in 2001. In November of that year the town and village boards, by unanimous votes, passed almost identical resolutions referring to “the ongoing problems it has encountered in working with the Marinette County Fair Association concerning the fairgrounds property” and asking that all future elected bodies of the town and village “respectfully decline to renew the lease to the Fair Association or any other entity that would place similar restrictions upon the use of this property for the common good.”

Both leases stated “that the Marinette County Fair Association has not honored the spirit of the lease, that being, utilized the leased property as a non-profit venture for the good of the general public. In particular the Marinette County Fair Association requires more than a nominal fee to lease the property by other non-profit organizations to include the Village/Town for charitable functions which benefit the residents of the Village and Town and Marinette County.”

Jicha said he believed they should continue with the current lease at this time, unless either side wants to change it, “but I don’t believe we should extend it. That property is served by water and sewer and has an ideal location for an industrial park.”

Gross said the legal description on the lease is somewhat correct, but it puts the property in the wrong section number. Mainly, though, it includes the entire campground area across the river to North Avenue, “and we’re worried about liability,” Gross said. “We want to get it more specific. He said the County and the Fair Board would also like to extend the lease.

We can’t see tying the hands of future boards,” said Village Trustee Rosie Figas, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Village President Hilbert Radtke.

Town Supervisor Dennis “Griz” Taylor felt if the county wants to pay for the paperwork and have the property surveyed along the existing fence lines there should be no problem, and the other municipal representatives agreed. However, he asked, “If it is a dead end lease, will they try to find somewhere else for the Fair?”

Jicha suggested the county would not be putting up any more buildings if they know they will have to move the Fair in 30 years. Taylor suggested if the Fair Board wants new buildings they can build them across the street, on property the county does own.

Jicha, on behalf of the Town, and Trustee Ann Hartnell, on behalf of the Village, composed motions stating they would approve a new lease document containing the proper legal description for the property between Fairgrounds Road and Cedar Street, but only for the remaining 33 years of the existing lease. Both boards approved the motions without dissent and agreed a letter, signed by the clerks of each municipality, should be sent to the county.

Moving on to other agenda items for the joint meeting, Village Clerk Toshia Ranallo explained a request for the town and village to pay for some “No Smoking” signs to be posted at the playground of Steve Stumbris Sr. Memorial Park and provide cleaning supplies for the bathrooms. She said they have been finding many cigarette butts in the wood chips around the playground equipment.

“I understood last year Wausaukee Recreation Association agreed to pay for maintenance,” Jicha objected. “If there is a problem they should put up signs and buy cleaning supplies.”

Figas said the village provides the labor to clean the park.

The two municipalities own the property on which Stumbris Park is located, as well as Evergreen Park, but the Recreation Association has developed Stumbris Park and ball fields and has plans for more buildings there. There was discussion on who has been taking care of maintenance at the parks. The town owns and cares for the north side of Evergreen Park by the pavilions and the Village takes care of the Campground area and retains the money it collects. Jicha declared the Rec Association last year said they would assume all responsibility for Stumbris Park and the playground, but last year the town and village each agreed to provide $1,000 toward maintenance of the park.

“If the signs and cleaning supplies are donated by someone, would that be the end of the problem?” asked Village Trustee Debra Stumbris.

Indications were that would not resolve the issue.

“Who will take over if the Association folds,” Ranallo asked.

“We can deal with that if it happens,” Figas replied.

“It isn’t the money, Jicha declared. “They said they wanted us to stay out of their hair!”

Taylor agreed. “When all this started they said, ‘We’ll take care of this...if you do this..If we do this now, next they’ll be saying they want us to provide bushes and flowers!”

Jicha recalled when he suggested the playground area should stay with the village and the town four Rec Association members at the meeting objected, and said they wanted to develop and care for the whole park.

Figas felt if they mingle money and responsibilities there will be more problems, “The cleaner we keep it, the better.”

They decided the Rec Association is a non-profit corporation with its own money and budget that it should use to maintain the park, and the municipalities do contribute the $1,000 a year. Ranallo said she would relay that information.

Jicha declared Stumbris Park is “just packed constantly,” not only during ball games, but with families enjoying the playground and picnic area.

Next came planning for formal dedication of the Steve Stumbris, Sr. Memorial Park, which about a year ago had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, July 5. However, Bob Ranallo at that time was a village trustee and he was in charge of the dedication and he is no longer a trustee and plans had been overlooked. Figas said the Rec Association doesn’t feel they should take over the dedication, since the park is owned by the town and village.

No one disputed that thought, but Jicha felt the time was too short to do a good job. He noted the Rec Association is planning a large building at the park and suggested the dedication should wait until it is done, so there can be a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. On that note, Jicha said he also would like to see one of the all fields named for the late Fred Forst.

“When no one wanted the Little League here, he (Forst) took it over and ran it on his field for 30 years,” Jicha declared.

Wausaukee Town Chairman Jeff Engelmann said he would like to make the dedication ceremony very nice, and they would need time to get a memorial plaque prepared and arrange for speakers. He agreed it should be done when the new building is complete, which could be this fall.

Eventually the boards agreed they should hold the dedication next year, either on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

There followed some joking suggestions that the Town and Village boards could challenge each other to a tug of war, which led to talk of a beauty contest, which led a town spokesman to suggest they would want to find blind judges, and the discussion ended on a happy note.

Clerk Ranallo said she would also relay that information to the Recreation Association, but suggested if any of the board members was willing to work Saturday morning, June 29, help was needed to set the five Memorial Benches at Stumbris Park. The work includes pouring concrete to anchor them.

The five benches recognize entities that each donated $5,000 or more toward developing the park: the Village of Wausaukee, Town of Wausaukee, Bank North, Wausaukee American Legion and Wausaukee Housing Authority.


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