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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Middle Inlet Budget Meeting Is Tuesday, Nov. 19, Not Nov. 15

Issue Date: October 31, 2019

The annual meeting for electors of the Town of Middle Inlet and the town's annual budget hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, not Friday, Nov. 15 as incorrectly printed in last week's Peshtigo Times. The next regular meeting of the Middle Inlet Town Board is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, but before then the board will be holding a special meeting to finalize the budget prior to publication.

At previous special meetings the board had discussed the 2020 budget and due to the rise in costs for many road construction and maintenance services and materials, it was suggested that they consider increasing the highway allocation by $50,000. This would require increasing the property tax levy by nine cents per $1,000.

The board has held several special meetings in the last month or two in addition to the regular monthly meetings that are generally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.

At a special 9 a.m. meeting on Monday, Oct. 7 the board had discussed current town banking options, and had looked at Nicolet, Associated and Stephenson National Bank literature to ascertain the best interest rates and lowest fees. After discussion and a call to customer service at Nicolet, it was decided that more information is needed. Clerk/Treasurer Virginia Hines was asked to visit each bank with information on town balances to solicit proposals and report back to the board.

Another topic of that special meeting was review and discussion on current town publication options. In an effort to ascertain competitive pricing in publication, the board found that a subscription to the Eagle Herald, a daily publication, is $172.60 per year and the Peshtigo Times, a weekly publication, is $32 per year. Both papers must adhere to Wisconsin statutes regarding official notices and publication prices for municipalities. After discussion board members agreed that the Eagle Herald was cost prohibitive for residents.

During review and discussion on the current town recycling program the board viewed a proposal from Great American Disposal (GAD) for curbside recycling on a monthly basis. Cost would be $1,350 a month plus $60 per ton tipping fees.

Town Chair Richard Wade provided information about the Amberg recycling program with GAD which is curbside and costs considerably less than the proposal provided to Middle Inlet. Supervisor Ron Wenzel planned to contact GAD and attempt to glean more information.

Final agenda item was for the board to possibly take action to rescind board action taken on September 9, 1999 that assigned cemetery record keeping to the town clerk and provided $5 per hour in additional wages for each hour spent on cemetery work.

Hines advised the board the former clerk was paid the additional $5 per hour in wages for each hour spent on cemetery records and duties, and said she had found that a $40 per hour fee was charged to the town for cemetery records during the winter months. Hines asked the Board to rescind the action authorizing the additional $5 per hour pay in an effort to reduce costs. However, after discussion the board decided not to rescind the action, but asked her to correct the practice that provided the former clerk with $40 per hour for winter cemetery record keeping.

Another special board meeting was held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, to approve an insurance premium payment, allow free use of the Town Hall by Marinette County Fair Board, review and discuss a change in the law requiring bonding for town officials, and consider a request from the Middle Inlet Fire Department for startup funds for their fundraiser at the N.E.W Low Buck Vintage Riders show and swap meet from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Fire Station, which is located next door to the town hall at the junction of Hwy. 141 and County X. The fire department is to have food and beverages for sale there for breakfast and lunch.

The agenda also provided for discussion of a letter from a concerned citizen, but when it came up during the meeting Wade said he had discussed the letter with the town's attorney, and was advised to say nothing until the investigation is over.

The board approved a change in the agenda to allow consideration of a request from the newly formed Middle Inlet Fire Department Auxiliary for the town to purchase some generic fund raiser signs prior to the Dec. 7 vintage snowmobile event, to discuss some fire department issues, and to add discussion and possible action on a "problem property."

Amanda Rhode, vice president of the newly reorganized Middle Inlet Fire Department Auxiliary, and Assistant Fire Chief Rob Wenzel were on hand to present their requests. Town officials present in addition to Wade were Supervisors Donald Van and Ron Wenzel, and Clerk/Treasurer Ginny Hines was also present.

Rhode said if they order the signs immediately they can have them in time for the Dec. 7 snowmobile swap meet event, and they will be available to promote other events. After some discussion the board agreed to purchase the signs requested for a total of $487. They are made of hard-core plastic and are designed to last for years, Rhode said. Five are double sided. Some signs will will direct cars to parking areas and others will say "Middle Inlet Fire Department Fund Raiser", with interchangeable dates. A large generic banner also provides for interchangeable dates. Rhode said for the Fire Department picnic and other events the beer vendor will provide event-specific signs, but these can be used for all events.

Before the board's unanimous vote approving the purchase Wade commented the price is not bad at all, with an average of $50 per sign.

It was noted the fire department can only spend taxpayer money on gear, training and firefighting expenses, but the Auxiliary can spend its money any way it wants.

Rhode said they will be serving breakfast and lunch at the Dec. 7 swap meet, along with beer, soda and apparel. Maple syrup has been donated by a local producer, and locally grown beef will be served. "All the food has pretty much been donated," Rhode said.

She added the auxiliary is now officially Middle Inlet Fire Department Auxiliary, LLC, with a tax number and a checking account.

Rob Wenzel said the Fire Department would like to put its older brush truck up for sale now, rather than let it sit outside all winter. The department's other brush truck is provided by the DNR for town fire department use. The older brush truck, a 1978 model, is sitting outside at the home of Dale Pannis, who was interested in buying it, Wenzel said. They have had one offer to purchase for $1,000, Which Wenzel termed "a low-ball offer," and Fire Chief Dave Johnston had told him that someone had approached him on possible purchase of the vehicle for use in a training program for kids.

Wade said if the Fire Chief and the department agree they want the truck sold the Town Board will advertise for sealed bids.

Hines advised the board she had been informed by Horton Insurance Group that the town's umbrella policy is up for renewal. Price is $13,297 for the year, the same as last year. The premium had been due in August but there was no invoice, Hines said.

Hines said by state law town officials who handle taxpayer money can be exempted from a state law bonding requirements, and Middle Inlet chose several years ago to take advantage of that exception. She was recently told by a WTA spokesman that the insurance company letter regarding bonding was probably more of a solicitation than anything else. Town officials are covered under the town's umbrella insurance policy.

Hines had requested use of the Middle Inlet Town Hall for the Marinette County Fair Association's Livestock Committee. She said the Fair Board meets one Tuesday a month at the Beaver Town Hall without charge. Members Livestock Committee are from Niagara, Wausaukee and other northern areas and Middle Inlet is quite a bit closer for them. They meet for about an hour four times a year on Monday nights. The Fairground buildings are not heated and are rented out for storage in winter. Board approval of the request to use the hall at no charge was unanimous.

Wade said he had received a call from a citizen complaining about the property of Kevin James, at N9229 Cemetery Road, where there are 25 cars in the yard. He said James had been running a car repair business there but it is closed.

The lady who complained to him had called the DNR, but the DNR wants the town to go through its legal process of ordinance enforcement before they will step in.

He quoted nuisance ordinance 342-6 which states disassembled, inoperable or wrecked motor vehicles or junked vehicles can only stay on a property for five days unless it is a business. He said this property is no loner a business and the vehicles are not in a building, nor are they screened from view.

He had contacted Building Inspector Jane Meissner and she asked the board to send a registered letter to James in regard to moving the vehicles. Her concern was about contaminants that might leak from the vehicles and get into the groundwater.

Wenzel said if this was a legitimate business with a Tax ID number and a name, or a fence blocking view from the public he could keep the vehicles.

Wade suggested sending James a letter giving him 30 days to comply with the town ordinance or face a citation and possible involvement of the DNR. A motion to that effect, with provision for action by legal counsel if he does not comply, was unanimously approved.

Not on the agenda but subject of a somewhat long discussion, was the issue of pay for firefighters, and particularly pay for the chief and assistant chief.

Rob Wenzel said currently the Middle Inlet Fire Chief and Assistant Chief are paid nothing extra for all the time and work they put in, and recent NFPA certification requirements are increasing the demands on their time. "We're not looking to get rich here, we're just looking to get paid," Wenzel declared. He said in Crivitz the chief gets $5,000 a year and the assistant chief gets $2,500; In Grover/Porterfield the chief is paid $8,000 and the assistant chief is paid $5,000, and in Wagner, a department very comparable to Middle Inlet, the chief is paid $4,200 and the assistant chief $1,800. Pay for the chief in Wausaukee is $1,000 a year and the assistant chief and other officers get a $500 annual premium, but those rates will be going up soon, Wenzel said. He said his job as assistant chief takes about 15 hours a week, the chief spends even more time.

Firefighting in general is getting more specialized and requires more and more training, Wenzel said. Pumper operators must be certified to even drive the truck, and that certification requires 30 hours of training. It doesn't matter that they are CDL licensed commercial drivers who have years of experience driving the pumper truck. Wenzel said those who serve as chief and assistant chief are putting their own futures at risk. "If I send out uncertified people, I am personally liable," Wenzel declared.

Ron Wenzel noted the Lake Noquebay Sportsmen's Club had taken out special board insurance some years ago in response to concerns that someone would fall through the ice at an event. He suggested the town might look into liability insurance for fire department officers.

Wenzel said despite the problems the department has some amazing new people, "young and fresh"right out of school!"

Everyone agreed the town will begin paying firefighters mileage for the trainings they need to attend in Green Bay. Ron Wenzel said they had always done that, but Rob Wenzel said the people on the fire department did not know it. He said the department is also much in need of gear. Some of the firefighters do not even have jackets.

Hines said she would create forms for the firemen to report mileage and expenses. She also offered to sit down with them and re-write some by-laws to reflect that. There also was talk of how the town, the department or the auxiliary could hold a Christmas party or appreciation dinner for firefighters.

Wade recalled they had done that some years ago, and when legality was questioned, Roger Lieck, who was a town supervisor at the time, had paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket.

Wade promised raises for fire department officers will be on the agenda or the next regular town board meeting. Ron Wenzel asked his brother to come with a proposed pay schedule and comparisons from other departments so they can take that into consideration when preparing the budget. He also suggested the Auxiliary should apply for a grant from M&M Community Foundation, and Hines mentioned other grant opportunities.

Hines said firefighters need to turn in their claims for time and mileage reimbursement as soon as possible after a call out so she can bill the insurance companies or parties responsible.

Wenzel said the Middle Inlet Fire Department is smaller than many, but last year they had 35 calls and Crivitz had 33.


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