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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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041421frontFireTruck.jpg

New Fire Truck - The City of Peshtigo Fire Department took delivery on Monday, April 12 of one of the two new fire trucks the city had on order from Custom Fab, of Marion, Wisconsin. The new engine will be placed in service in about a month, according to Fire Chief Charles Gardon. The new truck replaces a pumper that was purchased in 1974. Alderman Mike Behnke made a check presentation to Gary Bogenschutz, sales manager for Custom Fab. Top Photo-Left to right Christopher Rohde Assistant Chief; Charles Gardon Chief, Gary Bogenschutz, and Alderman Mike Behnke are pictured after alderman Behnke presented the check for payment of the truck

Peshtigo City Finances Get Good Audit Report

Issue Date: April 14, 2021

In the annual audit report presented at the Peshtigo City Council monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 7, Auditor Scott Sternhagen of CLA Accounting declared the city is "in relatively good financial condition," and all 2020 accounts were found in order.

He thanked Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal and her staff for having everything for the audit so CPA staff could get in and get out and get on with 2021, and added "Everybody wants to put 2020 behind us!"

He pointed out the city's general fund balance was $3.6 million at the end of 2020, up from $3 million at the end of 2019, but that was because of grant funding and money borrowed for capital improvement projects that had not been spent yet. The $1.5 million unrestricted general fund balance puts the city in relatively good financial condition, Sternhagen said.

The UDAG Fund has a balance of $2 million and the Revolving Loan Fund about $400,000. Both funds are to be used for economic development projects in the city.

The water utility had an operating income of just over $300,000, and ended the year with a positive $53,000 balance, which Sternhagen observed gives them "not much to work with," but is in line with what the PSC has allowed.

The sewer utility had an operating loss of approximately $16,000, but a positive $53,000 change in the cash balance. Sternhagen cautioned the city has to be more aware of managing the sewer utility finances than any other accounts.

Sternhagen noted the variance between budget and actual spending was "a bit different in 2020 than in a normal year," but said that was largely due to Covid funds received and the grant for construction of the fish viewing platform.

Mayor Cathi Malke thanked Sternhagen for good work on the audit and suggested he should stop to enjoy the Fish Viewing Platform before leaving the area.

The evening began with a closed session of the council at 6:30 p.m. to confer with legal counsel regarding wastewater treatment/sewer issues. They took no action on closed session items after that meeting was adjourned.

The regular council meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. Aldermen Brigitte Schmidt and Archer Leupp were absent. On hand in addition to Malke and Kasal were aldermen Debbie Sievert, John Berendt, Rick Berth, and Mike Behnke, several department heads, and 13 members of the public.

Action on several recommended ordinance changes had been expected but before the meeting decision had been made to postpone those issues until a subsequent meeting so all the required public hearings can be held at the same time.

The first item on the agenda was formally accepting the resignation of Alderman Archer Leupp. Malke thanked Leupp for his service and declared he will be sorely missed. She said Leupp had told her three months ago that he would be resigning because he had accepted a job that takes him all over the state in his role as a law enforcement chaplain.

Correspondence for the meeting included a letter from Katie Berman expressing her interest in being appointed to fill the City Council position that Leupp is vacating. Berman said she grew up in Peshtigo, graduated from Peshtigo High School, and owns the "BeDazzled Hair Studio." She, her husband, Seth, and their two children are the fourth generation to live in the Berman family home at 151 N. Cranberry Ave.

Malke called on Fire Chief Chuck Gardon to talk briefly about the pending resignation of long-time firefighter Lt. James Felker. Gardon explained Felker was not resigning, he was retiring, after being a volunteer member of the department for 50 years. Tuesday, April 6 marked the 50th anniversary of the day he became a firefighter for Peshtigo.

Felker's retirement was accepted with thanks, and Malke asked Gardon to pass along a message of gratitude to Felker for all his years of service.

Later in the meeting Council approved a request from Gardon for minor change orders on one of the two new fire trucks being purchased by the city. Meanwhile, the truck came in $1,561 under budget. Also, they had not ordered a new monitor (priced at $3,750) and planed to transfer one that is 40 years old from the old truck. With the savings and money in their budget they could get a new monitor that will last another 40 years, Gardon advised.

The first truck, being assembled in Marion, is to be ready for delivery within the next week or two, and the second is to be delivered in May, so there was no time to hold a committee meeting, Gardon said. He praised his personnel for doing a great job of setting up specifications for the purchase of the new trucks.

Berth, chair of the Fire, Lighting, and Building, thanked Gardon for the work he has done on the project.

A request from Peshtigo Woman's Club to use the Henry Drees Community Center on June 25 for its 2021 Arts and Crafts Show was approved, but only after it was agreed that they will have to pay the $35 user fee. Former Alderman and very active Woman's Club member Mary Lock was present for the meeting on behalf of the Woman and the Cans For Kids program.

Motion to approve Woman's Club use of the Community Center at no charge was made by Behnke and seconded by Berendt, but before the vote Malke pointed out that on Aug. 24, 2014, Council had established rates for local organizations at the Community Center at $20 for the main room plus $15 for the kitchen, bringing the fee to $35 for the planned event. That motion had been made in committee by Tom Gryzwa and seconded by Lock, who were both aldermen at the time. The vote also had been to allow use at no charge by the Boy Scouts, Peshtigo Historical Society, and Peshtigo Woman's Club for the Memorial Day Lunch.

Berth asked if the city had been following that rule, and Malke said they had not, but it had just recently been brought to her attention and they needed to get back to it.

"If we charge one, we should charge them all," Berth declared. He also suggested they should have a permit form to fill out for use of the Community Center. Malke suggested he could bring that suggestion up at a Judiciary Committee meeting.

Behnke then withdrew his motion, Berendt withdrew his second, and the motion was passed that the women's club will use the facility for the $35 fee. Lock, from the audience, assured the Council that is not a problem.

Under time for public comment, Tony O'Neill sharply criticized some activity at city hall in connection with the elections on Tuesday, April 6.

O'Neil said he had found admiration for the poll workers, and for the City Clerk who welcomed him as an observer for the election. However, he said, he had been "harassed, intimidated and threatened intermittently" by a city official and said he had seen a law enforcement officer being harassed by the same city official. O'Neill said he would not name the official at this point, "I will save that for my interview with a law enforcement person."

He referred to laws against electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place, and against political signs within 100 feet of a polling place.

"The people who work here, the people who came to vote...we deserve better than that," he declared, adding he never accepted intimidation when he was a law enforcement officer and will not accept it now as a citizen.

Peggy Berth wondered when they would start Zooming council meetings to the public. she said lots of people hesitate to come because of Covid, but they want to be a part of this. She asked if the city had an IT Department, and also suggested they could probably get a student to do it.

Behnke replied the city can't afford an IT department. He pointed to the large screen TV and other equipment in the room and said they were working on getting all meetings connected through Zoom, but it hasn't happened yet, partly because there is a backlog with everyone in the nation trying to do this at the same time.

Council approved a RLF/UDAG motion to grant a 15-year $46,000 loan at 2.5 percent interest for Driven Agriculture but were advised by City Attorney David Spangenberg that the loan will most likely not go through due to some details being worked out with their premiere bank.

Next came a long discussion on a RLF Committee recommendation to earmark $50,000 of the RLF balance for a facade improvement grant program.

Berth asked who could apply and Malke said any business in the city willing to spend the matching funds for that purpose.

Berendt asked if the money could be used for any other purpose, such as the road improvements that might have been done if the funding referendum had passed.

Malke felt not, she said the money must be used to help businesses, and added, "they had a rough year."

Ultimately, everyone voted in favor of using the $50,000 for the facade improvement program, although approval from some, particularly Berendt and Berth, appeared to be reluctant.

Streets and Drainage committee recommendations for approval of a street use permit for Zion Lutheran Church to hold its annual car show on July 24 (at a price of $5 for the permit) and to hire Robert e. lee & Associates to do the design work for 2021 street projects were unanimously approved, as were fire, Lighting and Building recommendations to allow Cans for Kids to place a light pole on city property to light up their aluminum can collection site near the Tourist Booth on Frontage Road, and granting TOP Dog Park, a lease modification to allow changing the size of its second dog run.


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