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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Katie Berman Elected As New Peshtigo Alderman

Issue Date: June 3, 2021

By a 3 to 2 vote at its meeting on Tuesday, June 2, Peshtigo City Council elected Katie Berman as District 3 Alderman to replace Archer Leupp who resigned due to other job responsibilities shortly after he was re-elected on April 6. Berman was the first of three to apply to fill Leupp's spot on City Council. The other two letters of interest were from Doug VanWinkle and Zakary Lossett.

Mayor Cathi Malke welcomed Berman as an Alderman and said she would be seated for her first regular Council meeting on Tuesday, July 6. She named her to fill vacancies on the Board of Review, Fire Lighting and Building, License and Police and Streets and Drainage Committees. Council approved all the committee assignments, and Berman can begin her duties on them almost immediately. The Board of Review is to meet at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 3, followed by a Streets and Drainage Committee meeting at 3 p.m.

By state law, City Council vacancies must be filled by public votes of other aldermen. Berman was supported by Aldermen Richard Berth, John Berendt and Keith Klimek. Votes for Van Winkle were cast by Aldermen Debbie Sievert and Brigitte Schmidt.

For several months, Berman has been attending meetings of City Council and most of its committees. In her application letter, submitted on April 20, Berman wrote: "My decision to fill this position comes from my drive to make sure our city is working to the best of its ability to keep Peshtigo a desirable community to live, work and start a business in. I believe our City Council needs eyes and ears from all walks of life in Peshtigo, and my experiences would bring a unique and valuable perspective to this Council.

She said she is an independent business owner who leases a chair at BeeDazzled Hair Studio. She grew up in Peshtigo, graduated from Peshtigo High School and now is raising her two children with her husband, Seth Berman, as the fourth generation to live in the Berman family home at 151 N. Cranberry Ave. She said she has been a Food Pantry volunteer for three years, worked at the election polls during the past six elections, and recently became a chief inspector to fill vacancies that resulted from the pandemic.

In other business, Council approved a new Facade Improvement Program for the city as recommended by the Revolving Loan Fund/Urban Development Action Grant (RLF/UDAG) Committee, and authorized the UDAG Revolving Loan Fund Committee to approve grants as provided by the program.

Before the vote, Berth asked if Facade Improvement grants could be approved by the UDAG committee without coming to Council, and if so, why. Malke explained the UDAG Committee delegated two of its members to review applications and decide if they met the criteria. If so, the applications would go to the full committee for approval. Schmidt commented UDAG committee members "have a plethora of knowledge" of financing and business issues. Members are Dan Seymour, Glenn Seyfert, Tom Gryzwa, Tom Maxwell, who is a banker, and Sievert, as Finance Committee Chair. Malke is a non-voting member, and City Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal is secretary for the group.

Klimek felt the decision to not require Council approval was likely due to easing the time constraints, and Kasal agreed that was the case.

Maximum Facade Improvement grant amount is $10,000, to pay half the cost of rehabilitation and upgrading of building facades, with the downtown area targeted as a whole. Facade is described as the entire building front that faces a public street, including the store fronts with entrance and display windows. The matching fund grants have no repayment obligations. Target area is from the beginning of French Street on the city's west side, continuing east to the intersection of East Front Street, then along East Front Street to the intersection of Maple Street and then continuing east along Maple Street to Schacht Road; Frontage Road from Ogden Road and east parallel with Maple Street until Frontage Road begins to travel north, and Oconto Avenue from the intersection of Emery Ave. to Ellis Ave.

By unanimous vote, Council approved two RLF/UDAG loans to local businesses as recommended by the RLF/UDAG Committee after closed session discussions at meetings meetings on May 12 and May 19. The loans are $110,000 for 15 years to Christopher and Joanne Ventimiglia, contingent on satisfactory review of two years of personal financials and taxes and three years of business financials for Edgewood, and 25 percent of the project cost of up to $25,000 for 10 years for Peshtigo Apparel and More LLC, with several contingencies. Interest on each is to be the lesser of 2.95 percent or the 10-year treasury rate plus 125 basis points.

At the start of the Finance Committee report Berth attempted to bring up a bill for $8,000 that he said has been unpaid since August of last year. Malke interrupted, telling him that issue was not on the Council agenda, and should go back to the Finance Committee. She suggested he should attend Finance Committee meetings.

When approval of $23,000 in capital outlay expenditures from the 2021 Debt levy the Fire Department for ISO Audit recommended items and a generator or the east side fire station came up for Council approval, Berth again attempted to bring up the $8,000 bill, and again was told to refer the issue to the Finance Committee. He cast the sole "no" vote on the Fire Department audit recommendation items. He explained after the meeting that his opposing vote was not against those purchases, but to object to that approval when the $8,000 bill for Spillman system radios for the Police Department remains unpaid. He stressed he was not opposed to the Fire Department getting the items needed to fill the ISO audit recommendations.

Beer, liquor and tobacco license renewals were approved for all businesses currently holding them. Kasal said Gardon and Badgley have no problems with any of the applicants.

Also approved without dissent, on motion made by Schmidt and seconded by Sievert, was the joint settlement of the 2021-2022 WPPA/Leer Peshtigo Police Labor Union Agreement. On motion by Sievert, seconded by Berendt, Council agreed to raise the hourly wage for Parks and Recreation Department seasonal employees Gerald Litz and Michael White to $12.50 each effective May 16.

On recommendation of the Finance Committee Council unanimously approved budget adjustments and transfers for May of 2021 and transfer of $94,500 from the 2021 Debt Levy to the Parks and Recreation Capital Account or projects and items to be approved by the Parks and Recreation Committee.

Berth questioned park improvement projects that he felt were given general approval without having to come to Council. Kasal said that was just for smaller projects. Schmidt, who is Parks Committee Chair, said there is to be a Parks Committee meeting on June 22 or 24, for discussion of the larger projects. Malke said the major items, for example replacing tile in the restrooms, will have to be let out for bids.

Before the meeting adjourned Berth expressed thanks to the Peshtigo Area Chamber of Commerce for constructing the kayak launch, and the Police Department for the lighted speed zone sign they have set up. "I hope they keep it up all summer," he said of the speed sign, which displays speed the approaching vehicle is traveling.

The Building Inspection activity report from Tom Smith Inspections was not available for the meeting, nor was the monthly police report.


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