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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Amberg Agrees To Pay For Rhodes Monument

Issue Date: August 9, 2017

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, the Amberg Town Board settled a long festering dispute over the tombstone that marks the final resting places of Richard and Margaret Rhodes in the town cemetery.

Supervisors Ron Holmes and Russell Werner voted in favor of having the town pay the $3,978 cost of a replacement tombstone as requested by the family, with the names placed correctly on the marker. Town Chair Matt Mattison, who was cemetery sexton 17 years ago when the problem started, abstained from voting.

In other action at the meeting, the board on a split vote, with Holmes opposed and Mattison and Werner in favor, approved a resolution opposing the proposed Back Forty sulfide mine on the Michigan side of the Menominee River; authorized Holmes to use the fire department's credit card to pick up 20 new tables for the Community Center from Sam's Club in Green Bay for a total price of $1,597.60 that will be promptly reimbursed by the town, approved a beer license for the Fire Department picnic, and scheduled the annual Fall Cleanup Day for 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Town Garage.

They opened bids and then awarded the contract for improvements and paving with hot mix asphalt on Marek, Grant Street and Down Dam Road to Northeast Asphalt for a total of $170,667. Goal is to have the work done before the Fire Department Picnic and Labor Day weekend. That price, for hot mix, was about $11,000 higher than the bid from totaling $159,729 from Scott Construction for cold mix.

After discussion of unsavory people gathering there, the board agreed to dismantle and remove the Veteran's Park Pavilion and restore the property to its natural state. There was talk if that does not improve conditions, they might make the site walk-in only.

Jim Fronsoe informed the board that the American Legion has removed the flag it had displayed in downtown Amberg because of the cos of keeping it illuminated. He said their Legion post was charged $360 a year for just the light, due to a meter charge which is not related to actual electric use. He said Legionnaires will reconsider the decision next month, but there is no guarantee it will bee reversed. There were suggestions from the floor that he should contact Wisconsin Public Service in hopes of getting a better rate or finding an alternate solution. He suggested plugging into a street light.

One of the town employees recently resigned, and there are only three applicants so far to fill the vacant position. In a closed session at the end of its July meeting the board agreed to increase the wage for the existing person to $14.25 per hour.

July minutes state: "The board went into closed session to discuss wages and benefits for a new road crew employee and a raise in salary for Jim Parr, acting foreman. After discussion it was decided to offer $12.00/hr. with a 90 day probationary period to Scott Suzawith with a $.50 hr. raise after 90 days. Parr will get a $1.00/hr. raise effective immediately as road crew foreman. Mattison is to call Suzawith, Sweeting and Justin Parr with the job offers." Holmes felt the wages are far too low for the skills they demand, which include a CDL, heavy equipment operator ability and knowledge welding. There also was discussion on lack of benefits for town employees.

A certified survey map for the 40-acre McGuire property on Wontor Road was approved without a Plan Commission recommendation, but since there are only four lots being created board members felt there should be no problems with the town ordinance.

Plan Commission members Mike Churchill, James Fronsoe, Russell Koster, Sue Maes and Chair Fred Smeester were present for the board meeting.

Despite comments from Smeester that it probably will be unenforceable due to state law, the board instructed the Plan Commission to develop a sexual predator ordinance for board consideration in the near future.

During time for public comment at the start of the meeting a person from the floor asked what was done about signs with rules for the cemetery and ball park that had been approved at the July board meeting. Clerk Pat Boshan said she had been told wording of the signs had been approved by the board, but she had not been authorized to spend any money to get them printed, so she did not send the order.

"You'll get the signs, but not right now," Mattison commented.

Boshan assured him the signs will be up before spring. Before the discussion ended the board instructed her to go ahead and order the signs from Ken Wallace, of Wallace Signs, which is a business located in Amberg. She said there will be only a couple of signs for each location so it will not be a great expense, but she wants then to be laminated so they will last.

The meeting room was jammed with Rhodes family members and their supporters, who were present in hopes of getting their issue resolved.

Susie Schlies, serving as family spokesman, presented a timeline of the issue, starting with the death of her father, Richard Rhodes, in 1999.

On April 25, 2000, Margaret Rhodes and Suzan Schlies ordered a headstone from Standard Monument Company of Marinette. The price was $2,250.00.

On June 12, 2000 Joe Wagner, owner of Standard Monument, consulted with Matt Mattison (sexton of the Town of Amberg Cemetery) to confirm placement of the stone in the cemetery.

Schlies said Matt Mattison, without the permission or knowledge of the family, changed placement of names on stone (mislabeling both Richard and Margaret's graves) and ordered the stone to face east instead of west as requested by Margaret, and added "Rhodes" to the back of the stone for an additional fee of  $100, which she said was never approved by the family.

Margaret Rhodes and the rest of the family discovered the changes to the stone only after it was delivered and put in place.

On Oct. 24, 2000 the family met in closed session with the town board to discuss rectifying the actions taken by Mattison. Matt Mattison, John O'Brien, Eleanore Forney, and Clerk Linda Suzawith were present. At that time a motion was made and seconded (and approved) to reverse the stone so it faced west and permission was granted to bury Margaret in the walkway so the graves would now be correctly labeled.

On Oct. 31, 2000 Standard Monument reversed the stone to face west as originally ordered.

On April 24, 2017 Margaret Rhodes passed away, Schlies said, and added that Mattison ignored the agreement reached on Oct. 24, 2000. Margaret Rhodes was not buried in the agreed upon space and once again the tombstone was flipped to face East not West.

On May 11, 2017, the board met with the family of Richard Rhodes to discuss the tombstone and burial error. Chairman Mattison said he would check with the Towns Association and ask about the legality of burying someone in a walkway, and Suzie Schlies was to check with monument company to find out if it would be feasible to have names and dates reversed without remaking the  entire stone.

On June 1, 2017, the family of Richard and Margaret Rhodes again met with the town board for a final agreement on correcting the actions taken by Chairman Mattison. Mattison relayed the information that people cannot be buried in walkway, and Suzan Schlies reported that it is not feasible to remake the tombstone. The family asked the town to purchase a new stone with name placement as originally ordered. Schlies said the new stone should be facing west as originally ordered. Motion was made and seconded for the Town of Amberg to pay for new stone. Family was to get a price quote from Standard Monument and will forward it to Town Board.

The price quote from Standard Monument was $3, 978 forwarded to the board, but the stone was not ordered.

Holmes commented Schlies' timeline was pretty much what minutes of board proceedings also say. He said at the last meeting he made the motion, Mattison seconded it and he went right home and typed it up.

"When you have a valid motion of the town board the clerk should carry it out," he declared.

He was told the monument company will not make the new stone until instructed by Mattison, and that had not been done. Holmes declared the town should pay for the stone and be done with this. He said he would make another motion, even though it should not be necessary, "and then we can put it to rest."

"Do you want to get it done with for $3,900 or do you want to drag it on forever?" Holmes asked Mattison and Werner.

One member of the Rhodes family suggested Holmes should take charge of ordering the monument, "since Matt can't seem to do it."

Mattison claimed he had ordered the stone done as Richard Holmes requested, but family members disagreed.

"My father was with the fire department for 50 years, 30 of them as secretary," one of the Holmes daughters declared. "He was a sexton of the church, fire warden".(and more)"This is disrespectful of my father! This is wrong!"

"You made a mistake"You did not have legal authority to make changes to what we ordered," a Rhodes family member declared.

The new cemetery rules say the sexton cannot make changes to what the family ordered.

Holmes repeated his motion to order and pay for the replacement monument, and Werner seconded. Both voted in favor and Mattison did not vote. The motion was approved.

Boshan said she would call Suzie Schlies and the monument company on Wednesday morning, and the monument would be redone as it was ordered in 2000. Mattison agreed she should make the call and get it done.

Holmes thanked the Rhodes family for their 17 years worth of patience. They thanked Holmes for his help.


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