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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Infrastructure Committee Wants To Move Back To Peshtigo Shop

Issue Date: June 21, 2018

At a busy meeting on Thursday, June 7, Marinette County Board's newly combined Infrastructure Committee dealt with numerous issues involving the Highway Department, Forestry and Parks Departments, properties acquired by the county for delinquent taxes, and maintenance of county owned properties in general.

They agreed to seek sealed bids for three tax deed properties that did not sell at the Tax Deed Auction in May, and put the wheels in motion for an attempt to get their regular meetings moved back to the Highway Shop and Forestry and Parks Department headquarters in Peshtigo. Under the new County Board ordinance adopted in April all regular committee meetings are held in the Courthouse.

Prior to County Board's April reorganization, each of those departments - Highway; Forestry, Parks and Lands, and Maintenance and Facilities, had its own individual oversight committee. Now one 6-member committee hears reports and makes decisions involving all four major departments in a single action-packed two to three hour monthly meeting.

Present for the June 7 meeting were committee members, supervisors Gilbert Engel, Shirley Kaufman, Al Sauld, Bill Stankevich, Dave Zahn and Chair Al Mans; County Clerk Kathy Brandt; County Administrator John Lefebvre; Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison; Interim Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister; Forestry and Park Administrator Pete Villas; Facilities Director Martin Keyport; DNR Forester Dan Mertz; Frank's Logging representative Chris Frank; Parks Foreman Chad Colburn; UP Engineering representative Trista Hobbs, and news media representatives.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) partners with the county for work on Marinette County's 231,000 acres of County Forest. Mertz reported the DNR's fiscal year ends on June 30, and as of the end of May DNR personnel had completed 110 percent of the time they had allocated for Marinette County Forests - 3,177 hours of work. Mertz said this is less than they normally give, but more than they had thought they could give this year. He said every five years the DNR calculates the time they can spend on each chore connected with the 29 county forests in the state. This time around they had 46,000 hours to divide up. He expects the time allocation will be similar to what it has been.

DNR crews recently burned the 200 acre Athelstane Barrens, an area that doesn't grow trees very well, but supports other significant plants and wildlife. He said 50 or so years ago this was known as the Sharptail Grouse area, and the birds are still present. This time around they burned an additional 60 acres to add to the barrens area as habitat for turkeys, grouse and other wildlife.

Kaufman asked if elimination of the Forestry Mill Tax had hurt the DNR budget, adding, "It's a shame they took that away." Mertz said it will, "but we won't know just how much until next year's budget."

Forest and Parks Department Administrator presented reports on Forestry and Parks Activities.  Forestry's May revenue was only $46,742.66 compared with $195,152.94 in May of 2017. Revenue for 2018 through May 31 was $778,127.52, which is $214,869.93 less than last year. Vilas said the big snowstorm in April and wet conditions in the woods slowed things up a bit.

Park revenue in April was $13,984.26, and for the year to date (through April 30) was $105,130.52, which is $48,090.69 more than the same period last year.

Day use fees totaled only $900.63 by April 30. This compares with $825 collected during the same period last year despite a sticker price increase from $2 to $5 per vehicle per day.

That increase had come after committee discussions earlier last year on the possibility of eliminating entrance fees for day use entirely. However, when the parks budget was completed, instead of eliminating day use fees it called for an increase - from $2 to $5 per vehicle for a day for entrance to any or all parks on a single day. There is no change available at park entrances, so anyone wanting to get out of their vehicle at the park needs to have correct change.

Annual stickers for day use can still be purchased in advance for $20 per vehicle and county residents can get two stickers for the price of one. They can be purchased at the courthouse in Marinette, at the Parks Department headquarters in Peshtigo, from various vendors scattered throughout the county or on-line.

Sauld, who has for years argued in favor of getting rid of day use fees, said he has been hearing a lot of complaints about the price hike. Engel said he too heard a lot of complaints, and had seen people drive into places like Dave's Falls and then not get out to view the waterfalls because of the day use fee. He heard comments that, "...it's not worth $5 to go look at a waterfall!". At some spots on the county park waterfall tour, there is a fee pipe, but no facilities whatsoever, including no restrooms, picnic tables or drinking water.

Vilas agreed the committee had talked about getting rid of the fees, but said the administrative decision then was to increase the day use fee to get money for more personnel to maintain the parks.

However, he said there now has been talk about getting rid of fees at outlying areas that offer no amenities, and generate so little money that it costs more to go there and collect it than they take in.

Sauld also objected that residents pay the same price as non residents for day use and camping at the county parks. Vilas said with self registration for camping it would be hard to give a resident discount, but they can get two vehicle stickers for day use for the price of one.

"I've been bringing this up for 12 years," Sauld declared. "I would like to see some discount for camping for county residents!" He said he will bring the camping and day use issues up again this year at budget time, when the committee sets fees for next year. The fee schedules, generally recommended by administration, then go to the full County Board for approval.

Park projects include rebuilding of the men's restroom at Goodman Park, stump removal and landscaping at Crystal Springs Park on Hwy. 180, new restrooms and handicap access at 12 Foot Falls and Lake Noquebay Park, rebuilding the well pump at Dave's Falls, a new well drilled at Camp Bird, donations of tree and benches for Lake Noquebay Park, and work on the new Twin Bridge Park group campsite, which is almost completed. Parks workers also did normal maintenance and repairs of grounds, equipment and trails.

"We rarely hear a complaint about our parks," declared Mans."We're fortunate to have good people working for us." He said camping fees are up, "But they're still a real value compared to others."

Vilas said there had been complaints from campers about needing to reserve campsites in advance. The system now has been changed so sites can be booked on the same day. Because all sites are now reservable, groups that want to camp together can reserve adjacent sites.Formerly only every other site could be reserved in advance, and groups that wanted to stay together had to take their chances.

Engel commented that camping income was almost double last year at this time, and Vilas said there were many reservations over the winter.

The 2017 Forestry report was presented. It shows total revenue of $3,226,975 for the year and total expenditures of $1,428,443.

Activities reported for the Forestry Department included repairing County Forest roads and investigating removal of unscaled wood from a job site.

Vilas explained the county is paid for timber contracts on the scale ticket records. However, there was one logging job on which wood was removed that had not yet ben scaled. The truckers hauling wood had taken logs from the unscaled back sides of the log piles rather than the front. The truckers hired for that job did not generally haul from Marinette County forests, and were accustomed to hauling from jobs where the scale tickets are turned in by the place they were hauled to. Vilas said the logging contractor has been very cooperative, "but we will be taking action." He said the contract penalties will be imposed.

To questions from Kaufman, Vilas said the contract holder had gotten behind because of the weather and had to get a certain amount of wood to a purchaser by the end of May. He had brought in truckers from outside, who were used to hauling by mill scale, not the point of origin. He said the committee will be asked to take action on this issue in July.

Assistant Forest Administrator Marcus Isaacson reported his workers had managed to haul some illegally dumped gas tanks and other debris out of the forest, but illegal dumping remains an issue.

After an explanation by Vilas the committee agreed to recommend County Board approval of a bid of $24,119.00 plus $3,265.63 delivery cost, a total $27,394.63, for a laminated wood bridge from Wheeler Lumber, LLC of Eden Prairie MN for repair of Ernst Road Bridge, in the Town of Niagara and enter into an agreement, pending Corporation Counsel's approval. County Board approval is expected on Tuesday, June 26.

Vilas explained they had to rebid the project because the deck can only be 26 feet wide, not 30 feet. Sentinel Structures of Peshtigo, even on the rebid, specified a 30 foot deck, and the price was higher.

"It's always good to do business locally when we can, but with the price difference we have no choice," Mans commented.

Money for the bridge will come from the Forest and Parks Development Fund. Vilas said the bridge is used by logging trucks, ATVs, etc. and the road has been kept open by putting a temporary portable bridge there.

Just the wooden deck is being replaced on the original bridge constructed in 1978. It comes in panels that will be dropped off in Amberg. Forestry crews will haul the panels to the bridge site and install them.

Vilas reported 35 timber sales were offered, but five had no bids, which is not unusual. Engel noted some of the bids came in very much over the minimum. After being assured that all successful bidders were in good standing with the county the committee unanimously agreed to award timber sale contracts to the high bidders as listed. Mans commented Frank's Logging, one of the primary loggers in Marinette County, had done quite well.

Vilas told the committee there are now interested buyers for three of the properties that had not been sold at the at the tax deed land sale auction in May. To a question from the committee he said the tax deed land sale had brought in a total of $146,000. Vilas recommended setting new minimum prices and placing the parcels for sale through the sealed bid process, and the committee concurred.

The properties are a 5-acre parcel with house and garage in poor condition at N15189 White Rapids Loop, Town of Amberg; a vacant lot at 1002 State Street, City of Marinette, and a vacant house with mold in the basement at 924 Miller Street, City of Marinette. The county had taken ownership of these and other properties offered at the auction due to unpaid property taxes.

Each year the committee sets minimum prices for tax deed properties to be auctioned after viewing photos and other information. Tax deed properties can only be sold by auction or other means of competitive bidding, for example sealed bids.

Vilas reminded committee members that the minimum on the Amberg property was $15,000 and briefly described it to jolt their memories. It did not sell at the auction, but now there is someone interested in buying it. Engel felt the minimum should stay as it was. He was concerned that prospective buyers will hold off at future auctions in hopes the price will be dropped, and this was the first time this property had been offered. He suggested keeping the $15,00 minimum, and then offer it again at a lower price if it does not sell.

LeFebvre encouraged cutting the price. "The longer you keep it in county ownership, the greater the chance that someone will break in and damage it, and the sooner you get it back on the tax roll the better," he argued. The committee agreed to drop the minimum price to $12,500, and hope for some competitive bids. Vilas feels the person who offered the $23,000 will bid again, but for the lower amount.

Next parcel was a vacant sliver of land on State Street that Vilas said the adjacent land owner wants to buy. Minimum bid was kept at $200.

The Miller Street house, with a minimum price of $15,000 had been sold at the auction for $23,000, but the successful bidder had not put down the 25 percent deposit. Before doing so, he had spoken with a neighbor who told him about a mold issue in the basement. He had discovered it will cost about $4,000 to get the mold cleaned up.

Vilas said when the county claimed ownership it had been a dry year and there was no mold problem evident, but with the wet weather this spring it was there. He was pretty confident the successful bidder will again bid, but he wanted to bring the price down to cover the cost of cleaning up the mold. His bid of $23,000 was $8,000 over the minimum.

Committee members again felt they should keep the minimum at $15,000 and disclose the mold issue. LeFebvre again argued for reducing it. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison suggested dropping the price by $5,000, and urged, "the county does not want it." Finally the committee set the minimum at $7,500.

The committee was told that a 40 acre parcel in the Town of Wausaukee had been taken off the auction list before the day of the sale. LeFebvre had made the decision to keep it. "We're looking at an alternate use for the county," he said. The committee was not involved in that decision.

After an explanation by Vilas the committee approved a request from Near North Trail Riders to open County Forest Road 221 to ATV/UTV traffic from the end of E. Tract 13 Road approximately 1/4 mile west to the existing ATV/UTV trail. Vilas explained the segment of Road 221 connects the trail to Northway Drive, which used to be part of County A but now is an Athelstane Town Road, which is open to ATV/UTV traffic. There will be no cost for the county do this, and no work involved for county personnel.

Last month the committee had reviewed the 15-year comprehensive land use plan for 2006-2020. The resulting updates were presented and approved at the June 6 committee meeting and will go to County Board for approval on Tuesday, June 26.

After an explanation by Vilas the committee approved separating the seven Parks Caretaker positions into Parks Caretaker I and Parks Caretaker II positions. Caretaker II will need to have a CDL, and Caretaker I will not. Vilas explained currently it is a requirement that all parks caretakers have CDL licenses, but the commercial driver's license is rarely needed. Meanwhile, they have had to reject a lot of applications from people who would be a great fit for the department and have skills he needs, but they cannot even be considered if they do not hold a CDL.

Two of the existing Parks Caretaker positions are currently vacant. The committee approved Vilas' recommendations to change all seven current Parks Caretakers to Parks Caretaker II (Pay Grade E), and change the remaining two positions to Parks Caretaker I (Pay Grade D). Newly hired caretakers can move up to the higher paying Caretaker II position when a vacancy occurs if they have or get a CDL.

That recommendation was subsequently approved by the Administrative Committee and will go to County Board approval on Tuesday, June 26.

On advice from Vilas the committee approved entering into an agreement with Mountain Engineering, Inc. for design and owner representation services for the Veteran's Memorial Park electrical project at a cost of $3,500, pending Corporation Counsel's review.

Next agenda item was a discussion on drafting of an ordinance revision to change the location of the Infrastructure Committee meetings from the courthouse to the Highway/Parks/Forestry office in Peshtigo. After some intense debate the vote was four to two in favor of the change, with Sauld and Stankevich opposed and Engel, Kaufman, Zahn and Mans in favor. Once drafted the ordinance revisions will be on the committee agenda for action at its meeting in the courthouse on Thursday, July 12. If approved there,it would be considered by County Board on July 31, and if approved there the August committee meeting could be held at the Highway Shop in Peshtigo, which is also headquarters for the Forestry and Parks Department. Motion to have the ordinance drafted had been made by Engel and seconded by Kaufman.

That issue had been discussed at the May 10 committee meeting, and briefly at the County Board meeting on May 31. Mattison had advised that they could not change their regular meeting location by a simple motion, it had to be done by changing the ordinance adopted with new County Board rules in April, when committee structures were also changed.

"It concerns me a little that we're going to move from the county seat to the highway shop"People have no idea where that even is," LeFebvre commented. He said people would regularly come to the Land Information office in the courthouse for Forestry and Parks stickers and information after their department was moved to Peshtigo.

LeFebvre. has been staunchly opposed to any attempts to change meeting dates or locations. "We tried to put the meetings all on a regularly scheduled day, and in one location so people could attend." He said it is easier for him, Mattison, Keyport and Finance Director Pat Kass if the meetings are in the courthouse. "This is the county seat and people feel comfortable coming to the courthouse," he declared.

"That's your opinion, and you're stating it as a fact," Sauld responded.

"I wish you would have been administrator when they moved our Forestry and Parks departments to Peshtigo," Mans told LeFebvre. That move had been done several years ago when there was an unsuccessful attempt to combine the Forestry, parks and Highway Departments into one unit with the Highway Commissioner at the head.

Sauld wondered why people do not feel comfortable going to the Highway Department, and added, "There've been a lot of statements recently "this is this and that is that"but they're statements of opinions, not fact!"

"If you polled people in Marinette County"If you asked them if they know where the courthouse is, they do. Ask about the Highway Department, they do not!" LeFebvre insisted.

Kaufman said it should be the committee's choice. The meeting room at the highway shop is large enough, it's always available, most of the personnel they direct are there and can be called in as needed. If the department heads want to show them equipment, it's there.

Keyport said he has been a county resident for two years and seven days, since being hired as Facilities Director, and when he came for his interview he knew where the courthouse was. He said the courthouse is the county seat and people can take care of other business while they're there.

"The full County Board decides where to meet, not the committee," Mattison said. "To change that..It has to go back to the full County Board."

"Do you feel it's better here or there?" Sauld asked Vilas, who heads Forestry and Parks departments. Vilas replied he does not care.

Emergency Government Director Eric Burmeister, who has been filling in as Highway Commissioner since Rick Rickaby resigned last month, said the original intent of moving all the committee meetings to the courthouse was to have everyone familiar with the courthouse, which will be the governing and emergency response headquarters in case of a major emergency. He said Emergency government will be brought up to 21st Century technology, "and the most cost effective spot for the Emergency Government equipment is in this room." He was referring to the Jury Room in the courthouse annex, which is generally available except when juries are being selected.

Mans said the county spent $30,000 in a new office when Forestry and Parks were moved to Peshtigo.

Zahn said the Health and Human Services Committee would be dealing with the same issue that afternoon, ""and what we do will influence them." (That committee did approve motions seeking to change their meetings from Thursdays to Wednesdays, and move them to the Health and Human Services building, which is also in Marinette. County Board will either accept or reject the changes when it meets on Tuesday, June 26.)

Mattison said on Tuesday the Public Services Committee, which supervises law enforcement, Emergency Management, and other public safety type departments, agreed to keep its meetings in the courthouse, rather than at the Law Enforcement Center.

"I agree emergency services belong in the courthouse, but that has nothing to do with this," Engel argued. "We have two of our department heads stationed in Peshtigo. It seems to me we should be there!" As to people not feeling comfortable in the Peshtigo office, the secretary is right there, and she is friendly and helpful. "I would prefer to accommodate the departments"That's our job," he said.

"Except Corporation Counsel doesn't count?" Mattison asked him.

"You don't necessarily have to be there," Engel replied.

"I like Peshtigo, but we're public servants. This (courthouse) is our home," Stankevich commented.

"I fail to see why we need Corporation Counsel, the County Administrator and the County Clerk at all our meetings, but the personnel from our three departments should be," Sauld declared.

Mattison explained the requirements for a formal ordinance change, an dadvised if the motion passes there will be an ordinance to vote on in July, but if the motion failed the issue would be dead. The motion passed by the four to two margin, and the issue remains alive.

Moving on to Highway Department business, Burmeister said his brief time as emergency interim Highway Commissioner has been a learning experience. He has worked in Emergency Management for 14 years, and has no highway experience, ""so I'm asking questions if I don't understand something," he said. He also is handling his Emergency Management responsibilities.

He reported on the County W reconstruction project, where culverts are being replaced and other work is being done from Hwy. 64 south to County M. Later this summer they will do the same from Hwy. 64 the short distance north to the Peshtigo River bridge. Replacing the culverts left some loose gravel and unintentional speed bumps and caution sigs have been placed, Burmeister said.

He said RFPs are due Thursday, June 22 for property acquisition for the County G reconstruction project that is planned for actual construction next summer.

Most of the ATV trails that use on portions of county roads approved for their use as connecting segments have been marked, Burmeister said. Signs were to be posted the following week.

Fuel tanks at the Peshtigo, Crivitz and Pembine Highway Shops will need to be inspected this year to be sure they are in compliance when the new federal rules go into effect in 2020, Burmeister said.

The committee agreed to recommend using $403,032 carried over in the 2017 Equipment and Machinery Acquisition fund to cover the 2017 work that remains in progress. That transfer was later approved by the Administrative (finance) Committee.

Also approved were appropriation entries to transfer $290,000 from the Special Revenue Fund Balance to increase the budget for the Hwy. W project to include culvert replacements and additional cost for black top; $90,000 from Special Revenue Fund Balance to increase budget for Hwy. W (Hwy. 64 to Peshtigo River Road) to include culvert replacements and additional cost for black top.

After an explanation by Kass, the committee agreed to recommend applying $172,102.40 from the highway retiree's health insurance restricted cash to the Highway Enterprise Fund 2018 budget for retiree's health insurance expense. Kass said this is a bookkeeping change to eliminate an unnecessary separate account.

Committee members discussed plans for their special meeting and tour on Thursday, June 14, which was to start with a 15-minute presentation on the County G project, and then travel in a couple of cars to look at the UW Marinette Fieldhouse and River Cities Pool, and the horse camp and trail and an active logging job in the County Forest at Middle Inlet.

Zahn commented on the number of vacancies for county positions. The Highway Department is short a Commissioner and two equipment operators, and one of the highway supervisors is working his last day for the county that day. Health and Human Services is always short of personnel. "It seems to take forever to hire people for the county," Zahn commented, and asked Mattison and LeFebvre if there was a reason why.

Mattison said these are new hiring laws that the county has to comply with, ""and the process moves along as quickly as we can, based on the legal process."

LeFebvre said they post or advertise a vacancy for 10 to 14 days and give applications to department heads for review and decide who to call in for interviews. "If we can get it done in 45 days we're doing good," he said.

Mattison said background checks require a lot of work.

Keyport reported they are working with Johnson Controls to qualify for Focus on Energy rebates for work at the UW-Fieldhouse. He felt the Dectron unit qualifies, and high efficiency boiler alone should bring a $3,000 rebate.

After discussion the committee agreed to sell an older Dodge Dakota half ton pickup to the Town of Beecher. Keyport said it cost $4,000 when the county bought it 13 years ago, had been driven over 100,000 miles, and current Blue Book value is $3,000. "We certainly got our use out of that vehicle!"

Keyport said the flooring project in the jail will be getting underway They are replacing all the old flooring, including some carpeting, with a new easily cleaned epoxy coating.

The last roof was being installed on the fairgrounds buildings. The Fair runs from Thursday, Aug. 24 through Sunday, Aug. 26.

Concrete beams supporting the antenna atop the courthouse will be examined for strength and rebar placement .

As to future uses for the Ella Court Building adjacent to the courthouse, Keyport said the City of Marinette is still exploring all options for using it as a city hall and/or police department headquarters, but they are looking at other options as well.

"We are not banking on the city using it," LeFebvre said. "We have been talking about ways to put it to alternate use for the county."

Mans asked if there will be a summer road tour for the committee. Kaufman, who had previously been chair of the Highway Committee, thanked him for bringing it up. She noted only two of the six Infrastructure members had served on the Highway Committee and suggested they should become familiar with highway issues.

LeFebvre suggested the committee should do a "PASER" rating tour after they know which capital improvement projects will be done this year. Everyone agreed that would be a good plan. The PASER ratings are used to determine how soon projects are needed for reconstruction, repair or preventative maintenance of roads.


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11-29-2018Obituaries
Donald L. Phelps

11-29-2018Obituaries
Hildegarde Mary Polfus

11-29-2018Obituaries
Orion Reynebeau

11-29-2018Obituaries
Jodi L. Schomer

11-29-2018Obituaries
Wayne Schoepke, Sr.

11-29-2018Obituaries
Michael F. Schroeder

11-29-2018Obituaries
Walter Simonson

11-29-2018Obituaries
Lucille S. Suennen

11-29-2018Obituaries
Roger Suley

11-29-2018Obituaries
Ruth L. Tenaglia

11-29-2018Obituaries
Elsie P. Wallace

11-29-2018Obituaries
Roger L. Williams

11-29-2018Sports
DNR investigating The illegal shooting of Elk

11-29-2018Sports
Thunder Back On Track With Two Wins Over Marquette

11-29-2018Sports
Bulldogs Beat Chargers On Gullicksen Last Second Shot

11-29-2018Sports
Marines Top Bulldogs In Double OT

11-29-2018Perspectives
Country Cousin

11-29-2018Perspectives
From My Window

11-29-2018Community - Wausaukee
Spaces Available at Christmas in Park

11-29-2018Community - Wausaukee
Athelstane FD Open House Successful

11-29-2018Community - Wausaukee
Counseling Agency Gift Distribution

11-29-2018Community - Crivitz
Legion Christmas Dinner Dec. 19th

11-29-2018Community - Crivitz
CCE Thanks CPR Providers

11-29-2018Community - Crivitz
Crivitz Library Bake Sale Dec. 7

11-29-2018Community - Crivitz
Free Dinner at Crivitz Church

11-29-2018Community - Coleman
Coleman Elementary Lists Perfect Attendance

11-29-2018Community - Coleman
Coleman Middle School Quarter Honors, Perfect Attendance Listed

11-29-2018Community - Coleman
Students Named to Coleman High School 1st Quarter Honor Roll

11-29-2018Community - Coleman
Perfect Attendance Announced for Coleman High School Students

11-29-2018Front Page
Christmas Season

11-29-2018Front Page
Cut Wausaukee Tax Rate By 60 Cents Per $1,000

11-29-2018Front Page
Former Coach Faces Trial On Sexual Contact Charges

11-29-2018Front Page
Four Hangar Owners Suing Over Airport Lease Terms

11-29-2018Front Page
Marinette Menominee Make Top 20 For $500,000 Grant

11-21-2018Obituaries
Mary A. Biernasz

11-21-2018Obituaries
Francis A. Bowan

11-21-2018Obituaries
Dolores M. Zuleger-Boyer

11-21-2018Obituaries
Charles Burcham

11-21-2018Obituaries
Catherine M. Cudnohoski

11-21-2018Obituaries
Martha K. Dennis

11-21-2018Obituaries
James Drewel

11-21-2018Obituaries
Joan V. Dzekute

11-21-2018Obituaries
Robert B. Froehlich

11-21-2018Obituaries
Joseph F. Hudak

11-21-2018Obituaries
Marian M. Jones

11-21-2018Obituaries
Dorthy Knuth

11-21-2018Obituaries
Stephanie Newell

11-21-2018Obituaries
Lorraine A. Schmidt

11-21-2018Sports
Mary A. Thomsen


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