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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Committee Recommends Hiring New Full-Time Police Officer

Issue Date: September 20, 2018

At a series of meetings on Tuesday, Sept. 18, members of three Peshtigo City Council committees authorized hiring of two additional part time officers for Peshtigo Police Department on an as-needed basis and agreed to seek Council authorization to fill the full time officer post created when Sgt. Richard (Rick) Badgley was promoted to Chief.

They also approved some staffing changes for the Department of Public Works/Wastewater Treatment Plant in view of the pending departure of Chris Erickson; accepted the resignation of Firefighter Paul Lemery, updated the 5-year capital road projects plan, discussed financial reports, including proceeds from the Sheriff's Sale of the former Faucett Forest Products property and other UDAG/Revolving Loan Fund accounts, and laid budgeting plans for 2019.

Longest discussion of the afternoon involved options for handling disposal of bulky items for city residents, listed on the agenda for the Streets and Drainage Committee as "dumpster hours."

Mayor Cathi Malke said she had asked Alderman Mike Behnke, who chairs the committee, to put it on the agenda. "It has bothered me that our dumpster hours are not community friendly," Malke said, adding that only being open two days a month from 8 a.m. to noon on a weekday when most people are working, is not convenient.

She had met with Public works Director George Cowell and he suggested having residents continue going to City Hall and pay the fee for disposal, but have the city crew pick up the items with the garbage truck at the curbside of residences on regularly scheduled refuse pickup days. This would only be for pickup of mattresses and upholstered furniture, the most frequently disposed of items, and only when the disposal fee is paid in advance. Other items, such as TV sets, electronics, tires, etc. would still need to be brought to the city's dumpster site, and the price paid in advance, for example it costs $15 to dispose of TVs there, and $10 for other household items.

Cowell noted currently residents can pay the $10 disposal fee and then pay $15 extra for eligible items they want picked up at the curb. The garbage men would get slips before their garbage runs so they know where the paid-for items were to be picked up.

Malke supported the curbside pickup plan that would eliminate the additional $15 special pickup fee, and commented, "We are headed in the right direction and will keep discussion going on how we can better serve our residents."

Cowell said the dumpster site is very slightly used right now, and felt with curbside pickup they should only need to open the dumpster site once a month, which would cut costs and take care of residents' concerns about not being able to use the dumpster site when it is open.

He has consistently said it is very difficult to get people to work at the dumpster site on Saturdays, and said also that the bulky items like mattresses and upholstered furniture fill up the dumpster too fast and getting them emptied is costly.

Committee members in addition to Behnke are aldermen Debbie Sievert and Brigitte Schmidt. Schmidt was absent and excused. Alderman Jillian Schutte was present, but said she was there as a concerned citizen. To a question from Sievert as to whether there had been complaints about the present system, Schutte said she has been having problems disposing of her stuff at the limited times the dumpster site is open, and has had complaints from other city residents about the same thing. She also suggested holding spring and fall cleanup days like many other municipalities do.

Cowell felt it would have to be on a day when the landfill is open all day. He could have the two garbage trucks at the collection site and when one was filled they could send it to empty at the landfill while the other was being filled. He felt that would be far cheaper than one or two roll offs.

Behnke said the landfill is open from 8 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Saturdays each month from May through October.

Clerk Tammy Kasal suggested they could run a cleanup day from maybe 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on one of those Saturdays, and then just empty the last two truck loads on Monday morning.

Cowell said he will do some research on it and get back to them at the October meeting. However the timing is bad for him right now since he is busy with construction oversight right now. He felt it might not be possible to get anything going for October.

"As a constituent, I would like to see something done on this by next spring," Schutte declared.

Behnke felt by doing one cleanup day each spring and fall they could then get by with just occasional large item pickups.

It was agreed Cowell will prepare suggestions for a future meeting.

Cowell presented committee members with a first draft of his budget for next year, which is only slightly changed from last year.

He said expenditures for fuel are up, largely because of the three big days of plowing after the blizzard in April. There is only $1,000 left in the plowing budget for this year, with November and December still to come.

Cowell suggested in future the entire Council may want to consider mapping the city, since they have done some annexations. They need maps showing boundaries, lot lines, water and sewer lines, zoning, etc. Kasal said the county will do parcel maps and municipal boundaries for nothing.

The proposed budget allocates $115,000 for blacktopping, up from $112,000 this year, and provides an additional $1,000 for contracted sidewalk replacement, bringing that budget from $5,000 to $6,000. There also is a bit of added money for phragmite control, both for the chemical to spray and a truck mounted sprayer to do it with. "With the amount of phragmites out there, the back sprayer and hand pump just aren't going to do it!" Cowell declared.

Motion to refer the budget to the Finance Committee as proposed was approved.

On the five year capital road project list are, for 2019, Oak Street from Beebe to Noquebay Ave, $40,000 and Aubin Street from Lake Street to West Park Drive for $96,000; for 2020, Stephenson Street from Maple to Pine, $88,888 and West Rail Road Street from Emery Ave. to the alley to the east, $35,000; for 2021, West park Drive, for $180,000; for 2022, Cranberry Ave from Birch Street to Maple Street, $88,000, and for 2023, Emery Ave. resurfacing from French Street to NW Front Street for $130,000.

Cowell noted this equates to 2.5 percent of the road miles each year, which means the anticipated reconstruction is on a 40-year cycle, and added, "That can't keep up, it's too long!"

Malke commented some of the alleys are getting petty rough and asked when they can get work done on them. Cowell said there's no budget for paving them at this time, and suggested one answer would be to return the blacktopped ones to gravel so they can at least maintain them.

The committee approved the plan and referred it to Council for approval. Cowell noted that having projects on the approved plan makes them eligible for whatever grants may become available.

He is hopeful they can get a Local Road Improvement Grant to cover some of the projects on the plan, and described some of the engineering/construction work that he handles himself.

Reporting on current activities, Cowell said two major construction projects are being completed this fall, including Emery Ave., with all new curb, gutter and underground utilities. The project is on schedule, and pretty much on budget, although they did encounter some organic material under the roadbed that had to be removed, probably dating back to the days when lumber mill wastes were used to build roads. Some trees were removed to protect water laterals.

In the two-block construction area residents are having their garbage, recycling and eaves picked up in the alley while construction is in progress.

He has the contacts back for the Aubin Street resurfacing and is to meet on Thursday with the contractor. He is doing survey layout, construction plans and inspection himself.

The busy afternoon began with a short meeting of the Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. with Behnke, Schutte and Chair Brigitte Schmidt present.

Schmidt said she has had no updates on closeout of the Revolving Loan Fund.

She had been informed that on Wednesday, Sept. 12 the city received a $235,000 check from the Sheriff's Sale of repossessed Faucett Forest Products property. Of that, $198,000 will go back into the city's General Fund to replace the money used to buy out the interest of the Florence bank and the remainder will apparently go back into the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to partially reimburse it for the $86,111.70 balance on a $90,000 loan received by the company in July of 2015.

Other RLF and UDAG loans are all current, except that Precision Ice Blast still owes its September payment. The committee was advised by Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Anita Morois that the firm has been making extra payments, but if not up to date by the end of September their interest rate will go up for the remaining life of the loan. The firm owes a balance of $229,181.92 on a $300,000 loan taken in 2014 at 3% interest. It is due to be paid off in October of 2019, and monthly payments are $2,071.74.

The RLF/UDAG Committee will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 20. Agenda items for that meeting include an update on RLF Closeout Program and a closed session to discuss and possibly act on a loan application from Evergreen Tool Company, Inc. and a potential loan for Kirsten Peters.

Currently the RLF cash balance is $266,603.99 and there are outstanding loans totaling $287,580.75, including the $86,580.75 balance that had been due from Faucet Forest products.

The UDAG fund shows a cash balance of $1,549,154.91, and loans outstanding show a balance of $1,989,570.93, including more than $600,000 owed on two loans taken by the city's Sewer Utility.

The committee approved a list of donations totaling $2,430.90, of which $200 was for the fire department, $500 for the fish viewing platform, $$836.84 for a memorial bench in honor of former City Clerk Mel Sharpe, $262.06 from the Dahl family for soccer goals, and $632 for disc golf.

With budget time fast approaching, Morois told the committee they have as yet had no chance to see how ending the TIF will affect the city tax levy, but last year they had used $60,000 from the city's general fund to balance the TIF budget. Until they know the TIF closeout effect they will not know how much they need to borrow for the new snow plow and truck. Morois reminded the committee that last year they had gone over the entire budget because they needed to cut so much, but even before that meeting department heads had been asked to go through their budgets and cut whatever they could.

This year, all departments are to have their 2019 budgets in by Friday, Oct. 12. The committee set its budget meeting for noon on Friday, Oct. 19, with the stipulation that it must be over by 2:45 p.m. since Schmidt can stay no longer than that. If the work is not done they will need to schedule another meeting, Schmidt said.

Morois advised Schmidt to ask her committee members to review their budgets before the Oct. 19 meeting so they come prepared. She noted there will still be time to schedule a budget workshop meeting before the City Council meeting in November if necessary. The budget is to be adopted in November so tax bills can go out in December.

That meeting was followed by a 2 p.m. Personnel Committee meeting. Committee members present were Behnke, Schutte and Chair Sievert.

First on the agenda was unanimous acceptance of the resignation of long-time firefighter Paul Lemery, who has accepted another job and is moving to Kansas.

Police Chief Badgley asked for permission to hire a full time officer to fill the position he vacated when he became chief, and also another part time patrol person to minimize overtime, which has been averaging 20 to 25 hours a week since Officer Wayne Christiansen was injured.

Badgley said his officers liked the overtime at first, "but enough is enough," and overtime is expensive. The department's current three part-time officers are wonderful, but they also have full time jobs with Marinette County Sheriffs Department and are not always available, Badgley said.

Mayor Malke suggested hiring two part time officers right away, and after a brief discussion the committee agreed that since this is an emergency situation she and Badgley together should do that. Badgley said he has some officers who have indicated they are interested. There is no added cost for the city regardless how many are on the part time list, since they work only on an "as needed" basis.

The committee also recommended that City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2 should authorize hiring an additional patrolman to replace Badgley, and authorized Badgley to advertise for applicants in the meantime. Behnke suggested holding a special Council meeting in October to get the officer working immediately.

Cowell told the committee Water and Sewer backup operator Chris Erickson has accepted employment with a private firm and his last day as a city employee will be on Thursday, Sept. 27, which will leave lead operator Rich Sparks as the sole WWTP operator available.

Cowell said Erickson has offered to come in and do some of the weekend duties as he does now, which usually involves two or three hours of work every other Saturday and Sunday. However, he wants the same pay as he gets now at time and a half. Cowell pointed out this will cost the city no more than it does now, in fact less, since there will be no benefits for the weekend work.

Cowell pointed out even if they manage to hire a replacement person immediately, it takes a month or two to get a wastewater treatment plant operator trained in-house, but it takes five years to get them fully certified.

With Malke also expressing support the committee authorized hiring Erickson as a backup employee for now and ask Council to allow hiring and training a full time replacement person as soon as possible.

The meeting prior to the vote had included a closed session discussion to consider a laborer/truck driver/heavy equipment operator/WWTP operator position, and that was the recommendation that recommendation will be going to the full City Council.


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