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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Okays Dismissal Of Parks And Rec Director

Issue Date: August 8, 2019

The City of Peshtigo Personnel Committee met on Friday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. in closed session. After reconvening into open session, a decision was made and supported by the committee to terminate Parks and Rec Director Dave Zahn based on numerous written reprimands in the past and for not completing projects, which led to a finding of his poor job performance. Zahn was hired as Director on July 15, 2013 and worked in that position for the past six years.

Because the position is an appointed position, the termination had to be done by Mayor Cathi Malke, otherwise it could have taken several months to go through the complete Committee and Common Council process.

At a meeting of the City of Peshtigo Parks and Rec Committee held on Wednesday, July 31, it was unanimously agreed to refer to the Personnel Committee for further action on Parks and Rec Director Dave Zahn's job performance.

At the Parks and Recreation meeting, committee Member Brigitte Schmidt questioned if they wanted to again accept wood cut-offs from the pallet factory. Parks and Rec Director Dave Zahn said. "After offering the pallet cut-offs as free firewood for the campers, the firewood sales dropped dramatically". Committee member Mike Behnke said, "We sold the firewood just to break even and get our money back, it was not sold to make a profit". Mayor Cathi Malke said, "We may lose a little bit by not selling the wood, but we gain by having more paid campsites with campers liking the free campfire wood". The committee agreed to continue to accept the free pallet cut-off wood.

There were many housekeeping items and procedures not being followed that were addressed by the committee, one being the Christmas in July campsite event that was not well represented this year. There were only three or four campsites that participated and the decor was minimal as well as the Park itself was not represented with much of any decorations. Mayor Malke addressed Zahn saying, "How did we advertise"? Zahn said, he advertised in January and Malke commented that she did not see anything advertised in the paper. Mike Behnke went to the Peshtigo Times to look for an announcement of the event and could not find at anytime that it was announced in the paper. Zahn said, "There could be fewer people decorating or they are decorating in groups so we don't have as many entries, because they are collaborating together". Zahn also stated, "People that used to camp are possibly not camping anymore and have moved onto something different".

Malke said, "We need to advertise starting in January and leading up to the event continually, I forget from one month to the next so the more we can advertise the better results we will get".

Alderperson, Brigitte Schmidt addressed Zahn, "How much does the Park decorate for Christmas in July? I only saw the train and frosty and they don't light up". Zahn replied, "The boom truck was down so we couldn't do as elaborate of decorating with the bells and lights". Malke said, I took my granddaughter to the campground to view the Christmas lights and and the campers that did decorate were minimal, there were only a couple sites decorated. I was embarrassed and the train the Park displayed was knocked down all weekend and no-one ever picked it up and several decorations were not lit including a snowman and a star". Schmidt asked, "Why did we give free camping away if the sites didn't decorate"? Zahn commented, "Because we always did". Schmidt stated "No, they were supposed to decorate to get the free camping".

Zahn then asked, "How do we enforce that"? Schmidt said, "If they don't decorate, they have to pay, let them know the rules. This policy was put into place last year, why would we give free camping if campers don't participate and why are they receiving a free night when they don't participate"?

Also discussed by the committee was the Badger Park campsite reservation rules. There were campsites being reserved and not being paid for. There was a whole section of campsites beyond the bathrooms that were reserved but not paid for and then the campers never showed up, resulting in lost revenue and empty campsites.

The reservations policy requires full payment at the time reservations are made. Any cancellations are to be made seven days before checkin date for a refund minus a $10 service fee.

Committee member Jillian Schutte asked, "Do we request a deposit for reserved campsites"? Schmidt responded, "We request paid in full. Policies are set forth and not being followed nor communicated along with the free nights given and requirements not being followed as well".

Zahn was also asked about the new camp host never being told how to make reservations. The question was asked, why he did not take the time to give the host direction of the reservation process. Zahn commented that the host learned from Bob VanVooren. Schmidt responded, "Bob was not his boss, you are".

Committee member Debbie Sievert asked Zahn, "What happened to Linda Campbell that was going to be hired to help with new programs"? Zahn said, "She was supposed to start in July. Mayor said, "She has been waiting for two months for you to call her". He replied, "Ok, I will call her". Sievert added, "You were going to go through the supply area upstairs and allow extra money for supplies, was that done"? Zahn stated, "No".

Another project not completed was the flower pot program. The program was meant to be funded by sponsors of the flower pots and not intended to be part of the budget nor an expense for the City. The flower pot project was turned over to Parks and Rec in December 2018 to be completed for Spring of 2019.

Zahn sent an email to Sievert on July 17 stating "As anticipated, not enough money was raised for the downtown flower pot costs. To the best of my knowledge, the cost of flowers was never accounted for in any part of the Parks and Recreation Budget. I request the finance committee's assistance in figuring out from which accounts I can siphon money to cover the costs. I will email you the costs and the money raised early next week so you know the kind of number we're dealing with".

In the past, this was never a budgeted item and the program was completely funded by sponsorships from area businesses and donations from city residents. The amount for the flowers was $1,530.97 with $430 collected as donations, leaving a shortage due of $1,100.97.

Zahn was told he had from December to May to make phone calls for sponsors and donations, leaving all Winter and into Spring to contact sponsors or as well as to get help to prepare for other programs and activities instead of procrastinating and waiting until the day before or week before the activities.

Schmidt asked Zahn, "Did you contact anyone off the list"? Zahn responded he advertised on social media and in the paper. Schmidt replied, "The Mayor talked to the sponsors and donors personally and you were told about this program in December. You waited until May to purchase the flowers and just now to let us know that more money was spent than what was brought in"?

Zahn then asked, "Why is it my responsibility to raise money for the City"? Schmidt replied, "It is your responsibility to call and ask for donations". There have been responsibility changes to Parks and Rec to be able to continue programs. If there was something you didn't have the resources to complete, you should have discussed at earlier meetings. You were advised on Dec. 21 that this project was coming back to you and you didn't object". Zahn responded, "Why is Parks and Rec expected to raise money when all other departments are funded"? Again, Schmidt responded, "Why wait until now to ask questions"?

Schmidt replied, "I would not compare Parks and Rec with other departments". With frustration, Zahn asked, "How much time do you think I have to do everything? What do you expect of me"? Schmidt told Zahn, "If you don't have the resources, you need to communicate that. We can't help you if you are falling behind if we are not informed". He then again asked, "Where do you want me to get the money for the flowers from"? Schmidt said, "You will have to see where you can cut from other areas in your budget".

City Clerk/Treasurer, Tammy Kasal suggested the committee or Zahn go through the Parks and Rec budget to see if the budget can be cut there first and if that is not an option, then see if we can find anything after that. Schutte suggested to look at the budget in mid November to see what money is left over at that point. The program has succeeded through donations and sponsorships the past few years and I think it should continue that way". Zahn said, "It will be ebb and flow, people will participate for a while and then bow out". The discussion was tabled for a future meeting.

Schmidt then discussed the condition of Badger Board walk which is in need of repairs and upgrades. She asked Zahn, "Did you replace the beam on the monkey bars as we discussed"? Dave replied, "No I reinforced what was there but haven't figured out how to stop the bars from spinning". Again she asked, "Did you look at the beam"? Zahn, responded, "No". Schmidt directed Zahn to look into how much it is to replace the beam and talk about it at the next meeting.

Other projects that were approved for funding but never completed were the replacing of sewer lines by the girls softball field which was referred from the Water and Sewer Committee to the Parks and Rec committee on Feb. 22, 2017 but still has not been completed. Projects not complete include, installing sewers for the campsites by the registration booth and installation of the handicap swing donated by the Woman's Club that was supposed to be done three years ago and is still not complete. There are many projects, plans and repairs that were approved and never completed.

The committee was in agreement that the park is one of the biggest assets of the City and needs to be kept up with. Zahn commented he will be getting mulch installed whenever the supplier can deliver it.

On another topic, Zahn commented, Parks and Rec are struggling to keep up with the weed whacking. He said, we no longer have an adult person cutting grass and a community service worker will be getting out of jail soon and will no longer be with us. One of our adult workers left for a job at Sentinel Structures and with student workers being on vacations, we are down to three students. It was made known that there are six weed cutters and only one works and no repairs were ever initiated on the broken cutters.

Schmidt mentioned, "In the past we have talked about getting the baseball group to help out, is that an option? Have you pulled resumes of those that applied prior but were not chosen? Can you ask Mayor for a request to hire someone? If need be then hire more students to fill in".

After three years, the wheel chair swing is getting closer to completion. With damage from a recent storm, the location of the swing will have to be moved a little closer to the South due to a tree root. The cement pad will be completed in about three or four weeks.

Director Zahn, gave an overview of current and upcoming Parks and Rec programs and activities. He said they are in the middle of the youth recreation and softball programs and in the middle of completing a birdhouse painting project under the direction of Brandy Bundy. She will also be teaching the Little Chef program. Due to lack of advertising, only four "little chefs" signed up. In prior years when Schmidt was managing the program there was a waiting list because she advertised and promoted the program.

T-Ball started with 40 kids registered, 16 in the Pre-K age group and 24 in the 4/5 year old group. Zahn commented he has heard very good comments about Debbie Etling, who is running the program. She is doing an excellent job. The fishing program is in its fifth week, when they finally caught some fish and we are starting to advertise for the flag football and fall basketball programs.

In other discussion, Committee Member Mike Behnke addressed the grass and tree debris that is being deposited in the Park area. He said, "People have approached me advising there are a lot of piles of debris placed in piles in the park area by residents.

Schmidt suggested to re-communicate in the next water bills going out in that area where the debris drop offs are. Schuette asked, "Is it the residents by the river area"? Behnke responded, "It is in the east area on Aubin Street".

It was decided a letter will be composed and handed to residents of the area of where the debris is, advising them that debris can be disposed of at the City garage site. Schmidt will discuss with Director of Public Works, George Cowell and compose a letter stating what the requirements are, what is allowed and options that are available for disposal.




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