Marinette Council Votes To Keep Ella Court Open Issue Date: January 9, 2020
Prior to the City of Marinette Common Council Meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7, a Public Hearing was held to hear from the public if a portion of City Court Street behind the former Bay Area Medical Clinic parking lot at 3515 Main Street should be vacated or not.
William Bourgeois, Optometrist and owner of Bourgeois Eye Care Clinic on Main Street in Marinette, voiced his concern that if vacated, would the City maintain as much of the public land as possible for maneuvering around for patients and employees at his business. He said, "I am also speaking for the owner of Top Dog Pet Spa on Main Street. She wanted to assure she has access to parking and her business. Later in the meeting it was approved to close a portion of City Court but there will still remain enough room per Bourgeois' request.
Mayor Steve Genisot opened the Council meeting stating, Per a request from County Administrator John LeFebvre to vacate a portion of Ella Court, I have had several calls from concerned residents and businesses. Genisot continued, "I just want to put it out there to hear the thought process from the public and Council."
Shirley Kaufman, a concerned resident said, "I am on County Board and I would suggest to look closely about the request for closing of Ella Court Street. You should never close a street, once you close it you can never get it back. I would think very seriously about not closing that street. It is a very important outlet to use to go to the Court House without having to try to re-enter on Hall Avenue, especially certain times of the day the way traffic is on Hall Ave."
Arthur Lewis, neighborhood resident also spoke, "In a newspaper from 2014, Shirley Kaufman also objected then to closing of Ella Court, so I am glad Shirley was here to speak tonight as well. In the last four years there has been a big increase in the amount of children in that area and it is a tight spot on Jefferson Street to maneuver around in. Anything we can do to make it safer for the children is a good thing and unfortunately closing of the street would redistribute traffic onto neighborhood streets and would cause safety concerns. I hope the County looks at other options".
Henry Desotell, owner of Sherry's Kitchen and Hanks Refrigeration said, "I have a store on Hall Avenue and semis come in on Ella Court. It would be difficult for the trucks to leave if Ella Court was closed. Now the semis can pull in on Ella Court and not have to cross traffic when they leave. Closing of the street would make it very difficult for the trucks to maneuver back onto Hall Avenue".
Mark Johnson commented,"Ella Court is very much used as a passageway for people to avoid Hall Avenue with it being congested and closing the street would make Hall Ave. even more congested. I believe it is a concern for the County to be able to have handicap accessibility ramps, but there is room to make ramps and still keep the road open. There is already complications with Jefferson Street to Hall Ave. and it would be a big loss to have Ella Court closed".
Jim Martell, owner of Hansen Onion Martell Funeral Home said, "I am a home owner on Stephenson Street and closure of Ella Court will have a big impact of where the traffic can go. Traffic that does not want to enter onto Hall Ave. uses that collateral street without having to enter back onto Hall Ave. When going North onto Hall Ave, sometimes there is no chance of making a left hand turn. This requested closure deserves much more of a comprehensive look at, versus a quick look and the Court House will not get as many parking spaces if closing of the street".
Brian Tupper was the last one to speak, "I have an office on Ella Court and at least four times a day I go on and off Hall Avenue to Ella Court. The only access points we have with a street light are on State Street, Hattie Street and Stephenson Street. To avoid trying to get out on Hall Ave., it is almost impossible to turn left by Blue Bike Burrito. There are about 200 parking spaces for the County between the lot by the Mariner, the lot by Krist and parking by the Memorial Fountain. There were over 20 spots available and the County also has employees that park on Ella Court all day long. Parking alone does not warrant closing down a street. I urge you to be very open minded when making a consideration of closing this street. This would be something permanent and will affect businesses. Please keep the travel path in mind of how difficult it already is to enter onto Hall Ave".
Later in the meeting, Council members discussed the closure. Alderperson At Large, Dorothy Kowalski asked Fire Department Chief Jay Heckel if it would be an issue to close Ella Court and Heckel replied, "Yes I think it would be an issue". Alderperson Jeff Skorik commented, "Based on neighborhood comments, and experiences on that road, I don't think it is a good idea to close that road. It is not fair to businesses or neighbors in that area". Alderperson Ken Keller then replied, "We have to look at the businesses and comments we heard tonight". Alderperson Peter Noppenberg said, "That is the only major artery that runs parallel to Hall Avenue, leaving it open is the best option". Kowalski then said, "I want to let you know that I am not a fan of closing the road". Council then voted it was in the best interest of residents and business owners to leave the road open.
Service awards were presented by Genisot and Superintendent of Public Works, Patrick Carlson, to David England for his retirement after 41 years of service with the Department of Public Works. Genisot said, "He has worked in many different areas of the Department and was known by his co-workers as easy going and employees enjoyed working with him. England said, "It was a pleasurable experience serving the people of Marinette and working with the Department".
Randy Picard received an award for 31 years of service with the City of Marinette presented by Genisot and Fire Chief Jay Heckel. Picard retired from the Marinette Fire Department as Assistant Fire Chief. Picard was known to always have a smile on his face and he describes himself as a hometown boy. Picard said, "It was a privilege working with the City and the Department. It is a career I thoroughly enjoyed and was very rewarding".
Lastly, Jonathon Sbar was presented an award for his 13 years of service as City Attorney. Genisot said, "We dragged him on a little longer in our process of finding a replacement for him. He was a part of the day to day operations in many capacities and was an integral part in development of the city. He provided a wealth of knowledge and we thank you for your sense of humor". Sbar then said, "All have been very nice to me. I always thought if I ever get an award I would like to thank whoever helped me to get that award. I would like to thank my wife Janet who did many things to support me in my career. She has been awesome and I couldn't have done it without her".
In his Mayors Report, Genisot announced, "I had a discussion with Tyco with help trying to engage a lawyer they have used in the past so we can start a dialogue. We would also like to connect with Cedar Corp or another Environmental group to work on behalf of the City to start the process with Tyco".
In new business, a Cabellas Master Walleye Circuit Tournament was approved to be held May 15 and 16. Alderperson Ken Keller commented, "We should have a survey and breakdown like they did for the Hockey Tournament, showing profitability including suggestions to make it better". Genisot replied, he will ask the marketing folks to create a survey for the tournament.
Council discussed consideration of a grant writing service from Ayres for a Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) for a study of relocating Marinette City Hall. It is a two to one grant with an investment by the city of $25,000 and the city would receive a grant amount back for $50,000.
The planning process will address the possible impacts to downtown economic development, explore the necessity of relocation due to the City Hall current aging infrastructure and provide a space needs analysis for relocating to the former Bay Area Medical Center (BAMC) vacant building. Genisot said, "This is the next step to efficiently and effectively look at finding options for a location for city hall".
Alderperson Keller commented, "Aren't we putting the cart before the horse? Do we want to spend that kind of money to use for just a reference?" Alderperson Rick Polzin stated, "I am opposed to moving city hall out of the city. I don't think in the grand scheme of things it is what we want to do when we want to develop the 'City'."
Kowalski said, "My only comment is, how do we know if it might work if we don't know if it works or not"? Polzin responded, "I don't think it is in the best interest of the city, I think it should be located in the city, not out there". Genisot replied, "The Police Department is part of our due diligence". City Engineer Brian Miller interjected, "This program takes it farther and will show us the impact of other entities and opportunities for another business to relocate into the city hall building". The grant contract was approved with the exception of one no vote from Polzin.
There were 14 operator license applications for consideration of approval with one restriction of Angela Schwartz due to a prior drug conviction in 2018. In public comment earlier, Schwartz spoke, "I did have a drug issue, but I have changed my life around. I like to bartend because I like people. I have changed my whole life and want to move forward with my life. I know what I did was wrong, I completed probation successfully and I am keeping my life straight now". After brief discussion and a comment from Polzin saying, "I think we should approve all 14, I think she deserves a chance", all 14 applications were approved.
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