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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City Council Approves ATV/UTV on Peshtigo Streets and Alleys

Issue Date: August 19, 2020

ATV/UTV enthusiasts were delighted Tuesday, Aug. 18 when Peshtigo City Council at a 12:30 p.m. monthly meeting unanimously approved an ordinance opening nearly all city streets to the recreational vehicles. The action came after nearly three years of efforts by residents who want to access surrounding trails without trailering their vehicles, and city businesses wanting to benefit from the surge in popularity of the ATV/UTV vehicles.

All aldermen were present for the meeting, including Council President Mike Behnke, who is serving as acting mayor in the continued absence of Mayor Cathi Malke.

Council also gave unanimous support to a resolution expressing city support of a community wide effort to get an ADA-compliant Kayak-Canoe Launch facility near the school on the Peshtigo River, and to a request from Peshtigo Area Chamber of Commerce to use River Park for an event to be held on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26 in place of Historical Day, which has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and approved a Street use Permit request from The River Pub for a "Rolling for Charities" event to be held on Saturday, Aug. 22. Before the vote, Behnke commented it is the same event they've been holding every year, and described it as "a good event for a good cause." West Front Street will be closed from French Street to Stibbe Alley from 8 a.m. to midnight to provide space for spectators, parking about 50 motorcycles and a flat bed band stage. Sponsors are River Pub and Road King Excavating via Tojoa, Inc., whose officers are Tom and Joanne Ries, and 100 percent of proceeds go to local charities.

In other action, Council authorized the Fire Department to apply for a grant from Walmart & Walmart Foundation, approved keeping former Parks and Recreation Director Shawn Northrop on staff as a part-time temporary foreman and working grounds maintenance person for the Parks and Recreation Department at a wage of $18 per hour with no benefits. Northrop had resigned from his full time administrative position, but had told the Personnel Committee he would work in the part-time position for a time. His part-time employment actually became effective in late July.

Speakers at public hearing on the proposed ATV/UTV ordinance held on Tuesday, Aug. 4 had been almost unanimously in favor of the ordinance.

The City Council meeting that had been scheduled for Aug. 4 was not held due to lack of a quorum, and in recent weeks several committee meetings had been cancelled for the same reason. The agenda had included approval of temporary Council Committee appointments, which would apparently be intended to resolve the quorum problems but Behnke said he needed to get more information on legal requirements before moving forward with this so no action was taken.

There also was brief discussion but no action on a possible referendum to increase next year's property tax above the state levy limits to get funds for more of the badly needed work on city streets, but the Finance Committee had no quorum for its meeting and consensus seemed to be, as Behnke said, while they need to get streets on a shorter than 30-year improvement cycle, this is not a good time for a funding referendum. Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal said in order to go with the referendum for this year Council approval would be needed within a week.

Ordinance changes allowing the city clerk to issue operator licenses without Council action provided the Police Chief found no problems with the applicant, and designating zoning districts for day care facilities, which had not been previously been listed or defined were approved without dissent.

Just as Council was preparing to go into closed executive session for a discussion with legal counsel - possibly in regard to an access agreement with BPM Inc. - Berth declared that for the third month in a row he has been receiving complaints about rubbish piled up around Badger Park, in bags and otherwise. "It stinks!" Berth declared, and added that to date no signs have been posted prohibiting dumping there and the trash has not been removed.

The item was not on the Council agenda, so eventually Behnke cut off the discussion, but before he did, Alderman Archer Leupp said he also had three calls on this issue and agreed something needs to be done. He said each of the people who called him said they had not been able to see who did it, the dumping was always done late at night. He felt having police watch the area incognito every night would not be a good use of resources.

Schmidt said they do not need a meeting on this issue, the signs have already been authorized and there already is an ordinance. However, she suggested not having the trash picked up until the signs are posted. Everyone agreed getting the trash removed after the signs are up is a job for the Public Works Department.

"If we just print the signs I'll go out there and put them up myself," Berendt offered. Schmidt suggested sending "no dumping" letters again to nearby property owners. There previously had been complaints that they were raking lawn debris onto the nearby park property.

Speaking from the audience, former Alderman Fred Meintz suggested, "Putting a few cheap game cameras there would solve the problem."

Before the discussion ended, Berendt, who chairs the Streets and Drainage Committee, said they will meet within the next two weeks to address the issue.

In other Council business, reappointment of Allen England for another five-year term as a Commissioner on the Peshtigo Housing Authority was approved without dissent, as was hiring the person recommended by the Personnel Committee for the vacant Public Works Department position, and advertising for a part-time Public Works Department person for the fall and early winter seasons.

After approval of the ordinance allowing ATV/UTV vehicles on city streets, Berendt exclaimed, "It's been a long time coming!" Before the vote Alderman Brigitte Schmidt observed that although there were some concerns about noise, the ordinance was written well, and she felt it deserved a shot.

Behnke wondered if the usage included golf carts, and Berth explained it did not, because golf carts lack the safety features that the side-by-side vehicles have. Leupp said he would like to discuss the golf carts later, and everyone agreed.

Behnke thanked everyone for their hard work on the ordinance, which he too felt had "been a long time coming."

That led to a discussion of when it could go into effect, and there was general agreement that could not happen until the proper signs are posted. Behnke expressed hope the ATV clubs would help purchase the signs, but was advised there is no such club in the city. Berth felt Cozzie's Polaris might help pay for the signs.

City Attorney David Spangenberg said the ordinance would not go into effect until after it is published. Berth suggested if they published the ordinance this Wednesday they could have the signs up by Saturday. The discussion ended with a decision to get the signs up as quickly as possible and then publish the ordinance as quickly as possible, hopefully next week. Berth asked if they could shoot for legal use by Aug. 29, and Kasal said if the signs are up by Tuesday, Aug. 25 she would have the ordinance published on Wednesday, Aug 26 and the recreational vehicles then would be good to go. Berth and Berendt both said they were willing to help get the signs posted.

Peshtigo Area Chamber of Commerce President Tony O'Neill addressed the Council on behalf of the canoe/kayak launch dock resolution. He suggested locating it on a site off Emery Ave. that is owned by the city but for which the Peshtigo School District has an easement. He has been told the school will cooperate with efforts to make the handicap-accessible launch dock happen, but the school board has not yet taken formal action and there has been no formal request. The dock could also be used by the school, which offers training on kayak/canoe use.

According to the resolution, there are plans to do some local fund raising and submit some grant applications. The project, has a web presence as the Wild Goose River Kayak Project. Plans are to buy the kayak launch from EZ Dock at a cost of $27,000 to $34,000 for installation, signage and parking as well as the handicap-accessible dock itself.

O'Neill presented a written statement on behalf of Roberta Davis, vice president of Marketing, Community Development and Tourism with inVenture North. Davis was not able to be present in person, but pledged to give some time to the Peshtigo dock project. Her prepared statement noted kayaking is rapidly growing in popularity, nationally, statewide and locally. Some state groups are organizing destination kayak outings, and suggested Peshtigo could become a destination. Social networking for kayakers is growing and there is now even phone app called "Go Paddling," that describes recreational kayaking locations.

Chamber members present in support of O'Neil and the resolution included Vice President Melissa Demoulin, Mary Lock and Marquita Limberg.

When regular business of the meeting was concluded at 1:54 p.m. the Council voted unanimously to go into closed executive session for the purpose of "Conferring with legal counsel for the governmental body who is rendering oral or written advice concerning strategy to be adopted by the body with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved; and".deliberating or negotiating purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session."

After remaining in closed session for about 40 minutes, Council returned to open session and unanimously approved a motion "...to ratify the action taken in closed session" before adjourning at 2:35 p.m. No one elaborated on what the closed session action was.

Those admitted to the closed executive session at the end of the Council meeting included Kasal; City Attorney Dave Spangenberg; Water and Sewer Committee members Dan Seymour, Fred Meintz and Chair Tom Gryzwa, and all six aldermen - Behnke, Schmidt, Debbie Sievert, Leupp, Berendt and Berth.

At a meeting on Tuesday, July 21, members of the Water and Sewer Committee were informed that the city and officials of BPM Inc. had tentatively accepted an agreement that would enable the city to proceed with construction of a new or enlarged sewer line river crossing that is needed to end overflow problems with the sanitary sewer line bringing wastewater from the west side of the city to the wastewater treatment plant east of the river. The existing original crossing is mostly located on land owned by BPM Inc.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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