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Marinette Council Discusses Rec Center Hockey Events

Issue Date: October 7, 2020

Prior to the City of Marinette Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6, two special meetings were held.

First meeting on the agenda was Public Works to approve a bid that was received for Storm Sewer Repairs. The sole bid was from MJB Industries in the amount of $84,800 and was unanimously approved by Council.

Next up was recommendation for approval of two beverage licenses. A request for a temporary Class B beverage license was approved for Marinette Menominee Area Youth Hockey Association (MMAYHA) for a Blues, Brews, BBQ and Hockey event to be held at the Rec Center on Oct. 24. The second license was for recommendation for approval of a Class B Beverage Retail license for Kelly O'Brian Cactus, LLC located at 40 West Hosmer Street, formerly the Cactus Bar. The bar has new owners withHannah LaMarre as agent from DePere, Brian Torreano as President from Marinette and Kelly Bearson as Vice President from Menominee. The new owners commented they are putting a lot of work into remodeling the bar. Both licenses were approved by Council.

In his report, Mayor Steve Genisot had Marinette Fire Department Chief Jay Heckel recognize three individuals for their heroic efforts in saving the life of a female subject suffering an emotional breakdown in the Bay.

Heckel reported, "On Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the Marinette Fire Department responded for a mutual aid water rescue request from the Town of Peshtigo Fire Department for a female subject that was suffering an emotional breakdown out in the bay. Lieutenant Matt Piikkila, Firefighters Jason Lemire and Chris Erickson responded to the Little River boat launch with Equipment 102 and Rescue 2.

Once on the scene and as personnel were briefed, PFF Chris Erickson prepared equipment and positioned Rescue 2 for launch. Lieutenant Piikkila and Firefighter Lemire along with Marinette County Sheriffs Deputy Mike Nickels proceeded in Rescue 2, to the woman's location and attempted to convince the woman to get into the boat. The woman refused to comply with the request. Fearing for the woman's safety, deputy Nickels and Firefighter Lemire entered the water and were able to keep the woman afloat by holding her to the side of the boat.

Unable to get her in the boat, Deputy Nickels and Firefighter Lemire maintained control of her by hanging onto the side of the boat as Lieutenant Piikkila piloted the boat back to the boat launch, Once at the launch, care was turned over to Emergency Rescue Squad personnel.

On Aug. 16, the Marinette County Sheriff Department presented Piikkila and Lemire a Life Saving Award and Erickson was presented the Grand Cordon Award for his support of the rescue operations. Heckel also wanted to make a personal apology to the Town of Peshtigo Personnel for inadvertently excluding them in recognitions. It was an oversight on his part and a sincere apology for the omission and a huge thank you for all of their efforts is greatly appreciated.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Jim Birch spoke of a Craft event that a group of citizens want to hold at the Rec Center. They will do their part in following COVID-19 guidelines by having booths six feet apart, requiring masks to be worn, and providing hand sanitizing stations. Birch said, "We want to do this for the community and use the proceeds to donate to area food pantries and the Toys For Tots program. We need this right now, there are a lot of starving artists in the community and it will be a way to help them out as well. All the items will be handmade. We want to keep this going and we can control the safety with social distancing and following the guidelines set by the Health Department".

Kevin Cook, President of the MMAYHA then spoke in public comment on behalf of the Hockey Association, "Even with the year being cut short last year due to COVID-19, we had a great year. We appreciate the support and working together to make it a good year. We are learning as we go and even in this pandemic we had record turnouts. This year we are trying to understand a little more and going forward with guidance, we want to provide a safe place for the hockey players to play. We are looking at what other areas are doing and looking for your support.

This subject brought up a lot of questions and concerns from Council members as to if and how they could open up the Hockey season and keep it safe. Handouts were passed to members including "Keeping Our Community Rec Center Safe" and a 17 page document guideline titled "Returning To The Rinks", It was also discussed possible approval of the Ice Rental and Concessions agreement between the City of Marinette and MMAYHA. A question was asked of Attorney Bob Gagnon, Is there a clause to be able to close the center due to COVID-19 and Gagnon responded "Yes, like anything else at the Rec Center it is open to change including closing for COVID-19".

Executive Director of Recreation & Events Gavin Scray commented, "We will be moving forward safely with social distancing, follow the mask mandate and capacity limits, locker room usage will not be allowed in order to limit contact and we will follow the new 25% capacity, that was announced Tuesday, Oct. 6". The capacity of the arena is 1,600 and at 25% capacity that would leave 400 people allowed to attend". Alderman Doug Oitzinger commented, "The document that was provided is for tryouts only, nothing addresses about games. The protocol is strictly for practices and tryouts". Mayor Steve Genisot asked, "What are other communities doing, are they running their Hockey program in their communities"? Scray responded, "Yes, I am not aware of any that cancelled their season".

Alderperson Debbie Klegin commented, "Let's find necessary solutions to open safely. This is a day by day situation. The proper direction is not to shut down, lets open up and do it safely. Alderman Rick Polzin added, "I agree with Klegin, I think the kids need activities and by all accounts people are appreciative of the events and they want it to be a choice and want it done safely. As the Hockey Association and the City, we need to put plans in place and reconfigure and adjust if needed. We need to look for a path forward to play and play safely".

Oitzinger commented, "We allow only 50 members of the community for open skating but are allowing many many spectators and players not even from our community to gather? Not to close down hockey but we need to take a serious look at this and what we do in October, November and December. I am not in favor of playing games in those months with the levels we are at with COVID". Alderman Ken Keller asked, "With 1,600 being maximum capacity, what was the normal count for prior games"? Scray responded, about 50 to 75 for home games and we have never seen 400 for a tournament. We know we will not have a normal turnout, we will have a much quieter season with less than normal".

Oitzinger added, "We are being told by Public Health officials that any gathering over 50 is not advisable. If you watched the Packer game the stands were pretty empty and that was outside". Alderperson, Dorothy Kowalski commented, "We may have to limit guests to two people allowed per player and put limitations on social distancing". Mayor Genisot added, "We do not advocate doing an event unsafely".

Oitzinger then made three separate motions of possible ways to move forward in the Pandemic. First was to cancel and reschedule all special events for October, November and December. The second motion was to not allow teams from other cities, but only allow the Marinette Thunder team to do their thing and compete and practice against each other and the final motion was to limit spectators to no more than 25 at a time and mandatory that anyone not on the ice is required to wear a mask. All three motions failed before Polzin stated, "There are a lot of safe ways to do this. These kids are really struggling with what's going on with school, they need an outlet and I make a motion to approve the Hockey agreement, which was then approved. After approval, there was still a lot of comments and discussions both for and against the agreement to go forward with the hockey season.

It was decided by Council to cancel the Blues, Brews, BBQ and Hockey event due to not being able to control safety with having to remove masks to drink and it would be difficult to monitor social distancing in this type of atmosphere. That then voids the beverage license that was approved prior at the special Personnel and License meeting.

Another long discussion was about a stop sign to be installed at the intersection of Leonard and Alimeda Streets. A request to install a stop sign was made by nearby neighbors due to an issue of cars speeding coming out of Red Arrow Park and crossing Alimeda, causing danger to young children in that area. Alderman Jason Flatt made a motion to approve the addition of the stop sign which was approved at the committee meeting. He commented, "This dates back to October of 2019 and I believe it is a safety concern for children in that area. I support putting a stop sign there and take the stop sign down a block away from there". Keller opposed the motion, saying "Adding another stop 300 feet apart is ridiculous and serves very little or no purpose. I can't reasonably justify it".

Oitzinger commented, "It was clear the committee was not going to support moving the sign so I had made a motion at the committee level to put another sign up which was passed at that level". Kowalski said, "I did vote to pass the addition of the sign, but we are not confined to that vote and are able to change the vote at council". Kowalski agreed with Keller but wanted to make sure there are more 15 MPH signs put up". Flatt said, "I don't care if there is a stop sign at one corner or another, but I feel a stop sign is needed at Alimeda and Leonard. We iterated a silly solution of putting up another stop sign. I am not opposed of removing the other stop sign".

Klegin said, "I am not emotionally attached to these signs and I am not a Menekaunee resident, but I do go down to Red Arrow Park. From the petition that was signed there were several people that do want that stop sign moved, so thats important to have it at the new place. We are not talking about a petition, we're not talking about emotions, we are talking about a 15 MPH speed limit and if we have to stop twice it can't be a safety hazard, it is there to help. There is a lot of emotion involved in these stop signs and I am not feeling it, I am just at a meeting and going by factual information from people that live there that I have listened to and we came to the decision that we did as a committee at the committee meeting".

Polzin echoed Klegin saying, "I believe there is a lot of emotion in this decision and it turned into a political situation rather than a safety issue." Polzin did suggest to bring it back to committee to discuss further, but with a motion already on the table Genisot added, "We do have a motion to add a stop sign so we should first do a roll call to see what the decision is". The motion was then approved five to four to add a stop sign to the intersection of Leonard and Alimeda.


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