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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Joins Call For More State Road Aids

Issue Date: August 24, 2016

In response to a request from the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, the City of Peshtigo's Judiciary Committee on Monday, Aug. 22 approved a resolution calling on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature to "Just Fix It," in regard to transportation funding. In effect, without saying so, the resolution urges the Legislature to consider increasing registration fees, gas tax, or both, or finding some other way to raise money for transportation needs.

Alderman Mary Lock, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, noted the resolution supports the efforts of Rep. John Nygren of Marinette to find a solution to the funding problem.

The letter from the League of Municipalities says that Nygren, head of the legislature's Finance Committee, is working to find a solution to the state's transportation crisis and they are asking every city and village in Nygren's district to pass the resolution, which calls on the legislature "to find a balanced answer to maintain our critical transportation infrastructure."

City Council is expected to consider the resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Similar resolutions have been gaining approval at recent city, village, town and county government meetings around the state in recent weeks.

The resolution states that according to a recent study commissioned by the Wisconsin Local Government Institute, Wisconsin now ranks in the bottom third of the states in the condition of its highways. It further notes that state funding for local roads has failed to keep up with costs over the past several decades, municipal transportation spending has dropped from $275 per capita in 2000 to $227 in 2012, and levy limits do not allow local government to make up for the deterioration in state funding.

It goes on to say that Wisconsin's over-reliance on borrowing eats away at the state's segregated funding sources - the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees - which increasingly go to pay debt service rather than fund transportation needs, and further says that from a competitive standpoint, "Wisconsin residents pay significantly less than any of its neighbors when you combine the annual cost of the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees."

The Transportation Finance and Policy Commission appointed by the Governor and Legislature clearly found that if Wisconsin does not adjust its user fees, "the condition of our state and local roads as well as local transit systems will deteriorate significantly over the next decade," the resolution states.

In its concluding paragraph, the resolution urges the Governor and legislature to agree on a sustainable solution "that includes a responsible level of bonding and adjusts user fees to adequately and sustainably fund the state's multi-modal transportation system."

At Monday's Finance Committee meeting, Mayor Cathi Malke noted the resolution came from the League of Municipalities, not from Nygren.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt moved to support the resolution, but Alderman Rich Berth declined to second her motion. "It doesn't really have a plan," he said of the resolution. He said the legislature could chose to increase registration fees, gas tax, etc., and he felt registration fees are already high. He said there are places the state Department of Transportation could cut its spending on state road construction, which would leave more for the municipalities. He said many of the very large projects the state Department of Transportation has been working on for several years, for example the new system in Green Bay, is almost done, and this should free up funds for local road aids.

Lock eventually seconded Schmidt's motion, and Berth very hesitantly voted in favor as well, for unanimous approval.

The committee readily okayed a resolution they had asked Atty. David Spangenberg to draw up to bring the city's residency requirements for employees into line with state law.

In 2005 the city adopted a resolution requiring that all city employes live within a 10-mile radius of the city, but also adopted employee handbook wording that was inconsistent with that rule. Recently the state Supreme Court ruled that governmental units cannot enforce any residency requirements as a condition of employment except that they can require non-volunteer police, firefighters and emergency personnel to live within 15 miles of the boundaries. The new resolution reflects that 15-mile rule for emergency personnel and requires that they maintain an up-to-date record of their residence with the city clerk. The provisions maybe waived by specific action of the Council.

After being assured that the officers affected do not object, the committee agreed to recommend an ordinance amendment changing the position of Assistant Police Chief (currently held by Jared Phillips) to that of lieutenant (at the same pay), and to restore the position of sergeant. Neither the lieutenant position nor the assistant chief position would be union members, but the sergeant position is.

New Police Chief Joe FitzGerald said he is not accustomed to working with an assistant chief in such a small department, and feels having one lieutenant and one sergeant solidifies the chain of command. Having been employed more than 15 years, Officer Rick Badgley is already paid at the level of sergeant although he does not hold the title, and under the new format sergeant responsibilities could be assigned to him.

There currently are no job descriptions for either the sergeant or lieutenant positions, and the Personnel Committee will be asked to prepare them for insertion into the employee handbook and union contract.

At the request of Joseph Krawczyk, owner of Field and Forest Products, Inc., a new business being established in Peshtigo's Pineview Industrial Park to raise specialty mushrooms and mushroom spawn, the committee agreed to recommend changing the name of Hart Industrial Drive to simply Hart Drive. There are no other businesses or residences on Hart Industrial Drive, so Krawczyk is the only one who will be affected at this time.The new spawn producing business will be in addition to Krawczyk's mushroom farm in the Town of Peshtigo.

Krawczyk had previously petitioned the city for an address more "green" than that conjured by "Hart Industrial Drive," but city officials wanted to retain the name in memory of the Hart family, who had significant impact on the economic growth of the city.

Krawczyk at that time had thought he could change the orientation of his building to gain an address on Elm Street but because of setback rules and to maintain the integrity of a dune on the site that makes it so desirable for his business needs, they had been unable to alter the "footprint" to make the building front on Elm Street.

He said removing the word "industrial" from the street name "satisfies our business needs while also remembering Mr. Hart's contribution to the community."

The committee approved the idea, and discussion turned to mechanics of what needs to be done to make it happen. Atty. Spangenberg said since it is part of a recorded plat there will be recording fees, and Krawczyk said if there are associated costs, he will take care of them, "It's a cost of doing business. Spangenberg said any charges would be for recording fees, etc., but there will be no charges for his time.

Malke said she had again received a request from Gary Semrau to be allowed to ride his 3-wheel ATV on city streets. She explained that Semrau, who is handicapped and has told them he needs the vehicle to get around, had been refused permission by the Police and License Committee. "We all agreed it would be a wonderful thing if we could work it out," Malke said, but added that would mean opening the streets to everyone who wanted to ride an ATV, and could create dangerous situations.

Schmidt said a mother had asked her if her son could be allowed to ride his "long board", a version of skateboard, on sidewalks to school. That request too will be on the agenda for the next committee meeting.

There was brief discussion on need to address use of the Skate Park, to make it more user-inclusive, and that led to discussion on who actually owns the Skate Park.

Public Works Director George Cowell said they need to clean up the ordinance governing the Water and Sewer Board. The ordinance calls for three members but in fact it has long functioned as a 5-member board. He found the discrepancy when preparing documentation for the report to the state on a sewer overflow problem a few months ago.

That issue too will be on the agenda for a future Judiciary Committee meeting.


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PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
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