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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Approve Snowmobile Trail, Send Fish Platform Back To Committee

Issue Date: September 7, 2016

Peshtigo City Council was told by former Mayor Al Krizenesky that the city may be able to get the proposed fish viewing platform below the Peshtigo River Dam built without spending any city tax dollars. The possibility was discussed at some length at the City Council's regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6 before being referred to the Finance Committee for its recommendation.

Mayor Cathi Malke said she would have no problem signing the grant application if she could be assured there will be enough donations to meet the city's $10,600 share.

For the first time ever, there will be an approved snowmobile trail/route through the city this winter. The trail on the west side of the river starts from the beach at Badger Park, follows established roads and walking trails through the park and travels 600 feet along Aubin Street from West Park Drive until it connects with the existing route in the Town of Peshtigo. Alderman Mary Lock cast the sole "no" vote. Aldermen Brigitte Schmidt, Debbie Sievert, Tom Gryzwa, Richard Berth voted in favor and Alderman Mike Behnke was absent and excused due to an ongoing health condition. Malke declared it was refreshing to have the trail request come to the Council now, rather than in January or February as it has in recent years when it was not approved.

By unanimous vote, Council approved the fireworks display permit application for Saturday, Sept. 24 as requested by Joe Nystrom on behalf of the Peshtigo Historical Day Committee.

The Streets and Drainage Committee had recommended authorizing Public Works Director George Cowell to straighten out and gravel the alley right of way on Harper Ave., but after discussion the issue was referred back to committee. Cowell said improvement was requested by residents who face water issues there, but Malke was concerned that they would be creating another dangerous situation in which vehicles, including city snow plows, would need to back out of a dead end alley. Lock said she had received a call from a resident along the alley who said he and at least one other neighbor are opposed to any widening of the alley.

Cowell said the alley is low and parts of it flood out every spring. He said the city owns a 30 foot right of way, but currently the alley is narrow and winds through the area. He said if they improve the alley it will be snow plowed in winter, which is not done now, and that if city equipment is to go in there it has to be straight. Malke said she has lived on a dead end street for years and having equipment back out is dangerous. She said if they do improve the alley they would need to include a turnaround at the completed end. Cowell said the city has numerous dead ends where the equipment drives in and backs out.

Gryzwa pointed out the city owns the 30-foot right of way through from Eklund to Aubin, but the end portion has never been developed.

Schmidt said the portion in question is already an alley and some residents are asking that it be finished. Cowell said he had been asked to grade the developed part of the alley, and the resident who made the request because of flooding in spring has been waiting all summer for an answer.

Water has been so bad there that the resident is unable to get out, he said. There was a suggestion he just put in enough fill to correct that problem, but he said if he simply puts gravel there it will cause flooding on someone else's property.

"I can do whatever you want, but I feel if we go in there we should do it right," Cowell replied. He said the city also has a water issue there which could be fixed at the same time.

Sievert, who chairs the Streets and Drainage Committee, was surprised that any home owners would be against improving the alley. Schmidt said she feels bad for the person who has been waiting all summer.

Cowell said cost of the work he proposed would be minimal because it would be done by city personnel with time the city is already paying for, and will use about $800 worth of gravel that has already been purchased. Lock asked if any trees would need to be removed, and Cowell said one, at the very end.

After the motion to send the alley issue back to the Streets and Drainage Committee was approved Cowell suggested the committee could schedule a public hearing so they could hear opinions from everyone. The suggestion appeared to be well received, but no immediate action was taken.

Council agreed with recommendation of the Streets and Drainage Committee to not award a contract for some intended resurfacing on Hemlock and Ogden streets. Bids had come in over $100,000, which would make the work subject to prevailing wage laws. The work will be put off until next year and the money will be carried over. Starting on Jan. 1 of 2017, prevailing wage rules will not apply. Cowell said patching will get them through until spring.

Resignations of Firefighter Jason Lemire and Fire Department Captain Mark Brabant were accepted with thanks. Malke said Brabant had a hard time with his decision to resign and suggested everyone thank him personally for his more than 20 years of service.

After an explanation by Judiciary Committee Chair Lock authorized City Attorney David Spangenberg to change the name of Hart Industrial Drive to Hart Drive, as requested by Field & Forest Products, Inc., which will be located on that street. Field & Forest has agreed to pay all costs, including a survey that may be required.

As recommended by the Personnel Committee, Council approved an employee handbook change to credit card limits of no more than $5,000.

As recommended by Judiciary Committee a resolution concerning residency requirements for city employees was adopted without dissent.

On recommendation of the Judiciary Committee Council approved a "Just Fix It" resolution calling on the state to raise taxes or fees if needed to get sufficient funding for street and highway improvement and maintenance work. Gryzwa cast the sole opposing vote.

The Finance Committee was authorized to consult with the auditor while preparing the 2017 budget, up to a cost of $3,000.

A bartender's license was approved for Jennifer Salchenberger.

On recommendation of the Fire, Lighting & Building Committee rental rates will stay the same for the Drees Community Center for 2017, and the rent for Marinette County Library Space in the Municipal Building also will stay the same, $650 per month, for 2017. Lock said she is a member of the Marinette County Library Board and will inform them not to expect the same rate for 2017.

A $250 donation from the M&M Foundation will be earmarked for a defibrillator to be purchased when the remaining needed funds become available.

Cowell reported in some detail on smoke testing to find spots in the west side of the city where fresh water has been infiltrating the city's sanitary sewer system and causing overflows. He said there were 71 test spots, and they did find sources, most of them either dry traps in floor sewer drains or straight pipes in laundry rooms. There were problems detected in 11 buildings, and the fire department aided in getting smoke cleared out.

Consultant Tarryn Nall is working on a report, after which letters will be sent to property owners informing them what needs to be done.

On Sept. 20 the DNR will be doing a water inspection.

Alderman Berth asked when the sidewalk on Oconto Ave. will be done. Cowell said it is done except for areas where they need to get a stump grinder in. Berth said he has had complaints, and does not think the contractor did a very good job, even in areas where no stump grinding was needed. Cowell said he will look into it.

Sievert said Police Chief Joseph FitzGerald could find no other communities that allow long boards on their streets, but had no problem with it. It will be allowed as requested by Linda Oksa on behalf of her son.

The Fish Viewing Platform discussion came at the start of the meeting under time for public comment.

Former Mayor Krizenesky, who long has been a promoter of the fish viewing platform, said their application for a grant to do the planning/engineering phase has been approved, provided the city is prepared to guarantee the matching funds needed.

"The DNR, Wisconsin Public Service and the Paper Mill all agreed that it is time to move ahead," Krizenesky said.

He added he was invited to a planning meeting for the project, and told them as he has told the Council in the past, "that in a small or large way the Fish Viewing Walkway is a great thing for the business community, and will benefit property owners when it is time to sell their homes."

He added, "The many things people look at before they settle in a city are the school system, parks, recreation, city services, a good police and fire department and a good property tax rate. Peshtigo has them all."

He complimented the Council on the beautiful work done on Main Street and concluded, "It is so important that the city government keeps looking to the future."

Sharon Schounard, first to speak, said a lot of people feel they are proposing to spend a lot of money for the fish viewing walkway, and reminded them grants are tax money too.

She said the museum used to get 11,000 visitors a year, but now, since the highway bypass, they are down to 6,000 visitors. She said the city had spent $40,000 to buy the Nature Walk area behind Rodger Eklund's property, and wondered how many people actually use it.

She said aldermen might find better ways to spend the city's money.

Malke said the walkway did cost $40,000. She and Krizenesky agreed the city had a $20,000 grant but it came with a DNR requirement that they allow bow hunting for deer on the property, and they did not want to do that.

She agreed that grants are taxpayer money, but said they will go somewhere, and it is in the city's best interests to bring some of it home.

Krizenesky who spoke said the paper mill owners (BPM, Inc.), politicians, DNR and WPS people are all very much in favor of the fish viewing platform and there is a good chance they will not be spending any city dollars. He agreed the city took a hit from the bypass, and said because of it, "we need all the help we can get." He recalled past days when the city had three barber shops and three supermarkets. Now there is one of each and the hardware store is gone.

Contrary to what Schounard believed, he said fish come up to the dam all year round, and can be seen swimming there. Fishing will not be permitted from the walkway, but is not allowed there in close proximity to the dam behind the paper mill in any case.

When Krizenesky was mayor, he and Parks and Rec Director David Zahn had visited the Fish Viewing platform in the City of DePere, which has proved to be a huge success. It too was built with no city funds. It is a popular attraction and their parking lot is always full, Krizenesky said.

Lock asked Krizenesky if he felt he would be able to come up with the funds if Malke were to sign the grant application today.

"There are no guarantees, but there's a good chance it can be done," Krizenesky said. He said Mill manager Jim Koronkiewicz had visited him that day and pledged to give $10,000, which would leave the city's share at $10,600. The mill might even give more, Krizenesky added.

Malke said they are looking for people who want to be part of a fundraising effort to get the platform built. There have been no formal fund raising efforts so far.

Krizenesky said the Field & Forest owner had been at their meeting and promised to help in any way possible. Ald. Gryzwa, with some prodding from Krizenesky, said he would talk to service organizations.

Schmidt said she and her family often watch fish from the little bridge behind the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette, "and to see it from above would be awesome!"

Krizenesky said the pillars are already there, which means the platform can be built at far less cost than if they were starting from scratch. Sentinel Structures wants to showcase its products on the platform, so it will likely be built of natural wood products, including log railings and the laminated arches that Sentinel makes.

Despite the optimism, Lock moved to refer the request back to the Finance Committee. "We just do not have that money sitting around there waiting to be spent on something," she commented.

Schmidt seconded, but included a suggestion that signing the grant application should be contingent on finding the rest of the funding.

Gryzwa suggested a plaque near the walkway with donor names would be appropriate. Malke said they had talked about putting in pavement blocks inscribed with donor names.

"If we had a generous donation tomorrow I'd have no problem signing this," Malke declared.

Krizenesky said the WPS deadline is fast approaching, and added, "I'm going to be 81 in a couple of weeks and I hope to get something done on this before I join the rest of those people in the cemetery."

Motion to refer to Finance Committee was unanimous.


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