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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Town Board Changes Plans Where to Gate Road

Issue Date: September 21, 2016

The Town of Peshtigo has decided not to gate off Pond Road at the bird watching station as originally planned, but they do intend to put a gate at the end of the road to prevent vehicles from driving into the Bay, and restore a turnaround there.

The gate issue, as well as setting up a system for installment payments for a special assessment for cleanup of an arsenic spill on a privately owned property in the town were discussed in closed session for over an hour at a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 23, and both were on the agenda for action at the regular monthly board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The closed session had been called to confer with legal counsel on both issues "with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved." It ended with an agreement that board members would gather more information as needed.

There were about 25 town residents present for the Sept. 20 meeting, some of them obviously interested in the proposal to close Pond Road. That issue had been a bone of contention with the DNR at previous meetings.

When it came up Tuesday night, Town Chair Herman Pottratz said the plan now was to put a gate at the very end and restore riprap for the turnaround where the road had washed out. He said Marinette County would do the work for a reasonable price, and by doing it that way they could open the gate for duck hunters and leave it open in winter for snowmobiles. He said the plan to close the road at the bird watching station was no longer being considered.

Supervisor Denise Wiedemeier asked about getting a permit from the DNR to replace the riprap, and Pottratz said the county will take care of that. Wiedemeier wanted it put in writing that Marinette County will get assurance from the DNR, but Pottratz said that would not be necessary.

People in the audience asked if they would be able to get boats in and out for duck hunting season, and Pottratz said they would.

Sup. Mark Monnette moved to have Marinette County repair the cul de sac, and it passed, with Wiedemeier casting the sole dissenting vote. She continued to request assurance that the county would get the DNR permit.

Pottratz said the board should decide how much to collect for the arsenic spill cleanup and how much interest, if any they should charge. The agreement was to be that if the property is sold the entire amount would be due. However, Monnette said he had spoken with the owner of the property, and she wants to confer with her attorney before making a decision. Monnette said she told him she had been provided with much misinformation and now doesn't know which way to go.

"Is she suing us or the county?" Pottratz asked, and Monnette replied, "Maybe both."

On motion by Monnette the issue was tabled for a month.

"Spending seems to be at a more accelerated rate than in other years," Treasurer Vilas Schroeder commented during his monthly report at the start of the meeting. He said the roads account is considerably over spent, and he has a bill for $90,000 from Northeast Asphalt on his desk that is still to be paid. He said he will need to pull money out of some other accounts to pay the bills next month.

"That's what it's there for," Pottratz assured him.

Schroeder said for the year to date so far they have spent $108,000 more than revenue, but that is somewhat to be expected since the final state shared tax payment is not in yet. He said even with that, he will be about $72,000 short and will need input from the board next month as to what accounts to take it from.

"We're spending at a pretty good clip this year," he repeated.

"Not as much as the county," Pottratz retorted. Schroeder is a member of the County Board and until April of this year was County Board Chair.

During reports late in the meeting Schroeder and Pottratz had a discussion on county borrowing and the county tax structure in general. Pottratz said he saw nothing wrong with County Board Chair Mark Anderson seeking to end county borrowing, and to learn just how much the structural deficit is. He said the former county administrator had run the county into a hole with excessive borrowing.

County Finance Director Pat Kass and Administrator Shawn Henessee maintain there is no structural deficit if the county has capacity to borrow and make the payments, which it has.

Schroeder declared "structural deficit" is not a new kid on the block, and has continued since at least 2011. He said it has been hard for the county to keep things up without borrowing because it has the third lowest property tax rate in the state, and cannot raise it beyond state levy limits. This year the tax levy went up .8 of a percent.

While discussing the budget overruns, Wiedemeier commented that the town no longer has been having an outside audit done, and suggested they should have the audit at least every other year, even though it is no longer a state requirement. Schroeder said he would like an audit for his own peace of mind. Pottratz felt it is not necessary to spend the $3,000 or so that an audit would cost.

"I feel very strongly about it and I would like it on the agenda for next month," Wiedemeier insisted.

"If people don't want an audit you start to wonder," Supervisor Dan Staudenmaier commented.

"If the board wants an audit we can do it," Pottratz agreed. The proposed audit will be on the agenda for next month's meeting.

Cindy Haggert and Debbie Smith approached the board on the possibility of using the meeting room at the town hall for separate commercial gatherings. Haggert said she would use it perhaps twice a year to display a line of clothing, and Smith said she and her daughter, Lori Jacques would use it perhaps weekly for canvas painting.

The town does not charge town residents to use the hall for social gatherings such as weddings and baby showers. After some discussion it was decided without dissent to allow use for commercial ventures on a six month trial basis for $35 per use, but with decision on each business to be made on an individual basis. There were assurances of adequate insurance coverage. Smith said they have all the supplies to clean up after their painting sessions. They use water based paints and cleanup does not require solvent.

After a bit of discussion the board agreed unanimously to renew its contract with Road KIng for winter snow plowing for three years with no price increase. There was talk of getting a price from the county, but County Supervisor Russ Bauer, chair of the Highway Committee, said that department is short handed right now and cannot take on more snowplowing contracts.

There was concern over complaining phone calls from residents when the county was doing the plowing, because county and state roads were plowed before the town roads.

"Our residents are spoiled,"Monnette declared. "If we get half an inch of snow they want it plowed. Sometimes they call to be plowed before it snows!"

Wiedemeier argued in favor of getting competitive bids, but in the end she seconded Monnette's motion to extend the Road King contract for three years. That action came after Monnette pointed out that Road King had asked for no rate increase, and if they went for bids their price could go up and if they were the only bidder they would still get the job. Pottratz said they have been doing a good job for the town and causing few complaining phone calls.

The board approved a recommendation from Wiedemeier and Supervisor Dan Van Beek to build a shelter over the compactor area at the recycling center.

Wiedemeier reported there had been a 236 percent increase in income for one year at the recycling center. Sale of metals was up $791, income from garbage wads up $9,458, and disposal fees for TVs and other electronics and appliances also increased.

Asked why, Wiedemeier said things there are more organized, and locks had been changed so metals are no longer being taken out. Costs are down because the compactor reduces the trips the contractor must make to empty garbage. The Recycling Center is better organized so traffic flows quickly.

Wiedemeier said Van Beek has blueprints drawn for the shelter, which will also provide a heated area for attendants. The board agreed Van Beek should go ahead and get the work done when he has the plans finished. He assured Pottratz there is a place for attendants to plug in a heater.

Later in the meeting Wiedemeier expressed extreme frustration with a DNR order for the town to enforce a law that businesses which sell electronics must provide a way to recycle them. She said the town has no budget for this, and the DNR has transferred its responsibilities to them anyway, with a threat to take away funding for the recycling program if they do not cooperate. She has asked Town Attorney David Spangenberg to take a look at the legal requirements. Pottratz said the town also needs to contact area legislators.

After a bit of discussion the board agreed to make some changes to improve vision at the corner of Jopek and Schacht roads. Work is to be done by the county Highway Department at a cost of about $1,000 for materials and about a day's wages. Staudenmaier stipulated that the work must stay within 33 feet of the center of the roads to be sure they are on town right of way.

Payments of $5,000 to the rescue squad and $2,000 to the animal shelter were approved.

There was long, long discussion but no action on flooding problems on properties of Dan Biehl and John Kowalski in the County T/Shore Drive area. The problem is determining who should maintain ditches. There formerly was a drainage district, but it was ended years ago and Clerk Clarence Coble said once dissolved the drainage district cannot be restored. He said if that commission still existed they would have come in, corrected the situation, and changed everyone in accord with the amount of ditch on their property or property lines.

As it is, the streets and/or roads involved are either city or county owned, so the town has no jurisdiction. Board members sympathized, but had no suggestions as to a solution. If one landowner clears a ditch the water will flood the property of someone else unless the entire drainage situation is addressed. Problems were apparently aggravated by construction of the County Law Enforcement Center 13 years ago, the hospital currently under construction, and volume of rain this year.

Fire Chief Mike Folgert reported their annual Open House and Golf Outing went well and everybody had a good time. The department had eight calls last month, one for a structure fire, others for vehicle accidents, grass fire, and smoke complaints.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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