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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo City Council Approves Raises, Hires Building Inspector

Issue Date: January 4, 2017

At the first meeting of Peshtigo City Council in 2017, Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke welcomed Alderman Jillian Schutte to her first meeting as a member of city government. Her appointment by Malke was approved by the Council at its December meeting. She replaces Richard Berth III, who resigned early in November, but has now become a candidate for the District One alderman position, and will be running against Alderman Brigitte Schmidt in April.

At the Council meeting a member of the audience was called to draw names for ballot position, and Berth's name will be listed first. Aldermen Debbie Sievert and Michael Behnke are unopposed as candidates for reelection.

Behnke, who was absent from council proceedings for many months due to a debilitating back injury was welcomed back to active duty last month. At the Tuesday, Jan. 3 meeting Malke returned him to his old position as chair of the Personnel Committee, replacing Alderman Tom Gryzwa who was called on to fill the post during Behnke's absence. Behnke abstained from voting. The rest of the Council voted in favor, including Gryzwa, who thanked Behnke for agreeing to take his old chairmanship back.

Numerous salary, wage and benefit adjustments for city employees, union and nonunion, were approved on recommendation of the Finance and Personnel Committees. This included .6 percent raises for members of WPPA/LEER, the law enforcement union, a 1.5 percent raise for Lt. Jared Phillips as recommended by Police Chief Joe FitzGerald. The city agreed to again pay insurance costs for all city employees.

A 3-year contract with the Teamster's Union, which represents Public Works employees had been approved by Council in November. That action was rescinded due to some Act 10 complications and Council approved instead a 1-year agreement as recommended by the Personnel Committee. That agreement gives Public Works employees a .662 percent raise, which is the maximum allowable for bargaining units effective Jan. 1, plus a.33 percent supplemental raise. It also adds numerous benefits, including longevity pay of $20 per year after seven years and payment of the pension premium for 2017 to the Teamster's local union. The union agreed to follow the city's employees handbook starting Jan. 1.

Budget transfers approved on recommendation of the Finance Committee included adjustments to accommodate restoration of the salary for Parks and Recreation Director David Zahn thanks to a court order halting implementation of some federal rules governing base salaries and overtime pay for certain salaried employees. Zahn's salary fell under the guidelines that exempt salaried employees from overtime pay requirements. Council had rescinded his salary and substituted an hourly wage that fell below what his salary had been but allowed overtime work to make up for it, provided permission was obtained first from the mayor or chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee. Later a federal judge ordered the new salary rules to not be implemented. Zahn's former salary was reinstated, but once again this year he is the only full time city employee to not get a raise.

Zahn reported that Tuesday morning was opening day for accepting reservations for campsites and pavilion rentals at Badger Park. The morning of reservation acceptance started with "a rather intense 90 minutes," Zahn declared. He said all phone lines and computer connections were in use.

Pubic Works Director George Cowell expressed pride in the city crew for getting everything done during a busy and short handed holiday season that included keeping city streets free of ice and snow. He said the overtime required had pretty much used up the funds that had been left in his 2016 budget, but the job had gotten done and the snowplowing system with the equipment available "works quite well."

"We had a very good year and should be very proud of our DPW crew," Cowell declared, and listed them by name.

In addition to snow and ice issues there were two water main breaks during the past month, one at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and one on Peck Ave., both were repaired by private contractors.

Alderman Mary Lock asked Cowell if he was aware of any large potholes on Nelson Street and Cowell promised to check.

In other business at the meeting, Council approved contracting with Tom Smith Inspections, LLC of Ashwaubenon as city building inspector, contingent on approval by both parties and Peshtigo City Attorney Dave Spangenberg.

Smith introduced himself at the meeting and explained a bit about his background and how he handles inspections and the fees that go with them. He currently holds building Inspector positions with the villages of Coleman and Pound in Marinette County, the towns of Bagley, Brazeau, Breed, Little River, Maple Valley, Oconto, Spruce, Stiles, Pensaukee and Townsend in Oconto County, Kaukauna in Outagamie County and Maple Grove and Green Valley in Shawano County. Smith said because these municipalities require building inspector services only a few times each year he can easily add City of Peshtigo responsibilities without reducing the level of service he provides to other communities. He is certified or licensed in all inspection areas of the Urban Dwelling Code (UDC), including electrical, HVAC and plumbing, is HUD certified, and has an erosion control license beyond that required in UDC statutes. While he cannot approve plans for business or commercial buildings he said he can enforce all ordinances the city may have regarding them and also is included on the Federal government's list for HUD field inspectors and works with lenders that deal with HUD and FHA loans.

Judiciary Chair Alderman Mary Lock read a new schedule of building permit fees in a city ordinance change to be considered at the February Council meeting. At 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, just prior to that council meeting, there will be a public hearing on the ordinance changes needed to put the price increases for building permit fees into effect.

The sole building permit issued in December by outgoing Building Inspector Ronald Banach was for construction of a manufactured home for Dolores Heckel at 875 Bechthold Drive in the Maple Ridge Development

Council unanimously approved sale of city-owned Lot 37 in the Prestine Enterprises 1st Addition to Joseph and Sandra Bayer for their high bid price of $1,501. The approval is contingent on receipt of a properly filled out purchase agreement.

Without dissent the Council proclaimed the week of Jan. 22 through 28 as School Choice Week in the city. The proclamation declares that the city recognizes the important role that an effective education plays in preparing all students in the city to be successful adults, that quality is critically important to the economic vitality of the city, and that a variety of educational choices helps to diversify the city's economy and enhances the vibrancy of the city.

Malke had suggested referring the National School Choice Week proclamation request to the Judiciary Committee. After Lock pointed out that the proclamation would then be made after the week had passed she and the rest of the council agreed to approve the proclamation without going through the committee.

On recommendation of the Water and Sewer Committee council agreed that the Sewer Utility should apply for a $300,000 low interest UDAG loan to pay for the sludge thickener project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and to contract with Robert E. Lee & Associates for up to $26,500 to fill construction observation responsibilities for the project on a part-time hourly time and materials basis.

On request of Fire Chief Steven Anderson, Matthew Wilson was approved to serve as a fire fighter for the city.


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