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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Sewer Rates Are Going Up, Old Buildings Coming Down

Issue Date: October 4, 2017

Sewer bills in Peshtigo will be going up, effective Oct. 1, and the building at 311 French Street that is now owned by the city will be coming down. It appears that the old abandoned motel at 100 Chicago Street will also be coming down, and Chicago Court may be getting a new name.

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, with Alderman Mike Behnke absent, Council unanimously agreed to raise sewer base rates by 5.3645 percent, effective Oct. 1, as recommended by the Water and Sewer Committee after getting advice from financial advisor Dave Maccoux of Schenck.

Council also approved the 5-year plan for major street improvements and agreed to have the Streets and Drainage Committee consider a request to re-name Chicago Court in honor of the late Mel Sharpe, a long-time city official who designed the street and supervised its construction while he was serving as Director of Public Works. His daughter, Jann (Sharpe) Rettke, in making the request, said that the land was formerly owned by Sharpe's grandfather, Gustav Feske. Rettke had sent a letter to the Council requesting the name change and spoke in person to the Council during time for public comment.

With agreement from the Council, Mayor Cathi Malke referred her request to the Streets and Drainage Committee for further consideration. Alderman Mary Locke suggested before naming Chicago Court to honor Sharpe or anyone else, they needed to fix the end of the street where it goes into the old motel. She described the area as, "a mess."

Later in the meeting, Council approved a Fire, Lighting and Building Committee recommendation to work with Building Inspector Tom Smith on condemnation of the old motel building, and pay the fee he charges. In his monthly report to the Council Smith wrote that upon after inspecting the abandoned motel he found: "Basically the property is infested by vermin. There are extensive structural issues such as leaking roof. It appears there probably will be black mold issues and possible asbestos. The place in unfit for human habitation and in my opinion has met criteria for issue of a razing order." Smith said he will provide a report with photos for city consideration of future action. Locke, who chairs the Fire, Lighting and Building Committee, had been discussing condition of the building with Smith, and the formal action approved without dissent by the Council was to pay Smith the fee he charges for inspections to condemn buildings.

Council also approved hiring of Dan Risner & Sons Excavating of Pound for their low bid price of $36,736 to raze the former Hammes' Garage building at 311 French Street. The city gained ownership of the building after former owner Oestreich failed to make payments on a UDAG loan he had taken for he property.

The former cleaning service for city hall resigned last month. Tuesday night, on recommendation of Locke, seconded by Alderman Tom Gryzwa, Council approved hiring Dustin' Time cleaning service, owned by Dan and Karen Roggendorf, to clean both the Municipal Building and the Community Center for $1,300 a month.

The proposed Salary & Wage schedule for 2018 was approved as recommended by the Personnel Committee, with final acceptance depending on results of the Budget Workshop. A 1 percent raise for Public Works employees was also approved pending the Budget Workshop session The 5-year plan for Capital Road Improvement Projects lists, for 2018: Emery Avenue from Thompson Street to McGraw Street for $320,000 and West Rail Street from Emery Avenue to the alley to the east, for $35,000; for 2019: Aubin Street from Lake Street to West Park Drive for $94,180; for 2020: Stephenson Street from Maple Street to Pine Street for $90,000 and Cranberry Avenue from Birch Street to Maple Street for $90,000; for 2021, Aubin Street from West Park Drive to East Park Drive, for $122,000, and for 2022, West Park Drive from N. Emery Avenue to Aubin Street for $130,000.

Before the vote Alderman Jillian Schutte, who is a fairly new member of City Council, asked why they had put what she felt is the worst street on the list as the last project to be done. She said she was referring to South Park Drive.

Malke said the Streets Committee had discussed the 5-year plan at length, and explained sometimes they need to save money for a few years to afford to do a reconstruction. They also need to plan around when sewer, water and other utility work will be done so they are not tearing up new pavement to replace underground facilities.

City Engineer George Cowell added that South Park Drive had been on the list and off again for a few years because they were waiting to see what the school plans to do with construction of a new school or other facility that would use South Park Drive as an access. He said they do not want to reconstruct the street and then have to tear it up again for utilities and access if the school decides it will put a new building there.

Plans for Halloween are underway. Council approved Trick or Treat hours from 4 to 6 p.m. on Halloween, which falls on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

At the meeting there were handouts promoting Colton's Haunted House at 149 N. Wood Ave., which will be open from 7 to 10:30 pm. on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 21. Admission is gained by bringing a non-perishable item for the food pantry, and the goal is to gather 1,500 pounds of food. A tip jar is available to offset expenses. The project, as usual, is sponsored by Colton McKenney, son of Tara and Craig McKenney. With the help of friends and family, the family home at 149 N. Wood Ave is converted into a haven for haunts, witches, skeletons, vampires and various monsters and ghouls, all looking forward to frightening visitors who come to call each year.

Parks and Recreation Director Dave Zahn reported the Badger Park Campground also will be converted into a haunted haven this weekend for Fright Fest. He said there is only one campsite still available. Judges are lined up for the costume and site decorating contest.

Zahn congratulated the Peshtigo Historical Day Committee for putting on a very well run festival headquartered at Badger Park last weekend. He said the crowd was perhaps larger than usual and the Boy Scouts helped immensely by cleaning up the park on Sunday, "which made our job a lot easier on Monday."

Zahn read a letter from the Marinette County Land and Water Conservation Department thanking the city for allowing them to use Badger Park as part of its annual Environmental Field Day activities on Thursday, Sept. 28. He said a total of 540 persons participated - 497 kids and 43 adults.

Zahn noted the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council had held its quarterly meeting in Peshtigo on Thursday, Sept. 21. He and Marinette County Land and Water ConservationistConservationist Chuck Druckrey had given a presentation on their plans for construction of a fish view or river viewing platform across the Peshtigo River below the Badger paper Mill Dam, and had taken them on a tour of the site. "They seemed very excited about the project," he said, and added that they thanked the city for allowing them to use the Henry Drees Community Center for their meeting.

The parks and camping season is drawing to a close. Income is up about seven percent this year, Zahn said. He and the parks crew are winterizing facilities, and plan to winterize and close the park restrooms for the season on October 18 or 19.

Poles are up for the historical plaques to be displayed at Riverfront Park, Zahn said.

Malke noted the plaques are mainly to commemorate the locations of the rock crib that were once used in logging drives. The rock piles were knocked down after being exposed when the river was drawn down for repairs to the dam a few years ago.

Zahn jokingly advised that his department's new truck has arrived, "and I'm afraid to drive it."

Council approved a bartender's license for Pamela J. Lund, pending police department approval.

Bev Doucette, who recently moved to Peshtigo from Marinette, advised the Council that the "Operation United Hearts" organization is planning some special events at the George Webb Restaurant on Hwy. 41 just south of Peshtigo in honor of Veterans Day on Saturday, Nov. 11. She said there will be free breakfasts for every veteran who comes in between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and each will be given a free lapel pin, a quilted square representing their branch of service, and five tickets for a bucket raffle being held in a back room at the restaurant. Three veterans will be there in uniform to share the table with fellow veterans so no one has to eat alone. Each veteran will be greeted by a hostess. Hostesses will include 97-year-old Violet Frank, who knows first hand what it is to have your family off to war.

Doucette said she was not there to ask the Council for anything, but to invite city officials to join the veterans on their day.

She noted that formerly, every school class in the country stopped all other activities at 11 a.m. on November 11, Armistice Day, to honor signing of the Armistice that ended the war on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The classes stopped, said the pledge of allegiance and sang the National Anthem in honor of the end of the war. Doucette said Malke has agreed to be at George Web at that time this year to join in singing of the national anthem, and invited all other city officials to join them at 11 a.m. or at any time during the event to shake the hand of a veteran. "I feel we can pull off a fun and fulfilling day as only Peshtigo can do," Doucette declared.

Malke thanked Doucette and her committee for all they do for the veterans.

At the start of the meeting when Rettke addressed the Council in support of her request for re-naming of Chicago Court in honor of her late father, Mel Sharpe, she shared her letter:

"Our family is writing this letter to you and the Peshtigo Common Council regarding the possibility of renaming Chicago Court in honor of our father, Mel Sharpe, who died unexpectedly on March 7, 2015.

"Our dad was born in Peshtigo on August 21, 1923, the son of Ben and Amanda (Feske ) Sharpe. He attended elementary school and was a 1941 graduate of Peshtigo High School. Dad resided here for most of his life, other than serving three years in the U.S. Army in the European Theater during World War II. He began his employment with the city of Peshtigo as Water & Sewer Superintendent from May, 1954 until his promotion to Director of Public Works in 1956. In 1968, Mel was appointed Peshtigo City Clerk-Treasurer, a position he held for 19 years until his retirement in 1987. He was the first city clerk to introduce electronic voting machines in Marinette County. Mel served the City of Peshtigo a total of 37 years under six different mayors. During that time, Dad was the man most people turned to when they wanted information or advice on anything connected with Peshtigo city government.

"Beginning with City and Water Utility and later as Director of Public Works, he helped with the transition from shovels, sticks and a pickup truck to the well-equipped crews the city has today. He had been instrumental in helping keep industry in Peshtigo, and in construction of the two large overhead water storage tanks. He also worked hard and successfully for the new municipal building. Dad was the kind of man who you could count on to do what must be done and to do it quietly, well and with good will.

"Mel also represented the City of Peshtigo on the Marinette County Board of Supervisors from 1992 until his death. His commitment to always doing the "right thing" for his constituents was foremost on his mind.

"The reason why our request specifies Chicago Ct. is two-fold. One, despite not being a certified engineer, Dad designed and led the construction of this roadway"quite an achievement for a high school graduate and, two, the land formerly was owned by his grandfather, Gustave Feske .

"This request is certainly heartfelt on our part. Dad was a great family man who always put us first. His love for the community of Peshtigo had no bounds and, for this reason, we ask that this recognition be considered and granted," she concluded.

Rettke said her father was "not a prideful man," and would be embarrassed if he knew she was there, "but the one thing of which he had been very, very proud was that he designed and engineered Chicago Court back in a day when engineering degrees and certifications were not required."

Locke commented that the end of Chicago Court where the old motel is located needs some attention, and suggested referring Sharpe's request to the Streets and Drainage committee. Malke agreed.The request is likely to be taken up by the committee at a meeting in the near future.

Rettke said when her mother died five years ago there was no question about what to do with her memorial fund. It had to go to the library. She was a voracious reader, a strong supporter of the library, and a long-time member of the Library Board.

When Mel died three years ago, in view of his 57 years with the city, the family donated a defibrillator to the city. They were going to donate two, but the second one was provided by a grant so their money was not needed, so there is $800 left in that fund to be used for some worthwhile city project.

To a question from Malke, Rettke said she believes the defibrillator they donated is in one of the city squad cars. Malke noted the defibrillator now at the Municipal Building was donated by the Spies family.


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