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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Council Approves 1% Hike In Water Rates

Issue Date: June 7, 2018

City of Peshtigo utility customers will soon be seeing a slight increase in their water bills. With some expressions of reluctance but no dissenting votes, Peshtigo City Council on Tuesday, June 5 agreed to seek Public Service Commission authorization for a Simplified Rate Increase that will raise water rates by one percent.

The increase had been recommended by the city's Water and Sewer Committee, based on auditor's recommendations and requirements of the city's Clean Water Fund loan.

Before the vote, Supervisor Jillian Schutte asked if they had a choice.

Mayor Cathi Malke explained the city paid for some improvements with a Clean Water Fund Loan and one of the requirements is that they must be able to put enough money aside to pay for maintenance and replacement.

Public Works Director George Cowell said the utility has been approved for a 1.5 percent profit on the water side of the city's utility operations, and right now they are only earning half a percent. He said PSC would like them to show a three percent profit. However, the 1 percent rate increase will bring them back to 1.5 percent, which is where they need to be to meet the loan requirements. He said the city's auditors track utility income and expenditures each year and advise them when a rate hike is needed.

In addition, they need to be careful this year not to get behind in their debt service reserves because the TIF payment they have been used to will not be coming in this year.

After the explanation, all votes were aye. Schutte noted that her vote was "a very reluctant aye."

In his report to the board on department activities, Cowell said this has been a very busy month. In addition to all the spring cleanup work and preparations for Memorial Day the crew has been short two men for 12 weeks. However, the flags and banners were all put up and most the the streets were swept before Memorial Day. Cleanup of alleys will be completed soon. The two college students hired as summer help are on the job and doing excellent work, he said.

The utility board wants the city to build a screening station so the wastewater treatment plant can accept septage more hours, which will increase income. Income from that source last year was $45,000.

The banner arms on city light poles are not holding up well, Cowell said, and that problem is not going away. Threads are wearing out. However, they did get banner arms installed on all the poles that they could.

He had sent out 17 grass cutting notices to residences on the east side of the city, and 17 more will be going out this week to residential areas in other parts of the city.

"There's a lot of long grass out there, and we need to remind everybody that it needs to be cut," he commented.

Malke asked Cowell to pass along compliments to the Public Works Crew for the fine job they did to make the downtown area look wonderful for the holiday weekend.

Cowell said the Streets and Drainage Committee had discussed changing the dumpster hours, but decision was to keep them unchanged for now. Malke hoped eventually they will add at least some Saturday hours.

The meeting began with a Council decision to follow its own policy and require Peshtigo Womans Club to pay the regular city non profit organization fee of $20 for use of one of the large rooms and $15 for the kitchen of the Drees Community Center on Friday, Sept. 28, the night before Historical Day. They had asked to have the fee waived, since they will be preparing food to be served in Bader Park as a fund raiser on Historical Day, Saturday, Sept. 29.

Malke relayed the request to Council, and it appeared to be headed for easy approval until Alderman Brigitte Schmidt read a motion council had approved on Aug. 26 to 2014 that set rates for use of the Community Center. That motion has apparently never been changed or rescinded.

Alderman Mike Behnke believed last year the Womans Club used the facility without charge. He said costs of everything keep increasing, "but the Womans Club is one of the city's largest contributors." He noted they recently donated the handicapped swing, and mentioned some other projects they have donated over the years. "You don't see these kinds of contributions from other organizations," Behnke commented.

Schmidt said every year at budget time they talk about this, but so far this year they have waived the fee every time a request comes in, and have not been following their own policy.

Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kassal commented the minimal fee just covers the cost of electricity and normal cleaning after use.

Schmidt read the fee schedule, with higher charges for non-resident use, and private parties, less for non-profit community organizations, and nothing for some specific listed events put on by organizations.

Behnke said he stood by his motion to approve waiving the fee, and said they should adopt a fee schedule every year at budget time. A check of records showed this has been done, except apparently not for the Community Center, and that the Womans Club did pay the minimal organization fee last year to use the Community Center for Historical Day preparations.

"We need to follow our own rules," Schutte declared. "If we're going to keep waiving the fees, why have them?" She suggested if they want to do something different they should revise the fees at budget time. Everyone agreed the minimal fee barely covers cost of electricity and cleaning, which is required after each use.

Behnke then agreed to withdraw his motion, and Alderman Archer Leupp agreed to with his second.

Vote then was unanimous to charge the standard non-profit fee of $20 for use of one of the large rooms and $15 for the kitchen, for a total of $35.

On recommendation of the Revolving Loan Fund/UDAG Committee, Council agreed to rewrite the Precision Ice Blast loan to a five year term with three percent fixed interest, raised to 6 percent if any payments are late. There are to be monthly payments of $2,071.74 with a balloon for the balance due at the end of the loan term.

City Attorney Dave Spangenberg said rewriting the loan was necessary because of an issue with their bank on a first place loan issue. He said the committee had some issues with lateness of payments, and relayed a request for the interest to increase to only four percent if payments are late.

Schmidt, chair of the committee, agreed Ice Blast had asked the default interest to only go up to 4 percent, but said the committee had put a lot of thought into it, and felt the six percent was fair. Behnke asked if the Ice Blast payments are current at this time, and was told they are. Vote then was unanimous in favor of the revised loan.

A inquiry from Bill Westerman about use of ATVs on city streets was referred to the Streets Committee.

On recommendation of the Personnel Committee, chaired by Alderman Debbie Sievert, Council approved recommendations to hire the two public works people recommended in closed session, and approved holiday pay for he permanent pat-time office staff position for regularly scheduled hours, effective May 31.

All liquor and alcoholic beverage server and operator licenses come up for renewal on July 1 each year.

On recommendation of Leupp, as head of the License and Police Committee, Council approved renewal of all existing license applications, as well as a temporary special event license for the Peshtigo Historical Day Committee for their Saturday, Sept. 29 event.

New Operators licenses were approved for Emily Ahrens, Heidi Huhtala, Lauera Prestine and Brittany Schaden.

Leupp said all license applicants were approved by Police Chief Joe FitzGerald.

Schutte reported briefly on a special Parks and Recreation committee meeting held Thursday, May 31. As the meeting prepared for adjournment Schutte noted decision had been made at that meeting to have herself and Parks and Recreation Director Dave Zahn prepare a form for receiving suggestions or complaints for the Parks and Recreation Department. She displayed the form, and said it is ready to use and will be available at the City clerk's office. Malke said before being put out for public use the form should be approved by the committee. No action was taken in that regard, as it was not on the evening's agenda.


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