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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Committee To Negotiate Drees Center Class Fees

Issue Date: December 13, 2018

After long hard discussion at its meeting on Friday, Dec. 7, Peshtigo City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee agreed to hold a special meeting at noon Friday, Dec. 21 that will include a closed session to discuss rates and possibly negotiate a contract for the senior exercise classes that currently are conducted by Town of Peshtigo resident Kristine Ardtz at the Henry Drees Community Center.

A major issue is that there is a set fee schedule for individuals to use the Community Center, and those rental rates are not nearly covered by the $2 per participant that Ardtz has agreed to pay. Exceptions from paying the rental fees are made for only perhaps two community service events per year.

Approximately a dozen fitness class participants were at the meeting along to support Ardtz, who operates as a private for-profit provider giving classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Community Center. Fees for many of the participants are paid through the Silver Sneakers insurance program.

Also on hand was Patricia Schutte, owner of the Peshtigo Fitness Center, which is managed by her daughter, Jillian Schutte. Jillian Schutte, who is an alderman on Peshtigo City Council and chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, was present for the meeting but recused herself from the discussions involving the fitness classes due to conflict of interest. She turned the meeting over to Alderman Mike Behnke and sat silent through that portion of the meeting while Behnke and Alderman John Berendt continued.

Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke was also on hand. She has met a number of times with various groups and individuals to try to resolve the issues surrounding use of the Community Center by Ardtz for her exercise classes.

Parks and Recreation Director Dave Zahn was on vacation and unable to attend.

Discussion at the meeting included a dispute over whether or not Ardtz had been offered an opportunity to hold the same classes in the same location as an employee of the city's Parks and Recreation program for a $10 per hour salary. Malke said that had been offered. Ardtz said it had not.

Ardtz presented a long prepared statement giving a history of her interactions with the city over Community Center use. Several of class participants present spoke on her behalf and a long, long discussion ensued.

"I do not want to see the program go away, I was even thinking of going to the classes myself," Behnke told her. Malke asked what she wants to see as a resolution. Ardtz said she wants a meeting with everyone who is involved, including Zahn, and apparently that is the meeting scheduled for Dec. 21.

There was brief committee discussion on whether a potential offer for Ardtz to be hired through the Parks and Recreation program should be referred to the Personnel Committee, but the conclusion was that if she doesn't want to become a city employee there will be nothing for them to consider, so it had go first for negotiations and the Dec. 21 Parks and Recreation meeting. Closed sessions are allowed for contract negotiations.

(Watch for more details on the exercise class discussion in the Dec. 19 issue of the Peshtigo Times, after the format for the Dec. 21 meeting is finalized.)

Other discussion at the meeting included a grant Zahn is seeking through the "Keep America Beautiful" program for 15 recycling bins to be placed in the city's parks and ballfields. Malke said since there is no co-pay requirement she had authorized him to go ahead and apply. She said it's a great way to encourage city residents to recycle.

Cowell said if the grant is received they will need to decide how to handle the recycled items, since his public works crews do not pick up recyclables.

There also was discussion on the Hometown Hero banner program, ad Cowell noted it took 66 man hours for his department to put them up this spring. He displayed a worn banner, and said the prediction of a 5 year life span is quite accurate.

Cowell agreed the banner work does not cost his department more dollars, but said it does take men away from getting other work done.

There has been talk about expanding the Hometown Hero banner program to more light poles in portions of the city other than the direct downtown area. Cowell said they had to put up 42 of the double sided banners this year, and had to replace brackets and banner arms for a number of them. He suggested if they continue adding banners they might consider hiring a contractor to help with putting them up and taking them down.

Schutte suggested they might consider leaving the popular Hometown Hero banners up year round. Currently they are alternated with historical and Christmas banners on a seasonal.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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