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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Okay Temporary Plan For Drees Center Exercise Classes

Issue Date: December 26, 2018

The on-going dispute over what Kristine Aretz should pay to conduct her "Silver Sneakers" Senior Citizens Exercise classes at the Henry Drees Community Center came to a temporary resolution at a meeting of Peshtigo City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee on Friday, Dec. 21.

The committee, with aldermen Mike Behnke and John Berendt voting in favor and Jillian Schutte abstaining, approved a motion to have a temporary contract drawn up in which Aretz will pay $20 a week to continue holding up to three classes a week at the Drees Center. Classes are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to coincide with the Meals for the Elderly sponsored by the Marinette County Agency on Aging.

The motion included a provision that the committee is to continue efforts to find another solution, whether it is possible for the city's Parks and Rec program to become certified for Silver Sneakers compensation, get Elderly Services to sponsor the classes, or find some other solution.

At the start of the discussion Berendt declared, "We don't want to lose this program for our seniors. Either do this through the city or do it at a reduced rate (for Aretz). He noted the exercise class is already an offering in the city's Parks and Rec program book. He proposed charging Aretz $2, which is the amount she collects per class for the participant who is not from Peshtigo. There was no second.

At this meeting Schutte, who chairs the committee, participated in discussion but abstained from voting, citing a conflict of interest since she works at the Peshtigo Fitness Center, which is owned by her mother, Patricia Schutte, of Pound.

Aretz objected to having the negotiating done in open session, whether for a contract or for her to become a city employee. She said that at the Dec. 7 meeting the committee had voted to have this discussion done in closed.

Mayor Cathi Malke said she wanted the discussion in open session, "we want everyone to be aware of what is said."

Both Behnke and Berendt said their intent was to allow the exercise classes to continue while the city investigates other options, including the possibility that either the city itself or the Agency on Aging could become certified to receive payment through the Silver Sneakers program for eligible participants. Committee discussion indicated that each exercise class participant not eligible for Silver Sneakers benefits whatever price was agreed upon to participate. The current rate is $2 per class.

Aretz had previously indicated the $20 per week was too high a price. She had said she is paid $2 per class per person by Silver Sneakers, and generally 9 or fewer attend each exercise session. She had been asked how much she gets paid by Silver Sneakers but several times declined to say. Later she offered to pay 10 percent of gross, and Schutte asked how she could do that when she cannot tell them what the gross is. Aretz then said she receives $2 per participant, whether through Silver Sneakers or private pay, and about nine persons attend each week. That would come to $1.80 per class at 10 percent or $3.60 per class at 20 percent. (With three classes weekly that would come to $10.80 per week at 20 percent.)

Malke declared the $20 per week for three classes is unfair to city taxpayers, and argued during discussion that Aretz is conducting the classes as a for-profit business entity and should not be given preference over other businesses. She said the City Council has a set fee schedule for use of the building. Peshtigo residents who rent the Center for private events pay $95. The city's non-profit organizations are charged $20 for each use, and the funds they raise go directly to benefit the city and its residents. The Womans Club gets free use twice a year - once while preparing for the city's annual Historical Day event and the other for the Memorial Day Breakfast for Veterans.

Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal also was not happy. "What are we going to tell other businesses if they want to have a program with benefits for seniors?" she asked.

The exercise program conducted by Aretz started in 2016. After an explanation by Parks and Rec Director David Zahn motion at the Parks and Rec meeting on Feb. 22, 2016 was unanimously approved to recommend to Council that the process of starting a Silver Sneakers Senior Citizens Fitness Class with Instructor Kristine Aretz at the Henry Drees Community Center at $2 a week for non-Silver Sneaker members on Monday and Friday was approved. Zahn had told the committee that her and Aretz had discussed the $2 fee and said he was not sure where the $2 would go. Fee for seniors covered by the Silver Sneakers would be paid by their insurance. Zahn had said Aretz would be paid through Silver Sneakers. So far, since the start of the classes, Aretz has paid the city a total of $30, which equaled the amount paid by the out of the area person who attends. There was no contract discussed or approved at that time.

On April 19, 2017 the Parks and Rec Committee unanimously approved a motion allowing Aretz to add Wednesday morning classes to her schedule. That action was recommended by Zahn since the program had proven so popular. Committee members at that time were aldermen Schutte, Behnke and Debbie Sievert.

The issue has become the center of controversy in recent months. iscussed several times previously in recent months, with Mayor Cathi Malke expressing concerns over unfairness to other renters of the community Center, since as things are currently set up, Aretz is holding the classes as private, for-profit business. including at a long at a Parks and Rec Committee meeting on meeting on Friday, Dec. 7.

A meeting on Friday, Dec. 7 was attended by Aretz and at least nine of the senior citizens who participate in the exercise sessions. Aretz said they like coming to the Center where the meal program is held, and do not feel comfortable in a fitness center setting.

Also present for that meeting was Patricia Schutte, who owns the Peshtigo Fitness Center, where her daughter, Alderman Schutte is employed.

Alderman Schutte refrained from discussing the issue at that time or voting, and turned that portion of the meeting over to Behnke.

Several of the seniors spoke in support of Aretz and expressed hope that their exercise program will continue. Everyone involved, including Malke and committee members agreed that they do not want to lose the classes. Discussion at that meeting ended when Behnke and Berendt agreed the committee should meet again to either negotiate a contract with Aretz or convince her to accept a job as a city-paid instructor for the Parks and Rec Department. Regular pay for those who teach in Parks and Rec programs is $10 per hour. Aretz said she has never been offered a job as a city-paid employee. Malke said she has.

In connection with the motion there was mention of possible closed session negotiations. Closed session discussions are permitted for hiring or contract negotiations under certain circumstances, but in either case, results of the negotiations must be made public, including terms and compensation.

Discussion at the Dec. 21 meeting included the possibility that Aretz would agree to conduct the classes as a Parks and Rec instructor, that the city could become Silver Sneakers certified, and that the Marinette County Agency on Aging could sponsor the exercise classes as a city employee.

Aretz will continue conducting her classes at the center three times a week, and will pay the city $20 per week on a temporary basis until a long-term resolution can be reached. Aretz agreed with that, on condition that this time there is to be a written contract. Malke said she also would support that resolution at this time.






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