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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Removes Representatives From MCABI Board Of Directors

Issue Date: January 9, 2019

Funds Released For Fish View Platform

Marinette County appears poised to continue severing its relationship with Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI). Money to pay for expanded economic development services from the non-profit MCABI corporation was included in the 2019 county budget, but with stipulations by County Administrator John LeFebvre that it would not be paid until a satisfactory contract agreement would be reached.

As of Jan. 1, the existing contract with MCABI expired, and to date no contract has been approved to replace it. Meanwhile, MCABI has been busy re-writing its by-laws, managing the Maritime Center of Excellence building they constructed adjacent to the Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette with the help of a multi-million dollar state grant, and re-designing its methods of operation.

MCABI at one point had approved a request from LeFebvre and County Board Chair Mark Anderson that take on tourism promotion responsibilities from the county, but that request was later withdrawn and on LeFebvre's recommendation, County Board last month approved a 2-year agreement with the City of Marinette for tourist promotion services of city Tourism Director Melissa Ebsch.

With a dissenting vote from Supervisor Bonnie Popp the committee voted to permanently eliminate the position of Tourism Director as a county employee. LeFebvre said if necessary they could recreate it, with an entirely new job description.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 the County Board's Economic Development Committee approved recommendations from LeFebvre to remove county appointed representatives from the MCABI Board effective immediately, then a bit later in the meeting authorized LeFebvre to identify a consultant and/or Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission to develop a plan related to the role the county should assume "in promoting, enhancing and/or conducting community and economic development."

On that issue, LeFebvre noted that last month the committee had talked about what he should be doing in terms of community development, and who he should be working with. "I highly recommend that we take a step back and decide where we want to go," he declared. He said he will come back in a month with a scope of work and prices after talking with BLRPC and others.

Board Chair Mark Anderson felt they should do focus groups throughout the county, and declared, "My goal is to treat the entire county equally...This will give us an opportunity to get some ideas we didn't know were out there."

Committee Chair Ted Sauve voted against proceeding with the economic development plan process. Members Penny Chaikowski, Robert Holley, Thomas Mandli, Bonnie Popp, Clancy Whiting, all County Board Supervisors, and Farm Service Agency Representative Mary Noll all voted in favor.

Committee approval of ending County Board on the MCABI Board of Directors immediately was unanimous. Representatives had been Sauve, Supervisor Al Mans, and Michael Meade. LeFebvre noted the remaining MCABI board members can reappoint whoever they wish, but they will not be county representatives. Before the vote, Sauve said he highly recommended that the committee vote approval. Motion the was made by Mandli, seconded by Hawley and unanimously approved.

In a meeting packed with action and information, new UWEX Health and Well Being Educator Stephanie Nault and Property Listing Specialist II Andy Brann were introduced to the committee.

County Conservationist Chuck Druckrey passed along the welcome information that the final $100,000 grant needed to construct the Fish Viewing Platform over the Peshtigo River below the dam in Peshtigo has been released by Wisconsin Coastal Management. Druckrey said he has been doing most of the grant writing for the $499,000 project. Druckrey said the grant had been approved nearly a year ago, but Coastal Management would not release the money until the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) signed off on "a forever thing" related to use of the area around the platform, which is to be built on footings that once served as a Peshtigo River crossing from the Badger Paper Mill, which now is BPM, Inc. The dam and much of the property around it is owned by Wisconsin Public Service and regulated by FERC.

Druckrey said the total cost of the project is $499,000. Of this, $285,000 is from a Wisconsin Stewardship Grant, $8,600 from another small grant, and $100,000 from the Coastal Management program. This left about $10,000 for the City of Peshtigo to raise, which has been done under the leadership of Peshtigo Parks and Recreation Director David Zahn, who is also a supervisor on Marinette County Board.

Druckrey said now that all the funding is in place the plan is to let bids soon for work to be done this summer. They cannot do anything in the water until after the spawning season ends on July 1. The plan is to get the project finished this summer and fall.This will interfere with some fishing opportunities, but there is no fishing within 300 feet of the dam most of the time in any case. In addition to the platform itself, complete with benches and informational sign boards, the project includes improved parking, full handicapped accessibility, and hard surface trails for walking along the river. Fishing will not be allowed from the viewing platform. Everyone agreed it will be a great tourist attraction.

Supervisor Tom Mandli asked if the project will affect the Peshtigo River portage, and was told that is upstream.

To questions from Supervisor Bonnie Popp, Druckrey said the platform is to be 15 to 18 feet above the water, and will provide a fine opportunity to view fish beneath it, particularly the sturgeon during spawning season.

"We know you've been working on this for years, and we appreciate your efforts," Committee Chair Ted Sauve told Druckrey. The project has been in the works for approximately five years.

After an in-depth presentation from WCA spokesman Jon Hochkammer, the committee unanimously endorsed the idea of Marinette County participation in the federally funded "PACE" program that provides funds for energy efficient projects on commercial properties.


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