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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo ATV/UTV Routes Open, Sept. 26 Parade Permit Is Denied

Issue Date: September 23, 2020

At a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17 Peshtigo City Council denied a street use permit that would have allowed a parade across the Peshtigo River Bridge on Saturday, Sept. 26 in place of the traditional Historical Day celebration; approved a resolution aimed at obtaining DNR funding for a handicap -accessible kayak/canoe launch and fishing pier on the Peshtigo River in Riverfront Park just upstream from the French Street Bridge, and agreed to expand the scope of the Ruekert-Malke contract for studies related to the sanitary sewer river crossing project.

Several aldermen, including Acting Mayor Mike Behnke, informally congratulated Alderman Richard Berth on his success in getting ATV/UTV signs posted in time for publication of the ordinance that made operation of the recreational vehicles legal on most streets in the city effective Wednesday, Sept. 16. Berth and Alderman John Berendt had set that date as a goal for themselves at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Both were working with ATV/UTV enthusiasts to raise enough money to pay for the signs and sign poles. Berth organized volunteers to help get the signs up on Saturday, Sept. 12 in locations identified by City Engineer George Cowell.

Following last week's resignation of former Parks and Recreation director Shawn Northrop from the part-time duties he had agreed to continue after resigning some weeks ago from the full time Parks and Recreation Director post, aldermen appointed Badger Park Campground Host Mike White to take on a supervisory role until he leaves for the season on Oct. 20.

There was brief discussion at the meeting of plans for a Halloween event at Badger Park on Saturday, Oct. 10 that is being handled as usual by Cathy Rose and her family. Decorating there is to be done on Monday, Sept. 28 with Tuesday, Sept. 29 as a rain date.

The 11 a.m. meeting was called to order by Behnke in the absence of Mayor Cathi Malke. Other aldermen present were Brigitte Schmidt, Debbie Sievert, Berth and Archer Leupp. Alderman John Berendt was absent and excused.

At a previous meeting Council had agreed to be co-sponsor of the kayak/canoe launch near Badge Park. Chamber of Commerce President Tony O'Neill explained at Thursday's meeting that the DNR had recommended the new site for the launch, farther downstream from the Badger Park swimming beach and closer to Trout Creek and the boat landing area.

O'Neill said to qualify for a DNR matching fund grant, the application must be submitted by a governmental entity - in this case the City of Peshtigo. He had drafted the resolution presented for Council consideration based on previous city resolutions and input from DNR representatives.

At this meeting, and at previous meetings, O'Neill had assured City officials that the money required for the local share would come from donations and fund raisers, and not from city taxpayers.

O'Neill said his group had previously been aware of at least one grant that will be available, but were recently informed by the local DNR Fish and Wildlife specialist that another grant may be available. Application deadline for that grant is Wednesday, Sept. 30. The original grant, for which they also will apply, has a February deadline.

With O'Neill in support of the resolution was Chamber vice President Melissa Meyer-Demoulin. Superintendent Patrick Rau said he was unable to attend, but expressed support for the project in an e-mailed message to the Council. He wrote: "specifically for the district, canoeing and kayaking are an important part of our physical education curriculum. The launch would provide a convenient and safe way for our students to launch and return to their vessel. The ADA accessibility would also open doors for our disabled students to participate in kayaking and canoeing too," Rau wrote.

Rau continued, "As for the community, it will not only provide a recreational attraction but it will provide a recreational opportunity for our residents. It is vital to continue to grow our recreational offerings in an effort to retain our own local talent and attract future residents to the area."

The resolution states the financial grant match will be provided through supplemental financial aid sufficient to complete the study or project and authorizes submission of the application. It further states that the city - "will comply with all local, state and federal rules for the programs, may perform force account work, will maintain the completed project in an attractive, inviting and safe manner; will keep the facilities open to the general public during reasonable hours consistent with the type of facility, and will obtain approval from the WDNR before any change is made in the use of the project site..."

Sievert asked if City Attorney David Spangenberg had seen the resolution. Behnke said the attorney told him he was given a copy, and added that "it is pretty straight forward."

"I feel we should know our cost share....what the city is committing itself to," Schmidt commented.

O'Neill said they expect $37,000 is the local share amount they will need to collect through fund raising, and added, "We've already started it, and with great success." he repeated that the handicap-accessible pier will be built at no cost to the city.

"I wouldn't mind allowing this to be submitted today, but I'd like to see it come back to us before we accept it," commented Schmidt.

O'Neill explained they have set up a 16-member committee to plan and construct the project, with Alderman Richard Berth to be site manager and alderman Archer Leupp as conduit to the city council. He added Leupp has experience working with grants. "We have our checks and balances in place," he declared.

The city would need to designate someone to sign invoices, contracts etc., O'Neill said.

"Usually we get to see the grant application before we approve it," Schmidt commented, adding that she had no problem with applying for it today, "but I want to look at it before we accept it." Behnke agreed with that request.

Schmidt then moved to apply for the grant, with clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal named as the person to act on behalf of the city in regard to signatures and financial requirements. Behnke added a stipulation that the grant come back to the Council before it is accepted.

Leupp noted there were others in the Council Chambers in support of the resolution, and suggested they should be invited to speak before the vote.

The only one wanting to speak was Suzette Boettcher, who identified herself as a military veteran with a child who would use the handicap features of the dock. "It would be a great asset to the city, and bring dollars into the community ... This would give me an opportunity to get out with my child, and those opportunities are limited."

O'Neill then read the e-mail from Rau, after which Council voted without dissent in favor of the resolution.

Behnke thanked O'Neill for everything he has been doing for the city.

Next on the agenda was the street use permit request submitted by Kris Karpowitz for a parade event called the Celebration of 1871 of 2020 they planned to hold on Saturday, Sept. 26. Karpowitz and Jim Wortner were listed as responsible parties, himself as president, Wortner as vice president, Tom Ries as secretary and Joanne Ries as treasurer of he sponsoring organization.

Application was for street closing from 9:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m., with the parade to line up on Frontage Road east to the bridge, turn left onto Ogden Street snd then travel west across the Peshtigo River Bridge on French Street (Old Hwy. 41), and end in the parking lot behind the Center Bowl.

"They wanted to do something to show their support for Historical Day, since that will not be held this year," Behnke commented. Schmidt said she had been told they want to keep social distancing.

"I'm not for it," declared Police Chief Rick Badgley. He said doing something to honor the fire anniversary was a good idea, "But it's not well planned out the way they did it." He said they want to go across the bridge, and they cannot shut down traffic on the bridge. He said his department, with basically one person on duty at a time, does not have the man power to direct traffic for the event, there are no plans for barricades, and no provision for bringing in auxiliary assistance. "We can't do it," Badgley repeated, "If we have to hire people, who's going to pay for it?" and added again, "I think it's as great idea, but it's not well planned out. ..We just can't do it in this short a time."

Schmidt commented lots of people had contacted her in regard to the request.

Behnke suggested they could perhaps try for some other date, for example Oct. 10, closer to the fire anniversary date. He believed they were trying to tie the parade event to attract more people to buy the booyah the Chamber of Commerce will be selling at Riverfront Park that day.

Behnke agreed the proposed parade route across the bridge is not feasible. O'Neill suggested the group could get volunteers to direct traffic, as is done for some motorcycle parades, and said the small parade would not be much different than a funeral procession in terms of traffic. "I'd like to see it happen,' he added.

"This year it isn't going to work," Badgley repeated. "I give these people credit for what they're trying to do, but this wasn't well planned out." Badgley sad he also had been getting calls at home from people concerned about crowds and coronavirus.

Schmidt said the Council could not alter someone else's street use request to put in approval for a different date. She noted the application would have been received in time for consideration at the last regular Council meeting except that it had been placed in the outdoor drop box while City Hall was closed due to coronavirus.

Badgley said he had just gotten the street use request two days before the meeting.

Berth wished the parade planners had someone at the meeting to explain their proposals. He asked if Badgley and the Council would be open to another date.

Schmidt agreed they might revisit it, but would need all the plans in advance.

She moved to deny the request, Leupp seconded and all voted in favor, but with indications of regret.

Taryn Nall, the Reukert-Mielke consultant who has been working with the city's Water and Sewer Utility on the river crossing project, was on hand to explain the reason for expanding the scope of ther contract. The Water and Sewer committee had recommended approval of adding up to $23,000 to the consulting contract design work after major problems were found in the 1904 clay tile pipes carrying sewage to the river crossing. Nall said Sept. 30 is the deadline to apply for the Clean Water fund loan with portions of the capital amount eligible for forgiveness. Nall said if that pipe along West Front Street failed now or in the near future, "it would really cause problems for BPM Inc." They also need to delineate the wetland areas for purposes of the grant.

Council vote in favor of the contract increase was unanimous.

Schmidt, as chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, explained the need to name someone to temporarily handle management duties for the Parks and Recreation Department. Behnke said Northrop had left a couple of weeks earlier than they planned, and currently they had campground host Mike White overlooking things, such as grass cutting and other issues. "He's a very responsible person," Behnke commented, "but he will be leaving on Oct. 20." He is being paid $12 per hour for his temporary supervision duties and grass cutting, while Northrop was paid $18 per hour after returning to work on a temporary basis as a part-time working department head.

Asked what this temporary oversight involves, and if the $12 per hour was sufficient, Schmidt said she doesn't know that they would need someone to do all the duties Northrop had handled.

Sievert said she had talked with Northrop, and he had agreed to come in to do some things on an unpaid volunteer basis. Behnke felt White should be paid at least $16 per hour.

Sievert agreed White had really put in a lot of work over and above his assigned duties as campground host, for example supervising the new supply/firewood shack at the park.

Schmidt said she and Sievert had talked about having the Parks and Recreation Committee meet jointly with the Personnel committee to decide what requirements for a replacement Parks and Recreation director should be for now, with recreation activities very limited due to coronavirus, and no end in sight.

Berth wondered why they were not placing an ad in the paper for a new Parks and Recreation Director, and Schmidt explained when advertising they generally list job duties, qualifications, etc., "and we don't know that now."

Behnke said it has been very difficult for anyone to do both halves of the job. Berth felt they could get applicants who could do the whole job. Ultimately motion to approve hiring Michael White as temporary Parks and Recreation director was approved without dissent. A joint meeting of the Parks and Rec and Personnel committees was tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 1.


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