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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Brigitte Schmidt Elected New City Council President

Issue Date: April 21, 2021

The old Peshtigo City Council held its final meeting starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, to finish up old business, after which long-time Alderman Mike Behnke, who had been council president, turned his seat over to newly elected Alderman Keith Klimek.

Mayor Cathi Malke declared she will miss Behnke after working closely with him for so many years, and others on the Council agreed. Behnke said he's not going anywhere, and Malke agreed with that, adding that he has been put on some committees, and will be volunteering in the parks.

After the old council adjourned sine die, Klimek and Aldermen Debbie Sievert and Brigitte Schmidt were seated for new terms in office. After calling the new Council to order Malke welcomed Klimek and congratulated Sievert and Schmidt on their re-election.

By unanimous vote, Schmidt was elected new Council president, after being nominated by Sievert, and committee assignments were approved for the coming year.

Alderman Rick Berth objected to having Sievert on the Personnel Committee and Schmidt on the License and Police Committee because their husbands are law enforcement officers who work occasionally as part-time police officers for Peshtigo Police Department. Malke said she has confidence in their judgment and that they will abstain from discussing or voting on an issue if there is a conflict. Berth cast the sole opposing vote on the committee assignments.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor Cathi Malke said she needs to fill the vacancy created by last month's resignation of Alderman Archer Leupp. In order to give everyone interested a chance to apply, Malke said she will allow five weeks for letters of interest, and set Monday, May 24 as the application deadline.

Much of the discussion during the first portion of the meeting involved a dispute over a suggestion from Alderman Rick Berth that Peshtigo Youth Baseball, Girls' Softball, and Peshtigo School teams should be forced to pay for utilities at the city's ball fields, and Berth's argument that preference should be given to hiring students over age 16 as park helpers rather than a 15-year-old who had been recommended by Parks and Recreation Director Lori Tonn.

During the Sine die meeting, Mayor Cathi Malke referred a Peshtigo Historical Society request for a street closure on Sept. 26 over to the Streets and Drainage committee for consideration and a Peshtigo Woman's Club request to reconsider fees for use of the Henry Drees Community Center to the Fire, Lighting and Building Committee.

Malke appointed Joel McGrath as a tenant board member to serve out the remainder of a 5-year term held by the late Mary Thibodeau on the Peshtigo Housing Authority board.

Malke acknowledged a letter from Peshtigo Lions Club thanking the city for supporting their latest fund raising event, the food stand during the Walleye Run. The letter said fishermen and many local citizens supported them for the 13 days the stand was open, and the run, along with the Fish Viewing Walkway, had drawn visitors from all over Wisconsin and surrounding states. "With the council's permission, we will definitely be back next year," stated Lions President Jim Tress. The letter included a $50 donation from the Lions Club to cover he cost of utilities for the two weeks the stand was open.

During time for public comment, Ryan Haulotte, on behalf of PYB, asked the council to vote in support of a long-standing tradition of paying the entire cost of utilities for the city's ball fields. He said at the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting earlier that day they had talked about what he felt was a directive from Berth that the baseball teams pay utility costs. That meeting had initially been scheduled for 4 p.m., but notice had gone out Monday changing the time to 10 a.m. The committee, which consisted of Schmidt, Behnke, and Sievert, voted unanimously in favor of a recommendation that the Council continues to pay utility costs, and Council voted in favor of that recommendation at its evening meeting.

After closed session interviews on Monday, April 19, the Personnel Committee had recommended hiring candidates for Parks and Recreational seasonal and summer labor positions as recommended by Tonn. Names of those selected were not released to the public, but when Behnke moved for approval Berth objected that there was a 15-year-old on the hiring list and he felt they should have given preference to 16-year olds because they can handle responsibilities that a 15-year old cannot, for example driving.

Malke told Berth that she wished he had brought that up at the Committee meeting, and both she and Schmidt expressed confidence in Tonn to make the best choices.

Schmidt asked what the 15-year-old could not do, that a 16-year-old could, other than drive.

Berth said a 15-year-old is not as mature as a 16-year-old.

Schmidt, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, said in her work for the YMCA she regularly hires kids and has found that maturity depends on the individual.

Behnke agreed maturity depends on the individual, and recalled back as far as the 1970s, the city has been hiring 15-year-olds as park helpers because they generally come back the next year already trained, while 16-year-olds often work only one year.

Berth argued that if they were all 16 or older there would be a level playing field.

Tonn, in support of her recommendation, declared they were talking about a 15-year-old who has purchased his own boat, and who worked for the parks department all last summer as an unpaid volunteer. "I felt it fair for him to earn a little money for the work he has been doing," Tonn declared and added that the campground host says he'd rather have him than anyone else.

Berth cast the sole vote against approving the hirings as recommended by Tonn.

Tonn asked Haulotte to speak when the time came for her report on Parks and Recreation Department activities.

Haulotte said at the committee meeting they had presented financials for 3 to 5 years and had given a list of all they and other ball-playing organizations have done for the fields for the past six years, including the Concession Stand that was built on one field at no cost to the city. They installed a backstop and fencing on field No. 2, fixed the drainage problem at Field No. 3, and made changes to be in compliance with ADA requirements. The Booster Club, Girls softball, PYB, Peshtigo High School, City of Peshtigo, and Peshtigo Asphalt are all working together in a joint effort to maintain and improve the baseball fields along with the area.

PYB and Girls Softball have hired someone to prepare fields for ball games but do need the city to cut grass and weed eat, clean bathrooms, etc., and the city has agreed to do that.

"You've made so many contributions," Malke told Haulotte. "We thank you for all you do. She and Behnke both noted the games bring visitors and campers to the city.

Schmidt also extended thanks to Haulotte for all he does for the city and for the Peshtigo ballfields.

Berth thanked Haulotte for attending the meeting, and declared he appreciated this discussion as "so transparent." He said under a previous Parks and Recreation director his questions were not answered.

Malke told Berth if he had attended the meeting that morning he would have heard all that. He asked if she meant the 4 p.m. meeting that happened at 10 a.m., and Haulotte noted Berth knew about the time change because he had mentioned the 10 a.m. meeting in a Facebook post the previous day.

Also on recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Committee, Council authorized Malke and Tonn to apply for a grant for blacktop and new bleachers at Field 2.

They also approved the name and sign for the Lions Club Recreational Park "Family Fishing Hole."

On the recommendation of Fire Chief Chuck Gardon, Council approved an Interlocal Agreement with nearby communities in Michigan for mutual aid similar to the MABAS system and approved the Fire Department memorandum of understanding with the DNR for fighting forest fires, with the sole change that "extended attack" means having personnel fighting the fire for anything more than an hour.

Committee assignments for the new Council, with several positions remaining unfilled until an alderman is selected to replace Leupp, are:

FINANCE AND CLAIMS: Debbie Sievert, Chairperson; Keith Klimek; and one open.

FIRE, LIGHTING, AND BUILDING: John Berendt, Chairperson; Rick Berth; open.

LICENSE AND POLICE: John Berendt, Chairperson; Brigitte Schmidt; open.

PARKS AND RECREATION: Brigitte Schmidt, Chairperson; Debbie Sievert; Keith Klimek.

STREETS AND DRAINAGE: John Berendt, Chairperson; Rick Berth; open.

JUDICIARY: Brigitte Schmidt, Chairperson; Debbie Sievert; Keith Klimek.

WATER AND SEWER COMMITTEE: Thomas Gryzwa, Chairperson; Fred Meintz, George Cowell (ex-officio), Dan Seymour, Becky Barrett, Secretary.

PESHTIGO RLF/UDAG LOAN FUND COMMITTEE: Dan Seymour, Glenn Seyfert, Thomas Gryzwa, Tom Maxwell, Debbie Sievert, Mayor Catherine Malke (nonvoting member), Tammy Kasal, Secretary.

BOARD OF APPEALS: Ronald Strojny, Kathleen Joy, Chairperson, Mary Seidl, Katie Berman, Jeffrey Hansen, Rita Gulbertson, Debbie Felker.

BOARD OF REVIEW: Mayor Catherine Malke, Assessor Jerry Pillath (nonvoting member), Clerk-Treasurer Tammy Kasal.

ETHICS COMMITTEE: Charles Gardon, Fred Meintz, Barbara Bauman, Gerald Valley, Mary Seidl, Michael Behnke, Brigitte Schmidt.

PLAN COMMISSION: Mayor Catherine Malke, Presiding Officer, George Cowell, Director of Public Works, Doug VanWinkle, Karen Pluff, Mary Lock, Marquita Limberg.

INDUSTRIAL PARK OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Mayor Catherine Malke, Chairperson, Debbie Sievert, John Berendt.

CITY APPOINTMENTS: City Attorney-David Spangenberg; Deputy Weed Commissioner-George Cowell; Fire Chief-Charles Gardon.

POLICE DISCIPLINARY REVIEW COMMITTEE: Sandra Eklund, Gerald Valley, Michael Behnke, Stanley Nogalski, and Ronald Strojny.

CITY OF PESHTIGO FIREFIGHTERS: Charles Gardon-Chief and Fire Inspector; Christopher Rohde-Assistant Chief-Fire Inspector; Joel Ahrens-2nd Assistant Chief-Fire Inspector; Joseph Bayer-Lieutenant; Firefighters David Swiatnicki, Duane Neuzil, Nicole Kempka, Katie Rohde, Eian Ehlert, Christopher Gardon, Brandon Lindsey, Shawn Northrop, Jacob Rohde, Edward Swanson, Kameron Hood, Eric Johnson, Nels Peterson; Michael Maus-Firefighters and Fire Inspector.

PESHTIGO HOUSING AUTHORITY COMMISSIONERS: Carol Belonga, Joel McGrath, Nancy Bucholtz, Sharon Anderson, Allen England.






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