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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Committee To Study Rental Fees, WiFi For Drees Community Center

Issue Date: January 13, 2022

After nearly an hour of discussion on at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, the City of Peshtigo Fire, Lighting and Building Committee agreed they want to get WiFi installed at the Drees Community Center. They also agreed to do some more research before changing rental fees there, or altering the list of organizations that use it without cost.

Mayor Cathi Malke invited non-profit organizations to use the Council Chambers for meetings at no charge whenever the space is not needed for city meetings. Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal commented the Municipal Building has to be cleaned and heated anyway, so there is no added cost, and the Council Chambers are generally vacant.

The Drees Center rental fees had been discussed at some length at committee meetings before the rates currently in effect for local non-profit groups were included in the 2022 budget as they were when set in 2014. There had been concern that maintenance of the Drees Center had exceeded income by more than $8,000 for the prior year.

Current rates are $15 for the small room, $20 for room A or B, and an additional $15 for full use of the kitchen. Regular users at these rates are the DAV, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and VFW. Groups allowed to use it at no charge are the Peshtigo Woman's Club for its Memorial Day Luncheon only, plus Boy Scouts, Peshtigo Historical Society, Peshtigo Senior Citizens, and Riverside Cemetery Association. Lockers are also available at the Drees Center for $5.

Marinette County Elderly Services has a separate agreement through which they pay $20 per day for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 8 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., to prepare and serve breakfast and lunch for senior citizens. The Peshtigo Senior Citizens organization uses it at no charge for card playing and socializing after the meal times are done.

Mary Lock said the Womans Club has been meeting monthly at Brown's but would like to use the Drees Center because it is larger and they could do social distancing. "I don't have a problem with whatever you say, as long as we're clear on it," she told the committee.

Katie Berman said she would not be against charging everyone $20 across the board. She also said she would like to see the groups using the Drees Center free continue to do so, but charge at least $15 for everyone else. Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal said Riverside Cemetery is subsidized by the city, and if they were charged they would just ask the city for more money.

Malke invited the Womans Club and other groups to use the Council Chambers free. She also asked why the committee would not include the Historical Society and veteran's groups like the American Legion, VFW and others to use the Drees Center free in addition to the other groups that are allowed to do so.

Malke said comments she made at a meeting of this committee two months ago had gotten turned around and misquoted on Facebook and elsewhere.

Malke asked Richard Berth why he felt veterans should pay, and Berth responded the city is losing money on the building every year, and if that keeps up, "soon it will not be open to anybody."

"I will personally pay the fees for the American Legion and other veterans' groups," Berendt declared, and then added, "At the end of the day, somebody has to pay every time that building is used."

Parks and Recreation Director Lori Tonn asked how they choose which groups get it free. She suggested the Woman's Club raises funds and donates to the city anyway, and if the city charges every time they may go elsewhere and pay there. She added the Drees Center was built to be used by civic groups, and should be used for that.

Berth felt everybody should be charged something.

Malke suggested the city, or some organization in it, could hold a fund raiser to help pay so all the organizations would be using the center free. She volunteered to start a committee to look into that. Berman and Berendt offered to work with her.

At Berendt's suggestion, that problem was set a side, with agreement that it will be brought back in February or March. Berendt is not seeking re-election and will no longer be a member of City Council or its committees after his term ends in April. "I'd like to get something finalized on this before I'm done," he told the committee.

WiFi for the Drees Center was a separate issue. There was discussion on why other groups cannot use the WiFi the Elderly Services already has there for its meal site, and agreement the city should try to partner with them, and offer to pay the difference in costs, if any.

Mike Behnke, a former Peshtigo alderman and current Supervisor representing Peshtigo on Marinette County Board, is also a member of the Elderly Services Committee on Aging, was on hand, and offered to help. He explained Elderly Services and its Senior Citizens group are independent non-profit organizations, and not directly related to Marinette County or its Aging And Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC).

Berendt said they should also get quotes from other Wifi providers for service there. He asked Kassal to have some additional information for the next committee meeting, which is set for 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.


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