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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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BPM Seeks Answers On Removal Of Sewer Line

Issue Date: April 13, 2022

During time for public comment at the Peshtigo City council meeting on Wednesday, April 6, BPM Inc General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz asked for answers to a number of questions in connection with removal of the river crossing sanitary sewer line that crosses the paper mill property. The issue has been a bone of contention between the city, the mill and the city's Water and Sewer Committee for many, many months.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting Koronkiewicz had provided city officials with copies of a prepared statement, an invoice from BPM, Inc. for a total of $509,418.50, based on charges of $72,350 per month for use of the mill property for the city's main sewer line across the Peshtigo River.

The city's utility has been laying plans for a new river crossing sanitary sewer line, and BPM, Inc. has constructed its own on-site wastewater treatment facility, which is now in operation.

At the start of his comments, Koronkiewicz reminded the Council that a year ago BPM asked the city to discontinue use of the water and sewer line crossing its property, and commented, "It appears the city is not taking this seriously."

"We're working to come to an amicable solution to this," Koronkiewicz said, but concluded that if this not corrected soon the issue may need to be "decided by an impartial third party."

"BPM Inc is requesting a meeting to discuss future developments with the movement/removal of the sanitary sewer line that crosses our property," Koronkiewicz said in the written statement to the Council.

The letter went on, "While it is encouraging to understand that the city has approved the construction of a new sanitary sewer line that will be located off the BPM premises few, if any, details of the project have been shared, at least not with BPM. BPM has been regularly attending Water and Sewer Committee meetings or otherwise reaching out to the city, but to date, few if any concepts, details, timelines or other particulars of the sewer project have been shared with BPM..." Koronkiewicz said for obvious reasons BPM is frustrated with the uncertainty this has created.

The letter said BPM believes there are a number of issues remaining to be resolved between BPM and the City, "...and (we) would like to try to resolve them amicably and efficiently."

Open issues cited in the letter include, in regard to the sanitary sewer system, target date for construction of the new sewer line, date to discontinue using the existing sewer line, and timeline for the city to provide BPM with a proposed plan for removal or abandonment of the sewer line, with a stipulation that plans and access are to be approved by BPM.

Also, compensation to BPM for the City's continued use/occupancy of BPM's property, unpaid invoices of the City from BPM and to BPM from the city, and finally, "releases, exposure and indemnification."

In regard to the storm sewer system, the letter asked the duration of BPM's continued permission to allow the city to maintain the storm sewer.

"We'd like to get a date on the calendar for a representative(s) of the City to discuss with our attorney, Mr. Azzar and representatives of BPM on all open issues," Koronkiewicz' letter concluded. "We'd like to have these discussions sooner, rather than later and, ideally, in the first half of April."

In accord with City Council policy and Open Meetings Law rules, there was no response to Koronkiewicz letter or comments, since the mater was not on the Council agenda for Wednesday's meeting.

The regular monthly City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 1 included a closed session discussion on "Wastewater Treatment /Sewer/River Crossing." That meeting lasted half an hour, and after returning to open session, Council unanimously approved a motion... "based on current information to approve Plan 3 as described by Ruekert and Mielke, Inc.'s Alternative Sanitary Sewer River Crossing Evaluation Study dated 10/05/2021."

Ruekert and Mielke, Inc. have long served as consultants on City of Peshtigo water and sewer utility projects.

Before that meeting adjourned, City Attorney David Spangenberg and Mayor Cathi Malke thanked the Water and Sewer Committee for all the extra time and hours they had spent and the work they had put in. No details were made public as to findings or recommendations of the study.

A meeting of the Water and Sewer Committee on March 22 again included a closed-door executive session on "Town of Peshtigo Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment/Sewer/ River Crossing." There was no action taken after the closed session and no information made public on what the committee discussion involved.

Meanwhile, the city is without a Director of Public Works since the retirement of George Cowell became effective on March 1. In addition to care and maintenance of city streets and buildings, the Public Works Director in Peshtigo is also responsible for overall operation of the Water and Sewer utilities. Applications to fill the position have been scarce.

At a meeting on Thursday, March 24 the Council's Personnel Committee agreed to recommend updating the job description and then advertise again, with applications due by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. After being assured the Water and Sewer Committee did not object, Council approval Wednesday night was unanimous. Copies of the revised job description were included in the council packet. An engineering degree and three years of management and/or administrative experience are among the requirements.

The city will soon be losing another valued public works/utility employee. In a letter dated Thursday, March 31, Jeff Thompson informed the city that he will be retiring effective June 3, but due to using his 32 days of vacation time and two days of comp time before his retirement becomes official, his last day on the job will be Thursday, April 14.

"It has been a wonderful 34 years and I appreciate everyone I have worked with over the years. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Peshtigo for all these years," Thompson said in his retirement letter.

"Jeff Thompson will be sadly missed," declared Malke. "Not many people would regularly get up at 2 a.m. to fix water main breaks. He was always very dependable!"

The city is now seeking someone to fill a Public Works laborer position. Applications are due by Wednesday, April 20.

Malke had asked outgoing County Board Supervisor Mike Behnke, who also was a long-time Alderman on City Council, to be at the meeting to accept thanks for his many years of service to the City of Peshtigo and its residents. Behnke did not seek re-election at the voting on Tuesday, April 5, and his 20 years of representing parts of the city on County Board will end later this month. Including his time on City Council before being elected to County Board, Behnke has held elective offices in Peshtigo for 34 years. He remains the Peshtigo/Porterfield representative on the Marinette County Elderly Services Board of Directors.

Malke's thanks to Behnke for all he has done drew a standing ovation from everyone present.

It was the final full meeting for Aldermen John Berendt and Richard Berth III. Berendt did not seek return to office, and will be replaced by Allen England. Berth was defeated by Chris Rohde. The Council's reorganizational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19. The current council will conclude its business during the first portion of that meeting and then adjourn "sine die," after which the new board members will be seated and begin their terms in office. Alderman Katie Berman was unopposed in the election, and will be sworn in for a new 2-year term on the council, as will England and Rohde.

In other action at the April 6 meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Lori Tonn updated the council on progress toward dismantling the old Playscape at Badger Park and replacing it with an all new playground. She said Jim Wortner reaffirmed that he will be assisting in the takedown of Badger Park Boardwalk and preparing the site for the new playground, for which equipment is to be delivered in two weeks. Target for closing the existing Boardwalk playground is Monday, April 25, and installation of the new playground is scheduled to start on Monday, June 27.

Tonn thanked Eugene Frank and all the volunteers who recently worked for two days straight on the weekend of March 25 and 26 cutting down and removing 20 dead trees from Badger Park Campground. Volunteers in who assisted with the tree removal project included Carl Malke, Pat Spangenberg, Scott Walters, Drew Monnette, Angie Laack and Eugene Frank's grandson, Logan Frank.

With Berth casting the sole opposing vote, Council approved a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Committee to pay $20 per hour for certified fitness class instructors, and retain the current $12 per hour pay for uncertified seasonal Parks and Recreation instructors. Alderman Keith Klimek was absent.

Before the vote, Berth had how much time this instructor would work, and Tonn said it will likely be three to four hours a week. To further questions from Berth, Tonn said the person she expects to hire is an instructor from Marinette who has more than 20 years' experience conducting these types of exercises, and was the only applicant for the job in Peshtigo.

Tonn had explained at the March 21 Committee meeting that these exercise classes will be targeted to senior citizens and other adults. The classes are basically self supporting, with enrollment fees covering the costs. Classes will be held at the Drees Community Center or Badger Park Beach, or both.

Without dissent, Council approved a Finance & Claims Committee recommendation authorizing Tonn to change the bid specifications for the long-awaited new restrooms and concession stand at Ballfield No. 4 and advertise for proposals for a maximum of four weeks. There had been only one bid submitted after the first round of advertising, and it was for considerably more than the Parks and Recreation Committee had expected to spend.

Michael and Michele Winkler own the property at 240 Cranberry Ave., for which the city holds an easement for a sewer line to Ballfield No. 4. The line has been closed since a sewer backup flooded their basement six years ago and the ballfield has been served by port-a-potties since. A grant that is expected to pay half the cost of new restrooms and concession stand has been approved, but not yet received.

At the Water and Sewer Committee meeting on March 22 Michele Winkler explained they want to know when the easement will be utilized, and were told it will be done when finances are available and designated.

The Winklers brought their question to the Council during time for public comment at the start of the April 6 meeting. Winkler said they were asking for better communication from the city as to when the work will take place.

"I'm not mad, and I'm not upset," he said, "but I am confused by all this changing of the rules."

He had attempted to speak during public comment at a previous Council meeting, but was told by Malke that he had to go to a committee first, because he his subject was not on the agenda.

Malke said she tried to put him on the agenda, but he did not respond to her e-mail. Winkler said he did. He also asked why they had been put on the Water & Sewer Committee meeting agenda when this is not a Water & Sewer issue.

It was later in the meeting that Council approved re-advertising for bids for the proposed restroom/concession stand project, and authorized Tonn to revise specifications if necessary. Tonn later said bids are being accepted until 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, and if they still come in too high, she may need to look at doing the project in segments, or doing some changes in specifications as authorized by the committee.

Berth asked why they didn't just go forward now with the restroom portion of the plan, and was told the project can only be awarded by bid, or the grant will not cover any of the cost.

In other action, Council approved Water & Sewer Committee recommendations to approve a quote from Fiberglass solutions LLC for $10,741 for reconditioning an FRP tank; a bid from Waste Water Treatment Facility valves from Sabel Mechanical LLC for $32,957, and a proposal from KLM Engineering, Inc. for water tower inspection and cleaning at a cost of $5,600.


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