The Park Falls Common Council met in its August session for what is likley the last time with Steve Kabuki as the interim city administrator.
"I want to thank the council and the community for being so helpful during my short tenure," Kabuki said Aug. 12. "The mayor, the department heads and everyone I've had contact with have been right there for me and made things easier. This is really a top notch council and it has been a great experience."
Kubacki stepped forward to serve as administrator in the interim between the retirement of long time Clerk Arla Homann and the naming of an new administrator-clerk, which took place last week.
Brentt Michalek will begin his term as administrator-clerk when city offices reopen after Labor Day, Sept. 3. It was noted that Kabuki has not been sitting still during his time with the city and many were surprised
at his many accomplishments, including doing the groundwork for the possibility of new TIF districts.
Mayor Michael Bablick reminded the attendants that he is going to be paying more attention to parliamentary procedure by making certain that citizens speaking from the floor are recognized before they may speak.
At long last, the bleacher project at the athletic facility is completed.
Mike Mader, one of the council members who worked very hard to spearhead the effort to replace the old and possibly unsafe bleachers said that the new bleachers were installed recently and that he has heard many positive comments from residents. The previous bleachers were not ADA compliant.
"We'd like to thank the entire community for allowing us to make the field safer for everyone," Mader said. "We now have six spots for wheelchairs or those using walkers. These will serve the community for a long time to come."
The newly established, Forward Bank in Park Falls put the fundraising efforts over the top by contributing $60,000. For one of the first times in many years, the Chequa-megon School District and the city came together in a strong partnership to make improvements at the field.
Council member Dina Boucachek asked the mayor about what had happened to an earlier decision to keep semi trucks and loggers out of the downtown truck routes.
"I thought we were getting some signage to indicate to the truckers where to go to get around our downtown," Boucachek said.
Public Works Director Scott Hilgart responded that the signs have just come in and the placement of the signs was underway.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Harvey Sampson said that he had provided the city with a list of houses that needed some improvements to their exteriors.
"I don't know what happened to that list." he said. "There are so many houses that are really run down and they look like salvage yards. I think we have some ordinances to help the city zoning inspector begin to enforce our ordinances."
Sampson said the city needs to keep up with its ordinances regarding old cars and junk around buildings and added that he believed there is funding to help those who can't afford to make repairs.
Kabuki told Sampson that the city will be looking at the buildings to determine what the wishes of the community would be and that the council will be making a priority of this in the next budget.
"There are some incentives out there for repair," Kabuki said.
Setting the lines of the new TIF district may help, he added.
Bablick said that the planning for the TIF #5 is well underway. There will be an upcoming meeting in September to discuss the goals for the projects. The council agreed to continue to work with MSA under the first two phases of the TIF including the environmental portions.
Bablick said that the lines within the TIF designations mean that those districts are ready to welcome new development and that the areas are free of contaminations.
"When developers ask if we have any land ready to be purchased we can tell them yes," Bablick said.
When a community has property at the ready it tends to grow the district more quickly. Bablick said TIF districts are major economic drivers.
"We will be going over the work to get this project underway," he added.
City Clerk Michelle Smith said that there had been some concerns about the voting machines used by city residents at the poll and how the city would be able to afford new machines.
"I received a call from Jean Gottwald, Price County clerk and she advised me that the county executive committee had decided to go ahead and purchase machines for the 19 polling places and to pay for those machines," Smith said. "I was delighted to hear that."
The county stepping forward to finance those new machines will provide all municipal polling places with the same machine that works as an optical scanner on paper ballots.
"I am sure you'll hear some push back from voters who are concerned about ballot security," Smith said. "But, we've looked at these machines and we decided they were going to provide a way to get those ballots counted and not have any connection to anything outside of the plug in the wall for the power. These machines will in no way be able to be connected to the internet or other outside sources."
Smith said that she and other election workers will be able to feel secure with the new machines that take a photograph (optical scan) of every ballot.
The Park Falls Area Community Development Corporation has chosen Park Falls Building & Hardware as its 2019 Business of the Year. The award ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 28 at the store at 645 4th Ave. North.
The business originated in Stratford 65 years ago, where Ralph Chrouser was operating a coal service. When customers kept requesting 2x4s he began bringing in units of lumber via rail to fill the need. According to family lore, the rail cars would be stacked to the top with lumber and the smallest worker was sent inside to push out one board at a time until the load could be more easily emptied. Chrouser eventually partnered with Joe Burger Sr. and Jens Casperson when they branched out into running a full-service lumberyard and a construction business.
In 1980 Chrouser and Casperson decided to establish a business presence "up north" and asked Ralph's son, John Chrouser, and associate Al Grassl if they would be willing to move and operate it. John had been injured during a building project and was sent to the company's Edgar location, which was floundering a bit. He managed to turn the Edgar store around financially, thus seemed a good choice for the new Park Falls location. And so it was a new start for the young Chrouser and Grassl families after the company purchased a small lumberyard from Charles "Chick" and Marlene Owen. It began as a lumber company, Park Falls Building Supply, with a small amount of hardware available. Within a few years, construction crews were added and the company began to offer home construction.
Remodeling took place in 1994 with the store's footprint being almost identical to that of the present day. In 2014, just as John Chrouser and Al Grassl were contemplating retirement, or at least cutting back on their work hours, fire destroyed the interior of the main building. A decision had to be made: remodel or throw in the towel. Remodeling was undertaken, allowing the store room to offer a broader range of hardware items to the community while still offering lumber and other building supplies.
The store's name was changed from Park Falls Building Supply to Park Falls Building & Hardware.
This year marks the 40th year in business for the Park Falls location. John Chrouser has been on board for all of those 40 years. He is once again reducing his work hours and passing the torch to his children, Al Chrouser and Carrie Chrouser. At present there are also between 10 and 15 full-and part-time employees at the business.
The younger generation of Chrousers hope to maintain the same community relationship that has been in existence from the beginning — one of customer satisfaction and support of various organizations including local schools, police and fire departments, plus area events and celebrations.
Hors d' oeuvres and refreshments will be served following the awards ceremony.
A leaky public water system continues to dog the City of Phillips, according to a report given by the city's wastewater treatment plant superintendent Todd Toelle at the Aug. 6 committee of the whole meeting.
Another water leak — estimated at 1,440 gallons a day — was discovered in the city. Toelle reported the water pipe had been shut off to prevent further loss of water, and the homeowner contacted to resolve the issue.
A different water leak — also estimated at 1,440 gallons a day — which was originally raised at the city's July meetings, made another appearance on the Aug. 6 agenda. The leak, which is reportedly located under the house located at 241 Germania Avenue, had not yet been resolved at the time of the meeting.
City attorney Bruce Marshall provided the city council members with copies of a letter that was dispatched to the homeowner, which gave a deadline of Tuesday, Aug. 13 for the homeowner to hire a contractor to resolve the issue or have their city water supply turned off permanently.
"Not only is it against the law, it is also a ridiculous waste of resources and it is only a matter of time until something disastrous happens at that property," Marshall told the council.
Toelle reported that the homeowner next door has been having water issues as well, and the neighboring ground is completely saturated with water.
Exotic pet ordinance sent to public hearing
The city's exotic pet ordinance — specifically, the section pertaining to the keeping of pet snakes within city limits — will be the topic of a public hearing, scheduled for 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 3 at City Hall.
The issue first came into question back in June, when city resident Patrick Parry requested the council revise the ordinance to accommodate the natural growth of constrictor snake breeds. The ordinance — which was passed in 2010 — prohibits the possession of constrictor snakes over the length of 36 inches. Parry is the owner of a ball python snake, which he said could grow to five feet in length and live to 30 years.
In June, Parry pointed out
that the side effect of the city's current ordinance is that once pet snakes surpass the 36 inches, they must either be put down or relocated outside city limits. Parry asked the city to consider revising the ordinance to reflect the length such animals can attain.
The topic was postponed in June and July until Parry could collect information for the council on how neighboring municipalities restrict constrictor snakes.
At the Aug. 6 meeting of the committee of the whole, Parry provided the council with Wausau's ordinance, which allows snakes up to 10 feet in length while excluding certain breeds that are likely to exceed that length. He said he had found that many municipalities don't have clear laws on the ownership of snakes.
Parry said he is aware of other snake owners within city limits who own snakes capable of attaining lengths of five feet or more. While the city's ordinance currently required snake owners to register their pets, city clerk Shelby Prochnow informed the council that there have been no snakes registered within the city limits during her tenure with the city.
Parry pointed out that most pet snakes will eventually surpass 36 inches in length. He said that if the council were to restrict — which he noted he would prefer they did not — he believed the 36 inch mark was the wrong length to restrict to.
City alderman Dick Heitkemper voiced his opinion that ownership of all constrictor snakes should be prohibited within city limits. Heitkemper stated that his viewpoint came from conversations with people in town, including law enforcement and emergency responders.
"There are people in emergency services that don't want to be around snakes within a hundred miles," said Heitkemper. "If there is an emergency in that house, one of the things we need to contend with is if ... [an EMT] were to go into that house and be deathly afraid of snakes, [they] may choose not to go into that house because of [their] own fears.
"I don't see a positive that can come out of this. There are 101 different pets you could have and I realize you chose to have this ... but if we have the sayso, I certainly would recommend we restrict both [venomous and constrictor] animals altogether. I think we should redo the ordinance and eliminate constrictor and venomous snakes completely from the city."
Community member Waldemar Madsen, who was in attendance at the meeting, commented that just because someone has a fear of snakes, he didn't believe that is a good reason to prohibit snakes from the city.
The city's engineer Mike Stoffel also weighed in, saying that the city may wish to consider the health and safety of their own employees — from emergency services to water department — while making the decision whether or not to restrict such exotic pets from the city.
A motion was made by alderman Bill Elliott that the ordinance be le_ as it currently is, seconded by alderwoman Laura Tomaszweski. The motion failed during a roll call vote when aldermen Jerry Clark, Dick Heitkemper, John Vlach, and John Klimowski voted against leaving the ordinance as is.
Several council members voiced the opinion that the public should be allowed to weigh in on the issue before any significant revisions were made to the ordinance. A second motion was made by Klimowski to send the ordinance to a public hearing with no further restrictions at this time. It was passed unanimously by the council.
Ordinance revision for snow emergencies
The city council approved a revision to the city parking ordinance to accomodate for snow emergencies, such as was seen in the winter of 2018-19.
The added language to the ordinance allows the city to tow vehicles that are not moved from the streets prior to snow storms. The new language calls for the public to be notified of such conditions via social media, radio, and other available media outlets.
Alderman Jerry Clark suggested that in addition to using social media, the radio, and other forms of media, temporary signs be placed on either end of State Highway 13 to notify people.
The resolution was unanimously passed by the council members present.
Citizens give public comment
A variety of issues were raised by members of the public during the city's August meetings. No formal action was taken by the council on any of the issues raised, as most were public comment items.
Local veterinarian and owner of North Country Vet Clinic Lynn Ludwig commented that she would like to help improve the area to help bring in new employees for her business. While Ludwig commended the city on their forward progress, she said that industrial businesses along the downtown strip such as Hilgy's LP Gas may devalue the city aesthetically and potentially cause risk to the community.
Ludwig requested the council reconsider the issue, which has been raised in the past. It will appear on the agenda for next month's committee of the whole meeting, as well as the Phillips planning commission.
Community member Waldamer Madsen raised concerns about cats running at large in his neighborhood on Flambeau Avenue. Madsen said that while he had already reported the issue to the police department, he wanted to notify the city council as well.
Police Chief Michael Hauschild responded that the county's contracted animal control officer has been notified and will capture any cats running at large.
Local business owner Bill Ball, who runs the BP gas station in town, gave public comment at the Aug. 13 common council meeting. Ball requested that the council consider penning a letter to Verizon regarding the dubious cell phone service in town, also suggesting the city look into installing a new tower in town.
Ball also said he would like to see the city raise the age limit on purchasing electronic cigarettes to 21 years of age. Currently, anyone age 18 or older can purchase the devices. He said that as a business owner who sells such products, he would like to see them kept out of the hands of school-age individuals.
Mayor Charles Peterson said that in order for the council to take any action on such an issue, it would need to be made a formal action item. The topic will likely appear on the September meeting agenda.
City waives extraterritorial jurisdiction
Jack Akers of Secluded Land Company, a southern Wisconsin-based land acquisition company, was present at the city's committee of the whole meeting to provide the council with information about plans for a stretch of land located off of County Highway H.
Akers said that the certified survey maps for property, which has been divided into 1.5 acre lots extending down to the river, have been submitted to and approved by the county zoning administrator.
While the land falls within the Township of Worcester, it is within a mile and half of the city's boundaries, which means that it is under the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city, according to Marshall. This gives the city the right to have a say in any certified survey maps that apply to that area.
The purpose of this extraterritorial zone, according to city engineer Mike Stoffel, is that should the council be planning additional projects on the perimeter of the city limits, this allows the city the right to reserve right-of-way for roadway.
Heitkemper commented it seemed the only time this would come into play would be if the city were to someday choose to annex the land and install city water and sewer, which seems unlikely at this time.
The council adopted a resolution approving the certified survey map for Secluded Land Company.
* An agenda item regarding the possible creation of a draft ordinance regarding the keeping of chickens within city limits was forwarded to the planning commission.
* The council unanimously authorized the Department of Public Works to start replacing the wood chips in all city parks with longer lasting rubber mulch, based on funding availability. Elk Lake Park will be the first park to receive this change.
* The city council referred the city's existing fencing ordinance and lot setbacks ordinance to the Phillips planning commission, after city attorney Bruce Marshall brought the city's current chart to the attention of the council. The chart, which dates back to 1990, is confusing and unclear — making it difficult for either Marshall or the city clerk to interpret what it means.
* During his monthly report on the Phillips Police Department, Hauschild noted that after a part-time officer resigned, a new individual has been hired. As of the Aug. 6 meeting, Hauschild reported that the Park Falls Police Department was in the hiring process for a part-time officer, which the two departments may be able to share.
* The council adopted a temporary policy, prohibiting smoking anywhere in the near vicinity of the new splash pad in Elk Lake Park. The council defined a broad zone in which smoking will be prohibited until a more permanent non-smoking zone is established, following review by the recreation committee. Signs will be posted in Elk Lake Park notifying visitors to the park of the temporary policy and prohibited smoking zone.
* A financial plan for the repair of the City Hall roof was presented at the Aug. 6 meeting by Brian Ruechel of Baird, the financial services company the city utilizes. The council voted unanimously to move forward with the financial plan. The issue will be revisited in September.
* A closed session was held at the end of the committee of the whole meeting in order to consider applications for the position of deputy clerk/treasurer.