The Park Falls Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to offer the position of city administrator-clerk to Brentt Michalek.
Michalek agreed to a oneyear, $82,000 contract beginning Sept. 1. The new position combines that of the former clerk-treasurer salary of $64,000 and the new administrator responsibilities.
The contract includes performance evaluations and after a year the council will have the option of reviewing before renegotiating, according to Mayor Michael Bablick.
"Brentt had the most technical expertise in government administration amongst all the candidates," Bablick said. "His interview went extremely well as far as personality and as far as what the council thought would work here. He also showed a very strong eagerness to move his family to Park Falls."
Michalek, from the Green Bay area, worked most recently as a permitting manager for
Mobilite LLC, a telecommunications infrastructure company, but served as interim administrative coordinator in Sauk County and previously as director of conservation, planning, and zoning for Sauk County and County of Emmet in Michigan, spanning 11 years.
"I was very pleased with the way Public Administration Associates facilitated everything," said Bablick. "I don't think I would change anything with the [hiring] process."
Michalek was one of four finalists considered for the job. Others included Jack Ardaugh, Lory Young, and Clark Schroeder.
If the plans go as Price County Clerk Jean Gottwald hopes voters will be casting their ballots on new voting machines in the 2020 elections.
The Price County Board room was lined with the existing machines Aug. 8, although Gottwald said the 13-year-old machines have little value as they are no longer produced and there is no vendor to repair the machines in the future and in fact no services are available at all.
Gottwald has been doing a lot of research on the latest in voting machines and has attended vendor's presentations to get a good grasp on what is the most economical and yet the sturdiest and most responsive of machines.
"We simply must have new machines before the 2020 election and I would like us to consider the option of helping out the municipalities get new machines too," she said. "All municipalities must have an ADA compliant machine."
After many years of counting ballots and collecting ballots from the towns until 3 a.m. she said she'd like to see everyone on the same page as the new machines, titled ImageCast Evolution, serve as both optical scanners of ballots and ballot marking and counting devices.
Information provided by Dominion Voting, the manufacturer of the ImageCast Evolution, states that the new machines provide complete transparency as the machine stores an image of every ballot cast.
"The voters might be surprised to know that it uses paper ballots," Gottwald said.
The Executive Committee members did not give Gottwald an argument about the need for dependable and easier to use machines, but the question of financing the purchase was raised.
She said there were several options but she is hoping the county will help municipalities
acquire a new machine.
"We can't force them to buy new machines. But, we could set up the payback for three years and then everyone would have the same machine for a cost of around $150,000 total to the county," she said.
Committee member Bruce Jilka said that there could be some polling places that could be shared and therefore mean buying fewer machines.
The optical scanners would assure a more precise manner of handling ballots and make the county's elections more secure, Gottwald said.
"These machines are not connected to the internet and in fact not connected to anything outside," she said. "The machine can read the paper ballot in six seconds."
Gottwald's presentation seemed to make good sense to the committee members and after some discussion it was decided that the county would absorb the total cost of around $150,000 into the tax levy. There will be 19 machines purchased for each polling place and everyone will have the same ballots which will make elections easier for everyone, the committee felt.
The committee also discussed bumping up courthouse security, in particular, the courtroom. It was noted that perhaps a single point of entry might make the courtroom safer.
County Administrator Nick Trimner said that the introduction of security cameras on every floor has already been made.
"It is not the judge or the DA that are asking for more security," Trimner said. "The state has ruled that we have to have a bullet-resistant barrier in the court to protect those who are working at the front of the courtroom."
However, he added that the metal barriers sold for that purpose are extremely expensive.
"But, we have to come into compliance," he noted. "So I came up with the idea of lining the area with some of the very thick, very heavy, unused law books from our library. A single layer of these will stop a bullet and a double layer will do it even better. If we encase these and get them lined up as needed we can save the county a great deal of money and be just as secure."
The obsolete law books were on display for the committee, showing how deeply the shells had penetrated the thick layer. Commercially produced barriers could cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000.
Northwoods Rail Transit Commission
The committee also heard an update related to the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission. County Board Chairman Bob Kopisch asked the committee if there was any shift in their opinions that the county should continue to opt out of the NRTC's membership. After some discussions about the lack of movement on the railroad's part, it was decided that the county should not rejoin the NRTC as they had made little progress and had not even recognized that Price County had opted out more than a year and a half ago. The cost to belong to the NRTC was $500.
The committee discussed the animal control contract at length and decided to reject all of the bids for the coverage. The county continues to establish the costs of sharing a Price County Sheriff's deputy to resolve the need for an animal control officer, and is likely to shelter animals at Catkins. The decision will likely be made in September as the current contract ends in October.
After two years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the Forward Elk Lake Park Splash Pad will open to the public on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 20.
The grand opening event will start at 5 p.m. in Elk Lake Park with the option of attendees to enjoy dinner, and concessions sold by the Red Apple Center. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m.
In the event of inclement weather, a rain date will be announced on the group's Facebook page.
After the grand opening, the splash pad will be open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., from the end of May through September.
The splash pad has a series of Northwoods-inspired features, and the area under the sprinklers is itself in the shape of a lilypad. Just beyond the wet zone, the splash pad is ringed by a series of benches so adults can sit and socialize while their children play. The splash pad's water features turn on when the button located on the splash pad is pressed, and each of the three different cycles run for three minutes in a slightly different pattern.
After spending much of the summer constructing the splash pad, the project's lead coordinator Kristen Harper told the Review Monday that the only task that remains is before opening is the surrounding landscaping. After the splash pad is closed for the season, the concrete will also be resealed.
The splash pad, which is city property and free for anyone
to use, has been entirely funded by voluntary donations and the planning and construction has been orchestrated by a group of community members who have volunteered their time and energy to the project.
The only cost to the city will be the electricity required to run the splash pad's water system, which Harper said is estimated at under $800 per year. The splash pad has its own well, and permitting has been received from the Department of Natural Resources to allow the water to run directly into Elk Lake. The city's crew will also help with winterizing the splash pad at the end of each summer, taking down all the fixtures before the snow flies. An annual community event — the Touch-A-Truck fundraiser — is planned to help cover those costs.
To date, $190,000 has been raised for the splash pad. Much of the physical labor required to construct the feature has been donated free of charge, greatly reducing the cost of creating the recreational area. In addition to the individuals who volunteered their time, many businesses also donated either ma terials or skilled labor for the project.
Harper said plans are in the works to recognize those who donated to the splash pad with a special plaque.
"When I first started this, I had no idea I would find myself chipping concrete or measuring elevations ... all the physical aspects of the project," said Harper, who also juggles running her own business and raising a family. "We've all certainly learned a lot — even about how our city government works, how DNR permitting works, how to manage a project ... it's been a really big and good learning experience."
Beyond offering a new recreational outlet to Elk Lake Park, Harper said the project has sparked a community spirit in many and inspired people to step up and make their visions for a better community a reality.
"I'm so proud of what we did as a group of young people — what we've accomplished as a community to all chip in for something that's a good cause," said Harper. "I think it's also helped get other people excited thinking about what they can do to make Phillips and Price County a better place, and I think that may be the best part."