The Park Falls Common Council met Monday night for a session laced with both good and bad news.
Mayor Michael Bablick said the most pressing development was the tough reports coming out of the Flambeau River Papers mill over the weekend, as all production has been shut down and there is no rescheduled open date as the receiver continues to try to sell the business.
Rebecca DeMarb of the Madison law firm DeMarb-Brophy LLC was appointed receiver of Flambeau River Papers operations in May by the Price County Circuit Court. DeMarb said in an email Monday the plant was idled because the major customer/distributor of the mill did not make payment May 29, citing a soft market as their reason.
DeMarb said FRP is working on plans to resume "all or part of the production in the near term if at all possible, and to
move quickly toward a sale."
City Attorney Bryce Schoenborn said in a receivership situation, a third party handles the company's finances and employees can usually expect to be paid.
Bablick said he has been in contact with DeMarb and it is still hoped there's a very slim chance that buyers come through at the 11th hour.
Council members expressed concern for those left without jobs and now without wages.
Bablick said the city has packets of information prepared by the CEP office that will help guide the displaced workers.
"No matter what happens in the next few days, the employees should file for unemployment," Bablick said. "There is staff in the CEP office that can help those out of work and can help them file for benefits."
Council recognizes retiring clerk
In other business, it was the final council meeting for clerk-treasurer Arla Homann after 36 years of guiding the city. Her last day will be on Thursday, June 13.
She thanked the mayor and the council for their support over the years and for helping her work through the many projects that have been accomplished over the years.
Current deputy clerk Michelle Smith was promoted to the interim clerk-treasurer until the new administrator is in place, possibly in August. Smith will then be promoted to the finance director and clerk.
Council member Dennis Wartgow said that he has worked with Arla since the beginning.
"I have never seen her have a crabby day — not even one," Wartgow said.
The new interim City Administrator Steven Kubacki was in attendance and stated he is looking forward to his three months preparing the city for the transition to a council/mayor/administrator governmental structure.
He said he has used his first week to watch and observe the mechanics of city hall.
"The mayor has given me a list of seven or eight things that he wants me to work on," Kubacki said.
Bablick said that the two of them have been working with engineering firm MSA and have come up with a tentative map to be used for setting up TID districts.
"Ultimately this could be a really good development and redevelopment plan for the future," Bablick said. "This is just a draft encapsulating those properties that might be eligible."
He told the council that he would continue to work with Kubacki and Dave Rasmussen of MSA and bring back a more refined plan in either July or August.
Bablick said he'd like to make two changes to the regular agenda.
"I'd like to have an item llowing all members of he council to share comunications from contituents and also add an fficial report from the nterim and final city adinistrator," he said.
The old bleachers at the athletic complex were sold to the Colby Club for use during their annual tractor pull.
Council member Michael Mader said the club hopes to make around $12,000 on the event which in turn will be used for the Colby backpack program which provides food for students in need to get them through the weekend when there is no food in their homes.
Bablick said that the need to help those kids out is something most people are not aware of. He added that the Chequamegon School District has a backpack program already in place.
The athletic field's new bleachers are hoped to be installed in time for the football season, according to Mader.
A second field issue the city approved cost sharing with the Chequamegon School District for the athletic field not to exceed $4,000 starting on July 1.
It was noted that the current field caretaker Bob Mahn was commended for his diligent work.
"The beautiful condition of that facility reflects on the whole community," Wartgow said.
Sergeant Robert Zoubek, sitting in for Police Chief Jerry Ernst, said the past few weeks have been difficult days for the force.
He said May 29 officers responded to a call where a 33-year-old man appears to have taken his own life. The incident remains under investigation as either an accident or a suicide.
At the same time there was a 911 call from a residence including spousal assault and a weapon. Charges are pending on that report.
There was also a report of child abuse which remains under investigation.
Plans for Flambeau Rama moved forward as street closures were approved for the annual festival to be held as the necessary permits were presented.
A request for the use of the baseball field at the athletic complex for the fireworks to take place on July 4, with a rain date July 5, was also approved. The request was made on behalf of the DirriglSawles American Legion Post.
The council members also voted unanimously to approving nine license applications for Class B Retail Combination Fermented Malt Beverage and intoxicating liquor, and seven applications for Class A.
Editor Seth Carlson contributed to this report.
The Flambeau Hospital Auxiliary will open the doors to their new thrift store location at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 15, located in the former Sears building at 125 2nd Ave. North in downtown Park Falls.
This spring, the former Sears building was purchased by Flambeau Hospital in order to rent the space to the auxiliary. After more than two years of looking for a bigger, better location for the thrift store, the auxiliary has spent the last month loading up boxes of donated items and moving everything down the street from their former location on Division Street next to the Pal Cafe.
"It's been a lot of work, but it's happy work," said Jean Nelson, who serves as one of the store managers. While Nelson manages the layout of the store and donated items, fellow auxiliary Arlene Morrison helps organize the auxiliary's volunteers.
"We have so much room now," commented Nelson. "More items can be displayed and things aren't as piled on top of each other. There's a lot more room for organization."
The thrift store is the main funding mechanism for the FHA, whose mission is to support Flambeau Hospital by helping fund unbudgeted special needs. Each year, the thrift store brings in approximately $30,000 — the entirety of which (apart from rent and general upkeep costs) is donated toward specific hospital needs and healthcare education scholarships.
In recent years, the funds raised through the thrift store have helped fund everything from the canopy over the front of the hospital entrance to bariatric beds to specialized lab equipment.
While the thrift store was started in 1953, the roots of the auxiliary go back still further. The earliest version of the organization was formed in 1928 as the Friends of the Park Falls Hospital; a group of local women who helped out at the hospital by mending sheets and hospital gowns.
Over the years, the group's work grew and expanded, eventually resulting in the formation of the FHA.
Today the FHA is approximately 120 members strong, 40 of which are active volunteers while others are funding members.
In the days before the store's opening, those volunteers are hard at work, moving and setting up in their new space. Amidst the hustle of work, there is an excitement and between hanging clothes and carrying shelves, there is chatter as friends catch up and laugh together.
It's this sense of camaraderie that has keep the FHA alive and active all these years.
Cheryl Syzmik, one of the auxiliary's longest volunteers at 22 years, says it is the connections she's forged with her fellow volunteers and customers that keeps her involved with the group.
"I've worked at the till for years now, and I've met so many customers that way," she said. "After a while, I get to know their names, and sometimes even their children and grandchildren, too."
Nelson agreed, saying that the volunteers at the thrift store often become familiar with their regular customers, helping grow a sense of community.
Nelson first started volunteering with the thrift store 10 years ago, working a few spare hours whenever she drove into town from her Pike Lake area residence. Little by little, she found herself volunteering more and more, and eventually got together a group of friends from the Pike Lake area who carpool into town to spend a day working at the thrift store.
"It's fun," she said. "The people who work here are hardworking and we have a good time together. For a lot of us, it's a nice social experience. We catch up with one another as we work, and then we often go get lunch together afterwards."
For Ginny Bosse, who has been a volunteer for the past 12 years, the visible results of the auxiliary's fundraising work serve as the greatest motivation. Seeing the ways in which the auxiliary can directly help improve the medical resources in the little town has lit a fire in Bosse that many of the auxiliary volunteers have.
In addition to funding the hospital's work, the FHA gives a boost to firstyear college students pursuing careers in healthcare by offering annual scholarships up to $6,000.
The auxiliary also operates a program known as the mini medics, which allows second grade students from Chequamegon, Phillips, and Butternut — as well as homeschooled students — to exercise their curiosity while touring the hospital and learning about the different services offered there.
The FHA hopes the new, larger thrift store location will help boost their fundraising efforts, allowing for more support of hospital projects.
Nelson also pointed out that shopping at thrift store is more ecologically-friendly, giving used items a chance at a second life instead of ending up in a landfill. In addition to clothing, shoes, dishes, books, and house-wares, the thrift store will now be accepting donations of "hard furniture" such as bookshelves, tables, and chairs.
Nelson specified that donations should be clean and in working order. Adult clothing made of 50% or more cotton can be donated as rags if separated and marked as such.
Items such as baby car seats, college textbooks, computers, monitors, printers, TVs, mattresses, encyclopedias, college textbooks, microwaves, venetian blinds, exercise machines, electric blankets, heating pads, scratched or indented pots and pans, and upholstered furniture will not be accepted.
The thrift store will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
An investigation is ongoing at the Berwald farm in the Town of Ogema following an anonymous tip to law enforcement May 30.
According to the Price County Sheriff's Department call log, an anonymous caller reported May 30 witnessing at least a dozen dead farm animals of various types on the farm with cows down and dying and 20 to 30 dogs which were tied up without food or water. The caller stated many of the dead animals were in a ditch. The caller was very concerned for the welfare of the animals which included cows, horses, pigs, and others.
Officers responding to the farm found numerous dead animals that had not been properly buried, according to a June 7 press release by Price County officials.
Staff from various Price County departments responded to the scene to assess the living animals and properly dispose of the dead animal carcasses, according to the release.
No confirmation on the species or number of deceased
animals was given in the release.
A veterinarian also evaluated the health of animals on the farm, two of which were euthanized, according to officials.
One dog required medical care and was removed from the farm by the county's animal control officer.
On June 6, a veterinarian with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection inspected the animals and found no evidence of any serious or unusual contagious livestock diseases.
The county is reportedly working with the farm owners to help provide proper care for the remaining animals.
There is an ongoing investigation into potential charges of violating state law and county ordinances pertaining to proper animal care, abandonment of animals, and disposal of dead animals.
Farm owners Calvin Berwald and Sara Tvedt are currently facing several other charges regarding improper animal care, dating back as far as three years ago.
Tvedt has eight unresolved charges of failure to control animals, one violation of the Price County ordinance on disposal of dead domestic animals, and two charges of improper animal shelter strength. She was found guilty in 2017 of two counts of failure to control animals in Price County.
Berwald has five unresolved charges of failure to control animals, two charges of allowing a dog to run at large, one charge of improper animal structure strength, and one charge of resisting or obstructing an officer.