Filling the newly created shoes of the Park Falls City Administrator continues to move forward after a special meeting of the Personnel Committee of the Whole approved hiring an interim administrator April 30.
Mayor Michael Bablick told members of the council that hiring an interim administrator would likely make the position more appealing to candidates who will understand that the groundwork has already gotten underway.
A second special meeting of the Personnel Committee of the Whole is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday to interview Steven Kubacki for the position of interim city administrator.
Kubacki is the current village administrator for the Village of Suamico, but will be retiring his post in a few weeks, according to Bablick, who has met with Kubacki before. Bablick said Tuesday morning he believes Kubacki has the
right experience, and that his home in Hurley and nearby cabin in Mercer are also positive signs.
Kubacki has spent nearly 40 years in public administration, working as administrator in Brillion, Germantown, Ashwaubenon, Chippewa County, and Suamico.
"I believe that Mr. Kubacki has the qualifications and skills needed to make the transition to the administrator form of government as smooth as possible," Bablick said Tuesday morning.
The interim position would bill hourly at $55 per hour and would be directed to do whatever needed to be done to prepare for the new administrator. It is hoped there can be at least a two-week overlap with the interim administrator and current city clerk Arla Homann before she retires June 13.
Bablick said he would like to see the city also hire a part-time person to take over the tasks at the front desk and work with the public and handle the phone. That part-time person would be the only additional staff created by transitioning to a fulltime city administrator.
The part-time clerk would need to be capable of handling accounts payable and assisting with collecting special assessments, delinquent utility payments or property taxes, and help with payroll duties.
"I think we should look at that position as fluid and look at how it comes together," Bablick said.
Bablick, Homann, and current deputy clerk-treasurer Michelle Smith have already begun the process of dividing up the job responsibilities.
Bablick said that he was told that the hiring process for the eventual administrator may take about 13 weeks, which would mean sometime around August.
Alderman Michael Mader said he has been doing some research on his own and those he has spoken with have questioned why Park Falls didn't have an administrator a long time ago.
"There are very few cities that don't have them," Mader said.
Also at the Thursday meeting will be interviews of four candidates who expressed interest in filling the vacant District 1 alderperson seat.
Council members are also expected to approve moving the regularly scheduled city council meeting from Monday, May 13 to Tuesday, May 14.
For years, the historic artifacts from the Town of Spirit have found a quiet resting place on the property of Michael and Toni Meier, located off German Settlement Road in the southeastern corner of the Price County.
Formerly the Liberty School (thusly named as it was constructed in 1919 shortly after the end of the first World War), the Meiers' house in a beautiful nod to the past — an open plan building where the marks of history can still be seen. The Meiers' property has long served as the perfect and natural location for the area's local connoisseurs of all things historic, the Spirit Historical Society.
Originally founded in 2003 by the Meiers as a way to preserve the history of their neighborhood, the organization was first dubbed German Settlement History. Yet as the years went on, the scope of the history covered by the organization expanded, resulting in its rechristening as the Spirit Historical Society last year.
The property is home to countless artifacts from the early settlement of the townships of Spirit and Hill, from the tools used in that era's industries to a beautifully constructed log-frame house built in 1885 by early Swedish settlers. Known fondly as the Yesterday House, the building is decorated as it would have been in the early 1900s, with cookery, decorative objects, furniture, and all the trappings of an early home.
Yet, after many years of growth on this property, the Spirit Historical Society will be relocating to a new site near the Spirit Town Hall off State Highway 86. In order to move closer to their children and grandchildren, the Meiers have sold their home and property in preparation for a move to the west coast.
According to the historical society's president Luann Lind, there is a critical need for funds to support the associated costs of moving the Yesterday House and building a new structure to house the society's artifacts. In total, the cost of the move and building project is estimated at $47,000 — far more than the society can afford.
Currently, the society holds one main fundraiser a year in order to pay for the maintenance of their facilities and artifacts, and the printing of a historic newsletter.
The event, an old-timey barn dance held in Luann and Darrel Lind's historic barn on their century farm, has been wildly popular, bringing together about 250 people for an evening of music, dancing, and socializing. There is also a silent auction and free refreshments. In order to attend the event, participants are asked to give a freewill donation at their own discretion. The barn is handicap accessible, so all can attend.
Lind said that one aspect that makes Spirit unique is the strong sense of community that still exists among neighbors, despite a diminishing population.
Many years ago, the Town of Spirit was a thriving community of immigrants, largely hailing from Germany and Sweden. People always loved an excuse to get together and socialize, something that holds true today, according to Lind.
Perhaps the reason why is because the formation of that community was hardwon.
When European settlers first arrived in southeastern Price County, the landscape couldn't have been a pretty sight. Stripped of its trees and tangled with stumps, it was a far cry from the posters that had advertised rolling fields ready for planting and a stream running through every property.
Yet it was land at a time when there was little else that held the same value; miles of unclaimed land that must have appeared near-limitless to those immigrants from long-settled European countries.
Some of those early settlers were the people that had come to work as lumberjacks, harvesting the mighty white pine and hemlock that towered in dense forests. When the trees were gone, they stayed, trading their saws and axes for plows and pitchforks. Other settlers came having bought their land sight-unseen.
In the early days, passenger trains ran as far north as Tomahawk and Merrill, and from there, people had to walk or ride (if they were lucky enough to own horses) the 12 miles to Spirit.
Far from being ready for planting, the land was tangled with stumps and roots, and the most productive crop the soil produced was an annual harvest of rocks.
Yet, tenacious and determined, the settlers carved a life for themselves and formed the thriving community of Spirit. In its heyday, the area was freckled with countless family farms hinged around the little town of Spirit. Four one-room schools served the neighborhood children, churches were built between fields, stores offered access to basic supplies, and a dance hall was the social hub of the community.
A living was not easily earned, and people farmed, logged, hunted and trapped. They shod their own horses and preserved their own food, making practically everything they used.
Today, that once-vibrant town is invisible, the only testament to its presence the faithful white Spirit United Methodist Church and the town hall building, nestled between corn fields.
Yet the history of the area and the strong spirit of community that binds this place together has been given a new life through the Spirit Historical Society's efforts.
Several years ago, the Meiers started a newsletter which aimed to keep that sense of community alive, chronicling local stories about the people that lived — and still live — in Spirit, along with historic photographs and information. Today, Lind has taken over the management of the newsletter, which is mailed to more than 500 residences at no charge.
The group also keeps an active Facebook page, which includes many of the 2,000-plus historic images of life in the area that have been collected and archived by the Spirit Historical Society, along with the family stories to go along with the photographs.
This month, the Spirit Historical Society will hold their 15th annual barn dance at the Linds' farm, which is located at N1169 German Settlement Road. Lind said she hopes to see many people in attendance, helping support the future of the historic society by their participation.
The dance will begin at 7 p.m. and run through midnight on Sunday, May 26.
People can also help support the historic society's mission by becoming members of the society. More information can be found online at www.spirithistoricalsociety.org or by calling Luann at 715-564-3340.