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 allowing all members of the council to share communications from constituents and also add an official report from the interim and final city administrator,” 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 Dirrigl-Sawles 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.