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Neillsville Continues Discussion on City Dog Park

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 -- 11:00 AM


Neillsville’s potential dog park was the main topic of discussion during the Neillsville Common Council meeting.

One of the items on the agenda was a veto of the approval of a dog park from the previous council meeting. During the appearances portion of the meeting, resident Jon Counsell stated that he read Mayor Diane Murphy’s reason for the veto being the agenda item, at the July 13, 2021 Common Council meeting, “Discussion and action on Neillsville Dog Park,” did not sufficiently notify the public for discussion and action that was taken.

Jon Counsell stated he raised the question if the agenda was specific enough at the April 22nd 2021 joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Park and Recreation Board when the agenda listed future improvements to public property-Friends of the Black River, the Dog Park, draft Trailhead Plan-Neillsville Improvement Corporation and MSA Engineering, future City and NIC Coordination, and the City to become a co-signer on a DNR grant application.

Jon Counsell stated a motion was made to adjourn the meeting, it died, and that meeting could have been rescheduled, but Mayor Murphy stated people are here for us to get their thoughts on things. Why was the April 22nd, 2021 meeting agenda good enough and the July 13th, 2021 not sufficient?

Is it hypercritical or a double standard? Mayor Murphy has to answer that. The agenda item could have been rescheduled and wording fixed, then a Veto would not have been necessary, it could have been avoided.

Mayor Murphy then explained her reason for the veto stating the agenda item “Discussion and action on Neillsville Dog Park” did not sufficiently notify the public for the discussion and action that was taken.

This agenda item was not appropriate for informing the public as to the intent of the subject matter presented at the 7-13-21 Common Council Meeting. City Attorney Bonnie Wachsmuth stated that the Council’s vote options include a vote to override this is an action requiring 2/3 of the total number of Council Members, or 4 out of 5, table action on the veto to a different date, or take no action and the veto stands and the previous action is voided. No action was taken, so the veto stands.

Mayor Murphy stated the next step is forming a committee to study the need, costs and location of a future dog park. Alderman Julie Counsell made a motion to not create a new committee and instead refer the issue of a dog park to the Parks and Recreation Board, to work with the existing Ad Hoc committee, to gather information, formulate a plan, and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and Common Council.

The item received a second, but Council Member Dan Clough asked that the people be allowed to talk before the vote. Peter Winistorfer stated that there is a motion and a second to not form a Committee. The Dog Park Committee has done its due diligence, and the appointed Board should work with the Committee.

Bob Johnson stated that he surveyed his neighbors; eight residents have ten dogs and seven of them won’t use a dog park. How is the Police Department going to police it?

Council Member Joe Neville stated we don’t need a committee. This has been stalled for more than a year and a half. Take it to the Parks and Recreation Board again and again to keep it going. The Dog Park Committee needs closure.

Council Member Dave Harnisch stated that we have two letters here from people being interested in being on a committee-Mandy Krejci and Denise Czarnecki. Formalize a committee with more members.

City Attorney Wachsmuth stated a City committee is subject to open meeting law and agendas and Ad Hoc committee is not part of the public agenda. Jon Counsell stated it should be refered to the Parks and Recreation Board. Let them schedule an open meeting so the people can come in and have their say, with the goal of the Board coming back with a recommendation.

Mandy Krejci stated she has concerns about forming another committee. They shoul top all these rounds as they’ve been to the Parks and Recreation Board and Planning Commission. They recognize that Listeman Park is not the perfect location and she was told after the last meeting she could not be on the committee, which means the dog park could be put back at the dump site.

Council Member Harnisch asked who the Dog Park Committee members are? Mandy Krejci replied Brianna Roehl, Janine Bethea, Julie Klein and herself. Council Member Clough stated you have a group of citizens who want to make something happen. They should work in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation Board and come up with a plan on something.

They're not sure we need another Committee. The dump location was a quick fix, but not followed through. They need to pick up the ball and move forward.

Finally, the Council approved to not create a new committee and instead refer the issue of a dog park to the Parks and Recreation Board to work with the existing Ad Hoc committee, to gather information, formulate a plan and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and Common Council.

Mayor Murphy stated the next item is a Neillsville Dog Park at the Listeman Park location. Resident Phil Follen stated last Fall, when the Listeman Park location idea was first brought forward, he inquired about the process and was expecting a public hearing when a change to a City park is considered. However, there was no opportunity to get involved.

Phil Follen stated his reasons for not liking a dog park in Listeman Park including he doesn’t want to smell it, hear it or see it. Also, it’s a children’s playground for little children and, sorry to say, sooner or later something bad will happen.

He goes south for the winter and told of his wife’s experience with a dog bite from a dog escaping under a dog park fence. He is old school, neighbors don’t sue neighbors, but bad things happen, His grandchildren use the park. If they get bitten or disfigured, he would sue. Why set the table for it to happen?

Dog Park rule No. 8 state there can be no children running. Who is going to stop a child in a park from running? Isthis a dog park and not a playground? No, this is a playground trying to be a dog park.

Also, it’s next to a trout pond. He looks at the pond everyday and loves seeing children with their parents fishing. It is a "put and take pond." Why jeopardize the pond? Trout need fresh water, not water coming through a dog park. Water always runs downhill.

The DNR person gave the committee very poor advice. What is the cost to engineer and build a berm? The DNR directed the committee to zoning. He went to the County, who sent him to Water people, who told him with a 2-inch rain, you could not build a berm big enough for the forty-foot drop from the top to the pond.

It’s all downhill. Where will the feces go? Not everyone picks up the dog’s stuff; just look around town. How would you feel if, in a year or two, you have a dead pond? It’s local people who put fish in the pond, not the DNR. They collect donations. The trout pond is the neatest thing we can do for our children. He doesn’t understand why we want to jeopardize it?

Finally, he stated you have a ball diamond right next to there and many foul balls go over the fence and you have children running around the fence to get the ball. Where is the ball going to go? Into the dog park. It’s a bad scenario. Why would you want to do this?

After the last Council meeting, he went and talked to his neighbors. He talked to 20 families and no one wants a dog park in Listeman Park. Not one of the dog owners want it. Strange dogs in the area will excite their dogs.

He presented a petition with 52 signatures on it. Only two of the people had a dog park discussion before. There is not support for a dog park in a playground.

Phil Follen stated it has been said you can’t put a fence on a capped landfill. After two phone calls, and talking with a DNR agent in Eau Claire, it can be done. He walked the old landfill and stated it’s like a bowl with a lip that goes all away around half way up the grade.

The agent said it is probably the berm; it would have to be looked at for sure. The berm protects the cap. You can’t dig a hole in the cap. Hire a consultant to look into it. Why hire a consultant, if we can build on the berm? He gave the DNR agent’s phone number to the Mayor, Planning Commission and Director of Public Works. It seems like a good location.

Mandy Krejci thanked Follen for his presentation. She reiterated they never said it was a perfect location and the Dog Park Committee is not set in stone. She stated her daughter was mauled by a dog and the only thing that saved her was another dog biting into the attacking dog. She chose not to sue.

A dog park is different than walking a dog. Children should not be running up to a dog. We are not opposed to not being at Listeman Park. Brianna Roehl thanked the Council for hearing them out. Their mission is to provide an off-leash dog park for dogs to exercise and socialize.

Listeman Park is handicapped accessible with access to restrooms and water. Donald Boon is willing to donate a culvert, the fence would have double self closing gates, the area’s approximately 52,262 square feet or 1.2 acres, which is adequate building materials for the fence, which could be sealed so hands cannot go through.

She also stated a berm is a flat raise strip and people desire a dog park. The Neillsville Dog Park Facebook page has received even more supporters, plans to conduct more activities, and attract tourism. They plan to educate people on proper dog contact, provide for dog exercise, and interaction with the dogs. Listeman Park is beautiful, but seldom used.

Steve Butts stated that he is a new resident and owner of three dogs. Listeman Park is not a good spot for a dog park. The committee seems very motivated. He used the dog park in Reedsburg and saw people from all over coming in and there was dog poop all over. Do you really want that tourism?

Think safety and security of a small town. What does the Police Department think? The committee members think about a lot that could go right, but there is a lot that could go wrong. The site is way too small, 1.2 acres is really the minimum, then if you split that, you ask for problems right off the bat. Get dog experts involved. A small park creates more problems. Mandy Krejci stated they have several people involved who have experience.

Debi Berg stated on a daily basis people are at the pond and in the park. To say it is not used as it should be is not an accurate statement. The biggest concern is the poop. She feels like there will be a stench. Dog walkers don’t pick up their poop, and this will be inside a fence. When it rains, it’s like a river running down to the pond.

Jeff Schultz stated that he is in favor of a dog park in Neillsville. The Ad Hoc committee has been working there butts off and been hit with every obstacle possible. Let’s move forward.

Jerilyn St. Amand stated that she has a 110-pound lab. If dogs are trained, they don’t need a leash. She won’t use the dog park, as people are not responsible with their dog and getting vaccinated. Disease can be spread. She is not for spending tax dollars for the Police Department to investigate dog matters or pay for water.

Denise Czarnecki stated that she is a retired Humane Officer from Madison. Her everyday job was patrolling dog parks. She is on the fence with whether Neillsville needs a dog park. The issues are you don’t have a humane officer, enforcement and liability.

It doesn’t look like Listeman Park is a good location logistically and it’s small. Dog versus dog fights are a problem, but then the people get involved. Both Ripon and Madison have no restroom or water. The dump may be a very good location, but handicapped access is a question.

Dog Park permits, how would they be handled? Outside of the city visitors, where to check on vaccinations and enforcement concerns. Chief of Police Mankowski stated a concern that our Humane Society is not in town. You lose an officer for an hour, if there is a bite you lose two hours.

To get an officer trained as a Humane Officer would cost $2,300. Mayor Murphy asked for further appearances and, there being none, no action was taken on the Neillsville Dog Park in Listeman Park.

Discussion then followed on American Rescue Plan Act-Local Fiscal Recovery Funds requests going through the Finance Committee and the Mayor response to Robert Johnson’s statement at the last meeting regarding the new City Hall building.

The Council approved that all ARPA funds uses be referred to the Finance Committee and reviewed by the City Attorney for permissible use. The Council then discussed the new City Hall loan borrowing amount.

The Council accepted the recommendation to proceed with the loan borrowing of $550,000 for the purchase price and costs of the new City Hall building, remodeling costs, technology/equipment upgrades, signage, etc.

The Council then accepted the recommendation that Ordinance No. 1065 regarding fences be adopted. City Clerk Rex Roehl presented Kolin Schmitz Eagle Scout Project donations in the amount of $900 for the Cemetery landscaping project, which the Council approved.

City Clerk Roehl stated that the Beautification Committee has collected $3,447 in donations from area businesses and individuals for hanging flower basket/donations. The Council approved the donations and thanked the businesses and individuals for help in beautifying our City.

City Clerk Roehl reported on receiving a $300 donation from the Neillsville Kiwanis Club for flowers in the Sniteman Town Square flower garden. The Council approved the donation and thanked the Neillsville Kiwanis Club for help in beautifying our City.

The Council then heard the various reports. Fire Chief Matt Meyer reported on the Second Quarter 2021 including:

-Changing the Smokey the Bear signs;

-Doing three controlled grass burns;

-Attending an Emergency Services Association meeting;

-Doing a public service announcement with WCCN;

-Toured the new hospital;

-Took a fire truck to former Fire Chief Bob Urban’s funeral;

-Toured the new City Hall;

-Provided a fire truck for the High School State Track qualifiers send off;

-Provided fire trucks for mud racing, rock climbing and tough truck events;

-The department responded 18 calls (3-City: gas grill fire, range fire and gas line dig; 15-Rural: two ambulance assists, three grass fires, a cancelled in route, faulty smoke detector, receptacle fire, three shed fires, tractor fire, tree fire, milk truck accident, smoke detector);

-The City trucks are in good conditions; however, the 1978 International is 43 years old and cannot pass the pump test. The 1995 Freightliner is 26 years old;

-The Fire Department is in need of four new fire fighters.

Council Member Clough stated:

-That with Heritage Days and the Car Show downtown on back-to-back weekends, the farmer’s market area had people parking there. We will have to make different arrangements for next year, so the people don’t park in that area.

Council Member Neville reported on the July 20, 2021 meeting of the Personnel Committee regarding:

-A closed session on interviewing candidates for the City Custodian position. The meeting adjourned in closed session.

Mayor Murphy presented the July 20, 2021 meeting of the Planning Commission regarding:

-Chris Straight, West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (WCWRPC) Senior Planner, presented the Initial Working Draft Project Plan for Creation of Neillsville TID No. 4 (a mixed use TID) including:

-Introduction; Qualification Statement and Findings; Providing Orderly Development; Description and Development Assumptions; Proposed Public Improvement and Project Costs; Relocation of Displaced Persons; Non-Project and Ineligible Costs; Methods of Scheduling of Financing Projects; and Share of Tax Increment for Overlying Jurisdictions;

-Discussion on the draft plan and a possible Alternative Boundary;

-Discussion on and approval to go with the Initial Project Plan Creation of Tax Incremental District No. 4 (a mixed use TID);

-Aand discussion on and approval to set Thursday, August 19, 2021 at 6:00 P.M. for the Planning Commission public hearing on the proposed TID No. 4 project plan.

Council Member Harnisch reported on the July 21, 2021 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission regarding:

-Discussion on draft nomination/application of the “Merchants Hotel property”, 105 W. Seventh Street to the Local Register of Historic Properties;

-Discussion on the Clark County Property Committee meeting regarding needed repairs at the Clark County Jail Museum and options for evaluating scope of work and funding;

-Discussion on funds;

-Discussion on and approval of payment of Historic Preservation Improvement Grant in the amount of $500 for roof repairs (facia stabilization), 534/538 Hewett Street, Egland Enterprises, LLC;

-And discussion on on-line resources available to WI Local Historic Preservation Commission from the WI Historical Society.

Council Member Harnisch reported on the July 23, 2021 meeting of the Property Committee-City Hall and Police Department regarding:

-The teller line has been torn out and cabinets will be installed next week;

-The insulation is complete;

-HVAC work is in progress;

-The cooling system needs addition work and parts;

-The election lighting is complete;

-Work on electrical fixes and automatic switches are in progress;

-Plumbing fixes are complete;

-The safety deposit boxes have been sold and removed;

-Council Room/Election tables and chairs and direction signs will be ordered next week;

-The flooring is on hold until the cabinets are installed;

-Modems, server and equipment has arrived and is being preconfigured and waiting for the IT/Server room to be tiled;

Discussion on and approval to temporarily install a Charter internet service at the City Shop to resolve the internet service installation package at the new City Hall and Cemetery Shop;

-Discussion on and approval to title the vault now that the safety deposit boxes have been removed;

-Still waiting on the flagpoles;

-Discussion on landscaping around the building;

-Still looking for a custodian;

-Discussion on and recommending that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)-Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the amount of $126,000 be used for technology/equipment upgrades, Council Room/Election tables, chairs and lighting; and former teller line/drive up remodeling;

-Discussion on and recommendation that the City proceed with a loan borrowing of $550,000 for the purchase price and costs of the new City Hall building, remodeling costs, technology/equipment upgrades, signage etc., if the ARPA funds are applied, this recommendation can be reduced to $425,000;

-And discussion on holding the Friday, September 17, 2021 Board of Review at the current downtown location.

Finally, Council Member Clough reported on the July 27, 2021 meeting of Commission on Public Works/Utilities regarding current activities, discussion on and recommendation that Ordinance No. 1065 be adopted and payment of bills.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.