The Rhinelander Common Council kicked off 2020 by approving two new hires during its Monday meeting.
Retired assistant Oneida County district attorney Steve Michlig is headed back into the courtroom to prosecute traffic and ordinance violations for the city and an environmental remediation consultant has been hired to assist the city with wellhead protection.
Also Monday, Oneida County Economic Development Corporation executive director Stacey Johnson announced she will be leaving her position with the OCEDC to take a similar position with the state.
Johnson made her announcement during the public comment portion of the council meeting.
"I just wanted to personally let everyone know today that my position as economic development director will be changing in the coming weeks," Johnson announced. "I still will be doing economic development, however I will be doing it from the capacity of regional executive director of the WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation)."
Johnson noted that her area of focus will be central Wisconsin and she will "stay on any of the projects we've discussed here in city council...." including the pending ABX expansion project.
Johnson was hired as OCEDC executive director in March 2018 to succeed Roger Luce who retired that spring.
As the council moved to its consent agenda, the panel voted unanimously to hire Dr. Jim Tinjum as the city's environmental remediation consultant and to hire Michlig to assist city attorney Steve Sorenson in prosecuting city traffic and ordinance violations.
During public comment, Thomas Barnett, who is running unopposed for the District 1 council seat to be vacated by the retiring George Kirby later this year, lauded Tinjum's resume.
"I am here to say I support Mayor Frederickson's recommendation of bringing on Dr. Tinjum to help this area reclaim clean water and land," Barnett said, in part. "When I heard of the possibility of having him help us, I did my research on his qualifications, of which he has many. Among this long list of qualifications is life cycle environmental analysis of geo systems, remediation of contaminated sites, and heat transfer in porous media like soil and rock."
No one spoke against hiring Tinjum, however alderperson Lee Emmer did ask for a clarification as to why a contract was not included with the agenda.
Sorenson said he didn't want to speak to someone of Tinjum's "stature" without assurances that the council is interested in moving forward.
"I don't want to go to talk to somebody if I don't have the council's desire," Sorenson explained. "I don't want to talk to a guy of his stature and then later on say 'Well, by the way, we're not going ahead with this.'"
In June, a city municipal well was taken out of service following the detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination. A second well was taken offline in November for the same reason.
PFAS are manmade chemicals developed to resist grease, water and oil. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to some PFAS substances above certain levels may increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as thyroid disease, low birthweights and cancer.
As for the addition of an assistant city attorney, Sorenson said it would be a cost-effective move for the city to bring on an experienced prosecutor as an independent contractor.
"He's going to get paid $100 an hour per hour that he works. He's only going to be doing traffic and ordinance violations," Sorenson explained. "I could do it," he said, referring to the court work. "I'm being candid, it's a lot cheaper to have him do it. He's a former ADA so he knows what he's doing, the (police) department's comfortable with him, the courts are comfortable with him. I just thought he was the ideal candidate."
Michlig retired from the district attorney's office in March 2016 after 26 years of service.
In other business Monday, the council:
Approved without comment the site plan for the Hodag Sports Complex to be constructed by the School District of Rhinelander in the area adjacent to Mike Webster Stadium later this year.
Heard a presentation on the upcoming 2020 census
Heard from 10-year-old Khole Marten who wrote to the mayor to ask that a bathroom be constructed at Sarocka Park.
Approved the appointment of alderman Steve Sauer to the Rhinelander Tourism and Marketing Committee.
Tabled indefinitely a request from alderperson Dawn Rog to have $1,800 in legal expenses reimbursed. Rog was not present Monday.
Finally, the council spent approximately 80 minutes in closed session purportedly to "confer with legal counsel who is rendering advice to the Common Council regarding the rules related to release of attorney-client privilege material" and to "evaluate the performance of City Administrator Daniel Guild."
Upon returning to open session, Sauer immediately made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by alderperson David Holt and carried.
The council members then exited the room.
Heather Schaefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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