Rhinelander mayor Chris Frederickson, left, addresses the audience during his first mayoral listening session held Wednesday evening, June 24,2020, at Rhinelander City Hall.
6/30/2020 7:30:00 AM Golf course a hot topic at mayoral listening session
Heather Schaefer Of the Northwoods River News
The future of the city-owned Northwood Golf Club, the dismissal of former administrator Daniel Guild and the need to properly equip city employees were some of the topics mentioned during a mayoral listening session held Wednesday evening, June 24, at Rhinelander City Hall.
Mayor Chris Frederickson hosted the session which lasted just under one hour and drew approximately 10 people.
Also present were City Council members Tom Barnett, Eileen Daniel, David Holt and Carrie Mikalauski as well as the city's administrative consultant Zach Vruwink.
"Input from the public is critical to charting the city's course and addressing our challenges," Frederickson said in a press release inviting the public to the event. "It is my hope strong participation will provide for more informed decision making."
Michelle Bennett was the first to approach the podium and the first to bring up the subject of Northwood Golf Club.
"If the golf course is going to earn its keep, and it's long past time that it does, than those in charge need to expand how they manage the facilities and make it available year-round," she said, noting that the management company that operates the course for the city could pursue a partnership with the YMCA and/or sponsor a winter carnival to include snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
She also suggested better advertising is needed and recommended that a new approach be considered because the course is "turning into a money pit and that's not good for taxpayers."
Bennett also suggested the city consider an arrangement with Nicolet College wherein students in the college's administrative assistant program would help with secretarial duties at City Hall.
It would be an inexpensive way to offload basic tasks like opening and scanning mail, typing and answering the phone, she said. A Nicolet student worker could also be utilized to help organize the "documents in the basement," she added, noting that the city could use non-disclosure agreements to prevent the dissemination of any sensitive information a student might come across while helping to organize old files.
Also addressing the subject of the golf course was Steven Schreier, an Oneida County Board Supervisor representing District 4.
Schreier noted he has lived in Rhinelander for about 15 years and can't recall a time when the course reported a profit.
"It's been pretty much a boondoggle as far as I'm concerned," he said. "And I know people who have lived here longer than me and they don't seem to think we've gotten much out of that relationship."
Schreier went on to note that Northwood is a beautiful course but suggested that it isn't necessarily a good fit for this area at this point, as people seem to be more interested in lake life.
"I just think there's also a time to recognize that golf is kind of passed its prime for some people," he said. "It's just not the sport that it used to be, maybe we just don't have that market here."
Another county board member, Bill Liebert, was equally candid with the mayor and council members present.
Liebert noted that he remains very disappointed with the council regarding its dismissal of Guild and indicated he hopes the group had good cause to remove him.
"You all know how I feel about the dismissal of Daniel Guild," he said, adding that his main concern is that there will not be follow-through on important issues Guild brought to light.
"My biggest fear is that you left the person who was bringing (those issues) to the surface, you left him injured on the field and you walked away," Liebert said. "That's very concerning to me."
Former alderman and county board supervisor Bill Freudenberg also offered input. He explained that he watched the live stream of the council work sessions held June 16 and 17 and took note of the various comments from city department heads regarding aging equipment.
"I think it's very critical these departments get the equipment they need," Freudenberg said, noting there is the potential for safety issues if employees continue to use equipment that is in poor condition.
"I'm not saying automatically raise taxes, but these people need equipment to work with," he said.
Retired DNR water specialist Tom Jerow suggested the city needs to do more to determine the source of the PFAS contamination discovered last year.
"I think we need to be working together to find the source and deal with it because we're in a very precarious situation," he said.
Other topics mentioned during the listening sessions included beautifying the city via the planting of flowers, the watering of the downtown flower baskets, parking on Stevens Street and the need to better communicate opportunities for the public to get involved in city government.
As the session came to an end, Frederickson thanked everyone for their time and input and assured that their concerns will be addressed.
Additional information on the golf course issue, including dialogue and discussion with the course managers during the June 22 council meeting, will be published in a future edition of the River News.
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