Against the backdrop of a public health emergency that has impacted virtually every facet of life in the Hodag City, four new Rhinelander City Council members took the oath of office Tuesday, solemnly swearing to "support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin and the municipal code of the City of Rhinelander."
The new alderpersons - Tom Barnett, Carrie Mikalauski, Gerald Anderson and Eileen Daniel - also vowed to "faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of said office" to the best of their ability.
The new members, all elected on April 3, represent aldermanic districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 respectively. The quartet joins incumbents Ryan Rossing, Tom Kelly, Andrew Larson and David Holt. Rossing, Holt and Larson were all elected in 2018, meaning Kelly is the only council member with more than two years of experience in office.
The first order of business after the oaths were administered was the election of a new city council president to succeed George Kirby, who did not run for re-election in District 1.
Holt and Rossing were the only nominees for the position. The first vote, taken via secret ballot, ended in a 4-4 tie. This led to a series of jokes about resolving the impasse via leg wrestling, a coin flip or rock/paper/scissors.
Holt then asked if he could speak with Rossing privately, outside the presence of the rest of the council. After city attorney Steve Sorenson OK'd it, the two men left the room.
Several minutes later they returned to the council chambers and a second vote was taken. That vote was 5-3 in favor of Rossing.
The new city council takes office without the benefit of a city administrator in place to act as the municipality's chief executive and personnel officer.
Daniel Guild, who was hired as city administrator in September 2018, remains on paid administrative leave, putting Frederickson in the position of "acting" administrator, pending further action of the council.
(Three hours before the new council's organizational meeting, during the final meeting of the outgoing council, Frederickson announced that "administrative leave for the city administrator, Daniel Guild, will be extended until the next council sees fit to put it on their agenda as a closed session.")
Guild was placed on leave March 13, three days after Oneida County district attorney Mike Schiek charged him with a single felony count of misconduct in office/failure to perform a specific duty.
He was arrested March 9 following a months-long investigation by the Oneida County sheriff's office and other agencies.
Guild has since filed a motion to dismiss the case, which involves allegations he hid certain records requested by this newspaper and altered an official email. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for June 11.
The final meeting of the outgoing council was also the final meeting - barring any future campaign for city elected office - for alderman Steve Sauer in District 7.
Sauer made a statement thanking his fellow council members, the city's employees and the citizenry. Being an alderperson is "a very easy job," he announced.
"My last meeting after eight years and I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone sitting at this table, every alderperson I've ever served with, the employees of the city and the citizenry for making it quite interesting, if nothing else," he said. "And I want to pass one piece of advice to the new alders. It's a very easy job. You're given a couple of choices, you make the one that you think is best and we move on and we move forward. It's a very easy job as long as we realize that its not personal, it's politics. It's feelings, its thoughts, it has nothing do with agreeing on a topic having anything to do with how I feel personally about anyone on the planet and I wish you all luck and I really look forward to what's going to be coming out of this room."
After Sauer finished speaking, Frederickson noted that Sauer has been his representative for eight years (he resides in District 7) and thanked him for his service "as a citizen not as a mayor."
He also addressed Lee Emmer who was attending his final meeting as the representative of District 3. Emmer was appointed in February 2019 to finish out the term begun by former alderperson Sherrie Belliveau who resigned abruptly in December 2018.
"l also thank Lee, as my first appointment, for the due diligence he did to his job and the heart he put into his job," Frederickson said.
In other business, the council discussed the wage scale in the city's water and wastewater departments.
A full story on that topic will be included in a future edition of the River News.
In addition, Frederickson noted that all PFAS test results on city of Rhinelander wells are now available on the city website. Emmer had asked that an update on the PFAS situation be included on a future meeting agenda.
Two city wells were taken offline last year, and remain offline, due to PFAS contamination.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, fire-fighting foam, and products that resist grease, water and oil. Recent scientific findings indicate that exposure to certain PFAS may have harmful health effects in people. According to the EPA, exposure to some PFAS substances above certain levels may increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as thyroid disease, low birthweights and cancer.
The council's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 27.
Heather Schaefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2020
Article comment by:
I was of the understanding that the “new” city council, beginning with the election of Mr. Holt and Rossing, was intent on changing the culture of the council from secrecy and “behind closed door dealing”, to one of openness and transparency. I clearly was mistaken. From the above article: “Holt then asked if he could speak with Rossing privately, outside the presence of the rest of the council. After city attorney Steve Sorenson OK'd it, the two men left the room. Several minutes later they returned to the council chambers and a second vote was taken. That vote was 5-3 in favor of Rossing.” So much for openness and transparency. And the other members of the council and Mayor, sat on their hands and allowed this to happen.
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