By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – On Tuesday, April 20, the De Pere Common Council voted to end the city’s mask mandate, as of 11:59 p.m. May 5.
The debate of mask-continuance pros and cons overlapped multiple meetings over the past few months.
Alderperson Dean Raasch, who brought the motion forward, and Alderperson Dan Carpenter were rooting to end the mask mandate months ago, contending there’s a hodgepodge of mask policies around, varying from city to county.
Alderperson Kelly Ruh said vaccination has been open to the elderly for months.
Alderperson Jonathon Hansen, who was voted common council president on Tuesday, spoke in favor of erring on the side of caution.
“Eligibility just opened to everyone this month, so not everyone has a chance to schedule a shot or get both shots,” he said.
Calculating three weeks between the first and second dose plus two weeks for full immunity to take effect, he suggested sunsetting the mask mandate in early June.
He and newly sworn-in Alderperson John Quigley were opposed on the May 5 vote.
An upside to quarantine culture
One facet of the pandemic the council won’t be ditching any time soon is the option to participate in meetings virtually.
The public will continue to be able to contribute to, and speak virtually, as will staff and board members.
However, board members who attend remotely won’t count toward the number required for the quorum needed to meet at city hall.
Before the pandemic, council meetings were streamable online, but those joining remotely weren’t able to participate.
Now they’re able to do both while making dinner.
Alderperson Amy Chandik Kundinger said the public has gotten used to the convenience of virtual meetings, and continuing to offer the two-way participation boosts the number of people who can be engaged with city issues.
Update on cultural center
In other topics, local philanthropists Jim and Miriam Mulva updated the board on the status of the future Mulva Cultural Center to be built on the city’s east side.
“This is the largest project our family will ever undertake,” Jim Mulva said. “Since we started this, the project plans have grown in size and complexity,” as features were changed or added.
Mulva said it’s more expensive than what was initially expected.
The project, which was estimated to cost around $50 million when it was announced two years ago, is now expected to cost almost twice that amount, in part because of expanded features and increased costs.
Miriam Mulva said they’ve been occupied in the intervening two years with getting their other projects off the ground, including the new Notre Dame School of De Pere, which replaced the Notre Dame Middle and St. Mary Elementary schools, as well as a new parish hall for St. Francis Xavier Church.
All three projects were announced within two weeks of each other in April 2019.
Notre Dame School opened last fall.
Miriam Mulva said once the cultural center is unveiled, it will have been worth the wait.
Rob Myers of M.A. Mortenson Co. of Pewaukee, the company doing the construction, said it will be obtaining building permits in the next few months and will break ground in August.
Among the first jobs will be excavating and drilling 100 wells for the geothermal system.
“This will provide free cooling in the summer, and free heating in the winter,” Myers said.
He said plans for an expanded auditorium featuring a large LED screen with a “unique design that could be the first in the state” have also helped boost the cost.
A crane will be on site for four months starting in December and will help lift materials into the site without crowding it.
Al fresco dining
In other business, the council approved premises description permits for the addition of outdoor seating at Caliente, 623 George St.
By a unanimous vote, Ann and Greg De Cleene got the go-ahead to create a bricked patio extending 8 feet from the building.
Renderings indicate almost 40 feet of dining space in front of the establishment on George Street and 16 feet along Superior Street, adding a total of six bistro tables.
Strada Pizzeria, 109 N. Broadway, also got its plans for an augmented seating area approved.
The board granted Andy Krans, owner of SAKS Holdings, permission to create an outdoor seating area.
Plans include adding four or so tables along a 19-foot area bordered by brick planters and landscaping.
In other business, the council approved two $1.41 million contracts to two area companies: $1,411,405 to Dorner, Inc., for sewer/water relay system installation and street resurfacing in the area of St. Norbert College and West De Pere School District; and $1,417,716 to Jossart Brothers for street reconstruction and utility relay installation on Erie Street.