Weekly Meeting Recap
Behnke resigns over failed chicken ordinance
SEYMOUR – After his motion to advance a draft ordinance allowing chickens in city limits died for lack of a second, Seymour City Council President Roger Behnke verbally resigned and abruptly left Monday’s meeting of the Joint Committee of the Whole.
It was not clear at press time whether Behnke’s resignation was official.
City Administrator Sean Hutchison confirmed Tuesday that the chicken ordinance was dead, but he would not comment on Behnke’s status.
In a Wednesday response to a Press Times email seeking comment, Behnke said he was planning to set up a meeting with Mayor Ryan Kraft to discuss.
“Since Ald. Kinney moved out of the city, me resigning would leave wards three and four unrepresented, and that is not in the best interests of my ward (4) either,” Behnke wrote.
Behnke’s motion to draft an ordinance allowing up to four hens on a minimum of one-quarter acre of property in the city limits followed lengthy discussion and comments from residents both for and against.
“I think that if we can have dogs and cats and we can have all these other animals, we should be able to have a limited number of hen chickens,” resident Bramwall Christie said. “I know people are opposed to it because of the idea that it can bring other animals into town, other pests, but I would just say that we have two very large feed mills in town. There are farms, dairy farms, buffalo farms, all around town and this is Northeast Wisconsin. The fact that we have animals – you’re not going to get away from that. I don’t I don’t think, with the right supervision from the city, having chickens would be a problem.”
Other Residents felt differently.
“I’m not for chickens,” Judy Shootie said. “In my neighborhood, I have eight neighbors that we’ve discussed it and talked about it. They don’t want chickens. They just feel that Seymour has always been very unique in the way we do things and chickens are just another problem. I feel that we have a very small police department, we aren’t large and they have a lot of things that they have to keep up with and do and this will take a lot of policing. I just feel that they have enough to do without adding to more ordinances for them to have to follow up on and run around to check, and I just think we’re overloading them.”
City Administrator Sean Hutchison was asked about the feedback he has received from the public.
Hutchison said that as of that evening the numbers were starting to even out, but in the year prior he received more comments opposed.
Hutchison was asked about how the draft of the ordinance was created.
“So what we’ve done is researched neighboring communities throughout the state as a whole and put together what are the best management practices,” Hutchison said. “Yes, chickens are to be allowed in residential and that ranges from minimum size lots, number of hens allowed, the (resident) would have to have their neighbors sign an agreement to the chickens being next door. Those are some of the ideas as well as getting electricity and heat in the wintertime ensuring that water is not going to freeze and so forth. So then there are a lot of items that go into a comprehensive ordinance,” Hutchison said.
With Behnke’s abrupt departure, Mayor Kraft acted as committee president for the remainder of the meeting.
With little discussion, a permit was approved to allow fireworks at the final Music in the Park event on August 28.
The public portion of the meeting was adjourned as the committee went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter and possible land purchase.
Green Bay School Board
Changing school start times a non-starter
After two months of research into additional transportation costs if the district were to change school start times, the board was presented with the financial realities of the change at the Aug. 8 work session.
Chad Jensema, the district’s director of transportation, found that if the district were to change school start times, busing costs would go up by an estimated $1.2 million per year.
In addition to an increase in cost, Jensema said other problems could arise as the bussing contractors utilized by the district would need to find and hire 16 additional drivers to cover the routes.
One reason the costs increase, according to Jensema, is because the district’s current contracts are based on having tiered bus routes – routes that work in sync with another school.
That allows the same buses and drivers to be used, and a change in start times would create more untiered routes that do not work with any other schools.
When Interim Superintendent Vicki Bayer surveyed neighboring districts regarding their own potential school start time changes, the general consensus was that no changes are presently being considered.
For these reasons, Board President Laura McCoy said that although a change in school start times could be a good thing for students, the transportation impact means it’s likely not a viable option at this time.
“I think we all know that this is something that could benefit our students, but I cannot get around this amount of money,” she said. “With reluctance, I understand that this is just not even viable right now.”
School meal prices set to go up
Lynette Kiehnau, director of food services for the district, was also at the Aug. 8 work session to discuss proposed school meal price increases and the various factors driving them.
The district is looking at a potential $0.30 increase in the price of both breakfast and lunch at all levels (elementary, middle and high school).
Kiehnau said the $0.30 increase was determined based on a variety of factors, including reduced federal reimbursements and the rising cost of food and other supplies needed to make those meals possible.
The increase comes after two years of all students being eligible for free school meals through Covid relief funding.
Trustee Bryan Milz said he has seen the benefits of free meals for students, and that he is hopeful free meals will be made available to all students again.
“I witnessed firsthand the number of students that we were able to provide nutritious meals to that may not have had it before,” he said. “I think that’s definitely something that helps our students be successful on many different levels.”
Trustee Andrew Becker noted that although having to increase the district’s prices isn’t ideal, the free and reduced meal program is still available to help those who qualify.
“It would be nice if inflation was such that we could have just done nothing,” he said. “We provide good lunches here and those who need it the most will continue to have the free and reduced benefits.”
Howard Village Board
Board considers public safety referendum
The Howard Village Board had only one item up for discussion on the agenda at their August 8 meeting – the possibility of a referendum to provide additional funding for public safety.
Total price tag of the question has not yet been determined, but potential uses of funding include additional fire department personnel, rescue services and/or police service contract increases.
Director of Public Safety Ed Janke said the referendum could aid in achieving things like quicker response times, ultimately improving the services public safety is able to provide to the community.
“I think the consideration is what is the end game,” he said. “We need to figure out what that standard of coverage, that standard of care that we’re going to provide for our community as a public safety organization and then we work back from that and we try to figure out – from a strategic standpoint – how we’re going to actually implement that plan.”
Although no action was taken at the August 8 meeting, the board will need to either approve or reject the decision to go to referendum and, if approved, decide whether to include the referendum on the fall or spring ballot.
If the board wants to include the referendum on the November ballot, that decision will need to be made before August 31.
De Pere City Council
Starbucks approved for Scheuring Road
DE PERE — The De Pere Common Council this week unanimously approved a precise implementation plan (PIP) for a Starbucks at 1360 Scheuring Road, Parcel WD-D0021-4.
The new 2,460 square-foot shop will be large enough to accommodate three employees.
It will have a two-lane drive-thru window with room for 13 vehicles in line, and a parking lot with 28 spaces.
Although Ald. Dan Carpenter voted for the plan, he had some concerns.
“I’m not going to vote against this, but once again, I wish they would have put a berm to black out the headlights that are going to aim at the apartment buildings,” he said. “They’re planting bushes, I understand, but a berm would be nice. Nobody’s complained to me yet, but there’s going to be future complaints coming down the road, and it would be nice to nip that in the bud with a three-foot berm with some trees on top.”
Alderperson Amy Chandik-Kundinger said she liked the idea of a berm or barrier as well.
Mayor James Boyd said that was not a recommendation by the plan commission or staff.
Dan Lindstrom, director of development services for De Pere, said staff didn’t recommend a berm because it’s not a requirement in any other of their zoning districts.
“We’re trying to keep everybody on the same playing field,” he said. “The added screening and landscape buffering is a landscaping requirement per our code.”
He said the tree buffer is composed of bulb arborvitae that starts out at three or four feet high and fills out but doesn’t grow overly tall.
Ald. Jonathan Hansen asked if they could make that buffer any higher.
Lindstrom said he couldn’t recommend it because it was a precise implementation plan (PIP).
“Staff was trying to make sure it blocked the headlights, and typically that’s what three or four feet will do,” Lindstrom said.
Twenty years ago, the city approved the Walmart/Menards planned development district (PDD), which included the northern two-thirds of the parcel.
The PDD for that segment was amended in 2014 with the development of apartments to the north.
The whole parcel was added to a new planned development district this year, and that allows the drive-in or convenience food establishment use.
Voting equipment tests successful
In other matters, the board heard from De Pere City Clerk Carey Danen about the shape of the city’s election equipment in anticipation of Tuesday’s primaries.
The voting equipment is from a company called Election Systems & Software, and the model of the precinct scanner and tabulator is the DS200.
“Before every election we do a public test of the equipment,” Danen said. “Once they receive the encrypted memory sticks from the county with the elections programmed on it, they create a test ballot to run through every machine. We ensure that it’s counting correctly and nothing is being transposed.”
Public notices of the test are always run in the newspaper so the public can attend.
De Pere’s test was Tuesday.
“Everything was successful,” she said.
The tape prints out just like it does at the end of election night, and the tape printout gets archived with the other election materials to show that the equipment was tested and is functioning properly, according to Danen.
After every general election in November, the state elections commission does a post-election audit, randomly selecting a sampling of municipalities, reporting units, and races.
De Pere was selected in November 2020.
“So we got to recount one of our reporting units as a further double check that everything was working accurately during the election,” she said.
Danen described the chain of custody.
“When we get the encrypted memory sticks from the county, it’s delivered sealed with a tamper-resistant seal. We have to check it in and check it out and make sure that it’s the same seal that was placed on it. When I finish the public test, it goes back into a locked transport bag with another security seal, and it’s a very detailed process to ensure that that chain of custody is kept intact and nobody has tampered with any of the parts of the process,” she said.
Ald. Dean Raasch said he put the matter on the agenda because he felt others would find it informational.
“I saw the notice that they were doing these public reviews of the machines, and thought with all of the stuff that’s going on in the world, it would be good to talk about what we do in the city in terms of how the process works,” Raasch said.
“For people who have been lifers in the city of De Pere or have been here a long time, there’s always been a great pride in the city in terms of the number of people that vote and how those votes are tabulated so that they’re accurate.”
De Pere School District
Mental health improving
Mental health among De Pere sophomores may be on the upswing.
The percentage of tenth-grade students experiencing attention difficulties went down over the past year, as have the percentages of those who reported internalizing their problems and those who considered suicide.
Representatives from Samaritan Counseling Center presented the findings from the most recent mental health screening of De Pere High School tenth graders.
During the most recent school year, 11% of students surveyed reported focus problems, down from 15% the previous year.
Six percent of students reported having suicidal thoughts in 2021-22, down from 7% in 2020-21.
The percentage of those saying they internalized their problems dropped from 27% in 2020-21 to 23% in 2021-22.
“This (screening) catches internalizing that we might not see on the outside, but they’re just bubbling underneath,” Melanie Brick, district social worker said.
She said the goal of the confidential service, which parents can opt out of, is to get students connected with help if they need it.
“I think students probably could use this in other (grades), as well,” board member Adam Jeskewitz said.
Amy D’Addario of Samaritan Counseling Center said 12 out of their 14 school districts do the screening multiple years.
Brick said the reason it’s only offered to tenth graders is cost.
The screening, which cost $25,000, is part of a mental health grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Subs’ bonuses dropping
In a cost-saving measure, the district will lower the bonus it pays for long-term substitute teachers and “super subs,” from the extra $50 two days a week down to $25, and remove it altogether the remaining three days.
The district paid the bonus to super subs and long-term subs during the height of the pandemic in an effort to remain competitive with other districts.
The district will pay its regular daily rate Tuesday through Thursday, Kulas said.
Super subs are substitute teachers who agree to work Mondays and Fridays, which tend to be the most difficult days to find a substitute, according to Kirby Kulas, director of human resources for the district.
Long-term subs are those who take an assignment longer than 10 days.
The district spent over $300,000 more last year on substitute teachers compared to the previous year, with $100,000 of that attributed to bonuses.
Kulas said the district is planning to hire eight super subs for the year who will commit to subbing every Monday and Friday.
They will receive an extra $25 per day on Mondays and Fridays and the normal daily sub rate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
The reduced bonuses will cost $14,000 over the regular daily rate, which was $168 in 2021-2022.
The district hasn’t yet set its sub rate for the 2022-23 school year.
No free lunch
Parents may have to search the couch cushions for extra coins, as weekly rates for school hot lunch in the district just went up.
The COVID-era USDA program that enabled all students, regardless of their family’s income, to get free hot lunch at school ended with the 2021-2022 school year.
The board voted unanimously to raise the cost of school lunch to “stay consistent with neighboring districts and to cover the rise in wages, health insurance and food supply costs,” according to Heather Reitmeyer, school food services director, in a memo to the school board requesting the hike.
New weekly rates are set for $3 per week for students in K-6 (up from $2.70 per week for students in K-4 and $2.90 per week for students in grades 5-6); $3.50 for students in grades 7-8 (up from $3 per week); and $3.75 per week for students in grades 9-12 (up from $3.25).
All meals include milk.
Extra milk a la carte is rising to 50 cents, up from 40 cents.
Suamico Village Board
Harbor Lights Road project funding opportunity rejected
SUAMICO – The Suamico Village Board discussed a possible funding opportunity for a proposed project on Harbor Lights Road at their August 1 meeting.
Earlier in the year, the village applied for – but was not selected to receive – Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding for proposed improvements to Harbor Lights Road between Velp Ave. and Birch Road.
The proposed improvements include upgrading the road to meet Wisconsin Department of Transportation standards, adding bike lanes and adding a sidewalk.
If the project was selected for BIL funding, 80% of the cost would have been federally funded, with the village being responsible for the remaining 20% (about $1,250,000).
The village had the option to keep their project on the list in hopes of being selected to receive funding in a future year, but ultimately decided against it in a 5-1 vote.
Firefighter to receive Village Board Accolade
The board also discussed a request to award Firefighter Samantha Jepson with a Village Board Accolade for the life-saving actions she performed early last month.
Fire Chief Joe Bertler said other firefighters and officers recognized the significance of Jepson’s work which ultimately led him to recommend her for the accolade.
“It was brought to me by the firefighters and some of the officers on scene that her actions definitely saved his life, so I thought it’d be worthy.”
The motion to approve the request for Jepson to be awarded the Village Board Accolade was approved by the board 5-1 with Trustee Michelle Eckert casting the lone opposing vote due to problems she has with the recognition program as a whole.
“I don’t want to take anything away from what she did,” she said, “but I don’t agree with the program.”
Village President Sky Van Rossum spoke in support of awarding Jepson the accolade and of the recognition program as a whole.
“I think it’s a good program,” he said. “What a traumatic experience for the firefighter, what a wonderful thing that she was able to administer first aid and knew what to do. (It’s) an accolade to her and an accolade to the department.”
Jepson will be officially awarded the Village Board Accolade at a future meeting.