Weekly meeting briefs
De Pere City Council
New tools for PD
The De Pere Common Council approved the purchase of several replacement tools and other pieces of equipment for the De Pere Police Department.
The tools and equipment total $7,233, which is to come from funds that are part of a grant of $56,452.50 to the police department from the State of Wisconsin.
Included in the purchase are a handheld stationary speed-detection radar, three rechargeable LED light towers, two portable breath testers and a dozen emergency door-entry crowbars.
The handheld stationary radar gun will replace an older one that no longer works.
The light towers will be used in lighting nighttime traffic crash sites and emergency scenes, taking evidence photos at night, and searching crime scenes.
The portable breath testers replace part of the department’s existing stock of older ones, and the crowbars are for entering through locked doors in emergency situations and will be kept in every squad car.
A four-legged friend may be in the works for the De Pere Fire Department after the Common Council on Tuesday OK’d developing a therapy dog program for the fire department.
Initial costs are expected to be about $7,200 for the dog and training, with maintenance costs expected to be about $1,700 per year.
Alderperson Jonathon Hansen asked Fire Chief Alan Matzke if the dog would live in a home off-site of the fire station.
“The best practice is to have the handler attached to the dog, and the idea is that they’re really meeting the dog’s needs, both veterinary needs and personal needs of the dog,” Matzke said.
The handler would be on day shifts, so the dog would be in the station during the day and would have contact with the largest number of staff, plus be available for any other needs.
“The dog would be the property of the city, exactly like the police dog is, and would be the responsibility of the handler,” he said.
Anyone with allergies or a preference to not interact with the dog would be able to sign an opt-out form.
Pay raises for elected officials
In a vote of 6-2, the council approved 2% pay increases for elected officials for 2024 and 2025.
It sets the future salary for the mayor at $27,182 starting May 1, 2024 and $27,726 as of May 1, 2025, up from the current salary of $26,126 and the 2023 salary of $26,649.
For alderpersons, the current pay of $7,489 for 2022 and $7,639 for 2023 rises to $7,792 as of May 1, 2024 and to $7,948 as of May 1, 2025.
Three municipalities with smaller population counts than De Pere’s — Ashwaubenon, Menasha, and Wisconsin Rapids — pay their mayors $30,000, $68,500, and $78,775, respectively.
Pay for trustees and council members in those communities is $8,000, $5,400, and $5,880, respectively.
Alders Dean Raasch and Dan Carpenter were the two nay votes.
Twenty-two years ago, in 2000, the salary for Mayor of De Pere was $18,658.
The salary for alderpersons was $5,511.
Unified School District of De Pere
Inflation hits bus service
The school bus company that the Unified School District of De Pere contracts with for bus service is asking the district for a raise to help it keep up with historic global inflation rates.
The board voted this week to renegotiate the four-year contract it signed with Lamers a little over two years ago to take into consideration the cost of inflation as well as a shortage of bus drivers Lamers is experiencing.
The bus driver shortage is exacerbating the inflation problem.
“Even at $17 an hour, we’re not getting anybody to drive for us,” said Kevin Lamers, co-owner of Lamers Bus Lines, to members of the board of education this week. “If we could get some help, we’d sure appreciate it.”
In March of 2020, the school board approved a four-year contract with Lamers Bus Lines that locked in an increase on rates at 2.5% and froze the fuel price escalation scale at the same level it had in the previous three-year contract.
Some routes are taking longer than usual, from the recommended 65 minutes to 70-75 minutes, due to growth in the district and a jump in riders.
The school district had asked the company if it would consider adding another line to help ease some of the longer rides.
Lamers said they’re down several drivers, including two more just recently, one to the trucking industry and another to the public sector.
He said mechanics and office staff are filling in for drivers.
He said they’re doing everything possible to make drivers feel more welcome, including offering bonuses to new drivers, raising wages and holding a yearly awards banquet for employees.
“One thing we do have is a pretty good core of senior drivers,” he said.
Drivers are doubling up on routes, and that results in longer transportation times for some riders.
Currently five of its district routes in the morning and seven in the afternoon are taking 75 minutes or longer to complete.
Lamers said last year they ran 24 routes in the morning and 23 routes in the afternoon.
This year they’re running 23 routes in the morning and 22 routes in the afternoon, due to the shortage in drivers.
Lamers reported that the company’s overhead costs across the board have risen, including double-digit hikes in insurance rates, unprecedented increases in wages and bonuses paid to drivers, higher prices for bus parts and repairs and fuel prices that have exceeded the 2.5% increase that the school board approved a little more than two years ago.
Other districts, including Ashwaubenon, Green Bay, and Howard-Suamico, have agreed to an 8% increase plus an hourly rate for extracurricular event drivers of $21.
De Pere is paying $16.42 for extracurricular event drivers.
Lamers is asking the board to renegotiate its contract and consider increasing the 2.5% rate of increase to a rate that is closer to the current rate of inflation in the U.S. and to increase the extracurricular driver rate to $21 an hour.
Lamers says the driver pay increase would at least allow them to recoup its out of pocket costs.
The board voted unanimously to renegotiate the contract with Lamers.
Superintendent Chris Thompson said it may be possible to put state grant money toward the matter.
Board president David Youngquist said the finance director and superintendent would work with Lamers to come up with potential solutions.
Suamico Village Board
Wetland Mitigation Bank project update
An update on the Wetland Mitigation Bank project was provided to the Suamico Village Board at their Sept. 19 meeting.
Chad Fradette, from Evergreen Consultants, recommended that the village withdraw from the stream mitigation portion of the project because the state has no required process to mitigate grated streams.
Fradette also informed the board that there may be a change to the sequence of construction as there is currently too much water in the soil in the wetlands area.
Also recommended by Fradette was a change in cover crops being used in the project from native Pennsylvania smartweed to Virginia wild rye.
Recycling program grant
The board also approved an agreement with the Tri-County Recycling Program to qualify for the 2023 Wisconsin Recycling Consolidation Grant.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently changed the eligibility requirements for the grant, now requiring each municipality to enter into a cooperative agreement instead of just Brown County as a whole.
To be eligible for the grant, each Brown County municipality must agree to promote good and clean recycling by sharing resources such as the Betterbin smartphone app and the Waste Wizard Material Search Engine.
These meeting briefs were compiled by Lee Reinsch and Tori Wittenbrock