City council reviews public feedback on draft ordinances
By Lori C. Adler
Star Journal reporter
The Rhinelander City Council met Monday and reviewed some of the public responses received thus far on two proposed city ordinances regarding in-town ATV/UTV usage and registered sex offenders living within the city. Feedback received via postal mail, email, Facebook and the Polco website were recorded and tabulated by the city administrator who then presented an overview to the council. A few council members also noted the receipt of letters and emails.
Comments on the ATV/UTV usage ordinance questioned the need for electronic turn signals, noting that other surrounding municipalities don’t require them. Other comments requested that the rule of no one under 16 being allowed to ride on city streets be changed to stating those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, with the argument being that otherwise families are being discouraged from riding into Rhinelander. By far, however, the main objection of the ordinance was the idea of a fee to be paid for riding within city limits. Many complained that a fee would make people take their business elsewhere by instead visiting other towns that don’t charge fees. Council members argued both for and against fees, but in the end, a decision was made to remove any fee from the ordinance. No other aspects of the ordinance, including whether any city streets will be closed to ATV/UTV traffic, have yet to be decided.
The other ordinance discussed was regarding registered sex offenders living within the city. City Administrator Daniel Guild stated that this ordinance is close to being ready. All public feedback seemed to be in agreement for the creation of an ordinance regarding activity and residency requirements for sex offenders. The main discussion was to the size of the zones around areas where children congregate. As Guild explained, if the size of the zones where offender residency is prohibited is too large, it opens the city up to potential lawsuits regarding human rights violations. After review of the zones and maps of the city, the council decided to set the buffer zone at 500 feet. This would mean that a registered sex offender could not reside within 500 feet of zone areas such as schools, parks and playgrounds. Guild pointed out that a board could be created to review individual circumstances, including those who may be in violation once the ordinance goes into effect.
Guild stated he will make the changes to the draft ordinances as requested by the city council, and post the updated drafts for further public review.
Alderperson George Kirby led the discussion on returning to committee meetings. Individual committees for items such as public works were abolished for one year by the city council back in December, with the idea that they could be considered again in three months if the council so chose. Kirby explained that he felt it was difficult to review information on large projects as part of the regular council meetings, as opposed to when a few council members would attend committee meetings and then present a summary to the common council.
Public Works Director Tim Kingman added that he prefers a committee to review the complicated financial matters that are part of large projects. “I would serve you better with committee meetings,” Kingman noted. However, council member Steve Sauer moved to continue with no committee meetings. Sauer stated that he thought it had been going well, that it was more transparent with all council members present at all meetings, and that the public was more informed. The motion made by Sauer to continue the current system without committees was approved.
The city council moved to adopt a bulk waste and spring clean up event for city residents from May 13-24. Though it would potentially save the city approximately $20,000 to have individual residents pay to dispose of items such as electronics and appliances, it was agreed by the council to not charge residents this time, especially since the $20,000 price is just an estimate at this point. Once the council has actual figures from this year’s event, they will then be able to determine if it will continue to be offered free to residents in the future.