Council moves forward with plans to convert vacant lot to city parking
by Lori Adler, reporter
The Rhinelander City Council met Monday, and conversion of the empty lot (formerly the Kabel/Lindy property) was one of the topics discussed at length.
The initial conversation began at the previous council meeting when a resolution regarding the request of Richard Voss, owner of Grey Wolf Nature Store, for a temporary parking spot was brought before the council. Voss reported a loss of parking when street parking in front of his business was removed by the city for safety concerns and requested a spot until the parking lot originally planned for the Kabel/Lindy vacant lot was built. At the last meeting, the resolution which would not only have granted a temporary parking spot for Voss but also move the city forward in the conversion of the vacant lot to city parking failed. However, Mayor Frederickson later vetoed the council’s decision, noting that a previous council had already decided to convert the lot to parking, and the resolution was once again brought up for council consideration.
Alderman Steve Sauer mirrored Mayor Frederickson’s concerns as he explained during Monday’s meeting that the city was originally given the lot by Oneida County in 2014. At that time, the council accepted the lot with the condition that the contamination of the lot was to be addressed. The council then decided to cap the lot to remediate the contamination and then use the lot for city parking. Alderman Lee Emmer responded that more information was needed before this resolution could be passed. “Drainage, signage, turning radiuses, handicapped accessibility, surface treatment; these are just some of the issues.” he remarked, adding that he could not vote to approve an unknown design for an unknown cost.
Sauer responded, however, “All of the studies have been done; all of the planning has been done.” Stating that all the decisions have already been made, Sauer added that the 2014 city council approved the conversion of the lot but never followed through. The resolution to move forward with the lot conversion and to grant Voss a temporary parking spot was then put to a vote and approved, with only Aldermen Lee Emmer and Tom Kelly voting against the resolution (Alderpersons Dawn Rog and George Kirby were not present at Monday’s meeting).
Non-motorized transportation and PRAT money
The council considered a resolution to allocate 10% of collected PRAT (Premier Resort Area Tax) money to be used for infrastructure improvements for non-motorized transportation. State statute does allow for the money to be used for this purpose. During the citizen appearance portion of Monday’s meeting, several area residents came forward to speak in support of the resolution. Comments regarding the need to make Rhinelander more walk-able and bike-able were noted by the council. In addition, the city has recently received a prioritized list of items recommended by the Oneida County Biking and Walking Trails Council to make the city more appealing to those who participate in these types of activities. The council unanimously approved the resolution.
New Policy banning council members from appearing by phone
A motion was made by Alderman David Holt to direct the city to create a policy banning council members from phoning into meetings when they are absent. Discussion ensued regarding how these calls interrupt the flow of the meeting and can be distracting. It was also mentioned that privacy could be at risk when alderpersons call into closed sessions as it is not possible to know who else might be listening on the other end of the line. It was also noted, however, that there could be special or emergency circumstances for which a call-in would be necessary.
Mayor Frederickson weighed in by stating, “I’m pretty ok with that [policy] as long as we can suspend it in special circumstances.” Holt then amended his motion to add that the council could suspend the policy for special circumstances. The motion passed; the new policy will be drafted and will need to be brought before the council for a vote.
The next meeting of the Rhinelander Common Council will be Monday, July 22, 2019, at 6 p.m. at Rhinelander City Hall.