Rhinelander Common Council approves new sex offenders ordinance, discusses appeals board
By Lori Adler, reporter
The Rhinelander Common Council met Monday and held the final public hearing for the new sex offender ordinance. No concerns or questions regarding the ordinance were brought forth at the public hearing, and the council approved the new ordinance unanimously.
The sex offender ordinance limits registered sex offender housing and activity areas within proximity to places where children are present such as schools, playgrounds and parks. It also limits holiday events in which sex offenders can participate such as disallowing handing out candy to trick-or-treaters or dressing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
In addition to passing the ordinance, the council also discussed the creation of an appeals board for any registered sex offenders who may wish to challenge the ordinance based upon special circumstances.
“One of the provisions within the ordinance that guarantees the due process rights of offenders is to create a residency restrictions appeal board so that folks who find the restrictions that we’ve imposed unnecessarily harsh given their particular circumstances, that they have a resource to go to and talk about their appeal,” city administrator Daniel Guild explained.
Guild suggested that the appeals board could be made up of private citizens, members of the Police and Fire Commission, or even the Common Council itself. He stressed, however, that the creation of the board was an important aspect of the newly passed ordinance and should be created in a timely manner.
“The federal courts, particularly in the southern part of the state, have intervened and have found liability on the part of the communities that have not had an appeal process, a form of due process, simply because many of these restrictions are somewhat geometric and mechanical and there are peculiar circumstances that may not have been anticipated, and this is a mechanism to deal with that,” acting city attorney Hector De La Mora stated.
Alderperson Dawn Rog noted, “I would think that we need time to think about this, to talk to our constituents about this, and bring this back to another meeting.”
“I too would like to move this into the future because, with nothing in the packet, I wasn’t even sure what this was all about,” council member Lee Emmer remarked, “ and I think we have to make a thoughtful decision.” Emmer added, “I think if we could get something in the next packet that maybe outlines the possibilities.”
Mayor Chris Frederickson then stated, “I would challenge council in the time in between to research the ordinance that was passed and to bring those thoughts to fruition when we do join, not that we need another meeting to get more information that we can find on our own. This is kind of due diligence that we have as council is to look at these issues and bring them forward with a decision.”
The council moved to research the issue and come back to the next meeting prepared to make a decision regarding the creation of an appeals board.
Petitions for Direct Legislation
Tom Jerow, filing on behalf of Rhinelander United to Amend and Rhinelander Fair Elections Project, presented petitions regarding the addition of two resolutions to the April 2020 ballot. As the petitions were received and verified by city clerk Val Foley, the items were placed on Monday’s meeting agenda.
The petitions request a resolution to be placed on next April’s ballot regarding support of a non-partisan legislative redistricting of the state of Wisconsin and a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to limit monetary campaign donations by corporations.
Both of the petition certifications and proposed resolutions for the April 2020 ballot were unanimously approved by the Common Council.
Sale of Street Improvement Bond
City financial advisor Sean Lentz presented information to the council regarding the recent bids to purchase the $1,585,000 street improvement bond for the City of Rhinelander. Lentz explained that the city has had an A+ bond rating for the past several years, and a recent report shows this rating is still valid this year. This rating made the bidding process very competitive.
“I congratulate you as the A+ rating is very solid and does help to attract a lot of attention to debt issuers,” Lentz stated.
Several bids were received, but the best bid came from Northland Securities for a fixed interest rate of 2.29%. The council approved the sale of this bond.
Animal and Fowl Ordinances
The first public hearing of the amended ordinances for keeping of animal and fowl and keeping of chickens in the city was held during Monday’s meeting.
Changes animal and fowl ordinance include the removal of requirements of painting of animal enclosures as well as the proximity of the enclosures to structures for human habitation.
Proposed changes to the ordinance regarding the keeping of chickens in the city includes the removal of the following: neighborhood approval, the maximum size of enclosure and the proximity of enclosures to residential dwellings. The amended ordinance still requires a permit but removes the need for yearly re-application and annual fees.
While the council could have chosen to waive the second reading of the ordinance since this is an amendment rather than a new ordinance, alderpersons Dawn Rog, Lee Emmer, and Tom Kelly voted against the motion. To waive the second reading requires a 2/3 majority vote, so therefore a second reading of the amended ordinances will be scheduled for the next meeting on August 26.
Aspirus Clinic Addition
As recommended by the Planning Commission, the site plan for the Aspirus Clinic addition was approved by the council Monday. The addition will be located on the north side of the current clinic property.
Future Rhinelander Academy and Mayor’s Work Groups
The Future Rhinelander Academy inaugural class contains nine participants and will begin this week. In addition, 27 names have been collected for participants in the mayor’s proposed work groups. The groups will be organized, and a meeting schedule will be set in the very near future.
The next meeting of the Rhinelander Common Council is scheduled for Monday, August 26, at 6 p.m. at Rhinelander City Hall.