Council debates Christmas tree

by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

Members of the Sheboygan Falls Common Council agreed to table a decision on a Christmas tree at the newly renovated Municipal Building, during a semimonthly meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20.

During a Property Committee meeting, council members offered input on the tree stand with differing opinions.

City Clerk-Treasurer Joel Tauschek opened the meeting by explaining that Sheboygan Falls Chamber-Main Street Executive Director Shirl Breunig had spoke nat a Property Committee meeting on Oct. 6, requesting that the city resume its former custom of having a Christmas tree on the front lawn of the Municipal Building, which would be lit at the conclusion of the annual Main Street Memories Parade.

“Shirl said Chamber-Main Street was hoping to do a contest where community members would be asked to provide a tree each year to serve as the city Christmas tree,” Tauschek said. “She indicated that Chamber-Main Street hoped to make the selection and lighting of the tree more of a community event that people could get behind and support each year.”

After the city went without an official Christmas tree last year due to the Municipal Building construction project, Tauschek noted that Mayor Randy Meyer has expressed support for the return of a Christmas tree at the Municipal Building.

Meyer was not present at the meeting. Council President Terry Van Engen presided over the meeting in Meyer’s absence.

“Of course the tree that formerly served as the city’s Christmas tree was removed during the renovation process,” Tauschek said. “Shirl indicated at the last meeting that people have told Chamber- Main Street that they missed having a tree and hoped that the lighting ceremony would return after the parade.”

Tauschek said A. Chappa Construction recently submitted an estimated price of $3,112 to install the Christmas tree stand.

Property Committee Chair Peter Weber expressed his opposition to adding a Christmas tree stand in place of a permanent tree planted at the front of the Municipal Building.

Weber said he contacted A&M Trees, which provided a cost estimate and advice on planting the tree.

“A&M said the price for planting a new tree would be between $600 and $700 dollars,” Weber said. “The type of tree they recommend for this project would grow to a maximum of 20 feet and could be spayed out and replaced with another small tree if height became an issue as it had with the previous city Christmas tree.

“I understand the idea of putting in a tree stand and having a different tree each year, but I oppose it,” he said. “I would prefer to see a live tree growing there.”

Building Inspector-Assessor Ken Sonntag said if a tree is planted on the front lawn of the Municipal Building, the current sprinkler system would need to be adjusted or possibly replaced.

“If a live tree goes in there, the root system would wrap around the sprinkler system and eventually destroy it,” Sonntag said.

Alderman Al Mayer also expressed his hesitation in supporting the tree stand option.

“Spending $3,100 for a tree stand is maybe not a huge amount, but we have to consider that we’ve also spent money on an engineering plan for the design of the stand and we would have to provide electrical system as well, which would likely bring the total amount spent to around $5,000,” Mayer said. “As a citizen, I would support it, but as a member of the council and a caretaker of the taxpayers’ money, I don’t think this provides a vital service to the city.

“To me, it is not in the best interest of the city to spend that much money on a Christmas tree stand,” he said. “I understand where Shirl and Chamber-Main Street are coming from from a community standpoint and I believe it is a neat idea, but I can’t support a plan to pay for it out of city funds.”

Mayer went on to suggest that there could be other ways to feature a city Christmas tree.

“We could have the city Christmas tree set up inside the Municipal Building, or we could look into other ways to do something that would please the community without spending $5,000 or more to put in a tree stand.”

Alderman Randy Messner suggested pursuing community funding to cover the tree stand costs.

“Putting this stand in is basically a one-time cost,” Messner said. “I think there are a lot of people in the community that would want to help make this happen.

“If you look at what John Blattner did to support the purchase of body cameras for the police department, you can see that there are people that would step up to do this to support the community,” he said. “I believe the public would fully support this.”

Deputy Administrator Shad Tenpas said two people have stepped up to offer trees.

Sonntag stressed the importance of the tree stand option for community relations.

“I agree that there would likely be people or businesses in the community that would donate money to this,” Sonntag said. “People are going to want this. It would be a big event for the city to have a new tree every year and get the community involved in the process.”

Conversely, Alderwoman Cyndi Hartzheim sided with Weber and Meyer.

“I like the live tree idea,” Hartzheim said. “I think the green option in the best way to go.”

Mayer and Hartzheim both expressed doubt that the tree stand project could be completed in time for this year’s Main Street Memories parade.

“The Main Street Memories parade is only five or six weeks away, so we don’t have a lot of time to get this done,” Mayer said.

During the following Common Council meeting, Weber introduced a motion to table a decision on the tree stand until a special council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to allow time to consider possible public funding options for the project.

In other Property Committee business, council members agreed not to reimburse Bob Hall $803 for damages to his vehicle sustained in an accident while he was doing volunteer work at Westside Park.

Weber said Hall was helping to seed the pedestrian path at the park when he got into an accident with another vehicle on the park property.

“He said he had checked into all forms of insurance coverage for the damage to his truck, but no one would cover it,” Weber said. “That is why he asked the city to cover the costs.”

Van Engen said providing the money to Hall would set a standard that the city would have to be held to in the future.

“If I was volunteering for the city, as I have in the past, I would not be expected to be reimbursed for an accident,” Van Engen said. “Doing this would set a bad precedence for the future. I don’t think it is in our best interest to do that.”

The committee approved a request from Gary Bimmel to rent 25 acres of tillable land at Westside Park.

The current renter is paying $50 per acre, while Bimmel has proposed to pay $100 per acre.

After Sonntag said the current renter would not pay more than $55 per acre and was fine with the city considering other offers, council members agreed to accept Bimmel’s higher offer.

During the regular Common Council meeting, the council approved an engineering services agreement with Donahue and Associates for water main, sanitary sewer and storm sewer design and bid service on First Street and Adams Street.

The council approved operator license applications for Matthew A. Tomaszewski, Cheyenne S. Sarver, Shannon Wirt and James B. Couch.

Tauschek announced that Halloween trick-or-treat will be held in the city on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 4-7 p.m.

City leaf collection service is also now under way and will run through Friday, Nov. 20.

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