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REC Center emerging with caution from COVID
  • Updated

EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—As the entire nation rebounds from pandemic lockdowns, cancellations and restrictions on many staple recreational activities, the Community REC Center in Marinette can already claim a strong and optimistic stride as its programs, activities and special events once again offer healthy and socially uplifting venues built around a foundation of pandemic safety protocols.

Following up on the February success performance of the comedy musical “Menoma Mia” by Green Bay-based Let Me Be Frank Productions at the REC Center, hobbyists, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts made their way to the facility last weekend for the Bob & Rocco Gun & Knife Show.

“(This year) has been going quite well,” Director of Tourism & Marketing Melissa Ebsch told the EagleHerald, regarding the REC Center programs. “We are filling the REC Center with new and recurring events. Despite COVID, the first few months of this year have been very strong for us.”

Later, at a Marinette Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, Ebsch reported that the last three events held at the Center attracted impressive turnout from the community.

“The (Feb. 19 Fishing, Boating Outdoors) Show went fantastic,” she highlighted. “Over 4,000 people attended. We had 249 tickets sold for the ‘Menoma Mia’ show and they are returning in October.”

And finally, she added that last weekend’s gun show turnout offered no exception to those impressive turnouts.

GUN SHOW: A GOOD CAUSE, OUTLET FOR COLLECTORS

According to preliminary numbers, approximately 2,500 visitors from Marinette and throughout northeast Wisconsin and beyond, attended the gun and knife show to peruse the various vendor offerings this past Saturday and Sunday. The event denotes the show’s second visit to the REC Center—the first occurred in September.

According to the bobandrocco.com website, each traveling show offers an outlet of over 75 vendors for countless patrons and collectors where they can buy, sell and trade firearms and related products.

Aside from the obvious, the show featured a potpourri of items to hook the interests of almost anyone. From honey to gemstones, to ancient Egyptian idols, Native American arts and crafts and World War II artifacts, the show presented opportunities to satisfy everything from the palate to a mind for a penchant for historical curiosity.

“We were very happy with the amount of (vendors) in the show as well as the community support,” Ebsch said. “And it’s for a good cause.”

BobandRocco.com represent the home of the Take a Kid Hunting Foundation. A fundraising 501 ©(3) nonprofit organization hosts every show, which benefits youth and disabled military veterans. All the proceeds from last weekend’s show go to the foundation.

“We are building a park in Pittsville for disabled veterans,” said Ron Martin, director of last weekend’s show.

Initially envisioned by Robert Pucci, founder of BobandRocco.com, the park and related facilities, known as Camp Neal, continue under development. It will reside on 60 acres of partially wooded wilderness, which includes a 10-acre lake stocked with several fish species.

Dedicated to the service of disabled veterans as well as young people who have experienced little or no opportunity to enjoy Wisconsin’s seminal outdoor activities, once completed the camp promises to offer a unique destination for such recreation like hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and more.

“Any profit we make on the show goes to the camp,” Martin said, but he added that this past year the camp’s development slowed. “The (pandemic) shut us down completely, so we are still working on it.”

For more on Camp Neal and a link to the donation page visit bobandrocco.com/camp-neal.

STRIDING AHEAD WITH COVID VIGILANCE

Up coming, the Spring Art and Craft Show, slated for Saturday at the REC Center will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Activity Hall. Vendors attending will be selling embroidery, soaps and lotions, stone artwork, jewelry, brownies, cookies and much more.

“This past year, because of COVID, was a little tricky,” Ebsch said. “And we’ve added other (events) throughout the year.”

As the world focuses more on COVID recovery and moving on to brighter days, Ebsch said they wanted to provide vendors with more occasions to bring their products to the public.

“We wanted to have something before Easter, to add an event … for those vendors to be able to sell their wares,” she explained. “And with over 60 vendors (currently scheduled), it’s actually larger than last year’s show.”

For now, the REC Center plans to march ahead with a busy schedule of activities and special events. However, Ebsch also points out that the REC Center, like the rest of the nation, continues to make its strides into recovery with caution, and she emphasized the facility maintains social distancing protocol and also upholds a mandatory mask policy. For each event they discuss COVID safety protocols with event organizers and also hand out masks at the door, and sanitation and hygiene also play vital components.

But despite those safety caveats, the REC Center continues to offer a destination and recreational outlet for residents from Marinette and beyond.

“It’s nice to see all the cars in the parking lot and people coming in and out of the (Center),” said Parks and Recreation Committee Chairperson Dorothy Kowalski, contrasting it to the approximate nine months prior of pandemic dormancy.

And as the COVID situation continues to improve, Ebsch continues efforts to recruit more events to the Center.

For a full schedule see the Marinette Recreation Department Facebook page or stop by the REC Center to pick up a flyer.


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Council approves taser replacement
  • Updated

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The Menominee City Council Monday approved an agreement to upgrade the tasers used by the Menominee Police Department.

The police department currently uses seven of the Taser X-2 model tasers. Police Chief Brett Botbyl said five of the seven in use are seven years old, with a life expectancy of five years given by the Axon company which produces them. He said the majority of the tasers they have are also past their warranties, and said Axon will be soon discontinuing the X-2 model.

Botbyl suggested that the city approve a five-year contract with Axon with bi-annual payments of $2,499.45 per payment, for a total of $24,994.90 for that five-year period, to transition from the X-2 model to the newest model, the Taser 7.

“The Taser 7 has many improvements and benefits dealing with design and improved darts which fly faster and straighter, thus producing a higher success rate with a higher penetration rate with loose or thicker clothing,” he said.

“When I was looking back at some of the resolutions that were passed by the city, back on Feb. 21, 2017, the city passed a resolution dealing with a policy prohibiting the use of excessive force during civil rights demonstrations,” he said. “When you look at our policy dealing with First Amendment or civil rights demonstrations, our policy specifically talks about the taser as a form of less-lethal force that is applicable. It’s another area that goes hand-in-hand with the city’s resolutions.”

According to Botbyl, there have been 65 instances where the Menominee Police needed to use force over the last three years, and many of them involved the use of a taser. He also said that, in the training for the use of tasers, about half of the Menominee Police officers have experienced being on the receiving end of a taser.

“We are looking for less than lethal force that will protect the officer as well as the person that needs to be subdued. It’s a no-brainer to me,” said Councilmember Doug Robinson.

“Have we ever had a time when we had to taze somebody and the taser didn’t work, needing to unholster a pistol instead?” asked Mayor Jean Stegeman.

“I can tell you that there have been a few times where a taser hasn’t worked and a holster has been drawn,” Botbyl said.

“We need to work with less lethal force, but would it make sense that we budget one of these every year rather than all at once so it’s less of a budget issue?” asked Councilmember Dennis Klitzke.

City Manager Tony Graff said this was the approach that Axon’s five-year agreement would take. Botbyl said the tasers themselves cost about $1,700 without including the cartridges or the training for use.

“I personally think that $24,000 is too much,” said Councilmember Bill Plemel.

Ultimately the council approved the five-year agreement with Axon in an eight-to-one vote with only Plemel opposing.


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DNR issue statement over Tyco class action lawsuit

EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a statement Monday distancing itself from a recent multimillion-dollar lawsuit between some residents in the Town of Peshtigo (TOP) and three companies involved in the historic production and testing of a specialized fire suppressant agent, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF).

The lawsuit, filed against defendants Tyco Fire Products LP, Chemguard, Inc., and ChemDesign Products concerned the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that leached into the surrounding environment from historical testing sites at the Tyco Fire Technology Center in the City of Marinette. The contamination plume reached several Town of Peshtigo private drinking water wells.

PFAS serves as a primary component in AFFF that imbues the fire suppressant with its ability to stifle hazardous liquid fires. The lawsuit, known as Campbell v. Tyco Fire Products, et. al., Case No. 2:19-CV-00422-RMG, recently reached a $17.5 million settlement in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina—Charleston Division.

The statement categorically informs that the DNR “is not a party to this private, third-party action and (the department) cannot intervene in the lawsuit. Additionally, the DNR does not have a formal, oversight role with respect to this lawsuit, and is not authorized by state law to provide legal advice to individuals.”

However, the statement delineated some actions (unrelated to any the lawsuit and/or settlement) that the DNR can take with regard to the current status of the PFAS investigation and contamination remediation in Marinette, Peshtigo and surrounding areas. In that capacity, the department issued the following information.

  • The department clarified that Tyco and its parent company, Johnson Controls Inc. (Tyco/JCI), have not completed a site investigation that has adequately defined the extent of contamination originating from the FTC. Nor have those entities ensured that all private drinking water wells contaminated have been identified.
  • Tyco/JCI have not fully evaluated options for replacement drinking water, nor communicated with affected residents about those options. The DNR has formally requested that Tyco/JCI take such steps.
  • While Tyco/JCI have proposed that some households be connected to newly extended municipal water lines, the DNR clarified that such a project remains contingent upon necessary steps that must be completed by both Tyco/JCI and the municipalities involved. To date, the DNR states it is not aware those necessary steps have occurred. Specifically, an agreement between Tyco/JCI and a municipality would be required to proceed with the construction and connection of another city’s water supply. Also, the TOP would need to request water from a municipality and apply to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for approval.

Finally, the DNR’s statement further clarified its position regarding one of the long-term water solutions proposed by Tyco/JCI to eliminate exposure to PFAS-contaminated drinking water. That option involves the construction of new, deeper private water supply wells.

However, according to the DNR, that option provokes concerns. First, drilling wells deeper into the aquifer beneath the Marinette/Peshtigo area may tap drinking water containing other, naturally occurring contaminants such as iron, sulfates, manganese, and radium which can pose potential adverse health effects.

Therefore, deeper wells would likely require specialized treatment and ongoing maintenance to deliver an acceptable water. There is also the possibility of contaminating the deeper aquifer with PFAS compounds during the well-drilling process, or over time as the well operates by “dragging down” contaminated groundwater.

In addition to the establishment of the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) in 2020 and spearheading the creation of the statewide PFAS Action Plan the department continues to take several measures in an attempt to mitigate PFAS pollution. Its actions remain grounded in three guiding principles: environmental justice, health equity and pollution prevention.

In the Peshtigo and Marinette areas, those mitigating actions include the DNR’s ongoing work with Tyco/JCI to address PFAS contamination in the area. However, those issues still have not been resolved to the DNR’s satisfaction to date.


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DNR PFAS Listening Session Today

DNR PFAS Listening Session today

MARINETTE—Today the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hosts two online, Zoom-based listening sessions regarding the PFAS contamination in the Marinette and Peshtigo areas.

The first meeting runs from noon to 2 p.m. and the second goes from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Department officials strongly encourage residents to submit questions in advance of the meeting via email at DNRJCIPFAS@wisconsin.gov or by phone (888-626-3244).

Officials with the DNR, the Department of Health Services (DHS) and other partners plan to present information regarding updates on the site investigation and on the sampling of potable wells for levels of PFAS in the “Expanded Site Investigation Area.” The session will close with a question and answer period.

Those wishing to join the meeting can do so remotely via phone at 312-626-6799 or by joining through the Zoom application from an electronic device.

When prompted, enter the following meeting I.D. number: 987-8984-2376

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) constitute a large group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers and some types of firefighting foam.

Over time, PFAS leached into the environment through spills, discharges from treatment plants of wastewater containing PFAS and from the use of certain types of firefighting foams.

Strong scientific evidence reveals probable links between PFAS and some adverse human health issues.

As part of a statewide initiative to ensure Wisconsinites have access to clean, safe, drinking water Gov. Tony Evers’ issued Executive Order #40 in 2019 to address PFAS contamination.


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