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Memorial prep rooted in day's history

EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—An even cut, sharp around the corners and whack away the tatty growth. As good clean cuts go in the City of Marinette, this one spans at least 70 acres and digs deep at the roots of sacrifice that support the freedoms, founding principles and people of this nation.

And each year, a cadre of Marinette city employees make it happen, to help remember the United States Armed Forces men and women who served and sacrificed to maintain those freedoms. Such memorial entails attention to detail that constitutes a deep reverence and a solemn beauty imparted to the grounds of those soldiers’ final resting places.

In General Order No. 11, titled titled “Memorial Day Order,” issued May 5, 1868, and archived at the National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Gen John Logan, a Civil War Union Army general and later a U.S. Senator, stated:

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance... {span}Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic{/span}.”

Falling in line with those words, “neglect” does not apply when it comes to the approximate 70 acres of Marinette’s three cemeteries, especially this time of year.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

For about the last week, the cemeteries have been abuzz—often literally—as employees from the city’s cemetery crews, public works department and even a couple borrowed staff members from the water utility department drove a heavy workload for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

“They have been coming in early and staying late,” said City Clerk Lano Bero. “Memorial Day is a day to express our gratitude towards the people who have served our country and to our loved ones who are buried there. So we really want to make sure, especially for Memorial Day, that everything is done as best as we possibly can have it done.”

Bero also serves as the administrator for Marinette’s small cadre of employees who tend the cemeteries year-round. And, currently, with only three permanent cemetery crewmembers this time of year, she emphasized her gratitude for the additional support from the public works and water utility departments in efforts to spruce up and beautify the lawns, headstones, mausoleums and other areas for the upcoming weekend and Memorial Day ceremonies.

“This week it was all call, to get anybody in there to help get the cemeteries ready,” Bero said. “We try to keep it looking nice and we try to have everything ready for Memorial Day … and maintaining the grass is constant. They get done on one end and they have to start right back up.”

As the past several days revealed, tending the cemeteries throughout the year often comes down to keeping up with the weather, a point addressed by Public Works Superintendent Patrick Carlson following the work crew’s early morning muster Wednesday morning, just before workers converged on Forest Home Cemetery for a long day on the mowers or toting a weed whacker.

“We have to trim every headstone and cut the grass,” Carlson said. “And it’s been raining on and off. When we get this kind of hot, humid weather the grass (growth) explodes”

Moreover, throughout the spring and summer, according to Scott Walters, a lead groundskeeper for the city’s cemeteries, with six workers and three lawnmowers, it takes four to five days to weed eat all three cemeteries and about three to four days to cut grass.

However, all that works turns back to the origins and purpose behind Memorial Day, which in many ways, derives its origin from the Nation’s cemeteries.

TRACING THE REMEMBRANCE

When it comes to the number of lives lost, of all U.S. military conflicts, the Civil War tore through American families worse than any other, claiming over 600,000 men and women from both sides. According to History.com, that considerable burden required the country to establish the first national cemeteries. The war ended in the spring of 1865 and by the close of that decade, Americans throughout the land had begun to congregate in cemeteries each spring, bearing flowers and prayers for loved ones’ graves to remember and honor the sacrifice.

Initially known as Decoration Day after Gen. Logan called for a national day of remembrance in his “Memorial Day Order.” He bequeathed that day as he put it, “for the purpose strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion (Civil War), and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Not until about 100 years later did the federal government finally designate Memorial Day an official holiday in 1971. And today, cemeteries across the country continue to serve as the gathering places for those commemorative ceremonies.

And thus, its history lends a weight of respect for those who work to ensure that, on the last Monday of May each year, Americans can offer reverence for the sacrifices made by military service members and the Nation can continue to honor the legacy of that sacrifice.

A WORK WELL-RESPECTED

Wednesday morning, under lofty clouds broken by radiating warmth and blue sky, amidst the soft din of birdsong and a light breeze, Marinette area resident Tony Linczeski ventured to Forest Home Cemetery with his sister and brother-in-law. He carried red, white and blue carnation décor, which he placed at the headstone of his wife’s father, Robert Diamond. Diamond, a U.S. Army service member who fought during the invasion of Normandy in France earned a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained during combat. The invasion began on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and marked the beginning of the Allied advance into Western Europe during World War II.

Linczeski understands the importance that families place on the upkeep of their loved ones’ resting places. Prior to laying carnations, he and his sister and brother-in-law walked a one-mile loop through Forest Home.

“And as we were going around I said to them, ‘boy does it look nice here’ because the flowers are starting to show up and it is really just coming to life,” Linczeski said. “It is nice to see it, and it is a respect thing. My parents are on the other side of the cemetery and (my father) is a veteran too … and it is about our soldiers … we wouldn’t be living in today’s society without them: the Greatest Generation ever.”

That same morning, across the way in Forest Home, Public Works and cemetery crews continued their busy day.

From his perch upon a mower, Walters echoed Linczeski’s thoughts as he spent the morning trimming down the southwestern region of the cemetery. Both of Walters’ grandfathers saw action in the Army, one during World War I and the other in World War II.

“It is pretty important work,” Walter’s said, referring to the maintenance of the cities cemetery grounds and acknowledging his fellow employees. “(Our Nation’s) service members (sacrificed) for their country … and we owe it to them to keep up the cemetery.”

Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot, scheduled to speak at Monday’s 10:45 memorial ceremony at Forest Home, also recognized the significance of bestowing a level of respect to such hallowed places, as well as respect for those behind work.

“It’s all hands on deck every year around Memorial Day to ensure the cemeteries look really good,” Genisot said.


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Marinette County Board has a new home

EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—Nice acoustics, more elbow room and plenty of space for the public. The Marinette County Board conducted its first meeting Tuesday in its new board room on the first floor of the courthouse.

County Administrator John Lefebvre explained that the room is still a work in progress. He said new lighting just arrived, but it has not been installed yet.

For the past few months, because of COVID-19, the board has met at the Herbert L. Williams Theatre on the UW-Green Bay Marinette campus. That location offered more space and an opportunity to social distance as opposed to the old county board room on the third floor of the courthouse.

Lefebvre said committee meetings will also be conducted in the new venue. He said the rolling tables can be moved and configured to meet any size of committee.

“I think it’s a little bit larger,” he said of the location. “If we need to, we can provide microphones at any given time during the meetings.”

Lefebvre said the Health and Human Services Board can still meet at the HHSD building if it desires, or it can meet in the new board room.

The county also is looking to move the Clerk of Courts office from the second floor of the courthouse to the first floor of the annex. Lefebvre said work will begin next month.

“The goal, as I’ve indicated before, is to turn the annex into a judicial center,” he said, adding that the judicial center will be secure with every person who enters being screened.

Lefebvre said the target is to have the judicial center completed in six months. He said the county is working closely with Circuit Judge Jim Morrison to make the courthouse as secure as possible.

In another matter involving Morrison, the county’s Mental Health Court received a $7,500 grant from the M&M Community Foundation. The judge, along with other members of the Mental Health Court committee, was presented with an oversized ceremonial check from foundation Director Paula Gruszynski.

Morrison said getting the grant is a big deal. “But what’s a bigger deal, I think, is that this county stepped up to the plate to provide all of the support and all of the funding for this mental health court when we started,” he said.

Morrison said, unlike drug courts, there is very little funding available for mental health courts. He pointed out that Marinette County was the fifth county out of 72 counties in the state to start a mental health court.

The judge gave credit for obtaining the grant to Lt. Joe Nault of the Marinette Police Department, a committee member, along with the rest of the board.

Grusynski said the foundation’s committee, when determining where grant money is distributed, looks at how many people may be affected.

“This mental health court changes lives from here to Goodman and our (committee) recognized that immediately,” she said.

Morrison said four members of the mental health court were in the courthouse Tuesday morning and “each one of them is better off today than they were a year ago.”

He said the court is hopeful it may receive another grant from the Aurora Medical Center Bay Area foundation.

In other matters,

Æ Lefebvre said the county will no longer allow supervisors or other committee/board members to attend meetings virtually.

Æ The administrator pointed out that there has been a spike in the amount of inmates at the jail and some have been transferred to Florence and Oconto counties in order to keep jail numbers at a reasonable level.

“That stimulus money is working very well—it’s stimulating a lot of drug deals throughout our community,” Lefebvre quipped.

Æ Lefebvre informed the board that the county on May 19 received $3,918,757 from the American Rescue Plan. That’s the first half of the funding, with the second half slated to be received in May of 2022.

“All funds must be extended by Dec. 31, 2024,” Lefebvre said. He added that more information is available online, including how the funds can be used.

“However, before considering the distribution of any of these funds to other entities, such as small businesses, nonprofits, I want to make sure that all eligible county needs are considered first,” Lefebvre said.

He said the county is not on a fast track to distribute the funds, so he wants to make sure it is done in a deliberate manner.


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Clock is ticking for county to find sex offender housing
  • Updated

EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—Nothing has changed since about two weeks ago when Marinette County Administrator John Lefebvre told the Administrative Committee the county still has not found a place to house a Wisconsin Chapter 980 violent sex offender. If the county doesn’t find housing for that person by June 10, it could face monetary sanctions.

Lefebvre delivered that same message to the entire county board Tuesday at its regular monthly meeting.

“We continue to search for a vendor who will enter into a lease with DHS (Department of Health Services),” he said.

The 980 Committee met in closed session Thursday. Following the meeting, Lefebvre said there was plenty of discussion, but no progress has been made.

“I don’t know if a week is going to do us any good,” he said referring to the next 980 Committee meeting set for June 9. “The reason we picked the 9th is it’s the day before (the deadline). It gives us as much time as we possibly can have before the (deadline).”

At Tuesday’s county board meeting, he said, “At the present time options for placement are limited to none. There are no good viable options.”

The county received notice Feb. 10 that an offender (James Harris, 52) from the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wisconsin, will be released to Marinette County. That center houses “Chapter 980” offenders, which according to state statutes are labeled “Sexually Violent Person Commitments.”

Wisconsin Chapter 980, which took effect in 1994, allows civil commitment and treatment for certain sex offenders after they complete criminal sentences. For many years after Chapter 980 took effect, violent sex offenders have faced hurdles finding places to live. In 2017, Act 184 was adopted which required counties where the offenders were convicted to find suitable housing after they have completed their prison sentences.

The committee thought it had a potential location on Mudbrook Road, located at the border of the towns of Lake and Porterfield, but at its March meeting, the county board voted it down by an emphatic 28-2 margin. About 100 residents from that area attended the meeting—16 of them spoke during public comment—and they convinced most supervisors to vote no.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, on Tuesday, seemed to blame the board’s vote on media coverage.

“Just so everyone is aware, all the parties are aware, the county board opted not to fund the house because the news media was all over that,” she said. “Just an FYI.”

The EagleHerald ran one short story in advance of that board meeting. Residents of that neighborhood took it upon themselves, to organize, educate themselves, conduct meetings and contact the proper officials. The end result was a strong, powerful show of support before the full county board.

Lefebvre, on Tuesday, pointed out that when a property is labeled as a potential site, the sheriff’s office then investigates to make sure there are no families with children living on the adjoining properties.

He reiterated what he told the Administrative Committee—when residents see deputies talking to neighbors about a sex offender, the rumors start to fly. Lefebvre said deputies have scoped out about 10 locations so far with no luck.

“Don’t be surprised if you get a call,” he told supervisors, “because we are checking out another location. It’s going to occur.”

Lefebvre said he and Mattison are working very hard—every day—to find a location for the offender. “We have contacted everybody we could conceivably contact,” Mattison said. “Administration has worked very hard on this as have the rest of the 980 people (committee).”

They are trying desperately to meet the June 10 deadline to submit a plan to the state. If they don’t, the county could be fined $500 to $1,000 per day.

Lefebvre said if the county does not have a plan by June 10, it will continue the effort because the fines won’t stop.

“It’s each day that we could be assessed a penalty,” he said. “If we don’t have one by the 10th, we will try to get one by the 11th, then we’ll go to the 12th and the 13th. We will just continue on until we find a placement. This isn’t going away.”

Lefebvre said if the county does not show it is trying to find housing, “the state will not look kindly on that.”

Some board members wanted to continue discussing the matter, but they were informed this is not an agenda item “per se.” It was part of Lefebvre’s administrator’s report.

There is another Chapter 980 home in the county—in the Town of Pound—but it is owned by a private entity. There is no room in that house as the home is at the maximum capacity of two residents. No private entity has stepped forward to lease a home for the sex offender that is being released.

Lefebvre said four sex offenders have gone through that location.

• Supervisor Don Pazynski attempted to speak Thursday during public comment but he was not allowed. Lefebvre, following the meeting, said supervisors are not allowed to speak under public comment on county board related items. He said that rule has been in place as long as he can remember.

Pazynski provided the EagleHerald with his statement. He is against the 980 Committee meeting in closed session and he believes communication with the public is lacking.

“By engaging in a closed session, the committee will be dismissing the public by showing a lack of desire for communication,” his statement reads. “If we think we have strong opposition now—remember—if you do not communicate—people will speculate. And then ... you lose control of the message.”


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