Monday, June 10, 2019

In case you hadn't noticed: some of the changes going on around town

It's been awhile since I posted anything so here's a long overdue installment of a few of the things that have been going on around town.

We are now in the cemetery business
If you recall, last year the Lake View Cemetery Association's membership voted to dissolve. Once their decision became official both the City and the Town of Chetek received a cemetery under our mutual tree last Christmas. According to State ordinance, an “abandoned” cemetery ultimately becomes the responsibility of the municipality in which it is found. Since we both have a stake in it (they own 3/5 of it and we own 2/5) we could have agreed to do nothing. It's only after five years that the State can order a municipality to “adopt” an orphaned graveyard. But there's no way we – or them – would allow that much time to elapse before taking ownership. So like it or lump it now we've got it.

This past spring a joint agreement was written up where essentially we will go “halfsies” with the Town on both the maintenance and the upkeep of Lake View as well as the hiring of a sexton. In this arrangement, the Town will mow the grass and bill us. Meanwhile Town of Chetek Board President Mark Carlson and I interviewed a handful of applicants for the sexton's position and decided to offer Donna Bachowski the job. Donna, who is also the Director of The Center, has both good organizational skills and is great with people. Unlike previous sextons she will not have to deal with any kind of maintenance or mowing schedules. Her sole responsibility will be sales and locating. She has a designated phone for this (715-642-0052). In the future our hope is to digitize the records so that those who call for genealogical purposes can find their information through a link on our website. This season is a bit of a trial run for all of us. Between the two municipalities she will be paid $200/month throughout the year. Come fall we'll reevaluate to see if that is realistic or needs to be altered. But it's for real: we are in the cemetery business.

Previous sexton Robert Lund and his crew
did a great job of improving the look of Lake View

The new dock is in!
Last year the council voted unanimously to initiate a boat launch fee ($5/daily and $25/seasonal) for city dock. While the Resort Owners Association expressed their disapproval of this decision for fear it would scare people off the council decided to move forward on it all the same. Municipalities like ours are always looking for more revenue streams as a way to spread the love around. We don't mind if people launch from our dock. We also don't think most people will mind contributing to its upkeep and improvement. In our inaugural season over $3,200 was collected at the unmonitored box at the top of the hill. All of that went to the Parks Department and with additional outlay funds a brand new handicapped-accessible dock was purchased and installed just a week ago.

Carmen tells me that as of last week already $2,300 has been collected this season (and its only mid-June!) This money will be funneled right back to the boat dock for its ongoing upkeep as well as the improvement of the site. We think this modest fee has been successful in helping us provide a quality dock for both residents and visitors to our lakes.

The new look of Main Street Park

Improvements to Main Street Park
If I've learned anything while serving as mayor these last three years is that when you change something or move something people get nervous. This past spring Main Street Park underwent some serious renovations. The eagle totem sculpture was removed for safety purposes on account of its deteriorating condition. The flowering crab was removed (all that was left of the original shrubs that were planted there in 2001) and in order to make room for the new stamped concrete that was laid down the rocks with the memorial plaques upon them were moved to the side. Both Jeremy Gesler of Gesler Concrete and the mayor got an earful from a few local citizens who took issue with those rocks being tossed away. Of course, they weren't tossed away – they were just moved to the side until the concrete work was completed. The pavilion (which still needs a new roof) got power-washed and a fresh coat of stain
Natalie Turner
(courtesy of Scott and Donna Bachowski and city inspector Joe Atwood) and the rocks were carefully reinstalled in a new location along Ohde's south wall. A local citizen who wishes to remain anonymous donated new flower boxes and standing pots and monies given in memory of Natalie Turner, the 17-year-old C-W HS student who was tragically killed in 2017, helped us purchase the new sunflower benches.

Local artist Dylan Martinson
has been enjoying the courtyard on Saturday mornings

There's more to come just probably not this year. We spent $1,500 to move a power supply that allowed Taste of Chetek to be held on the grounds of the new edition to Main Street Park. We'd like to add things like a privacy fence between the park and the private
Taste of Chetek was held on the grounds
of the new edition this year
residence to the immediate east, a concrete border on either side of the edition to allow vehicles to access the park if, for example, a farmer's market were ever to return to the city, as well keep adequate green space in the middle. One of the big ticket items on our dream list are public restroom facilities for the park as well. All of these things, of course, cost money – way more than we have outlay funds for. So we're always on the look-out for creative partnerships between the city and local citizens. If you think you could help with that please let us know.

Credit Donna Bachowski for her leadership on the Parks Committee for helping bring about many of these changes. If you've been keeping count this is the third time I've mentioned her name in this article for not only is Donna the director of The Center and the new sexton of Lake View Cemetery but she is also the chairperson of the Parks Committee. We should all be grateful that she works for us and does such a capable job of it.

Donna with husband, Scott, who also serves
as the current President of the Chetek Common Council

There's more going on around town but that will have to keep until next time. I don't need to tell you that our summer residents and visitors are back. Even though this is the season of No-Left-Turns-Onto-Second-Street it sure feels good to have the town humming with activity again. It makes me hope it will be a prodigious summer for both those who visit here and for those who live here too.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Funny you should ask: What's going on at Main Street Park?

Summer 2016
"We just want to provide a sheltered spot on Main Street where people can meet, sit, talk, eat and come together." Doctor Ivan Sletten on the dedication of Main Street Park, July 2001

The talk around town these days is, among other things, about all the changes currently going on at Main Street Park. Rocks with dedication plaques fastened upon them have been moved, a flowering crab and a pole with a carved eagle upon it have been taken down. And to some it appears that the pavilion has been moved further away from Second Street. What gives? And who authorized such changes?

from The Chetek Alert
First, a little history
On July 3, 2001, a standing room only crowd dedicated Main Street Park. Spearheaded by the generosity of Dr. Ivan and Grace Sletten, then Mayor John Banks received this wonderful donation to our city. Among the notables in attendance that day was Wisconsin State Representative Mary Hubler. It's a big deal when a small community like ours receives such a generous donation from one of her own. According to an article in The Chetek Alert at the time of the dedication, “Doc” Sletten's idea was to provide a “grassy, shady, sheltered spot on Main Street...where people can meet, sit, talk, eat and come together.” What's more he hoped that the park's presence in the heart of our city would “contribute to a sense of hospitality, friendliness and help foster a community spirit.”

from the Chetek Alert
Who can deny that it certainly has? Privately funded by the Sletten family, for many a summer Main Street Park hosted the weekly “Music in the Park” series. During Harvest Fest the Boy Scouts set up shop there for their annual chicken feed. One Christmas it was the site of a live Nativity that was sponsored by a couple of local churches complete with mule, cow, and a couple of sheep (that got loose for a time at the end of the evening but that's another story.)

The summer following Main Street Park's dedication, the Slettens commissioned local artist Rick Purintin to create a large eagle totem that was raised in memory of those who had died in the September 2001 terror attacks.

from the Chetek Alert

In 2011, an attempt was made by the city to purchase the lot behind Ohde's as an addition to Main Street Park but failed because we couldn't negotiate an affordable price. Fortunately, in the summer of 2017 and a new owner later, we tried again and this time we were successful in securing the property which we hope to develop in time.

In 2017 this vacant lot was added to the footprint of Main Street Park

Main Street Park is getting a new look
Things fall apart and wear out
It has now been 19 years since the park was originally dedicated and time has taken its toll on our park in the center of town. The original fountain's plumbing froze up and was removed several years ago. The eagle totem became weathered and unsafe for display and so was taken down last fall. The pavilion is in much need of being power-washed and a new coat of stain. The shakes on the roof have reached their life expectancy. And just like everything else the whole complex needs sprucing up.

The memorial stones were moved temporarily
so that the concrete work could be completed

The new cement benches being set

This past winter the Parks Committee convened to prioritize 2019 projects and in a relatively short period of time committed ourselves to approximately $50,000 worth of improvements and additions city-wide. One of the first orders of business was improving and expanding Main Street Park. Bids were put out and awarded to local contractor Jeremy Gesler of Gesler Concrete to lay down stamped concrete and create some bench seating at the park. What's more the memorial stones remain at the park but are displayed in a new location along the green space adjoining Ohde's. The pavilion not only will get its make-over but some non-supporting posts will be removed to create access from the pavilion to the new addition. What's more new signage will be erected that includes a new kiosk that includes a map of the city and where local businesses may be located.

And what about the new addition part? Well, at the very least we plan to erect electrical boxes on either side of the property so that during Harvest Fest or other community events vendors could have access to electricity. We're still kicking around the general plan but personally my hope is that whatever we finally do agree upon it will include some green space as well as some shade trees so that some of those “shady spots” that “Doc” Sletten originally imagined for Main Street Park will be realized. One of our “dream goals” is public restroom facilities to be located on the property as well. Last summer, 2nd Ward Alderperson Denise Moran and I did a walking tour of the downtown business district and in every case all but one of our business owners thought it would be wonderful if the city were to provide such facilities.

The work has begun in earnest and whenever changes happen people become anxious. Jeremy told me he had at least two visitors
Please note the memorial stones are now located
adjacent Ohde's Hometown Pharmacy
while he and his crew were laying the new concrete who took him to task for destroying the park. I myself received a piece of unsigned mail which chastised me for allowing the “beautiful Military Park to be ruined.” Well, for starters, the Veterans Park is located up on the north-end of town on the other side of the Long Bridge. Secondly, while we recognize that the changes that are happening will alter the appearance of Main Street Park we also hope people will enjoy the final product when everything is done and find it aesthetically pleasing.

He was a very generous soul

In the later years of his life, “Doc” Sletten and I became acquainted and whenever he would come to town he would go out of his way to encourage me in my work as a pastor. As everyone who knew him knows he was a very generous man not only monetarily but in friendship as well. I don't know what he'd say about all the changes that are going on at Main Street Park today but I think he would approve that the spirit of his original donation – a place that fosters a sense of community – is being adhered to. I guess we'll just have to wait and see until the work is complete.

Architectural image of what it might look like when complete

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wheezle Mayfield and his ilk (Complaints, Inc.)

I wish I were taller.”
from the Seinfeld episode “The Cartoon”

Whine. We all do it at one time or another. We whine about the weather. We whine about traffic. In this town, we whine specifically about the traffic on the main drag during the summertime because we can't turn left onto Second Street because of all the tourists in town. We whine...well, you get it. Who hasn't heard this retort after we've gone on our little rant about whatever it is we're upset about, “Would you like a little cheese with that whine?” Yes, it is a time-honored tradition around here and my guess everywhere.

From time to time people ask me, “How's the mayor-ing job going? Are you tired of all the complaints?” to wit I'm happy to respond that by and large over the last three years I've really received more “attaboys” than any thorough tongue-lashings. Oh, sure from time to time I do get an ear-ful but with few exceptions they are expressed with no personal vendetta behind it (or at least, that which I perceive as personal).

But still, there are people that seem to me to be just contrary. You know the type: they are quick to point out what's wrong with an issue but never have any helpful suggestions as to how they think it should be fixed. And even if a matter that they're upset about gets addressed its not fixed the way they think it should have been if they were the ones calling the shots. Every town has got people like that.

The other day I asked the girls at City Hall what were common complaints they received and in no order in particular they rattled off five recurring issues:

  1. Taxes are too high.

Okay, who hasn't griped about taxes? But too high compared to what? New York? Minneapolis? New Auburn? If you're going to live in a municipality and expect 24/7 police protection, garbage, sewer and water services, fire and ambulance coverage I guess we have to be prepared to pay for it. By the way, a little fun fact here: your 2019 city taxes went up just a skosh. If you're looking for a culprit as to why your taxes went up look again at your school and county taxes. We have no control over either one.
  1. Recycling bins are always fill.
They are! They really are. In fact, if you don't get to the recycling bin at the dam early in the week during the summertime you are setting yourself up for frustration. We would argue that
at least one of the reasons that they are is that the Town of Chetek, unlike the Town of Prairie Lake, has no recycling site whatsoever. Therefore, Town of Chetek folk drop off their recycling at our locations which are designed for City residents. Just saying. This past winter Atrium informed the City that they wanted the recycling bin on their property moved. The plan is to relocate it behind City Hall. Expect that to happen soon.

  1. Why isn't the brush site open longer?
    Be nice to Jack. He only
    enforces the rules on the books
The brush site will be opening again soon and once again Jack will resume his post at the entrance. For the last couple of seasons the brush site has been open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. Inevitably, some folks are upset about that and wish it could be open longer and more frequently. Or how 'bout we go back to the day when it was just open all the time? Well, here's the thing with that: on May 1, 2013 the heavens opened up and dumped over a foot of snow over the area. Soon our brush site became Ground Zero for every clean-up crew in this part of the county. We had so much brush back there that ultimately we had, at city expense, to hire a grinder to come in to mulch it all up. The pile was just way to big to burn per DNR regulations. If you recall, in response to that in 2014 there was no municipal brush site. I believe in 2015 it was reopened but this time with someone on the city's payroll to monitor brush that was brought in (again, Town of Prairie Lake has a brush site while Town of Chetek does not). Jack's been our guy the last two seasons and it's his job to check everyone who brings brush and yard waste there to ensure they are city residents only. We only pay him minimum wage and we're happy to have such a competent and polite monitor. All this to say is that put it on your calendar to serve as a reminder that it is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 3-6 pm and never when it's raining.

  1. They don't seem to get it
    Goose poop at the beach.
This is a common complaint in the summer time. Dan has tried all kinds of tricks to keep the geese out but they still do their business where our kids and us would like to go barefoot. Per Carmen the only real way to fix this problem is to invent a goose pooper-scooper and then hire someone to go down there – what, twice a week? - to scoop it up. I suppose we could find the money to pay that person but who wants that job? (Please do not suggest one of the guys at Public Works get delegated that task. I'm telling you now that's what they call a 'non-starter').

  1. City dock/Hydroflites
While not a fisherman myself I have it on good authority that the city dock can get quite busy in the summertime. Between fishing boats and the flotilla that makes up the Hydroflite fleet it can feel as crowded as Times Square at times (that is a definite exaggeration but you get what I'm saying). The Hydroflites are a long-lasting tradition in our community and we're grateful that they're here. At the same time, we want people to have access to the lake to fish. There will be some significant improvements coming to the city dock this summer which probably won't fix the traffic issue but it certainly will increase accessibility to the Chain especially for handicapped residents. At peak times (right before show time, for example) a little patience and a little grace are required by all parties involved.

I reached out to Public Works Director Dan Knapp and City Inspector Joe Atwood via email regarding the complaints they get and only Joe responded with a one-sentence email: “Property appearance and junk vehicles.” I do get it that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What appears as 'junk' to one home-owner is a little diamond in the ruff that needs just a little TLC by another. We have no ordinance against how many vehicles you can store on your property. Last year I suggested we might consider such a regulation and immediately there was a general hue and cry about “government overstep”. We do have a requirement that every one of our vehicles has to have their registration up to date AND has to move on its own accord. Chief and his crew are generally pretty good about sending out a gentle reminder about this right about this time or risk citation.

I didn't get anything from Dan but I don't think it's rocket science to suggest that one of the frequent complaints he does get is about snow removal. Last Thursday's snow storm is a perfect case in point. The county was out in force but our guys were sight unseen. And then about mid-morning on Friday, Dan unleashed the hounds and the guys got to it. Snow removal in the late spring is one of those “Damned if you do”/ “Damned if you don't” kinda things. If you don't people complain – like this complaint that was lodged at our City of Chetek Facebook page. 

If you do then the complaints start coming in about how the city just filled in everyone's driveway. What's a Public Works Director to do? I don't tell Dan how to run his department. I don't know what formula he uses to determine when to send the plows out and when to keep them home. Personally, I think our guys do a darn good job and we should be thankful how helpful they frequently are.

For me, the few complaints I have received have to do with (no surprise to anyone who is paying attention to municipal activity in the last few years):

  1. The Mill
You have a venue on the edge of a neighborhood full of little kids which is busiest on Friday and Saturday nights. What's more, 'quiet hours' begin at 10 pm (even for The Mill). Add in alcohol that is served at weddings and other celebrations and that spells loud and (sometimes) obnoxious behavior by a few of The Mill's patrons. It's my understanding that years ago there were many of the same issues with Red's as this is a tavern-restaurant right in the middle of a neighborhood as well. But the current owners of Red's police their patrons, erected privacy fences and as far as I know do a good job of being good neighbors. My hope remains that the Helms, the owners of The Mill, will work as hard as those guys who own Reds, to do the very same with their neighbors.
  1. Purchasing the old Chetek Cafe
Since the building has come down I don't hear this as much but it's out there all the same. $175K seems like a lot of money for an empty lot that we'll never sell for the same price. If you're looking for a dollar-for-dollar return on your money I guess that's a fair criticism butI look at it as 'seed money'. We helped a business owner (the Wojkes of Chetek Cafe) expand and we gained acquisition of a prime piece of real estate in the heart of the business district. The old cafe was on its last leg and had we not spent the $50K to tear it down it would still be standing slowly falling apart. 'Sure we'll gladly sell you this old building but you'll not only have to buy the property but you'll also have to spend the money to tear it down'. Yeah, not a great marketing plan. So the city did the heavy-lifting, invested a little seed money and if in time a new business arises at that locale it will be a property back on the tax-rolls. Personally, I think it's gonna work out in time. But sure as shooting, if we did nothing whatsoever, there would be complaints about that to.

There's a lot going on in town right now. We just had soil samples taken out at the 40-acre addition at the end of Knapp Street. As soon as we get the results back we'll begin Phase 1 of the new development out there. Significant improvements to Main Street Park are in earnest. New roofs have already gone up on all the other park pavilions. 

Airport Park pavilion has a new roof
The newly re-formed Property Committee has toured all the city-owned facilities and will soon be producing some recommendations for the council to consider. Conversations have been taking place with a few other groups in town that could result in other significant changes to certain properties. But like so many things in municipal goings-on there are a lot of moving parts and nothing happens quickly. Which is a good thing in the overall scheme of things. 'Slow and steady wins the race,' right?

Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm by Jerdine Nolan is all about a man named Harvey Potter who, unlike his neighbors who grow corn, okra and tomatoes, grows balloons. One of his more contrary neighbors, a certain Wheezle Mayfield, was so upset about his peculiar farming practices that he called the government on Harvey and soon a group of government scientists in white coats and gloves descended on his farm to investigate. As the little girl who is the narrator tells us “They pulled and they pried and finally they pricked one of those plants with a pin. And what was supposed to
happen did – the balloon popped. Even they couldn't argue with that. So they gave Harvey Potter the right to grow balloons. He never asked them for it, mind you. But he took it anyway, just to be polite. Let me tell you, it made everybody happy. Well, almost everybody. Wheezle was sore.” 

Every town has a got a Wheezle Mayfield or two who are only happy when they're grousing or complaining about something. Which is too bad but some folks have trained themselves to be that way and nothing but the grace of God can help there.

There are constructive ways to work toward solutions about certain things. For starters, settle down before you pick up the phone to rant to someone at Public Works or City Hall. They're people, too, busy with their work and haven't been sitting idly by waiting for you to blast them with your Jeremiad. Ask questions. Show up at city council meetings and get educated. Call your alderperson or the mayor (or both) and ask for a sit-down to discuss the issues that concern you. Dialogue is always more helpful that lobbing vocal grenades at whomever you believe may be 'the enemy'.

Its warming up out there. The sun's out (okay, not today). Let's hope we're done with the snow. And hey, just remind yourself, it's gonna be a great day!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Passing go and collecting while we do

Recently I received an email from someone I consider a friend who wrote to express their opinion about some of the “wheeling and dealing” (not their words) the city has been engaging in over the last few years. Here's just a portion of that email:

I have a problem with city government owning very much real estate. It’s the taxpayers money that’s invested, I can’t understand why. My feeling is there’s little to no chance the money vested into the Chetek CafĂ© property will ever be fully recovered. Then the city owns the former Jost law office and the house on Hwy SS South amongst other properties. I understand some of these properties are creating revenue from renting them but when you figure in improvements, updates, maintenance they are likely losing money. These city owned properties generate no tax revenue.

It's true. Since 2016 the city does seem like it's been in the real estate business. We sold Knapp Haven Nursing Home in April 2016 and then by the end of the year had purchased the Jost Law Office building on Moore Street. The following spring we purchased the vacant lot next to Ohde's right across the street from the law office. As everyone knows we bought the old Chetek Cafe last spring and then went and knocked it down last month. Last summer we bought the old Jennie-Os Breeder Farm at the corner of Knapp and 15th Street and with that purchase came the manager's house. That same house just was sold at February's common council meeting as was the city parking lot on Douglas Street. For the casual observer it may seem like we're playing Monopoly with the tax payer's money.

Well, to my friend's point, the city really doesn't want to be in the real estate business. We aren't trying to control the board. We just want to do what we can to help the city remain viable and continue to be a wonderful place to raise a family.

Going down the list of our presently held properties, here's what our current thinking is:

75 Hwy Blvd South: Located across from the Brass Rail the city purchased this home years ago. It sits right where our future Waste Water Treatment facility will go. The house came up for bid last month – and no one bid. There's a family currently living there. However, when it finally comes time to build the treatment facility they – and the house – will have to go. Until then, they pay the city rent. But my friend is correct: as a landlord when things go awry with a house we are responsible to make the necessary improvements. So while we may be getting regular rent payments when a garage door needs to be replaced (as it did last year), we have to pay for it. While the house is in good shape it's definitely not like owning Park Place.

The Jost Law Office Building (Moore Street). We didn't buy the Jost property just so we could be a landlord to the two gentlemen who presently live there. Our interest in the property is much more practical: for a future parking lot for the Center. While the Plan Commission has given the green light to raze the building presently the Property Committee is assessing whether or not that is the best use for that property. Until they make a recommendation to the council it is the sense of that group to continue to allow the two tenants to continue to live there. If we do go ahead on razing the structure those two individuals will have to relocate.

The Addition to Main Street Park (Moore Street). As for the vacant lot across the street from the Jost building that has become an addition to Main Street Park. We are currently working on plans to improve it and perhaps one day provide public restroom facilities there. Like a lot of things we do, we have high hopes and little cash but at the stage of the game dreaming is cheap.

Vacant lot for sale
The old Chetek Cafe lot (Second Street). We purchased the lot because we were interested in the property as the site of a future multi-purpose governmental building. That interest helped Chetek Cafe expand down the street helping a currently viable business remain prosperous. If the Alano Club prefers to remain in their present location (next to City Hall), the now vacant lot on Second Street becomes a piece of commercial real estate. My friend who sent the email is correct: we will not recoup the money that was spent to purchase and raze the old cafe building. That being said if a business is opened there we will garner something for the sale of the lot and in the long term it will be on the tax rolls. One of the challenges of that specific property is there is no parking lot that goes with it. A future business would have to have a conversation with the Alano Club about leasing space in their parking lot.

Dr. Sather is now the owner of this lot
Lots 16 and 17, Block 6, Second Addition, City of Chetek (118 Douglas Street). Sather Family Dental is planning on expanding. At January's common council meeting, Dr. Nik Sather approached the council asking if the city would be interested in selling the public parking lot that adjoins his present building. His plan is to build a 1,500 square foot addition to his present building which would allow him to hire an additional dentist. According to Dr. Sather, three dentists in the area have recently retired and he is preparing for the need that will arise from those retirements. The Plan Commission had already given the green light on his proposal. The city placed a notice in the Chetek Alert allowing for anyone else to bid on the property. No one did so his bid of $20,500 was accepted. We all feel good that Dr. Sather will remain in town but when that lot finally is closed to the public we are also expecting feedback about it. But like Cafe, we are helping a business not only remain viable but also expand.

Ken Schmidt bought this for $1
The manager's home of the former Jennie-O's Breeder Farm (Knapp Street). The city purchased the thirty-nine acres for one reason: affordable housing (“affordable” does not mean “low-income” housing). Since acquiring the property we have been having conversations with various developers on the best way to move forward on developing this property. One of the issues that has been raised is that any future developer of any section of that property might see the house, which is in otherwise good shape, as being “out of place” with whatever type of homes they would want to build and market. In other words, we need to move it – or raze it. So we put a notice out that we would be accepting bids on the purchase of this home contingent upon the fact that they would be responsible for moving it. Only one bid came in: Ken Schmidt of Schmidt Construction bid $1 for it – a bid that was accepted at the February common council meeting. If you think that's hardly a deal, it will cost Ken plenty to move the thing – money we would have had to spend otherwise. Once it's gone and the bore samples return we will be able to begin moving forward on creating some of the infrastructure we're going to need for this new development.

The property of the old City Shop (Ridgeway Street). These lots were sold in 2017 to Michael Miller of Whitehorse Construction. He is building “twinhomes” on Ridgeway. As I understand it, the difference between a twinhome and a duplex is this: a duplex has one owner who rents out one or both units. With a twinhome, you own three walls and the adjoining wall between the two you own as deep as the sheet rock. These kinds of structures attract both retirees and first-time buyers. He got the three lots for a song - $12,000 – but before he's done he will be also putting in a paved alley between Ridgeway and Tainter. One has already sold and three others remain up for sale. By what I can see he has room to construct two more twinhomes.

Did you know that the city owns the hillside on Ridgeway? Those lots, too, could be purchased and developed. We own a vacant lot on Tainter Street as well (I think it was connected to where the old city shop stood.) There's a vacant lot at the end of Hochmayr Drive (a part of the North Industrial Park). There's acreage in the South Industrial Park. And of course we own the current City Shop, the Police Department, Calhoun Memorial Library and City Hall. I've been told on good authority that when the new City Shop was built there were serious conversations about moving City Hall there – but at the time the consensus was to leave it where it now stands.

Nothing stays the same forever. Today I had lunch at the Center and had a conversation with Jim and Glenyss, a couple from town. Jim has lived in Chetek his entire life and while we were eating he took me down memory lane, as it were, to the days when Second Street was Highway 53, when the building which is Herman Optical today was once a grocery store as was the building which Indianhead Insurance and the Chetek Alert now share. Hope & Anchor was Nelson's Mobile Oil and Unified Body Therapies (next to Skyway Repair) was a gas station, too. Before it was Northlakes Drive In it was Denny's A&W. If my friend Jimmy, who was sitting at the next table, had sat with us he could have added to the litany of businesses that have come and gone in his 88 years of calling the City of Lakes home. And if former alderman Bill Waite had been with us I would have had to keep track of all the changes in our town that have gone on over the decades on pad of paper. Things change.

This is gone too

My friend who sent the email really loves this town and is concerned about its future. I think the people who are presently serving on the city council as well as our city clerk do as well. I prefer to see our purchases as investments in the future of our town. Whether they all pan out I guess we'll see in time. I'm certainly hoping that they do. But I believe that whether or not we agree on individual purchases our common objective remains the same: to continue to make Chetek a great place to live and collect as we continue to move around the board.