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Marathon settles fire contracts with towns

By Kevin O’Brien

After months of negotiations, the village of Marathon City and three surrounding townships have settled on new fire protection agreements that will shift some of the costs for running the fire department onto rural taxpayers.

At a special Feb. 21 village board meeting, village administrator Steve Cherek told trustees that the town of Cassel had delivered a signed contract, and the town of Rib Falls had put its copy in the mail after the town board approved it.

Marathon gave the town of Stettin the option to stay with its current contract or accept an alternative offer that would have reduced the proposed cost increase for this year by 40 percent. On Monday, Stettin’s town board voted to stay with a contract it had previously signed.

Contract negotiations were prolonged this year after the village asked for substantial increases in what the towns pay for fire protection. The goal was to have the towns and the village all pay the same rate — calculated by dividing the yearly cost of running the fire department by the total equalized property value in areas covered by the department.

Marathon’s initial proposal would have raised the towns’ rates from 23 cents to 51 cents per thousand dollars of property, more than doubling what they paid the previous year.

Following further negotiations, the towns of Cassel and Rib Falls will pay 30 cents per thousand dollars of property value and Stettin will owe 35 cents, with the village paying 37 cents. Starting next year, however, all four municipalities will contribute 40 cents per thousand of equalized value, Cherek said.

The village was able to lower this year’s cost by taking out a longer $300,000 loan for a new fire truck, stretching the payback period from five to eight years, Cherek said. The annual payments are expected to be about $49,000, which will be added to the fire department’s annual operating budget, currently at $166,916.

Other business

n Cherek said the village’s ballpark project has $80,000 left in surplus when all of the donations and contract deductions are taken into account, but that’s still not enough to fully cover a $484,700 shortfall for field lighting. He said a donor board will be erected at the ballpark to honor those who contributed to the project, and a monument will be built honoring American Legion Post #469.

n As part of a planned walking trail project, Cherek said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is looking to get easements in place by next month on property owned by Marathon Area Elementary School and Little Lions Daycare. A plat map of the new trail is also being worked on.

In response to concerns about narrowing Fourth Street for a sidewalk to go in, Cherek said he is recommending moving the centerline to the north, allowing for a wider south lane. He said he spoke to both adjacent property owners and they are open to discussing options.

n Cherek showed trustees a special permit application he developed for a group of elementary students who want to stencil spray-painted signs near the village’s storm drains. The signs will remind people not to dump waste down the drains, which lead directly to streams and rivers. The permit removes any liability from the village for those who participate in painting the signs.

n Boy Scout leader Charles Jagodinski asked the board to allow local Scouts to use the board room at village hall, as the community room is not large enough for all of their activities. The Scouts previously had permission to use the board room, but that was rescinded. Trustees suggested installing a partition in the community room to give the Scouts separate space for their meetings.

n The board approved a $75 donation to the Marathon High School yearbook and a $75 donation to the high school’s post-prom celebration.

n Trustees met in closed session to discuss negotiations regarding the north business park and TIF district #2 redevelopment opportunities, but no action was taken in open session.