Friday, January 24, 2020

Tomah ATV/UTV ordinance eases past first reading

The first reading for a proposed ordinance for operational use of all-terrain and utility-terrain (ATV/UTV) vehicles on Tomah's city streets had no opposition from the Tomah city council.

Tomah police chief Mark Nicholson told the council the ordinance "basically follows state statutes," with significant tweaking per public requests as the process involved.

Restrictions include:

Operators can drive on state highways 12/16 and 131 within city limits where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less and must follow posted speed limits on other routes.

The TPD can temporarily close down any route if conditions require closing.

Units can only be driven on approved routes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Operators must be at least 16-years-old to drive on any street or highway in city limits and have a driver's license.

All operators must carry a driver's license.

Open alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Operators must carry insurance.

Unless posted, designated routes include all public streets and alleys except connecting highways within the city limits.

But Nicholson also reminds owners that driving in Tomah is prohibited until signage is posted that designates routes.

Signage work will be coordinated by the Road Runners ATV/UTV Club of Monroe County. Representatives of the club at Committee of the Whole indicated signs will not be up until sometime this spring and work is dependent on the weather. A key message implied, please be patient. Signage will be provided by the club at no city cost.

Other business

The council voted to fill the Dist. 1 vacancy following the death of Mary Ann Komiskey by appointment. A notice will be posted for anyone within Dist. 1 to submit a letter to the city clerk's office. Interested candidates will have the opportunity to address the council at the February meeting.

Per state statutes the vacancy could not be on the ballot until the November election. Letters of interest must be received no later than Tuesday, Feb. 4 to the city clerk. The appointment would go until April 2021.

Residents interested in the status of Lake Tomah were reminded of a meeting tonight (Thursday) in the council chambers. A representative from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will address the status and health of Lake Tomah. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. and the public are encouraged to attend.

At Committee of the Whole Tomah Chamber and Visitors Bureau president Tina Thompson informed the council that a member of her office resigned to pursue another job opportunity. Thompson told the council the departure of  Shay Jilek will leave a void until a replacement is found. Thompson also used her time at the podium to send a message she has shared in the past regarding the need to provide a benefit package as incentive to retain Chamber staff.

Thompson added the Chamber is planning to host two candidate forums tied to upcoming election activity. Dates are not firm at this time, but candidate forums are planned for Tomah's mayoral race, with four candidates and Tomah school board, eight candidates.

The school board forum will likely wait until after the Feb. 18 primary when the field will be trimmed to six. No word on the mayoral forum.

The council adopted an ordinance amendment for cabaret licenses. Per the change, a boundary to notify homeowners of recurring events (live music venues) was changed from 1,000 feet to 200 feet.

Although separate action, but still tied to the ordinance amendment, the council opted to table two motions until February. Both are related to the Downtown Thursday Night concert series. The first to approve cabaret licenses for six concerts and the second to approve permits to the Tomah Lions Club for beer sales. It was decided to table those motions to allow adequate time for public comment regarding the boundary change.

The concerts will encompass the 800 and 900 blocks of Superior Avenue (Monroe Street to Milwaukee Street) to accommodate expectations of larger crowds than 2019. Concerts are July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, Aug. 6 and Aug. 13.

Tomah school district superintendent Cindy Zahrte provided her last report to the council in that role. Zahrte announced in late 2019 she is retiring at the end of the school year.

A few points she highlighted, the ongoing facilities study of district buildings. Building tours have been set for each school and the public is invited to attend. Dates/locations are on the district web site.

Zahrte feels the district is in good hands for whoever is hired as superintendent following a timetable that will be "very aggressive," she said. Those involved in the process expect to announce a superintendent by early April.

Zahrte thanked those who served on the school board during her 10 year tenure as superintendent. And for upcoming election, Zahrte said the race has eight strong candidates to fill three open seats.

The council approved ratification of a Tomah Professional Police Association union contract for 2020-2021.

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