The proposed expansion of the public dock at the Stout Street landing is far from settled and heated disagreements arose between Chetek Common Council members on how they were handling the project, its funding and its planning.
The council met on Wednesday, May 13, a day later than normal due to the Congressional 7th District special election on May 12.
Several neighboring residents of the Stout Street landing spoke before the council again, raising their concerns for a larger dock.
Dave Ziarnik said the current 24-foot dock was perfect for fishing and parking three boats. Extending it 70-plus feet more into the water and adding more slips did not make cost sense to him.
He also did not see the need for another park ordinance specifically for the docks, boat parking time limits and their hours of use. A park curfew ordinance was already on the books, he said.
“This is not a slight against our police. They do a nice job,” Ziarnik said. There were already signs at the landing saying it closed at 10 p.m. “If it’s not going to be enforced, why adopt another ordinance?”
Kathy Ziarnik suggested that another small dock be put in at the end of Knapp Street. This would provide ample boat parking, cost less and the docks wouldn’t stick out far in the lake and be a hazard for boaters.
Pat Hallquist lives next door to the landing and said it is loud at night when people go to or return from the bars. She agreed that another dock should be put on Knapp Street.
Council member Scott Bachowski reiterated the dock expansion project came about from a public survey, where adding boat parking for downtown access was the most-voted topic.
He had changed layouts for the dock, lengthening it out of concern for neighbors’ docks and swimmers. He said it was disheartening to hear a longer dock now wasn’t a solution.
Bachowski said downtown businesses needed the customers a larger dock would bring, and he has gotten many emails in support of it. He suggested the ordinance to deter rowdy late-night boaters from disturbing the neighbors.
But he agreed, that if existing ordinances could be used, then he was fine with that. However, he was not certain the landing was classified as a park.
Council Member Terry Hight asked what the council hoped to do with the dock issue that night and asked Bachowski how much funding he had for it.
Bachowski said he had around $9,500 promised by community organizations or by grants.
Hight said he supported the dock, but disagreed in that Bachowski didn’t have all the financial backing he claimed. He had heard less from those organizations. “So my count is [ ... ] $4,000,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Martin asked Hight why he was calling out Bachowski. “He did the work. You went behind him and checked on his work?”
Hight said Bachowski was mistaken in how much the Chetek Chamber and Resort Owners’ Association were promising.
“Terry, when I’m supposed to work an issue, I wish you wouldn’t go behind my back. Don’t do this,” Bachowski leveled at Hight.
Martin had to call order with the gavel as cross talk among council members briefly broke out.
“According to Scott, he has $9,500 in commitments. You’re making this very awkward, Terry,” Martin said.
“I didn’t go behind his back,” Hight said, saying he was told by the Chamber the amount for the Chamber and Resort Owners Association was $2,000 in total, not each. More work had to be done and more money had to be raised, he said.
“I think that it should be put off until next spring, and we should have whoever is willing from this council meet through this winter and diligently work to raise more money, finalize the plans and get with the DNR [for permitting],” Hight said.
Martin said Bachowski has been working on this project for several months.
“He just said it wasn’t his project,” Hight responded.
“What I said was it was, ‘it was never my idea,’” Bachowski interjected. He said he agreed to take on the dock project after it was suggested by local residents, businesses and the survey. “I don’t need any frustration and mismanagement behind my back.”
Grover agreed with both Hight and Bachowski, but urged more caution. More donations and DNR approval were needed first. He questioned the costs and the bids received. The highest were around $50,000, Grover said. A bid by Lake Country Custom Docks was around $22,500.
Martin took issue with council members checking on the work of others.
“It is not my responsibility to go behind your back and make sure you are doing your job,” Martin said as an example. “It creates dissonance on how the council works together to get issues done.”
Hight asked if he should not bring conflicting information to Bachowski’s attention.
“Probably not in a public setting. You’re questioning his integrity now because he said he has $9,500, and you said that’s not what he has.”
Bachowski chastised the Chetek Chamber, Resort Owners’ Association and Community Club if they had backed out. “Shame on them if they have changed their mind recently and not told me,” he said. He would pull the project if that was the case.
Martin said a perfect plan that pleases everyone was not possible. “If we’re trying to find the perfect plan, it ain’t out there.”
Martin sided with Bachowski because it was backed by the survey.
Hight again said he didn’t think the dock would be built this year and figured the issue should be worked on and more money secured until then. He was concerned for his constituents, including the ones who lived next to the landing.
“Out of professional courtesy, call me, then. Don’t do it here,” Bachowski said.
Martin closed the discussion on the docks and ordinance, saying no action would be taken on it at this time.
Funding secured so far
Bachowski contacted the Alert following the meeting to say the $9,500 had been secured, including $2,000 from the Chetek Community Club, $1,500 from Xcel Energy, $2,000 from the Lions Club and $2,000 combined from the Chetek Chamber and Chetek Resort Owners Association.
The Chetek Chamber also reached out to clarify the amount the Chamber and ROA was promising was a total of $2,000, and had been from the beginning.
Bachowski remained committed to the project.
“I will not give up. Our businesses need increased foot traffic and this project can provide some!” Bachowski wrote on Monday, May 18. “It’s way too popular of an idea to give up on. Support for this project is through the roof.”
In other business
• Jim Metcalf, with the Chetek Community Club, spoke during public comments about the new trees at Phillips Park.
He was concerned that the placement of new saplings would interfere with large events community organizations hold at the park. The community club hosts the ever-popular Brew & Rib Fest and the Chetek Chamber puts up kids inflatables during Liberty Fest in the park.
Metcalf urged the council to work more closely with community organizations going forward.
All streets (including the Long Bridge and county roads) in Chetek city limits are now open to ATVs and UTVs after approval by the council. Police Chief Ron Ambrozaitis said he brought this up several months ago and the local ATV club and Chetek Chamber is in support of it.
Some city ordinances will need to be changed, Ambrozaitis said. ATV signs will be paid for and put up by the Chetek ATV Cruzers Club, the ATV speed limit should be raised from 10 mph to 25 mph, and drivers should be at least 16 and have a driver’s license, and hours of operation will be set, Ambrozaitis said.