WILMA TOWNSHIP ANNUAL TOWN MEETING MARCH 14, 2023
Clerk Paul Raymond called the meeting to order at 8:15, following the township election and the Board of Canvass. A record 44 citizens voted and Alden Shute was re-elected Supervisor for three years and Patrice Winfield was re-elected as Treasurer for two years. Glen and Mike canvassed and approved the vote; Alden could not attend the meeting. Fifteen citizens attended the Annual Meeting: Mike McCullen, Kim Felton, Glen Williamson, Stefanie Williamson, Cindy Kleinschmidt, Patrice Winfield, Stan and Tracy Riley, Zach Hanson, Dan and Barb Bothman, Angie Anderson, Jim Bredesen and Paul Raymond.
Approve Ground Rules: Paul asked for a motion to approve some basic ground rules for the meeting: Citizens must raise their hand to speak; No interruptions; If a speaker asks a question of another person, they can answer but the speaker holds the floor; Maintain respect and decorum. Mike moved to adopt the ground rules; Cindy seconded. Nominations for Moderator for the meeting: Stefanie nominated Glen; Tracy seconded. No other nominations. Voice vote; Glen was elected and took the floor as moderator. Glen announced the results of the Board of Canvass of the election: For Supervisor, Alden Shute, 34 votes; Stan Riley, 8 votes; Steve Menth, 2 write-ins. For Treasurer, Patrice Winfield 34 votes; Maureen Rioux, 1 write in.
Paul read the record of the March 8, 2022 Town Meeting. Patrice moved to approve; Cindy seconded; Approved.
Financial Statement: Patrice presented the 2022 Wilma Township Financial Statement. Patrice again broke down payroll and other compensation for officers to show what each officer is receiving in salary, and for other compensation like insurance, conferences, short courses, mileage, internet, and for judging elections. At the end of the year the township carried over a balance of $194,905.78 in all funds and CD’s. Balance starting 2022: $179,298.83; receipts in 2022: $68,803.93 total revenues; disbursements: $53,196.98. Mike made a motion to waive reading of all checks. Kim seconded, passed. Mike moved to approve the report; Dan seconded, passed.
Road Report: Alden was unable to attend the meeting, so Mike gave a short Road Report. He said there was not a lot spent on roads in 2022 because the grader couldn’t get out as much. There were some beaver problems on Eagle Head and Vink Roads, but they have been alleviated. Grader maintenance in 2022 was normal, with routine maintenance and greasing and oil changes, plus tires and a cutting edge. The grader was damaged by branches after the December storm and all the lights were knocked out. The big job for 2023 will be putting redrock gravel the length of Tamarack Pine Drive.
Paul moved to approve his report; Patrice seconded.
LEVIES AND BUDGET FOR 2024: Township Funds: Paul said the Board is not recommending any increases in any of our funds or levies for 2024, and that the board has not increased taxes for at least a decade, yet we still have a balance of $195,000. Glen said he spoke with the state auditor who told him cities and counties have spent over their budgets, but townships have gone down every year.
Park Fund: There was a discussion on the Park Fund. It’s been set at $100/year for many years, but we still have a balance of $6,800 in it. Glen said many people don’t realize that we have a park, the 40 acre section where the old school house is next to Eagle Head Station, minus the school and EagleHead property. Paul said any townsperson is allowed to take deadwood firewood from the park. Mike said the old board had posted no hunting signs on the park. Paul asked if we can open it to hunting for citizens. Most at the meeting opposed this idea, in case they wanted to run their dogs in the park. Angie said that we should put a sign on the park identifying it as the Wilma Town Park, with boundary markers. Mike suggested a carved wooden sign like the DNR uses for state forests. At one time there was discussion on building a new town hall on the parkland, Paul said.
Paul moved to keep the funds and levies for 2024 as proposed: R&B, $16,000; Building Fund at $5,000; the Fire Fund at $4,500; the Park Fund at $100; and the General Fund at $10,000. Cindy seconded; passed.
Wages for Reports, Moderator, Meetings, Judges, Mechanic, Grader Operator: The Board has final say on wages at the Board of Reorganization. No changes or increases proposed by the board for meetings or labor, but an increase for election judges to $20. Mileage: Glen said we’ve always used the federal rate, which is $.65.5 for 2023. Mike moved that we continue to follow federal guidelines; Stefanie seconded; passed. Mike moved that the board accept the suggested wages and rates for 2023; Dan seconded.
Snowplowing: An across-the-board increase of $25 was proposed by the board: For standard driveways, $100. Over 700’: $125/season; 1,000 ft. to ½ mile: $200; Over ½ mile, $375. “Must have turnaround space. No closed gates. No overhanging trees that can hit the grader. Wilma Township not liable for inadvertent damages while plowing private drives. 2023-24 snowplowing fees due by Nov. 1, 2023.” Dan moved that snowplowing rates increase by $25 across the board and that the policies remain the same for the 2023-24 season as this past season. Kim seconded. Passed.
Township Website, Wilmatownship.com: Wilma Township has a website open to the public called wilmatownship.com. Voters pay $350/year for this and it is one of our three official posting sites along with the Evergreen and Pine County News. Paul raised the question of what do voters want to see on the website? Limit it strictly to official township notices and meeting records, or allow occasional community service announcements like the resumption of well water testing, free computers for residents, fire department notices and information, scholarship opportunities for our students, township events that are not sponsored by the town board, etc? The Clerk is the moderator of the site and is not paid for moderating and updating the site. Patrice said she thought the website was made just for meeting records and official business. Paul asked if she had ever looked at the site and she said no. Glen said he thought Paul would post frivolous things that he may think are important and he doesn’t want Paul to have the power to decide what goes on the site. Mike said Paul could clear everything with the board before he posts it. Paul said that would not be workable and he has demonstrated that he will not post irrelevant things that have no interest to our citizens, but he doesn’t want to fight over it. If people don’t want to hear about things like well-water testing and free computers for citizens, so be it. Glen asked why not post in a separate site for Wilma residents Paul said Toni had made such a site, Duxbury/Wilma News that was used for this, but now he has been banned from the site. Stefanie asked if we could put a tab on the website that would take people to another page on the website for community events. Paul asked how could this work, but Cindy said she thinks it could be done. Her husband Erv is a website developer and he would know how to do it. Glen said he can do it. Patrice moved to put a tab on the webpage directing people to a community forum page for posts like Paul was talking about. Cindy seconded. Passed. This will go to the Board of Supervisors.
FIRE DEPARTMENT REPORT: The Duxbury Volunteer Fire Department is a separate organization from the Town of Wilma, but every year our citizens pay the fire department $4,500 for fire protection and medical responses. Chief Mike McCullen gave a report on the history of the department as founded by Joe Vink, George Anderson and Ron McCullen in 1983 as a private fire department separate from the town. The State Fire Marshall said many towns have similar volunteer fire departments and even some big cities. For years Wilma also continued paying Sandstone Township for fire protection until the mid 90’s around $7,000 year, equal to over $20,000 per year today. The township agreed to build a new grader/fire hall and give two bays to the fire department. At that time Mike, Gary and Joe took firefighter I training and EMR training, and when we had our own truck and tanker, Wilma severed the relationship with Sandstone. In the early 2000’s Arna and New Dosey joined the department, and their firefighters all took the firefighter I class, David Drake, Mel Elliot, Don Mishler, Ed Carlin and others. The two new towns built their own fire halls and the department purchased fire engines and tankers for each hall, and we have buried huge water tanks at each hall to store water so we don’t have to go to rivers and lakes any more or cut through the ice to get water.
Mike said the 2011 blowdown was the fire department’s opportunity to demonstrate to the communities how valuable a fire department can be. We set up a command station in Markville who was without power for almost two weeks, clearing roads, serving Red Cross meals and providing water to the people for bathing and drinking. Following the blowdown with a $25,000 grant from FEMA, the department started a retirement program for firefighters.
To this day, the 3 townships only pay $4,500/year for fire protection and medical responses, and Ogema pays $1,500 for only medical responses, which accounts for 80% of our medical calls. Three firefighters completed the Firefighter 1 & 2 class and another one was certified as an EMR medical responder. Stan said Mike is not a certified EMR since his certification expired in 2016. Mike said he has taken the EMR course several times, but did not get to renew it. He plans to retake the class soon with other firefighters on the department. Stan asked how can he respond to medical calls? Mike said he is a fire department first responder. Paul said Mike responds to literally hundreds of medical emergencies a year and he works side-by-side with the ambulance drivers and paramedics and he learns any new information from them, plus they give him supplies like gloves and CPR masks. He said that Mike gets in-field experience every time he responds to an emergency.
Mike said we had a relatively quiet year with a few structure fires. Our most critical need now is still for volunteer responders and firefighters, especially in the satellite companies in Markville and Cloverton.
Glen said he always assumed the fire department was open to the public and that if anyone wanted to, they could go to meetings or drills. Only recently has the department said they are not bound by open meeting laws and that they have restricted meetings only to members. Paul said no one ever wanted to come to our meetings. It was never an issue, until a misleading Facebook post implied that the department is a fire relief organization and is bound by open meeting laws. From the beginning, Mike insisted that we are not a relief organization, but before Paul researched it and found out that he is right, Paul assumed that we were and he sent Stan meeting records and by-laws. He said everyone at this meeting is paying far more to the garbage board than to the fire department, yet no one ever has demanded to go to their meetings or see their finances. Why just the fire department? Angie said that when she tried to go to meetings after she moved out of Mike’s home she was told it was a conflict of interest for her to be at meetings. Mike told her that she had no driver’s license and no car and no way to respond to any calls and she had moved to Cloverton. Angie said she would walk.
The issue of a medical call by Stan and Tracy on March 3 came up, where Mike responded to the call but staged a safe distance from their home because of his knowledge of Stan saying to Paul that even if he had a heart attack, he would not want Mike in his home. Mike called a deputy for backup and urged the ambulance to step it up. On the Facebook thread on Duxbury News, Paul reminded Stan twice that he had said that if he had a heart attack, he would not let Mike in his home, and Stan did not deny it either time. Stan had many opportunities to deny that he said that, and he never has until recently when he said that what he actually said was that three people he had talked to against Mike, that his EMR license had expired, said that they would not let him in their homes. Stan suggested that racism is behind his not being welcomed on the department. Paul said we have had three African American firefighters and they were all treated with respect by Mike and the other firefighters. Angie said Eric was not; Paul said she wasn’t there. Eric drilled with us and ate with us and was treated with full acceptance and respect. Mike trained them equally with the other firefighters. If they had not quit, they would all still be on the department today.
Stan said he moved here 2 ½ years ago and Mike never came to his home to welcome them to the community. He also brought up the difficulty Gary Vink and Mike made it for him to open his business. Stan said that he wanted to work it out with Mike and he asked Mike if they could sit down together and work things out. Mike said that he would see; feelings now are pretty raw.
Wilma Fall Fest: Voters have authorized the town to sponsor this event every October since our 100th year, 2007, except for 2020 when COVID shut us down. Paul moved that the fund remain at $500 for 2022. Patrice seconded. Passed. We will hold it this year on the fourth Saturday, October 28.
Donations to Old School Art Center, Pine County Historical Museum, The Seven County Senior Federation and Family Pathways: In 2019 the voters voted to cap donations at $300 for all groups for the next 10 years. The Board of Supervisors has final authority on how to distribute these expenditures at the Board of Reorganization. Mike moved to continue the $300 total donations for 2021; Patrice seconded, passed. Patrice said we never sent the donations last year because she did not have the contracts with the organizations. Paul said he will get them for both years, since we already voted to pay them last year.
Board of Reorganization: The Board will hold the Board of Reorganization to swear in Alden and Patrice and to make decisions for the township on wages and notice and posting sites before the regular April 5th board meeting. The board will designate a bank of deposit and where notices will be published or posted: Wednesday, April 5, 2022, before April board meeting.
Board of Appeal and Review: For taxpayers to appeal their property assessments for 2023 taxes, Monday April 10, 1 p.m., at the Town Hall. The county assessor and our assessor and our town assessor will be there in person.
Pine County Township Officers’ Meeting: Will be Saturday, March 25, 9 am at the Community Center, Hinckley. For all township officers.
Spring Short Course for Officers: Live in-person Short Courses will resume this spring, at various locations. Most board members will go to Duluth to the DECC on Friday, April 7. We will try to car pool. Sessions for new officers, for clerks, treasurers and supervisors.
Set Meeting Place and Time for 2024 Annual Town Meeting: This is a formality, but is required. Patrice moved hold the next annual meeting the second Tuesday of March 2024 and to adjourn this meeting; Mike seconded. Meeting adjourned at 10 p.m.