Little League tops City Council issues

By Kathleen McGwin
A large portion of Monday's Montello City Council meeting concerned the future of Little League in the City Park.  As reported previously in the Marquette County Tribune, missing money and other troubles plagued the league last summer under a newly hired summer parks director.  The position is a summer-only job that had been filled for a number of years by Dennis Klapper who was at last night's meeting concerned about the future of the popular youth sporting activity.

"I just want to make sure it continues," Klapper said, noting that the number of youth participating has grown over the years to over 150.  "I don't want to have what happened last year happen again this year." 

Part of the council discussion included the Little League financial account and whether it was really city money or belonged to the Little League.  Mayor Mike Ott repeatedly informed the council that it is a city account and that although the money belongs to the Little League, the responsibility of the account belongs to the city.
Money in the account comes from concession sales and team fees.  Over the past few years, the account had accumulated to as much as $6100.  After last summer's poorly run program, the amount in the account is presently $2500 because, Ott said, "of mismanaged funds."  Ott told the council that the Parks Committee of the council, at the end of last year, decided that instead of hiring a Parks Director for this summer, they would allow the Little League to use the money as they choose, either for a director or for coaches.

Little League in Montello has no formal coordinating body, it was explained. Citizens and parents of children in Little League, Cindy and Tom Bloom spoke up to offer support in managing this season’s league activities.   The Blooms moved to Montello recently from Neshkoro where that Little League program runs independently and the concessions are operated by the Neshkoro Lions Club.  If something is needed, Cindy Bloom said, the clubs approach the Lions for support. 

In Montello, the Parks Director has managed the concession sales with volunteer help from Little League parents.  This has been continually difficult, it was reported, because of lack of volunteering of parents.

"We want the program to be better than it was last year," said Cindy Bloom.  "We're here to help."
An extra Parks Committee meeting will be called in February and all interested parties will be invited to attend.  The Blooms said that they will be there and reminded the council that decisions must be made soon about which league to enter and for scheduling sign up events.

In other business, the council briefly talked about the possibility of the city taking over management of Krakow Park from the DNR after the completion of the Buffalo Lake dam repair and enhancement.  As of now, the city is still waiting for the DNR to sign the agreement put forth about their participation in the project and care of the dredge bank road which has been discussed at other council meetings.

The council approved extending a contract with Miller, Brussell, Ebben and Glaeske, LLC of Portage for three years for the annual audit after hearing from Craig Corning, CPA about why the 2011 audit was presented so late.  Corning said some of the delay was because of the illness of the City Clerk and not being able to receive documents in a more timely manner, but that it was also because the firm had become "lackadaisical" about timely return of audits.  He said that the firm has now committed to returning them within 60 days under normal circumstances.  Corning also offered to return to give more complete reports on the financial statements after some questions from the council members about the latest audit. 

The council continued a previous discussion about removing the city from the agreement with the Marquette County Tourism Commission that manages the room tax money brought in from lodging businesses.  The city would like to spend this money as they choose.  Presently, the commission has given part of the money to the previously named Marquette Now organization to do advertising and attend sports and recreation shows.  It also places ads in major tourist publications and offers financial support for special projects like the Barn Quilt and Hidden History Murals map.

Mayor Ott told the council that he is confirming whether what John Faulkner, owner of the Sundowner Motel and treasurer for the Tourism Commission told him is correct that 70% of the tax revenue must go to marketing and that changes in the agreement can only be made if all of the parties agree to them.  Ott said, however, that if the city pulls out of the agreement with the commission, that the agreement becomes null and void.  He also told the council that neither the commission nor the city can find a copy of a signed agreement with the Tourism Commission.

Concerns were addressed about how the Public Works Director and public works employees are managing snow plowing.  The public works committee did not, it was reported, get a clear answer on why both plow trucks are not utilized during a snow event.  Councilman Don Lloyd also asked why the city is plowing private property behind the Town Pump.  Councilman Ken Streich questioned whether the Public Works Director has ever gotten his CDL license, required to drive the big truck. 

When asked what the snow plow plan was for the city, Mayor Ott replied that right now it's that when the workers wake up, they look out the window and decide if they should plow or not and if not, go back to bed.  The director, Ott said, does not call workers and tell them if they should or should not plow. 

In other business, a letter is being sent to the Towns of Montello and Mecan, whose citizens use the city dump, that is requesting financial support for the dump services.  The $2 per bag fee paid by users does not cover the cost of the facilities and workers at the dump, Ott said.

Councilman Bob Knickerbocker reported on the ongoing discussion about setting up a municipal court with other municipalities in the county.  At this time, Knickerbocker recommended that even if some municipalities do not join the effort, that Oxford and Montello should move forward. 

Holliday owner Bill Lind had sent a letter of concern to the council last month about anglers being ticketed for parking along County Road B while fishing on Montello Lake.  Ott said he is going talk with Lind that the only actions taken by both the Sheriff's department and the city police were on those cars causing a safety hazard by being parked into the roadway and that those parked safely off the road were not ticketed.