No Firearms sign to stay at City Hall
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – Marshfield aldermen will not be removing a sign at City Hall that reads “No Firearms.”
For the second time in as many years, the common council voted Oct. 12 against a motion by District Eight Representative Rebecca Spiros to remove the sign to allow for concealed carry.
“I am going to make a motion that we remove that super, super safe sign out there that says that we can’t have a gun in here,” Spiros said as she made her motion.
The motion failed 5-5, and the tiebreaker – the mayor – won’t be seated again until next April.
Some council members were concerned about liability. City Attorney Harold Wolfgram was not.
“I don’t view this as a significant liability issue one way or the other, primarily because the decision to do this or not really is a legislative decision, and we have an immunity that is in place in Wisconsin for legislative decisions,” Wolfgram told Council members.
Alderman Tom Buttke joined Spiros in voting to get rid of the sign.
“If people feel safe by having a sign up, good for you, but you shouldn’t, because criminals don’t go by signs or laws,” he said.
Alder Ed Wagner had no problem keeping the “No Firearms” sign in place.
“I don’t feel unsafe in here. We don’t have an ordinance that says you can’t carry a gun in here, and there’s no penalty if you do. And we don’t have the infrastructure to back up anything about prohibiting guns in here to begin with.”
Right now, there are limited exceptions to the restrictions. Current and retired law enforcement officers are allowed to carry firearms inside city hall, along with retired military personnel.
Council President Nick Poeschel, a retired Marshfield police officer allowed to carry under the current policy, voted with four of his colleagues to keep the sign where it is.
“The sign is not there to protect anyone. The sign doesn’t say that that’s going to make this a safe place. It’s there to remind people that we don’t want guns in the building. There’s been no occurrences that have led me to believe that we do need weapons in the building or that we don’t. But I do want to remind everyone that during the past year we’ve had several contentious issues in this building. We’ve had citizens come to the building and express their opinions. Then they’ve gone and stood along the back of the building, or found a seat in the building, and listened to us discuss those things. I don’t want to see a building where those people are holding firearms,” he said.
“How do you think that would affect the way you vote, or the way you consider, or the safety of this building, to have armed people lining the walls? That’s what you see in third-world countries. It’s not what you see in America.”
Two years ago, the council received an e-mail questioning the city’s posting of the “No Firearms” sign at city hall entrances, then voted 5-4 Nov. 12, 2019 to leave the posting as is.
The debate was renewed this past July, when District Seven Alder Adam Fischer asked that the issue be brought back for discussion after receiving a request to do so from a constituent.
Council removes roadblock to skywalk
Three weeks after initially blocking the Marshfield Clinic Health System’s attempt at getting its third skywalk, the majority of Marshfield aldermen have now agreed to green-light the project.
Following a nearly 90-minute closed session during its Oct. 12 meeting, the common council voted 8-1 in favor of an agreement which allows the clinic to lease air space over a city street so the health system can proceed with a skywalk from its East Wing at 1001 North Oak Avenue to the Marshfield Medical Center just to the southwest.
Rebecca Spiros voted “no” and Alder Tom Witzel, who is employed by the clinic, abstained from voting. City Administrator Steve Barg told Hub City Times during an Oct. 14 press conference the lease includes a stipulation that both the city and the health system agree that neither the lease nor the existence of the skywalk have any relation to the clinic’s claims for property tax exemptions for its East Wing and main building.
“Clinic officials are looking at it right now, and I am expecting to hear back from them soon, if they find this to be acceptable, which would allow them to then sign on the dotted line with the city and begin moving forward to finish the construction of that skywalk,” Barg said. “We’re not fighting. There are good conversations going on on the side, and we’re not at war with them. We’re very proud of the work that they do and that they are part of our community.”
Marshfield Clinic Health System officials have recently told the city the connector between the former St. Joseph’s Hospital and the East Wing is the first leg in a plan to invest $600 million to improve the clinic and hospital campus.
One skywalk already spans Oak Avenue, connecting the East Wing with the main clinic building. Another bridges the clinic to the Laird Center for Medical Research across Kalsched Street.
Meanwhile, Barg had nothing to report in regard to the clinic’s claim for tax-exempt status on the main building and East Wing.
City recruits help in search for next police chief
Marshfield aldermen will hire a head-hunting firm to assist in the process of finding a replacement for the city’s former chief of police.
During its Oct. 12 meeting, the common council voted unanimously to hire McGrath Human Resources Group based in Wonder Lake, IL, to provide executive recruitment services.
City Administrator Steve Barg said McGrath will assist the city in conducting a national search.
“These firms have contacts. They know who might be out there looking, and they have experience in terms of leading those kinds of recruitments,” he said.
McGrath’s was one of four proposals received by the city.
“They’ll be leading the charge now, with the hope that during the next few months we will go through a thoughtful process to hire a new Police Chief for the city of Marshfield,” Barg added.
The base contract with McGrath will cost the city $24,650.
Barg said there would be additional costs for advertising and candidate travel. He anticipates the process will take four to six months.
The city reached a separation agreement with former chief, Rick Gramza back in early March, when he officially resigned from the position. Gramza had been placed on paid administrative leave in August 2020 and has since been ordered to stand trial on two misdemeanor charges connected with unwanted sexual advances toward a fellow officer, dating as far back as 2015.
Gramza will face a jury trial on charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct. The Wood County trial will be heard by Portage County Judge Thomas Eagon, and is scheduled for Dec. 15-17.
Eagon earlier this year determined there was not enough evidence to proceed with three felony charges of misconduct in public office with use of excessive authority.
Gramza, 48, remains free on a $10,000 signature bond. A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for Nov. 15.