Janesville57.3°

Council members bid goodbye

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 15, 2008
— Councilman Bill Truman presented resigning Councilman Paul Williams with a picture of Truman and a large sign proclaiming, “Anyone but Williams.”

“People who know our history back in the days, (it’s) not too pretty,” Truman said, referring to 2005, when Truman toted the sign around the city in his pickup truck to protest Williams’ votes to deny Truman’s friend Jim Halbach a liquor license.


But the two have made up, and Williams is a regular at the large item pickup that Truman helps run every year in the Fourth Ward.


Camaraderie was evident Monday as the council bid goodbye to Williams, Craig DeGarmo and Tim Wellnitz.


DeGarmo and Williams began their council service in 2000, while Wellnitz was elected in 2004.


City Manager Steve Sheiffer said it was ironic that Truman and Williams disagreed on their last vote on a liquor license Monday.


While council members disagree, Williams said, they are always cordial.


“When we get done with these meetings, we’re still friends,” he said. “That’s really important, not only for the council but for the citizens of Janesville (that) the council stay focused on what they do.”


Wellnitz agreed that his fellow council members are a “good bunch of guys to be around.”


He said he has worked to bring family-supporting jobs to Janesville, maintain great services at a low cost and help grow and invigorate the community.


Although some people disagreed with the difficult decisions he has made, Wellnitz said he hoped everyone realized that he made them with Janesville’s best interests in mind.


“It’s been an honor to serve and an experience I’ll never forget,” Wellnitz said.


DeGarmo said he figured he invested 1,300 hours in city business, including council meetings, study sessions, bus tours and neighborhood listening sessions.


“Janesville’s a great place to live, grow a family, work and own a business,” he said.


His goals, DeGarmo said, were “very simple in nature”: create and support initiatives that enhanced public safety and economic development and maintained the infrastructure and quality of life.


Those goals have been accomplished through the work of many people, including city staff and members of the Downtown Development Alliance, Forward Janesville and neighborhood groups, he said.


All three departing council members thanked their families, who put up with their loved ones being gone for many hours, and city staff.


Said Sheiffer: “The public doesn’t have a clear picture of how much time and thought goes into each issue.”


OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the Janesville City Council:


-- Approved the purchase of a building at 121 E. Court St. for $290,000. The 11-unit multi-family building is considered blighted and will be demolished. The building was built in 1866 as the All Soul’s Unitarian Church. Funding will come from federal block grant money. The property will be used for future redevelopment. The council stipulated that the tenants be relocated from the building before the city takes ownership. Tenants by state law are given 90 days to move, but Councilman Paul Williams worried that the city would be renting a building that was described by staff as being in poor condition.


-- Tabled a request by Michael Quaerna for a liquor license for Quaerna’s Tavern, 214 W. Milwaukee St. Michael wants to buy the business from his mother, Jacquiline, who wants to retire but keep the tavern in the family. The alcohol license advisory committee recommended against giving Michael a license because of a pattern of irresponsible behavior, said ALAC Chairman and Councilman Paul Williams.


Councilman Bill Truman, however, made a plea for the family, saying he has known members for a long time. He said the business has been in the family at the same location since 1933.


“I know Mike’s been in trouble in the past,” Truman said.


He asked how often police have responded to the bar itself, and was told by Police Chief Neil Mahan that those calls are low.


Truman said the council could grant the license but pull it if there is trouble.


Williams, however, said revoking a license is a long and expensive process.


Williams said that the last time Michael appeared before the ALAC, committee members noted that he possibly had some anger management problems. Michael slammed the council chamber doors as he was leaving, Williams said.


Jacquiline also confirmed that she at one point had a restraining order against her son.


Continuing a family business is well and good, Williams said, but added, “We also have to look out for the city of Janesville when we issue these alcohol licenses.”


Councilman Russ Steeber asked to table the request until the council could review Michael’s criminal history.


Williams was the sole no vote.


-- Recognized the career of Herb Stinski, who is retiring after 34 years with the city, the last 18 months as director of administrative services and assistant city manager. Stinski was hired as accountant in 1973 and was promoted to director of finance in 1981. He was instrumental in creating the Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Company, saving city taxpayers millions of dollars.



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