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Fireworks in Plum Lake

July 12, 2019 by Brian Jopek

Things have been, for the most part at the town board level, quiet on the surface in the town of Plum Lake the past few years. 

However, that relative calm was blown away near the end of and immediately following Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting. 

Toward the very end of the meeting agenda was an item for approval of vouchers and the financial report. 

After the meeting, town chairman Will Maines, because of what occurred after the town board approved the vouchers for payment, said in the future, he would separate the two.

Why he feels the need to do so was because of what happened over the course of the last 15 minutes of the meeting.

It wasn’t just questions about budget items that set off some fireworks, but attempts by town supervisor Vern Wiggenhauser to get an item on a meeting agenda.  

Not paid for doing that

Once the vouchers were approved, Maines attempted to adjourn the meeting because there was no more business to conduct. 

Before he could do that, though, Wiggenhauser mentioned the financial reports. 

“Do you have anything on that?” Maines asked Wiggenhauser. 

“Why, sure,” Wiggenhauser responded. “Do you?”

“No, I do not,” Maines said. 

“You don’t?” Wiggenhauser asked and he proceeded with his questions on items in the financial report, some dollar amounts turning out to be mistakenly placed in the wrong accounts by town clerk/treasurer Sharon Brooker — which she acknowledged — and others showing there were amounts getting close to what had been budgeted for those items.

For example, Wiggenhauser brought up a budget item for shop tools. 

“$6,400 compared to $7,000 (in the) budget,” he said. 

“They’re gonna be cut short the rest of the year,” Maines said. “They better have their supplies now.”

As Wiggenhauser’s inquiries into different expenses on the financial report continued, at one point, Brooker suggested he come into the office and check invoices from different vendors in the town’s files.

“That’d probably be the best way to look at it,” she said. 

“I don’t get paid for doing that,” Wiggenhauser said, and he continued to look through the report. 

Maines also suggested Wiggenhauser come to the town office during the day and Brooker could pull items he has questions about as needed.

Wiggenhauser responded he didn’t have the financial report until just before the meeting. 

“I didn’t get it until I sat down here,” he said. “It wasn’t in my box this afternoon.”

Maines said Brooker could have the financial report printed up sooner. 

Wiggenhauser then got to an item that took that part of the meeting to another level.

‘Not gonna nitpick’

“Garage heating expense,” Wiggenhauser said. “$1,963 compared to a budget of $2,500. Are we using a lot of heat at night and on weekends?”

He then asked a more probing question.

“Are the guys using our power and our electricity and heat to work on personal stuff?” Wiggenhauser asked.

“No,” Maines responded. 

“Not at all, huh?” Wiggenhauser asked. 

“It’s set the same all the time, I’m sure,” Maines said of the temperature settings in the town garage. “They’re not in there using our heat and electricity.”

“They’re not?” Wiggenhauser asked again, still seeming unconvinced. 

“The heat and electricity is on all the time,” Maines said. 

“No, the electricity’s not on all the time,” Wiggenhauser said. 

“Well, if one of them was in there for a couple hours in the evening, for that amount on the bill, I’m not gonna worry about $2 or $3 worth of electricity,” Maines said. “I’m not gonna nitpick ‘em that tight. Everybody’s who’s ever worked for the town did things in the town garage at times.”

Wiggenhauser looked at Maines. 

“That doesn’t make it right,” he said. “Have you been in the garage and looked at what’s in the garage?”

“Yes, I have,” Maines said. “That doesn’t mean they’re in there at night. They could be in there in the day and not using any lights.”

That comment caught Wiggenhauser’s attention.

“So, they’re in during the day?” he asked. 

“I don’t know,” Maines said.

“You should know,” Wiggenhauser said. “

Maines reiterated he wasn’t going to “nitpick” anyone when it came to that and overall, the town’s budget was in “great shape.”

“We’re under on some things, we’re over on others,” he said. “Overall, it’s in good shape. I don’t have anybody complaining to me about it.”

Maines added he hadn’t had any complaints about town employees.

“I tell ya, you must be ...” Wigginhauser began and he stopped himself.

“My phone isn’t ringing of the hook,” Maines said. “Now, do you have anything more?”

Wiggenhauser said he didn’t and Maines did what he tried to do over 10 minutes earlier — adjourn the meeting. 


Closed session attempts

Right after the meeting adjourned, Wiggenhauser made a comment to a few people still in the audience.

“For people that are interested, I’ve tried to get a closed session on the books as an agenda item for the last three months,” he said. “I’ve been unable to get those.”

Wiggenhauser said there had been an accident in April in the town and involving one of its patrol trucks he said was using a wing blade on a road that “wasn’t even 12 foot wide” and caused around $14,000 in damage to the truck. 

“And they don’t even tell us about it,” he said. 

“Twelve feet wide?” town supervisor Gary Schmidt asked. 

‘Nobody here on this board knew about that,” Wiggenhauser said.

“Yes, I did,” Schmidt told Wiggenhauser. 

Maines said it wasn’t an accident and that an airbag which had blown inside the truck cab was manufacturer’s defect. 

“They covered it,” he said. “When they took it in and started taking things apart, they found out the wing blade had been hit. So, he didn’t even know about it and when he did, he told me immediately.”

By this time, Schmidt left the building and Wiggenhauser continued. 

“I found out about it on the 24th (of April) and the accident happened on the 12th,” he said.

“I knew about it well before then,” Maines said. 

Wiggenhauser got excited. 

“You did not!” he said.

“Vern, I’m not ...” Maines began.

“You’re a liar,” Wiggenhauser said. 

“You’ve gone way offline. I’m done,” Maines said and he left. 

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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