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Ellsworth board member denounces Pierce-Pepin decision to close appliance store

Ellsworth Village Board member Neil Gulbranson sharply criticized last weekend's decision by the Pierce-Pepin electric cooperative to cease selling appliances during the village board's monthly meeting Monday evening.

Gulbranson made the statement during the portion of the meeting agenda dealing with public comment on non-agenda items. He said that Pierce-Pepin had "failed" the Ellsworth community.

"This decision was made in secret and it's going to have an adverse affect on our community and our businesses if people have to travel far and wide to buy appliances instead of locally," Gulbranson said. "I hope people put pressure on the co-op board to change their minds."

In another matter concerning lobbying, the board unanimously agreed to a resolution urging the Ellsworth School Board not to cut their portion of the funding to help fix the tennis courts at Summit Park. Both the village and the district agreed to pool their resources to fund the renovation of the courts.

In main agenda items, the board unanimously approved a conditional use permit renewal for Todd Shaw for R-2 use in an R-1 district at 291 E. Summit Ave. They also unanimously approved an ordinance to establish pay rates for village board meetings. In the ordinance, board member meeting per diem allowances are $35 per member and $40 for the chairperson of the meeting. Village trustees and the Village President are paid $42 per special board meetings, $60 per Board of Review meetings and $60 per out-of-town meetings.

In committee reports, the full board unanimously approved a recommendation from the Salary and Labor Committee to raise police chief Eric Ladwig's salary two and a half percent retroactive to April 8, which was at the end of his six-month probationary period. They also unanimously approved a Street and Sidewalk Committee recommendation to authorize public works director Greg Engeset to get cost estimates for replacing non-functioning street lights in East Ellsworth. Engeset estimates the costs could run up to $80,000.  The Finance, Purchasing and Buildings Committee reported on its review of the 2013 village audit with the auditor and found the financial health of the village remains strong. The 2014 village budget was also reviewed and found to be on schedule. 

The new Executive Director of the Pierce County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) Paul Schwebach spoke briefly before the board, introducing himself and explaining what he hoped to accomplish for Ellsworth and Pierce County during his tenure.