Common Council denies Lions Club’s 4th of July permit application with 8 to 1 vote
Garske casts lone vote to approve, club President Busterud issues statement
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
TOMAHAWK – The City of Tomahawk Common Council denied the Tomahawk Lions Club’s 4th of July Pow Wow Days special event permit application with an eight to one vote during its virtual call-in meeting on Tuesday, May 5. Two days later, Lions Club President Bo Busterud issued a statement confirming the cancellation of the club’s Pow Wow Days events.
Members cited concerns regarding the ability of attendees to practice social distancing, the safety of law enforcement and city staff, and other communities that have cancelled or postponed events due to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for their votes against the application’s approval.
During discussion prior to the vote, District 3 alderperson Mike Loka said he would vote against the Lions Club’s request.
“He stated that he can not approve and (sic) application that bring (sic) thousands of people together in a mass gathering with the potential to harm our residents,” a draft of the meeting minutes states. “He also expressed concern with the potential of exposure to our law enforcement and city staff during the event.”
Mike Loka noted that other communities, including Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, New Berlin and Milwaukee, have called off events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
District 2 alderperson Will Garske referred to the “huge economical impact” of the council’s decision on whether or not to give the Lions Club the go-ahead to hold its annual Pow Wow Days events, according to a draft of the meeting minutes.
Tomahawk Police Chief Al Elvins addressed the potential impact the event could have on law enforcement.
“If all of our officers are infected, there is no contingency plan,” stated Elvins, adding that the department has limited resources.
District 1 alderperson Mickey Loka said he “did not want to vote to cancel the event” and “this is a hard decision to make.”
District 1 alderperson Patricia E. Haskin stated a decision had to be made by the council “because, like with Fall Ride, contracts must be signed.” She also stated that the council needed “to make a decision tonight because June would be too late.”
District 3 alderperson Steve “Ding” Bartz asked if the application included the annual 5k and 10k races and noted that it would be “impossible to practice social distancing at the start line of a race.” It was confirmed that the application included the races, the draft states.
After discussion, Garske voted in favor of the motion to approve the application as presented, with Mike Loka, Mickey Loka, Bartz, Haskin, District 1 alderperson Ed Nystrom, District 2 alderpersons Jeff Kahle and Dale Ernst, and District 3 alderperson Tadd Wegener opposed.
Garske said it was a “tough vote” for all the council members.
“At the end of the day, I voted to pass the application, which would then make it the Lions Club’s responsibility to decide if they could adhere to the CDC’s orders or not,” Garske stated.
“My reason for voting was of the shoulder to shoulder contact of everyone and the fact that nearly every city worker, all departments, are involved with this great celebration,” Wegener said. “As a first responder myself in the Northwoods, if personnel get sick from the virus, it could potentially hamper day to day operations with the limited number of workers we have. I truly felt that is not worth the risk.”
Lions Club President Busterud issues statement
Tomahawk Lions Club President Bo Busterud issued a statement on Thursday, May 7, explaining that although the club itself chose to wait until a later date to decide if the Pow Wow Days celebration could continue, the council’s vote to deny their application for a special event permit confirmed the event’s cancellation.
“There’s a lot of planning that takes place throughout the year, and it’s disappointing for our members that work hard throughout the year to make these events happen,” Busterud stated. “It’s also very difficult disappointing our local community members and local businesses that rely on tourism to make it through the year.”
Busterud noted that the council’s decision was a difficult one to make, and that he “wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
“To our community, please stay safe, healthy and happy this summer, and hopefully next year our celebration can be the best ever!” Busterud said.