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Merrill group to petition for recall of five common council representatives
MERRILL - A group in Merrill took drastic action to fix what they believe are significant problems in their city government Wednesday. 

Their solution to those problems? Remove a majority of their common council representatives through a recall election.

"Today the citizens of Merrill have placed the majority of our city council members on notice," said LaDonna Fermanich. "Can you hear us now?" 

A handful of Merrill residents handed in intent to recall papers at city hall for five out of eight district representatives. That action comes just months after citizens were angered over a more than seven percent increase in their property tax, instead of the three percent they thought it would be.

"Our voices should matter and we're going to make them matter," said Mark Bares, one of the organizers of the recall group. 

Bares says nothing came of the more than 150 complaint forms turned in over the city's handling of the budget.

"It's unacceptable, I mean this is our government. You can't run a business that way, if that were to happen heads would roll," said Bares. "Big mistakes like this people would at least be reprimanded and none of that is taking place." 

The group wants to recall Paul Russell, John Van Lieshout, Dave Sukow, Rob Norton, and Tim Meehean. Rick Blake would've also been on that list, but as an appointed member he has to serve for a year before he is eligible for recall according to Bares.

Steve Sabatke is one person who's planning to try and replace one of those current representatives.

"We love this city; we don't like what's happening now," said Sabatke. "We want to stop, reanalyze and get it moving forward again." 

The group will have to get a certain number of signatures from each district within the next 60 days to make the recall elections happen.

"Once we start going through this process people will start taking ownership in their city again because they're going to feel like they have a voice," said Bares. 

The group hopes that if they can get new representatives on Merrill's common council, taxpayers voices will be heard in city hall. 

"This is our city and we need to take it back and make it great," said Bares. 

Aside from accusations of overspending on the budget, the recall papers filed list a number of additional reasons for the recall, including the following: repeated failure to protect the best interest of the constituents in light of mismanagement, misinformation, and "possible illegal activities of administration and council", willfully ignored and took no action to correct errors by city staff, failure to take action to end "violations of open meetings laws", failure to oversee city staff and failure to listen to the tax payers of their districts.
All representatives the group intends to recall have been contacted but none want to make a comment at this time.

If the group gets enough signatures in the next 60 days, the city will then have another 60 days to schedule the recall election.

The group does plan to cover the cost of the recall elections which they say will be around $2,000 to $2,500. For a full list of the group's reasoning behind the recall, or to donate to their cause, people can visit their website merrillrecall.org

They are also hosting a "Recall Rally" on Tuesday March 19 at Les and Jim's Lincoln Lanes for anyone who has questions or would like to show their support.

Story By: Dakota Sherek


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