MENOMINEE — The Waterfront Festival will still be held this summer, after the Menominee City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to continue to support the event for four days, budget permitting. The council also voted to hire Nancy Douglas to run the festival.

The decisions were made at a special city council meeting, called after the festival’s financial woes were discussed at length at a recent Special Projects Committee meeting. At that meeting, council members discussed cutting the festival back to three days, changing the overall tone or even taking a break for a year to revamp the annual event.

But council members were quick to say Wednesday they wanted to see the festival continue, and supported a motion by Council member Doug Robinson to hold the festival this summer on an 8-0 vote. Council member Frank Pohlmann was absent, but excused, from the meeting.

A subsequent motion from Robinson to hold the festival for three days — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — died for a lack of a second.

The next motion, to hold the festival for four days, was also unanimously approved.

Then Council member Bill Plemel introduced his motion to bring Douglas, who ran the festival for several decades and was involved in the 2014 and 2015 festivals, back to run the 2018 festival at a cost of $5,000.

“What I’m recommending it that we go back and hire — do a proposal like we did in 2014 and 2015 — we hire someone, I’m suggesting Nancy Douglas,” said Plemel, “to run like we did before Ted Andrzejewski changed all the rules and I suggest that we do that tonight.”

Mayor Jean Stegeman asked City Attorney Rob Jamo if the city needed to put out a request for proposals, because it met the threshold amount. While Jamo agreed that it did meet the policy threshold, he later responded to a question from Robinson about the legality of approving a motion to hire Douglas outright by saying the council needed to add language to the motion stating it was going to waive its purchasing policy.

Plemel said the city needed someone local to run the festival, adding that even though City Manager Tony Graff did his best last year, “it wasn’t the best.”

“We had Tony Ihler run it the year before, she was from out of town,” he said. “She probably (saw) some, but hadn’t been involved in any directly in years, and she had a hard time. We have to go back to somebody who knows what they are doing, and train somebody — how ever you want to do it. I’m going to make a motion that we hire Nancy Douglas.”

Stegeman asked Graff to explain the difference in budgeted amounts for the festival, which paid the recent directors $5,000, but only had $2,000 earmarked in the proposed budget he shared with Special Projects Committee members.

Graff said the $2,000 was for someone to marketing and fundraising specifically for 2018, not for a festival director. He said the money would have to be worked into the budget.

In response to Plemel’s motion, Graff said “Having someone who has experience running the festival for many, many years is something we should look at as a positive.

“I think we’ve learned some things when Toni Ihler was running it and also when I took over for a year. And one of the things I took away from it is there’s a lot of good volunteers, there’s a lot of community involvement, but there’s also a little bit of an art to really find success in getting this to the level of not interfering with a lot of other things going on in the city.

As a manager, I found (myself) stretched to the limits, but I did learn a lot, that this community loves their festival, they support it, that a lot of support comes in. But there are some relationships over the ears that support the festival, and you’ve got to know how to knock on the doors, open the doors to be able to get some of the funding from the donations.

“One thing you can say about Nancy Douglas is she does know a lot of people in town, she does have the ability to run the festival.”

Graff said he could work with Douglas if she was hired and that it could be a transition year, where Douglas shared her “institutional knowledge” of running the festival with someone.

He said many things were suggested by the recent audit as to providing the right checks and balances in handling the festival’s revenue that would be put in place this year.

“I think it would be a good thing to have Nancy run the festival again,” he said.

Council member Dennis Klitzke said Douglas has the ability to “tap” some of the people who would donate to the festival. “I think she’s really good at that. She knows the people, she’s been around, she knows how the festival works. She works well with the volunteers.”

Klitzke said the city can’t control whether it rains again and the festival loses money, “but I think it’s a good move to bring Nancy back.”

Council member Steve Fifarek said Ihler had called him and he would like to “see her in action again” based on the financial outcome of the year she ran the festival, “because, even with the bomb threat on the year that she was there, we still made money, or broke even.”

“No, we lost money,” Plemel said, saying that money was added to the account later.

“Well, it wasn’t in double digit thousands,” Fifarek said. He said he was concerned about the finances, and didn’t want to see the city spend $5,000. When Klitzke said hiring Douglas would be “hiring experience,” Fifarek said Ihler also had experience running festivals in Milwaukee.

Stegeman said Fifarek’s comment “is not completely lost on me. From 2009 to 2015, we lost $47,878. I would request this council to remember this is not Monopoly money, this is taxpayer money.”

She said she couldn’t see how the council goes through it budget line-by-line, only to “dismiss the losses that we have had with Waterfront Festival.”

Plemel said the city supports many parks and activities that do not make money, but does so for the public. He said the festival brings in thousands of people and thousands of dollars to businesses in the community every year.

Plemel’s motion to hire Douglas was seconded by Klitzke, and both men agreed to amending it later to include language to waive the purchasing policy. It passed on a 6-2 vote, with Stegeman and Fifarek opposing.

Members all agreed to setting the festival schedule, at this point, for four days, leaving the final decision to the Waterfront Festival Committee, which also was charged with working on a budget with the city and a new festival director.

“If we hire someone to do this, and they come up and say ‘You know, there’s no way we can do this in four days, we’re going to have to do three,’ that’s why you hire them. You don’t make your decision ahead of time,” Plemel said.

“What I’m saying is we plan for four days,” Plemel said. “If we can’t make four days, then we go back to three. But we don’t know that yet, we haven’t got a clue.”

The motion passed on an 8-0 vote.

During public comment, Douglas said she needed to talk with someone at the city about some of the points brought forward, which were not all accurate; and that she wanted to discuss what happened to festival funds of around $45,000 that were in place when she stepped down after retiring from the chamber of commerce.

She said she was “proud of what I’ve done with the festival” but needed a couple of days to reach a decision.