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Shopko owes Clintonville Utilities $17,000

City council hires counsel in effort to collect debt

By Bert Lehman

The city of Clintonville has contracted with Steinhilber Swanson LLP Attorneys at Law in an effort to recoup almost $17,000 that Shopko owes Clintonville Utilities.

The Clintonville City Council approved the agreement with Steinhilber Swanson LLP at its April 9 meeting.

Prior to the vote, Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer told the council that bankruptcies above Chapter 7 require specialized knowledge.

“This is about the fact that Shopko has filed bankruptcy and we have a significant [outstanding balance]. They’re a significant customer of the [Clintonville] Utilities,” Steckbauer said.

He added the reason for contracting with outside counsel is to make sure the city doesn’t violate any laws and to make sure all claims of the city are filed properly.

Compounding the issue is the Shopko bankruptcy is being processed in Nebraska.

“It’s really beyond what I’m comfortable giving advice on,” Steckbauer said.

Steckbauer recommended the city contract with Steinhilber Swanson LLP, which has branches in Oshkosh and Madison, to help the city with the Shopko bankruptcy.

He said he went to law school with a lawyer from the firm, and the firm has “really good lawyers.”

“In order to make sure we’re protected, I think it’s best that we engage outside counsel,” Steckbauer said.

Clintonville Mayor Richard Beggs told the council the first time Shopko did not pay its utility bill was in December.

“We would not have disconnected them in in January because many businesses get behind once or twice and then catch up, which is what we expected,” Beggs said. “Before that occurred, we got the notice of suspension of all activities due to having filed for bankruptcy. We can do nothing more now than take them to court.”

Steckbauer clarified the city wouldn’t be taking Shopko to court. Rather, it would be filing the proper claims in bankruptcy court against Shopko.

“I doubt we’re going to spend significant funds beyond what we’ve already done in terms of just filing the claim,” Steckbauer said. “It’s just merely administrative and making sure we’re protected.”

It is uncertain if Clintonville Utilities will recover any of the outstanding balance Shopko owes.

Shopko announced on March 18 all of its locations will shut down, including Clintonville’s Shopko Hometown store that opened seven years ago at 291 S. Main St. The company declared bankruptcy in January.

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