History - Local -
Lisbon Incorporation Efforts -
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Incorporation Efforts - Page 2
Editor's note: The following is an accumulation of Milwaukee Journal, Sussex Sun and
Lake Country Reporter newspaper articles concerning the Town of Lisbon
efforts to incorporate itself into a village. They are presented in publication
Articles continue here
beginning in March 2012 with Town of Lisbon Consolidation/Merging Discussions
Lisbon, Sussex consolidation proposed
Town of Lisbon - Town residents are going to be asked whether they are interested in consolidating their local government with the Village of Sussex and becoming a new municipality called the City of Sussex-Lisbon.
The consolidation is one of four future governance options the Town Board will present to residents at an April 4 meeting at the Richard Jung Fire Station. The board approved a notice of the meeting to be posted on the town website and a news release during a special meeting Wednesday night
The announcement followed a series of separate closed town door meetings of the Village Board and the Town Board in an effort to resolve some of the differences that have divided the two governmental bodies.
Town Board Chairman Matt Gehrke said the negotiations, along with current economic conditions and the town's desire to keep taxes down, promoted the Town Board to meet with its constituents and discuss governance options.
He said he wanted town resident to ask questions and express their opinions about all four options.
Supervisors Ryan Lippert and Dan Heier said the consolidation option resolves issues between the communities involving border agreements, library funding, and incorporation of the town into a village.
"If we go the merger route, our discussions would be guided by the following goals; a merged community would have a new name, Lisbon's paramedic service would be maintained, and any increase in taxes to Lisbon residents would be phased in over a 10 year period," Gehrke said in the news release
However, Sussex Village President Greg Goetz said in a telephone interview that the details of those and other issues will not be resolved until the Town of Lisbon holds a referendum and town voters indicate they are willing to support a consolidation.
After a successful referendum, the two governing boards will appoint a steering committee that will negotiate the details of those issues, according to Goetz.
Goetz said he expects the referendum will be held later this year.
Could a Merger Be on the Way?
Lisbon officials float the idea and could put the question to voters in a referendum.
By Joe Petrie March 15, 2012, SussexPatch
Could the battles between Sussex and Town of Lisbon be coming to an end?
The Sussex Sun is reporting the Lisbon Board of Supervisors is exploring the possibility of holding a referendum to allow the community to merge with Sussex.
If the referendum vote is successful, the two communities would form a steering committee to form the new community.
Sussex and Lisbon have been at odds over the years with issues related to detachments of properties into the village and opposition Sussex showed during the unsuccessful 2011 attempt by Lisbon to incorporate into a village.
Sussex leaders issued a press release Thursday stating the idea was discussed at a recent meeting between the two communities and a merged community could help the area become stronger as it competes economically on a global setting.
“If Lisbon is interested in studying the possibility of consolidating, the Village Board is interested in participating in that study," village President Greg Goetz said in the release. "The Village is willing to work together with Lisbon if and when they feel their community discussion leads to that point."
'Substantial progress' in Lisbon, Sussex talks
Village of Sussex - The "Hatfield-McCoy" relationship between the Town of Lisbon and the Village of Sussex might be coming to an end.
The governing bodies of the two communities are holding a series of closed-door sessions in an effort to resolve some of the issues that divide them.
The Lisbon Town Board met behind closed doors Monday night; the Sussex Village Board met in closed session Tuesday. (March 13)Village President Greg Goetz responded "yes" when asked whether the series of meetings was an indication there had been substantial progress made in the talks between the two communities.
"We are all working very hard. This is good for the Village of Sussex. It is good for the Town of Lisbon. It is good for the entire community," he said.
Goetz said the negotiations between the communities have involved "very, very broad concepts," rather than details of issues such as library funding, border agreements and the possible incorporation of the Town of Lisbon into a village.
Lisbon-Sussex consolidation considered
Majority of elected officials favor exploring merger
"I think my jaw dropped open," is how one Village of Sussex official described the reaction when Lisbon Town Chairman Matt Gehrke casually asked during a private meeting of Lisbon and Sussex officials whether anyone was interested in discussing a merger.
Several weeks later, it appears a majority of elected officials in the communities want to explore - perhaps support - consolidating into Lake Country's newest and largest municipality with a population of more than 20,000 and a tax base that would exceed $2 billion.
"I believe there are four of the five town supervisors willing to support consolidation if, at a minimum, certain conditions were met," said Supervisor Dan Heier.
Those conditions were spelled out in a news release issued by the town last week. Town officials are planning a public forum at 6:30 p.m. April 4 at the Richard Jung Fire Station.
Residents will be asked to express their opinions and ask questions about four future governance alternatives.
Three other alternatives that will discussed at the forum include: maintaining the status quo as a town, continuing as a town , but with reduced service levels, or making another effort at being incorporated into a village.
"The current economic environment, the needs we have in Lisbon and the commitment we have to keeping taxes down made board members realize it is time to take a look at alternatives to the way we do business in Lisbon," Gehrke said in the news release.
"If we go the merger route, our discussions would be guided by the following goals: a merged community would have a new name such as the City of Sussex-Lisbon, Lisbon's paramedic service would be maintained, any increase in taxes to Lisbon residents would have to be modest and phased in over a 10-year period," Gehrke added.
Most of the town supervisors said in interviews last week they preferred the consolidation option because they think it would create the most efficiencies in government service, best prepare the Lisbon-Sussex community for the future and resolve the differences that have divided the two governing bodies.
"If Lisbon is interested in studying the possibility of consolidating, the Village Board is interested in participating in that study," Village President Greg Goetz said in a news release issued by the village.
"I think it is too early to say that a majority of the village board is ready to support a merger. We don't have enough information, yet. There are still a lot of unanswered questions out there. But I think everyone is willing to explore it," Village Trustee Jim Batzko said in an interview.
Consolidation is a complex process, according to Village Administrator Jeremy Smith, who has reportedly advised the elected officials that it could take at least two years to complete the process under optimum circumstances.
Town Administrator Jeff Musche said "super" majorities of both boards - five of seven village trustees and four of five town supervisors - would be needed to approve the consolidation. The measure would also have to be approved by a majority of voters in both communities in separate referendums.
Town supervisors acknowledged a wide range of issues have to be resolved, including the municipal tax rate difference between the town, where residents pay about $2.96 per $1,000 assessed value, and the village, where residents pay $4.67 per $1,000 assessed value.
In addition, there are some significant differences in the communities' land use and zoning codes, and public services and utilities. For example, most of the village has sewer and water, while most town residents rely on private wells and septic systems. The village has around-the-clock police protection; the town does not.
Proponents of consolidation say it could promote new economic development opportunities while at the same time preserving the rural character of the town.
However, the proponents also acknowledge consolidation might be a tough sell. Town residents are sometimes vocal about their desire to live in a rural community that does not have some of the more restrictive regulations often enforced in villages and cities. In addition, they might oppose paying taxes for village services they say they don't want.
April 4, 2012 6:30 P.M.
Richmond Fire Station
N54W26455 Lisbon Road
The Lisbon Town Board has been carefully considering what future is best for the Town of Lisbon and Lisbon residents. We see there being four potential options for our future:
1. Continue as the Town of Lisbon, while providing services typically provided by
This is how we are currently operating and most of the Lisbon Town Board members and many others do not feel that this is sustainable in the long run. We abut eight incorporated municipalities, some of which have expressed a future desire to annex land currently in Lisbon. This would result in a decreasing tax base that would necessitate reducing services and or raising taxes.
2. Continue as the Town of Lisbon, while providing services that are more in line with most towns.
This future has the same long-term uncertainty and risks as the option listed above, but at least in the short term there could be financial tax benefits to Lisbon residents. However, Lisbon residents would be relying on others to provide some services currently provided by the Town.
3. Further pursue incorporation efforts to become the Village of Lisbon.
This is the only option available to insure Lisbon’s freestanding existence as a municipality in the long-term. However, given that incorporation efforts from 2011 were unsuccessful, the future incorporation would face its challenges. A new Village of Lisbon would most likely not include all of what is now the Town of Lisbon and would likely exclude two or three square miles of the existing town. Furthermore, this process is uncertain and would likely involve a large financial commitment.
4. Merge/Consolidate with the Village of Sussex and form the “City of Sussex-Lisbon”.
This is the option we would like to take some time to most seriously consider at this time. We realize many residents will have some hesitation regarding this future and therefore we are encouraging an extensive, open dialogue considering this and the other options for Lisbon’s future during the next few months.
We hope to see you at the first “public forum” focused on this discussion, which will occur on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at the Richmond Fire Station, (N54W26455 Lisbon Road), starting at 6:30 p.m.
Your Lisbon Town Board
Questions and Answers regarding Consolidation:
from meeting April 4, 2012
Why should I be in favor of this Merger/Consolidation?
This merger will result in a higher level of overall governmental efficiency to all residents involved. Overall taxes paid
between Sussex and Lisbon residents will go down (but will increase in Lisbon) and you will continue to enjoy your
quality of life as you currently do.
What will happen to my taxes in future years?
The total taxes and fees collected immediately following the merger would modestly decrease for residents of both
Lisbon and Sussex. For all residents with municipal water service there would be a new “fire hydrant” fee charged to
residents. For the 10 years following the merger there would be different tax rates for residents that were previously in
Lisbon and previously in Sussex. However, over this period the tax rates would blend together to become equal.
Therefore, while the average household in Lisbon will see a decrease on their tax bill for their total municipal portion
of their payment for the year immediately following the merger, their taxes will increase modestly during the following
10 year tax rate blending period. Eleven years following the merger, the tax rates will be the same for all residents of
the “City of Sussex-Lisbon.” After isolating for the net effect of the merger, the result is an increase in total taxes/fees
of about $100 per year for the average Lisbon household.
What will happen to current service levels?
The overall services provided in both the Village of Sussex and Town of Lisbon will be merged together and
efficiencies will be realized. There are no plans to add additional services immediately following the consolidation.
However, the newly elected council will determine what are the best levels and types of services to be provided in the
future based on residents desires. This merger will result in 24-7 dedicated police protection provided throughout the
entire municipality, something that residents of Lisbon do not current have and has been stated as being needed by the
Why will the new municipality be the “City of Sussex-Lisbon?
This is just one suggestion, but offers both a fresh start, while preserving the strong heritage and history that many
residents take pride in.
How would the new City Council be comprised?
We believe the newly formed municipality would be set up as a seven person elected board, with the mayor position
being part-time and a voting member of said board. All council members would be elected at large to numbered seats.
However, this could be changed in the coming year, based on citizens input.
Should I be concerned about a new City Council being comprised of all Lisbon or all Sussex residents?
The current Town of Lisbon and Village of Sussex are very equally balanced as both municipalities have slightly over
10,000 residents with tax bases of slightly over $1 Billion. The extremely similar populations are most likely to result
in fair representation, with council members that have the best interest of the entire municipality in mind being elected.
Is a merger truly plausible given the decades of political disagreements between the Lisbon and Sussex boards
and the resulting mistrust that appears to have resulted?
The relationships between the current boards are not as bad as they have been presented by some people. There is a
great deal of mutual respect between most staff and elected members of each municipality. It is anticipated that the
assimilation between Sussex and Lisbon would occur fairly quickly, while the residents of each neighborhood would
continue to enjoy the attributes that drew them to live where they do.
Can you explain the process and the potential timing of the consolidation process?
This consolidation would require a positive referendum in each the Town of Lisbon and Village of Sussex. This
binding referendum would not occur until around mid-year 2013. In the mean time, the Lisbon Town Board will be
looking for public input in a multi-stage process. The first stage of the process will include public hearings with Lisbon
residents. If these discussions are positive then we would move on to the formation of a joint committee that would
include six residents from each Lisbon and Sussex that would provide recommendations to the full boards regarding the
potential “merger ordinance.” Before money and additional time were spent, Lisbon may have an advisory referendum
on this issue on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. If the response from this referendum so indicated, then additional details
would be worked out over the next six months, special legislation would be needed, and the final adoption of the
merger ordinance would be passed.
Would hunting be permitted in the “City of Sussex-Lisbon?
Hunting will be permitted in the new municipality exactly the same as it is currently permitted in Lisbon.
(Editor's note: I feel the article below is slanted in a negative manner, I was present for the entire meeting until nearly 9:30 pm. Please refer to the info above obtained from the Town Board. Michael R. Reilly April 8, 2012)
Lisbon Board Details Sussex-Lisbon Merger, Many Residents Uninterested
Close to 250 people attended the Sussex-Lisbon merger meeting Wednesday night, but based on most comments, Lisbon residents aren’t happy with a consolidation.
By Andy Ambrosius
SussexPatch April 5, 2012
Area residents packed the Lisbon Fire Department Wednesday night to learn more about a possible merger between the Village of Sussex and the Town of Lisbon, and some people didn’t like what they were hearing.
About 250 people attended the informational meeting where Matt Gehrke, the town’s chairman, spoke about four options available for Lisbon, each with advantages and drawbacks. The town could either:
Stay the Same
Stay exactly as they are, but be at constant risk of having land annexed by surrounding communities. If that were to happen, Lisbon’s tax base would be reduced, and it can’t afford for that to happen.
Act Like a Village
Continue as a town but provide services like most villages providing a short-term tax benefit. This is not the first choice of any Town Board member.
Try to Become a Village
Try again to become a village, something Lisbon has spent over $100,000 trying to do last year and failed in June 2011. The town would have better luck snagging support from the surrounding communities to become a village if it gave them land, essentially paying them off. However, then Lisbon's tax base would be even lower causing more problems.
Merge with Sussex
Merge with Sussex, face increased taxes, but maintain the type of lifestyle Lisbon residents are accustomed to.
“Realistically, as a board, we know there are a lot of people that don’t want anything to change,” Gehrke said. “That’s an option, but not a long-term one. Towns can be viewed as land banks for future growth of neighboring villages or cities. This is extremely problematic. With an eroding tax base, that would mean decreasing services or increasing taxes.”
The board held meetings with officials from both Sussex and the Village of Merton regarding a merger, but Merton firmly said its not interested in expanding. Sussex, on the other hand, is interested, but blending the municipalities is already raising tons of questions, especially when it comes to money.
While it won’t cost anything to merge, Wisconsin law requires residents in the same municipality to be taxed the same. With Lisbon’s tax rate significantly lower than Sussex’s, a blending would slowly occur over 10 years where former Lisbon residents’ tax rate would increase by about a dollar and current Sussex residents’ tax rate would decrease by about a dollar, meeting somewhere in the middle.
"...if we want to maintain somewhat of a resemblance to how we’re living now, a merger is our best bet.”
In total, taxes on an average home in Lisbon would go up about $100 after the 10 years, something many Lisbon residents groaned about when hearing. After hearing multiple questions from angry people wondering why taxes would increase if the new municipality would have more people, Gehrke explained its because Lisbon residents will be getting additional services they don’t currently have.
“I love the way I live. I do,” said Joseph Osterman, a board supervisor. “That being said, if we look at the long term there aren’t a lot of options that make a lot of sense that keeps Lisbon the way it is now. We’re not going to have a lot of tax base. I don’t like my taxes. I don’t like paying them. Nobody does. But if we want to maintain somewhat of a resemblance to how we’re living now, a merger is our best bet.”
For residents with municipal water services, there would be a new fire hydrant fee, as well. However, Sussex will not force any former town residents to hook up to sewer and water services, so there are no concerns about those fees.
"I think we can do a better job. I’m for becoming a village, and maybe we can become a city and gobble up Sussex.”
In addition, the board addressed a list of pre-submitted questions from residents. They said hunting and fishing regulations wouldn’t change, Lisbon residents would benefit from an around-the-clock police force, school district boundaries wouldn’t change and the former Town of Lisbon would maintain its rural atmosphere.
Also, the Lisbon Town Board stressed how much money the town would save if a merger happened. An entirely new election would take place to elect a city council and jobs would be consolidated gradually as to avoid layoffs. Gehrke said Lisbon would save $50,000 a year just in attorney and engineering fees.
However, according to many residents, that still wasn’t good enough.
“I’ve been living out here for 33 years, and I’m in favor of trying to become a village again,” said Lisbon resident Dennis Plotecher. “I’m just against the whole program. I’m not for throwing in the towel. I think we can do a better job. I’m for becoming a village, and maybe we can become a city and gobble up Sussex.”
The crowd exploded with laughter and cheers, but Gehrke was quick to point out cities can’t annex villages.
But while many residents took the microphone to address their opposition to a merger, when the board quickly polled the crowd, a surprising number of people raised their hands in favor of a merger. There was close to an equal amount of hands raised to stay as is, to try and become a village and to merge with Sussex.
"I think it is time to look very seriously at this situation. I really, genuinely think we are finally taking a step forward.”
Some residents were even bold enough to take the microphone and support the merger, like lifelong resident Donna Zimmerman.
“My family has lived in the Town of Lisbon since 1844, so we’ve seen things change,” Zimmerman said. “I would like to stay how we are, but reality tells me, based on family history, that we’re headed in the right direction. I’ve been seeing this coming since the 1960s, and the reason why it didn’t happen sooner is because of personalities. We had personal fights between boards. I think it is time to look very seriously at this situation. I really, genuinely think we are finally taking a step forward.”
While not as loud as when Plotecher suggested annexing Sussex, the crowd reacted with applause and cheers.
And speaking of personal fights, hints of the infamous feud between board members even showed their colors during the meeting, if only for a brief moment. When asked why it was being named the City of Sussex-Lisbon, Gehrke moved to explain.
“Well, this name has not been finalized by any means,” Gehrke said. “The City of Sussex-Lisbon was only a suggestion. Sussex expressed an interest in keeping Sussex in the title, and if they do that, we want to keep Lisbon in the title. Now it’s just a matter of which name comes first.”
Attendees laughed along with Gehrke at the thought.
This was the first in a series of meetings regarding a possible merger. The next one will be held at Hamilton High School to better accommodate the large crowd, and Lisbon residents will each be receiving a letter in the mail when a date has been set.
Town of Lisbon - August 14th has been established by town officials as the date for an advisory referendum asking voters whether the town should consider consolidating with the Village of Sussex.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said he anticipated the Town Board would approve the wording for the non binding referendum at a Town Board meeting scheduled for later this month or early next month.
If the proposition is approved, town officials will begin negotiations with village officials regarding consolidating the two communities into a new municipality, possibly the City of Sussex-Lisbon.
The consolidation would have to be approved by four of the five town supervisors and five of the seven village trustees as well as voters in both communities in a binding referendum.
Gehrke also established June 27th and July 31st as tenative dates for two public information meetings to discuss details of the proposed consolidation including how consolidation would affect Town of Lisbon real estate tax rates.
Gehrke told his fellow Town Board members that he believed last weeks public forum about future government options for the town was "almost as good as it could be" and that town officials should continue exploring consolidation.
A show of hands during the meeting on Wednesday, April 4, showed that the approximately 180 town residents in attendance were evenly divided between seeking consolidation with the village, making another attempt at Lisbon being incorporated as a village, or maintaining the existing form of town goverment.
Four of the five town board members believe consolidation is the most viable option in the future for the town. Board member Dan Fischer has questioned the need for consolidation.
Lisbon's future debated
Some town officials support merge with Sussex
By Kelly Smith
Posted: Living Sussex Sun, April 10, 2012 11:22 a.m.
Town of Lisbon - The consolidation of the Town of Lisbon and the
Village of Sussex may cost a Lisbon taxpayer with a home valued at about
$280,000 an additional $100 a year in real estate taxes and fees, according to
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke.
Gehrke told nearly 200 residents assembled at the Richard Jung Fire Station last
week that any real estate tax increases for town residents would have to be
"modest" and spread over a period of years before he would support consolidating
the town and village into a new municipality.
Gehrke suggested that combining the two communities' tax bases - each about a
billion dollars - would help reduce the difference between $2.97 per $1,000
assessed valuation town tax rate and the $4.97 per $1,000 village tax rate.
In addition, he said the creation of a street utility district would also help
equalize the tax rate differences between the communities.
Town residents have voiced concern they would have to pay the higher village
rate if the communities merged.
Gehrke said he would provide more detailed tax calculations at future public
He said the purpose of last week's meeting was to have a general discussion
about four options for governing the town in the future rather than getting into
a detailed discussion about the consolidation of Lisbon and Sussex into a new
The other options include: maintaining the existing town government with the
same services, maintain the town government but reduce services, or seeking, for
a third time, state approval of incorporating the town into a village.
Gehrke and town supervisors Joe Osterman and Ryan Lippert suggested to town
residents that consolidation may be the best alternative for protecting the
community's tax base, maintaining government services in the future, and
resolving some of the differences between the governing bodies of Lisbon and
The town board members also tried to assure town residents that the rural
residential character of the town would be preserved and town residents would
not be required to connect to village sewer and water as long as exiting private
septic tanks and wells continued to safely operate.
But, Supervisor Dan Fischer questioned the need for consolidation. He said a
majority of town residents prefer living in a community with large residential
lots. He said there were no guarantees the rural residential character of the
town would be preserved in a consolidation.
Nearly two dozen residents offered their opinions on the options and another
approximately dozen asked questions about the different governance options.
A show of hands midway through the three-hour meeting indicated the audience was
evenly divided between consolidation, maintaining the existing town government
and again seeking incorporation as a village.
Town resident Dennis Plotecher said he was opposed to the consolidation and
suggested town residents donate the money necessary for the Town Board to make
another attempt at incorporation as a village.
"I am not ready to throw in the towel. Maybe we can become a city and gobble up
Sussex," he said.
Gehrke responded that he did not think incorporation could be achieved unless
all of the surrounding cities and villages would support it and he said that is
unlikely. Furthermore, he said the town might have to agree to allow Sussex to
annex the southeast corner of the town in order for the state to approve the
proposed incorporation of the town into a village.
He said surrendering those lands could cost the town about $250,000 in real
estate tax revenues and he said he did not know how the Town Board or a new
village board could recover the lost revenues.
He argued consolidating with the village would enable all of the existing town
residents to remain in the same community.
Former Town Assessor Donna Zimmerman said she supported exploring consolidation.
"I would like things to say like they are," she said, "But reality tells me that
this (consolidation) might be headed in the right direction."
The size and civility of the meeting appeared to catch town officials by
Within about 10 minutes before the meeting started, volunteer firefighters began
bringing in additional folding chairs to accommodate the rapidly growing crowd.
Throughout the meeting, debate was often spirited but while the residents and
town officials sometimes disagreed, there was no one being disagreeable.
"What is significant is that 180 showed up and they weren't mad at us for even
suggesting consolidation. Usually when you get that many people at a town
meeting, someone is mad," said Osterman.
Consolidation postcards to Lisbon voters
Town of Lisbon - The Town of Lisbon will hold two public information meetings this summer about the proposed consolidation of Lisbon with the Village of Sussex.
The Town Board has agreed to mail postcards to all town homeowners informing them of the meetings on June 27 and 31. Both meetings will be at the Hamilton High School Fine Arts Center.
Voters will be asked to vote in advisory referendum on Aug. 14 whether the board should consider consolidating the town and Village of Sussex into a new municipal government. The advisory referendum will be held in conjunction with the statewide partisan primary election.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said he anticipates a representative of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance will speak at the June 27 meeting about the advantages of the two municipal governments consolidating. Gehrke said Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and Waukesha County Sheriff Dan Trawicki are expected to speak at the July 31 meet ing.
Supervisor Dan Fischer questioned whether there would be any speakers at the two meetings who would speak in favor of maintaining the town form of government rather than consolidating. Fischer said he might ask someone from the Wisconsin Towns Association to speak on the advantages of maintaining the town form of government.
"I think there needs to be some balance. I think we should be providing information on both sides," Fischer said.
"I would agree with Dan. I think it would be nice to have the other point of view presented," added Supervisor Ryan Lippert.
But Gehrke questioned whether the town could find a town association executive, or any other local government expert, who would speak on behalf of maintaining the town form government.
Gehrke noted that the two town government representatives on the state Incorporation Review Board supported Lisbon's unsuccessful effort to be incorporated as a village.
"The next logical step is to become either a city or village. If you stay with status quo, you will die as a community," said Supervisor Joe Osterman.
Osterman, Lippert and Supervisor Dan Heier, along with Gehrke, voted to send out the postcards. Fischer voted against it.
Fischer, so far, is the only Town Board member who appears to be opposed to the proposed consolidation.
Town Administrator Jeff Musche estimated the cost to mail the postcards at about $1,100.
Gehrke said he also wanted to more extensive information about consolidation and the referendum mailed to town property owners in late July or early August.
Musche estimated the cost of that mailing would be about $1,575.
Sussex-Lisbon consolidation support wavering?
Town Board debates issue for more than a hour
Town of Lisbon - Support for the idea of consolidating the Town of Lisbon and the Village of Sussex appeared to be wavering among some Town Board members Monday night.
Voters will be asked in a nonbinding referendum on Aug. 14, "If the terms of a consolidation were reasonable, would you be for or against consolidating Lisbon and Sussex to form a new municipality?"
The third in a series of public forums on the issue is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31 at the Hamilton High School Fine Arts Center.
About 300 residents, most who expressed opposition to consolidation, attended a similar forum on June 27. Lake Country Publications incorrectly estimated the attendance about 150.
The Town Board debated for more than an hour on Monday night over the wording of informational materials to be distributed at next week's forum and later mailed to all residents.
Supervisors Don Heier and Dan Fischer voted against the materials arguing they were "too one sided" in support of consolidation.
Before the meeting, Heier told Lake Country Publications that he was joining Fischer in opposing consolidation.
Heier said consolidation would jeopardize the careers of the town's 14 full-time employees including department heads in the parks, public works, and fire departments. He said there are no assurances they would be hired by the administration of the new municipality.
"I don't think employees who have been loyal and worked hard for the town should be expected to fill out job applications seeking their positions back with a different board," he said.
In addition, he said he was concerned about the Village of Sussex's spending habits and the size of the village debt which is about $18 million.
Fischer has steadfastly argued that consolidation would threaten the rural residential character of the town, impose urban-style zoning regulations and utilities on town residents and increase taxes for Lisbon residents.
According to state law, approval of the consolidation would require the votes of four of five Town Board members, five of the seven Sussex village trustees, and a majority of voters in both communities in a binding referendum.
Any vote on consolidation is not likely to occur until next year and Heier has said he does not plan to seek reelection in April. Which means consolidation could be issue in the April municipal elections, if voters next month recommended the town consider consolidating with the village.
However, Supervisor Ryan Lippert, who has supported considering consolidation, said he will not favor continuing the process if next month's referendum is approved by a small voter margin in a low turn out election.
Even Town Chairman Matt Gehrke, the board's leading advocate of consolidation, expressed some reservations after Monday night's meeting.
"There is going to have to be a strong indication of support (at the referendum) if the board is going to proceed. Ryan and I may have a slight difference on how you define strong," Gehrke said.
Gehrke has argued consolidation is the most cost-effective way for the town to provide "desired" levels of service to town residents. Consolidating with Sussex into a new municipality would reduce administrative costs, eliminate duplication ofservices and equipment, and provide a larger tax base.
Gehrke asserted that without consolidation the town may not be able to afford to add a midnight shift deputy and improve its roads.
Fischer accused Gehrke and the board of "misleading the people, you are trying to steer them in one direction." He described as "spin" the informational materials being distributed to town residents.
"None of this is spin. All we are trying to get to do is get the best information we can out to the people," Lippert rebutted.
Lippert and Gehrke pointed out to Fischer that the documents included arguments in opposition to consolidation and they had agreed during the meeting to make revisions in the materials that Fischer had suggested.
"I will stay here all night if it will provide us with a better document. But nothing we can do is going to perfect," Lippert added.
"Even if we had made all of the changes exactly as you wanted them, would have you voted for it (the information document)," asked Supervisor Joe Osterman.
"No," responded Fischer.
Lisbon and Sussex consolidation opposed
Town of Lisbon - Organized and vocal opposition to a proposal to consolidate the Town of Lisbon and Village of Sussex surfaced during a nearly three-hour-long public forum attended by an estimated 150 town residents at Hamilton High School on June 27.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke acknowledged there was a different attitude at this forum compared to a forum in April to discuss whether Lisbon should consolidate with Sussex or continue providing local government services itself.
"In April, people were pretty evenly divided between consolidation and trying to continue to maintain town government. Tonight, it appears a majority are opposed to consolidation. If that would have happened in the April meeting, we may have not have been here tonight," he said.
"I think what happened was the people who went to the meeting in April were looking for information. Since then, they have found the information, and many of them don't want their taxes increased, and they don't want to consolidate with Sussex," said Jane Stadler, a longtime town resident who has served on both the Town Board and Plan Commission.
Supervisor Dan Fischer and former Town Chairman Mike Reid circulated fliers during the meeting voicing their opposition to consolidation.
Fischer is the only member of the five-member Town Board who has expressed opposition to the consolidation. He received a hearty round of applause from the audience when he was introduced at the forum.
He argued that some town residents could be required to hook up to Sussex sewer and water, and regulations imposed by the village could detract from the rural residential atmosphere of the Lisbon community.
Other board members have argued that merging with Sussex might be the most viable alternative to providing residents with high levels of government services at affordable tax rates.
In addition, consolidation could end decades of feuding between the two communities, according to proponents of the consolidation.
Voters are being asked to advise the Town Board in a nonbinding referendum on Aug. 14 whether to continue pursuing consolidation with the village. Gehrke and the other Town Board members have said they will drop the proposal if it is defeated in the referendum.
Town of Lisbon - Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said tonight there is going to have to be " a strong indication of support" at an advisory referendum next month in order for the Town Board to continue exploring consolidation with the Village of Sussex.
Town Supervisor Dan Heier predicted voters will reject consolidation at the non binding referendum.
Supervisor Ryan Lippert added that he is not likely to support consolidation if it is approved next month by a narrow margin of voters in a low turn out election.
"There is going to have to be a strong indication of support for the board to proceed,
Ryan and I might have a slight difference in how you define strong," said Gehrke.
Town voters will be asked on August 14 "if the terms of the consolidation were reasonable, would you be for or against consolidating Lisbon and Sussex to form a new municipality."
The third in a series of public forums on the issue will be conducted on July 31 at the Hamilton High School Fine Arts Center.
The board debated for more than an hour tonight over the wording in informational materials that will be distributed at the forum and later mailed to all town residents.
Heier and Supervisor Dan Fischer voted against distributing the materials, arguing the information was "too one sided" in favor of consolidation.
"I don't think voters in the town will approve it," predicted Supervisor Heier.
In order to be approved, a consolidation ordinance must have four of the five town board member votes, seven of the five village trustee votes and it must be approved by both communities in a binding referendum.
County officials: Support Lisbon- Sussex vote
Vrakas, Trawicki urge passage of consolidation referendum
Town of Lisbon - Two of Waukesha County's most powerful elected officials pleaded Tuesday night with town residents to vote in favor of a nonbinding, advisory referendum. Voters will be asked on Aug. 14 whether or not they support consolidation of the Town of Lisbon and the Village of Sussex.
County Executive Dan Vrakas and Sheriff Dan Trawicki told about 250 people attending a public information meeting at Hamilton High School that voters should approve the referendum in order to give local officials the opportunity to discuss consolidation of the two communities.
Any consolidation agreement, according to state law, would have to be approved by four of the five Town Board members, five of seven village trustees, and voters in both communities in a binding referendum likely to occur in 2013 or 2014.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke told the audience the Town Board would consider consolidating with the Village of Sussex provided there was a "strong majority" approval at the referendum.
Gehrke argued consolidation of the communities is the most cost-effective method of providing the "desired level" of local government services to town residents.
He emphasized the town's ability to increase police protection and maintain roads are being limited by new state law that restricts raising local taxes.
Vrakas and Trawicki concurred.
Trawicki said there was "no reason why" voters should not approve the referendum in order to give the local officials an opportunity to consider consolidation.
"It is in your best interest to say to your Town Board go ahead and let's give this a try. If they can't come up with an agreement, that is fine, but at least them a chance," urged Trawicki.
Vrakas encouraged voters to "keep an open mind and be objective" about the possibility of merging the communities because he said local officials are going to have "get out of our comfort zone" in order to find ways to maintain government services while faced with declining tax revenues.
Vrakas said if voters approve the referendum he will ask the County Board to appropriate about $15,000 to help the village and town hire a professional consultant to develop objective information regarding the costs and other ramifications of a consolidation.
"One of the most important things to do is get objective information and try to remove the emotions," said Vrakas.
Trawicki added, "The Village of Sussex has done some things to the Town of Lisbon in the past that were probably wrong and the Town of Lisbon has done some things to the Village of Sussex in the past that were probably wrong, but it is time to get over it."
Some town officials privately and publicly expressed optimism that the appearance of the two popular county officials would give the referendum campaign, which has encountered stiff opposition, a boost two weeks before the election.
"Any time you have someone of their stature supporting you, it helps," noted Supervisor Joe Osterman.
However, Osterman's Town Board colleague, Supervisor Dan Fischer, has waged a vigorous campaign against consolidation arguing that it is unnecessary, poses a risk to the rural residential life style of town residents and will raise town taxes.
He argues Lisbon taxpayers would be expected to help pay for services they may not want or need and help pay off the Village of Sussex's approximately $19 million debt.
Lisbon-Inc. org, the citizens group that failed in an effort to incorporate Lisbon into a village, has urged voters to reject the referendum. Officials of the group said they are prepared to make another attempt at getting state approval to upgrade the status of local government from a town to a village.
Most of the residents speaking at the meeting were opposed to consolidation.
Town resident Pat Murphy questioned the wisdom of Vrakas spending county tax funds "on this little neighborhood dispute."
"Save the money for something that will benefit all of the county's residents," Murphy added.
Jennifer Braden said she was concerned consolidation would create a new municipality that would eventually require her to connect her home to municipal sewer and water even though she has a private well and septic system.
"When I am getting ready to retire, I don't want to have to spend $50,000 to $60,000 to hook up sewer and water to my home so I can sell it," she said.
"I don't see that we have a lot in common. Most of the people in Sussex live in apartments and condos and most of us in town live on one-acre lots. Why should I want to be part of Sussex, I moved out here from big cities to get away from that," said John Stuart.
Carl Duwe rattled off a list of political disputes between the two communities over the past 40 years and then added, "Now you want us to become part of Sussex so we pay more of their bills?"
"I was surprised at the hate, and I use that word because it was the word used tonight, that was expressed towards Sussex," said Village Trustee Pat Tetzlaff who sat through the nearly two-and-a-half hour meeting, unnoticed by most of the town residents.
But Osterman, a personal friend of Tetzlaff's, later replied, "There was only a small portion of the town's total population at the meeting and only a small portion of that small portion was attacking the Village of Sussex.
"I think most of the residents of the town like the people who live in the village. They are our friends and neighbors," he said.
Lisbon Incorporation Efforts -
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