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I Want To Know

What happened to plans for a Sussex Y?

Like many other plans conceived during brighter economic times, a proposal to build a YMCA in Sussex is now in a bit of a holding pattern.

Officials from the Waukesha Family YMCA are still committed to building a Y in Sussex, said CEO Chris Becker, but fundraising feasibility research has shown that the launch of a capital campaign should probably be delayed until the economy takes a turn for the better.

"We plan on re-evaluating the opportunity to start up a communitywide fundraising effort either later this year or in 2011," Becker said.

Plans to build a Sussex Y were first announced about three years ago. Officials initially planned to build the facility as part of a large commercial and residential development project planned for an area off Highway 164 just south of the new Shopko.

When the developer cancelled the project, Y officials set their sights on a different piece of land, a 20-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Highways 164 and K. On that site, Y officials plan to build a facility in partnership with a healthcare organization, to deliver a unique approach to wellness and fitness in the region, Becker said

Initial building plans for the new facility have been drawn up, and officials have begun preliminary work necessary to address stormwater management and other issues, Becker said.

"The YMCA and the community leadership are very dedicated to the project and making a Y facility become a reality in the Sussex region," Becker said.

What do you want to know? E-mail your questions to [email protected].

Main St.-Silver Spring Drive plans changed

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, March 25, 2014

Village of Sussex — A proposal to reconfigure the iconic triangle intersection at Main Street and Silver Spring Drive as part of the reconstruction of Main Street may be changed.

Village officials who were considering rerouting Silver Spring Drive at Hickory Road to the west and north through undeveloped land, and connecting it into a T-intersection at Main Street, west of the existing triangle intersection, are now considering jogging Silver Spring Drive to the east to connect into a new T-intersection with Main Street, east of the existing intersection.

If adopted, the plan would likely mean the demolition of the Youth Hall located at N63 W223669 Silver Spring Drive, which also houses the Sussex Outreach Services (SOS) and the food pantry. Village Administrator Jeremy Smith said there are long range plans that call for replacing the outdated facility.

The revised intersection plan was discussed briefly at last week's Plan Commission meeting.

Plans for senior housing

Commissioners heard a proposal from Top Leaf Development of the Town of Lisbon to construct medical offices and senior assisted living apartments and condominiums on the ll acres of land west of Silver Spring from Hickory Road north to near Main Street.

Commissioner Richard Wegner asked Smith what impact the proposed development would have on the village's plans to reroute Silver Spring and replace the triangle intersection. Smith responded the village is now considering rerouting Silver Spring to the east rather than west.

Village President Greg Goetz, who chairs the Plan Commission, encouraged the developers to meet with senior citizen groups before proceeding further with their plans.

Goetz questioned whether the development should be devoted mostly to assisted living facilities. He said there is a need in the community for moderately priced housing for seniors who live independently.

Goetz suggested the development provide more transitional housing for seniors who might move into independent living apartments and condominiums and later move into assisted living quarters as they required greater care because of their age.

Shari Luther of Top Leaf Development said the company would meet with seniors but asked if the commission could proceed with the proposed zoning change for the development.

Goetz told her he wanted to see more detailed plans for the development after the developers had a chance to meet with the seniors before the village would consider rezoning.

Art Luther, owner of the company, said later that there is not enough developable land on the site to construct an economically viable transitional living residential complex.

The idea of rerouting Silver Spring Drive across the land arose more than two years ago as village officials began planning for the reconstruction of Main Street from Maple Avenue east to Waukesha Avenue. Main Street will have to be reconstructed because of the age of the street and the utilities buried beneath it.

Village consultants and planners suggested the Village Board consider widening the street and improving intersections — possibly including roundabouts — to promote more efficient flow of traffic.

The Main Street-Silver Spring Drive intersection reconfiguration is still under consideration, although the plans for widening the street and installing roundabouts have been dropped.

Sussex looks ahead to new YMCA and civic center

The center of this photo is approximately where a new 45,000-square-foot civic center may be built if a partnership between the village of Sussex and the YMCA of Central Waukesha County is finalized. The civic center would be located between the site of the existing village hall (far left) and the Pauline Haass Library (right). The existing village hall and the Mindemann home will be razed in order to make way for construction of a new 75,000-square-foot YMCA.

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, May 20, 2014

Sussex — A 75,000-square-foot YMCA facility and a new, 45,000-square-foot civic center may be built on the existing municipal government campus on Main Street at an estimated cost of $14 million to village taxpayers, according to a tentative development partnership between the Village of Sussex and the YMCA of Central Waukesha County.

A conceptual outline of the partnership agreement was approved by the YMCA Board of Directors April 15. Village trustees gave the village staff informal approval to continue to pursue the development agreement during a closed door meeting last week that appears to have violated the state's open meetings law.

According to the tentative conceptual agreement, the village will donate to the YMCA approximately $7 million to help built a $14 million to $15 million facility on village property that will include two gymnasiums, a fitness center, and a swimming facility that will include a pool for swimming laps and a family fun aquatic center.

Raising funds

The partnership agreement and the construction of the Y facility is contingent upon the Y being able to raise the $7 to $8 million to pay for its share of the construction costs. Construction on the project would begin in 2017.

In exchange for the village's donation, village residents will be allowed to join the YMCA at a discounted membership rate and the village will be allowed to use Y facilities for village recreational programs.

The village will use either bank notes or bonds to borrow the money for the $7 million contribution, according to Village Administrator Jeremy Smith.

Smith estimates the donation will cost a typical village owner of a home valued at $280,000 an additional $12 per year for 15 years.

Trustee excited

Village Trustee Pat Tetzlaff, who said she was "every excited" about the development proposal, suggested the cost to village residents will be made up by increased economic growth and an increased tax base resulting from downtown redevelopment, as well as improved recreational facilities, including a swimming pool.

"I cannot tell you how many years there have been discussions about a swimming pool for the village," she said.

The L-shaped building is expected to front Main Street, stretching from the Pauline Haass Library east to near the Associated Bank, and then turn north towards the existing parking lot in the rear of the existing village hall. The existing village hall and the Mindemann home along Main Street would be demolished to make way for the new structure.

The existing boulevard entrance to the municipal campus would be replaced and a new entrance located about 150 feet to the east, between the existing village hall and the Associated Bank, across the street from the Piggly Wiggly parking lot right-turn-only exit.

Although YMCA officials have indicated the new facility would generate about a 1,000 cars a day in additional traffic along Main Street, village officials are unclear about some of the improvements that might be made to facilitate the traffic.

Smith said no decisions have been reached yet regarding how the triangular-shaped Main Street/Silver Spring Drive intersection might be reconfigured.

Village taxpayers will be asked to pay an additional $7 million to $8 million for the new civic center, which would be constructed on the existing parking lot and driveway between the Pauline Haass library and the existing village hall.

Smith said the civic center is expected to be three stories. One floor will be used as additional space for the library. A second floor will be for village government administrative offices, and recreational and senior citizens programs. Another floor will be devoted to not-for-profit community service groups including Sussex Outreach Services (SOS), the food pantry, and possibly the historical society.

Three connected buildings

The three buildings — the Y, the civic center, and the existing Pauline Haass Library — will be connected by a series of interior corridors, Smith said.

There will be parking for 300 vehicles, some of which will be located on portions of what is now Weyer Park.

Smith emphasized that there is adequate open space on the north side of Spring Creek to allow playground equipment and other park amenities to be moved from south of the creek to north of the creek to make way for a larger parking lot.

Chris Becker, chief executive officer of the YMCA of Central Waukesha County, said the village's willingness to locate the Y facility downtown and help pay for its cost were particularly attractive to the board of directors.

Becker said the downtown location would make the Y more accessible to children and seniors.

The Waukesha-based Y organization has been considering a Sussex site for more than a decade. In the early and mid 2000s, they had anticipated building a new facility on farmland south of the Kohl's retail center. In 2008, plans shifted to a site on about 20 acres of land on the southwestern corner of Highway 164 and Lisbon Road.

"One of the most frequently asked questions at Village Hall has been what is the latest on the Y," Smith said

Sussex picks committee for YMCA project

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, June 3, 2014

Sussex — The village board has created a 12 member Civic Campus Advisory Committee responsible for helping to implement a proposed joint development agreement, which has never been discussed publicly, that provides for the construction of an approximately 75,000-square-foot YMCA facility and a 45,000-square-foot village hall on the existing municipal government campus on Main Street.

The village will contribute $7 million dollars to the $14 million facility that will include two gymnasiums, a fitness center, swimming facilities and space for various other recreational and community activities. The YMCA of Central Waukesha County will be responsible for raising the remaining $7 million for construction of the facility expected to begin in 2017, according to a proposed agreement between the Y and the village.

The village board apparently informally approved, during a closed session on May 15, the memorandum of understanding approved by the YMCA board of directors on April 15 that spells out the terms of the agreement.

Village officials have also announced plans to construct a $7 million, three-story Civic Center that will be adjacent to the new Y facility. The Y, the civic center, and the existing Pauline Haass Library building are expected to connected by a series of interior corridors. The civic center is also expected to include additional space for the library.

The role of the Civic Campus Advisory Committee is to "analyze the specific space needs for a civic campus, study the relevant options, partners, and objectives for the civic campus, and work with an architectural firm, engineering firm, other design professionals, village staff, and key partners to design the civic campus and bring forth a recommendation on the project to the Village Board," according to a memo prepared by Village Administrator Jeremy Smith.

According to Smith, the committee is to "Build off of the recommendations from the Village Hall Facility Study Group...."

The Village Hall Facility Study Group, which was comprised mostly of village residents, recommended in 2011 that the existing village hall structure, a renovated school building estimated to be more than 80 years old, be demolished and replaced by a modern 20,000 feet civic center facility that would incorporate a number of village government activities and programs under one roof and possibly provide additional space for the library.

During a May 21 meeting, the Pauline Haass Library Board authorized Library Director Kathy Klager to serve as the library's representative in discussions regarding space needs in the proposed new civic center.

According to Smith's memo to the village board, representatives of the library, the village, and the Y, would serve as non voting members of the Civic Campus Advisory Committee.

The committee appointed at the Tuesday, May 27, village board meeting includes Village President Greg Goetz; committee chair, Trustee Pat Tetzlaff, representing the Village Board; Plan Commission member Roger Johnson; downtown business owner Paul Cain; Park Board member Bob Fourness; Community Development Authority member Jen Bell; Jennifer Waltz of the food pantry; Heather Pfalz, of the Chamber of Commerce; Art Rude, Shelly Carlson and Don Lovy.

The committee is expected to meet the first or second Thursday of the month for about six meetings and make its recommendations by December.

New intersection planned at Main and Silver Spring

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Sept 8, 2014

Village of Sussex — Village officials are confident that their proposed plans for improvements on Main Street will be sufficient to handle an estimated additional 1,000 cars a day if a new YMCA/Village Hall complex is constructed on the existing local government campus on Main Street, across the street from the Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

Included in the revised plans is a proposal to eliminate the village's iconic triangular intersection at Main Street and Silver Spring Drive and replace it with a conventional "T" intersection. which would be built on the site of the community youth center building a few hundred yards east of the existing intersection.

According to Village Administrator Jeremy Smith, there would be no need to acquire private property, including an adjacent gas station and barber shop, to make room for the new intersection. He said the intersection would be fitted within the site of the youth center, which would be demolished.

The existing offices and activities at the youth center building, including Sussex Outreach Services (SOS) and the food pantry, are expected to be relocated into a new village hall/civic center which may be constructed in 2017-18 on the existing village hall site on Main Street along with the new YMCA facility, according to Smith.

Smith and other village staff members outlined the Main Street plan during a series of public information meetings held during the past week at village parks.

In addition to the new intersection, Main Street would be widened by about 2 feet. Widening the street would help facilitate the installation of longer turn lanes that could hold a larger number of cars than the existing turn lanes.

There would be new synchronized traffic signals installed between Maple Avenue and the Silver Spring intersection. The existing intersection in front of Village Hall and the Piggly Wiggly would be closed and a new intersection built a few hundred feet east of village hall across the street from an existing east-bound only exit at the Piggly Wiggly.

Smith later explained that he was confident that with the combination of the new improvements, Main Street could handle the additional traffic if the new YMCA was built. The village is expect to contribute $7 million to the 75,000 square foot building and the Central Waukesha County YMCA is expected to raise the remaining $7 million to $8 million in private donations.

Smith said traffic along Main Street will flow much smoother with synchronized traffic signals, larger capacity turn lanes, and new intersections east of Village Hall and at Silver Spring Drive.

He emphasized there were no roundabouts included in the revised plans. Among the original alternatives being considered in 2012 by village officials was a proposal to include three roundabouts along Main Street in addition to widening the street by as much as 8 to 15 feet.

The Village Board rejected the idea of roundabouts and a wider street after howls of protest from businesses and residents located along Main Street.

Sussex administrator defends closed meetings

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Sept 8, 2014

Village of Sussex — Village Administrator Jeremy Smith has sharply defended the legality of a closed meeting of the village board on May 13.

Village trustees and staff privately discussed the details of a proposed partnership between the village and the Central Waukesha County YMCA for the construction of a $7 million village hall and an adjoining $14 million to $15 million YMCA, both on a civic center campus on Main Street.

Wisconsin Newspaper Association attorney Robert Dreps gave his opinion that a portion of the meeting may have violated state laws because the trustees' discussions about the proposal should have been in open session. However, Dreps added that when the trustees began to discuss their strategy for negotiating the proposal with the Y, those discussions could legally be held in private.

Village resident Darlene Cohan asked Smith about "rumors" of "secret meetings" of the trustees about the YMCA proposal during a public information meeting Sept. 4 at Pride's Park.

It was one of a series of 10 meetings at local parks that the village staff has conducted to explain the YMCA proposal, proposed widening of Main Street, renovation at Village Park and efforts to control radium in the village's water system.

Dreps said he based his opinion on a 2007 Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision involving the city of Milton. The court ruled that Milton violated the open meetings law during a series of closed meetings in which it discussed a proposed ethanol plant in the community. The court ruled the city could develop a negotiating strategy or offer a price for particular piece of land in closed session but was not justified in refusing to disclose the development proposal or the developer during an open session.

"Newspaper lawyers are a dime a dozen," Smith said.

Smith added that the village is represented by John Macy, an experienced municipal lawyer who was "absolutely confident" that the meetings were in compliance with the state's open meetings law.

He said during the meeting trustees talked "about the potential impact of the deal."

The proposal, which would cost village taxpayers $14 million, has yet to be discussed openly at a village board meeting. However, individual trustees had an opportunity to discuss both the YMCA and new village hall with citizens during the public information meetings.

The proposal received mixed reviews at the meetings. There appears to be general support for a new village hall/civic center, which would cost $7 million to build, although some residents question why the existing structure could not be saved and remodeled.

Smith and the village trustees pointed out that a citizens committee determined it would not be a wise investment to attempt to renovate the existing building.

The sharpest differences of opinion are over the village contributing $7 million to build the YMCA. Citizens in favor the project say it will provide new recreational facilities, including a swimming pool, and will help downtown businesses in addition to creating a new community civic center that will include expanded space for the Pauline Haass Library.

Opponents question whether it is appropriate for the village to provide public funds and lands to a not-for-profit corporation that will provide services that compete with private businesses. They also express concern about the additional traffic and congestion a new Y might bring to the Main Street business district.

"When the final decision is made, there will be a lot of happy people and there will be a lot of unhappy people. The community is really divided," Smith told the approximately two dozen citizens who attended the meeting at Pride's Park.

Village President Greg Goetz has emphasized at all of the meetings, "no final decision has been made," although the village has hired consultants for the project and a citizens committee is discussing various floor plans for the new village hall.

Sussex YMCA would serve Lake Country Article | Posted: September 12, 2014 By Kelly Smith

The leadership of the YMCA of Central Waukesha County anticipates that residents in Lisbon, Pewaukee and Merton as well as Richfield in Washington County are likely to take advantage of the services provided by a YMCA that is proposed to be built in the village of Sussex. The

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Let the debate begin on Sussex Village Hall and Y deal

Posted Lake Country Reporter, Sept. 16, 2014

 Good government should have no fear of public scrutiny. It should welcome it, because the light will only serve to illuminate that it is indeed good government.
In Sussex, the village blundered badly in how it rolled out this proposal to work with the Central Waukesha County YMCA, fearing that a good idea might be squelched before it had the chance to reach fruition. That’s a shame, because it really is a good idea. But instead of being an example of how government can be creative in solving its problems, it looks like the village is trying to pull a fast one.
In an effort at damage control, the village is now going park to park to drum up interest for the idea that would give Sussex a much-needed new village hall and build a first-class recreational facility right in the heart of the community. It’s an expensive project, but one that was fraught with missteps early on.
When the Great Recession quashed plans for a new Y at Highway 164 and K, the village staff met with the Y to reopen the door and thus an idea was hatched: What if the village leased the Y the land for $1 a year and the Y could build a $14 million plus facility on the site. Next door, the village could build a $7 million new village hall, and tear down the current facility, which is showing its age. The Y would give members discounts and let the recreation department for the village use its facilities, including a new pool. And who knows? Maybe Hamilton could use the pool for high school sports.
It’s novel. It’s bold. It appears to be a program with a lot of winners. So why try to be so sneaky?
Yes, there is controversy. What will this do to traffic downtown? What will it actually cost taxpayers? Is this deal better for the Y than it is for taxpayers? By the spirit of the law, should this proposal go the voters to be considered in a referendum? These are a few of the many important but complex issues surrounding this proposal.
In open government, the kind we champion here in Wisconsin, we bring these important discussions out for a thorough airing. We poke them, looking for holes. We criticize and praise them, and we give them a thorough public vetting. It’s a messy process, a long process and often an ungainly process, but it’s the best one we know.
We trust the proposed plan will ultimately be in the best interest of everyone involved. It would have been better had it come in through the front door instead of the back, but now that it is here, let’s expose it to some sunlight and bombard it with constructive criticism and hang it on the line for everyone to see. The smell of laundry fully cleaned is good government at work.

Sussex Y would serve Lake Country

A swimmer works out in the lap pool at the Waukesha YMCA Friday, Sept. 12. Photo By Todd Ponath

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Sept 16, 2014

The leadership of the YMCA of Central Waukesha County anticipates that residents in Lisbon, Pewaukee and Merton as well as Richfield in Washington County are likely to take advantage of the services provided by a YMCA that is proposed to be built in the village of Sussex.

The three-story, 75,000-square-foot facility is proposed as part of a new civic center campus on Main Street. It would include a swimming pool and other aquatic facilities, a fitness center, gymnasiums and facilities for various activities and programs.

If a partnership between the Y and the village is approved, the village will lease land to the Y for $1 and agree to pay $7 million of the estimated $14 million to $15 million for the new facility. The YMCA of Central Waukesha County will be responsible for raising the remaining $7 million to $8 million for the project.

The YMCA of Central Waukesha County is not affiliated with the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, which has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, the YMCA of Central Waukesha County and the Pabst Farm YMCA in Oconomowoc each have separate charters with the YMCA of the USA.

The YMCA of Central Waukesha, which also owns and operates the Mukwonago YMCA, has a strong base of donors and is in good financial condition, according to Chief Executive Officer Chris Becker.

It is attempting to purchase through the bankruptcy proceedings three Y facilities on or near the Waukesha County border that are owned and operated by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, according to Becker.

Typically, about 80 percent of the membership in a YMCA are residents who live within a 5- to 8-mile radius of the facility. However, Becker believes, based on the Y's experience in Mukwonago, that there will likely be a broader base of membership in the Sussex Y.

When the Mukwonago Y was constructed in 2011-12, it was anticipated that most of its membership would come from the Mukwonago community and the nearby Interstate 43 corridor, according to Becker

However, Becker said the Mukwonago Y is also attracting members from southern and southwestern neighborhoods in Waukesha as well as Walworth county communities such as East Troy and Elkhorn, which are farther south along the I-43 corridor.

Becker thinks that residents in rural suburban communities are willing to drive farther for YMCA services because they have fewer alternatives and are accustomed to drive longer distances than residents of more densely populated urban areas.

Consequently, he anticipates that some residents in Richfield in Washington County will use Highway 164 as a relatively quick and easy access to a Y in Sussex.

In addition, he anticipates Lake Country residents who live near what he describes as "the west Capitol Drive corridor," — particularly those in Lisbon, Pewaukee and Merton — will also join the Sussex Y.

The idea of locating a Y in Sussex evolved out of a study done nearly 20 years ago that determined Lake Country was a region "underserved" by the YMCA.

In 1998 there were plans to construct a Y in the village of Hartland. However, a legal battle developed between the village and the owner of a local athletic club who was opposed to the Y.

By the time the court battle was resolved in the village's favor in 2002, plans for a new YMCA in Oconomowoc as part of the Pabst Farms commercial and residential development were underway.

Becker explained that since the Pabst Farms YMCA would serve the western portion of Waukesha County, Y officials began looking farther east, where they found land and community support for a Y in Sussex.

Initially, there were discussions about a site north of Highways 164 and K ( Lisbon Road) on a former pheasant farm owned by an Oconomowoc developer, according to Becker.

The potential site was moved to land south of the intersection when Wheaton Franciscan Health Care expressed interest in partnering with the Y in the construction of a new facility that would be part of a family health center.

However, the Great Recession of 2008 changed the heathcare organization's priorities, according to Becker.

In late 2013, Sussex Village Administrator Jeremy Smith contacted Becker and asked him the status of the plans for building a Y in Sussex. Smith said he made the inquiry because he was constantly being asked by village officials and residents about the status of the Y's plans.

When Smith learned from Becker that the Y might be seeking a new partner for the project, negotiations began between the two executives.

In April, the board of directors of the Y approved a memorandum of understanding that outlines the terms of the partnership. The Y's proposal was discussed in a closed session by the village trustees in May.

Although the proposal has been widely publicized and there have been discussions between residents and individual trustees, it has yet to be publicly discussed by the village board.

Opposition to YMCA/Village Hall growing?

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Oct 27, 2014

Village of Sussex — Sherry Retzlaff of Elmwood Avenue says she is among a growing number of Sussex residents who are opposed to locating a proposed 75,000-square-foot YMCA facility on Main Street and questions the need for a proposed 45,000-square-foot village hall.

The plans calls for the $15 million YMCA facility to be constructed on village property adjacent to a new $7 million village hall.

In addition to paying for the village hall, taxpayers would also be asked to pay for $7 million of the estimated $14 to $15 million for the new Y.

Retzlaff said she is not opposed to a new YMCA in Sussex, but not on Main Street. She said there about 10 to 20 residents who are forming an organization to oppose the proposal.

"We don't see why the Y has to be on Main Street and we want to see more proof as to why they think they need a new village hall," she said.

There are tentative plans for a Wednesday, Nov. 2, open forum and public information meeting, according to Retzlaff.

She said the organization has invited Village President Greg Goetz and Village Administrator Jeremy Smith to attend.

She anticipated the meeting would be held at either the Pauline Haass Library or at a local church.

Retzlaff, who lives a few blocks from where the new civic campus would be constructed, said she believes opposition to the proposed YMCA/Village Hall has spread beyond the downtown Main Street neighborhoods surrounding the project site.

Retzlaff was among an estimated 15 to 20 residents who attended a Oct. 14 village board meeting; some of them to express their opposition to the plan and ask for a referendum on the issue,.

Included was former Village President Mike Knapp who, according to the meeting minutes, said he was not opposed to the Y, but he was opposed to taxpayers paying for half of it.

Knapp argued that village officials have underestimated the long-term cost to taxpayers for the two projects and he said there should be referendum approval of the plan.

Retzlaff later said she was concerned the plan would jeopardize the historic and quaint a atmosphere of Sussex because the new Y would generate an estimated 1,000 additional cars a day and the plans call for a 300-car parking lot that would be located on the north side of new village hall and Y facility.

She noted the parking lot would destroy a large portion of Wyer Park and she disputed arguments by some city officials that the YMCA facility would help attract more consumers and businesses to Main Street.

"The YMCA is a destination. After someone is hot and sweating from the working out at the Y, and has their children with them, they are going to go home. The are not going shopping," she said.

Village President Goetz says 'No' to Sussex Y

Village President Greg Goetz told more than 100 residents at a public information meeting last week that he no longer supports a proposal to build a 75,000-square-foot YMCA on Main Street adjacent to a proposed new village hall. Goetz told the audience on Divine Redeemer United Church of Christ on Town Line Road that he does support building a new village hall.

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Nov 18, 2014

Village of Sussex — Village President Greg Goetz told more than 100 village residents at a public information meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 12, that he no longer supports the construction of a YMCA on Main Street a part of a proposed new civic campus for the village.

Goetz said the 75,000-square-foot, three-story building "would not be a good fit" for Main Street and it would be contrary to efforts to maintain the quaint small village atmosphere in Sussex.

Goetz acknowledged that he was initially excited about a proposal from the YMCA of Central Waukesha County that called for the construction of the new YMCA building adjacent to a new village hall that would be connected to the existing Pauline Haass Library near Weyer Park on Main Street.

Goetz said he decided to withdraw his support of the project based on reaction he received from village residents who were concerned the Y would generate an estimate 1,000 cars a day, require a 300-car parking lot and the project would lead to the destruction of most of the park.

However, Goetz reiterated his support for the demolition of the existing village hall and the construction of a new one along Main Street. Goetz said it would cost too much money to renovate and build a necessary addition to the existing structure, which once served as Main Street School.

Downtown business owner P.J. Cain told the audience he has served on two committees that studied the village's space needs and he has concluded that while he regrets seeing the old school house demolished, he believes there is no other option because the building can no longer productively function as a village hall.

'Demolition is unnecessary'

However, a number of residents attending the meeting expressed sentimental feelings about the building and argued its demolition was unnecessary.

Sheri Retzlaf, who helped organize the meeting held at the Redeemer United Church of Christ near the intersection of Highway K and Town Line Road, said she is launching a petition drive in an effort to persuade the village board to hold a referendum on the issues of the construction of the new Y, the demolition of the school and construction of a new village hall, and whether a majority of Weyer Park should be converted to a parking lot.

Former Village President Mike Knapp has launched a separate petition drive. His petitions are seeking direct legislation referendums that, if approved by voters, could sidetrack the demolition of the school house and the reduction in the size of the park.

If approved by voters, the direct legislation ordinances would prohibit the village board from "destroy, raze or allow to deteriorate any village owned property with a mass greater that 2,000 square feet" and prohibit the board from changing the usage of park lands "greater than 5 percent of the total green space" without voter approval in a binding referendum.

Goetz told the citizens that he anticipated trustees would vote on the new village hall early in 2015 but he did not indicate when the village board would make a decision on the fate of the Y.

Following the meeting, Goetz refused to elaborate on the comments he made to the residents

Goetz and Village Administrator Jeremy Smith spent nearly an hour responding to more than a dozen questions — most of them hostile toward the projects — from members of the audience.

Smith reminded the audience that a majority of the village board will determine whether the village wants to pursue the Y project.

However, it would seem unlikely that such a significant project would win board approval without the support of the president

Saving old school is costly

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 9, 2014

Village of Sussex — Paul "P.J" Cain has lived in Sussex all of his life. He owns and operates a successful auto repair shop on Main Street. He recalls attending third and fourth grade in the old Main Street School building in the early 1960s.

He used to be an advocate for preserving the old school building. But he has changed his mind after serving on two citizens committees that have studied the building's interior and exterior and the need for a new village hall.

"If there was any way I thought that building could be maintained without it costing the taxpayers a lot of money, I would be all for it it. But, there isn't," he said.

"I think if more residents had a chance to tour the building like I did, they would understand how inefficient it is for a village hall. A lot of the public space is taken up by stairways and hallways. When it was first remodeled so it could be a village hall, there were 5,000 or 6,000 people in Sussex. The population has nearly doubled since then and so has all of the administration that you need for a village," he added.

In 2011, village officials asked Cain to serve on a Village Hall Facility Study Group because they knew he would be reluctant to support razing the old school building. A tour of the building, a construction and architectural report, and photos of village employees wearing coats and gloves while working because the building is not insulated against the winter cold were among the reasons he change his mind.

Constructed in 1922, renovated to become Village Hall in 1989, "the building is not suitable for long-term use as the center of village government," according to a report prepared by Mortenson Construction and Plunkett Rayisch Architects.

The two companies estimated it would cost about a half million dollars, based on 2010 cost estimates, to extend the use of the 11,250 square foot building for another 10 years.

The improvements would have to include the installation of new handicap-accessible restrooms, replacing rooftop heating, ventilating and air conditioning units, repairing the roof and exterior masonry, additional electrical wiring in order to provide additional outlets for workspace lighting and data outlets, providing a trench drain at the exterior elevator lobby door, and replacing carpeting and ceiling tiles.

Furthermore, according to the report, some of the office space would have to be remodeled and reconfigured and new floor to ceiling walls would have to be built in some portions of the building.

This so called "Band Aid" approach would not resolve a number of other deficiencies in the building, according to report, including the inability to insulate its exterior walls, improve security, and reconfigure inefficient work space within the offices in the building.

The consultants suggested it would cost about $5 million, based on 2010 cost estimates, to renovate and expand the old school house in order for it to continue serving as village hall.

The work would include gutting and replacing much of the existing interior of the building, making major repairs to the exterior, and building a new two-story addition north of the existing building.

However, the work involved with this option would not fully address the energy efficiency issues in the existing structure and will not solve some of the inefficiencies in the design of work space in the building, according to the consultants.

The consultants estimate it would cost about a half million dollars more — about $5.5 million — to build a new 19,750-square-foot village hall rather than attempt to renovate and add on to the existing building.

Village officials are proposing a new 45,000-square-foot building at a cost of approximately $7 million.

Cain acknowledges there is a great deal of community sentiment attached to the old school building but he compared it to the love of an old car.

"Its like having an old car that you like sitting in front of your home. You can't drive it. All you can do is look at it. Pretty soon it starts needing more repairs and that is going to cost you more money," he said.

Sussex Main Street School has rich history

The history of Sussex Village Hall from 1838 to Today

by Fred H. Keller

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 12, 2014

The history of the Sussex Village Hall (the former Sussex Two-Year High School from 1922-47) goes back to a great fire on Jan. 30, 1922.

There was an evolution of schooling in Sussex, going back to 1838 when the first woman settler, Melinda Warren Weaver (wife of John Weaver) started a school in her cabin in the general area of what is today Clover Drive and Essex Court. She is credited with being the first teacher in Waukesha County. She had a good education in western New York state and used it for several years teaching the children in her cabin.

By 1839-41, the Lisbon Plank Road one-room schoolhouse was opened where Halquist Stone Company is on Lisbon Road. Today, it has a Waukesha County Historical marker and is used by Halquist as a museum of sorts.

Meanwhile, in the four corners (Maple Avenue and Main Street) in Sussex, the expanding population used the Lisbon Plank Road School until 1849 when they built a wood-frame school on Maple Avenue south of Main Street on the east side (behind present-day Paul's Service). It cost $71. The teacher's pay was $66 for the school year.

The land had been donated by pioneer William Weaver.

This school lasted until 1867 when it was deemed too small and it reverted to various uses, the most famous of which was the blacksmith shop of Fred Stier.

In 1867, a proper cream brick school was built with two rooms, plus a cloak room, on the far eastern border of Sussex that was next to the Sussex Creek on Main Street, north of the first street and well set back, with two backyard outhouses. Today, this area is the present village hall back steps and the parking lot. The cream brick structure cost $1,683.41.

Two teachers were hired, usually a woman for the four lower grades and a man to teach the upper grades.

There were two icons that taught at this school, Nettie White and Will Edwards. Both left in time, with White becoming the farm wife of Leo Howard. Edwards was a Sussex-Lisbon politician, serving 13 years as the Lisbon town chairman, county supervisor and then 33 years in the Wisconsin legislature, with most of those years spent living in a house where the present-day Piggly Wiggly west parking lot is.

This two-room schoolhouse became the center of the community, with major development across the street, including a mega general store, a hardware store, a sweet shop, dentist office and hotel/tavern. In 1913, the Sussex State Bank was built to the east of the Main Street School. It was later Farmers and Merchants and is now Associated Bank.

Red bricks and two stories

In 1913, the school board and the community pulled together and built a proper school of red brick, two stories high, with a big basement. It was the pride of Sussex-Lisbon, because in 1920, the Two-Year High School was an added feature to community education. Meanwhile, the backyard cream brick school and outhouse remained in place while the two-story school went up and finally was taken down when the replacement school was up and running, with indoor toilets, no less. This new school was built for $13,000.

The school went up in flames on Jan. 30, 1922, leaving just the outer shell of the building still standing.

The students were shifted to nearby churches to continue their education.

The Sussex Main Street School Board thought they had good insurance, but they had not upgraded it as values increased. They did get a $20,000 fire damage check but the replacement red brick, two-story school, built from January 1922 to September of that year, cost $25,000.

Fire causes changes

The fire caused two momentous happenings. By May 15, 1922, the Sussex Fire Company (later Department) started. The men who started the fire company also used the experience of the fire to separate away from the control of the town of Lisbon and successfully petitioned on Sept. 15, 1924, to incorporate as the village of Sussex.

The school even became more of a center of Sussex in the coming years with the Two-Year High School fielding some strong athletic teams while the community turned out in droves to attend school plays, recitals and even school board meetings.

The burned out school debris (broken bricks and mortar) was used as fill to prop up Main Street in the "Valley," the low spot in Main Street at NAPA, M&M and the canning factory site. Thus, the swamp land was successfully bridged.

Many of the students from the last 1920s to the 1940s would fight in World War II.

The success of the Main Street School was enhanced in 1936-37 as the village was able to convince the federal government to help fund a nearby community hall that served as a gym while the stage was for graduations and plays.

The cost of this add-on was $14,000 for the village and $13,000 for the government.

It was such a good gym that many other two-year high schools used it for both boys and girls basketball season-ending tournaments. Since was it Sussex's home court, it won more than its fair share of championships.

Times are changing

The state decreed the end of the two-year high schools in 1947. In 1958, the Hamilton School District was set up and Sussex Main Street School was included with it.

Before the Hamilton School District forming, there were two construction projects behind the school. In the mid-1950s, a one-story Orchard Drive School was built in the backyard of the Main Street School for $115,000. In 1862, with Sussex-Lisbon growing by leaps and bounds, Maple Avenue School was built for $359,000. Hamilton High School started operations in 1962.

After a drastic downturn of school-age children in 1979, Sussex Main Street and Orchard Drive schools were closed down and eventually taken over by the village of Sussex, including the adjacent playground and baseball field.

With no use of the schools from 1979-88, they degraded. However, Orchard Drive School was used by the local senior food programs and, in 1980, the village of Sussex started a library in this building.

In 1988, the Hamilton School District sold the derelict building to the village of Sussex.

The village looked at the old buildings and threw up their hands, considering tearing down the Main Street School.

The modern age

By 1990, the population of the village was 5,222. The village hall in the basement of the community building was too small, so they voted to take down Main Street School but leave Orchard Drive School alone for the library, senior citizens and teen club.

In 1988, the community was given a weekend day to the school that was built in 1922 and remove whatever they wanted as keepsakes.

A group of local citizens noticed how solid the old school was and, knowing the village hall was too small, formed a committee, "Save Our School," and they were successful in convincing the village board to look into remodeling the old school into a new village hall.

Two professors from the architectural department at UW-Milwaukee, Harvey Rabinowitz and Jeffery Ollswang, had just successfully completed a remodeling of the Sussex Family practice in the Lisbon Town Hall (built in 1866) on West Main Street in the village.

Rabinowitz and Ollswang were shown around the deteriorating building and said, "We can give the village a great new village hall for ($750,000), but by the time they fool around, adding this and that, it will cost $1 million."

It took a couple of months to gut the old school and then start over, remodeling, and in 1990, the Sussex Village Hall reopened to what it is today.

Twenty-five years later, the powers that be in the village are thinking of tearing down this village icon and find a new purpose for the land, in addition to building a new village hall where the former Van Valin-Betty Mindemann house is now standing.

There is a group, a resurrection of the 1988-90 Save Our School group and others, that are against tearing down the school built in 1922. They are putting up lawn signs and circulating a petition saying they want the school saved.

It could be repurposed as the Sussex Outreach Services building or for other uses after it is remodeled.

Referendum may be required on Sussex Village Hall

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 6, 2015

Village of Sussex — The leader of a group of citizens opposed to the demolition of the Main Street School building — the existing village hall —to make way for the construction of a new village hall says she is confident there will be enough signatures on petitions to be filed next week to force a referendum on the issue.

In addition, Sheri Retzlaf predicted there will also be enough signatures on a different set of petitions to force a referendum on whether the village board can reduce the size of Weyer Park, located north of the school building, in order to provide a parking lot for the proposed 45,000-square-foot village hall and possibly a 75,000-square-foot YMCA building that would be built adjacent to the village hall.

The village hall/YMCA proposal offered by the YMCA of Central Waukesha County was first presented to village trustees in a closed meeting last summer. Opposition to the $21 million proposal has mounted since then and Village President Greg Goetz has announced he no longer supports the construction of the Y on Main Street but supports the new village hall.

Retzlaf said the citizens group will file two petitions with Village Clerk Susan Freiheit by Jan. 12 and each will have more than the required 782 signatures

The first petition is a direct legislation initiative that calls for a new village ordinance that requires voter approval before village trustees can "destroy, raze or allow to deteriorate" any village-owned structure of 2,500 square feet or more.

The second initiative calls for a new village ordinance that requires voter approval before village trustees can "reallocate, repurpose, change or redistribute" more than 5 percent of the open space in any village park.

Direct legislative initiatives, according to state law, must be legislative in nature and address policy issues. They cannot amend existing ordinances and cannot seek to change how existing ordinances and programs are administered.

According to state law, if the signatures and petitions are deemed valid by state and local authorities, the village board must either adopt the propositions as village ordinances or submit them for voter approval in a referendum.

Strategy's origins

The strategy of using direct legislation initiatives to force a referendum on village hall was first proposed by former Village President Mike Knapp.

Knapp has argued that village voters should decide whether a new village hall is built and whether the village should support the YMCA proposal by donating $7 million to the construction of a new Y, which will cost an estimated $14 to $15 million dollars.

Village officials have contended that the Y and village hall projects are two separate proposals and voter approval of them is not required because a village ordinance requires voter approval only if a capital project costs more than 1 percent of the village tax base, which is about $12 million.

However, if adopted, the two direct legislative initiatives will have an impact on all future planning for parks and buildings in the village, not just Weyer Park and the Main Street School building.

No village response

Knapp acknowledged when he first proposed the initiatives in November that he was using them as bargaining chips for a referendum.

"I don't want to do this. But they (village officials) won't have a referendum. I have told them that if they give the people a vote, this goes away," Knapp said.

Retzlaf was asked if any village trustees had approached her about the possibility that the village board would conduct a referendum if the group agreed to drop the direct legislative initiatives.

"Unfortunately, no, and by now, I had hoped they would," she said.

Retzlaf said a referendum on whether to tear down the Main Street School and build a new village hall would prompt village residents "to stop, look, listen and vote."

She said many village residents are not aware of what is being proposed in terms of a new village hall because they do not regularly follow village government.

"Not everyone knows how to follow the village government website and there are a lot of people who don't read the newspaper," she added.

She said the proposal for a new village hall has generated distrust between village residents and their elected officials.

Sussex residents push back against planned Main Street School demolition

 Village of Sussex - A group of citizens opposed to the demolition of the Main Street School building - the existing village hall - has filed two direct legislation initiatives that if approved would require voter approval before the school building could be razed or portions of a nearby park could be converted into a parking lot for a new village hall.

Village Clerk Sue Freiheit has 15 days to determine the validity of the signatures, according ot state law.

If the signatures and language of the petitions are valid, the Village Board has 30 days to determine whether they will convert the initiatives into village ordinances or whether they will seek voter approval of the propositions, according to state law.

State election officials say it appears there is sufficient time for the clerk to review the petitions and the village board to reach its decision to have the questions, if necessary, placed on the spring municipal election ballot provided there are no significant challenges to the validity of the signatures.

Sheri Retzlaff, one the residents who circulated the petitions, says each petition has more than 1,000 signatures. State law required 782 signatures of residents in the village qualified to vote.

Sussex citizens seek referendum on village hall

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 6, 2015

Boyd Thew (left) and Sheri Retzlaff discuss the issues surrounding the proposed construction of a new village hall with Amy Tatro. Retzlaff is one of the leaders of a citizen’s group opposed to the demolition of the Main Street School building to make way for a new village hall. She and Thew, a prospective candidate for village trustee, were seeking signatures on petitions for a referendum on the issue Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Piggly Wiggly on Main Street. Although Tatro did not sign one of the petitions, Retzlaff said she is confident the group will have enough signatures to require a referendum. Photo By Kelly Smith


Village of Sussex — A group of citizens opposed to the demolition of the Main Street School building — the existing village hall — have filed two petitions for direct legislation that, if adopted, would require voter approval before the school building could be razed or portions of Weyer Park, north of the school, could be converted into a 200-car parking lot for a new village hall.

One petition calls for a village ordinance requiring voter approval before village trustees can "destroy, raze, or allow to deteriorate" any village owned structure of 2,500 square feet or more.

Another village ordinance would require voter approval before village trustees can "reallocate, repurpose, change or redistribute" more than 5 percent of open space in any village park.

According to state law, Village Clerk Susan Freiheit has 15 days to review the validity of the approximately 1,100 signatures on each petition.

The village board then has 30 days to decide whether to adopt the new village ordinances or submit them to voters in a referendum.

State election officials say there may be enough time to place the propositions on the April municipal ballot if the signatures and wording of the petitions are valid. However, village officials and other residents could challenge the language of the petitions.

Direct legislative initiatives, according to state law, must be legislative in nature and address policy issues. They cannot amend existing ordinances and cannot seek to change how existing ordinances and programs are administered.

If adopted, the two ordinances would likely impact future planning for parks and buildings in the village , not just Weyer Park and the Main Street School building.

Former Village President Mike Knapp and Sheri Retzlaff, two leading opponents of the new village hall proposal, acknowledge they are using direct legislation initiatives as bargaining chips to persuade the village board to conduct a referendum on a proposal to spend an estimated $12 million on a new village hall.

"I don't think it is too late. If they will have a referendum and let the people decide, we can drop the petitions before they get on the ballot," Knapp said.

However, no village officials have approached them about that possibility, according to Knapp and Retzlaff

Village President Greg Goetz said he learned about the petitions shortly after they were filed on Monday, Jan. 5.

He said he would confer with Village Administrator Jeremy Smith and Village Attorney John Macy before he and the village board discuss or take action on the petitions.

"I have just heard about it. I have to talk to Jeremy Smith and our village attorney," he said.

Village officials have contended that a referendum is not necessary because a village ordinance requires voter approval only if a capital project costs more than 1 percent of the village tax base, which is about $12 million.

The latest estimated cost on the proposed 47,000-square-foot, three-story structure is $12,090,322. However, village officials claim that only $5.9 million will have to borrowed; the remaining money will come from existing designated capital project funds and anticipated tenants for the building.

A $7 million village hall was initially proposed as a part of a $21 million partnership with the YMCA of Central Waukesha.

According to the proposal offered by YMCA officials, the village would also contribute $7 million to help build a new 75,000-square-foot YMCA facility located adjacent to the city hall at an estimated cost of $14 to $15 million.

However, in November, Goetz said he would no longer support the idea of building the YMCA next to village hall but he has continued to support the new village hall.

Although initially the new village hall was conceptually designed to connect to the new YMCA, the latest versions of the village hall plans have not included the Y building and there has been little or no mention of the Y in the recent discussions by a citizens advisory committee.

Most of the opposition to the initial Y/village hall plan, as well as a proposal to raze the old school building, has come from residents who live in the vicinity of the existing village hall and Weyer Park. They have argued that the 93-year-old school building should be preserved to protect the heritage of the village and its quaint small village ambience.

New Sussex village hall price tag: $12 million

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 7, 2015

Sussex Village Hall - Concept Design from Nov. 2014

Village of Sussex — A Civic Campus Advisory Committee has approved a report that estimates the proposed new 47,000-square-foot village hall will cost about $12 million dollars, about $5 million higher than when the idea of a new village hall was proposed last summer.

According to the report, the village would borrow about $5.9 million and the remaining approximately $6.1 million dollars would come from "other users (tenants) and designated capital project funds."

However, village officials have acknowledge that they do not have contracts or commitments from those "other users."

The prospective tenants include Sussex Outreach Service (SOS), which is expected to pay $1.4 million.

The Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society would pay about $1.08 million, according to the report.

According to the report, the VFW would pay about $441,000 and the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce would pay about $61,000.

Assistant Village Administrator Melissa Weiss emphasized that the construction project would not be let for bid until there are signed agreements with each of the non-profit organizations.

Weiss said that representatives of each of the organizations have told village officials that they would be interested in leasing space in the new village hall.

Weiss said the designated capitol project funds represent money that the village has set aside for several years to pay for improvements to the park system. This "pay as you go" plan has helped reduce the need to borrow money and thus reduced interest costs, she said.

Those funds, according to the report, have been set aside to address the needs for Weyer Park in conjunction with the civic campus building project.

When the civic campus building project was first proposed in May by officials of the YMCA of Central Waukesha County, the estimated cost for a new village hall, which would have been connected to the YMCA, was $7 million.

Village President Greg Goetz, who has since withdrawn his support for the Y project, described the $12 million cost estimate on the new village hall as "conceptual."

"Those cost estimates are likely to change — they could go down — as we get further into the process," he explained.

Goetz said he anticipated conducting informational meetings on the new city hall when the architectural firm of Kahler Slater complete their design work on the conceptual plans.

But the cost estimates and the final conceptual design for the building were blasted by a handful of speakers who were among the approximately two dozen residents who attended the civic advisory committee meeting. No one in the audience spoke in favor of the project.

Most of the speakers suggested the plans were too expensive, too grandiose and that the 93-year-old Main Street School building should not be torn down to make way for the new village hall.

However, some of the conceptual site plans presented at the meeting showed the existing village hall as part of a new park area south and west of the new civic center.

Hearing set for Sussex civic campus proposal

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 13, 2015

Village of Sussex — Plans for a 47,000-square-foot, $12 million civic center that would house many of the village government's functions and offices, as well as provide space for four community not-for-profit organizations will be the subject of a public information meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, at the Youth Hall, located at N63 W 23625 Main Street, which is immediately east of the intersection of Main Street and Silver Spring Drive.

The meeting will begin with a formal presentation by village staff and consultants that will be followed by a question and answer period, according to Village Administrator Jeremy Smith.

Meanwhile, the village board had scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 13, a closed session to discuss two petitions for direct legislation, each signed by about 1,100 residents. Voter approval would be necessary for the civic campus project if the direct legislation petitions were adopted by either the village board or voters at a referendum.

The closed session of the village board was scheduled after Sussex Sun publication deadlines.

The trustees, according to state law, could determine that the language in the petitions fails to meet state standards, which require that petitions seeking legislative action address general policy questions rather than administrative actions that affect or change existing programs.

The village board's decision would be subject to a court appeal, according to a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board. A decision would have to be reached by Feb. 24 in order to place the referendum on the April ballot or a special election might have to be held.

A group of residents have voiced opposition to demolishing the existing village hall — the Main Street School building — to make way for the new village hall and have called for a referendum on the civic campus proposal.

The proposal calls for a three-story structure that would be connected to the existing Pauline Haass Library.

The first floor would include about 3,800 square feet in additional space for the library. There would also be about 4,700 square feet for the Sussex Outreach Services activities and there would be another approximately 3,800 feet for a multi-purpose room for indoor park and recreation activities and senior programs.

The second floor would include a 1,600-square-foot multi-purpose meeting room. In addition, there would be about 3,000 square feet set aside for the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society and about 900 square feet for the Veteran's of Foreign Wars.

Tentative plans call for the four organizations to contribute a combined nearly $3 million to the project but so far none of the groups has made a commitment to the village.

The third floor would include about 8,600 feet for village government offices. There would also be a nearly 8,000-square-foot unfinished basement.

The exterior of the building would be a combination of glass, stone, brick and wood.

Sussex Village Hall proposal to be presented at open house

The village of Sussex has scheduled an “open house” on a recommendation to replace the current Village Hall with an entirely new facility.

The open house will be held Jan. 20 at the Youth Hall, N63 W23625 Main St., beginning at 6 p.m. The event will begin with a presentation by village staff on the proposed new facility, which will be followed by time for residents to ask questions about the proposal.

According to a news release issued by the village, a recommendation came from the Civic Center Advisory Committee (CCAC) on Jan. 5 that a new Village Hall be constructed to replace the existing facility, which originally was the Main Street School. The facility was remodeled into the VIllage Hall in the 1980s.

According to information from the Village Web site, problems with the current facility include lack of legal handicapped access or public restrooms, foundation damage in the southwest corner of the building, a need to completely replace the existing roof, and costly aging building systems that are in need of replacement.
The CCAC recommendation would include space for village administrative offices, the Village Board room, and the village Community Center and Senior Center.

“Certain community organizations have been offered space in the building as well, including the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce, Sussex Area Outreach Services, Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Sussex Veterans of Foreign Wars and storage for the Volunteer Organization of Women in Sussex (VOWS),” the village said in a statement. “Meeting space for citizens and other community groups will also be available. The project enhances and adds to the green space that currently exists in Weyer Park – there is one-half acre more green space in Weyer Park in the proposed design than there is today.”

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith added that the project has a lower borrowing cost of $5.9 million than was anticipated by the village in the 2012 adopted Capital Improvement Plan.

According to the Civic Campus Study final report, which was prepared in December 2014 by the Kahler Slater firm, building project construction costs are estimated at $11 million. The proposed facility would be approximately 47,740 square feet.

Residents opposed to the project have submitted petitions to the village seeking direct legislation, which would require the project to be voted on by residents. The item was discussed by the Village Board during a Jan. 13 closed session. In a Jan. 15 email to a reporter, Smith said the village clerk is reviewing the petitions and that the review was not completed.

Following the open house, the Village Board will consider the CCAC report at its Jan. 27 meeting.
—Compiled by Thomas J. McKillen, Managing Editor, January 17, 2015, Express News

Key vote expected on Main Street School

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 27, 2015

Village of Sussex — The village board is expected to take action this week on the proposal to build a nearly 50,000-square-foot, $12 million village hall and adopt a "repurposing" policy that could determine the fate of the Main Street School building, which is slated to be demolished to make way for the new civic center.

The proposed "Schoolhouse Conversion Policy" states: "With the construction of the Civic Campus the Village has no need for the building (Main Street School). The village will not consider any proposal that assumes village ownership or operation of the building."

Any proposal to convert the building to another use must be submitted to the village by July of 2016. The proposal must result in the facility "becoming a taxable community asset. The village intends for the building to have no further financial costs to the taxpayers, directly or indirectly."

According to the proposed policy, plans to convert the building to other use would include how the building will be acquired, used or relocated and must include detailed architectural and engineering reports prepared by the individuals or groups making the proposal. Village staff time will not be available to work on proposals.

The policy is expected to be adopted after the board decides on whether to accept a citizens committee recommendation to proceed with the design and construction of the proposed civic center/village hall.

Village hall support

Village President Greg Goetz and village trustees Pat Tetzlaff and Tim Dietrich have publicly said they would support construction of the new village hall.

Goetz and Tetzlaff have announced their support for the project and Dietrich told the Sussex Sun he was considering supporting it following a public information meeting last week attended by more than 130 people.

However, all three said their support of the plan is contingent upon four not-for-profit organizations being able to raise enough funds to pay for their share of the construction costs for the building.

Space in the building has been reserved for the Sussex Outreach Service, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lisbon-Sussex Historical Society. The four organizations are expected to raise a combined nearly $3 million to help pay for the construction of their office spaces.

However, none of the organizations have made a commitment to the village. Goetz, Tetzlaff and Dietrich said they would be willing to consider a smaller, redesigned village hall if the not-for-profit organizations cannot raise their share of the construction costs.

If the conceptual plan for new civic center is approved by the village board, the trustees are then expected to immediately approve a proposal to hire the consulting firm of Kahler Slater to complete architectural and engineering work on the project for about $748,000.

The votes were expected at the Jan. 27 Village Board meeting, which occurred after publishing deadlines for the Sussex Sun.

Public input

There were 19 citizens who spoke at the public information meeting last week. About a half dozen of them spoke in favor of the project, the remainder were either opposed to it or had questions about it.

Opponents suggested the building plans were too large and too expensive for the village. They suggested that the Main Street School building should be saved and used for a different community purpose. They also called on the village board to call for a referendum on the issue of building a new village hall.

Proponents argued the Main Street School building no longer provides an adequate facility for local government and it would not be a wise use of taxpayers' money to try to renovate or build on to the 97-year-old structure.

They said the new structure would provide additional space for local government and the Pauline Haass Library, in addition to providing facilities for community activities as well as office space for the not-for-profit organizations.

Sussex residents comment on proposed civic center project

photo by by Tom McKillen January 28, 2015, Express News

The Sussex Village Board heard from residents Jan. 20 who both supported and opposed a proposed new civic center facility to replace the existing Village Hall.
At the start of a meeting that at the Youth Hall that lasted just under two hours, Adam Bastjan of the Kahler Slater architectural firm explained the new proposed facility is three stories tall and includes space for village administration, parks and recreation, additional space for the library and three nonprofit groups. As part of the design, the new facility will be moved back from Main Street to allow for more park space in front, with parking in the back.

According to information from Village Administrator Jeremy Smith, village administration will comprise 35 percent of the space in the building, parks and recreation 27 percent, the library 13 space, with additional space for the Horne Mudlitz Veterans of Foreign Wars Post (4 percent), Sussex Area Outreach Services 12 percent), the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society (9 percent) and the Chamber of Commerce. The facility would also serve as the location for the senior meal program.

“It’s not just a Village Hall, it is the SOS (Sussex Area Outreach Services) and it is some library functions and parks and recreation and the senior center. It is the VFW in the building, the chamber of commerce in the building as well,” Bastjan said.

Under the building design, the board room would be on the second floor while the village administration would be on the third floor.

Smith explained that the total cost for the project would be $11, 022,722, with the village borrowing $5,900,743. Smith said discussion for future facilities began in 2002. While the village created new facilities for wastewater treatment, law enforcement and public safety, facility issues for the Village Hall, senior center and the library have not yet been addressed.

In 2010, the Village Board formed a citizen’s committee to examine various options for the Village Hall. That committee recommended staying on the site but creating a new facility that would include other partners. The report recommended that the project be coordinated with the reconstruction of Main Street. Smith said the committee recommended the current proposal earlier this month.

Smith said the library has “some challenges” because the current structure is not easily able to expand. The new plans call for moving library offices into the new civic center area while other spaces inside the current library would be reconfigured for other programming.

Smith said that nonprofits comprise 25 percent of the civic center space, and would allow their existing facilities to go back on the tax rolls while sharing facilities such as bathrooms and hallways with the village and park and recreation department.

Pat Tetzlaff, a member of the citizen’s committee, cited problems with the current Village Hall, which originally was a school building. She explained the current building is not insulated and has aging infrastructure.

“We live in an era where almost everything can be fixed and fixed for a price. But sometimes that price to fix something so old is fiscally irresponsible and a bad choice,” Tetzlaff said.

She also recalled the village purchased 74 acres of land 57 years ago for Village Park.

“Against tremendous opposition, the board moved forward. Can you imagine Sussex without Village Park today?” Tetzlaff asked.

At the start of citizen input, resident Sussex Fire Chief Colin Curtis asked residents to “take a look at the big picture.”

“We need a new Village Hall,” he said.

Resident Donna Fritsche asked “why are you so afraid to put this to a referendum?”

In response, Village President Greg  Goetz the village is reviewing a direct legislation request that has been submitted by a group of residents.
“And from what I understand if you don’t like the wording of it you can play games with it for as long as you want?” Fritsche said.
“We’re just not playing games with it,” Goetz said in response, saying it was being reviewed by village staff.

Another resident expressed concern that “you’re going to change the face of Main Street.” He agreed that a new Village Hall was needed and asked if a small facility could be built to address some of the needs and repurpose the existing building.

Mike Reilly of the Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society said four members of the society met last month to review the village proposal. He said that in return for the lease of space in the new building, the society would turn over its property and have the village take the society railroad depot building and move it to Madeline Park for use as a recreation trail head. Reilly said the historical society members insisted the depot building be preserved, while the sale of the historical society property would be the society’s buy-in for the least at the civic center space.

Roger Johnson, a former village trustee, expressed support for a new facility.

“This building was put up in 1937 and it certainly doesn’t suit the needs of the current village,” Johnson said. He noted at the time the current Village Hall structure was constructed there were approximately 500 residents compared with approximately 11,000 now.

“What you’re doing is not emotional, it’s a very business-like approach,” he said.

Another resident asked what would happen if nonprofits did not commit to the civic center space. Goetz said that would change the space of the building “and we may not have a third floor.”

“If the contracts aren’t signed, they aren’t in, the size of the building is going to change dramatically,” Goetz said.

Resident Boyd Thew said “I don’t think many of us are necessarily opposed to a new Village Hall, it’s the size of the Village Hall, it’s the cost of the Village Hall.”
“We would like a vote in how it is done,” Thew said.

Former Village President Michael Knapp said “if it’s such a great idea and the public is in favor it, let us vote. Why can’t we vote on it?”

Goetz replied the village is reviewing the direct legislation petition. Knapp asked if the direct legislation petition “doesn’t work,” if residents would still have the opportunity to vote on the matter.

“We’ll have to see where that goes, Mike. We’re not at that point yet,” Goetz said.

“You’re not answering my question,” Knapp replied. “Will you let us vote?”

“When we get to the direct legislation and we get that all resolved, then we’ll move on from there,” Goetz said. “We can’t go anywhere else until we get that resolved.”

Knapp said the village is “trying to combine everything under one roof.”

During further questioning, Goetz responded to a question about a possible YMCA facility in the area by saying “it doesn’t belong in downtown.”

He said he will look “at every opportunity for the residents” and tries to address everything that comes before the board. Goetz said that when the idea of a YMCA in the downtown first came forward, he first thought it was a good idea but heard residents concerns over the proposal.

“I can see where it doesn’t fit downtown,” Goetz said. “It just doesn’t, it’s not the right place for a Y.”

Resident Patrick Curtis said he in favor the new civic center proposal.

“And as far as taking this to a vote, I voted for them to get in the office,” Curtis said as he pointed to the Village Board. “That was my vote.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Goetz said the Village Board will vote on Jan. 27 whether to seek designs for the current proposal, with a final decision to approve it by June or July.

By Thomas J. McKillen
Managing Editor

Sussex board proceeds with designs for civic center project

Photo by by Tom McKillen January 29, 2015, Express News

The Sussex Village Board approved a contract for the final design of a new civic center campus Jan. 27.

According to a statement issued by the village, the village will be working with the Kahler Slater and Ruekert-Mielke firms over the next few months to finalize the design and take the village through bidding for construction of a new civic center campus.

The action is the latest step in the civic campus process. Earlier this month, a committee recommended the new facility to replace the current Village Hall, which originally was a school building. Conceptual designs for a three-story building were presented at a Jan. 20 public information meeting.

According to information previously announced by the village, the proposed new civic center will have space for the library, village administration and park and recreation departments, along with offices for Sussex Area Outreach Services, the Horne-Mudlitz Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce.

In the motion approved by the board, the village addressed the concerns of residents who want to keep the existing schoolhouse building.

“The construction of a new Civic Campus results in the building being available for acquisition in 2017,” the village said in a statement.

The village said it would explore proposals for converting the schoolhouse to another use as long as village ownership or operation would not be part of any proposal. The village stated that any proposal for a new use for the schoolhouse would have to indicate how the building would be acquired, used or relocated and how that would be compatible with the civic center area. Any proposals for the schoolhouse building would have to be submitted by July 2016 and would have to include costs and evidence of how the building conversion would be funded.

The village statement added that any proposal for the schoolhouse building would have to result in the facility becoming a taxable community asset and that all costs for reports, studying options and funding the project have to be paid for anyone proposing a conversion of the schoolhouse building.

“The village makes no guarantee that any proposal will be accepted, but as in all matters, the Village Board will carefully consider the facts and information available,” the village said in statement.

The motion to accept the contract for the final design was approved by the board by a 7-0 vote.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith later told the Express News that direct legislation petitions that were submitted by residents — which would have required the matter be voted on by residents — did not meet the conditions set by the state law following a review by the village clerk. The petitions were sent back to the residents, who have been given 10 days to rectify the petitions to comply with the state law.
By Thomas J. McKillen
Managing Editor

Main Street School, Weyer Park petitions rejected

By Kelly Smith

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Feb. 17, 2015

Village of Sussex — A citizens group's efforts to force a referendum on the demolition of the Main Street School building and the use of some of Weyer Park for a parking lot for a new village hall appears to have suffered a major setback.

Village Clerk Sue Freiheit has rejected the group's petitions for direct legislation that would have required the village board to either adopt, or submit to voters, village ordinances that might have blocked the projects.

Freiheit outlined her reasons for rejecting the petitions in six pages of documents sent organizers of the citizens group. She said village attorney John Macy helped draft the documents for her.

One of the petitions proposed local legislation that would have required voter approval before the village board could "destroy, raze, or allow to deteriorate any village owned property with a mass greater than 2,000 square feet with the acceptation of a natural disaster or fire."

A referendum would have been required for the proposed demolition of the school building if such an ordinance were either adopted by voters or by vote of the village board.

The other petition proposed local legislation that would have required voter approval before the village board could "reallocate, repurpose, change or redistribute any designated parks lands greater than 5 percent of the total green space for other usage."

A referendum probably would have been required to create a 200-car parking lot on some Weyer Park land as part of the construction of a new village hall if such an ordinance had been adopted by the village board or approved by voters.

However, both petitions have been rejected by the village clerk on the grounds that the language in the petitions was substantially changed by the citizens group between the time the petitions were circulated for voters' signatures and amended versions of the petitions were submitted to the clerk on Jan. 29.

The change in the language in the petitions was apparently an effort by the citizen's group to place the original language of the petitions in a village ordinance format required by state law. Freiheit had initially rejected the petitions on Jan. 20 because they were not in ordinance form.

Former Village President Mike Knapp and Sheri Retzlaff, who led the petition drive, could not be reached for comment.

Freiheit said if the citizens group had simply put the original petition language in ordinance form, she might have accepted the petitions. However, she said they made substantial changes in language that are not permitted by state law.

For example, in the petitions relating to buildings, the language was amended to read "exception" rather than the term"acceptation" when referring to the exemption for natural disasters or fires mentioned in the proposed ordinance.

"Exception" means exclusion while "acceptation" refer to acceptance, which are two different meanings, she noted. In a majority of the petitions, the word "acceptation" was used but it was the word stricken and replaced in the amended petitions.

She also said that the meaning of some language used in the original petitions was changed in the amended version because of different sentence structures and the use of commas and periods.

"The fact that the paragraph could now be interpreted to have a very different meaning than the petitions that were circulated and signed by the electors, however, is particularly troubling," she wrote.

In the petition pertaining to parks, she noted that original language referred to park "lands" but was changed in the amended version to "land."

"The prior wording could have been read by electors as referring to all of the village park lands and this revised version could be interpreted to refer only to land within any particularly park," she wrote.

She also noted in the original petition the village could not "change park lands for other usage" was changed to say the village cannot "change park land" which is another significant change.

"Changing park land to another use is very different from just changing park land. For example, planting a tree in an open space area changes the land, but it does not change it for another use," she concluded.

Art Sawall may have role in Sussex civic center

Posted Living Sussex Sun, March 3, 2015

Village of Sussex — Village Administrator Jeremy Smith says he anticipates that village officials will know by the end of March whether four community not-for-profit organizations will be interested in leasing space in the new civic center that is expected to be completed by 2017.

The organizations - Sussex Outreach Services, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lisbon-Sussex Historical Society — are expected to provide a combined nearly $3 million in additional revenue for the construction of the $12 million, three-story, 45,000-square-foot civic center that will also house most of the offices and functions of village government.

The remainder of the project is expected to be paid for by village bonds and existing cash on hand, according to village officials.

If the organizations agree to lease space, they are expected to occupy much of the second floor and some of the first floor of the building.

The lease agreements are expected to primarily pay for the utilities of the office space but the organizations will contribute to cost of building the space.

If the organizations do not agree to lease space, the conceptual design of the building, which has been approved by the village board, is expected to be changed, according to village officials.

Smith said three of the four organizations have indicated that they are interested in moving into the new building. Smith said the historical society is continuing to have discussions among its membership about whether to occupy space in the civic center.

The historical society, the VFW and Sussex Outreach Services will have to sell properties they presently own in order to be able to afford to help pay for the civic center construction, according to leaders in the organizations.

The chamber of commerce presently maintains a small office in the basement of village hall.

Smith acknowledged last week that Brookfield developer Art Sawall is in negotiations with the three organizations that are seeking to sell property.

However, Sawall told The Sussex Sun that there was only a "remote possibility" that he might be interested in buying the properties from the three organizations. However, he said he was in discussions with all of them.

Sawall is in the process of gaining village approvals for a nearly 250-home subdivision that he is developing along with William Ryan Homes on Main Street near the village's community center property, which Sawall has purchased.

Sawall is also developing the Mammoth Springs residential and retail complex at the intersection of Main Street and Waukesha Avenue.

While development and rentals of apartment buildings in the complex have been running ahead of schedule, the leasing and construction of retail space has been more challenging, Sawall has acknowledged.

He is also reportedly interested in acquiring additional property north and west of Mammoth Springs.

The VFW building and parcel are located on Waukesha Avenue, immediately east of the Mammoth Springs complex.

The building owned by the group of churches that sponsor SOS is located on Silver Spring Drive, west of the Mammoth Springs complex.

The historical society's old railroad depot and land are located along Main Street, across the street from the village government and library campus.

Sawall says he is not concerned about the possibility that he might be over-investing in Sussex.

He said because of the village's location, its quaint, small-community atmosphere, and the quality of Hamilton School District, it is an attractive market for both developers and families.

And, he has praised the village government.

"The village, in my opinion, has a true understanding of what it takes to move forward and a solid grasp on planning for the future," he wrote in an email. "Basically, if someone is willing to put up a quality product, as Mammoth Springs, for example, they are truly understanding of the process and expense for the developer as well as the benefit for the community, not just the additional property taxes."

Smith says he sees nothing wrong or risky about the village establishing a strong working relationship with a single developer.

"Developing and redeveloping downtown business districts presents more challenges than developing open spaces. You need a developer who is willing to take the risks," he said. "It is not usual for a municipality to have a single developer working in the downtown business district. For example, Delafield had Bob Lang. Pewaukee has Jim Siepmann."

And, apparently Sussex has Sawall.

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