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Library disputes are top Sussex Sun news stories in 2014

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 26, 2014

In 2014, village residents debated a $21 million proposed civic campus project with a new village hall and YMCA, the Hamilton School District earned state and national honors, construction on the 190,000-square-foot Meijer grocery and retail store was delayed, and there was a revolving door in the town of Lisbon administrator's office.

However, top story of the year, were the battles over the Pauline Haass Library.

1. Library Litigation

Although the buildings and books will be the same in 2015, the Pauline Haas Library will become a village library rather than jointly owned and operated by the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex.

The town's decision to terminate the 27-year-old agreement with the village that created, funded and operated the Pauline Haass Library was only one of the chapters in this year's library disputes.

The town board decided to terminate the agreement because they could not reach a new agreement with the village on funding the library and the joint municipal library board filed a law suit against the town.

The library board wanted "custody and control" of the 65-acre Haass farm that was donated to the town to be used for library purposes. A jury trial in Waukesha County Circuit Court is tentatively scheduled for late 2015 or early 2016.

The town board has filed a series of legal actions intended to enforce a provision in the agreement that, according to town officials, says the town and village are supposed to divide the estimated $3 million of library assets. Out-of-court mediation intended to resolve both the controversy over the farm land and the division of assets failed.

The village board agreed to take over the library and provide approximately a half million dollars of village tax revenue to fund the library along with county revenues.

In May, the village board discussed in a closed session a $21 million dollar Main Street economic development proposal offered by the YMCA of Central Waukesha County.

The plans called for a $14 to $15 million dollar, 45,000-square-foot YMCA facility, half of which the village would pay for, and a $7 million, 45,000-square-foot, village hall that village residents would also pay for.

Although the proposal initially won positive reviews from village trustees, it encountered opposition from some village residents, particularly those who objected to the idea of razing the Main Street School building, the existing village hall, in order to make way for the new Y and village hall.

Village President Greg Goetz withdrew his support for the new YMCA but advocated for the new village hall during a public information meeting in October attended by more than 100 village residents, most of them opposed to the project.

The YMCA building was dropped from the civic campus site plans as a citizen's committee continued its review of the proposed new village hall.

3. Credit Card Clerk

Elizabeth Kraus, interim clerk/administrator for the town of Lisbon resigned on Sept. 30 in the midst of an investigation by the Waukesha County Sheriff' office's into allegations that she had used town credit cards for personal purchases.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said in mid-December that his office had received the sheriff's investigation and would consider whether to charge Kraus.

Kraus was hired by former administrator Jeff Musche as a deputy clerk in early 2013. The town board appointed to her interim clerk in late 2013 when Musche was unable to work because of an extended illness and later resigned.

She was placed on administrative leave by Town Chairman Matt Gehrke in August because of allegations that she was creating a "hostile work environment" at town hall.

4. Hamilton School District Honors

The Hamilton School District, for the third time, was named on the Advanced Placement honor roll for school districts and was among the top ranked districts for advanced placement in the United States and Canada.

Hamilton High School was named among Newsweek Magazine's America's Top High Schools.

Maple Avenue Elementary School was recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction as one of the top elementary schools in the state.

5. Meetings in the Park

The village staff held a series of meetings in various village parks, providing neighbors with information about three major village projects: the proposed YMCA/Village Hall civic campus, the reconfiguration of the Main Street-Silver Spring Road intersection, and proposed improvements at Village Park.

The proposed reconfiguration of the Main Street intersection calls for Silver Spring Drive to be rerouted to the east and north to connect with Main Street at the approximate location of the existing youth center building. The building will be torn down as part of the project and the programs and activities located in the building will be relocated to the proposed new village hall.

The improvements in the village park include a recreational area, an event area, trails and open spaces, and a new baseball complex.

6. Revolving Door

Town officials are hoping that Matt Janecke, 32, assistant village manager at Brown Deer, can stop the revolving door in the clerk/administrator's office. Janecke will replace Interim Administrator Elizabeth Kraus, who resigned in September and who replaced former Clerk/Administrator Jeff Musche, who resigned in February.

Although he was the town's second choice for the job, Janecke won positive reviews from some town supervisors for the energy and enthusiasm for the job that he displayed in two separate interviews with the board.

The town had initially offered the position to Matt Carren, economic development director for Menomonee Falls, but Carren and town officials later learned the town could not match the health benefits provided by the village of Menomonee Falls.

7. Meijer Delay

The Meijer company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced it would postpone until 2016 plans to open a nearly 200,000-square-foot grocery and retail store near the intersection of Lisbon Road (Highway K) and Highway 164.

Regulatory issues related to wetlands located near a convenience store located on the site delayed construction in 2014.

Meijer is a family owned company that traditionally likes to conduct grand opening ceremonies in the spring and therefore decided to delay construction until 2015 with a spring grand opening in 2016, according to village officials.

8. Mammoth Springs opens

Construction was completed on two of the five proposed apartment buildings for the Mammoth Springs residential and retail complex at the corner of Waukesha Avenue and Main Street being developed by computer software entrepreneur Art Sawall.

As construction of two more 30-unit, high-end apartments continued in 2014, Sawall expressed interest in purchasing residential land on Maple Avenue near the village Community Center as well as commercial property north of the apartment and retail complex located at the former cannery company site.

Sawall acknowledged that while he was having no trouble finding tenants for the apartments, it was more challenging to find prospective tenants for two retail buildings he wants to add to the apartment complex.

9. HHS Training Facility

Construction was completed on a nearly $5 million athletic and classroom training facility built to accommodate the growing number of students participating in the Hamilton High School athletic programs.

The facility, built without referendum and funded with reserve and maintenance funds, includes an all-purpose indoor artificial practice field for various teams as well as a modern training and weight room facility.

10. Butler Police Department

Lt. Brian Pergande plead guilty to a disorderly conduct charge for taking inappropriate photos of an exotic dancer he had arrested and Officer Chad Rahn was suspended for 15 days for failing to complete and properly file numerous incident reports as Butler village officials tried to put the 2013 "Porn in the Morn" police scandal behind them.

Pergande and Rahn were the two officers who initially lodged the complaints against former Chief Michael Cosgrove that prompted an investigation by the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department that concluded Cosgrove had condoned sexist and racist attitudes and Pergande had engaged in official misconduct. The report also revealed that Cosgrove and some of his officers watched pornography on village computers during morning work shifts.

Pergande reached a plea agreement with Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel that reduce the misconduct charge to disorderly conduct.

A federal lawsuit filed against the county and village by Pergande and Rahn is still pending.


Take a look back at the Sun's newsmakers of 2014

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Dec. 26, 2014

January

The village of Sussex announces it has began rationing street salt in an effort to get through the harsh winter season without facing the expense of reordering salt.

Town of Lisbon Deputy Clerk Elizabeth Kraus is named interim clerk/administrator to fill in for Clerk/Administrator Jeff Musche, who says he is unable to work because of severe bouts of vertigo that his doctors say might be related to a neurological disorder.

A Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge rules the Pauline Haass Library Board has the authority to sue the town of Lisbon over "control and custody" of the 65-acre Pauline Haass farm donated to the town to be used for library purposes.

Hamilton High School announces a new "The Charger Way" code of conduct the school's athletes will have to follow.

Lisbon Town Board Chairman Matt Gehrke says there is "almost no chance" that the town will approve a new long-term funding agreement with the village of Sussex to help pay for the operations of the Pauline Haass Library.

Betty Fryda, 79, who served for 25 years as Lisbon Town clerk, died on Dec. 30.

February

Two suspects who were involved in armed robbery of the Associated Bank were identified by Waukesha County sheriff's deputies.

Butler police officers Chad Rahn and Lt. Brian Pergande file a federal lawsuit against the village of Butler and Waukesha County alleging they were discriminated against and their constitutional rights violated during a Waukesha County Sheriff's investigation of the department and former chief Michael Cosgrove.

Town of Lisbon snow plow operators are tired, the overtime costs are rising, but the street salt supply remains steady, according to town officials.

Mammoth Springs developer Arthur Sawall takes village trustees on a tour of the new apartment complex he is building on the former cannery site near the corner of Main Street and Waukesha Avenue.

The Pauline Haass Library can continue to operate without the joint funding agreement between the village of Sussex and the town of Lisbon, according to the director of the Waukesha County Federated Library System.

March

Lisbon Clerk/Administrator Jeff Musche resigns after an extended illness.

Butler Village Police Lt. Brian Pergande is charged with official misconduct by the Waukesha County District Attorney for allegedly taking inappropriate photos of an exotic dancer he had arrested in September of 2009.

A Sussex Army National Guard unit, Battery A of the lst Battalion, 121st Field Artillery Regiment, will be deployed to Afghanistan. It is the third time in eight years the unit has been deployed to a Middle East combat zone.

More than $150,000 in taxpayer money has been spent by the village of Butler as a result of police misconduct revealed in a 2013 investigation of the Butler police department and its former chief Michael Cosgrove by the Waukesha County Sheriff's office.

Sussex village officials continue to discuss the reconfiguration of the iconic triangular intersection at Main Street and Silver Spring Drive.

April

Butler police officer Chad Rahn was suspended for 20 days for neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance and failing to properly complete an investigation, according to village officials, who said he failed to complete numerous police reports on various incidents.

Butler Village Board incumbents Susan Hesselgrave and Jeanne Briggs were upset in the April municipal elections by former trustee Michael T. Thew and newcomer Patricia Tiarks. Hesselgrave's husband David was reelected.

Lannon incumbents Ron Dutcher and Daryl Fiene were also defeated in the April municipal elections. Wayne Rummel and Robb Moore were the newcomers elected while Ronald Nellis was reelected.

Lisbon citizen activist Denise Wenger, who spearheaded the drive to have the town incorporated into a village, died at the age of 71 on April 11.

The Lisbon Town Board began exploring library service options as it made preparations to terminate the 27-year-old agreement it has had with the village of Sussex for the funding and operations of the Pauline Haas Library.

May

Village trustees met behind closed doors to discuss a $21 million development proposal from the Central Waukesha County YMCA that will include construction of 75,000-square-foot Y facility adjacent to a new 45,000-square-foot village hall that would be connected to the existing Pauline Haass Library.

Sussex Village Trustee Jason Wegner announced he was resigning from the village board because he was moving to the town of Lisbon.

The villages of Menomonee Falls and Lannon, after two years of discussion, reached an agreement to consolidate their fire departments.

The Butler Village Board began the process of scheduling a hearing into whether police Lt. Brian Pergande should be fired. Pergande plead not guilty to charges of official misconduct lodged against him by the Waukesha County District Attorney. Pergande has been on paid administrative leave for more than a year.

Meanwhile, the 20-day suspension of officer Chad Rahn was reduced to 15 days as village officials filed documents in federal court saying the village and Waukesha County did nothing wrong in their investigation of the police department and former chief Michael Cosgrove. The village was responding to a lawsuit filed earlier in the year by Rahn and Pergande.

June

The Sussex Village Board created a 12-member Civic Campus Advisory Committee to consider construction of a new village hall as part of the $21 million development proposal from the Central Waukesha County YMCA that village trustees had earlier discussed in a closed session.

Officials of Meijer Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced they would open their 191,350-square-foot grocery and retail store in Sussex at the intersection of Highway 164 and Lisbon in 2016. Construction on the project had been delayed by various regulatory issues with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Construction on the Hamilton High School's $4.8 million multi-purpose indoor athletic and training facility continued.

A state library official says that the Pauline Haass Library can continue to operate if the village of Sussex wants to partially fund the library and appoint a new library board.

July

In the midst of allegations, with one being the use of excessive force during an arrest, Lt. Brian Pergande resigned from the Butler Police Department.

The 27-year-old joint municipal library agreement between the town of Lisbon and the village of Sussex that funds most of the operations at the Pauline Haass Library was terminated.

There is a new Kwik Trip coming to Lisbon. It became the first business in a new town commercial and industrial park.

August

The proposed village hall in Sussex would cost taxpayers $7 million for construction of the 48,000-square-foot facility.

Hamilton School District installed a new Student Information System called Infinite Campus that provides students, parents and staff with real-time information on each of their students' progress within the district.

In the village of Butler, residents faced the possibility of real estate taxes being increased by almost $200 as the result of a proposed debt restructuring plan that may be included in the 2015 village budget.

September

The Department of Public Instruction recognized Maple Avenue Elementary on a list of Wisconsin Title I Schools of Recognition.

Town of Lisbon administrator and clerk Elizabeth Kraus was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an inquiry into allegations that Kraus has created a hostile environment in town hall.

Hamilton High School made Newsweek Magazine's "America's Top High Schools" list for 2014.

October

The next Waukesha County Board chairman could receive half of its current salary if a new ordinance is approved. The change was proposed by current chairman Paul Decker.

Former Butler Police Lt. Brian Pergande was convicted of disorderly conduct as part of a plea deal.

For Butler Police Lt. Brian Pergande was sentenced to 30 days in jail for disorderly conduct that a judge described as intimidating, demanding and degrading to an exotic dancer that Pergande arrested and then inappropriately photographed at the village police station.

November

The town of Lisbon board hired a local government executive recruiting firm to review the background and qualifications of six candidates the board selected as potential replacements for former clerk and administrator Elizabeth Kraus.

State Senator Paul Farrow was reelected to the State Senate District 33 after defeating challenger Sherryll Shaddock.

Refinancing of loans in 2006 and 2007 helped pay for the construction of the Richard Jung Memorial Fire Station on Richmond Road saved taxpayers nearly $83,000 that will be used to reduce the amount of tax revenue needed to pay off other debts.

Village of Sussex President Greg Goetz said he no longer supports a proposal to build a 75,000-square-foot YMCA.

December

Town of Lisbon board members spent nearly one hour in closed session to discuss the delays in hiring a new administrator. The board decided to re-interview one of the three finalists for the position.

Elizabeth Kraus used the titles of clerk and administrator for the town of Lisbon, even though it was never officially bestowed on her by the town board, according to town supervisors who were responsible for overseeing town hall operations.

For the third time, Hamilton School District was among the top districts in the U.S. and Canada for Advanced Placement testing. HSD was named to the fifth annual AP District honor Roll by the College Board.

 

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