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Waukesha County executive's budget would raise spending, taxes 2%

Sept. 28, 2010 7:00 p.m. | Waukesha — Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas presented the County Board with a 2011 budget Tuesday that would increase spending and the general tax levy both by about 2%.

The owner of a Waukesha County home at the median value - $260,700 - would pay $514 in county taxes under the proposal. That's about 1.2% more than a year ago when the same home was worth more - $272,100, on average - and the owner paid $508.

Vrakas said the budget continues to offer Waukesha County families and businesses certainty, stability and good services with only small tax increases.

He said the budget keeps labor costs to a 2% increase with the elimination of about 11 full-time positions and contracting out more housekeeping services. It plans for a net 1% pay increase after employees contribute more to health care and retirement. No furloughs are planned.

About 45% of the county tax levy is for state and federal mandates. In one big example, the budget includes $600,000 more in taxes for jail inmates - largely for their health care. An additional nearly $300,000 in taxes will cover lost state aid and labor costs for road maintenance.

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Waukesha teen wins State Park Sticker Design Contest

Sept. 27, 2010 12:47 p.m. | A design featuring the silhouette of a kayaker by Stephanie Cuzner, a recent graduate of Waukesha South High School, will grace the 2011 Wisconsin state park and forest vehicle admission sticker.

Cuzner's entry (shown below) was selected over more than 300 others in the contest to design the 2011 sticker. The contest was sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Runners-up were Owen Monsma, Madison Memorial High School (second place) and Makenzie Flom, Cedarburg High School (third).

The stickers allow annual admission to state parks and forests. The winning design is displayed on more than 150,000 vehicles, according to the DNR.

In addition to seeing her design on vehicles around the state over the next year, Cuzner will receive an engraved plaque, an annual vehicle admission sticker and a state trail pass.

Held annually, the design contest is open to all high school age students attending public, private, or parochial schools in Wisconsin.

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Waukesha County launches recycling contest

Sept. 27, 2010 11:54 a.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County is looking for some waste-conscious folks for a friendly recycling competition during October that could win somebody a flat-screen TV and a party, or laptop and desk computers.

Karen Fiedler, the county's supervisor of solid waste programming, said the idea is to highlight new recycling opportunities like mandatory recycling of TVs, computers and other electronics, and newly recyclable cartons.

Families or households from the 25 communities who partner with Waukesha County's recycling effort can register as teams at www.ReduceYourWasteStream.info by Sunday. Teams will weigh their weekly trash and recyclables and report results - successes and obstacles - on a blog.

Fiedler said the goal is to identify actions that have the greatest impact on cutting wastes and increasing recycling, and doing so in ways that participants find easiest.

Budget proposal keeps taxes flat

Sept. 24, 2010 3:16 p.m. | Waukesha - City Administrator Lori Curtis Luther delivered a recommended 2011 budget and capital plan Friday that, if approved as is, would keep property owners' city tax bills the same as last year's.

The tax-funded operating budget totals $58.9 million, less than a 1% increase under the proposal, while the tax levy to pay for it - $51.5 million - would increase by 0.2%. Offsetting tax base growth from new construction results in no change to the tax rate - $8.95 per $1,000 assessed value.

The total recommended budget, for everything from the wastewater treatment operation to trust funds, is set at $131.7 million, up 3%.

The city did not reassess this year, so an individual's taxes for city purposes would not change unless property improvements increased the assessment. The final bill also depends on school and county taxes as well as state credits.

Luther cited a number of budget factors: lower debt; deferred purchases of public safety vehicles; increased revenues; a hiring freeze for all but the Police Department; and employment contracts that limit pay increases.

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Waukesha groups offer drug-free education event to community

Sept. 24, 2010 1:45 p.m. | The School District of Waukesha and the Waukesha County Drug Free Communities Coalition will offer an all-day program to community members next Tuesday about shifting social norms regarding alcohol and drug use.

The free event, “Shifting the Focus Around Substance Abuse: Positive Community Norms,” will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Citizens Bank of Waukesha, 2109 Corporate Dr.

Jay Otto of the Montana Institute will present the program designed to reduce underage drinking and drug abuse. It is the third of four educational forums presented by the DFC.

Reservations are accepted on a first come/first served basis as the room size limits attendance. Please RSVP to Kim Chynoweth at kchynowe@waukesha.k12.wi.us.

Waukesha aldermen delay action on water commission

Sept. 21, 2010 11:22 p.m. | Waukesha — Rather than choose between dueling nominees for the Waukesha Water Utility Commission at a critical juncture in the search for a radium-free water supply, the Common Council delayed action Tuesday so it can expand the commission to make room for three appointees.

Aldermen voted unanimously to delay action on the appointment until Oct. 5. At that time, the council plans to vote on expanding the commission by two more seats, to seven, and then name three members.

It was clear from aldermen's comments that the council was divided over whether to reappoint 21-year commissioner Dan Warren, its utility's longtime president, or go with Mayor Jeff Scrima's choice of Joseph Piatt, a Carroll University associate professor of chemistry and environmental science and chairman of the life sciences department.

Nearly two dozen residents spoke on behalf of both candidates - praising Warren's institutional knowledge and Piatt's reputation. Some aldermen said they were lobbied by e-mailing constituents to vote for Piatt. Warren's term expires Sept. 30, but he serves until a new appointment is made.

Ald. Rick Tortomasi, a supporter of Warren who serves on the commission with him, said many of his e-mails were nasty and threatening recall if he didn't for for Piatt.

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Waukesha's water bid restarted

Sept. 21, 2010 2:26 p.m. | The state Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday restarted its review of Waukesha's historic application for a Great Lakes water source, a process that stalled in June after Waukesha's newly elected mayor raised questions about the city's proposal.

Waukesha is the first community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to seek a diversion of water under terms of a regional Great Lakes protection compact. In announcing its decision to reopen the review, DNR officials said Tuesday that its study of the plan's environmental impact will extend into next year.

Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank also informed city officials that their request for Lake Michigan water is not complete, and more information is needed.

Among details the department seeks are costs to Oak Creek and Racine if they are tapped to supply lake water to Waukesha and an explanation of why Waukesha wants to discharge its treated wastewater to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa regardless of whether it buys water from Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine, said Bruce Baker, DNR water division administrator.

The Great Lakes compact requires a community to return water to a lake as close as possible to where it is withdrawn, Baker said.

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Share your Michigan Memories and win a family getaway

Sept. 20, 2010 12:55 p.m. | Need a getaway this fall? Share your favorite photographic memories of a family trip to Michigan and you could win a prize, including the grand prize of round-trip tickets for two adults, two children and one vehicle on the Lake Express high-speed ferry, and a two-night stay at the Hampton Inn in Muskegon, Mich.

Just upload a shot of you and the family having fun in our friendly neighboring state, and you could be a winner. The second-place prize is round-trip tickets for two adults and a vehicle on the ferry. The third-place prize is one round-trip ticket for an adult.

The prize certificates are good for this fall (the ferry runs through October) or anytime in the 2011 season.

Go to contest.

Mayor, council duel over water commission seat

Sept. 17, 2010 4:54 p.m. | Waukesha - A battle line between Mayor Jeff Scrima and the Common Council over dueling who has authority to appoint a Waukesha Water Utility commissioner is expected to come to a head at Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. council meeting.

The term of Dan Warren, a commissioner for 21 years and its current president, expires this month and he has sought reappointment in a letter addressed to Council President Paul Ybarra and council members.

Earlier this month, Ybarra issued a memo to the mayor and council members stating that unlike many appointments made by the mayor and confirmed by the council, "under state law the Water Utility Commission members are directly elected by the governing body."

He asked the mayor and council members to submit recommended candidates if they had any.

Scrima, meanwhile, has nominated Joseph Piatt for appointment Tuesday night as a replacement for Warren, who has been a leader and advocate for Waukesha's application for Great Lakes water as a source of radium-free water - something Scrima opposes.

» Read Full Article

Zipperer beats Dietrich for Senate 33rd District seat

Sept. 14, 2010 10:46 p.m. | Voters in Senate District 33 overwhelming decided to promote state Assembly member Rich Zipperer to the upper chamber Tuesday.

Zipperer took the seat in a contest with Tim Dietrich, making his first bid for the Legislature. There is no Democratic candidate, so Zipperer wins the seat. The district includes parts of Waukesha and Washington counties.

Zipperer, 36, of Pewaukee, was elected to the Assembly in 2006 after working in the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner for eight years, both in Washington, D.C. and in Waukesha County.

When Sen. Ted Kanavas announced early this year that he would not seek re-election, Zipperer entered the race almost immediately and quickly attracted many mainstream Republican endorsements. Dietrich, a 57-year-old truck driver and Sussex village trustee, joined the race in March. Dietrich calls himself a true conservative and didn't accept any financial contributions to his campaign.

Waukesha alderman unseated in recall vote

Sept. 14, 2010 8:56 p.m. | Waukesha - Ald. Peggy Bull was fired by 7th District voters Tuesday in a recall election organized by constituents unhappy with a transitional home for criminals, including sex offenders, established in the neighborhood earlier this year.

Taking her place on the Common Council for the remaining seven months of her term will be John Kalblinger, 31, an industrial engineer who moved to Waukesha last year.

Kalblinger took 57% of the vote to Bull's 43%.

Bull, 57, who first took office in 2006, disputed the premise of the recall, saying she'd worked hard on constituent concerns about the group home even though she was not notified before it was moved to her district.

Kalblinger, who signed the recall petition and was backed by its organizers, said he had no criticism of Bull. However, he said he would work on improving communication with constituents and address their concerns.

Waukesha administrator plans budget with zero increase in tax rate

Sept. 14, 2010 8:48 p.m. | Waukesha - City Administrator Lori Curtis Luther said Tuesday night she'll present her executive budget next week with no increase in the city tax rate.

"The council, and specifically the Finance Committee, has been clear about its desire to minimize the tax impact on Waukesha residents," she said. So together with department managers, she said, she was working to keep any tax increase as low as possible, and preferably zero.

With confirmation late Tuesday of state aid, and despite a few remaining unknowns, Luther said she can project "with confidence" the zero increase. Under city code, the administrator - not the mayor - is responsible for presenting a budget to the common council.

She made the announcement as the Finance Committee began its initial review of the city's five-year capital plan - the first year of which will show up as debt in the 2011 budget.

"I can't think of a better way to start the budget process," Ald Joe Pieper, chairman of the Finance Committee, said.

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Volunteers complete painting of Waukesha City Hall

Sept. 13, 2010 4:52 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha City Hall's corridors are sporting new colors of gold and terra cotta thanks to a weekend of painting by 28 volunteers.

"It's all done," said Mayor Jeff Scrima, who appealed to volunteers to do the job over two weekends, with paint provided by taxpayers. Because so many volunteers turned out and worked Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, they won't have to return next weekend as originally planned, Scrima said

He said city staff have been impressed that it was done so quickly, and citizens have already commented favorably.

Scrima, who attracted some unflattering attention after his office suite got a $4,000 paint job shortly after he took office in April, said Monday he wishes now he'd used volunteers for his office, too.

Scrima solicited volunteers for the bigger job after city hall's drab white halls were bared with the removal of more than 100 historic art works. Scrima expected that city hall's maintenance budget would cover the entire job, but the estimated $23,000 cost proved too expensive for Public Works Director Fred Abadi who did not want to deplete the budget early in the year.

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Waukesha bypass alternatives considered

Sept. 13, 2010 11:48 a.m. | Waukesha - An advisory group of local residents, business owners, community groups and government representatives making recommendations on a west-Waukesha bypass will meet Wednesday to begin narrowing the alternate routes for further study.

The session will run from 4 to 6 p.m. at Waukesha West High School library, 3301 Saylesville Road. Participation in the workshop is limited to the panel members, though the meeting is open to the public, who may ask questions of consultants or provide input after the meeting.

The process, along with several public informational meetings held so far, is part of Waukesha County's effort to complete an environmental impact statement on the project by early next year.

The bypass, which would link I-94 on the north with Highway 59 on the southwest side of Waukesha, has been identified on Waukesha's official city map along Merrill Hills Road since 1971.

Among the alternatives in the mix - besides a "do nothing" option - are primary routes along Grandview Blvd., along Meadowbrook and Merrill Hills Roads, and along a route starting at the Highway SS/I-94 interchange. Up to seven alternate routes exist south of Highway 18, where Retzer Nature Center, Pebble Creek and Merrill Hills Country Club could be affected.

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United Way in Waukesha County sets $4.3 million goal

Sept. 10, 2010 2:14 p.m. | Waukesha — United Way in Waukesha County has set a fund-raising goal of $4.3 million this year, about a 1% increase over the $4,261,000 it raised in 2009, to help fund health and human service agencies that assist people in need.

The annual fund-raising campaign comes during a down economy and at a time when agencies funded by the United Way are seeing an increasing demand for services, United Way officials say.

"Although this is a tough fund-raising environment, we cannot ignore the acute need in Waukesha County," United Way in Waukesha County Board President Paul Melnick stated in a news release.

"There are many consistent themes among our local nonprofit community . . . loss in funding; increased demand for services, especially in the area of basic needs; and an overall increase in stress levels among Waukesha County families due to job loss and other uncertainties. It's up to leadership organizations like United Way in Waukesha County to call our community into action," he stated.

Money raised in the campaign, which runs through Nov. 30, will help pay for more than 60 programs at more than 30 local agencies.

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Waukesha County sheriff candidate files finance report day late

Sept. 08, 2010 1:00 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County Deputy Michael Doud, a Republican candidate for sheriff, reported Wednesday that he raised no money for his campaign since July 1 but spent $2,555 on signs, banners, literature and voter registration forms through Aug. 30.

Combined with the $3,930 balance he had on hand from earlier contributions, the expenses left him with $1,375 for the last two weeks of his campaign.

Doud missed Tuesday's deadline for filing pre-election campaign finance reports by a day. His campaign kitty is dwarfed by funds raised by two of three other competitors.

On Tuesday, two-term incumbent Sheriff Dan Trawicki reported he'd raised $35,978 this year, almost all from individual contributions, while challenger Tom Alioto, a business owner and former Lisbon police sergeant and interim chief, reported campaign income of $41,030 - $35,000 of it from his own pocket.

A fourth candidate, Mike Landsgaard, claimed an exemption from financial reporting because he intends to raise and spend less than $1,000.

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Get It Now to open in Waukesha

Sept. 08, 2010 11:32 a.m. | Get It Now, a division of Rent-A-Center, will open a store soon in the Shoppes at Fox River, on Waukesha's southwest side.

This will be the 23rd store in Wisconsin for Get It Now, an easy-credit operation that sells furniture, appliances, computers and electronics. There are eight Get It Now stores in the Milwaukee metro area, all of them in Milwaukee County.

The Get It Now division is a small part of Rent-A-Center's retail store operations, which include just over 3,000 stores around the country. According to the company's public filings, it operates the Get It Now division in Wisconsin, instead of Rent-A-Center stores, because of a court ruling that classifies rent-to-own transactions as credit sales subject to consumer lending restrictions.

At Get It Now, customers can buy items using a payment or a layaway plan.

Waukesha council OKs raises for city attorney, judge

Sept. 08, 2010 11:24 a.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha City Attorney Curt Meitz and Municipal Judge Joseph Cook should get a 1% raise in January and another 1% in July, the Common Council agreed Tuesday.

Meitz currently is paid $108,677 a year while Cook receives $27,279. Both are elected. Neither was covered by council action in October 2009 that boosted the mayor's pay by $3,000 a year in 2011, 2012 and 2013, ending at $79,100. So far, incumbent Mayor Jeff Scrima has donated half of his take-home pay to a charitable fund he says will be used for public causes.

Pay for all elected officials and most other city employees were frozen this year. Aldermen's pay is frozen through 2013.

The city's union employees also will get a 1% raise in January and again in July under negotiated labor agreements. Offsetting increases in health insurance premiums and deductibles apply to the employees - including the city attorney and judge.

The pay raise for judge was approved 12-3 while the attorney's increase was approved 10-5. An ordinance will be drafted for council action to implement the recommendations.

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Waukesha water line estimates grow

Sept. 07, 2010 5:42 p.m. | Waukesha - Building the pipeline and pumping stations needed to convey Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek or Racine to Waukesha would cost an estimated $97 million to $148 million more than a connection to Milwaukee, Waukesha officials disclosed in documents made public Tuesday.

The state Department of Natural Resources in June requested preliminary cost estimates for connecting to Oak Creek and Racine. The DNR posted the documents Tuesday on its website.

Waukesha's application for Lake Michigan water submitted to the DNR in May included only a $164 million estimate for building a connection to Milwaukee.

The city has proposed discharging its treated wastewater to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa regardless of its lake water supplier. The creek empties into the Menomonee River, a tributary of the Milwaukee River, so Waukesha would return most of its purchased water to the lake, as required by a Great Lakes protection compact.

Cost estimates released Tuesday show why Waukesha officials have said Milwaukee is their preferred supplier.

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Waukesha business damaged in fire

Sept. 06, 2010 11:54 a.m. | Waukesha - A two-alarm fire that started about 12:50 a.m. Monday caused significant damage at Thermet Inc. an induction heat treater, the Fire Department said.

No dollar amount estimate on the damage has been made and the cause of the blaze is under investigation, the department said.

Thermet has been in the induction heat treating business for more than 30 years, according to the company website.

The building was unoccupied and no firefighters were injured.

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