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Newly-formed downtown Waukesha BID Board has first meeting next week

Jan. 10 meeting to be at City Hall

Dec. 31, 2012

Behind some familiar faces, the downtown Waukesha Business Improvement District Board is returning.

That's because more than four months after the BID Board fell apart following the resignation of its former executive director, Meghan Sprager, a new board has been formed and will meet for the first time in seven days.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Jan. 10 in Room 207 at City Hall, 201 Delafield St. The BID meetings were previously held at the BID office, 802 N. Grand Ave., and at The Rotunda in downtown Waukesha.

According to the agenda, the board will elect officers as its first order of business.

Following that, the board will allow for public comment, before discussing the 2013 Operating Plan and Budget and address special events such as the Carl Zach Cycling Classic in June, an event the BID was previously responsible for, Farmer's Market parking (another BID responsibility) and other events needing immediate action.

The agenda also includes an item named "any other business as allowed by law."

Previously, the BID was responsible for promoting the downtown through marketing and events, which includes the Farmer's Market, the annual Art Fest and the Christmas Parade, among others as well as street sweeping.

The last time the downtown Waukesha BID Board met as a whole, Sprager was on her way out after releasing a scathing nine-page letter, giving examples of the "hostile work environment" she cited in her resignation letter this summer.

"It is my observations that the BID is very unhealthy," said Sprager, who was hired as the BID's executive director in May 2011. "It cannot continue operating in its current state. As presently configured, the lack of civil discourse among the BID's leadership provides a playground for manipulation and excessive bullying.

"This, in my opinion, is why it has been historically difficult for the BID to retain executive directors, and it has poisoned the organization to such a degree that I no longer feel that there is any possibility for anyone to effectively administer the organization in this capacity."

Allegations rocked BID

Then, about a week later during a public meeting, Sprager released the letter which noted that she had been accused of having an affair by a board member and referenced her car getting keyed earlier this year after saying a BID Board leader asked her where she parks her car in downtown Waukesha. No police report was ever filed and no investigation into any of these claims took place.

Nevertheless, the BID's leadership that included President Norm Bruce and Vice President Lynn Gaffey, two downtown business owners and two individuals Sprager referenced as having problems with, survived a no-confidence vote at that meeting. Business owner Jeff Barta, property owner Christine VanderBloemen and Bill Huelsman of Berg Management voted 'no confidence.'

Gaffey and Bruce said afterward they were shocked by the allegations, that they were being falsely accused and that they were never aware of any issues. Other board members praised Sprager for speaking up, while others questioned how calling out individuals in public helped downtown.

Board crumbled

Sprager's small staff at the BID office followed her in their resignations and left behind a board that continued to clash. Facing a PR mess, resignations soon poured in. VanderBloemen and Barta were first.

They were then followed shortly after by nine others, including Bruce and Gaffey, as they stated they were removing themselves from the controversy.

In the meantime, other downtown organizations, such as the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, which includes some of the individuals who resigned from the BID Board, helped run some of the old BID events.

Controversy, however, started once again after some of these individuals put signs in their downtown businesses questioning the BID's validity and how it spends the money it receives from BID stakeholders. The BID is a self-taxing district in downtown.

Council finds eight

Meanwhile, the Common Council and Mayor Jeff Scrima were in the midst of a struggle to find the next BID Board. Scrima accused the council of holding up the process by not accepting his nominations, while the council was upset the mayor wasn't giving them enough options, was bringing forth some of the same individuals who just resigned and did not include aldermen in his nominations.

Among the rejections was Alderman Roger Patton, one of the 11 who resigned in September.

Ultimately, after more than two months, they agreed on an eight-member board that includes the two individuals who did not resign: Huelsman and Natalie Walters of Waukesha State Bank; two carry-overs from the old staff who Scrima asked to be reappointed: Ron Lostetter, chief financial officer at Carroll University and Jim Taylor of People's Park restaurant and four new members the council agreed to: Alderman Vance Skinner, Mia's Italian Restaurant owner Sandy Cianciolo, local attorney Nick Martinez and City Administrator Ed Henschel.

The previous board had 13 members.

Old BID Board

Norm Bruce, President, Martha Merrell's Books

Lynn Gaffey, Vice President, Almont Gallery

Ron Lostetter, Treasurer, Carroll University

Kerry MacKay, Secretary, The Steaming Cup

Christine VanderBloemen, Downtown Property Owner

Roger Patton, Downtown Alderman

Stephen Kassens, Public Works board member

Natalie Walters, Waukesha State Bank

Jess Martinez, Martinez Law & Mediation Center

Bill Huelsman, Berg Management

Roger Igielski, Allô! Chocolat

Jeff Barta, Nice Ash Cigar Bar

Jim Taylor, People's Park

New BID Board

Ed Henschel, City Administrator

Natalie Walters, Waukesha State Bank

Bill Huelsman, Berg Management

Vance Skinner, City Alderman

Sandy Cianciolo, Mia's Italian Restaurant

Nick Martinez, Martinez Law & Mediation Center

Ron Lostetter, Carroll University

Jim Taylor, People's Park

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