Waukesha was in the spotlight often in 2015.
From Gov. Scott Walker announcing his bid for the White House in Waukesha — bringing national and international news stations here — to the Slender Man stabbing case continuing to play out in a courtroom, the county's largest city wasn't short on headlines this year.
And the region is taking notice of Waukesha as the city attempts to become the first municipality under the Great Lakes Compact outside the Great Lakes Basin to secure Lake Michigan water as its water source.
But the biggest story that not only had an impact locally, but nationally was the announcement that longtime employer General Electric would close its Power and Water facility in Waukesha and relocate 350 jobs to Canada in the coming years. The decision sparked reactions from not only Waukesha's mayor and Walker, but U.S. Congress.
These stories, along with others, make up Waukesha NOW's top 10 news stories of 2015.
1) GE eliminating local jobs
In early 2014, President Barack Obama stood on a stage inside General Electric's Power and Water facility in Waukesha praising manufacturing jobs here. Twenty months later, the company in September announced it will stop manufacturing gas engines at the longtime Waukesha facility, 1101 W. St. Paul Ave., and move the jobs the president praised to Canada as it opens a new state-of-the-art facility north of the border.
GE said the reason for the closure, which will take place over the next 20 months, was due to Congress allowing the federal Export-Import Bank to expire, something the company said exporters need to compete globally because the bank helps foreign customers buy U.S. goods through loans.
Hearing that, Mayor Shawn Reilly and others called on Congress to reauthorize the bank, which it did in early December. Despite Congress' decision, GE officials are still moving forward on the relocation, resulting in not only hundreds of lost jobs in Waukesha, but a manufacturing site that will soon be vacated.
2) Violent crimes rock Waukesha
Waukesha in 2015 saw its most homicides in years as the year began with a violent death and more continued. The city, especially gas stations, were on edge, in the days following the murder of Saeed Sharwani, a 65-year-old gas station clerk. Sharwani was shot and killed during an armed robbery at a Citgo gas station, 1445 Whiterock Ave., in January. The suspects were all eventually caught and now Kenneth Thomas (the accused shooter), Darrin Malone (Thomas' alleged lookout) and Jerica Cotton (the alleged getaway driver) — await jury trials in 2016.
In August, Waukesha had its second homicide when Kevin Hueman, 40, was shot and killed on a rainy August night outside his family home at 735 E. North St. A month later, the suspect, Justin T. Carl, 35, was charged in the homicide after one of his Nike shoes was left behind at the scene and other evidence linked him to the crime. No motive has been given in the homicide as Carl has been bound over for trial and awaits his next hearing in January.
In September, 45-year-old Timothy Minkley was found dead and lying in a pool of blood in his downtown apartment after his friend allegedly struck him nine times in the back of the head with a hatchet. Philip Holland, 57, was caught on downtown surveillance cameras throwing the hatchet into the Fox River and a week later was charged with first-degree intentional homicide. After Minkley blamed Holland for not setting the alarm, Holland said he went into "kill mode" and began striking him. After an initial competency evaluation, Holland has been bound over for a trial.
3) Slender Man stabbing cases continue
The case involving two Waukesha middle school girls who attempted to stab their friend to death in a park to please a fictitious Internet horror character named Slender Man in 2014 continued to play out throughout 2015.
Many hearings for Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both now 13 and charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, occurred during the first part of the year as their lawyers attempted to move the case into the juvenile court system. They contested mitigating circumstances should warrant a lesser charge and called upon psychologists to advocate for placement in juvenile court.
Judge Michael Bohren, however, ruled in August that the girls will continue to be tried in the adult court system because a transfer would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense. Geyser's and Weier's attorneys are appealing Bohren's decision with the District 2 Court of Appeals and a decision will likely be issued in early 2016.
4) Water application moves forward
More than five years after sending its initial application to the state's Department of Natural Resources requesting Lake Michigan to be its future water source, the DNR announced in December it is sending the application to the Conference of Great Lakes Governors.
All of the governors now must sign off on the application for it to be approved. The announcement came after the DNR said in June that Waukesha, which is under a 2018 court-ordered deadline to have radium-compliant water, meets the requirements needed to get an approval under the Great Lakes Compact.
Multiple public hearings were held this past summer following the DNR's release of the application's Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review draft. Despite the DNR's blessing, many groups continued to express their opposition for the application this year, which prompted legislatures and the city's water utility general manager to continue to defend the application.
5) Presidential announcement in Waukesha
The Waukesha County Expo Center has been home to some recent historic political events. Before this summer, the list included a rally for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan in 2012 as well as Walker's recall victory party in 2012.
You can now add Walker's historic presidential announcement to that list. Before a packed Expo Center, Walker officially launched his presidential campaign in Waukesha in July. Despite the excitement on that day from Walker, his run to the White House was short-lived as he dropped out of the race 70 days later.
6) Waukesha County Museum redevelopment
For the last two years, museum officials have struggled to find a solution to its financial problems, especially since the county stopped funding it in 2015. A solution, however, was presented earlier this year that includes selling the site to a developer who is planning on adding apartments (32 units) to the site without taking down any of the historic buildings and would take over the costs of renovating and maintaining the buildings.
The developer will also allow the museum to remain a tenant in the former courthouse building. The sale of the property is contingent on the city signing off on the project. The city's landmarks and plan commissions recently gave the redevelopment project its initial blessings. Final reviews are expected in early 2016.
7) Sunset Drive makeover continues
For four years, the former Kmart property was an eyesore as drivers made their way east on Sunset Drive. But in 2015, the site at 120 E. Sunset Drive was revitalized with the addition of an Xperience Fitness and a Dollar Tree to the building. There is still room for more tenants in the building as well as in the large parking lot.
Nearby, construction progressed throughout the year for the large Meijer mixed-use store that is scheduled to open in 2016. Meijer, a food, clothing and home merchandising store, will be located at Tenny Avenue and E. Sunset Drive.
8) Business changes in downtown
In addition to road construction that closed down streets on the west side of downtown, it was a year of change for the business climate in downtown Waukesha. Old staples such as Sprizzo Gallery & Cafe and Ace Hardware closed and the longtime owners of the popular The Steaming Cup coffee shop called it a career. But new ownership at The Steaming Cup has given the shop a new look and menu and the old Sprizzo location has reopened with a coffee shop run by a sister duo from Oconomowoc.
These changes are in addition to a former manager at Taylors People's Park restaurant taking over the former Generations at 5 Points location and turning it into a Mediterranean and American restaurant and the short-lived Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub location getting turned into an Italian restaurant. Moreover, two new wine bars opened in downtown this year.
9) Housing plans hot topic in town and city of Waukesha
Apartment complexes and townhomes were on the radar of developers in Waukesha this year, and they caused quite the reaction from the public. During the beginning of the year, a developer looked at building a 202-unit apartment complex at the former Fox Head Brewery property on Maple Avenue, but he was met with continued opposition from the council.
Multiple revisions were made to the plan in an effort to revitalize a dilapidated site but the council felt the apartments, specifically this plan, wasn't the best use for the property. Meanwhile, the Prairieville Apartments opened in downtown. And in the town of Waukesha, a 42-unit townhouse development, owned by Town Chairman John Marek, was approved in late 2015 to be built north of Arcadian Avenue (Highway 59) and just west of Springdale Road.
10) When to govern?
The common council was presented with this question multiple times in 2015. This included whether to initiate a sober server ordinance requiring bar employees to stay under the same intoxication threshold that drivers do as well as whether government should play a role in assisting a blighted condo complex.
After much debate, the council approved the sober server ordinance but denied providing the private Sunset Homes Condominium Association with a $1.65 million loan for property upgrades at its condo at 1440 Big Bend Road.