Page 1

Thursday, October 6, 2011 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

Issue No. 40 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011

King and Queen for a day

INSIDE

Water What’s up with it? Want to know more about what’s in your drinking water in Ripon and Green Lake? Check out this informational session coming up. See page 3

RIPON HIGH SCHOOL seniors Kyle Gillett and Haley Schatzke react after being named Homecoming king and queen during festivities held at the school last week Friday. Other activities during the day included class skits, musical chairs, tug of war and other student activities. The afternoon events were followed by the Homecoming parade and football game Friday, and the dance was held the following evening. The Tigers lost the football game to Winneconne 13-6. For more photos from Ripon High School Homecoming, see page 10 and RiponPress.com. Wes Lungwitz photo

Our Views

Ripon, WI 54971

Stellmacher case heads toward trial by Aaron Becker aaronb@riponprinters.com

This may become a war over words. In the case of a Green Lake County man accused of trying to hire a hit man, the defense is saying Lee H. Stellmacher never used the words “murder,” “kill” or “dead” when setting up the alleged hit. But prosecutors argue Stellmacher’s intent and insinuation were clear — to have an Indiana man killed. Appearing in court wearing shackles and an orange jail suit, Stellmacher was bound over for trial last week Friday. Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz determined probable cause

See TRIAL/ page 17

Debt choking city’s financial picture by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Picture this It’s a snapshot of a wonderful period in photography history — all thanks to a collection volunteered by this Ripon woman. Check it out at the library. See page 4

Business

Much like a family fighting its credit card bill, the city of Ripon is finding debt is taking an ever growing bite out of its annual budget. In 2011, the city is paying about $411,000 in principal and interest on debt not related to one of its tax increment finance districts. B y n ex t y e a r, t h a t t o t a l swells by about 17 percent to $482,444.12 — or another

by Ian Stepleton

Cousins Subs in Ripon set out to name its No. 1 fan. This guy turned out to be a winner of the contest. But he’s not the only one; Cousins named three. See page 12

Sports

This was supposed to be the year. Riponites were supposed to be able to walk up and down Watson Street and marvel at beautifully renovated buildings, while sidestepping orange cones in front of many others still under construction. The buildings would be nothing but the best, everyone was told.

See DEBT/ page 16

A BAILIFF DIRECTS Lee Stellmacher to his seat last week Friday in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court. Aaron Becker photo

That may have been the dream, but it wouldn’t become Ripon’s reality. When the first of a series of key completion dates — Oct. 1 — came and went over the weekend, it wasn’t met with a ribbon-cutting or pomp and circumstance. Circumstances have changed. Empty storefronts remain unrenovated. Several actually look worse. In fact, the only action currently anticipated is a legal review

he fact that the developer is communicating with us and keeping us updated reassures us they do intend to move forward with their projects.” City Administrator Lori Rich

of the developer’s agreement in question. As Boca Grande Capital LLC

(d/b/a Ripon Renew) continues to try to line up financing to do the work it promised, the city of Ripon has an attorney taking a second look at the developer’s agreement Boca signed with the city in October 2009. What that second opinion will net is anyone’s guess. A call to Boca Grande officials has not been returned as of press time. And the significance of Oct. 1?

Little or none. “That’s a good question — nothing magical occurs on that date,” City Administrator Lori Rich said. “That would be the date, if you look at the agreement, that the start ... for calculations of interest.” The interest Rich refers to is how much the city must recuperate, now from the developer, so it may repay the debt the city

2010

2011

See BOCA/ page 18

A brief history of ... 2007

2008

2009

June 21, 2007: Headline runs in Commonwealth: “Who’s buying up downtown? Milwaukee group promises it will help Ripon achieve its ‘full potential’” after numerous downtown property purchases uncovered by the newspaper.

May 8, 2008: Construction is underway at 303-305 Watson St., which will become home to the Boca Grande Capital headquarters. Boca now owns at least 18 properties in Ripon Sept. 18, 2008: Boca principal Jim Connelly announces that, by as early as 2010, the Ripon Inn & Spa will be built and that it could rival the American Club. Several community members express concerns about Boca’s plans at a Common Council meeting. Oct. 2, 2008: Boca unveils plans to build a Republican presidents’ museum at the Republican House.

Aug. 13, 2009: City announces it is considering earmarking $8.6 million from a to-be-created tax increment finance district to Boca Grande Capital. Aim is to spur $30 million in development. Aug. 20, 2009: Boca shares a timeline in which numerous projects all would be completed within the next three years (by 2012). Sept. 10, 2009: The city approves the downtown tax increment finance district. Oct. 29, 2009: City officials and Boca partners gather to sign the developer’s agreement. Nov. 5, 2009: One-third of all dollars available to Boca already have been spent.

Close, but ... Ripon had turned the tide; it looked like a Homecoming victory just might occur. But, apparently, it wasn’t to be. See page 19

challenge in future years,” City Administrator Lori Rich said, explaining that 2012’s debt service payment is equal to about 10 percent of next year’s base budget of $4.68 million. Rich points out, though, the borrowing wasn’t done frivolously. “The past borrowings were for capital projects — generally infrastructure improvements or major equipment purchases. The 2007 borrowing was for the new

Boca Grande misses its first completion deadline “T ians@riponprinters.com

But wait, there’s more

$71,000 that cannot be used to pay for city staff, services or programs. By 2013, it’s $519,381.62. For city officials, who are beginning discussions Thursday night about how to trim the city budget for 2012, it’s a hurdle growing higher. In fact, it’s almost double the shortfall ($260,000) the city will need to cover in next year’s budget. And it’s a problem that’s not going away. “It’s going to be a continuing

June 21, 2007 * Information used to create this timeline is from past stories run in the Commonwealth since 2007. ** Items listed in RED are significant milestones in the history of Boca.

July 7, 2011: March 4, 2010: Boca’s in-house architects The renovation and expansion separate to create their of Roadhouse Pizza begins. own firm, sign contracts Sept. 9, 2010: with Boca to complete ‰ Boca has used nearly all the the design of several of dollars available to it from city Boca’s projects ‰ Connelly states that the RiSept. 15, 2011: pon Inn & Spa still will be done The Common Council on time: by July 2012. hires an Sept. 16, 2010: outside In response to the Commonwealth’s attorney to story about how review the much Boca has developspent already, Coner’s agreenelly visits the Comment. mon Council, telling Oct. 2, them, “You will get 2011: back every penny ...” Boca now Dec. 23, 2010: has official‰ The Commonly elapsed wealth informs the its first city Boca still hasn’t complepaid property taxes. tion date ‰ Connelly explains without Boca chose to pay construcits employees first, tion beginSept. 16, 2010 rather than pay propning on the erty taxes. project.

For a more complete history, visit www.RiponPress.com


Page 18 - Thursday, October 6, 2011

News

BOCA/City not panicking with missed date, but attorney is reviewing agreement incurred to help pay for the projects. Loan payments are structured such that they are supposed to be able to be paid by extra tax dollars generated by improvements made on the properties involved. But those improvements are not occurring. Each of 10 projects listed in the developer’s agreement showed a start and completion date. Of the 10, two are done: Boca’s own headquarters, completed actually before the agreement was signed; and Roadhouse Pizza. All of the other eight, meanwhile, have had their anticipated start dates elapse without construction.

Sell your Halloween candy, make some money At Hillside Dental, 644 W. Oshkosh St., the dentists are putting their money where their mouth is. This Halloween, local children may sell back their candy at Hillside Dental, earn some money and preserve their smiles as part of The Great Halloween Candy Buy Back. Because of the damage that candy does to teeth, Hillside Dental is hoping kids in the Ripon area will pick out their favorite treats and bring in the rest for a nice cash prize. To participate: ‰ Bring your child or children and their unopened candy into the Hillside Dental office Wednesday or Thursday, Nov. 2 or 3 between 4 to 6 p.m. ‰ Associates at Hillside Dental will weigh the candy and pay children $1 per pound of candy. ‰ The candy will be shipped to America’s troops overseas through Operation Gratitude. For more information, call Hillside Dental Associates at 748-6122, visit www.HillsideDentalRipon.com or its Facebook page.

The last such start date was missed Saturday: “McGuire’s Irish Brew Pub� at the current location of Suds on the Square (though Boca has wiggle room of plus or minus three months on starting, which technically gives it until Jan. 1, 2012, to start). Saturday also was the anticipated completion date of 217 Watson St., otherwise known as the Imagineers building. More completion dates are looming, too, including another one Nov. 1 for 205-207-209 Watson St. (the Benkoski building). Rich takes an optimistic view of Boca’s situation. “The fact that the developer is communicating with us and

keeping us updated reassures us they do intend to move forward with their projects,� she said. “At this point, we intend to work with them and help them achieve that any way we can.� That’s not to say the city isn’t more closely scrutinizing the developer’s agreement. In mid-September, the Common Council agreed unanimously to hire an attorney to offer an independent evaluation of the agreement, though it capped the cost of the review at $5,000 (without additional approval). Hired was attorney Bruce Block of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C. of Milwaukee — a top attorney with the firm, who now has

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Tebon, though, continues to try to find ways to improve his downtown. “We have had some conversations with [Boca principal] Jim Connelly, and I know Jim Connelly is working on financing,� Tebon said. “So hopefully their part can come together and they can restart ... as the economy improves.� One such conversation Tebon has had was to propose partnering on one of the Boca projects. “Conversations are continuing, and it is still a possibility,� he said. “It has to be the right scenario for Main Street [though]. Maybe something will happen in the coming months, or maybe it won’t.�

I will be meeting with the attorney for Boca. A time has not been set, but obviously from the city attorney’s perspective, the sooner the better.� Wurtz isn’t the only one who believes action sooner than later is key. Ripon Main Street manager Craig Tebon is charged with marketing Ripon’s downtown — a job not made easier by the situation. “It’s challenging marketing a downtown that has a number of vacant storefronts,� he said. “We are also optimistic because some of those storefronts [not owned by Boca] have been renovated and hopefully we can soon fill those.�

begun his review. At $460 an hour, though, he would have about 10 hours to look at the contract. “I’ve had contact with Attorney Block and he has already in his possession the underlying documents, and he has begun his review,� said City Attorne y Lud Wurtz, who is the point person for working with Block. “He will get together with me to chart a course of action. I would think we would be meeting in the first part of October.� Wurtz acknowledges the passing of Oct. 1 is an issue the city needs to bring up to Boca officials. “Obviously it needs to be addressed with Boca,� he said. “And

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Thursday, November 3, 2011 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE REMEMBER: Set your clocks

Issue No. 44 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

City-hired attorney reviewing development agreement for possible changes, direction by Ian Stepleton

As a second project completion date came and went Tuesday without any apparent work being done by Boca Grande Capital LLC, movement is afoot, though not necessarily with the downtown developer. An outside attorney hired by the city of Ripon continues to analyze

Our Views

the developer’s agreement reached two years ago with Boca, which also has been doing business as Ripon Renew. Attorney Bruce Block of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C. of Milwaukee was hired in midSeptember to offer an independent evaluation of a developer’s agreement reached in October 2009 with Boca Grande regarding its downtown revitalization process.

Business

Still rolling After 40 years putting wheels on Ripon residents, the Baird family is going strong — and sees growth in its future. See page 12

Sports

Wheel good Recognize this guy? No? How about take him off the court and put him at Ripon Middle School. Now do you recognize this teacher? See page 17

included speaking with Hugh O’Halloran, attorney for Boca and its principal, Jim Connelly. “[Block] has initiated initial contact with the attorney for Boca/ Ripon Renew, and he has indicated he will be getting back with us within the next couple weeks regarding our next course of action,” Wurtz said. Wurtz went on to explain Block’s goal is “to identify areas of the developer’s agreement that need to be reviewed — specifically, by the city, that may call for modification.”

He explained that “everything is on the table. He is trying to educate himself, and as part of the process, he is communicating with the attorney for Boca/Ripon Renew.” While Block continues his review, Boca apparently continues to fall further behind on its project timeline. A call to Connelly to discuss the projects and the timetable was not returned. Project B-5, a renovation of 217 Watson St. (otherwise known

See BOCA/ page 15

911 gets the fastest response, but sometimes cell calls go unexpected places by Ian Stepleton

These weren’t costumes for the office Halloween party. Just another Friday night dinner for this Ripon-area family. See page 4

Block is authorized, per the city’s decision, to bill up to $5,000 for that review, without additional approval. At almost $500 an hour for his work, that gives him about 10 hours of billable work time. City Administrator Lori Rich explained she has “met with the attorney and with Lud” Wurtz, Ripon city attorney and the individual in charge of monitoring Block’s progress. “We went over the agreement and any questions he had; he did request some additional information.” According to Wurtz, that has

Who answers when you call 911? 911: Fond du Lac County 911. Where’s your emergency? Caller: Between Ripon and Green Lake on Highway 23. Two cars just crashed. 911: OK, can you tell me exactly where exactly you are at on 23? Caller: I’m just before J. (breathing) 911: Just before J? Caller: Oh, people are crying. Oh, please hurry. 911: Oh, no, that’s OK. I just need to find out exactly where you are at. Are you still in Green Lake County, or are you in, are you in Fond du Lac County? Caller: I’m in Fond du Lac County. 911: OK, because we don’t have a County Trunk Highway J, so that’s why I need for you — Caller: A! A! A! It’s A! It’s 23, I’m sorry. 911: OK, but I st — Caller: Hello? 911: Yes, I need to know exactly where you are at on 23. Can you see an address or anything? Caller: (sighing) I’m just past Surface and Surroundings ...

ians@riponprinters.com

Togas & hobos

Ripon, WI 54971

Second Boca deadline missed ians@riponprinters.com

BACK Sunday at 2 a.m.

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

It was Wednesday, Oct. 11. Marion Kuster was on her way back to Green Lake after teaching at Murray Park/Quest. It was a drive she’s made hundreds of times over the past 30 years. But this was one she would never forget. “All of a sudden, I saw an explosion of two black objects,” she said, noting there wasn’t flame, just a massive collision. Kuster quickly pulled up to the scene of a violent crash, a 10-50 in police-speak. Two vehicles had collided more or less head-on. The scene was a mess. From one car, Kuster could hear the wails of an injured woman. At the car in front of her, she saw a young man, a teenager judging by the letter jacket in the back seat, slipping in and out of consciousness. She did what we’ve all been trained to do. Kuster punched in 9-1-1 on her cell. What ensued frustrated her. But, as she found out later, the situation that followed may have been unavoidable. As authorities will say, call 911 when an emergency occurs. But don’t be surprised if, when you call on a cell phone, you get a dispatch center for a county other than the one you’re in. That’s the small price to be

To hear the complete call, listen at www.RiponPress.com

paid by having a link to emergency help sitting right in your pocket. frustrating call

Kuster, though, didn’t see it as such at the time. When she saw a badly injured young man in the car, she dialed 911 and expected the dispatcher to say, “We’re sending an ambulance.” Reality differed slightly. “I said [to the Fond du Lac County dispatcher], ‘I’m between Ripon and Green Lake

Fewer $$ may mean fewer books at library long-term

and I need an ambulance,’” Kuster said. “She said, ‘What county are you in?’ She said, ‘Can you see an address on a house?’ I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘I have to know what county you’re in.’” From Kuster’s standpoint, it was an infuriating waste of precious moments. “All that time that passed with anyone who would be calling, that’s what I’m concerned about,” Kuster said. “They could have bled out,

both of them. Seconds count.” To Kuster, it seemed like an eternity had passed. As she fully admits, she has no idea how long the exchange took; she was “too juiced up on adrenaline” to be sure. “I was very frustrated,” she said. “I couldn’t help this guy; I couldn’t get him any help.” more to the story

Kuster, though, may have been seeing just one part of the bigger picture of the emergen-

cy response for the accident. Jim McNabb, director of communications and emergency government for Fond du Lac County, likens the situation to a jig-saw puzzle. The pieces? Numerous calls that will come in on any given accident — and typically, more than one call is made about a given crash. “Everyone might have a different piece of that puzzle

See 911/ page 16

Don’t cross this crossing guard...

by Jonathan Bailey jonathanb@riponprinters.com

The stacks at the Ripon Public Library might shrink over the next several years, but it won’t be noticeable right away. The library’s board of trustees decided to trim its materials (book) budget by approximately $6,600 at last week Tuesday’s meeting. It was the most significant of a number of budget adjustments made to reduce its spending by 5 percent, which the city had asked it to cut. “I laid out a couple of different options,” said Desiree Bongers, library director at the Ripon Public Library. “There were a couple of smaller areas, some periodicals that could have been cut. “The other major portion was looking at Sunday hours and the board really didn’t want to adjust any staffing or services at this point ... so adjusting the book budget was the easiest.” Also seeing a significant budget cut was the account used for the library’s shared automation system, the Winnefox Automated Library Service (WALS). The library board had budgeted additional dollars for computer replacement but ultimately decided it was not necessary. While a few other categories were trimmed slightly, it is the book budget that Bongers said could affect people the most. “We would have less amount of materials for people to checkout,” she said. “We would be focusing more on [continuing to buy] the

ON HALLOWEEN MONDAY a gorilla gave crossing guard Louis Bock the day off in order to hand out bananas to pint-sized pedestrians before escorting them across the street. Murray Park/Quest Elementary students crossing Sunset Avenue are, from left, Morgan Schultz, Sadie See LIBRARY/ page 16 Cumberbatch, Liam Armstrong and Amelia Armstrong. Tim Lyke photo


Thursday, November 3, 2011 - Page 15

News

BOCA/Response from attorney hired by city expected in upcoming weeks

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‰ 231-233 Watson St., June 1 ‰ 310-312 Watson St., June 1 ‰ McGuire’s Irish Brew Pub, July 1 ‰ National Republican President’s Museum, July 1. ‰ Ripon Inn and Spa, July 1. This represents the balance of the projects Boca proposed. Thus far, only two have been completed: Boca’s own headquarters (actually finished before the agreement was reached) and Roadhouse Pizza.

So, the city expects to bill Connelly for both projects B-4 and B-5, as well as third project: Project B-7 (the former senior center at 301 Watson St.). The formal completion date for this project was Oct. 1, without the three-month leeway factored in. “These would be due Jan. 31, 2012,� Rich said of the three projects, noting she does not know how much the bill will come to. “As soon as the city budget passes and I have a tax rate, I’ll know how much more.� Though these three projected completion dates have elapsed, it will be some time before Boca reaches another such deadline. The remaining projects do not have finish dates listed until next summer:

205-207-209 Watson St. is still not renovated, though a promised project completion date of Tuesday, per the developer’s agreement, now has passed. Ian Stepleton photo

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as the Imagineers building), was set to be complete a month ago even by the loosest standards, per Boca’s own agreement. The agreement stated it would be complete by July 1, 2011, but gave wiggle-room of plus or minus three months (as it did for all projects). Even with the leeway, that work should have been done by Oct. 1. Now a second project’s completion date has elapsed, even with the three-month leeway. Project B-4, which entailed the renovation of 205-207-209 Watson St. (the former Benkoski building) was to be done no later than Tuesday, yet no apparent work has taken place on the building. “No, nothing,� Rich said of whether she was aware of any work being done on the site. She added she hasn’t met with Connelly recently. “No, we’ve been meeting with him about quarterly, with Jim Connelly and Hugh O’Halloran. So we will meet with him again [soon].� Their last meeting occurred in August. But, as Rich continued to point out, the passing of completion dates does not trigger any clause within the developer’s agreement. “According to the terms of the agreement, nothing happens on those dates,� she said, adding, “We will continue to work with the developer.� Passing of the completion dates simply means the city now will start billing to collect interest accruing on the projects that have been finished, Rich explained. The city lent millions of dollars to Boca as part of the developer’s agreement through a tax increment finance district. Theoretically, these dollars would have been paid for with increment generated by improved structures whose property values (and, therefore, property taxes) have increased. But since the buildings have not been improved, the added tax dollars are not there to pay back the loans the city took out to help fund the downtown work via a tax increment finance district.

continued from page 1

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Thursday, December 15, 2011 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

Fines Up at the library If you keep a book, magazine or other materials for adults at the Ripon Public Library too long, expect to pay more during 2012. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 40 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

Pay for yard signs? Not anymore. by Tim Lyke timl@riponprinters.com

Before Tuesday, if you wanted to put a “Recall Walker” sign on your front yard in the city of Ripon, you could only do so ‰ for up to five days at a time ‰ for no more than 60 days total during a 12-month span ‰ at a cost of $10 plus 10 cents per square inch of the sign face ‰ after a permit is approved

A “RECALL WALKER” sign along Union Street will not be required to be removed by today (Wednesday). Tim Lyke photo by the city building inspector who may require you to

accompany your permit application with a plan or design

of the sign showing its dimensions and position relative to the building and to all property lines. All that, or you risked a fine of $25 per day after 30 days of notification. So states the city’s signcontrol ordinance. But on Tuesday, city staff suspended enforcement of restrictions limiting political signs. They made that decision following a meeting City Administrator Lori Rich had Tuesday

Now available, in aisle 9 ...

Will work for food This local guy spent several hours working in an unrelated field — and then donated the funds to the food pantry. Will you do the same? See page 4

Business

! s e s i ! u e r z C u r 5 ! C 2 e y r v o l e a h g C s l a e D

ROB WEBSTER, left, and daughter Candie Baker show off a Chevy Cruze like the one they will be giving away. Ian Stepleton photo

Pick ’n Save owners will celebrate 25 years with 12 months of give-aways, specials These are just two of the highlights of what will be a yearlong celebration filled with promotions, specials and other fun for customers and employees alike. Two years ago, Ripon Pick ’n Save customers walked away “It just seems like the more winners, the more fun,” Webwith 23 free LCD TVs. ster said. Five years ago, the store’s owner, Rob Webster, brought a It’s all part of the Websters’ 25th-anniversary celebration, bunch of his most tenured employees with marking a quarter century of the family’s him to Las Vegas. commitment to the Ripon community. t just seems like the Then there was the promotion a couple “We always like to have a nice anniversayears ago in which he gave away two ry sale,” Webster said, adding that he wanted more winners, the more GTOs. to make this one extra special. “We certainly “Everyone said, ‘How are you going to top fun.” are blessed here, and we recognize it is the Rob Webster that?’” Webster said. customers and the loyalty of our team that He found a way. allows us to have what we have. Webster and daughter Candie Baker (who “[And] I do enjoy having a fun promotion is taking over the store) are inviting customers to go “Cruisin’ with customers. When we have a banquet [for customers] we with the Websters.” have a wonderful time. That [is why we are doing this], along Literally. with 25 years being special and this is probably, personally, Twenty-five lucky customers will cruise the Caribbean with the last big celebration for me.” the Websters next fall. The grandest of those promotions runs from Jan. 31 to One particularly fortuitous customer will drive home in a Chevy Cruze. See CRUISES/ page 17

“I

Sports

Boca may have spent $50k-plus to lobby Congress Bulk of funds were spent at about the time developer signed agreement with Ripon by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Horsing around Ripon tried to take down the Mustangs, but the undefeated opponent showed why it has done so well this season. See page 19

Early on, Boca Grande Capital promised to spend its own dollars, as well as the city’s, on rehabilitating downtown Ripon. Two years later, most of the city’s investment has been spent yet little visible work has occurred downtown. So, where did Boca’s own dollars go while most of the projects Boca proposed remain on hold? Possibly some went to lobby the federal government to help secure additional funding. A document obtained by the Commonwealth suggests Boca Grande may have spent $40,000 to lobby the U.S. House of Rep-

See SIGNS/ page 16

Race for mayor heats up by Jonathan Bailey

by Ian Stepleton

This woman’s devine inspiration now has inspired a store in Brandon, where she hopes to inspire area crafters, too. See page 12

morning with City Attorney Lud Wurtz. That meeting followed information Rich and Deputy Clerk Ann Schommer received last Friday from Fond du Lac County. The county notified the city that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had suspended enforcement of its political sign time-limit restrictions. The need to revise the statet rule was prompted by a 2004

jonathanb@riponprinters.com

ians@riponprinters.com

Something new

Ripon, WI 54971

Connelly discusses his investment by Ian Stepleton

ians@riponprinters.com

resentatives and U.S. Senate on issues regarding broadband, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce at about the time it received $8.6 million from the city’s tax increment finance district (TID) No. 11. It’s not clear what exactly those lobbying dollars went toward, though it is known Boca had been seeking additional dollars from the federal government to support the work in downtown Ripon. Whether this lobbying effort was related is unclear. An email response to the Commonwealth from Boca principal Jim Connelly did not address

In responding to an email regarding the lobbying effort that may have occurred on behalf of Boca Grande Capital LLC, its partner, Jim Connelly, reiterated his stance that he has spent considerable funds on downtown Ripon over the past several years. “Both before and after we signed the development agreement with the city of Ripon, I have contributed millions of dollars of my personal funds in acquiring 23 downtown Ripon properties,” he wrote, “and to date in partially or fully rehabilitating nine of them (401 Watson, 329 Watson, 333 Watson, 303 Watson, 305 Watson, 102 Watson, 104 Watson, and 119 Watson), providing full or part-time employment over the past four years to at least 85 Ripon residents, providing significant revenue to Ripon area professionals (bankers, surveyors, structural engineers, accountants, attorneys, landscape contractors, and many others), and numerous area building, plumbing, electrical, masonry, and other contractors. “All of this activity has occurred in the worst economic conditions to hit this country in more than 80 years, or possibly ever. It has also occurred in a period where the domestic capital markets have seized

See BOCA/ page 14

See CONNELLY/ page 14

The seat for Ripon mayor may be about to get a lot hotter. John R. Adams will challenge incumbent Mayor Gary Will in the spring election. Adams filed his declaration of candidacy to run for mayor and turned in his campaign registration statement Tuesday afternoon. He still has to collect 50 to 100 signatures before he is officially put on the ballot, but so does Will. Will’s post isn’t the only one expected to be contested in spring. Four people have declared interest in the four open Common Council positions and three in the three available School Board seats as of Tuesday evening. Ald. Rollie Peabody, Annette John Adams Klein, Michelle Perr and Andrew Zuelke have made their declaration of candidacy to run for the Common Council. They, howGary Will ever, represent only two of the four districts that have seats available in spring. Ripon Area School District Superintendent Richard Zimman declined to release the names of the three individuals taking paperwork out for School Board, citing privacy reasons. The spring election will take place Tuesday, April 3. But if more than six candidates emerge for School Board or more than two for any district or the mayoral position, a primary election will be held Tuesday, Feb. 21. Candidates have until Jan. 3 to return paperwork and signatures to be included on the ballot. Mayoral race on its way to heating up

Adams’ reasoning for coming forward was his desire to help Ripon financially. “Ripon faces significant budgetary, legal and transactional challenges, and I have experience and leadership in these areas that can help,” he said.

See MAYOR/ page 18


Page 14 - Thursday, December 15, 2011

News

BOCA/Lobbying was heaviest during late 2009 these issues, and Connelly stated he did not wish to answer any additional questions at this time. Connelly did explain, though, that he vigorously has attempted to secure financing for the Ripon projects, and continues to do so. lobbying began three years ago

While some issues remain unclear, what is known is that on Feb. 23, 2009, Broydrick and Associates, Milwaukee, registered with the U.S. House and Senate to lobby on behalf of “Boca Grande Capitol[sic]/Foley & Lardner.� Mailing address for this client was registered to “Attn: Jim Connelly,� who also is a partner at the Milwaukee office Foley & Lardner. Meanwhile, Broydrick and Associates, which lists itself as a lobbying firm on its website, is affiliated with an organization hired by Boca Grande on several occasions for other purposes. This is according to requests for disbursements made to the city from the $8.6 million it earmarked for Boca’s downtown rehabilitation work. Since registering to lobby on behalf of Boca/Foley & Lardner, Broydrick & Associates has filed quarterly lobbying reports regularly, including for the first three quarters of 2011. Most of those reports have noted that Boca/Foley “spent less than $5,000� on its lobbying efforts, which meant it did not need to specify exactly how many dollars were spent if any. But twice — during the first quarter of 2009 and the fourth — it exceeded that figure. In the first quarter of 2009, Broydrick reported spending $10,000 to lobby the House, the Senate, and the departments of Commerce and Agriculture regarding “broadband, Capitol USDA, Commerce Department.� Then, in the final quarter of 2009 — during the same period Boca signed that developer’s agreement with the city of Ripon —Boca/Foley spent its most significant sum, $40,000, while lobbying the House and Senate. Subjects of interest listed were “broadband, USDA and Commerce.� The fourth quarter of 2009 also happens to be when Connelly signed the developer’s agreement with the city of Ripon. No quarters since have listed specific lobbying activity. connelly responds

After the Commonwealth obtained these reports, it asked Connelly to offer insight into what they mean in the context of Boca’s work in Ripon. Connelly declined. “Since I do not know what documents you have, and what they might include, I will not comment at all on any specifics of any lobbying efforts,� he said, further declining any additional questions by closing the letter, “I will have no further comment at this time, nor will I respond to any additional questions at this time from you or the Commonwealth.� He did state he continues to search for the necessary funding for completing work in downtown Ripon, as he agreed to in the developer’s agreement. “... Personally and with the assistance from talented professionals, I have pursued on a nearly daily basis for the past two years every potential source of available funding needed to complete all remaining Ripon projects at the earliest possible date,� he wrote. “We have, and continue to, aggressively pursue all federal and state government sources of revenue, and government-enhanced sources of project financing and support. “We have met with dozens of other development firms, other wealthy individuals, potential ‘sponsors’ for the Ripon Inn & Spa, historic preservation organizations and supporters, and numerous banks and other financing sources. I will not stop pursuing funding until I have secured all of the funds necessary to complete the renewal and rehabilitation of downtown Ripon in a manner agreed to between the city of Ripon and Boca Grande Capital.�

boca spoke with usda

Though Connelly did not address any particulars of lobbying efforts in his recent contact with the Commonwealth, he may have referred to them when he visited Ripon in September 2010 to speak to the Common Council. During that meeting, he explained that to receive financing for the balance of its projects, Boca is working at the federal level to receive additional financing. “The financing we need for the balance of our project we have applied for under a United States Department of Agriculture Guaranteed Loan Program,� Connelly said 15 months ago. “We have met with representatives, repeat-

edly with representatives, at the Department of Agriculture, and, in fact have a meeting in Washington, D.C. on the 23rd and 24th of September with the two top people in the USDA that run the loan program to go through some final questions they have.� At that time, Connelly said that loan program’s overseers were intrigued by Ripon’s involvement with wireless broadband. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is very fascinated by what is going on in Ripon, Wisconsin,� Connelly said, “and believe that this could very well be a prototype for the combination of wireless broadband and therefore contact with the entire world from Ripon, Wisconsin, would make available

continued from page 1

a great work-ethic workforce — talented, very bright, very capable people — and a conduct that a lot of business that is very expensive to conduct in Chicago and New York and places like that, to be conducted in a community like Ripon, Wisconsin.� Minutes released from a closedsession meeting of the Common Council on Oct. 12, 2010, also refer to financing and “the feasibility of 120 days receive monies from federal government (sic),� but listed no further details. lynn broydrick group

At about the time (late 2009) the most extensive lobbying was occurring in Washington, D.C., Boca submitted various reim-

sible letter to the editor. ‰ $48,000 for services rendered apparently between Oct. 15, 2009 and Jan. 15, 2010, which also largely fall during the fourth quarter of 2009. But, once again, the Lynn Broydrick Group accounts for all those dollars to go toward activities not related to lobbying. ‰ $25,000, this time for visiting various high-end spas around the country during summer 2010. Payments such as these, however, seem to be the only references listed in city documents to any organization affiliated with Broydrick & Associates — and no such entry refers to lobbying efforts.

bursement requests to the city of Ripon. Among them were tens of thousands of dollars that went to an affiliate of Broydrick & Associates: the Lynn Broydrick Group. These dollars, though, do not appear to be tied to the lobbying effort. At least three significant sums were paid from TID No. 11 to the Lynn Broydrick Group: ‰ $47,757.40 on Nov. 13, 2009. The invoice attached demonstrates those dollars being used to pay for a variety of professional services and expenses not related to lobbying. These ranged from meetings charged by the hour with Connelly to helping a downtown Ripon businessman draft a pos-

CONNELLY/Boca was reimbursed for many expenditures up in the face of adverse national economic policy, and numerous international crises, both economic and otherwise.� This is true, although Connelly’s organization, Boca Grande, in many instances was reimbursed for property acquisition, payment to vendors and other related costs, and his law firm earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees

for work it did in facilitating sales and completing the developer’s agreement. Reimbursing Boca for acquisition costs accounted for a large portion of the $8.6 million earmarked for Boca via the developer’s agreement. For instance, of that sum, $1.3 million was used as “closing funds� for the acquisition of the

JIM CONNELLY SPEAKS in September 2010 with the Common Tim Lyke photo Council.



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sites downtown. For the Ripon Inn & Spa site alone, Foley & Lardner received $194,000 in legal fees and $32,824 in out-of-pocket expenses. For another 15 properties, those figures are $139,523 in fees and $48,069 in out-of-pocket ex-

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American House, which Boca has said it may tear down as part of its plan to build the Ripon Inn & Spa. Boca also received $580,034.64 for “site acquisition and assembly costs� for 303-305 Watson St., now known as the headquarters for Boca Grande and Granite Broadband. Connelly, though, was not reimbursed for several of the other properties listed — including 401, 329 and 333 Watson Sts. — because they are not a part of the developer’s agreement. For instance, 401 Watson St. is the old Carnegie library building used by Ripon College for the president’s office, and 329-333 Watson St. is America Restaurant. Among the other properties Connelly refers to are Roadhouse Pizza (102-104 Watson St.) — which extensively used local contractors for design, engineering and construction work — and Dos Gringos (119 Watson St.). Meanwhile, Connelly’s law firm — the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner — was reimbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal fees and out-of-pocket expenses related to site identification, assemblage, acquisition and financing of acquisitions for the

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Thursday, January 26, 2012 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

Welcome New fire chief David Bathke was hired a few weeks ago, and as of next week he’ll be welcomed into the RAFD fold with a swearing-in ceremony and fire station open house. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 4 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Ripon, WI 54971

Mayor: Boca projects will be done Developer assured city it will live up to its obligations, Will said by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Despite continued inactivity at its properties in downtown Ripon, Boca Grande Capital LLC intends to finish its proj-

ects — and doesn’t plan to close America or Roadhouse restaurants. But projects could be scaled back from their original plans. That message came from Mayor Gary Will, who gave his

“state of the city” address Tuesday to Ripon Noon Kiwanis, just hours before the State of the Nation was delivered. While Will offered much good news about progress around most of Ripon, he closed his comments with an update on Boca, which is beholden to a developer’s agreement it signed with the city in 2010. He based his comments, stat-

Many hope to become next president of RC

ing “as much as I can say,” on his meeting with Boca representatives a day before. “Yesterday, we had a meeting at 3 o’clock with the attorneys and with Boca, letting us know what they plan,” Will said, focusing first on the Boca’s Ripon Restaurant Group choice to close two establishments. “There are a lot of rumors I’ve heard the last couple of weeks;

it’s unfortunate they did not let us know what was going on. “They did close two buildings and that’s all that’s happening right now. I did ask Jim Connelly [about the other two] — he sat 3 feet from me and he said they are not closing Roadhouse, they are not closing America.” Will explained Boca repre-

See BOCA/ page 17

Two scouts, one Eagle

by Jonathan Bailey

education. “It’s been interesting to sort through them and of course The search for the next leader we are always interested in the of Ripon College is about to candidates that don’t necessarily heat up. meet the higher ed part of it, beA committee created to find cause you nevthe predecessor to former presi- er know what dent David Joyce soon will they’re going dwindle down a list of 60 to 70 to bring to the applicants and start the inter- table,” Frederviewing process, with the hopes ick said. “So of tying up loose ends by the end they’re a little of March. more interestJoyce left his position as ing to look at president of the college Nov. 14 and try to figto take the same job at Brevard ure out if they Jane Frederick College in North Carolina. will be a good Board of Trustees member fit or not.” Jane Frederick, chairperson The goal of the committee of the search committee and a is to narrow the field to around 1974 graduate of Ripon College, 12 candidates to conduct first said the group is happy with the interviews with, which will take applicants and it will keep on place in the next month barring accepting applications until the scheduling conflicts. interview process begins. Candidates likely then will “It’s an international group, be brought to campus, although so that’s been kind of interest- details are not yet clear. ing,” she said of the pool of apFrederick, who was a part of plicants. “There are a few sitting the search nine years ago that presidents, a brought Joyce lot of provosts to Ripon, said a and deans, and What: Question-and-answer lot has changed some people session on president search since the early that aren’t in 2000s, when academe. It’s When: Friday, Feb. 3, 4 to 5 p.m. t h e p r o c e s s a very broad Who: All members of the public w a s o p e n t o pool. Where: Bear Auditorium in Farr the communi“ I t h i n k Hall of Science, Ripon College ty. That time, w e ’r e ve r y the candidates pleased with typically met the pool of applicants. When with students, faculty and gave you go online and look at the a presentation that was open to prospectus and what we were the public. looking for, we kind of lay that “In the nine years since we criteria out, they pretty much all did the last one, things have have some kind of managerial changed tremendously,” she background, a lot of fund-rais- said. “Most searches are now ing background, and if they’re in closed for private schools and higher education they have that even for the public ones, because background.” there is much more at stake for Also making the pool intrigu- the candidates. ing for the committee, which “So we’re not sure actually consists of trustees, students, how we’re going to do the onfaculty and community mem- campus presentations and that bers, is those applicants who See PRESIDENT/ page 18 don’t have experience in higher jonathanb@riponprinters.com

Food for thought How do you turn Legos into lunches? With a little creativity, effort and a willingness to go the extra mile. At least that’s how some volunteers did it at the food pantry. See page 4

Business

JASON FISCHER has been a member of Scott Street Puppeteers for 10 years, so when the Troop 735 Boy Scout received his Eagle Scout badge Sunday at Our Saviour’s UCC, fellow puppet masters were on hand to give him a Boy Scout puppet named — what else? — “Jason.” Above, puppet troupe director Cheri Lieske makes the presentation. Left, Jason beams after mom, Sandy, gives him a hug. Below, family and friends help celebrate his accomplishment.

3

The winners are ... So who got the (figurative) trophy at Saturday night’s big chamber awards dinner? A few faces you might know well. See page 13

Sports

by Ian Stepleton

Ripon’s gym hasn’t been terribly friendly to the Tiger girls this season. They changed that last week Friday night, much to the Truckers’ dismay. See page 19

Tim Lyke photos

Russell Manor board enters into land contract to purchase building ians@riponprinters.com

Finally!

Forty years ago, a group of Riponites convinced the city to help them establish a place where Ripon seniors could live their golden years affordably. Thus, Russell Manor was born Nov. 1, 1971, on a 10-acre tract once donated to the city to be part of Murray Park. But it was established with one caveat: when the 40-year Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program mortgage was paid off Nov. 1, 2011, ownership of the property would revert to the city of Ripon. The idea was that it would continue to operate after 2011 as a non-profit corporation under the guidance of the city of Ripon.

CITY ADMINISTRATOR LORI Rich and Russell Manor board member Ralph Quinney shake after siging the agreement last Jonathan Bailey photo week Thursday. Fast-forward to 2011, when the senior housing business. That could have meant a the Common Council was lessthan excited about getting into variety of possible futures for

Russell Manor, among the least appealing of which to its residents was to sell it to an outside company. “But the City Council was very agreeable to sell it back to the board of directors,” said Ralph Quinney, a member of the Russell Manor board of directors. That was the manor board’s hope — and it came true last week Thursday. Quinney, along with Mayor Gary Will and City Administrator Lori Rich, signed paperwork that transfers ownership back to the board of directors. Cost will be $1.3 million. It’s a 50-year land contract at a tiny interest rate — just 1.38 percent — where Russell Manor pays $3,000 a month to the city — the same amount Russell Manor Inc. paid during its previous 40-year

mortgage. According to Quinney, the land contract will be subject to renewal every 10 years. “With this agreement, Russell Manor Apartments will maintain the same rent levels provided operating costs remain the same,” Quinney said, noting the building offers 23 low-income units that are eligible for rent supplement. It’s an agreement that will continue under government contract, renewable every three years. Overall, Russell Manor offers 113 one-bedroom, independentliving apartments for Riponites age 62 and older. “The Russell Manor board was great to work with through the process,” Rich said. “We

See RUSSELL/ page 18


Thursday, January 26, 2012 - Page 17

News   

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MAYOR GARY WILL addresses members and guests of Ripon Noon Kiwanis during its Tuesday Ian Stepleton photo meeting at Ripon College.

BOCA/ continued from page 1 sentatives were positive about their intentions to move forward with planned projects as well. “Right now it is their full intent to complete all the projects,� he said. “It may not be what they said it would be [though] ... “As long as they [pay] the money they said and increment they created ... as long as they pay the difference, I’m OK with that.� Will emphasized the city and Boca continue to work together. “It’s still a partnership,� he said. “They are working on financing [now] ... We all hope it will work out.� Responding to a question from the audience, Will explained Boca also is willing to work with anyone interested in using its buildings. “Boca will work with anyone who wants to open a business,� Will said. “... Everything is on the table, and that is what he said yesterday.� Among the buildings in play is the former Dos Gringos, which is not part of the developer’s agreement Boca signed with the city in October 2010. “There is interest in that building right now today,� he said. “They’re just waiting for the right opportunity.� Will also assured Kiwanians that the city would do all it can to ensure it comes out of the development situation intact. “We will survive, no matter what happens,� he said. “I intend to be here and see this through. We will do whatever we can to make sure it is as minimal an impact [as possible].� Though the focus drifted to Boca during the “state of the city� talk, Will’s initial message pointed to the strong growth Ripon experienced in 2011. Among the positive signs from past 12 months he noted were: ‰ Three homes built ‰ The announcement of the site of a replacement hospital for Ripon Medical Center. “That will be a big boost over there,� Will said. ‰ The chance for the city’s business park to define itself now that the hospital’s site has been decided. ‰ Two new grain bins at the co-op ‰ A large addition at J.M. Smucker Co., as well as two sweetener silos ‰ A massive addition to Seneca Corp. on Douglas Street. ‰ An addition to MPB Builders ‰ Renovation and addition to Cliff’s Tire and Battery, which Will stated, “if not for [city TIF dollars] I don’t think they would have done that.� ‰ Progress in Sandmar Village, including both drainage problems that have been improved and new construction of two senior living buildings. ‰ And a host of other, smaller projects, only a handful of which he mentioned.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

Slip ’n slide Several accidents It was a rough week on the roads around the Ripon area. Several accidents involved numerous vehicles, both on snowy roads and dry pavement. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 5 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012

Ripon, WI 54971

Police make major heroin bust Five arrested after series of drug buys by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

In what Ripon Police are looking at as a major bust, five current and former Riponites have been arrested for their alleged roles in selling heroin. Taken into custody (though not yet charged unless otherwise noted) were: ‰ Sara A. Augustyn, 25, 204 1/2 Eureka St., with charges pending of manufacture/delivery of heroin and possession of con-

Sara Augustyn Curtis Johnson

Loren Kanneman Richard Newcomb

trolled substance within 1,000 feet of a park; ‰ Curtis A. Johnson, 28, 204 1/2 Eureka St., manufacture/ delivery of heroin and party to the crime of delivery of heroin (charges pending); ‰ Robert P. Olson, 28, 112 Stoney Ridge Road, two counts of manufacture/delivery of heroin (charges pending); ‰ Richard L. Newcomb, 28, 736 Newbury St., two counts of

manufacture/delivery of heroin (charges pending); ‰ Loren C. Kanneman, 30, 240 E. Fond du Lac St. No. 222, charged Tuesday two counts of manufacture/delivery of heroin. Each of these counts — whether charged yet or not — are felony-level charges, with the possible exception of the charge of possesion in or near a park. This could be charged

either as a misdemeanor or a felony. “I think this is a big deal,” Ripon Police Capt. Robert Olson B i l l Wa l l n e r said. “I know several of the parties involved in this were suppliers to Ripon and the community ... “We were going to be aggressive in stopping this activity. No doubt about that.” lenghty investigation

The five arrests follow nearly a year of investigation by the Ripon Police Department in conjunction with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investiga-

tion (DCI). “We had been seeing information about heroin use; it was a rising problem we were seeing and law enforcement was seeing all over,” Wallner said, noting evidence of heroin use had been popping up in Ripon. “We had some emergency calls where an ambulance was dispatched to possible heroin overdoses.” Such was the case last spring. “There was an incident that occurred in April of last year that started this investigation,” officer Trevor Hanke said, noting the incident was a “heroinrelated overdose.” This led to working with Ripon citizens to identify where

See HEROIN/ page 14

Boca Grande defaults on developer’s agreement City attorneys will recommend next step, though mayor says ‘the sky is not falling’ Jammin’ Jerry By day he’s the mildmannered interim president of Ripon College. But on Friday night? He showed off his guitar skills and rock vocals as part of Barbara Drive. See page 4

by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Boca Grande Capital LLC has defaulted on its developer’s agreement with the city of Ripon. It became official Tuesday at 4 p.m., when the downtown developer still hadn’t made a payment due to the city to reimburse the city for what its property taxes aren’t generating. Amount due: $123,168.65.

With the default, the city now will turn to its attorneys for direction. “It does now mean they are in default of the agreement and our attorneys will be having an ongoing discussion with them,” City Administrator Lori Rich said. This will include City Attorney Lud Wurtz as well as Bruce Block, who is with Milwaukee-based Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S. C. Block was hired in mid-Sep-

tember to offer an independent city’s attorneys “will discuss this evaluation of a developer’s agree- tomorrow [Wednesday] and we ment reached in October 2009 will see what recommendations with Boca Grande regarding its we take to the council.” A call and downtown rean email to vitalization proprincipal cess. ur attorneys will be Boca Jim Connelly Mayor Gary having an ongoing dis- late Tuesday Will, though, afternoon was e m p h a s i z e d cussion with [Boca Grande].” that “the sky City Administrator Lori Rich not returned as of press time. is not falling,” C o n n e l l y, and that this is however, did something the city will need to work through with call the city at about 4 p.m. “He was notifying us that he Boca Grande. Nevertheless, Will stated the wouldn’t be making payment due

“O

Education

to the attorneys working on an unresolved issue in the developer’s eyes,” Will said. “At this time I cannot get into the details, [but payment] depends on that unresolved issue.” Rich describes Boca’s default as “concerning — it is a deadline that has passed and a significant deadline, so it really will be in the hands of the attorneys.” “I wouldn’t categorize [this] as a major problem,” Will said. “I’d probably categorize it as an opportunity for the city to sit down with

See BOCA/ page 14

Ripon College honors RMC with Founders’ Day award by Aaron Becker

aaronb@riponprinters.com

F-U-N T-I-M-E How do you spell a play about the fun and craziness of trying to win a contest? Spelling Bee — and it’s coming to Ripon High School. See page 10

Sports

Nice to see you again! FRONT, FROM LEFT, Emily Edinger, Aaliyah Wilson and Grace Tobin, all 8, of Ripon, skate on the ice rink in downtown Ripon Jonathan Bailey photo Monday evening. It opened last week Saturday for the first time this winter, but is currently closed again.

Rink finally opens after repeated damage by students, nature by Jonathan Bailey jonathanb@riponprinters.com

Rolling After a tough start to the 2011-12 season, it looks like the Tiger girls’ basketball team has got its act together. As of Tuesday, they’ve won five of their last six. See page 17

After much anticipation — and some overeager visitors — the skating rink on the Village Green was finally open. The sign saying “closed” changed to “open” last week Saturday for the skating rink. The rink, however, closed again Tuesday due to warm weather. Hopes are it will open back up Friday for the weekend. For the 2010-11 winter season, the skating rink opened in midDecember. While Mother Nature has done no favors for the rink, it hasn’t been the only factor in the delayed opening. Howard Hansen, who along with his son, Casey, has donated his time to getting the rink ready, said there has been four times that the rink was close to opening before overeagerness set it back. The most recent time occurred last week Thursday, when individuals went out prematurely on both the skating and hockey rink and damaged the ice. The hockey rink, which didn’t open last week Saturday because

See RINK/ page 16

KYLIE SINA, 4, ice skates for the first time with Peggy Henslin, left, Jonathan Bailey photo and Brooke Schumacher Monday night.

A 75-year history. A respected connection to the community. A new partnership with Agnesian HealthCare. Plans for a new hospital on Ripon’s east side. These are among the reasons Ripon College chose Ripon Medical Center (RMC) to receive the college’s prestigious 2012 Founders’ Day award. The award is given annually to a person or organization in the community who exemplifies the ideals of the founders of Ripon College. RMC-Agnesian HealthCare was honored Tuesday morning during a celebration before a full house at Great Hall on the Ripon College campus. The college was marking its 161st birthday. In attendance were faculty, students, past award recipients and key members of the community, including Mayor Gary Will, City Administrator Lori Rich and Superintendent of Ripon Schools Richard Zimman. Ripon College interim vice president and dean of faculty Russel Blake praised RMC as “one of the most important and respected institutions in Ripon.” He also spoke highly of Agnesian HealthCare, saying, “We are very pleased that they are Ripon Medical Center’s new partner.” Blake noted the medical center — completed in 1936 — has undergone several additions and

See FOUNDER’S/ page 14


Page 14 - Thursday, February 2, 2012

News

BOCA/Payment represents reimbursement needed for five projects our legal counsel and discuss the legal ramifications of the timeline here and the payment not received, and what the next step with the developer is.” Why was this payment important? Because the city has bills coming due each year. “These funds will be used to help make the TID No. 11 debt service payments,” City Administrator Lori Rich said, referring to the tax increment finance district (TID) the city created in 2009 that funded the loans made to Boca Grande. “The developer is obligated to make these grant reimbursement payments under the terms of the development

agreement.” As a part of that agreement, the city took out more than $10 million in loans so it could provide Boca with $8.6 million for its development work. The city’s ability to pay for those loans, though, was tied directly to the amount of additional property taxes the city expected to collect from the properties involved. So, in the developer’s agreement the city and Boca signed, each project has an expected payback schedule. This schedule represents how much the city must bring in to pay for interestonly payments early on, and later

principal and interest payments on the loans. And, regardless whether a project moves forward or whether its value reaches projected levels, the developer’s agreement obligates Boca to cover these amounts. Of course, projects have not moved forward as expected, meaning this clause in the developer’s agreement has come into play, and Boca must make grant reimbursement payments. According to Rich, “The difference between grant reimbursement payments and property tax payments is that property tax payments are based on the actual assessed value of a property mul-

tiplied by the tax rate. “The grant reimbursement payments are repayments to the city of the grant money the developer received from the city, repaid at 4 percent over 25 years. A credit is applied to the grant reimbursement payment for the actual tax increment generated by the project.” Last year, for instance, Boca made a grant reimbursement payment of $53,092.95, representing dollars the city wouldn’t recoup via property taxes on two projects: B-2 (Roadhouse Pizza) and B-8 (Boca/ Granite Broadband offices). This year, the bill grew significantly to $123,168.65. Breakdown of the payment includes portions

continued from page 1

for: ‰ Project B-2 (Roadhouse Pizza): $48,843.87 ‰ Project B-8 (Boca/Granite Broadband): $37,967.63 ‰ Project B-4 (205-207 Watson St.): $13,571.64 ‰ Project B-5 (217 Watson St.) $13,728.49 ‰ Project B-7 (301 Watson St.) $9,057.02 Those figures are expected to grow next year, too, though the exact amount is not yet known. “The amounts due in 2013 will not be known until assessed values are turned in by the city’s assessor and a tax rate is set,” Rich said. For this year, at least, not re-

ceiving the funds will not hurt the city’s finances. “We had borrowed enough capitalized interest to cover that payment,” Rich said of the funds the city borrowed in 2009, when the loan was made to Boca. “We have enough interest borrowed to carry us through 2012. “Going forward, there has been increment created in the district, so we would need to look at [how this would impact the payments the city needs to make on its loans].” “We need to protect the city’s interests, for our businesses and our taxpayers,” Will said. “... We will survive, we will do everything we can to minimize the impact.”

HEROIN/Bust followed lengthy investigation by police, state

RIPON COLLEGE MUSIC instructor Seong Kyung Graham leads the choir and audience in singing the alma mater. Aaron Becker photo

FOUNDER’S/

continued from page 1

renovations through the years, but one thing remains constant: “The hospital has continued to play a vital role in the community,” he said. Accepting the award was Steve Little, chief operating officer of Agnesian HealthCare. A representative of RMC was unable to attend. “Two organizations coming together for the betterment of this community is very important to us,” Little said. “For you young people, if you have a desire to enter medicine, I assure you, there is no better time.” The 45-minute program concluded with the signing of the Ripon College alma mater.

T H E AWA R D re a d s , “ I n recognition of continued dedication to the ideals of the founders of Ripon College.” Aaron Becker photo

Past recipients 2011: Douglas A. and Lynn Post Northrop 2010: Todd and Betty Berens 2009: Samuel Holmes ‘57 2008: Laurie and Peter Kasuboski 2007: Joan Karsten 2006: Rob Webster

the heroin came from, he explained. “We generally need the cooperation of citizens to begin an investigation like this,” Hanke said. “Once we have cooperation ... we typically refer it to our local drug unit or DCI.” Residents in one Ripon neighborhood in particular helped point Ripon Police in their direction. “We have neighbors that were concerned about activity they were seeing in their neighborhood that directly related to this heroin,” Wallner said. DCI, meanwhile, took over the investigation, Hanke explained, adding, “We assisted with every aspect of it.” This led to a series of drug buys set up at Ripon residences, motel rooms and a park in the city of Berlin. “We have direct knowledge that these parties sold heroin,” Hanke said, noting that in at least several of these cases more than one purchase was made. “As a general rule ... we like to have more than one purchase or sale to show a pattern.” The heroin involved was not made locally, though. “To the best of our knowledge, the great majority of the heroin in our area comes from the Milwaukee/Chicago area, and then gets redistributed,”

continued from page 1

Hanke said. The investigation finally came to a head over the past 10 days. “The majority were arrested Monday and today,” Hanke said Tuesday. “Last week, we had people taken into custody [as well] on probation violations.” Wallner wouldn’t go as far as state the individuals taken into custody were working in concert with each other, though he said, “I know they are known associates of each other. If they were working hand-in-hand with each other, I’m not going to get into that.” Though these arrests have been made, Hanke described the investigation as “ongoing.” “We will be following up,” he said. a dangerous drug

The rise of heroin in the Ripon area had become a serious concern to Ripon officers recently. “The last few years, prescription drugs have become very popular,” Hanke said. “Prescription prices have gone up on the street, whereas heroin has generally gone down.” With heroin suddenly becoming the “inexpensive” high, more Ripon-area residents have turned to it instead.

“It’s unfortunately very prevalent,” Hanke said. “There is a fair amount of heroin in the city — more-so than I’ve ever seen.” Turning to heroin, he explained, can be a deadly choice. “Heroin, generally, people inject it to get a high,” Hanke said. “To achieve that same high [in subsequent uses], they need to increase the amount they need to inject.” When users start escalating their dosage, the situation becomes increasingly dangerous. “It’s dangerous because people mistake how much they are injecting, and it can result in a death,” Hanke said. “With marijuana, you become dumb, become slow. With cocaine, we don’t see the injectable form in Ripon [so it isn’t as dangerous as it could be]. “With heroin, because they are injecting it and don’t calculate the dosage correctly, they run into health-compromising problems.” Given how dangerous such drug activity can be, Wallner said he encourages residents to report anything they feel is out of the ordinary. “We encourage people to contact us,” he said, “about activities they are concerned about.”

2004: Ingalls Field volunteers 2002: Ripon Volunteer Fire Department 2001: First Congregational Church of Ripon 2000: Mary Brandt 1999: Ripon Police Department 1998: John Roesch 1997: Nancy Livingston

Caring is only one of our specialties.

1996: George Miller 1995: Teachers and administrators of Ripon School District 1994: Douglas and Audrey Lyke 1993: John M. Haupt

JERRY SEAMAN, LEFT, interim president of Ripon College, presents the Founders’ Day award to Steve Little, chief operating Aaron Becker photo officer of Agnesian HealthCare.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

President College gets closer During a community question-andanswer session last week, Ripon College announced it’s pared down its list of prospective presidents to just a handful. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 6 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

Single copy — $1 Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012

Ripon, WI 54971

Debt troubles mount for Boca Sales tax paid late at Roadhouse; city sent letter of default to developer by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

The city of Ripon isn’t the only governmental body to which a downtown developer has owed money recently. Boca Grande Capital LLC, which last week defaulted on a developer’s agreement with the city, was the subject of a pair of delinquent tax warrants for unpaid sales tax. The warrants — apparently involving Roadhouse Pizza — were filed Jan. 19 in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court in the name of Boca Grande Capital principal Jim Connelly. They since have been paid, which

the Department of Revenue has an “unresolved issue” that Mayor Gary Will described as being “in the confirmed. Though the sum paled in compari- developer’s eyes.” Despite Connelly’s assertion that son to how much Connelly still owes this issue led to the city — liens his nonpayment, of $3,907.61 and $3,103.01, verletter of default was Boca Grande’s on the sus more than sent out Wednesday. default d e v e l o p e r ’s $123,000 currently owed to We are just taking the next agreement it reached with the the city of Ripon chronological step.” city in October — it’s another Mayor Gary Will 2009 became ofexample of debts ficial last week that went unpaid Wednesday. to various levels of government. “A letter of default was sent out Connelly told city officials last week Tuesday that his failure to sup- Wednesday,” Mayor Gary Will said. ply the grant reimbursement payment “We are just taking the next chronoby the Jan. 31 deadline had to do with logical step.”

“A

Boca, meanwhile, also appears to continue to owe property taxes to Fond du Lac County for properties it owns in the city of Ripon as well. Though it is not yet known whether 2011 property taxes (due last week Tuesday) have been paid, unpaid sums for 2010 and prior come to $82,780.72 if paid this month, according to Fond du Lac County Treasurer Julie Hundertmark. “Keep in mind that we have not received the 2011 tax payment information from the city of Ripon yet so there may have been payments made on the 2011 taxes that the attached reports do not reflect,” she said. Tax information for 2011 is not yet available because Fond du Lac

County continues to compile that data from area municipalities, including the city of Ripon. The mounting number of debtors piles up against a backdrop of projects Boca promised to complete, but that continue to not be started in the city of Ripon. sales taxes were not paid

Hugh O’Halloran, attorney for Boca, explained Tuesday in a call to the Commonwealth the tax liens had been satisfied in full as of Jan. 25. This conflicted with what is stated online as recently as Tuesday, but O’Halloran said the online informa-

See BOCA/ page 18

Land sale critical to district buying new property What a story

by Aaron Becker

aaronb@riponprinters.com

Sure, Jacob Tucker is not a Ripon kid. But his improbable journey to become a Globetrotter definitely winds its way through Ripon, thanks to a certain local photographer. See page 4

3

Business DAVID BATHKE, LEFT, is sworn into office by Ripon Area Fire District president Joel Brockman Ian Stepleton photo during last week Thursday’s celebration at the fire station.

Welcome to Ripon, Fire Chief Bathke! by Ian Stepleton

Chinese? The Republican House restaurant is long gone, right? Not exactly. One night a week its old recipes come back to life at this local establishment. See page 12

Sports

ians@riponprinters.com

Two years ago, it seemed a dark cloud hung over the Ripon Area Fire District (RAFD) station. Its embattled fire chief was ousted, and cracks emerged within the department. How times have changed. Last week Thursday night, the department gathered with the community to celebrate a fresh start for the fire district under the watch of new fire chief David Bathke.

Bathke formally was sworn in that evening, with family and the department watching, all dressed in their best uniforms. Following the ceremony, everyone gathered for an open house complete with 148 pounds of wings and a cake. None, though, may have been as pleased to see the day come as RAFD President Joel Brockman. “I cannot say how much it means to me to have this day,” he said in his opening remarks

See CHIEF/ page 16

See LAND/ page 15

Historic building, long vacant, finally gets new life by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

DAVID BATHKE cuts the cake at the open house.

Brady’s champion Dick Rehbein hasn’t played at Ingalls Field in decades. For that matter, he passed away 10 years ago. So how did he made such a difference on the gridiron Sunday? See page 19

One of the two big hurdles in the effort to purchase 60 acres for a future Ripon school site will be reached Monday. That’s when electors (district residents of voting age) of the Ripon Area School District will gather and vote on whether the district should sell the 35 acres of future-use land it owns near Murray Park. Selling that land is a prerequisite For an editorial related to in the district’s current proposal to this story, see “Up-to-date buy a different 60 acres. For those who support buying the schools encourage growth,” 60-acre parcel along South Douglas page 4. Street, Monday’s vote is a chance to clear the way for an up-or-down referendum about that in April. But for those who don’t agree with buying the new 60 acres, Monday presents an opportunity to hinder or even kill the idea. That’s because each action — the sale of the current land and the purchase of the new land — is contingent upon the other. So, as it stands, if the vote Monday isn’t successful, it would throw a wrench into the quest to buy the 60 acres. “That would be one way of stopping it or delaying it — not approving the sale of the other land — because they’re contingent on each other,” district Business Manager Rick Ketter said. If that happens, the Ripon School Board would be compelled to discuss its options one week later at the regular board meeting Feb. 20. These options may include cancelling the April referendum, or possibly sched-

MANY ATTENDED LAST week Thursday’s open house and swearing-in ceremony at the Ripon Area Fire District station. Ian Stepleton photo

Free, to a good home: Large, well-loved building. A little long in the tooth. Once played the role of an underwear factory, but has been empty for some time now. Was the owner giving 200 Jackson St. away? No, not quite. But, given how long building owner Bob Benkoski tried to sell it, one wouldn’t have blamed him had he gotten close to that point. For years, he’d been saddled with a building his father bought, but that Benkoski and his siblings no longer wanted. And it sat ... and sat ... and sat ... for so long, even the foundation crumbled under the weight of waiting. But as of last week, 200 Jackson St. is going to a new owner: Larry Cluppert, who (with wife Audrey) owns Ridgewood Inn Motel. “I think I can do something with it — fix it and make it usable,” Cluppert said. The fact that the building did take so long to sell isn’t what makes its story interesting. So what does make this one so special?

It’s among Ripon’s oldest buildings, it’s located in a rather prominent location and includes an interesting history. “My dad bought it back in 1978,” Benkoski said of the twostory structure, explaining his father had intended to turn it into a 10-unit apartment building. That never happened, though he put a lot of time, effort and money into the structure. And when his father, Stan, passed away in 1994, guess whose problem the building became? That’s right. Stan’s kids. For some time now, Benkoski has been ready to say goodbye to the old building. And it is old — there’s no doubt about it. Historic, even. Benkoski believes the morethan-a-century-old building started its life as a church. “You can see a picture of it on page 8 or page 10 of the Ripon history book,” he said, noting the snapshot was taken in 1899. Since that time, the 40-by-80foot building has served a variety of functions, from underwear factory to co-op to warehouse. But for a number of years now,

See BUILDING/ page 17


Page 18 - Thursday, February 9, 2012

News

BOCA/Property taxes

appear unpaid, too continued from page 1

tion is out of date. “Those taxes were actually paid back in January,� he said. “I’m not sure why they are not showing up anywhere yet.� By today (Wednesday) morning, the state website indicated the liens were satisfied Tuesday. Halloran said he spoke earlier Tuesday with Nancy Davidson of the state Department of Revenue’s office in Appleton. He said she told him “the warrants are being satisfied. So there’s not an issue; it just has not been cleaned up yet.� Then, later Tuesday evening, the story developed further. O’Halloran called the Commonwealth after hours twice, first to explain Boca had spoken with the Department of Revenue and identified a site online that showed they had paid. The second call noted that Stephanie Marquis, the state Department of Revenue director of communications, would be calling sometime that night with confirmation Boca had paid. That call came well after closing for the Department of Revenue. At about 6:30 p.m., she called the Commonwealth to confirm payment had been made. “I have a written authorization from the taxpayer to confirm for you the tax warrants ... have been fully satisfied,� she said. “Today, I was contacted by the taxpayer saying that you were running a story that the tax warrants were not satisfied, and that they indeed had been. I confirmed information with staff, as well as received written confirmation from the taxpayer.� According to the state, payment came in Jan. 26. “There is a delay in us reporting the information to the court system to make sure the check clears the bank,� Marquis said. The fact Marquis even commented on the situation was highly unusual by her own standards. The Commonwealth had spoken with her Friday, at which time she’d explained confidentiality laws prevented her from commenting on specific cases. Instead, at that time she offered background on how to make sense of various aspects of the warrants and what it means to have delinquent tax warrants — per the department’s standard policy. “There are two ways [a person] could owe taxes,� she said Friday, noting liens would be issued either if tax returns were filed and necessary payments not made, or by failing to file returns at all. In this case, the liens indicate it is sales tax at issue; the address on the liens indicates the taxes owed are for Roadhouse Pizza. The fact that a lien was filed, Marquis noted, meant the state first tried to get the debtor — in this case, Connelly — to pay voluntarily, but had been unsuccessful. “We try to work with them,� Marquis said. “... If we are unsuccessful ... then we go into involuntary [collection].� She explained that “often [different methods of collection] happen simultaneously.� This can include garnishing wages, placing liens against assets and “looking at bank accounts,� Marquis said. “Legal action is one action we do take.� According to the two liens filed, the Department of Revenue had been trying to collect sales tax for two different periods since August and September of last year. Initially, only $2,700.06 and $3,449.42 were owed, respectively. But with interest and penalties, that figure grew to a sum exceeding $7,000. letter of default sent

The city, too, hopes to collect funds from Connelly and Boca Grande Capital. To encourage that to occur, the letter of default was sent immediately after Boca failed to make a grant reimbursement payment last week Tuesday. This payment aimed to reimburse the city for what property taxes on Boca’s various properties within the developer’s agreement aren’t generating. Those taxes are supposed to offset the city’s costs for taking out more than $10 million so that it could lend $8.6 million to Boca. And when property values don’t increase at the rate the developer’s agreement stated they would, the taxes don’t come in fast enough to pay the city’s bills. Thus,

the grant reimbursement payment offsets the difference. But, Boca did not pay it last week, leading to the letter of default — and to city attorneys contacting Boca’s attorney. “Attorney Bruce Block is in contact with Hugh O’Halloran,� Will said, adding City Attorney Lud Wurtz is working on this, too. “The next step is when we hear back from the attorneys, or hear back from Boca Grande ... “They chose not to pay [their bill]. We’ve got to protect ourselves.�

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Thursday, April 26, 2012 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

Fun at fair Children’s Fair Kids from around Ripon paused Saturday to enjoy fun and games as the annual Noon Kiwanis Children’s Fair returned to Barlow Park Elementary School. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 16 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

20 Wisc 11 on Week sin News ly Single copy — $1 pa Thursday, April 26, 2012 of th per e Year

Worst case? City still short $2M Unlikely scenario occurs only with no development for 25 years, other factors by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

When the Ripon Common Council took the first steps toward mitigating problems caused by the lack of downtown development a month ago, it did so hoping no Ripon resident ever will be on the hook for development promises unfulfilled. But Monday night, the council discovered that, in a potential worst-case scenario, residents still could be responsible for almost $2 million in tax revenue not generated to cover the costs of loans taken out. Yet, as Mayor Gary Will pointed out, this only would oc-

cur if an unlikely series of events were to happen. “Hopefully, we never get there,” he said, describing this projection as being “very conservative” — possibly so conservative it is unlikely to ever come to fruition. ‘A CASH-FLOW PROBLEM’

News of the potential shortfall came as bond counsel Phil Cosson of Ehlers and Associates, Brookfield, updated the council on the financial projections related to a safety net the council aims to create. This safety net is supposed to protect residents financially in case Boca Grande Capital LLC

Once upon a time, the land Ripon acquired off the northeast corner of Douglas and East Fond du Lac street was to be a “business” park, with a focus on commercial and light industry — and a future Ripon Medical Center. That focus has changed. Ripon Medical Center will be built on Ripon’s southeast side, and now Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp. (FCEDC) is suggesting a new vision for the park: industry and some commercial.

See WORST/ page 16

See LAND/ page 16

by Jonathan Bailey

Business

by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Eww ... that’s cool!

jonathanb@riponprinters.com

“Tuba” Dan Jerabek always has been passionate about playing his brass instrument. He’d love to pass that passion on to kids, too. See page 4

Industry may be future of city land off Douglas/EFdL

does not follow through with completing the renovation and reconstruction it promised in a 2009 developer’s agreement. Theoretically, this plan would cover any revenue shortfalls that occur because many downtown developments Boca proposed have not yet occurred. It was for these developments the city took out more than $10 million in loans so it could offer loans and grants to Boca to do downtown rehabilitation. But work has stalled, meaning property tax dollars that were supposed to be generated by improved properties are not

Break-ins offer good reminder to lock up Passion to play

Ripon, WI 54971

Several Ripon residents experienced a rude realization when opening their car doors recently: they’d been burglarized. More than a dozen car thefts have been reported in the last week, with the stolen property being pocket change and wallets, according to Ripon Police Chief Dave Lukoski. And all of them could have been prevented. How? By locking doors and not leaving valuables/money in the vehicle. In all cases, the burglarized vehicle was left unlocked. “The biggest thing is to not leave any valuables in a motor vehicle,” Lukoski said. “If that must be done, we would encourage them to lock the valuables in the trunk, and lock their car, obviously. “We would prefer that all valuables be removed from the vehicle and taken inside, especially with the number of thefts going on. They wouldn’t be successful if there weren’t things of value in the target vehicles.” Lukoski added the police force has been paying more attention for suspicious activity, but it’s very difficult to catch. “Unfortunately, if someone wants to get into a vehicle, they’re going to be able to do it fairly easily with the chances of being detected very small,” he said. “There’s a lot of cars parked out[side] and all they have to do is wait for a squad car to go by and they probably will have all the time they need to do that.”

See LOCK/ page 18

Call me Ripon’s Verizon store changed hands last fall, and last week everyone — a talking cell phone included — celebrated with a grand opening. See page 13

Sports

Sen. Olsen: Most bills supported by both parties by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

Madison may not be as divided as the capital city might appear. That was one message state Sen. Luther Ols en, R-Ripon, offered as he spoke at Tuesday

Whew! It was the game that wouldn’t end. Fortunately, the Red Hawks came out on top after the secondlongest contest in D-III history. See page 19

LUTHER OLSEN speaks with Noon Kiwanians Tuesday at Ian Stepleton photo lunch.

Ripon Noon Kiwanis’ weekly meeting. His proof? It’s in the numbers. “ We p a s s e d s o m e w h e r e around 300 bills this session, which is a lot. And we saw one of the most contentious sessions,” Olsen said. “We looked at how many bills had bipartisan support [at least one Democrat voting in favor of the bill]. Want to guess what percentage had bipartisan support?” Kiwanians guessed 50, 60, 86 percent. “Ninety-six percent,” Olsen said. Of course, as he explained, this isn’t known because “most of the stuff [we did] was pretty boring.” Legislators got a lot done this year, but don’t expect to see these senators and assembly members, who are out of session now, to do much if anything else between now and the recall election June 5. The state Senate is down a member, and is divided 16-16, he said. “It’s going to be entertaining to see what happens with the recall election; it’s going to determine what will happen in Madison,” Olsen said. And that turnover at the Capi-

See OLSEN/ page 17

ABOVE, ERIC Wipijewski, 8, Ripon, seems to be deciding whether the goo he’s playing with is great or gross. The goo was one of many activities available at Saturday’s Ripon Noon Kiwanis Children’s Fair, which included face-painting, such as at right, where MaKenna Terbeest, 5, Waupun, sits still as face-painter Betty Trent puts a rainbow design on her forehead. For additional photos, turn to page 3 or check out a photo gallery at www. RiponPress.com. Ian Stepleton photos

Lyke named School Board president by Aaron Becker

aaronb@riponprinters.com

A new leader has surfaced on the Ripon Area School Board. Only, he’s not new. Andy Lyke was elected board president by his peers Monday as the board held its annual organizational meeting after the spring election. The veteran School Board member served as president for two full years — 2006-07 and 2007-08 — and was re-elected to the board April 3. Monday’s decision was not

unanimous, however, as the board chose Lyke over fellow nominee David Olson with a 5-3 secret-ballot decision. Lyke is taking over for David Scott, who has served as board president the past two years. Board bylaws state a member may not hold the same role for more than two consecutive years. Also Monday, the board welcomed new members Dan Zimmerman and Heather Frommherz-Hartling. The board is seeking candidates to fill a one-year vacancy

caused by Dale Wszalek’s recent resignation. Wszalek has moved out of the district. That term expires in April 2013, at which time an election would fill a new three-year term. Board bylaws require a majority vote for appointing a candidate to fill a vacancy. For more information on this story, see this week’s Education section. Meanwhile, the School Board also discussed but took no action on possible re-financing of two

See PRESIDENT/ page 18


Page 16 - Thursday, April 26, 2012

News

WORST/Value of downtown development could drop by half next year LAND/FCEDC president will fill in for decontinued from page 1

coming in at the expected levels. Those tax dollars were supposed to be used to repay the loans taken out by the city. “It’s been well documented that development has stalled and created a cash-flow problem,” Cosson said Monday. Nevertheless, the city has been collecting some increased tax dollars from projects that have occurred, both by Boca and others. The Department of Revenue had estimated about $10.6 million in value had been added to downtown since 2010. VALUE ADDED MAY DROP

Cosson told the council Monday night that he expects that number to drop drastically — meaning the city’s anticipated tax revenue going forward would shrink as well. “I speculate they overstated the value,” he said of the Department of Revenue. “I fear, when valuations come out next year, it will come out with a greatly [reduced figure] ... There probably will be a correction next year.” In fact, when Cosson did his projections for revenue created downtown, one such scenario shows the value added dropping to just $5.3 million — half its current amount. According to Cosson’s projection, this makes a big impact on the city’s ability to repay the loans taken out for the downtown development within Tax Increment Finance District (TID) No. 11 — even with the city’s move to share revenue from other TIDs in Ripon. “That’s the worst-case scenario,” Will said. “Hopefully we never get there.” The city already shares revenue from TIDs No. 5 (Alliance Laundry) and No. 6 (Ripon’s west side). It is in the process of setting up a revenue sharing process with TIDs No. 1 (the original downtown TID) and No. No. 4 (the industrial park). Despite all that excess revenue being used to prop up TID

No. 11, Cosson’s most conserva- new buildings, no additions, no tive estimates placed it in jeop- renovations, no improvements ardy of not repaying its loans if whatsoever — occur in TID No. property values are diminished. 11 by anyone, Boca or otherwise “You can see [a drop in prop‰ No such improvements ocerty values] has a pretty dra- cur in any of the other districts matic effect on this cash flow,” that would share revenue, either he said. “You can see it goes ‰ The Department of Revfrom a positive cash flow ... to enue cuts value added to downfalling short over the life of the town fully in half. district.” “That’s very, very, very conFigures s e r v a t i v e ,” show, starting Mayor Gary in 2019, an anWill said af fear, when valuations ter the council nual revenue shortfall withcome out next year, it meeting. in the district Reason for t h a t w o u l d will come out with a greatly the ultra-conc o n t i n u e reduced [figure].” servative prothrough 2032. jections was to Bond counsel Phil Cosson Cumulatively, show the absoit shows a final lute worst that shortfall of $1.89 million over could happen, rather than aiming the life of the district. for an arbitrary point that may This is assuming that the or may not occur. other municipalities allow rev“We don’t want to project and enue to be shared from both show anything other than what TIDs 1 and 4, which hasn’t been we know right now,” Will said. approved yet by a Joint Review This is in stark contrast to Board, made up of representa- TID projections that were oftives from the city of Ripon, fered when the district was set the Ripon Area School District, up, which showed a comparaMoraine Park Technical Col- tively rosy scenario in which lege, the county and one person property values increased sevat large. eral percent annually and a great “What is Plan B if our joint deal of development occurred review board doesn’t decide to both by Boca and other parties. move forward [with the sharWill explained these things ing]?” Ald. Rollie Peabody still could happen, but that he asked. didn’t want to count on them. “Plan B would be to ... really “We all understand there will ramp up the development side,” be growth in TID 11, TID 1, TID Cosson said. 4, TID 5 and TID 6, whether it’s remodelling a current [building] SCENARIO UNLIKELY TO OCCUR or adding a new [one],” he said. Development is what is not “Just plug in one project in that included in the worst-case sce- worth $6 million [a Ripon Inn & nario estimate. In fact, that Spa] — that changes the whole estimate may have been so con- picture.” servative it is unlikely to ever Will added he remains hopecome true. ful Boca will move forward with Factors assumed in this worst- projects, too. case scenario include: “We are told things are hap‰ Property values only in- pening and will be worked on,” crease half a percent a year he said. “We will be meeting through 2037 with [Boca principal Jim] Con‰ Boca Grande does not take nelly in the beginning of May, on any additional projects and hopefully he will have some ‰ In fact, it assumes no information for us.” development — meaning no

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parted liaison to city of Ripon FCEDC suggested redirecting the focus of marketing the land during Monday’s Common Council meeting. In what was FCEDC President Steve Jenkins’ first visit to the council, he unveiled what his organization believes would be Ripon’s best use for the land. “There’s been a lot of discussion of what types of use should go there,” he said. “Our recommendation to you is ... this become a pure industrial park. “The reason is ... the potential to move the park into areas that have pure rail access. Rail access is becoming increasingly useful to large industrial users. Whether they will use rail access immediately or not, they want the option.” Under this assumption, FCEDC recommended offering the park in a series of parcels of about 3 acres, as well as a series of 1-acre lots along what “we call ... ‘Contractors Alley,’” said Owen Rock, FCEDC business specialist. The recommendations came as FCEDC also forwarded a series of covenants for the ex-

continued from page 1 you that flexibility that, if there is that nice project that comes along [but] that doesn’t meet your covenants but you really want it in the industrial park, you can do it.” JENKINS WILL HELP CITY OUT

Steve Jenkins panded industrial park that have been worked on by the city’s Plan Commission. While the covenants make such requirements as where to put stone on the facade of buildings constructed in the park, they aren’t intended to be completely binding. Rock explained the covenants include a clause that proposed buildings may be considered on a “case-by-case basis ... to give

While FCEDC was visiting, the Common Council also addressed the recent departure of Melissa Hunt from FCEDC. The city had a contract with FCEDC to have Hunt act as a community development specialist for Ripon. Now that Hunt has moved on, Jenkins pledged to take over her duties until a replacement is hired. “We can commit to continuing those services as specified in [our] agreement,” he said, noting he will do everything from attend city meetings to meet with local businesses. He added Rock will assist in this role in the interim as well. Jenkins, though, was hopeful FCEDC would have someone hired within the next 30 to 60 days, though he said “it’s hard to find really qualified people.”

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Thursday, June 21, 2012 - Page 1

Ripon Commonwealth Press www.RiponPress.com

INSIDE

Pertussis Cough is on rise The Fond du Lac County Health Department is warning residents of an increase in cases of pertussis around the area this spring. See page 3

Our Views

Issue No. 24 Serving the Ripon community since 1864

20 Wisc 11 on Week sin News ly Single copy — $1 pa Thursday, June 21, 2012 of th per e Year

Ripon, WI 54971

Boca: Building coming, but plans pared Improving markets signal first sign of progress for downtown developer by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

“We believe we have made more progress toward commencement of [our] projects in the last 90 days than we had, due to continually catastrophic capital market conditions, in the preceding 20 months.” This was a preface to news offered Monday by Jim Connelly, principal with Boca Grande Capital (BGC)/Ripon Renew (RR). For the first time in a long time, Boca officials appear optimistic that work could begin on its longawaited rehabilitation initiative for downtown Ripon. In a three-page press release and accompanying cover letter, Connelly renewed his commitment to move toward construction on a series of projects in Ripon’s downtown.

To read the full press release and cover letter released by Boca Grande, visit www.RiponPress.com. Mayor Gary Will seemed optimistic progress is forthcoming in a press release he issued Monday. “... I do believe we are closer to seeing some progress with downtown development than a year ago,” he wrote. “The developer still seems very motivated and is currently working with other investors and developers, none of which we are privy to until ... they have everything lined up for a specific project and/or projects ...” Connelly admits, though, these projects will not be the same as those the city of Ripon agreed to when it entered into a developer’s agreement with Connelly and Boca Grande in fall 2009.

So, what is being proposed now? Boca Grande Capital LLC released news Monday that it plans to move forward with some, but not all, of its previously announced projects. So, how are things changing? For details on these changes, see page 15.

2009 plans:

2012 plans: Ripon Hotel

Ripon Inn & Spa

?

The Midwest Center for Wellness, Nutrition and Longevity

National Republican President’s Museum

No apparent changes to plans

‰ Six other downtown projects

? ?

Two projects not yet named

See BOCA/ page 15

Should holidays be axed from Ripon schools? Ghost hunters It’s not Halloween yet, but some Riponarea guys already are checking out the best haunts — real haunts, they’d say — they can find. See page 4

Business

District considering removing such celebrations to prevent some students from feeling excluded in class by Tim Lyke timl@riponprinters.com

Although it was several decades ago, Jeanne Williams still recalls the Halloween that wasn’t. During one October as a little girl, Williams didn’t wear a Halloween costume at school. Her family couldn’t afford it. So while classmates became ghosts and witches for the traditional dress-up party at school, her parents took her home.

Williams had a fun afternoon with her family, but when she returned to school the next day, fellow students greeted her with raised eyebrows. “They ridiculed me for not being at the party,” she said. Now a professor of educational studies and assistant dean of faculty for accreditation at Ripon College, Williams appeared before the Ripon School Board Monday evening to argue against holiday celebrations in Ripon’s

public schools. Joining her was another Ripon resident and education professor, Marguerite Parks, associate dean/associate professor for the College of Education and Human Services at UW-Oshkosh. Williams and Parks cited two reasons to discontinue traditions Superintendent Richard Zimman identified such as Halloween costume parades between class-

See HOLIDAYS/ page 15

Committee will examine charter school enrollment by Aaron Becker aaronb@riponprinters.com

The goal is to have separate schools with equal results. But when it comes to Quest charter school for grades 3 to 5, some say those students have an advantage over students on the traditional track at Murray Park Elementary. And the Ripon Area School District wants to find out more, and possibly rectify this.

Amid concerns about disparities between the two schools, the Ripon School Board is forming a committee to study enrollment practices across all the district’s charter schools. That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part: finding an enrollment method that won’t leave some students on a charter waiting list, feeling like they’re stuck on the wrong side.

See CHARTER/ back page

Coffees of world Want to try a true Ethiopian coffee? Wish you could taste a full Kona cup of joe? No need to buy plane tickets; these unique coffees are coming to Ripon. See page 14

Sports

WERE IT NOT for the buildings, this photo might look more like an image taken of downtown Ripon’s square in the 1930s.

Badger Boys warmly Model A’s descend on downtown welcome Gov. Walker

Downtown Ripon looked like it may have some 80 years ago Friday as about 30 “Lady A’s” parked their Model As in the central business district. The drivers of the vintage Fords visited Ripon for lunch before returning to the Model A Restorer’s Club’s annual convention in Oshkosh.

About 360 vehicles gathered at the EAA grounds, displaying their

cars, which replaced the Model T when built between 1928 and 1931.

THE DRIVER OF a convertible parallel parks on the median strip across from City Hall

Tim Lyke photos

by Aaron Becker aaronb@riponprinters.com

The long run She hadn’t run much this past semester, due to school and sickness. Then she ran 75 miles across Spain for one memorable experience. See page 16

GOV. SCOTT WALKER addresses the 2012 Badger Boys State attendees last week Thursday at Ripon College. Aaron Becker photo

RIPON MAIN STREET manager Craig Tebon gives directions to a Model A cruiser Friday at lunch time.

When Gov. Scott Walker visited Badger Boys State for the secondstraight year last week, something was missing from last year’s event: Protestors, anti-Walker signs and loud chants ... They were nowhere to be found. Instead, the governor’s visit felt more like a victory lap as, nine days after his recall-election win, he toured the Ripon College campus and was greeted by a positive audience. He shook hands, posed for pictures and signed autographs with hundreds of young men from around the state during the height of the weeklong summit on government and patriotism. Outside the Ripon College commons, where the governor ate dinner after arriving via helicopter, Badger Boys emerging from the building told of an enormous line inside the building — boys waiting to greet the governor. Walking down the sidewalk, some boys were on their cell phones, telling relatives they had just met Walker. Some were holding autographs. “There’s a huge line. He’s just meeting everybody,” one boy reported. Green Lake resident Beau Sandleback was spotted. He said he didn’t meet the governor — the line was too long. Finally, the governor emerged from the commons with his wife, Tonette, and walked over to one of the college dorms, where he chatted informally with a group of Badger Boys, then posed for a group picture.

See WALKER/ back page


Thursday, June 21, 2012 - Page 15

News BOCA/Operating losses subsidized by Boca during lean years Based on Connelly’s release, it appears four of the downtown rehabilitation projects will be trimmed from its plans when Boca breaks ground next spring. Meanwhile, timetables and other details for construction of several projects remain unknown. Such details, per Connelly’s release, will be worked out “when negotiations are finalized with the appropriate partner investors.” As such, Connelly announced his intention to amend the developer’s agreement to bring this altered vision for the projects in line with the city’s expectations. Regardless of such changes, Connelly stated his organization is committed to finishing what it started in Ripon. “RR and BGC each remains highly committed and motivated to complete fully the ‘Ripon Renew’ vision outlined in the development agreement (as it may subsequently be modified by mutual agreement of the city of Ripon and RR/BGC representatives),” Connelly wrote. “We appreciate the directness and candor we have received from Ripon’s mayor and City Council leadership, and have sought to return such parity by working closely and cooperatively with them to complete the vision we all share for the future of Ripon. We will not rest until that full vision becomes reality.” Connelly’s announcement comes virtually five years to the day from when Riponites first became aware of Boca Grande — June 21, 2007 — via a Commonwealth story. It also comes just days before the developer’s agreement dictated a final set of deadlines for Boca’s rehabilitation projects were set to elapse: July 1. FINANCES

The agreement was reached in 2009, when the city agreed to lend up to $8.6 million to Boca toward its projects from tax increment finance district (TID) No. 11. Thus far, about $7 million has been released by the city. The district was to be repaid by increased property taxes generated by development. With those dollars already spent, Boca is turning elsewhere for additional funds to pay for its remaining projects. But who will be investing in that work, and when the projects will come to fruition, remains unknown. Connelly repeatedly notes in the press release that these details will be given to city officials as they become

continued from page 1

New proposal trims four projects from plans by Ian Stepleton ians@riponprinters.com

So what is Boca Grande Capital LLC proposing now, and how does this differ from what was previously proposed? Here’s a breakdown of the four distinct projects Boca mentioned in this week’s press release, and how this differs from the developer’s agreement it reached with the city of Ripon in 2009: RIPON HOTEL

Until now, the signature piece of the downtown rehabilitation projects by Boca Grande was to create a “Ripon Inn & Spa.” According to Boca principal Jim Connelly’s press release, it appears those concepts have been separated, and it’s not clear if each will continue to be developed at the locations originally intended: the old Mapes Hotel for the hotel, and the old American House for the spa. Connelly also stated he would not offer any additional information at this time regarding these projects, other than what was published in the press release. Regardless, Connelly explained his group has “narrowed potential hotel development partners to three highly qualified and capable hotel developer/operators, each with substantial capital resources and with continuous records of success in the construction and operation of hotels throughout the Midwest. “The parties have discussed and negotiated appropriate legal structures, the location, design and amenities to be provided in the 54room hotel complex, and the provision of all financial capital needed to complete the development.”

available — and stated neither he nor his organization would offer any further comment on these projects at this time. He also explained plenty of dollars have been spent to keep Boca afloat over the past few years. “Since 2007, Boca Grande Capital, LLC and Ripon Renew, Inc. have invested more than $7.5 million of their collective financial resources in capital investment and heavily subsidized operating losses for the buildings and businesses they have

This appears to match what was proposed in the developer’s agreement with the city, where Boca promises “48 to 56 suite-type rooms.” What isn’t mentioned, though, is whether this will include closing Blossom Street to accommodate a pedestrian mall to link the hotel and the spa. Given these now are being listed as separate projects, it is possible the pedestrian mall idea has been abandoned. It’s also not clear whether the final project will be as grand as once envisioned — in the 2009 developer’s agreement, the hotel is compared to “the American Club in Kohler and the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.” In his cover letter regarding the projects, Connelly refers to finishing these efforts “as ... fully as current, somewhat improving capital market conditions permit.” THE MIDWEST CENTER FOR WELLNESS, NUTRITION AND LONGEVITY

While the spa previously was to be attached to the hotel via pedestrian mall, it’s now being positioned as being “adjacent” to the Ripon Hotel without specific mention of where. In its original iteration, the developer’s agreement describes it as “full service, patterned on a Canyon Ranch/Sandhara model.” The current proposal describes it in much greater detail. “[The Center] will be a destination facility dedicated to delivering (and educating others to deliver) wellness, nutrition, and longevity principles and benefits to individuals from throughout the Midwest of all ages and physical conditions,” per Connelly’s press release. “[My or-

acquired, renovated and operate in downtown Ripon,” Connelly said via a press release, going on to explain that this “... clearly evidenced the dedication of these organizations and their leaders to the fulfillment of the vision for a revitalized and vibrant downtown.” Regarding the $7.5 million, Connelly, however, did not state whether the “collective financial resources” included the tax dollars lent by the city from its TID. But Connelly promised the fi-

ganizations] have been aggressively engaged in the pursuit of dedicated and appropriate partners in each of the following health industry niches: healthcare system, health insurance company, nutrition product development and marketing company, and wellness programs and education development and implementation entity.” As many as two possible matches have been made in each category. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS MUSEUM AND FREE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

While Connelly has described anecdotally how he envisioned this project at times in the past, Monday’s proposal was the first time the Presidents Museum has been outlined. In fact, the developer’s agreement simply states a summary of the project would “be provided to the city prior to the effective date.” But in Monday’s press release, Connelly offered much more detail on the concept. “It is anticipated that the National Republican Presidents Museum will memorialize and chronicle, through the use of highly interactive technology and integrated source documents and video from throughout the United States, the history and remarkable contributions of our country’s 19 Republican presidents,” it states. “In addition, the Free Enterprise Institute will recount, through various written and video resources, the impact and role that the principles of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise have had in the development of the most successful country and most innovative economy ever created in the history of mankind. “The Presidents Museum and Free Enterprise Conference Center

nancial aspects of the projects will be accounted for, largely through additional investors. For instance, at the hotel proposed, Connelly explains, “[Boca and] three highly qualified and capable hotel developer/operators, each with substantial capital resources ... have discussed and negotiated ... the provision of all financial capital needed to complete the development.” The former spa, which now is being marketed as “The Midwest

will be designed and marketed as a ‘must see’ experience for every high school, college and/or graduate student, and every teacher, business executive, potential entrepreneur and/or Republican Party member living anywhere in the United States.” ALL OTHER PROJECTS

Beyond the hotel, spa and museum, eight other projects were proposed in 2009. Two have been completed. That leaves six projects downtown that are on the drawing board, all with due dates that have either passed or about to pass July 1: ‰ July 1 — 123 Watson St./ Suds on the Square building: Was to be “McGuire’s Irish Brew Pub.” ‰ 310-312 Watson St.: “Norman’s Restaurant” was to go in this space, as were apartments. ‰231-233 Watson St.: Planned to be retail and apartments. ‰205-207-209 Watson St./former Benkoski building: Planned to be retail and apartments. ‰ 217 Watson St./Imagineers building: Planned to be retail and apartments. ‰ 301 Watson St./former Senior Center: Described as the “corporate offices” of Boca Grande Capital. But, according to Connelly’s press release, only two such projects will be done, without mention of which ones or what will happen to the remaining proposals or buildings. “... Leadership ... is in detailed discussions and negotiations with potential users and capital sources for two significant Watson Street Projects, with the goal of initiating construction no later than Spring, 2013.”

Center for Wellness, Nutrition and Longevity,” also will have outside investors providing capital. “As with the hotel, when negotiations are finalized with the appropriate partner investors, the details of the design, operation and financing of the Center will be shared and discussed with city of Ripon representatives ...” Connelly wrote. Meanwhile, for the presidents museum, Connelly wrote, “Following presentations and discussions with the leadership of the National

Republican Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several major national corporations, and a carefully selected and highly prioritized list of major national Republican Party individual donors, an aggressive campaign was recently launched to raise the funds needed to construct and endow the National Republican Presidents Museum and the Free Enterprise Institute Conference Center.” Again, with the “additional downtown projects,” Boca points to outside investment, noting the “aggressively and diligently pursued all private and public sources of capital for the additional downtown Ripon renovation and is in detailed discussions and negotiations with potential users and capital sources for two significant Watson Street Projects.” TIMING

Though Connelly is unspecific about funding those two Watson Street projects, he’s direct about when they will start: spring 2013. Other timelines remain in flux. For the proposed hotel, for instance, Connelly explained, “When these negotiations are finalized in coming weeks, the RR/partner hotel proposal will be presented to and discussed in detail with representatives of the city of Ripon, and mutually agreeable modifications to the agreement governing final hotel development and its accompanying timeline will be agreed to between RR and the city.” Regarding the Midwest Center, Connelly wrote, “It is anticipated that the center will be constructed and opened on a timetable that overlaps with that for the construction and opening of the hotel.” Language regarding the museum is equally ambiguous. “As progress is made toward finalizing the details of these projects, specific proposed designs and timetables will be shared with city representatives ...” Connelly wrote. Though details of the projects are not yet clear, Ripon’s mayor remained positive about the news of possible progress. “Your city administrator and mayor will do whatever we can to help move the city forward,” Will said, “with the City Council and legal counsel in regard to this project or any other projects.” Connelly, too, remains positive. “We are deeply and seriously committed to carrying out the ‘Ripon Renew’ plans as promptly and fully as current, somewhat improving capital market conditions permit.”

HOLIDAYS/Committee will study how district should handle holidays in school rooms, Christmas-themed concerts and Thanksgiving feasts. First, they’re exclusionary, Williams said. “We should be making schools as welcoming as possible.” “[The notion of public schools] is about including all students,” Parks said. “Put a Christmas tree in a school and you are excluding someone.” They noted holiday celebrations exclude those whose personal beliefs or faiths don’t recognize such traditions, or who can’t afford to participate. Second, Williams said, celebrations in school mean less time for academics. “Holidays [celebrated in school] are a distraction.” She added she is committed to assuring schools devote time to learning, not parties. While a study of how world religions have differing Christmas traditions is a legitimate use of school time, Williams said, actually celebrating one tradition over another is not. School Board member Sherry Muskavitch questioned the notion of restricting the majority of students to protect a minority. Do you make a rule to fit the exception? she asked. The notion of “majority rules” applies in laws that are drafted to protect minorities, Williams said. Muskavitch recalled how, as a child, she and her classmates looked forward to reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” every school morning. But then, because of an objection, the ritual abruptly ended. “We couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. The guiding principle for the schools should not be adhering

Parents protested absence of Halloween in 2000 by Tim Lyke timl@riponprinters.com

The last time the issue flared up of how Ripon schools should celebrate holidays in classrooms was 12 years ago. Barlow Park Elementary School staff decided in 2000 to hold a fall festival rather than Halloween parties. The festival included creating scarecrows, making waxed leaves, doing other seasonal craft projects and munching treats. “We try to celebrate the seasons,” Principal Myra MislesKrhin said back then. “As we look at a more global population, we need to be more sensitive to what is important to everybody, not just the majority.” Some parents displayed their disappointment with the school’s decision by renting a message board across the street from the school that read: Honk! 2X If you want our kids to wear costumes at Barlow Park School Parent Amy Benton noted in a Commonwealth news story that as a child she wore Halloween costumes at public and parochial schools, while learning about self-expression, socialization and sharing. No one was harmed, she added. “They’re taking away the magic of being a child. Let’s face it, they’re only little for a short time and they’re big for a long, long time. So let’s let them have a little magic.” Parent Julie Thom wrote in a Commonwealth letter to the editor that she appreciated the school’s decision: “We have common Christian beliefs and have evaluated Halloween practices as inconsistent to those beliefs. Like many other families, we have decided to no longer celebrate it. Instead, we celebrate autumn and harvest time.” to the will of the majority, Williams said. “It’s that we protect one another.” Denying a holiday tradition to students “is not protecting those

who want to do it,” School Board member Dan Zimmerman said. Traditions that may be celebrated outside of school need not be celebrated in school,

School Board member David Scott said, noting that obstacles for children in the minority need to be recognized. He added that some children grow up “with the wind in their face,” dealing with economic hardships or difficulties brought on because of their gender, race, income or another factor that puts them outside the mainstream. Zimmerman countered that diversity is enhanced when children are exposed to other cultures “in a controlled, educational setting.” But when an educational experience becomes celebratory, Williams said, the privilege of one practitioner is favored over that of another. “Schools are about the education of all students and certain holidays, by their nature, exclude students from valuable instructional minutes,” Parks said. “When a child stays home who cannot participate because they do not have a costume nice enough, or cannot sing particular songs, or cannot spend an entire day listening to Christmas music and decorating a ‘holiday tree,’ these student have been purposefully excluded. Purposeful exclusion of students goes against the very nature of public education. I always say, ‘Teach my child math. Just teach them math.’” School Board member David Olson asked whether classes still celebrated children’s birthdays. Murray Park/Quest Principal Randy Hatlen said he’s seen enough children wearing paper crowns to suggest that is the case. That being true, Muskavitch said, there’s nothing wrong with singling out one student’s special day over another.

“Not everything has to be fair,” she said, noting that in competitive sports, not every child has to be given a trophy. “This is not how the real world works.” “It may be if we keep doing it,” Scott said, referring to societal winners and losers. Zimmerman and Olson made a motion and second, respectively, to leave the district’s holiday policy as is. Zimman, who earlier had said there is no board policy concerning holiday practices in school, said Zimmerman’s motion could not be considered as the holiday issue was not listed on the board’s agenda as an action item. Zimmerman suggested the board receive a legal opinion from its attorney to protect it against possible challenges from outside freedom-from-religion groups such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Board member Gary Rodman questioned whether the district doesn’t already have a policy concerning holiday observances in school. He cited Ripon Area School District Bylaws and Policies No. 8800, drafted to assure the district complies with constitutional and legal safeguards.

continued from page 1 The board didn’t discuss the policy. It states that materials or rituals that may be associated with religion must serve the district’s educational mission, be secular, not advance or inhibit religion, and avoid “excessive entanglements” between school and religion. “This guideline,” the policy states, “applies to any and all activities and programs at all levels, particularly those that take place at traditional seasons such as Christmas and Easter.” After a 45-minute discussion, the board created an ad-hoc committee to further consider the matter and report back to the board. Its members include board members Zimmerman, Olson, Rodman and Heather Hartling.

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