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Inside the Beaver's Dam

The Dam Insider is keeping an eye out for you, tracking the elected leaders of Beaver Dam, Dodge County, Wisconsin and beyond. Email your thoughts or tips. Emails may be published unless otherwise requested. Requests will be honored.

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Location: Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

County Supervisors asleep at the switch

Only a handful of Dodge County Supervisors got it right earlier this month when two union contracts were approved on votes of 27 to 4. According to an article in the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, only Supervisors Eugene Wurtz, Jeff Schmitt, Joe Ready and Paul Marose opposed the deals that included 3% wage hikes for 2005 and 2006.

Board Chairman Russell Kottke who is overmatched in his role as "executive" budget author, applauded the contract settlements. But, Supervisor Wurtz got it right when he said, "I cannot agree to a 3% increase across-the-board and still maintain the step increases. When all is said and done, we're looking at a 4.5 to 6 percent increase. And I can't swallow that."

You see, even if the county's employees had agreed to a 0% pay raise, many of them would still have been eligible for "step increases" when they moved up the pay scale according to tenure or changing job titles.

The devastating impact these and other similar labor deals will have on the county can't be stressed enough. Kottke's 2006 budget proposal includes a reduced tax rate, and a flat level of taxation in terms of the levy. But when you include the need to pay for a 3% wage increase in both 2005 and 2006, plus the step increases that Wurtz sagely pointed to, the county needs to find a whole lot of cash, and fast. So where is that coming from? Much of it comes from the county's reserve fund, or to you and me, the savings account. Imagine living on a household budget where every time you go to the grocery store you write a check from your savings account. We all know that's not a wise way to spend.

Kottke says it's okay, because he "hardly touched any principal." He says the more than $3M transferred from the reserve fund was mostly interest earnings. It leaves the fund with about $15M. What he doesn't speak to is what will happen next year when the county has to fork over money for the 3% raise, and additional funds for whatever is settled for 2007? Very quickly, Kottke will have to dig deeper and deeper into that reserve fund depleting the county's savings.

Not only does this leave the county in an unenviable position if emergency spending is needed, but more importantly, a reduced reserve fund will reduce the county's bond rating, making its debt more expensive.

Kottke and most of the board is running the county into the ground.

The county will struggle to continue maintaining roads, staffing departments like the Sheriff, and keeping Clearview Nursing Home afloat.

The answer is to hold the line against labor unions, especially in the face of spending limits imposed (wisely) by the state, not to approve contracts that include unreal wage hikes.

Supervisor Schmitt states, "The reality is, when it does catch up to us, and it probably will, you'll be stuck with the higher wage guy." That's because when employees need to be canned because the county can't afford to pay their salaries and benefits, the unions will layoff from the bottom-up, leaving the county with a relative handful making 30 year veteran wages.

It's not how I choose to run my household, and come election time in April, you should consider how you choose to run yours, and if your Supervisor shares that idea.

Blame for rising costs in Beaver Dam Schools shared by union and YOU!

Next Tuesday voters in the Beaver Dam School District will be asked to allow the district to exceed the state's revenue limit by $7,955,000 during the next five years, and $2,735,000 EVERY YEAR thereafter.

The "citizen's group" 4 R Kids Future is promoting the effort with direct mailers, a phone poll, and yard signs, among other things. One of the group's co-chairs is School Board Member Mark Killingsworth. It's unknown to The Dam Insider if other members of the school board are members of this group, but the board did VOTE UNANIMOUSLY earlier this year in support of the referendum.
District voters opposed to the referendum must keep that in mind April 6th, 2006, when three seats on the Beaver Dam School Board are up for re-election.
incumbents Paul Uttech and Kathryn Pals' terms are up, and they must be replaced by fiscally responsible candidates. A third seat, once occupied by Joe Militello Jr, will also be filled.

The Dam Insider has concerns however. Will fiscally responsible candidates step forward? Earlier this year Paula Sabatke opposed the three incumbents and lost. In 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001 there was no opposition. If the residents in the Beaver Dam School District demand better management of their schools, but refuse to step to the plate and oppose the incumbents, who should take the blame when taxes continue to rise?

Say "no" to the unions AND the school board, then step up and get involved in changing the system!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nepotism at City Hall?

When the Beaver Dam Elks Lodge holds its next meeting, it might as well be at city hall. A number of the city's Alderman and some if its employees are members of the Lodge. Now, insiders believe, the candidate for the vacant Director of Public Works position was recommended largely because both he and the chairmen of the Board of Public Works are members. It's a move non Elks members, including the Mayor, are upset about.

The night Elk's Lodge member Terry Capelle and his Board made the recommendation to hire Tom Stebbins for the position, Mayor Jack Hankes introduced his Executive Budget to the Finance Committee. Included in that document was a proposal to combine the Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation Department and the Engineering Department into one entity called "Facilities." It would be supervised by a "Director of Facilities" eliminating two management positions, including the one Stebbins applied for.

Now, some believe the Mayor introduced this in an effort to block the nepotistic hiring of Stebbins. It's possible. Aldermen who are close to the mayor on the Personnel Committee, the entity that would have to endorse Stebbins before he could be hired, were aware of Stebbins and Capelle's relationship prior to the endorsement, and weren't pleased about it. Plus, it's not beyond the Mayor to support sweeping changes in an effort eliminate a problem staring the city in the face. Take, for instance, last year's restructuring of the city's Inspection Services department...A move that cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, and was made largely in an effort to eliminate the department's secretary (a woman, by the way, who had to go, but was being unduly protected by her union contract).

The Mayor's recent proposal is a good one (eliminating government overhead by streamlining departments), but it may have come too late to make a difference in next year's budget. Even conservative Aldermen say they aren't comfortable making sweeping changes this late in the year. Last year they hastily privatized Inspection Services and it cost them dearly...They don't want to make the same mistake again. But, will the Council have the constitution to continue pushing for structural change even after the 2006 budget is written? Recent history would indicate it won't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sheriff's Department Corporal Accused

Dodge County Sheriff's Department Patrol Corporal Paul Nell was the subject of sexual harassment accusations this summer by a recently hired female employee . According to county records, the supposed victim alleged the harassment took place while Nell was conducting training. A conduct hearing ensued, and according to Sheriff Todd Nehls, it concluded no harassment took place. Nell retained the legal services of high-power Milwaukee attorney Gerald Boyle's office, including work by former Green Bay Packer Mark Chmura.

Hickory Hills update

It turns out Gary DiVall's relationship to Beaver Dam Commons, L.L.C. may be one of a consultant. Monday night DiVall told the Beaver Dam Common Council he is a consultant to Richard Meier. As explained in an earlier post, DiVall has a checkered past that includes a felony conviction. DiVall's relationship with Meier has not been confirmed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Development's leader has checkered past

One of the men behind a planned 124-unit "senior living" housing development in Beaver Dam was convicted of securities fraud in the 1990's. According to state Circuit Court records, Gary DiVall, 65, of Madison, was convicted in 1996 of securities fraud and sentenced to 8 years in state prison and ordered to pay nearly $4M in restitution and court fees.

DiVall was also charged as a habitual criminal in 1997 and later convicted on a felony charge of passing worthless checks.

Now DiVall and his partner in Beaver Dam Commons, L.L.C. are proposing to build 124 housing units and a 24-unit apartment complex that includes office space, on nearly 40 acres of land in southeast Beaver Dam. The land was annexed this spring. It's located south of Connley Publishing's corporate headquarters and west of US Hwy 151. The development will be called Hickory Hills.

Mayor Jack Hankes, City Attorney Mary Ann Schact, and at least one Alderman are aware of DiVall's felonious past, but have declined to speak about it in a public forum.

Monday night, the Beaver Dam Common Council (Word document) is scheduled to read a rezoning ordinance for the property. Later in October, the Council will vote on the rezoning petition and on a developer's agreement with the Corporation that lays out plans for the project.

The elderly and soon-to-be-retired in the community should consider these developments with their eye's wide open.