Upon further review

Former UW football coach Bret Bielema may have moved on long ago for the supposedly greener pastures of Arkansas, but his unsold house in the Town of Dunn is still making local headlines.

Prompted by a neighbor’s complaint about a low assessment earlier this year, the town’s board of review re-set the house’s value last Tuesday, a move that will raise the taxes for the coach who left Madison amongst some controversy in December 2012.

Town of Dunn clerk Cathy Hasslinger said the initial assessment of $809,000 did not include more than 2,000 square feet of finished space on the lower level. Town assessor Dean Peters recommended the assessment be adjusted to $1,338,000, and the board of review voted unanimously to take his advice. 


Fundraising reaches halfway mark

A month ago, the Village Board approved turning the historic pump house in downtown Oregon into a welcome center. Now the project organizer says he’s passed the halfway point in his fundraising goal.

Oregon resident Randy Glysch told the Observer this week that the Friends of the Oregon Water Tower fund now totals $22,280. He began soliciting donations to restore the 1899 pump house and landscape the grounds last June.

Along with raising money for the project, Glysch, a scientist working for the state and also a master gardener, has managed to secure donations of materials and labor.

He said Moyer’s Landscape Services completed the edging on the property July 1. 


State reps, senators vie for local votes in partisan primary

Perhaps you’ve heard there’s a gubernatorial seat up for grabs in about four months.

While that statewide race will draw many of the headlines leading up to the November election, local seats for the state assembly and senate are also being contested. 

Voters will be able to cast ballots Aug. 12 during the partisan primary election to see who will be on the final ballot come November.

Oregon area voters will be able to cast votes for Assembly District 43 and Senate District 15.

Half of the Village of Oregon lies in A.D. 43, along with the towns of Dunkirk and Rutland. Republicans Herschel Brodkey and Leon L. Hebert are vying for a spot on the November ballot against democrat incumbent Andy Jorgensen.


Rooted in a Cause

Photos by Samantha Christian. Stan Gefke, an 89-year-old WWII veteran, stands on his property along Schneider Drive in the Town of Dunn on Saturday to watch a dozen volunteers clean up the trees that were damaged from the June 29 tornado.

Stan Gefke sat in awe on a bench outside of his front door Saturday, but it wasn’t because of the destruction the EF1 tornado left in his yard the night of June 29. 

He was grateful to witness about a dozen expert volunteers joining together to tackle a cumbersome project with ease.

An arborist network had showed up that morning at his home perched on a hill on Schneider Drive to help remove the numerous oak, cherry and box elder trees on his Town of Dunn property that fell or were damaged during the storm.

“I was home (and) just had gone to bed … I heard it storm, and then I turned on the television in my bedroom in the morning and they said Schneider Drive had been hit by a tornado,” Gefke said. “I thought, I better get up and see where that is. I (came) down and open(ed) up my garage door and I couldn’t get out – a big oak tree was lying right across.”


County committee backs town’s veto of radio tower

A Tomah company’s years-long quest to erect a 486-foot radio tower in Rutland hit another roadblock last week.

Backing a June 12 vote by Town of Rutland officials, members of the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation committee last Tuesday voted unanimously not to rezone a 15.5-acre parcel near Old Stage Road, where Magnum Communications wants to build the tower to service Stoughton’s first FM station.

Before the vote, an attorney for Magnum said the town and county were ignoring a 2013 change in state law that prohibits municipalities from rejecting broadcast towers unless they would harm public health and safety.


County voters to weigh in on wages

Should Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

That’s a question Dane County voters will get to decide on in November after the Dane County Board of Supervisors last week approved adding it to the fall ballot. The resolution reads, in part,  “We cannot expect Dane County, Wisconsin, or the nation to thrive and recover from the current economic downturn if people working full time jobs do not earn enough money to survive—to feed and house themselves, let alone their children and families.”

Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said the county is joining “dozens of other communities” across the state in an effort to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour.

According to the resolution text, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would now be nearly $11 per hour.


Tornado damages Triple K Stables

Photos by Mark Ignatowski. The storm caused tree damage, right, but Dane County Emergency Management only received two or three other damage complaints.

Keith Kramer was lying in bed when a tornado rolled through the Town of Dunn Sunday night.

“When I heard the roof of the barn land on my house I kind of figured something was wrong,” Kramer said Monday.

He and his wife went downstairs as he called 9-1-1 to let them know his house and land, which includes Triple K Stables at 4721 Schneider Drive, had been hit. He also took a quick look out the window and saw a car sitting on the road, “sitting under a bunch of live power lines.”

Although the confirmed EF1 tornado did plenty of tree damage and tore up parts of his barn, Kramer was focused on what was not damaged.

“No biggie,” he said. “Nobody got hurt, none of the horses got hurt.”

Dane County Emergency Management public information officer J. McLellan said the agency only received “two or three” other damage reports in the area beyond Triple K Stables from Sunday’s storm.


Charges filed against roofer

After complaints from customers in three counties, including Dane, the state has charged Daniel Steiner, owner of Midwest Roofing, with theft by contractor for alleged incidents in 2011.

In a press release issued this week, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the complaints allege Steiner contracted with homeowners in 2011 to repair hail damage to their roofs.  After the homeowners paid the defendant, the defendant stopped returning their calls and did not repair their roofs, according to the complaints.

According to the Dane County criminal complaint, Steiner charged homeowners in Madison and Middleton for work on their roofs that was never completed. Steiner told investigators he filed for bankruptcy. He is facing two felony charges of theft by contractor.


Police chief defends handling of sports club

Village of Oregon police chief Doug Pettit is defending his handling of the Union Sports Club, as well as his reputation.

In an interview last Friday with the Observer, Pettit said he found some parts of a report in last week’s edition “kind of disturbing, and to some degree challenging my reputation and my ethics.”

Last week, the Village Board unanimously voted to deny a liquor license to the Union Sports Club, which has operated in the village since 2004 and has held a liquor license since 2006.

As part of the discussion, village attorney Matt Dregne presented the board with a list of violations of the village’s liquor policies and other laws at the club, all under Pettit’s tenure as chief.

Pettit had vigorously defended the club and its management in the past despite its violations, the scope of which surprised some board members.


County Executive reaches deal with employees

Dane County has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with its largest employees union for 2016. The county board is set to vote on the matter at its Thursday meeting.

According to a press release from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, the agreement will include a focus on workplace diversity, a modest wage increase for workers and will help control the county’s long-term health insurance premium costs.

“Dane County’s employees work hard to deliver critical services to our residents every day – from keeping our communities safe to taking care of the most vulnerable among us,”  he said. “We are proud to partner with them once again and provide an example of how collective bargaining works in Dane County.”