Redistricting meeting Aug. 14

The Dane County Board of Supervisors will hear from two election experts at a hearing during the Executive Committee this Thursday, Aug. 14, at 5 p.m., and citizens are encouraged to attend and weigh in.

Following the testimony of the two experts, County Supervisors will have the opportunity to ask questions, and a public testimony period will allow citizens to voice their opinions on the topic.

“People need to have confidence that their vote counts just as much as the vote cast by someone across the street or across the county,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan in a news release. “The way we draw our voting maps has to be open, fair and transparent, and we need to think carefully about the process by which we do that. We need to hear what these experts have to say, ask them tough questions, and then heed their advice.”


Water issue could involve obscure drainage district

The problem of flooding caused by stormwater runoff can be difficult – and expensive – to resolve.

One avenue for property owners to consider when their land is subject to such flooding is to petition the Dane County Drainage Board. But that option applies only when the affected property is located within an established drainage district.

There are two such districts within the Village of Oregon – the Badfish Drainage District, formed in 1908, and the Badfish First Addition, which was established in 1917.

The Badfish Drainage District is the larger of the two, encompassing an area that’s roughly bordered on the north by Rutland-Dunn Townline Road, on the south by Hwy. 138, on the east by Flint Road, and on the west by the village’s center.


Polls open Aug. 12 for partisan primary

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.

The biggest statewide race this fall will be for governor. Incumbent Scott Walker will face a challenge from one of two Democrats facing off in the August primary. Mary Burke and Brett Hulsey will be on the August ballot.

Racine Democrat John Lehman and Madisonian Mary Jo Walters will vie for a spot to challenge incumbent lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Three Democrats are vying to run this fall for the state attorney general: Susan V. Happ of Jefferson, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Jon Richards of Milwaukee.

Julian Bradley of La Crosse will face Gary Beis of Sister Bay in the primary for secretary of state.

There will be a Democratic and Republican primary for state treasurer.

Dane County races


Board prepares for eastward expansion

The Village Board Monday decided to have the Department of Transportation include a utility casing in its engineering and construction plans for the reconstruction of Hwy. 14.

The project isn’t scheduled to happen until 2018 at the earliest.

DOT officials met with the Village Board in April to discuss its plans for the highway and said they would need an answer in August if the village wants to install the casing, or what’s also called a “water sleeve.”

The sleeve would extend east from the village under the highway to an area considered for development and be able to contain public water and other utilities.

Village President Steve Staton said Monday the village would eventually expand east of Hwy. 14. He said installing the utility casing while the DOT is rebuilding the highway “saves (the village) a whole lot of money” as opposed to doing it later.

The cost to install the sleeve is estimated at $100,000 and would be a village expense.


Still Seeking a Fix

File photos. Oregon residents had to break out the sandbags to deal with the 2007 floods that inundated the village. Most of the problems were alleviated by the installation of a new culvert, but some residents still have excess water.

Village officials have not stopped looking for a solution to flooding on the village’s far west side that some property owners first complained about in 2007.

But progress is slow.

In an attempt to find some answers, the Village Board last February directed village administrator Mike Gracz and his staff to work with the parties involved, particularly Legend at Bergamont owners Fiduciary Real Estate Development, Lathers Road property owner Phil Peterson and village residents Mike Brant and Joshua Sebranek, who own a home at 347 Riviera St.

Brant and Sebranek complained in 2007 about a swale constructed along the back of their property that had flooded and inundated their backyard with more than two feet of water and earlier had flooded their home’s basement. Their building contractor made changes to their basement, and since 2008 it’s no longer taking in water.


Board unhappy with rail corridor work

Village officials are not happy with the way Wisconsin and Southern Railroad clears brush and small trees from its rail corridor in the village.

Businessman Jerry Thiel brought the matter to the village’s attention several weeks ago. He complained about the mess left behind after Wisconsin and Southern cleared its tracks earlier this summer.

Thiel was most upset about the effect the practice has on wildlife – particularly nesting songbirds.

Village President Steve Staton and Trustee Jeff Boudreau shared his concern.

At its last meeting, the Village Board discussed the issue, and Staton promised to raise it with Wisconsin and Southern’s public relations manager, Ken Lucht.

On Monday, Staton said he spoke with Lucht, who was “cordial” but said the company had received a grant to clear the tracks and it had to be done.


‘This is a fantastic department’

Photos by Scott Girard. Sgt. Dave Elsner and Officer Lee Bohlman talk in the records room of the Oregon Police Department. Interim police chief Dale Burke – the director of law enforcement services, technically – says the morale in the department has not been affected by recent events.

Dale Burke began serving as Oregon’s interim police chief in June. He’s filling in while longtime chief Doug Pettit is on indefinite medical leave – and while one or more department personnel are being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Burke retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department in 2010, after more than 31 years as an administrator. His contract with the village is open-ended, and he’s being paid $1,846 per week during the time he works for the village.


‘Amend’ referendum on November ballot

The Village Board decided unanimously Monday to place a referendum on the November election ballot that if passed would direct state and federal representatives to work for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The board adopted a proposal from Move to Amend, a state and nationwide effort to reverse the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United v. FEC.

A referendum will be on the November ballot asking if voters agree that corporations and unions should not have the same rights as individual citizens, and that spending money is not a form of speech and therefore is not subject to protections guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution regarding political speech.

In its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court overturned decades of precedents and decided the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions.


Legal battle brewing over CARPC budget request

County officials have called out the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) and initiated legal action after the commission recently voted for a significant increase in its 2015 budget that county officials say is against the law.

CARPC, which serves as the regional planning and water quality management planning entity for the county, voted 8-3 for just over $1.3 million in funding for 2015 at its July 10 meeting, a significant increase of around $600,000 from this year’s budget. CARPC is governed by a policy board with 13 appointed commissioners.

In response, the Dane County Board, responsible for funding the commission, last week unanimously approved a resolution deeming the budget request “unreasonable,” laying out the grounds for a legal challenge to what amounts to a 76 percent increase.

County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said the board is in “no position” to add another $600,000 in taxes.


Bike trail construction delayed

Map courtesy Village of Oregon. The start of construction has been slightly delayed, but village officials expect work on the trail will start within the next few weeks.

Village officials had hoped to begin construction on the first phase of the Oregon to Badger State Trail bike path in June, but those plans are on hold while the village waits for the county.

On Monday, public works director Mark Below said the village is still awaiting Dane County’s approval for the stormwater management aspect of the construction plan.

“Hopefully that’ll get done this week, and we can begin next week,” Below told the Observer.

Village President Steve Staton introduced the idea of building the 3.1-mile recreation trail about four years ago. At the time, village administrator Mike Gracz predicted that building the trail would be more challenging and take longer than building a new road.

Time has proved him correct.

The total trail cost is estimated at $819,000.

The first segment of the trail would extend 1.8 miles from the Alpine Business Park west toward Fish Hatchery Road and would cost $409,000.