TIF law could help Dunn

A new state law could help the Town of Dunn with new development projects.

Gov. Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 338 earlier this month, which allows large, urbanized towns to create tax increment financing (TIF) districts as a way to encourage development.

TIF is a development tool in which tax increments above a certain base value are placed in a special fund and used to pay for improvements inside the TIF district.  

Cities and villages have been able to create TIF districts for many years for revitalizing blighted areas, attracting lucrative industries and more recently to mix developments in ways that might not be possible otherwise. But critics say it’s too often used for projects that don’t need the help.

The law requires the town to have a population of at least 3,500 people and equalized values of at least $500 million. The Town of Dunn meets both criteria, but town officials said they have no specific plans to use TIF in the near future.


Local couple buying another historic building

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Jerry and Bonnie Thiel have a May 30 closing scheduled for the property at 101 S. Main St., the home of two businesses, DeBroux’s Diner and Academy of Sound.

The couple that bought and renovated the two buildings that are now Mason’s on Main restaurant and bar on South Main Street confirmed Tuesday that they have an accepted offer to buy another historic building on the same block in downtown Oregon.

Jerry and Bonnie Thiel have a May 30 closing scheduled for the property at 101 S. Main St., the home of two businesses, DeBroux’s Diner and Academy of Sound.

Jerry Thiel told the Observer buying the building “is just a long-term investment” and he doesn’t foresee any significant change of use for it.

“We’re hoping that Greg (DeBroux, owner of the diner) is going to elect to stay with us and that the downtown only gets better, and that he can prosper along there with everybody else,” Thiel said. “I think there’s enough business to go around for everybody. We’re buying the building hopefully to enhance his business going forward.”


After defeat, Harms looks back on board accomplishments

After getting nudged off the Village Board by a mere 26 votes, four-term incumbent trustee Phil Harms wasn’t sure what to attribute his disappointing loss to.

Maybe something as simple as the ballot position.

Voters in last week’s election for village trustees awarded two first-time candidates seats on the Village Board, with Doug Brethauer (979 votes) and Jeff Boudreau (919 votes) finishing well behind incumbent Jerry Bollig (1,127).

Harms finished with 893 votes, and he suggested it might have been because he was listed at the bottom of a four-person ballot in a race where the top three vote-getters win a seat.

“When you find yourself listed fourth on the ballot in a three-horse race, that’s a bad place to start going into an election,” Harms said. “It’s somewhat of an uphill struggle from the beginning.”  

Harms, a private construction contractor, said serving on the board for almost eight years was an eye-opening experience.


Commission forwards shooting range plan

Max Creek Outdoors is on its way to having a firing range for customers to test guns before purchasing them.

The Village of Oregon Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the plan last week.

Owner Steve D’Orazio is seeking to build a 3,600-square-foot addition onto the back of the building on Park Street. The store would have six shooting lanes – not five, as was erroneously printed in last week’s Observer. There would also be space for a tactical shooting area where targets could be set up throughout the room.

The entire shooting area would be built of concrete block and encased in half-inch-thick plate steel, D’Orazio told the commission. D’Orazio also brought in samples of thick rubber padding that would line the interior walls and ceiling to reduce noise and stop bullets.


Local man’s death prompts state law changes

Dorie Heenan says her family is “still suffering” nearly a year-and-a-half after her 30-year-old son, Paulie Heenan, was gunned down by a Madison police officer.

But last week, the Town of Oregon resident felt a small measure of comfort when the state senate passed a bill that would prevent police departments from investigating themselves when people die in their custody.

“It’s an affirmation for us that this was not right and that it needs to be looked at a little differently,” Dorie Heenan said. “It is a gift for other families and for Paul. He certainly would have approved that this was the right thing to do for others.”

The bill passed the senate last Tuesday and was previously approved by the state Assembly in February. Gov. Scott Walker has not indicated whether he will sign it into law, but assuming he does, Dorie Heenan says she and her husband, John, will be there to witness it.


OSD election results: All about teachers

It was a rare occurrence – six candidates for three spots on the Oregon School Board – but it was certainly no coincidence.

The comfortable victories of challengers Charles Uphoff, Gwen Maitzen and Barb Feeney in unseating three incumbents was a clear message from district residents that the board needs to focus on its treatment of teachers.

Uphoff, who served on the board previously, said he had no intentions to ever run again until he saw how the school board handled the “Just Cause” language in the employee handbook. He was particularly dismayed by language included in an initial draft that listed as grounds for termination of employees, “anything that is not wholly frivolous or inconsequential.”

“I thought, ‘That is sending a terrible message to the district’s employees, many of whom have given decades of dedicated service,’” he said.


Oregon joins OWI patrol task force

If you venture out on a Friday night next month and see police from all over the county, don’t think it’s a manhunt.

On May 9, more than a dozen police agencies from as far away as Sun Prairie and Maple Bluff will join the Oregon Police Department in a high-visibility patrol, complete with signs and frequent traffic stops.

If all goes well, it could become a regular get-together as part of a 2-year-old regional task force aimed at curbing drunken driving.

Officers from several area suburbs, as well as the City of Madison, Wisconsin State Patrol, Capitol Police and University of Wisconsin will be authorized to stop vehicles and make arrests if necessary. But those leading the task force would prefer to see no arrests at all.

That’s because the purpose of the Capital Area OWI Task Force is awareness and prevention, not punishment.


Pettit, other officials get raises

The Village Board last month approved small salary increases for village employees and a larger increase for police chief Doug Pettit.

Village administrator Mike Gracz noted to the Observer he had included $12,000 in the village’s 2014 budget to increase pay for 20 non-represented employees. The goal was to bring salaries up to the mid-range of what’s being paid in comparable communities.

Pettit, the state’s longest-tenured chief of police with more than 29 years leading the Oregon Police Department, asked the board for a raise and received a little more than a $4,000 annual salary increase to $96,512, which put him about $6,000 short of the middle for police chiefs in Dane County but “slightly over the mid-point” for chiefs in comparable communities.

The board approved Pettit’s salary hike on a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Phil Harms casting the only vote against the raise.


Brooklyn's Depot Days postponed to ’15

The Brooklyn Area Chamber of Commerce has delayed the 18th year of Depot Days to 2015 after complications with the rail line.

The line that runs through Brooklyn is in the process of reactivation to serve the Lycon plant in the Alpine Business Park in Oregon, meaning that the Village of Oregon and City of Fitchburg will no longer have the liability on the line to allow Brooklyn to use it.

Chamber secretary/treasurer Susan McCallum told the Observer that the group decided to delay the weekend with uncertainty surrounding the permit, and instead will aim to bring it back in 2015.

“We were worried about having permission as normal…and then having that changed after expending all the monies,” she said, adding that the group is “still hopeful and persistent” about finding a way for the festival to continue.


Commission reviews firing range, Bergamont

The Village of Oregon Planning Commission has a full agenda Thursday, with plans for a proposed firing range and more details about multi-family housing in the Bergamont up for review.

Both items – along with other more procedural reviews – are planned for the commission’s monthly meeting 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the Oregon Village Hall.

Firing range

A public hearing is set for Thursday before officials weigh in on whether to allow an indoor firing range at Max Creek Outdoors, 1042 Park St.

The outdoor shop intends to build an addition onto the back of the store to allow for five firing stations, according to documents filed with the village.

The proposal has the blessing of Oregon Police Department chief Doug Pettit, who said in a memo to the village administrator that the firing range would allow potential gun owners to try a weapon before purchasing it.