Board prepares for rail crossing

The village has taken steps in the past two weeks to allow the first trains to run on the rail line here since 1997.

The Village Board last week approved hiring a firm to provide railroad-engineering services at the Braun Road entrance to Alpine Business Park. And on Monday, the board approved a temporary license agreement with Wisconsin & Southern Railroad so that the company can begin using the rail line this fall.

The village last week hired TerraTec Engineering to oversee the installation of gates and automatic flashing lights at the Braun Road crossing. The Commissioner of Railroads last year ordered the village to install the crossing devices so that Wisconsin & Southern can begin using the reactivated rail line to haul aggregate for Lycon Inc.’s ready mix concrete production plant in the business park.


Budget outlook better than in recent past

A preliminary look at the village’s 2015 budget projections paints a picture less dire than what was typically seen in the past few years, and especially during the Great Recession.

But with other costs going up on the heels of years of tighter budgets, the village’s Finance committee will still have to be thrifty as it begins producing the budget next month.

State law limits the village’s ability to raise new revenue for operations, tying it to a growth figure called net new construction.

With $19 million in net new construction, the village can raise general fund revenue in next year’s budget by about $90,000 through the tax levy, administrator Mike Gracz estimated.

That’s a growth rate of 2.25 percent – the fourth highest of all Dane County’s cities and villages.


Former church technician sentenced after Feb. arrest

A former audio technician at People’s United Methodist Church was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for downloading hundreds of thousands of images of child pornography and taking suggestive photos of children during church events.

Brandon A. Finch, 23, of Fitchburg, was arrested Feb. 10 and charged with four felony counts of possession of child pornography following an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security and Wisconsin Department of Justice. He was immediately fired when church officials learned of his arrest.

Finch will seek help for depression, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive behavior and social maladjustment, said his attorney Adam Welch, according to a story in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal. By court order, Finch will have an additional 10 years of extended supervision upon his release.


Leveling the playing field

Photos/graphic submitted. This aerial representation shows the area of the park that is under construction. The playing fields are expected to be ready for competition in fall of 2015.

Though it will be a year’s wait, when it’s all said and done, the new-look Jaycee Park East Athletic fields will have a safer playing surface, while area parents might have a bit less mud to clean off jerseys.

Construction on the first phase ($500,000 cost) of a park renovation project began earlier this month, said Oregon School District business manager Andy Weiland. This initial work will upgrade the soccer and baseball playing surface, as about two-thirds of the field will be re-graded to improve drainage and provide a more level playing area. Drain tiles will be installed to help remove excess water, while in-ground sprinklers will reduce the work needed to water the fields. Water and sewer utilities will be installed for future restroom and concession capabilities.


Burke sworn in as acting chief

The village’s investigation into and reaction to irregularities within the police department continued to progress this week.

But it won’t include any official discipline of current officers.

On Monday, Dale Burke was sworn in as the village’s acting police chief, the Village Board briefly discussed plans to devise new policies and management of the department and trustees held a closed-session discussion of potential disciplinary action against certain officers.

Burke, who had been paid $1,846 per week as a consultant with the title of interim police chief during former chief Doug Pettit’s medical leave since June, will not be paid extra nor have any additional duties as a result of the title change, save for formal statutory authority that had previously been Pettit’s.


Back to sports for complex

Owners of the Braun Road sports complex hope to bring new life to the former Union Sports Club site.

A public hearing for a conditional use permit to have indoor sports and athletics at 155 Braun Road is set for 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 11.

Village administrator Mike Gracz said the request is to use the facility for indoor sports. The building had previously housed the Union Sports Club, which had ended its lease Aug. 31.

It’s basically going back to what the property was originally built for,” Gracz said.

Union Sports Club had leased the property for almost a decade until it’s liquor license was not renewed earlier this year. The village discovered liquor violations and other legal issues that prompted village officials to deny the renewal.

The building owner, Pleasant Sunset, LLC of Madison, is seeking the new use permit. Conditions of the agreement limit the use of the facility to indoor sports or fitness uses


OHS coach fired after photo allegations

An Oregon High School assistant tennis coach was fired Wednesday after district officials learned he was charged with two felony counts of sending sexually explicit photos and videos to two underage former students from Stoughton High School.

Brandon M. Amato, 24, a Stoughton Area School District teacher and sports coach last school year, was charged in Dane County Circuit Court with two felony counts of exposing his genitals/pubic area/intimate parts to a child, according to online records. Alleged offense dates are listed as June 29 and Aug. 2 of this year, after he had left the district.


Bringing ‘closure’ to the police department

In its report on a local investigation into police personnel and procedural issues, the Village Board mentioned a number of steps that village officials, and especially interim police chief Dale Burke, have taken.

The local investigation followed a separate state Department of Justice investigation and uncovered several troubling issues beyond what the state was looking into. The report charges that recently retired police chief Doug Pettit violated village and police department policies and deliberately withheld information from the Village Board and the press in order to cover up goings-on at a local nightclub.


Report: Chief’s actions were ‘reprehensible’

Photos by Samantha Christian An investigation into the Oregon Police Department claims that chief Doug Pettit directed his staff to remove incident reports at the Union Sports Club from the police log to prevent village officials and the public from knowing the number of police calls. The reports were held for a month and later placed back in the police log after Observer reporters had checked them, according to a statement released last Thursday.

In a report released last week, village officials charged that recently retired police chief Doug Pettit violated village and police department policies and “betrayed” their trust in his dealings with the Union Sports Club.

The report called Pettit’s actions “reprehensible.”

The 1,900-word report is the result of an internal investigation conducted by attorney Warren Kraft, who specializes in municipal labor relations. The Village Board hired Kraft in April after officials learned that the Wisconsin Department of Justice was conducting its own investigation of Pettit, who was until this month the longest-tenured police chief in the state.

The investigation involved interviewing police department personnel, village officials and village residents, and “entailed reviewing thousands of documents and email communications,” the report says.


Village Board statement on Pettit report

Editor's note: Below is the unedited statement from the Oregon Village Board on the investigation into former police chief Doug Pettit, who retired Sept. 1.

The Village Board of the Village of Oregon has completed its internal investigation involving the Police Department. The Village Board believes it is very important to be open and candid with the public regarding this investigation in order to ensure the public’s strong confidence in the law enforcement capabilities of its Police Department and members.

I.       Why did the Village Board initiate this investigation?