Fire mergers, Dakota and KM struggles are top stories
As we bid 2012 adieu, we look back on the more memorable moments reported in the Kettle Moraine Index. Weather took its toll locally and nationwide meaning a huge year for generator manufacturer, Generac. Local government also continued a trend of seeking consolidation to save money and increase coverage.
Dousman Fire District
The villages of Summit and Dousman in spring began work to consolidate their fire districts into one that will serve both villages and most of the Town of Ottawa. The consolidation was finalized by the end of the year and renamed the Dousman Fire District.
While the end result will mean lower operating costs and increased safety services, Dousman is still working on a funding formula for the extra it must pay to make up for the large amount of calls to its senior living community, Three Pillars.
Generac has big year
Genesee-based generator manufacturer, Generac had a very notable year first announcing a $10 million expansion to the company headquarters which would result in more jobs. Throughout the year, Generac, saw big gains in net sales each quarter exceeding year-over-year sales by as much as 60 percent. In May, it reported improvements of $200 million in net sales.
The company said the increased sales were because of the high demand for backup generators following severe weather events in other parts of the country. During Hurricane Sandy, Generac ran three shifts and hired more employees to keep up with the demand for generators to be shipped east. Later in the year, Generac acquired Latin American company, Ottomores, for $46 million expanding the company.
A prank by two Dousman teens to take the Wildlife In Need Center's (WINC) great horned owl, Dakota, from his enclosure on a November night drew national attention. The owl escaped his captors at a home in Dousman flying into the woods. After nearly a month of searching for Dakota who is unable to hunt or survive in the wild, he was finally recovered in December.
The two teens were sentenced to probation and community service for the stunt. The teens, their families and WINC said they're ready to move on from the episode. The missing owl however did garner national attention and putting the center on the map bringing more awareness to what it does.
As Dousman and Summit complete the formation of the Dousman Fire District, the Town of Delafield approaches Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR) about the potential of merging with the department. The Town of Delafield in 2011 had two unsuccessful referendums to build a new firehouse and officials said a merger may be the answer.
The Village of Hartland also expressed an interest in fire protection from LCFR, and later in the year the City of Oconomowoc approached LCFR to discuss thefeasibility of it merging too.
KM budget woes
The Kettle Moraine School District throughout the year struggled with money issues. The district first wrangled to reach an agreement to honor retiring teachers' benefits. The district used reserve funds and budget excess to help pay the benefits and terminated any more un-funded retirement benefits starting in 2013.
Throughout the year, district officials also reported an estimated $14.4 million need to fix urgent facility needs and urgent technology needs are estimated to cost $2.9 million. Dealing with budget constraints and less state aid, the district said it will be considering a referendum.
Five area school districts were identified as targets of a federal Title IX investigation after a complainant lodged allegations that their programs discriminated against female athletes. Lake Country districts included Kettle Moraine and Oconomowoc. Both districts reached out-of-court agreements in June.
Wisconsinites just about wore a path to the polls this year, casting ballots seven times. There was the spring primary, then the spring general election, followed by the gubernatorial recall primary and general election, the fall primary and general election and, most recently, a special election for the 33rd State Senate seat, vacated earlier this year when Rich Zipperer stepped down to take a position in Gov. Scott Walker's administration.
Aside from the sheer number of elections, the most excitement locally was generated by the choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) to serve as the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee, with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The recall elections also held high local interest, as Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch came under fire along with Gov. Scott Walker.
Act 10, the budget-repair bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker and approved by the state Legislature, stripped many public sector unions of many of their rights, including collective bargaining.
It also required employees to contribute more toward their retirement and insurance benefits. It also reduced state aid to many school districts, and meant big changes in how local school districts budgeted and dealt with teachers contracts.
A Dane County judge in September struck down Act 10 as unconstitutional. Lawmakers appealed. Locally, school district officials adopted a wait-and-see approach, questioning what affect the ruling would have on teacher negotiations.
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions in Southern Wisconsin in July, and many local municipalities issued burn bans and bans on sprinkling. Some communities delayed their Fourth of July fireworks.
A fire near St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in early July illustrated the dangers. Fire officials said the blaze was started by a cigarette. Flames spread through the graveyard at St. John's Chrysostom Church, 539 Exeter Drive, and damaged the church's bell tower.
Dousman Main Street
Village officials in fall reported plans to reconstruct Main Street starting in 2013. The street winds through the village's downtown and officials sought the advice of residents and business owners on project design including the potential to bury utility lines underground at an extra cost.
Top stories from the Lake Country area. Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings.
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