Big issues in Lisbon election
Election may change composition of Town Board
Town of Lisbon - Regardless of who wins the April 2 municipal elections, there are going to be two new supervisors who will likely change the complexion of the five-member Town Board that will face a number of big issues.
There are four candidates seeking two seats on the board. Former Supervisor Wendy Landry and citizen activist Hannah Heinritz are campaigning for supervisor 2. Incumbent Dan Heier is not seeking reelection.
Former treasurer Rebecca Plotecher and Plan Commission members Steve Panten are campaigning for supervisor 3 which was vacated earlier this year by the resignation of former Supervisor Dan Fischer.
Gehrke said the issues the newly elected board members will face will include tax levy limits imposed by the state, the fate of the intermunicipal library agreement with the Village of Sussex, and whether Lisbon should try again to change its form of municipal government.
Three of the four candidates have experience in town government. Landry was elected to the Town Board in 2003 but became in the embroiled in the controversy over former Police Chief Terry Martorano and was among five incumbents swept out office in 2005 and 2007. She has also been one of the leaders in the effort to elevate Lisbon's form of local government from town to village.
Plotecher served in town government for 14 years. She was elected treasurer in 2000 and then selected by the Town Board when the office became it became an appointed position in 2004
Panten was appointed to the Plan Commission in 2008 after two unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the Town Board.
"Having some experience can be important to some voters, depending on if they think the experience is good or bad. But some voters might want an outsider," Gehrke said.
The only "outsider" in the race is Hannah Heinritz but she is also a familiar face at Town Hall. Heinritz devoted nearly two years to a campaign to reform the town's livestock ordinances in order to allow some residents on one-acre lots to raise chickens.
Heinritz is also the only candidate who, if elected, would lower the average age on the Town Board. The three men on the board are all in their mid- to late-30s; an unusually young municipal board in Lake Country.
There has not been a woman on the town board since Landry's defeat in 2007.
"I think all of the candidates have some knowledge of town government, which is good. And, as far as age goes, I don't think voters care. Someone who is in their 30s but lived most of their life in the town can do just as good as job as some one in their 60s who has lived in the community as long," Gehrke observed.
Gehrke said the newly elected board may have to wrestle with the issue of whether to make another attempt at incorporating the town into a village.
The prior effort, lead by Landry, former Supervisor Robert Williams, and former Plan Commission member Denise Wenger, was privately funded. If there is a second attempt, questions will likely be raised about whether town funds should be used in what can be an expensive proposition.
Unless there is a change in government, Lisbon may have to continue to struggle with land use, zoning and funding restrictions placed on town governments.
In addition, Gehrke noted, the new board is going to have continue to find ways to finance government costs that naturally increase as a result of inflation while the ability to raise tax revenues to pay for those cost increases is restricted by state law.
"An improving economy would be a big help," he said. "The growth in our tax levy is tied to the growth of new construction in the town and that has fluxuated from .4 to .8 of 1 percent," he explained.
The newly elected board will also have to decide whether to continue the intermunicipal agreement between the Town of Lisbon and the Village of Sussex to share operating costs for the Pauline Haass Public Library.
The town and village are at impasse over how much each community should share in the costs of the library and is appears likely the agreement will be dissolved by 2015.
Lisbon is also on the verge of a court battle with the Library Board over ownership of about 65 acres donated to the town to be used for library purposes by the Pauline Haass estate.
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