Library board offers town mediation
Town of Lisbon — The Town Board is expected to decide next week whether to accept or reject an offer from the Library Board to enter into nonbinding mediation in an effort to resolve their dispute over about 65 acres at Hickory and Lake Five roads that Pauline Haass donated to the town for library purposes.
If the Town Board rejects the Library Board's mediation offer, library attorneys are authorized to file a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to force the town to turn over the land to the library.
If the lawsuit is filed and there is no out-of-court settlement, hopes will probably be dashed for a long-term library funding agreement between the town and Village of Sussex.
Without the long-term agreement, funding for the library will become uncertain after 2015 when the existing agreement is converted to a yearly contract that either community can terminate with 90 days notice.
The Sussex Village Board has indicated it is prepared to take over library operations without funding from the town.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said he was "surprised and disappointed" by a 4-3 vote cast last week by the Library Board to extend the mediation offer, but also to authorize legal action.
The town's three representatives on the board, including Library Board Chairman and former Town Supervisor Robert Williams, voted against the motion. The village's three representatives on the seven-member board voted for the motion.
John Roubik of Menomonee Falls, the Hamilton School District representative on the board, cast the tiebreaking vote.
After the meeting, Roubik told Lake Country Publications that he thought the threat of legal action was the only remaining lever available to the Library Board to force a resolution of the dispute. He noted the Library Board and Town Board have disagreed for decades over who controlled the land, and the dispute needs to be resolved.
Roubik, education services and human resources director for the School District, said he decided to vote for the litigation after he learned from Town Supervisor Ryan Lippert, who is also a Library Board member, that the Town Board is not willing to negotiate further on a counterproposal the Town Board offered.
The town has offered to sell the land within the next 10 years, whenever the Library Board determines it needs additional resources to expand its existing building. If the library does not expand the building within the next 10years, the town "will take all necessary steps" to sell the land after 2023.
Lisbon would donate the proceeds of the sale to the library, and Sussex would match the amount donated by the town, according to the proposal. Sussex officials have tentatively said they are willing to go along with that provision.
But, Roubik said, there are "too many uncertainties" in the town's proposal.
He noted there is no guarantee the town will be able to sell the land because town officials may need the approval of residents at a special town meeting.
In addition, he added, the tentative long-term funding agreement between the town and village would expire in 2016, seven years before the town would try to sell the land in the event there is no library expansion.
"That seven-year gap really bothers me," he said, noting that the either the town or village could terminate the agreement and end municipal funding for the library before the land was sold.
A proposal offered by the library is unacceptable to the town, according to Gehrke.
The Library Board wants the value of the land appraised and then have the town and village each contribute to the library the estimated value of the land. The town could recoup the cost of its donation by later selling the land.
In a letter to the Library Board, Gehrke said the Town Board is unwilling to accept the offer because of "current and future debt service costs and (state-imposed) levy limit considerations." He said both the library and the town would benefit by delaying the sale of the property until the future when he predicted it would have a higher market value. Gehrke is a professional commercial land appraiser.
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