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Wednesday

July 2014

23

Library dispute continues

Village of Sussex — The court-ordered mediation intended to resolve the dispute over about 65 acres of farmland between the Town of Lisbon and the Pauline Haass Library Board is not likely to begin soon and may eventually include the Village of Sussex, according to both Lisbon and Library Board representatives.

Village of Sussex officials, however, are reiterating their intentions to fight any effort by the town to force the village into the mediation sessions.

Village officials say they should not be involved in the talks because they have no jurisdiction over any assets owned or controlled by the Library Board.

Town officials say the village should be part of the talks because it was a joint municipal agreement reached about 25 years ago that created the library. The Haass land was donated to the town for library purposes. The town uses proceeds from renting the farmland to help pay its share of the library expenses.

Meanwhile, Town Chairman Matt Gehrke, in a nearly 1,200-word essay in the town's semiannual newsletter, spelled out in detail to Lisbon residents why he and the Town Board are planning to terminate the municipal agreement with the village at the end of the year.

In the newsletter, Gehrke said it was "a near certainty that the joint library will be dissolved at year end 2014."

He asserted that Sussex had 75 percent more resident users of the library than Lisbon. As a result, he continued, Lisbon's library contribution was $5.25 per resident use, compared to Sussex's $3.15 per resident use. He argued that the town's contribution to the library amounts to about 12 percent of the town budget, while Sussex's contribution amounts to about 7 percent of its total budget.

In the newsletter, Gehrke suggested it was Sussex's fault the two communities could not reach an agreement on a new long-term funding plan for the library.

He said a Sussex representative, later identified as Village Trustee Tim Dietrich, had failed to support an agreement the communities had reached by voting as a Library Board member to sue the town over custody and control of the Haass land.

Dietrich later told The Sun he voted for the lawsuit in his capacity as a Library Board member, not as a village trustee. He also pointed out the two sides never reached a formal agreement that was approved by both municipal boards.

In January 2013, three months after the Library Board filed the lawsuit, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer asked the town and Library Board to go into mediation in an effort to resolve the dispute before a trial was scheduled for either late this year or early next year.

Library Board attorney David Hase told Lake Country Publications earlier this week that he does not anticipate mediation beginning until mid to late summer.

"It is too soon to start mediation," he said.

Hase pointed out that lawyers for both sides have not begun the process of discovering all of the evidence available for a trial and framing the issues that might be the subject of the mediation.

He also noted that the town has filed a lawsuit against the Village of Sussex, which would automatically make it a third party in the litigation between the town and Library Board.

Town Administrator Elizabeth Kraus said town officials will insist that the village be part of the negotiations with the Library Board.

She echoed the arguments made by Gehrke and town attorney Katherine Gutenkunst that the village should be involved in the mediation because it was the joint agreement between the town and village that created the library and any agreement reached in mediation between the town and library boards would have to be ratified by the Sussex Village Board.

Sussex Village Administrator Jeremy Smith the village was expected to take steps to prevent it from being required to participate in the mediation sessions.

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