Lisbon sets conditions for library mediation
Town of Lisbon — The Town Board on Monday night unanimously — but reluctantly — agreed to enter into nonbinding mediation with the Pauline Haass Library Board in an effort to settle their dispute over control of about 65 acres of farmland at Hickory and Lake Five roads that Pauline Haass donated to the town to be used for library purposes.
However, the Town Board placed conditions on the mediation that the Library Board probably will not and cannot meet.
The Town Board wants the Village of Sussex to participate in the mediation since the village is likely to be required to match any funds the town contributes to the library as a part of any out-of-court settlement.
However, Sussex Village President Greg Goetz and Trustee Tim Dietrich, who is a member of the Library Board, have said Sussex will not participate in the mediation because the land dispute is between town and library officials, not the village. Any involvement by Sussex would require approval of the Village Board, which appears unlikely.
In addition, the Town Board refused to approve a "tolling agreement" that would enable the Library Board to extend from Oct. 21 to Nov. 30 the deadline for filing a lawsuit against the town in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking control of the land.
Library officials have said they would file the lawsuit if the deadline was not extended because the mediation process is not likely to even begin in the time for the October deadline.
Library officials say state law states they have custody and control of any lands donated for library purposes. But town officials say Haass' will clearly indicated she wanted the town to determine how her land would be used for library purposes.
Library Board President Robert Williams, a former town supervisor who attended Monday night's Town Board meeting, said the Library Board would meet Wednesday, Oct. 16, to discuss the Town Board's decisions.
Also during Monday night's meeting, the Town Board voted to reject the Library Board's 2014 budget request of $894,372 in municipal contributions from Lisbon and Sussex for the library's $1.1 million budget. Instead, the town offered to approve municipal contributions totaling $884,600, of which the town would pay $421,668, or 47.6 percent.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said the budget proposed by the Library Board and accepted by the Village of Sussex was "in direct conflict" with a tentative agreement between negotiators for the town and village as part of long-term funding plan for the library.
According to the existing funding agreement, the town and village have until Nov. 15 to try to reconcile their differences on the 2014 budget. If they cannot reach agreement, the library must operate during 2014 on 2013 funding levels, including the $884,600 from the two communities.
There are now three major library issues subject to separate but interrelated negotiations. The talks over a long-term funding agreement have stalled because of the pending lawsuit over the Haass land. Both sides are negotiating possible mediation over the land issue. And they may attempt to negotiate a 2014 budget agreement before Nov. 15.
Issues with library director
To further complicate matters, town supervisors indicated during the meeting that they do not trust Library Director Kathy Klager.
"At the end of the day I have issues of trust with the library director and the board," Gehrke said.
Gehrke later explained that the town supervisors think Klager "orchestrated" the Haass land dispute.
Klager later responded that she had advised Library Board to take action in order to protect a library asset — the land — in the event the town decided to terminate the agreement, which Gehrke threatened to do on several occasions.
Supervisor Hannah Heinritz described the 2014 Library Board budget as "her" budget, referring to Klager, during an interview after the board meeting.
"I have looked at her budget. All of the decreases in her budget are for books and other resources. All of the increases are for salaries. I don't think that is very good prioritizing. Priorities are important in the Town of Lisbon. Why should the library be a higher priority that the Fire Department or any other town department?" Heinritz said.
"It is not my budget, it is the Library Board's budget and the board has a very good understanding of the operations of the library," Klager responded.
She added that the advances in electronic communications have placed greater challenges on libraries and library staffs in serving and communicating with library patrons.
Heinritz indicated she was willing to go along with mediation but she added,"I struggle with the whole aspect of mediation. It would be nice if it was helpful, but I am uncomfortable with the tolling agreement."
Supervisor Steve Patton said he, too, was willing to go along with mediation but not the tolling agreement. He said the Library Board waited until the last minute to seek mediation.
Supervisor Ryan Lippert, a member of the Library Board, urged his Town Board colleagues to adopt the tolling agreement. He said it would be a sign of good faith by the Town Board and might influence the Library Board not to seek legal action.
"While we feel Lisbon's position regarding this matter (the land dispute) has been clearly stated, we are open to different avenues of communication in hopes we can resolve this outstanding matter. However, the Lisbon Board does not appreciate the threat of a lawsuit and is unwilling to help facilitate the prolonged threat of this legal action by the Library Board," Gehrke said in a letter he handed to Williams after the board's vote.
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