January 9, 2020 – Washington Co., WI – Neighbors in the Town of Hartford left the Washington County Courthouse upset and frustrated following a 15-8 vote authorizing a petition for annexation of the Washington County Golf Course and Family Park to the City of Hartford.
Those voting in favor of the annexation included supervisors: Mike Bassill, Chris Bosert, Russell Brandt, James Burg, Kris Deisss, Brian Gallitz, Chris Jenkins, Denis Kelling, Don Kriefall, Mark McCune, Carroll Merry, Tim Michalak, Jeffrey Schleif, Keith Stephen, and William Symicek.
Supervisors voting against the annexation include Richard Bertram, Marcella Bishop, Rock Brandner, Joe Gonnering, Robert Hartwig, Brian Krebs, Marilyn Merten, and Peter Sorce.
Supervisors John Bulawa and Roger Kist were not in attendance.
County Administrator Joshua Schoemann began the meeting saying “what the county board is deciding today is not if the annexation of the Golf Course is going to happen but when the annexation of the Golf Course will happen.”
Schoemann said because “this was a business meeting” the public would not be allowed to speak.
Two people from Gehring View Farms, 4630 Highway 83, Christine and Derik Gehring sat in the front row holding photos of their family farm. Derik is a seventh generation farmer.
The county indicated the sale of the property meant future development and revenue for the county. Schoemann said he visited neighbors to the County Golf Course on Monday, January 6 and “none of those folks have any interest in annexation and several of them said to me one day they knew this would happen.”
Neighbors in the Town of Hartford said they feared two things with the annexation including higher taxes in the City of Hartford and losing their view with subdivisions in their backyard.
Laurel Jaeke from the Town of Hartford said the bottom line was money. “The supervisors even said it in their discussion that it was for money,” she said. “This is going to hurt farmers because the annexation of the golf course will open the gateway to continued development and …. with the continued march up and outside of the city into agricultural lands prevents farmers from growing crops they need to support their cows. This is a sad day for the Town of Hartford.”
Supervisor Marcella Bishop – “I feel very strongly this County Board is jumping the gun on this local municipality. We should let the local municipalities take care of their own business.”
Supervisor Richard Bertram – “I was told we should look at parks as quality of life. Where can people take their kids. All of a sudden now this particular parcel here doesn’t seem like that’s a good quality of life. Now we want to change this. As far as us selling parks was not to make a ton of money but I can honestly tell you…. if I gave property to the county I’d be one ticked off person that the county is trying to make money on what I gave them to have a park.”
Supervisor Kris Deiss – “Everything that has been done is just the way government functions and I understand that for people who aren’t a county board supervisor or involved in government it’s always so hard to understand what the heck we’re doing. But we’re trying the best we can.”
Supervisor Chris Bossert tried to compare the situation to eating a large pizza and then his girlfriend also eating a large pizza. “This is not a money grab,” he said. “I saw a comment on Facebook that this proposal if the annexation goes through the people in the Town of Hartford would see their taxes double.” County administrator said “no, this will have nothing to do with that.”
Supervisor Mark McCune – “It does come down to money. One of my favorite hobbies; I like money. This helps our county to have more money.”
Supervisor Brian Krebs – “Before we go through the process of annexing this piece of property I think it’s better if the county goes through and actually takes the time to acknowledge what the future of the golf course will be. I think we should take an honest look at what do we want with the golf course.”
Supervisor Joseph Gonnering referenced the Washington County 4-H students who were honored at the start of the meeting. “Where would they be today if we didn’t have Fair Park? There was a time when it was being looked at to get rid of Fair Park. But where would these kids be today without our parks system as a whole and people who live in this county and outside of the county use the parks whether they’re mowed or not. We threw a lot of money into Family Park to start with and it’s a shame we’re not keeping it up, but to get rid of it is not a good thing to do.”
Supervisor Robert Hartwig – “My wife said to me now that you’re retired we should take the grand kids to all the parks. That’s my question for people who go to Family Park. How many people from the subdivision attend this park. That’s one of my big reasons… why would we want to get rid of this. The golf course is paid for. We should hang onto it and not annex at this time. Plus I see a gentleman in the audience with a picture of his farm. I can see his concern, if the golf course gets annexed down the road there will be subdivisions moving out and the next thing you know they’ll be after his farm as well. This kid caught my eye and it helped make my mind up to vote no.”
With the approval of the annexation the county will now submit a letter to the Department of Administration and then a letter will also be written to the City of Hartford. The process should take about two months before it gets to the City of Hartford.
After the meeting some of the Town of Hartford people in the gallery talked about how the project was rushed through. One person talking in the hallway outside the county board chambers indicated the upcoming April 7, 2020 election may have played a part in the timing of the annexation.
Click HERE for a list of supervisors who have filed non-candidacy and others who are running in the Spring Election.