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Letter to the Editor | What’s the real reason behind the annexation of Family Park and Washington County Golf Course | By Ryan Lippert

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January 22, 2021 – Hartford, WI – First and foremost, I pride myself and the Town of Hartford on transparency and keeping townspeople informed on what is going on in our community. I applaud the individuals who make the effort to attend meetings and get involved in their local community.

I feel people have the most say in their local communities above all other areas especially in light of the life we are currently living in this country.  Many people across this nation feel their voices are not being heard and this is so apparent when looking at current events at the state and federal level.

It thrills me to see people that make an effort to attend a meeting and ask questions.  Therefore, I feel incumbent to be transparent and explain the process and the facts behind any specific matter that is in the interest of the citizens.  Furthermore, anyone that answers to the people that elected them should always make clear the reasons we make the decisions we make on their behalf.

With that being said, the issue regarding this annexation request has never went through the proper process in my opinion and I am not alone.

There are members of the Washington County Board that expressed the same concern at the meeting over a year ago in January 2020.  When the subject was initially discussed starting in September 2019 it was not about the Washington County Golf Course at all.  It was originally about Family Park, a Washington County park located on the northeast corner of the overall golf course property.

Then Washington County Administrator (now executive) Josh Schoemann called me to discuss a forthcoming request from the County on subdividing a portion of Family Park to residential use.  The purpose of which was to sell the parcel or parcels to help fund the overall park system and shed what they called “underutilized” park property for the greater good of the County parks system.

This position has long been a directive of the executive committee on the County Board.  I attended this meeting along with Jamie Ludovic, another high-level employee at the County.  I told them at that meeting that the proper process was to submit the request to the town of Hartford plan commission who would ultimately make a recommendation to the Town of Hartford Board.

That meeting subsequently took place and the Town of Hartford Plan Commission recommended that the Town of Hartford Board negotiate with the County to purchase the property to maintain a park.  The plan commission is a recommending body to the town board and therefore the town board has discretion to either accept the recommendation or make their own decision on the request.  In my comments to the public I expressed the concerns regarding the town taking over the property as a park, but the town board never actually decided on the land division issue.

The concerns I laid out were based on the fact that the township only employs a few full-time employees in our highway department and we do not have park staff or anything even approaching the necessary requirements to properly staff and maintain a park.  Instead, I requested a joint meeting on the subject with the City of Hartford through our joint (city and town) plan commission.  This would facilitate discussion on the future of the property and since the city has extraterritorial jurisdiction on the area in question, I felt it necessary to try and work together for what might be a mutually beneficial solution.

Upon calling that meeting, I was called via phone by the mayor of Hartford to ask me why I called the meeting.  I found that inquiry laughable since he is a member of the County Board and the Executive Committee directly responsible for the initial request.

I expressed my openness to granting the land division based on the property remaining in the town of Hartford.  The mayor seemed to think it would be better served (or something or someone better served) if the property has access to city sewer and water.  For the record, to date this is not a part of the “official” request from the County for annexation and it is not economically wise to extend those services at this time.

For what it’s worth, my comments at the town meeting in question were then spun by the executive committee to the majority of the County Board that the Town of Hartford was not interested in the County’s request.  Most of the County Board never heard the full background and only eight (8) truly independent thinking members of the County Board heard the full story.  Coincidentally, the vote in January 2020 on the annexation issue was 15-8.  I attended that meeting and along with any other public members of the audience was denied the right to speak on the subject.  The meeting I originally requested of the joint city and town committee was immediately scheduled the next day.  I find that very curious.

Fast forward to the present day…the issue which Josh Schoemann politically decided (and wisely I might add) to not push was again brought up to him as a matter of importance around Thanksgiving by the executive committee.  I give him credit for giving me a heads up and for not pushing the subject until prodded to do so.

Since that time, the City of Hartford has finally taken up the issue and once again I have concerns on the truth being heard.  I expect transparency from my elected officials and so should the rest of the county residents both town and City of Hartford, city plan commission members, city council members, etc.  What is really behind this push to shed county park land and who stands to gain from developing land they retain?

The County, the City of Hartford, the mayor, and select members of the County Board have maintained the golf course will remain, but why the push to annex to the City?  There is an answer.  Perhaps it is time to be transparent.  I welcome any questions on the matter and thank those that have concern for their local community.

Ryan Lippert, Chairman

Town of Hartford

 

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