Voters in Germantown and Menomonee Falls approved school referendums this year totaling more than $100 million. The projects that will be funded by those measures will have an impact on those communities for decades. The staff of Germantown-Menomonee Falls-Sussex Now has voted the referendums as the top story in the region for 2016. Here is a look at that, along with the rest of our top 10 stories.
1) Referendum madness
Germantown School District voters approved an $84 million facilities question with 52 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election. The funds will be spent on a district-wide school building and improvement project, which includes a 750-seat auditorium ($12.5 million), a fieldhouse ($8.6 million) and an eight-lane competition swimming pool ($5.8 million). Voters in Menomonee Falls split on two questions in the spring, approving $32 million in facilities spending, but denying the school district the ability to raise its revenue limit by 2 percent permanently. The school district will come back to voters in April, asking for another operating referendum.
2) Pergande dies
Brian Pergande, a former village of Butler police officer who resigned from the department following a misconduct investigation, was found dead Saturday, May 14, in Milwaukee. According to a Milwaukee police report, Pergande's body was found under a bridge in the 5700 block of North Lovers Lane Road. Pergande was charged in March 2014 with misconduct after taking inappropriate photos in 2009 of a fully-clothed woman, an exotic dancer, he arrested on an outstanding warrant. The photos focused on the woman's breasts. In the weeks before his death, Pergande had sued the Butler Police Department for records.
3) Taj Ma-Village Hall
The 47,000-square-foot Sussex Civic Center opened its doors to the public on Monday, Oct. 24. The center now houses Village Hall, the Youth Hall, the Community Center and spaces for the Sussex Outreach Services, the Pauline Haas Public Library, the Chamber of Commerce, the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society, the Sussex VFW and the Volunteer Organization of Women in Sussex. To pay for the construction of the new civic center, the village borrowed $5.9 million, bringing the total cost to approximately $12 million.
4) Drug deal gone bad
Niikwame Bell pleaded guilty to two felony drug-related counts in relation to the shooting of 16-year-old George Erickson, who later died, after a drug deal outside a Pick 'n Save near the Bugline Trail on Saturday, May 14, in Sussex. Erickson was found lying in the grass on the north side of the Pick 'n Save parking lot suffering from gunshot wounds. The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Landon White, faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide and drug charges.
5) Lions uproar
More than two dozen men, some of them business owners and community leaders including a school board president, resigned from the Sussex Lions as a result of sanctions imposed by Lions Club International because the local club delayed approving a membership application from a woman. An investigation by district officials determined that the Sussex Lions had violated the international organization's anti-discrimination policies, according to Dane LaJoye, a spokesman for Lions Club International.
6) Cooke retires
Kathleen Cooke retired as Hamilton schools superintendent at the end of the school year after a two-decade career that drew raves from people all over the community. She was replaced by former Templeton Middle School Principal Paul Mielke, who started July 1.
7) Water issues
A classroom sink tested positive for copper at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in early November, and the bacteria coliform was found in the water at Valley View Elementary School in the Menomonee Falls School District at the end of October. The district said the copper and coliform issues were not related. Students and staff in the 4K wing at Ben Franklin and all students and staff at Valley View were restricted to drinking bottled water only.
8) Growing, growing, growing
The planned subdivision growth in the Hamilton School District could produce an estimated 400 new schoolchildren over the next few years. That growth could strain existing classroom space in the district. The school board began discussion of the possibility of a facilities referendum at its Nov. 1 curriculum and instruction meeting.
9) New appraiser
For the first time in seven years, Germantown will have a new appraisal company in 2017. The Germantown Village Board voted to award a new three-year contract to Associated Appraisal Consultants, Inc. on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Prompted by the investigation recently conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue into Germantown’s soon-to-be-former appraisal company, Accurate Appraisal, the village will pay a $30,000 compliance fee in the first year of the contract to cover the costs associated with making sure the village’s records fall back into compliance with the DOR’s record-keeping policies.
10) Meijer opens
Meijer opened its doors to shoppers on Tuesday, June 7 at its new supercenter store in Sussex. The 192,000 square-foot store is the sixth Wisconsin store with the others in Grafton, Kenosha, Wauwatosa, Oak Creek and Waukesha.