Sussex-Lisbon Merger: ‘Sussex is Not Evil’
Town residents remain unwavering, laughing at a Lisbon officials’ attempts to justify a merger by saying Sussex ‘is a good community.’
This is Lisbon’s third public forum regarding the consolidation effort, but for most of those in attendance, it was their first such meeting.
One solitary Sussex resident, Village Trustee Pat Tetzlaff, attended the meeting among a sea of Lisbon residents, so when Town Supervisor Joe Osterman tried defending Sussex, nothing but scoffing and laughter was heard from attendees.
“My feeling on this: If I vote today on whether or not I want to look into a merger, I’d vote yes,” Osterman said. “That’s just to look into it. If I were to vote on the actual merger today, I would vote no. I still have to vote yes on the referendum to look into it… Sussex is not evil. They’re a good community.”
Muffled shouts from the crowd like “Move to Sussex, then!” and “I moved out!” could be heard between the other murmurs.
“It makes no sense to me to vote to say you’re not even interested in listening…"
But Osterman wasn’t alone during the meeting. The movement’s chief advocate, Lisbon Town Chairman Matthew Gehrke, as well as County Executive Dan Vrakas and Sheriff Dan Trawicki also attended and agreed the consolidation effort is worth looking into.
Trawicki also said it's time for Lisbon residents to stop holding a grudge with Sussex and just move on.
“I see no reason why you would vote against just moving forward,” Trawicki said. “It makes no sense to me to vote to say you’re not even interested in listening… You’ve got to turn the page. Sussex did some things that you all think are wrong. And I think Lisbon did some things that they all think are wrong.”
Lisbon residents are slated to vote in an nonbinding referendum on Aug 14 to determine whether to proceed with the potential consolidation. At their latest board meeting, Lisbon officials said they wouldn’t even consider moving forward with the plan unless a vast majority of citizens agreed to move forward.
Gehrke also stressed multiple times that this merger is a long way from completion, and a vote to move forward in two weeks is simply a vote to gather more information on potential outcomes.
“Wouldn’t it make sense to bring our debt up to the Village of Sussex’s and then merge?”
However, Lisbon Supervisor Dan Fischer is one of the only Town Board members unwilling to budge. He is staunchly against the merger, saying everything down to the way informational pamphlets are worded is unfairly influencing voters.
Fischer received an enormous round of applause from Lisbon residents — and even a standing ovation from one man — after sharing his opinion. He opposed everything from the merger’s top benefit of overnight police coverage to the multimillion dollar difference in debt between the two communities.
“If we merge, that debt is going to be merged with us, so we’ll have more than $11 million dollars of additional debt that went towards improvements in the Village of Sussex,” Fischer explained. “Wouldn’t it make sense to bring our debt up to the Village of Sussex’s and then merge?”
The line was received by a boom of laughter, one of the largest round of applause of the evening, and later, a comment saying Fischer should replace Gehrke as chairman.
While the difference in debt is something Gehrke said the municipalities would discuss during a merger agreement, the third-shift police services was a horse of a different color.
Trawicki explained the Town of Lisbon is currently covered by a countywide squad car that also patrols areas like Pewaukee and Lannon. When there’s a police shortage, that squad is called to help out, leaving emergencies in Lisbon in the hands of Sussex’s overnight officer. That officer is paid for by Sussex taxpayers, not Lisbon’s.