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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.’

Unwavering, angry Town of Lisbon residents once again packed the Tuesday night, insisting the with Sussex should immediately be removed from the table.

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 , 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.

Laurie August 02, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Part if the town already has sewer. The current agreement the Town has with the Village is no more Libon residents can hookup. But some of the current officials would change that at a cost to everyone. Please make sure you know where the person you're voting for stands on the issues.
Sparky August 02, 2012 at 02:15 PM
It is very interesting that the word "hate" was reportedly used so many times in the meeting last night. It is great to hear people becoming passionate about local issues, but can't that passion be used to create a win-win for both Lisbon and Sussex? Everyone on both sides of this issue would benefit from a couple deep breaths. When there is a merger, there is a combining of both sets of governments, which allows for representation across the newly merged communities. Please open up your ears and minds and listen to the facts around a combined community before rushing to judgement. There are huge opportunities for both communities to benefit from combining services and leveraging increased economies of scale, but in order to explore those benefits, we need to put the "hate" aside. Both communities are full of excellent, hard-working people, who collectively, could make one heck of a strong larger community. The past is unfortunately the past, we need to look at today and we need to look at tomorrow and what we are going to leave for our kids and grandchildren. We need to leave them a legacy of cooperation, trust, and strong sense of pride in their community, by working together we can achieve that.
Resident August 02, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I think people need to stop generalizing in these references of "hate" between Sussex and Lisbon. The residents of these communities get along just fine. The departments of both communities get along just fine -- examples of cost sharing/service sharing between DPW, fire departments, parks departments, library. The conflicts arise at the elected official level -- these are the folks who have historically been the "Hatfields and McCoys." I have heard comments from residents in both communities that they prefer the small town/village atmosphere and moved here to get "out of the city." Let's leave the communities as they are and get our governments to cooperate, trust each other, work together and show a strong sense of pride in our communities as a whole!
Resident August 02, 2012 at 04:34 PM
And to comment on benefits to combining services and reducing economies of scale, what cost savings will be reaped from combining the few services Lisbon offers with those of Sussex? Maybe elimination of a DPW Director or Fire Chief but no reduction of labor or equipment will likely be seen in those departments. Lisbon covers approx. 27 sq. miles and Sussex covers approx. 9 sq. miles (and with substantially less miles of roads than Lisbon). No reduction there in workforce or equipment is likely to occur there. Lisbon relies on pump trucks for fire protection. Sussex relies on hydrants for fire protection. No reduction in either equipment or personnel will occur there. Where cost savings would occur is elimination of the cost of one set of elected officals, a treasurer and clerk/administrator or approx. $180,000. Not much savings for Lisbon residents compared to the amount of debt they would be incurring from Sussex.
Gary August 02, 2012 at 09:57 PM
@Laurie. The Town has Sewer capacity that will be used in different areas of Lisbon that were agreed to in the border agreement. If your outside that area then you can't get it at this time even if you needed it.

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