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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.

Melissa Lenz August 01, 2012 at 03:28 AM
It seems to me like everyone in attendance was a little unprofessional. Local politics...
Luke August 01, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Tim Dietrich might want to avoid the merger, given that Town of Lisbon residents prefer trustees that can spell their own name correctly and actually give their correct address on recall petitions.
Mike B August 01, 2012 at 12:15 PM
So what's the history between Lisbon and Sussex that Lisbon seems to hate Sussex so much? At these types of meetings, the people for it don't show up because they have no complaints, the people not for it show up so they can argue. Just look at the poll here. Far more people are for the merger...
Pete August 01, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Let Lisbon deal with their own problems. The has always been a strong hatred of Sussex by Lisbon residence, so why should Sussex take on their problems now! we have our own issues to deal with. I am sure this is all about expanding the tax base but that also comes with duplication in layers of government and that will be difficult to eliminate. Just let the chip fall where they will!
RG August 01, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Funny... I attended this meeting yesterday, and it seemed to be more a presentation of facts. I didn't stick around for the Q & A, but there was not any of these hostile reactions you are conveying in this article.
Andy Ambrosius (Editor) August 01, 2012 at 05:09 PM
That's because you didn't stick around for the Q&A.
Lois Liebau-Templin August 01, 2012 at 05:34 PM
We were at the meeting last night, and at the last meeting. People were a little upset, at times, but everyone kept their tempers, and no bad language was used. No one acted unprofessional. One of you asked the question why do people of Lisbon not trust the people of Sussex. If you were at the meeting, you would have heard the lady who explained all of it. I am willing to give anyone who wants one, a copy of the facts that she gave to us. There is an old saying, Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. This saying applies to what Sussex has done to us. We do lots of business in Sussex, and we have nothing against being friends with the people of Sussex. Politics, tax dollars, debt owed, are a different subject all together. Dan Fisher is a man who, being only one of five people on the board, who checked to find all the facts, and present them to the residents of Lisbon. There is too much anger, and name calling in this whole thing. We are suppose to be adults, and should be able to voice our opinion as such. Like I said. I have copies of the two fact sheets, and am willing to give them to anyone who wants a copy. Know both sides of the story, before you make your final decision. We do not care what your vote is. Just get out, and VOTE, FOR HEAVENS SAKE!
Gary August 01, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Dan Fisher stated more opinion then he did facts last night. Arguing that Lisbon will not face annexation threats from other communities carries as much weight as saying they Lisbon does face annexation threats. If it fits your own opinion you accept it as fact. I like the fact that there are opposing view points but don't mistake one mans opinion as fact over another mans.
Andy Ambrosius (Editor) August 01, 2012 at 05:58 PM
@Gary - Not to get too involved in this, but that's how I perceive it, too. Fischer presented his opinion with background data just as Gehrke presented his opinion on the matter with background data. You HAVE to look at both sides and make up your own mind, because neither one is simply 100 percent correct. They're just letting you know how they feel about the matter based on their research.
Sussex Res August 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
How about this for a reason to stay a Town? Wis. Stat. 281.45 allows Villages to to require hookup to the sewer system. This is the case in Sussex. How many of you want to pay those fees for sewer and water. Those of you with a large frontage will pay a large assessment if it even runs by your house.
Gary August 01, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Towns (by way of a sanitary district) can also require hookup to sewer. Fact is that its all on the elected officials you have in place. Somethings don't matter if your a town village or city. Lisbon is slated to receive sewer service in certain areas already. That is a concern people in Lisbon close to the village should have, but using it as a scare tactic without all the facts is deceptive.
Resident August 01, 2012 at 09:46 PM
FACT -- The Town of Lisbon has court approved boundary agreements with the Village of Sussex and Village of Merton that secures the borders of the town. FACT -- Menomonee Falls has little interest in annexing Lisbon land as there is very little undeveloped land for it to annex. FACT -- Hartland has a very small portion of land that it could annex, so it is unlikely that will occur. FACT -- The Town of Lisbon has the ability and authority to make its own land use decisions and does make these decisions.
Luke August 01, 2012 at 11:46 PM
@Gary All good points. Yet, people tend to prefer the devil that they know. Given all the new home construction in Town of Lisbon, the owners of those homes built their homes under the Town's regulations. Therefore, it's less likely that the ToL is going to do anything unexpected. Having spent 25k on a well and septic system, I would have a heart attack to find out that I had to pay to have sewer and water lines and hookup on my 2-acre property
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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