Council adopts parks plan

The Common Council last week unanimously adopted a new Parks and Open Space Plan. 

The 51-page plan has no new recommendations and is essentially just an update from the previous plan. The document can be useful in creating city park policies and supporting budget requests, parks and recreation director Tom Lynch told the council.

The plan says “here’s what we’ve got; here’s what people want; here’s what our goals are; and here’s how to try to make them happen,” Lynch explained.

He prepared the plan over the past year and presented it to the council last Tuesday. 

The plan also makes the city eligible for county, state and federal grants, he said. 


Making a push for pigeons

One resident’s quest to allow folks in Stoughton to keep pigeons will continue next week despite the city Planning Commission’s recommendation to not allow the birds to be kept within the city limits.

Rosalie Bjelde’s request has been working its way through city commissions and committees since last fall. She’s asking to be allowed to have racing pigeons kept in a loft on her property.

That request suffered a setback last week when the commission recommended the city not spend time and resources on the request for one resident.

But Bjelde plans to appeal to the Common Council next Tuesday and ask the city to reconsider.

When asked by the Hub if she was going to continue to seek the ordinance change, she replied emphatically, “Absolutely.”


Dog daycare, restaurant advance; pigeons not supported

The City of Stoughton Planning Commission advanced a few items Monday but will revisit some other topics next month before moving forward with public hearings.

Here’s a look at some of the Jan. 12 discussion:

Dog daycare

Commissioners recommended approval of a conditional use permit for a dog daycare in Business Park North. The Common Council will still have to vote on the application Jan. 27. Site plans for the business will have to be reviewed, but commission members all voted in favor of the use.

Restaurant plans 

An “upscale quick serve” restaurant could be coming to Main Street after a conditional use permit for Purple Ocean, LLC was recommended for approval Monday. 


Commission chooses 33-year SFD veteran Wegner as city’s new fire chief

The Police and Fire Commission announced Monday it has selected Scott Wegner to succeed Martin Lamers and the city’s new Fire Department chief.

Wegner has 33 years of experience with the Stoughton Fire Department and 10 years as deputy chief/fire marshal.

The commission “was impressed with Scott’s proven abilities as a leader, as well as his firefighting knowledge, skills and education. With Scott’s background and having the years of experience working and training side by side with Chief Lamers, he will not have to learn the ‘Stoughton Fire Department Way,’” city human resources director Amy Jo Gillingham wrote in a news release. “He will be able to hit the ground running.”

Wegner told the Hub he’s lived in Stoughton since his family moved here when he was 4. 


Former alder Scovotti seeks Dist. 3 council seat

Former city alder Ross Scovotti filed nomination papers before last week’s deadline to run for a seat on the Common Council.

Scovotti, who served two 3-year terms on the council between 2006-12, will vie for the seat against newcomer Regina Hirsch. The Courier Hub ran an article about the April election last week but neglected to include Scovotti’s candidacy.

Scovotti and Hirsch have both lived in the city for about 10 years.

Scovotti, the owner of an online publishing company, said it came to his attention that current Ald. Tricia Suess was not running for re-election in Dist. 3 and so he decided to enter the race. Suess replaced Scovotti in April 2012 after he decided not to seek a third term.


Officials: Proposed Dunn cell tower underscores problem with law

Residents and property owners in the Town of Dunn are concerned about a proposal to build a new cell phone tower at the intersection of Lake View Drive and Halverson Road, a few miles north of Stoughton.

Town officials are also concerned and troubled by legislation that was included in the state’s last biennial budget, without debate, that limits the authority of local municipalities to control the siting of such towers.

“Our power to have any role in the siting of it has really diminished since the change in the legislation with the last budget bill,” said Erica Schmitz, the town’s land use manager.  “Very little control is available any more.”

She said the legislation went into effect July 1, 2013.


Three vie for District 2 seat

Stoughton voters will get a couple chances to cast a ballot this spring with a primary election looming for aldermanic District 2.

Council president Mike Engelberger faces challenges from two opponents – Ross Urven and Michael Gilbert.

Gilbert and Urven have different motivations for running, with Gilbert running as a direct challenge to Engelberger.

"I think I can do a better job than he's doing," Gilbert said.

Urven, who had previously served on the council in District 4 before moving to District 2, said he’d like to have a younger voice on the council. He said he's not running against Engelberger so much as hoping to represent a younger demographic.

Both candidates told the Hub that they favor the Kettle Park West development, a view that is in opposition to Engelberger.


Mild winter is easy on road salt budget

A mild beginning to the winter of 2014-15 is helping the city reduce the amount of road salt it uses, said Karl Manthe, Stoughton’s streets superintendent.

But, Manthe added, January and February of 2014 were hard on the road salt budget. If we had gotten a snowy December, he’s almost sure the city would have gone over its salt budget.

“Our budget runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, so the rough winter we had in January and February hit us hard,” he said. “It’s great that we didn’t get snow in December because now we’re going to be able to stay within our budget.”

Manthe said the lack of December snow has allowed his staff to catch up on things like tree trimming and removal, along with patching the streets.


Stoughton Utilities asks residents to report ice dams

Stoughton Utilities is trying to turn a potentially costly ice build up into savings with its Worst Ice Dam Contest.

The contest, which began Dec. 21 and runs until March 20, asks homeowners to send in up to three photos of ice dams in their house.

“The point of the contest is to help raise awareness about what to do to prevent ice dams from occurring and to help those in the worst situations remedy the conditions that are causing the ice buildup,” Cory Neeley, energy services representative at Stoughton Utilities, said in the release.

The winner of the worst ice dam will receive a free “Home Performance with Energy Star audit,” according to a news release. A contractor will examine the winner’s windows and doors for drafts, heating and air conditioning units, ductwork, insulation levels and then make recommendations on improvements to lower utility bills and improve air quality.


Stories of 2015

Map courtesy Forward Development Group. After years of conceptual discussion, the land uses approved for Kettle Park West might start to take physical form this year. The project plan shown above will guide the construction process this year if the project isn’t delayed.

Last year was 12 months of city decisions about Kettle Park West, but 2015 will likely be the year the project begins to take shape on the ground.

It’s only “likely” because a group calling itself Stoughton Forward hopes to stop the city from providing the $5.1 million in tax-increment financing needed to fund infrastructure improvements as prescribed in the KPW development agreement. 

Stoughton Forward has vowed to sue the city over its approval process and also hopes to gather enough signatures to place an advisory referendum question on borrowing money for the project on the April election ballot.

It’s unclear whether those or other strategies to stop the project will succeed, but if the project does not get started by June 30, it will need an extension, something opponents are also hoping for.