Twin Lakes native Megan Ruger made a splash – and was one of the area’s top stories – when she made the cut for NBC’s “The Voice.”

Twin Lakes native Megan Ruger made a splash – and was one of the area’s top stories – when she made the cut for NBC’s “The Voice.”

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Editor

The year of 2014 marked several changes in Western Kenosha County.

Elections bounced incumbents, a local village sat on the edge of dissolving, and students at Wilmot Union High School made themselves heard.

Here’s a look back at the news of 2014, in no particular order:

 

Local grad Ruger hits the national stage

Twin Lakes’ native Megan Ruger enjoyed a banner year in 2014, making the cut for the hit NBC show “The Voice.”

Blind auditions got Ruger a spot on Blake Shelton’s team, though her stay didn’t last as long as she would have liked. She won her first “battle” on the show by singing “My Happy Ending,” but was then eliminated in a head-to-head battle with Audra McLaughlin in the second set of competitions.

Ruger has recorded an album called “Black Dress,” which has now been released. She’s also been performing in and around Nashville, as well as other places in the south. Ruger opened for the band “Foreigner” at the Walworth County Fair in August.

While she lives in Nashville, Ruger took the time to visit her home area often over the last year, performing at Lakewood School in Twin Lakes in March and answering questions for curious students.

 

Wheatland School referendum fails – then passes

With two separate referenda in two separate elections, Wheatland School got voter approval to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit.

The first referendum that failed was for $750,000 for each of four years, while the second that passed was for $625,000.

The school had faced a significant revenue decline since 2010, and had managed to keep the overall tax levy flat. Programs continued to grow and test scores improved.

Because of an increase in state aid and increase in overall enrollment, the school-based portion of the residents’ property taxes was expected not to increase with the second referendum. The first would have seen roughly a $70 increase over four years to a $100,000 home.

The first vote failed 286-233, while the second passed 357-186.

 

Lakewood School making improvements

Lakewood Elementary School in Twin Lakes got referendum approval in May to move forward with a plan developed by Scherrer-Nexus to make several improvements to the school.

The referendum, to authorize general obligation bonds in a not-to-exceed amount of $5.9 million, addresses a 50-year-old gymnasium, additional classrooms, restroom facilities, connecting the front and back of the building and repurposing existing classrooms.

That amount breaks down to roughly $6 a month per $100,000 of assessed property value in tax bills.

Phase I of the project is being done through Act 32 in the state and should not impact taxpayers. The changes will allow the district to make many environmental, cost-saving changes, including lighting, roofing and heating and air conditioning.

The school was originally constructed in the 1960s, and currently serves 407 students in 3K through eighth grade. A complete breakdown of the project can be viewed at www.twinlakes.k12.wi.us.

 

Silver Lake – the village that almost wasn’t

After numerous budgetary issues haunted the Village of Silver Lake, two different referenda appeared for the fall election.

The first would have prevented the village from entering into any Mutual Aid Box System Agreements – or MABUS – agreements with the fire department.

The second, though, on the heels of the first, suggested that the village dissolve and be absorbed back into the Town of Salem.

From there, both sides geared up for the fight. Signs urging dissolution were vandalized, the Village Board came up with a number of different financial angles to try to save money, and arguments on both sides grew as the vote got closer.

In the end, both referenda failed – but not in the way one would have expected. The MABUS referendum failed due to lack of votes, but more people actually voted in favor of dissolving Silver Lake, 608-538.

However, a two-thirds majority was needed to dissolve, which meant the referendum came up short by more than 100 votes.

Village President Sue Gerber pledged that Silver Lake would find a way to work through the monetary issues.

 

Spring elections prompt several surprises

For the first time in several elections, the Village of Twin Lakes had challengers on the ballot, and one incumbent lost his bid for re-election.

Two incumbents in the Village of Silver Lake lost their bids, as did two on the Randall School Board.

Incumbent Mike Moran lost his seat to Barbara Andres in Twin Lakes, while in Silver Lake, incumbents Sotiria Wilber and Paul Snellen lost their seats as well. Elected in Silver Lake were Carolyn Dodge, Roger Johnson and Chris Willkomm.

In Randall, four candidates were seeking two three-year terms. Val Lass and Jan Brockway lost their seats to Jim O’Connell and Tracy Strother.

 

Cold weather hits home in big way

During a record-breaking winter that forced multiple cancellations due to snow and cold, at least one area school had to deal with another day off due to repairs.

Trevor-Wilmot Grade School had a heating coil rupture on Jan. 7, sending water through portions of the school at a depth of about two inches.

The school was closed due to dangerously low wind chills on Jan. 6 and 7. The coil break and water were discovered when maintenance staff came into the school early on Jan. 8.

According to District Administrator George Steffen, water cascaded down one hallway and into the gymnasium, then flooded five classrooms. Water that reached the north entrance froze.

The cold weather hit all area school districts hard, with several forced to make up days of instruction in spite of built-in safeguards to meet the state’s required hours of teaching.

 

Error leads to incorrect tax levy

An error in the tax bill and library levy left the Village of Twin Lakes with a $232,080 increase in the property tax levy over what it was intended.

During a Committee of the Whole meeting in February, trustees learned of the mistake, which averaged a $60 overpayment by village taxpayers.

The village makes an annual payment to the library and the amount is included in the village budget.

A memo to trustees from Village Administrator Jennifer Pollitt explained that in 2009 the Village Board voted to have the library levy listed separately on the tax bill. This does not mean the library is an additional taxing jurisdiction, but rather separated for information purposes only.

The levy was reported to the county for the full budget amount, which would have been appropriate if the library payment had not been separated out, Pollitt wrote.

Because the library was included in the village levy it resulted in a $232,080 increase in the levy over what it should have been levied.

The board opted to ratify the 2014 tax levy in the amount of $3.5 million. The excess funds will be absorbed by the contingency funds for the year. Reimbursement was not considered cost effective for the village.

 

Central High School plans upgrades

After taking nearly a year to determine the scope of the project, the Westosha Central High School Board decided to cap the project at $6.4 million in February and only tackle a portion of the work recommended by consultant Scherrer-Nexus.

The current plan is to continue replacing and upgrading heating, ventilation, lighting and plumbing systems. Some work was done this past summer, as two restrooms near the cafeteria received a facelift.

They were gutted to the studs and all fixtures were replaced with water conservation fixtures and LED lights that provide better lighting while using less energy. Asbestos abatement work was also done and the old asbestos tiles were replaced.

Part of the exterior façade at the back of the building was replaced with an insulated metal façade. The last few single-pane windows and frames in several classrooms were replaced with energy-efficient double-paned windows.

The chillers, or air conditioners will also be replaced.

“They are over 20 years old,” district administrator Scott Pierce said in a telephone interview, “and are not as energy efficient as replacements would be.”

 

Roadside delivery by Twin Lakes – and stork

Twin Lakes patrol officers got a surprise on their May 21 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift.

Katie Hall and Jeffrey Comp responded to a 911 call for a woman in labor at Highway Z and Highway P just west of the village limits.

The woman, Rachel Bakker, was close to delivering her son, Justin. After the pair helped deliver the baby, Twin Lakes Rescue arrived and took the baby to Lakeland Hospital in Elkhorn.

Justin weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces.

Bakker was in “total shock” that she gave birth on the side of the road.

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Bakker said. “That’s why I am so grateful everyone showed up as fast as they did … my birth plan was to get to the hospital and get an epidural…this wasn’t part of my plan!”

Justin is the seventh child of Rachel and Scott Bakker, and the couple’s fifth son.

 

Transmission line project approved

The American Transmission Company worked on and found a route for a proposed new power line, labeled the Spring Valley-North Lake Geneva Project.

However, while both Paddock Lake and Salem worked together to develop a route that satisfied both municipalities, only the Salem suggestions were accepted.

Paddock Lake Town Chairman Tim Popanda registered a challenge with the ATC to reiterate the route changes the town requested – which would move the line more to the west.

Two routes have been presented to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. To view the routes, go to www.atc-projects.com and click on the button for the Spring Valley-North Lake Geneva project.

 

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