Sunday, August 28, 2005

Are we sweeping justice under the carpet in Winnebago County?

William Lennon has been the Winnebago County District Attorney since January 2003. I worked to help get someone else elected in 2002, it's true. But I will admit that since Lennon took office, it appears – at least for the most part – he has done a reasonably good job in handling cases and restoring some honor to an office mismanaged and dishonored by former D.A. Joseph Paulus (now a convicted felon serving time in a federal facility in Florida). However, some serious questions about Lennon's handling of a couple cases in particular remain.

Case #1: Bids were waived on the construction of bathrooms at the Leach Amphitheater. In July 2005, an assistant D.A. in Lennon's office agreed with an earlier opinion from the state Attorney General's office that the law was indeed broken by the Oshkosh Common Council when it voted 5-2 to waive bids. Yet, Lennon refused to prosecute the case, saying his office didn't have any authority to do so. Instead, he suggested that the citizen(s) sue the city or take our displeasure to the ballot box at election time. He is the district attorney. If he does not have the authority to see that the law is not broken by such illegal activity as bid-waiving (and bid-awarding to a friend of a city councilman voting on the matter), then who does?

Case #2: This month Lennon ruled that an off-duty UW-O police officer was not justified in shooting a hit-and-run suspect (off-campus, no less). He cited several problems with the officer's overall assessment and handling of the situation, as well as his ultimate response of firing his service revolver. Yet, Lennon will not file charges against the officer, saying he wouldn't be able to meet the burden of proof.

People of this county have every reason to question Lennon’s decision in these two cases, especially Case #1. After all, the job of the district attorney's office is to make sure that when the law is broken, those responsible for breaking the law are brought to justice.

If Lennon’s office has no authority to do anything about illegal bid-waiving by a governmental body, why did they waste time in reviewing the facts of the case and issuing an opinion? Is that not a waste of taxpayer dollars? If his office truly had no authority to handle this matter and see that justice was done, Lennon's office should have explained that to the complaining party that and then directed him to someone who could properly handle it.

Like most district attorney’s offices throughout the state, the Winnebago County District Attorney’s office has handled a number of cases in the past where elected officials have broken or been suspected of breaking laws. Those activities usually related to violations of the Open Meetings law and, rarely if ever, resulted in anything more than a verbal warning and hand-slapping. But at least something official and on the record was done. In cases where there was a conflict of interest, the cases were referred to another D.A.'s office. So what is so different here? And why should private citizens have to spend their hard-earned money to file a lawsuit against people who have already in some respects "stolen" our tax dollars by not seeking the lowest bid possible? We rely on our D.A.’s office to see that justice is done. If some things are to be pursued by private citizens – either individually or collectively – then why does the D.A.’s office even look into these types of complaints in the first place and why are we told to file complaints like these with either the local D.A. or state Attorney General? None of this makes any sense and these questions deserve to be answered.

In the case of the off-duty campus police officer, again, Lennon cited a number of reasons why he believed the officer was not justified, though he did recognize that the officer faced a difficult situation and needed to react quickly. That may very well be the case and I am not necessarily condemning the officer for his decision. But if our own district attorney does not feel the shooting was justified, he owes it to the people of this county and community to file the charges and let a judge, jury or both make the final decision.

Justice may no longer be for sale in this county, as it was under the Joe Paulus regime, but it certainly appears to be up for grabs – at least in cases like these. By saying one thing but doing another, Lennon is sending the wrong message to those who break the law – whether they are elected officials who have acted improperly or suspects in other types of criminal cases.

Rumor has it that D.A. William Lennon has his sights set on a judicial office in the near future. But whether he seeks a higher office or merely re-election to his current post, these questions need to be answered now, rather than later. He owes it to the people he was elected to serve.

- Cheryl Hentz

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pollock Aquatic Center

Contributed by: Jim B.
I am wondering what is the difference between the council appropriating money to keep Pollock Pool running, and appropriating money to keep a new aquatic center running?

They didnt for Pollock, but I bet they will for the new aquatic center.

I support the great addition to our community, but wasnt it first presented to us as all private donations. Where will they find this money they couldnt find a year ago?

Jim B.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 07:06 AM MDT
I echo your concerns, Jim. I think an aquatic center is a great idea, but we as taxpayers have to realize it comes with a price. The city is going to have to foot a bill of about $50,000 per year to keep it running.

The thing about the 50K that concerns me is that because of a law signed by Gov Doyle recently, Oshkosh can only increase the tax money it receives by just under $500,000. Does it make financial sense to have 10% of this increased tax revenue go to the operation of the pool?

Although I hate the Northwestern, they hit it on the head yesterday: the citizens themselves should decide if the city should raise the taxes beyond the 2% as stated in the recent law. This should be decided using a referendum. I, for one, would vote for it, but I think everyone should have a say in such a matter. This needs to go beyond the 7 on the council. 50K is a small amount for a referendum, but when it's 10% of what the city can spend over last year, it's a huge chunk of change.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 03:31 PM MDT
The problem with a referendum, is this project is on the fast track much like the ampitheater. The timeline they are talking is having it ready for next Summer. If it is a gift we better get going post haste!!! Seems like this is being crammed down the throats of the tax payers again. Is it just me or are these projects that are "gifted" to the city pushed through with not a lot of thought and due process?

I am not a cobblestoner or trying to be negative, but I am having deja vu.

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 06:24 PM MDT
Good comments again, Jim. In the interest of citizen concern, and especially in this critical time of budget constraints that are only going to get worse, it would not hurt this city to postpone the opening of this aquatic center until 2007. Your thoughts about the amphitheater (and the fishing pier, I might add) are right on-- fast tracked. I agree these things are all wonderful additions to the city, but let's step back and view them objectively, instead of rushing into them.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 07:29 PM MDT
Jim, I am a little confused. Were you not in favor of the amphitheater project and pretty much the way it was done or have you always been of the mindset that it was on a fast-track?
- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 07:06 AM MDT

Yes I support the Leach, and believe long term it will prove to be an asset to our community. However, as I have stated in previous posts(tried to find it but couldnt), I believe "gifts" should not be railroaded through just because some fat cat donor has given us money to do something. Supporting Leach does not mean I thought the process was correct! It seems like we have council members more interested in building a legacy, rather than being prudent, and executing due diligence(sorry not due process) in all decisions.

As far as the topic, the more I think about this process, the more it bothers me. Unless others step up and provide more private funding, I think we are headed in the same direction as the ampitheater. Watching the workshop on the pool proposal I keep thinking about Mr. Wollangk and Mr. Esslinger puffing out their chests and proclaiming that this pool is far superior and much larger than any other in the region.
With all of these pools in existence are we setting ourselves up for a fall by over-building? Can we expect other communities to travel to Oshkosh to our "superior" facility when they already have one in their community? Should we take a closer look at Omro and the challenges/tax increases they face(d) with their pool facility?

We can't keep adding to the tax rolls for growth sake. It needs to be done wisely!

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 07:40 AM MDT
On the other hand, however, unlike so many other projects, the lion's share of this is being paid for by private donors. Wuite the opposite of most projects where we taxpayers are expected to foot the majority of the bill. People have been clamoring for a pool; now they still complain, but this time about the manner in which it is being provided.

- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 08:02 AM MDT
But Cheryl, don't you agree with Jim's posts that this needs to be done carefully? We can spend 2% over what we did last year in taxes. That amounts to just under $500,000. The yearly operating costs for the pool are going to be about $50,000. Is it responsible to spend 10% of what's available to us on the pool? We need to take into account the huge cost of fuel for city vehicles and heating city buildings, the bargained increases in settled contracts, and the skyrocketing health care costs that seem to have double digit increases every year.

Am I for it? Yes! The way around the 2% cap? Put it on as a referendum. Then we can surpass the 2% to pay for the operating budget of the pool, AND get the legal majority of the citizens behind the project supporting it! If it takes an extra year to do it, so what? Do it the right way! Don't let the mistakes of the past dictate what happens in the future.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:48 AM MDT
I think all things need to be done carefully. That has been one of my arguments all along. But with essentially the majority of the money for the project being given to the city, I can't see why some people are complaining about the council accepting it.

As far as referendums go, I support them in some cases and when done right. We have to be careful with that because it would make no sense to have a referendum for everything. We must weigh each situation so as not to be throwing good money after bad.

- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 11:02 AM MDT

Not sure where you are seeing "complaining" in my posts? I support the aquatic center, but want to make sure it is not pushed through at the pace it seems to be at this point. Three or so weeks ago it was simply a rumored project with everything happening behind the curtain. It was presented at the workshop, and now it is moving at break neck speed! Why?

I also find it ironic that a year ago the council couldnt find this money, and now it is like it is an afterthought.

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 12:00 PM MDT
Jim, I am referring to various people who have been complaining.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 01:42 PM MDT
It seems Jim B and others can’t seem to decide if they are for projects or not in Oshkosh. “I like the amphitheater, but I don’t like the speed of it.” “I like the water park, but I don’t like the speed of it.” Give me a break!

The water park project is being funded by a $5.9 million donation for the construction of the water park, and a $1.0 million donation for a fund that will help pay for the maintenance and capitol improvements. There will also be a .25 fee placed on every daily pass, and a $1.00 fee on all yearly passes. There will also be concession dollars that will be generated. Will the city have to pay something toward the project, you bet, and it should.

The $50,000 figure that has been tossed out that the city will have to pay is a guess at best. I challenge you to look at the payments that Omro has to pay to pay off the debt incurred for their pool. We won’t have any debt payments to pay for this facility, unlike the amphitheater.

And yes, I was “puffing out my chest” at the recent workshop. This will be a great facility and I would like to see as many people come out and enjoy the water park as possible. And you asked “can we expect other communities to travel to Oshkosh to our superior facility when they already have one in their community?” Well, the answer to that is a resounding YES!

As far as the referendum, it really wouldn’t make sense from a timeframe standpoint. The referendum would have to be held in April of ’06. This would not affect us until the budget of ’07.

So Jim, please pick a side, and stop being so negative about the projects that are being undertaken in Oshkosh.

-Paul Esslinger

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 02:38 PM MDT
I have reason to be concerned about the city of Oshkosh committing 50.000 dollars to this project. When the golf course was being redone about 4 years ago, the city goverment told the parks committee that the city would subsidize the golf course to a tune of 60,000 dollars a year for 10 years, to date the committee has not received a penny from the city. Will the city do the same to this aquatic center. Some times i feel this city is not interested in anything unless it makes money for them so the city can keep spending, spending, spending.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 04:10 PM MDT
I realize this is your baby Paul, but what happened to the prudent Paul Esslinger? If you do a little digging on this site you will see I have been beaten up pretty badly in the past for my support of the ampitheater! However, I seem to recall you questioning the process at the time. Shouldnt we learn from that process and improve this process?

Please prove to us how you know people from these other communities will flock to this superior facility?

No one has addressed the question of not having the money for the old pollock, but we do for the new. I am grateful for the gift, but was curious about the additional money and why it is now available?

I am all for this facility, and have said before I paid the non-resident fee at Omro this year so my children would have a nice place to swim. I will do the same for an Oshkosh facility. Being prudent has never hurt anyone!!!

I think I hit a nerve! It's amazing how when the project is of interest to you, then we are negative. Do you recall the zoo?

Do your homework, I have been one of the few on this site supporting the growth of Oshkosh to make it a better place for me and my family.

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 06:04 PM MDT

Why isn't it acceptable to be concerned about the speed of these projects, especially in these tight budget times? I am all for the progression of the idea of an aquatic center. At the same time, I hear ad nauseum at work how departments like the police and fire depts have to come up with 100,000 to keep from having to cut personnel. With recent laws signed into the books, the 50,000 estimated to run the aquatic center is 10% of what we can spend this year. Do you take a cop off the street to have your water park? Doesn't it deserve closer scrutiny to make sure the money fits well into the budget picture? The best time to make this decision would be DURING the budget process, not beforehand. Simply slow down and take a look at the big picture. You owe it to your constituents to do so.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 09:12 PM MDT

Your comments first: You’re correct; I did question a lot of things about the amphitheater.

Point #1: The council should have never authorized spending $940,000 for a piece of contaminated property that no developer would have touched in a million years because of the cost of cleaning it up. I feel that the city could have received this property for MUCH less than it ended up paying; in fact, if the council would have held out, I think we could have received it for free. What was WPS going to do with it?

Point #2: At the time we received a “donation” for the amphitheater, we had no idea how much money it was going to take to complete it, or how much more the taxpayers were going to have to pay. In the case of the water park, we know how much has been raised ($6.9 Million including the endowment) and we also know that there will be several sources that will help pay for the upkeep. 1. The charge on the ticket prices. 2. The endowment. 3. Concessions. 4. Money from the School District. At the time the amphitheater was being railroaded through, none of these things were figured out.

Point #3: There were votes on the council that at the time seemed suspicious, and now have been determined by the State Attorney’s Office to be illegal. There have been no illegal votes with the water park.

So you see, (or maybe you don’t) the process between the water park and the amphitheater are completely different.

As far as others coming into Oshkosh to visit the water park. First off, I know several people who live outside of Oshkosh that can’t wait to use this facility. And secondly, are you really that naïve to think that people from other communities aren’t going to come and use this facility? You yourself keep boasting how you go to Omro to use their facility. The way I see it, people in other communities will be boasting about coming to Oshkosh to use our facility.

As for spending money on the old Pollock Pool: You obviously didn’t pay attention when this matter came up. The old Pollock Pool has a crack in it, along with other maintenance needs that would have cost approximately $150,000 to fix before we could even start filling the pool. Doesn’t seem like prudent spending to me. And even if we did spend that kind of money to fix it, we’d still have an old outdated pool. The people that I have been working with had NO intention of spending money in the old Pollock Pool only to have an outdated pool when we were done fixing it. Doesn’t a new $6.0M+ facility sound better; especially if it’s being constructed on someone else’s dime?

You stated that you must have hit a nerve. Not really; it’s just frustrating to see people posting about things that they know little about and claim that they do.

And yes, I do remember the zoo; I tried unsuccessfully to reduce the cost of families to enter the zoo. That was unfortunate.


Your comments: Yes it is concerning about the speed of some projects, please read my analysis from Jim B’s comments above about the difference between the amphitheater and the water park.

I’m unaware of any budget situation where we are going to have to cut police personnel. If you can pass that information along, I would love to see it.

Would I suggest taking a cop off the street to pay for the $50,000 in fees for the water park? Please don’t be ridiculous. I know I wouldn’t, but I can’t speak for the other six council members. Again, if you see that Chief Erickson is suggesting to the City Manager to do this, I would like to know.

You said that the time to do this analysis is during the budget process time. Well, I’m here to tell you, the City Manager and his staff are figuring out budgets right now.

I owe it to my constituents to make Oshkosh the best place it can be with the resources that we have. In my humble opinion, I’m doing that. But I could be wrong.


-Paul Esslinger

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 09:36 PM MDT
Just a question, when did the school district commit to money for the water park? I haven't read that in any of Michelle Monte's minutes.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 05:19 AM MDT

The average contract raise in the city for 2006 is 2%. Health care premiums for the city are going up 5%. Fuel costs for vehicles and buildings are going through the roof. Where do we get the money, on top of all of these changes, to operate the pool? I am not talking about concession monies or surcharges on daily fees. They aren't going to foot the entire bill. Where does the city come up with the money out of the budget to fund this?

Why doesn't a referendum fit in here? What is the big deal about getting a majority citizen opinion, instead of letting the councilors alone decide? This center, if so great, can wait another year to make sure it is fiscally responsible. If the citizens decide to increase the taxes beyond the state limited 2% so we can operate the aquatic center, we don't have to worry about where the money is going to come from.

Omro doesn't come close to recouping its operating costs with their daily admission fees. What makes you think Oshkosh is going to be able to?

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 07:29 AM MDT

If you look at my original post the question was where is the money coming? How the Leach comparison came in I don't know! The cost to repair the Pollock pool and the cost to keep it running were two different figures if I remember. We didnt have it then, but we have it now? Where is it coming from???? It is a simple "naive" question that no one has answered!

This project is not being covered completely by private donations, so I see nothing wrong with questioning where the money is coming from. Remember Paul, "wants and needs".

Your not so loyal subject,

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 08:49 AM MDT
I’ll answer Chuck’s and kidding 22626 questions because they actually have merit, Jim B’s ramblings really aren’t worth the time responding to because they really are statements not grounded in fact.

Kidding 22626

You didn’t see anything in Michelle Monte’s minutes because it is at the Facilities and Finance level at this time. On August 24th, I met with this group, where there were four Board Members present, and they all seemed to be in favor of the expenditure. Of course this is not a done deal, but there doesn’t seem to be any opposition at this time.


We get the money to operate the pool from the sources that I’ve outlined previously. In a memo that the council members received from Parks Director Tom Stephany, he explained that it’s not out of the question that this facility could actually make money for the city. He based this opinion from contacts with other water park directors in other communities. We simply don’t know what the final figures will be. But again, if private donations come to $6.9 million, and we need to front $50,000 for operational costs, I think this is a good trade.

As I explained before, we certainly can have a referendum, but it wouldn’t take effect until the 2007 budget. And do we really want to have a referendum on a $50,000 expenditure? If so, then maybe we need to have referendums for road projects, employee contracts, re-zoning, etc. Elected officials are elected to make decisions, and this is one of those decisions that the council will make.

Omro doesn’t come close to recouping their costs because they have a bond to pay off. Their bond was in the millions of dollars. Not only do they have to pay of the principal, but also have to pay off the interest on the bond. We won’t have a bond to pay off, therefore the only costs we will have are operational. Big difference between Omro and us.


Paul Esslinger

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 09:04 AM MDT

You can't answer the question, where will the $50,000 come from?

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 09:26 AM MDT

You couldn't answer where the $3.1 million was going to come from for the amphitheater, but you were "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead" on that project.

Again, pick a side and stick with it.

-Paul Esslinger

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 09:52 AM MDT
Just a simple answer to the question will suffice!

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 10:33 AM MDT
I believe the question has been answered.
- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 01:52 PM MDT
Has it Cheryl?

All I am asking is where does the additional money not privately donated come from? Is Chuck H. right? I don't know, and want to know.

How this turned into "your with me or against me" I don't know! How the Leach got involved, I don't know. I apologize if I started anything negative. I wouldnt say our councilman put his best foot forward by belittling and berating!

I will try to be more precise in my questions in the future!

Jim B

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 06:56 AM MDT
I think our questions have been answered: The money generated will come from the tickets sold to the aquatic center. Mr Esslinger has informed us of that several times.

This project is a poor comparison to the amphitheater. The city decided they wanted to invest the money into the amphitheater, and, right or wrong, had the legal ability to raise taxes as much as they wanted to pay for it. Smart? Timely? Fiscally responsible? That is for each citizen to decide for the next time they go to the polls.

The difference with the aquatic center is that, due to a recent law that was enacted, we are VERY limited as to the amount of money we can spend next year. We do not have carte blanche to raise taxes to any level to pay for things we want. We do have outstanding budgetary responsibilities, mainly in wages and health insurance for city workers, that take up the additional money we can spend. That coupled with the huge increases they city will have to pay in fuel costs already has us over budget. Departments are reducing budget loads as we speak to get under the cap set by Gov Doyle. Mr Esslinger does not see this as a concern.

We don't know how much it is going to cost the city to fund their portion of the aquatic center. It may be nothing, it may be tens of thousands of dollars. If it ends up costing the city money, Mr Esslinger, where do we get the money? Jim B has been asking that. I have been asking that. You are skirting the question. Even an "I don't know" will let us know that you don't know. But please tell us. That's all we want to know-- where will the money come from?

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 03:19 PM MDT
Here are a few suggestions that the city can start in order to start bringing costs under control. First one, close all parks except Menominee Park, South Park, and Westhaven Park.Second, get out of the ambulance service and only keep the fire dept. open. Third, let the employees of Oshkosh choose which hospital they want to go to instead of the city telling them that they have to go to Aurora. Fourth seggestion, in order to have accountabillty we need a mayor with power that the taxpayers can hold accountable.There are going to be some hard choices to make but at present, the city council that we have now only wants to keep spending, spending, spending and now our present city council will now look into raising fees and maybe come up with more fees.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 04:08 PM MDT
A few comments regarding your cost saving ideas:

1) Getting out of the ambulance business will cost the city a couple million dollars a year. The ambulance generates that much money. Furthermore, the paramedics are part of the firefighting force, so even if the city got rid of the ambulances, they wouldn't be able to cut personnel. The National Fire Protection Association sets standards for firefighting staffing. The paramedics that staff the ambulances are part of that minimum staffing, and cannot be cut (I know-- I am one!).

2) Allowing city employees the freedom to go to either Affinity or Aurora physicians would cost the city about 30% more in health care costs every year. The contract signed with Aurora gives the city about a 30% discount on medical services. Freedom to go to either place would void that discount, causing medical costs to increase dramatically. Any health care organization offers those discounts to make their plans more attractive to whomever is going to use their services-- if you use us exclusively, we will give you a large discount. That's the gist of an HMO.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 04:52 PM MDT
Well personally i think Aurora bought the city fire dept. by subsidizing the fire dept. $141,000 dollars a year for up to 5 years. What's going to happen after that? I talk to many city employees and they had to take high deductables in order to keep their costs down. How is Aurora keeping costs down when they had 2 rate increases in 8 months, in the long run it will cost the taxpayers more by not having both hospitals compete. It is wrong to go with one hospital. Aurora said they built the hospital to give people a choice, the city is not giving that choice to the employees.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 05:19 PM MDT
The choice in health care you're talking about is what is offered to your employer by the insurance company. There isn't a person in the city who can choose to go anywhere they want. Furthermore, there is not one business in the city who offers such a health care plan with so many options. It would be way too expensive.

Actually, their is a choice for those employed by the city. City employees are NOT required to go to Aurora. They also have the ability to choose to go to ThedaCare. You need to get your facts straight.

City employee deductibles did not rise. In fact in some instances, they vanished! The portion of the health care premium that city employees had to pay increased, but so did everyone else's. The skyrocketing health care costs dictated that.

Your comment about Aurora buying out the fire dept is so ludicrous that it doesn't warrant a response.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 05:58 PM MDT
If Aurora gives such a nice discount to the city then why are health costs on the rise, it should be the direct opposite. Where is the savings when the city hired 6 more people for the fire dept. when the fire chief said the fire dept. could handle the extra load when they took on the expanded erea, bought 3 new ambulances. Your comments don't hold water. Your comment about about Thedcare just proves my point, you should not have to leave the city to go elsewhere.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 08:02 PM MDT
L Schaffer,

The city took on extra ambulance responsibilities to offset budget concerns. In the process, the city's ambulances were busier than expected. As a result, the city made a LOT more money than it expected it would. The solution was to use some of the extra money generated by the increased ambulance business to hire 6 more firefighter/paramedics and staff another ambulance in the city. The result? More trained personnel on the streets EVERY DAY, and faster response times. The increase in revenue from providing ambulance service to the outlying communities paid for the increased staffing of the fire dept. The city, then, has benefitted--greater revenue generation and better response within the city, all without costing the city taxpayers a dime.

The new ambulances were coming whether Oshkosh served the outlying communities or not. As was presented to the council when their purchase was approved, there are ambulances in this city with over 100,000 miles on them still serving as front line response vehicles. They needed to be replaced regardless of the response area.

Finally, health care costs are rising across the country. The employee health insurance contract signed with Aurora and TouchPoint are limiting the rapid rise in costs to the city. No one expected the costs were going to go down. The increases have slowed, however.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 06:19 PM MDT
I am confused by some things Chuck has said. In one post he said that the city is given about a 30% discount by Aurora for choosing it as its HMO provider. He also says that to give employees the freedom to go to either Aurora or Affinity would void the discount. But in the next post he chastises Mr. Schaffer and tells him to get his facts straight, and then goes on to say that city employees are not required to go to Aurora. He says they can also go to Theda Care. Would that also not void the discount? Perhaps this is more the case...

Typically under an HMO or PPO you can see who you want, but you pay higher dollar amounts for services when you have gone out of the provider network. So, based on that and the comments made by Chuck, it would seem that a city employee might be able to go anywhere they choose - even Aurora - but they are paying 30% more for services they receive if they go out of network. Is that what you are saying, Chuck?

- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 07:48 PM MDT
City employees have two choices when it comes to their health insurance. They can choose a PPO, which gives them the choice between Aurora and TouchPoint. They pay a higher percentage of their health care premium than the plan listed below. They also have a deductible, and have to pay 10% of the bill to a set amount. If you go to somewhere like Affinity, which is completely outside the PPO, the employee must pay 30% of the bill and pay a higher deductible. The city's portion of medical bills for this plan has about a 10-15% discount of the price. This decrease in the discount is countered by the deductible and the 10% fee.

The other choice is an EPO, which for all intents and purposes is an HMO With the EPO, employees must use Aurora. They pay a smaller percentage of the premium. There is no deductible, but there are copays. If you go outside the EPO, you pay 100% of the bill. The city, for the employees choosing this exclusive provider, get a 30-35% discount on the bill.

So the employees do have a choice. If you choose the plan that costs the city more money, you pay more out of pocket to cover the cost difference.

The reason there seemed to be two answers was because I was responding to two separate issues. But what you see above, in a nutshell, is the city's health care plan.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 08:03 PM MDT
Chuck you asked where the city would get the money to help pay for the Aquatic Center, i gave suggestions, it is more than what you gave. As to my other comments, i will stick by them. In the long run the taxpayers are going to pay the bill for our city leaders stupidity.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 08:10 PM MDT
And I pointed out that two of the solutions you gave would end up costing the city more money instead of saving it. To review:

1) Getting rid of the ambulances would cost the city about 2 million a year. That is what the city generates in ambulance fees.

2) Opening up the health care options to allow the city employees to go anywhere would also cost about 2 million. The city pays roughly 7 million a year in health care costs for its employees. Increase that by 30% and you increase the cost 2 million dollars.

Your ideas won't save the city any money.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:09 PM MDT
I’ve got a great idea to cut costs to help pay for the water park. Why don’t we cut Mr. Hable’s fat salary and benefits? After all, Mr. Hable is a city employee who seems to think he should automatically get a raise every year because his ass occupies a seat at the firehouse. Maybe we should also take away his cable TV at the firehouse, along with the weights, pool tables, and all of the other extras that they have. And if he whines about it, let him try to find a job in the private sector with his kind of salary and benefits.

And isn’t Mr. Hable one of the Not In My Back Yarders (NIMBY’S) when that Casey’s Subdivision came up? He was crying because “big trucks” were going to come past his house, and there was going to be dust and a lot of noise.

What a hypocrite! He’s whining because he doesn’t know exactly where the $50,000 (if that’s what we need) is going to come from for the water park, which we desperately need in Oshkosh, but he can live high off the hog with his salary and benefits that the taxpayers pay for!

Get off it Mr. Hable! If you’re so worried about the city budget, why don’t you march into the Fire Chief’s office and tell him to lower your salary?

And I might add Mr. Hable, you may want to have a little respect for the taxpayers that write on this website, like Mr. Schaffer, he’s paying your salary and benefits. And Mr. Esslinger voted for your salary and benefits, which I don’t agree with.

Mr. Esslinger: The next time the city negotiates with the likes of Mr. Hable, you may want to tell him that you’d rather pay for a water park to bring people into Oshkosh, than to keep paying him increases in his salary and benefits so he can occupy space for another year!

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:27 PM MDT
I believe I heard the city was also going to be asked to pay the costs for all the equipment and furniture (tables, benches, lifeguard chairs etc.) the new water park would need and if I remember correctly I think the number thrown out was about $100,000. I haven't heard yet where that money (I know it will be a once in awhile fee not an every year fee) will come from.

One question--- why is it that so many of the posts on this website are so critical of public employees? After all without any public employees you have no public services. I think the post from "dose of reality" was unnecessarily nasty and attacking. Is it any wonder people don't want to sign their name on this site?

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:34 PM MDT
Wow. How do I respond to this? What an attack!

I don't automatically get a raise every year. All city employees, regardless of their dept, get the same raise that was bargained by their union. That's how it works. With the changes in health care with our last contract and the cost of living increase, I didn't get any raise at all. Get your facts straight.

The "cable TV at the firehouse, along with the weights, pool tables, and all of the other extras that they have" are paid for BY THE FIREFIGHTERS. We all contribute to pay for our own TVs, dishes, pots, pans, cable TV, newspapers, and anything else that you pay for at home. The city provides beds and a table for us to eat at. That's about it. Get your facts straight.

My concern regarding the Casey's Meadow subdivision was damage to the streets caused by the trucks, and the danger the increased traffic would cause because of all the children in the neighborhood. I don't recall anything about noise or dust. Get your facts straight.

My salary is comparable to anyone in northeast Wisconsin who does what I do. I earn a salary commesurate with my experience, education and job requirements. I am proud to work for the City of Oshkosh and do a damn good job serving the people in this city. I take offense to your charge that all I do is occupy space. If I live on the high hog, as you say, and have such a gravy job, apply for it.

Lastly, I was not disrespectful to anyone on this site. I offered factual evidence indicating how some proposed changes in the city would cost money instead of saving it. I am a taxpayer in this city as well, and comment in this forum in the interest of being fiscally responsible. If you notice in an earlier post, I SUPPORT THE AQUATIC CENTER. I just want to know where the money is going to come from to run it.

I challenge you to sign your name next time. Anyone can stand behind an anonymous moniker and throw jabs. I thought this website was going to require that.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:46 PM MDT
Thank you Mr. Hable for correcting the not only nasty but also WRONG information from "dose of reality". Personally, as a taxpayer I would have no problem with the city paying for your cable TV or any of the other things listed that the firefighters pay for themselves...after all you spend days at a time away from your families (don't you) and I for one appreciate the service you do for our city. Maybe all those who whine and complain about their taxes can have the police and fire portion taken out of their tax bill and when they have a fire or need police assistance they can just pay the full cost.

I truly don't understand why someone would attack a firefighter, my goodness, that is one of the few truly honorable professions left. You put you life on the line every day you go out on a call. The father of a dear friend of mine was a firefighter and one day while fighting a fire at a paper plant a huge roll of paper fell on him and crushed his chest and he was in a coma for over 20 years. It is a very dangerous and very noble job.

I really am disgusted by "dose of reality's" rant. But I guess when you have no real valid ideas you just lash out and attack. Consider the source.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:56 PM MDT
Like I said chuck, by what you just wrote about the health insurance for city employees, they did not have a real choice as to where they wanted to go. we all should thank our city leaders for their stupidity. Oh by the way I should not have said that Aurora bought the fire dept., it should have been, Aurora bought the city and the city reciprocated by having city employees go to Aurora.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 10:13 PM MDT
L Schaffer,

There is no way that an insurance company will allow an employee at any company in Oshkosh to choose either Aurora or Affinity. The two systems are competitors. There isn't a person in this city with private insurance who has the ability to choose either/or. Medicare or Medicaid are the only people who might have that choice.

Please be careful in your statements that there is a correlation between the city choosing Aurora as it's health care provider and the ambulance response territories. I was on the city's committee that helped choose the most recent health care plan. I cannot go into details, but I can tell you one has nothing to do with the other. I cannot stress that enough. It is simply a coincidence that some people like to use just to make an argument.

Thanks for keeping the discussion civil.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 10:23 PM MDT
Chuck, people who are insured privately also usually have the choice of where to go. Question, however...why do city employees get to choose ThedaCare and not Affinity? ThedaCare is also a competitor, and a damn worthy one at that. Does Aurora not view them as such? After all, they have medical offices here in town and their hospital is only 10 minutes away in Neenah. Any idea on why that is allowed when choosing Affinity isn't? I'm not saying it's not a good decision, because I personally think ThedaCare is top-notch, but I am curious about that.

- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 29 2005 @ 05:09 AM MDT
City employees do not have the option to choose Affinity. They can choose either Aurora exclusively in the EPO, or choose between Theda and Aurora in the PPO. For some reason, there was that choice available. I do not remember why.

Technically I guess they can choose Affinity if they choose the PPO and go outside the network. This is probably what L Schaffer is referring to with Oshkosh Truck. The employee has a greater deductible then, and has to pay 30% of the bill up to several thousand dollars.

So as a clarification, no insurance plan would have both Aurora and Affinity as being 'in network.' One is in and one is out, and you pay a substantial penalty for going out. That is called 'steering.'


Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Monday, August 29 2005 @ 02:59 PM MDT
Chuck what Oshkosh Truck offers to their hourly employees is both Network and United Health( touchpoint). You see as of today 8/29/05 Oshkosh Truck gives their employees a choice, you can't say that about the city employees. Do you you what the difference is between these 2 insurance companys? I Will tell you, With United Health they have stockholders to please and with Network they do not, so their profit margin is only 2%, and that little bit of profit goes back to Affinity to help pay for programs for our poor citizens that don't have insurance. There is a big differance.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 10:23 PM MDT
Technically, many people have that "choice" (to choose either Affinity, or Aurora or at least the Dr. that practice there) it is just a much greater cost comes with that choice, i.e. the employee pays a greater portion of the bill, sometimes the whole bill sometimes just a percentage. At least that is my experience with some insurance plans.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: L Schaffer on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 10:49 PM MDT
Chuck Oshkosh Truck Corp. does, right now this company offers their employees this choice. You are wrong.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:12 PM MDT
Letting employees choose which hospital to go to will just cost the city a lot more in health insurance fees, not a cost savings at all.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:36 PM MDT
Well couldn't the same be said of you, pick a side and stick with it... Mr. Esslinger, weren't you against the Leach because it was moving too fast, was going to use taxpayer money and all the questions weren't answered before the issue was voted on? Personally I am in favor of both the Leach and the new water park, I just find it a little ironic that you and Ms. Hentz were totally against one (Leach) and totally for another (water park). I guess it isn't so much what the project is but who brings it forward?

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: doseofreality on Monday, August 29 2005 @ 07:48 AM MDT
Mr. Schaffer.

Trying to reason with Chuck Hable is impossible, and you’re wasting your time. You see, Mr. Hable receives a Cadillac health plan and is paid dearly for his service as a city employee. And yes, you’re paying the freight. Mr. Hable could care less about the taxpayers having to pay for his salary and benefits, he’d rather complain about a fantastic water park coming to Oshkosh, and the terrible trucks that are going to come by his house that are going to create noise and dust!

One thing Mr. Hable needs to understand is that all of those nasty trucks that are going to create dust and noise are going to be building new homes. Yes, that’s right, new homes that will be occupied by taxpayers, the people he has little regard for that pay his salary and benefits.

And for Mr. Hable and the other mentally challenged people that can’t seem to understand where the money is coming from for the water park:

1. Private donations
2. A $1,000,000 fund at the Oshkosh Foundation that the interest will pay for the maintenance and upkeep
3. .25 charge on the tickets
4. Concessions
5. Taxpayers

Do you understand now Mr. Hable and Mr. B? I get it, and Cheryl got it, why can’t you?

And while Mr. Hable kicks back at the fire station playing pool, sucking down some soda’s, and watching cable TV, the rest of us have to worry about keeping our job, and don’t have the luxury of receiving increases in our salary year after year for occupying space.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 29 2005 @ 08:34 AM MDT
Ms./Mrs. Kidder:

No, I wasn’t against the Leach. Don’t you understand that someone can be for a concept or idea, but not be in favor of the mechanisms or dollars that are spent bringing it to fruition?

I thought I was clear on these issues in the past, but here goes again.

Point #1
I didn’t feel it was appropriate for the taxpayers to pay $940,000 for a contaminated site that was owned by a utility. I believed we could have acquired this site for a fraction of the cost and saved the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.

Point #2
I didn’t feel the taxpayers needed to spend $2.1M in infrastructure enhancements for the venue. This would have saved the taxpayers $2.1M

Point #3
I didn’t feel that it was appropriate for the City Council to waive bids and accept a “bid” from only one contractor in building the bathrooms. As you know, that process has now been called illegal by the State Attorney Generals office, and out own District Attorney. Hopefully you and everyone else have a problem with elected officials voting illegally.

Point #4
I wasn’t satisfied when we built the Leach, and still am not happy that we don’t have a user fee in place for the users to defray the costs of the venue.

The amphitheater is a beautiful venue, and I hope that it will benefit the city and the taxpayers. So you see, I was in favor of that type of venue, but not in favor of how we arrived at getting to the end of the road.

I believe I’ve answered all of the questions regarding the amphitheater and the water park, so please don’t mischaracterize my position on either of the facilities.

If you have any further questions about my stand on these, or any other issues, please give me a call; I would love to discuss the issues with you. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on this website responding to every person who believes that they know my stand on an issue. Again, if you have a question about my stance, call me and I’d be happy to explain my stance.


Paul Esslinger

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 07:14 AM MDT
To dose of reality,

I am a taxpayer in this city. I obviously am very concerned about where tax money in this city goes. I am concerned about the taxpayers portion when it comes to funding the aquatic center. Am I against it? Absolutely not. I am in favor of it. My concern surrounds the other requirements the city must fund before we have extra money for the center. Yes, requirements-- wages, health care costs, fuel costs. Where that money is going to come out of the city budget has still not been answered.

As for sitting in the fire station and slamming pop and playing pool all day, let me tell you some of the things I have done while employed by the city:

I have done CPR on a 3 week old whose father slammed her into a wall. I did CPR on an 18 month old who was run over by a vehicle. I got to examine a body that had been laying in the sun for a week in the summer and as covered with maggots. I got to tell a mother her son had shot himself dead. I pulled a woman out of a fire who was so badly burned, the skin slipped off her leg. I delieved a baby! I spent time with a woman on Christmas night who was so lonely she called 911. I have fought three house fires on Christmas nights in separate years. I was called in on Christmas night this past year while I was on vacation to staff an ambulance in the city because all of the on duty firefighters were battling a house fire. I saw a child so injured last summer that I brought the ambulance home and woke my kids up to give them each a hug. I did CPR on a boy who drowned in Lake Winnebago. He vomited in my mouth while I was breathing for him. Speaking on vomit, I have been vomited on, peed on, and pooped on. I had to kneel in a pool of feces and urine to help a lady who fell off a commode and broke her leg so badly you could hear the bones rub together. I could continue, but I think you get the picture.

I love my job. There is an incredible intimacy that exists when someone needs your help so badly that they call and ask for a stranger to come into their house to help them. That is a huge compliment-- that someone trusts a stranger so much they will let you in the homes and tell you the most private details of their lives. I love to make people feel better, either by talking to them, splinting a wound, or giving some type of medicine.

All 106 firefighters in this city feel the same way. Our pride for our jobs drives us to do things most other people could not do. I am not ashamed to earn the salary I do. I work hard for it. Do I have down time at work? I do. I am there 24 hours at a time, every third day. But if someone needs help at 3 in the morning, I get out of bed to take care of them. I have had many sleepless nights in my 10 years on the job. It is what I am paid to do.

The insults you throw are painful, and strike a nerve. But I am bigger and better than you. I do not have to be disrespectful to inflame someone. Most importantly, I am proud to sign my name and stand up for what I believe in. You, obviously, are not.

I am done on the topic. Throw as many insults my way as you feel necessary.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Monday, August 29 2005 @ 09:20 AM MDT
Dear Ms. Kidder,

I think Paul Esslinger has summed things up pretty well but I would like to add these additional comments on my behalf.

You apparently don't bother to listen when people speak. I never once said I was against the amphitheater. That, after all, was being donated. What I was against were all the extras that went with it and the manner in which they were being funded; having no answers of any kind about the project and a city council that still approved it despite asking questions that never got answered; waiving of the bids for the bathroom construction; deals being discussed on the golf course by a city councilman (now our mayor) and the contractor selected for the project; and the public having little to no opportunity to speak on the matter when it was brought forward to the city council. The council had one workshop on it and it was voted on at the next meeting. It was rushed through in a matter of weeks and at millions of dollars in taxpayer expense.

The water park issue, on the other hand, has been the subject of much discussion in the media and the public has had ample opportunity to contact council members to let their voice be heard. Moreover, we taxpayers are not being indebted for millions of dollars for the water park as we are with the extras at the Leach.

I also might point out that some of the same people involved in the Leach Amphitheater project are involved in the water park project. That should demonstrate that it is not a matter of who brings something forward but the manner in which it is done and the extent to which taxpayers are being asked to participate.

Hopefully this clears things up for you so that you can see the difference. But for those who still don't, perhaps it's more that you simply choose not to as opposed to being unable to.

- Cheryl Hentz

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Thursday, September 01 2005 @ 11:23 AM MDT
Doesnt anyone else see the irony here????

Paul Esslinger can say he is for a project but doesnt like the mechanism or process, but he lambasts me when I voice the same concern, telling me to pick a side!

This Aquatic Center proposal has not been around for that long. It was rumored for a while but was just presented about a month ago. What is the hurry? Is the time frame of having this thing up and running by next year a bit unrealistic? We are seeing the results of the Leach timing, let's learn the lesson, and make doubly sure this is being done the right way.

Flame away!

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Thursday, September 01 2005 @ 11:54 AM MDT
Jim, can't you see the vast differences between the Leach and the aquatic center. What other questions do you want answered that Paul has not already addressed? And how many times do these answers have to be given. Present some new questions and we will ask him when he appears on the show. It's that simple.

- Cheryl

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Jim B. on Thursday, September 01 2005 @ 12:01 PM MDT

How about the two in my last post:

What is the hurry?

Is the time frame to be up and running by next year unrealistic?

And yes, my college educated mind can differentiate between the two projects. That does not mean you can't learn from one to put to use for the other!

Jim B.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 01 2005 @ 10:31 PM MDT
The irony is everywhere on this site...refer to Mr. Schneider by his initials and Ms. Hentz is all over you, call another politician, say Mr. Harris any name you like and it just sails by, write nasty things about a city paramedic not a peep from the administrator, but don't you dare refer to a friend by his initials. I'm pretty much done with this site.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 07:02 AM MDT
I have already been in contact with Mr. Hable concerning the "attack" on him and explained my position. As far as name-calling on Mr. Harris, I deleted those that were uncalled for, but an attack on his politics is fair game. If you find something else grossly offensive, send me an email and I'll look into your concerns. Or the individuals themselves could contact me, as Mr. Hable and Ben Schneider II have done in the past. I cannot possibly see every single post that is on here as they are posted. I do have a career and a life away from the computer. I try to look at everything as time permits, but again, if you see something horribly out of line, let me know.

In the meantime, if you would like to leave, I will be happy to delete your user name. Please let me know.

- Cheryl Hentz

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 07:28 AM MDT
I agree with Mr. Hable, no credibility, delete my account.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 07:40 AM MDT
Please consider it done.

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 07:18 AM MDT
I am with you, Margaret. I voiced my concerns with Cheryl and was told she didn't think the poster's words were out of line. Cheryl also told me she thought the poster probably just expressed what he thought were valid concerns.

Please. They were a personal attact-- from someone I don't even know! The poster didn't like my stance on one or more issues and decided to take it out on me by insulting my employment with the city. The issues he addressed are not even valid concerns, nor are they true. But they persist through multiple posts with nary a word from the site administrator.

Ms. Hentz- Please delete my account. This site has no credibility when insults and anonymous rants are allowed to go uncorrected.

Chuck Hable

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 07:54 AM MDT
Mr. Hable, it is interesting that you only represented a portion of my comments to you here - those which support your position and your position only. In my email to you, I told you that were I the poster of those comments, I would have used a better choice of words in some of his or her remarks, but that overall I believe valid concerns were expressed. I still believe that to be true.

They were concerned about some of the amenities at the fire department. Do you not have those things the poster mentioned? You admitted that you do, but you also explained they are not paid for by the city. And I told you I felt you did a good job explaining and defending your position. Did you not complain about a new residential development in your neighborhood even though it will bring more tax dollars into the community? I could go on, but they are all here for people to read for themselves. Again, I would have chosen some slightly different words, but the overall concerns this person expressed are indeed valid and you addressed them.

I will now address your other comment: per your request your account is deleted.

- Cheryl Hentz

Pollock Aquatic Center
Authored by: admin on Friday, September 02 2005 @ 08:44 AM MDT
I should note for those who may be wondering, that once an account is deleted, the person's comments automatically turn to anonymous ones in those sections related to poll questions where anyone can freely post - at least for now.

As I also told Mr. Hable, that may change in the future. But here again, he only chose to share with site visitors that which he wanted to and which painted me in a somewhat negative, non-responsive light. It is unfortunate that he only represented half the story.

- Cheryl Hentz

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Judge Gritton must explain excessive number of substitutions

Contributed by: by Tony Palmeri

August 14, 2005

Winnebago County Fourth District Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gritton is up for reelection in 2006. Before becoming a judge in 2000, Gritton was a Deputy District Attorney under Joseph Paulus, the rogue Winnebago County District Attorney convicted of taking bribes and filing false tax returns. During an appearance on "Commentary" with Jim Mather and I during the 2000 campaign, Gritton said he was "proud" to be supported by Paulus. At the time of Paulus' conviction (April 2004) Gritton told the Oshkosh Northwesthern he was unaware of any wrongdoing in the office. In May of 2004, Gritton told the Northwestern he "recalled only one time that an assistant came to him with concerns about one of Paulus’ recommended charge amendments."

Since Paulus' conviction, the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Winnebago County District Attorney's office have been carrying out an ongoing probe of possible misdeeds that occurred during his tenure. So far no information has been released which would implicate Mr. Gritton in any wrongdoing during his time as Deputy DA.

Whether Judge Gritton's ties to Joe Paulus will become campaign fodder for a possible opponent in 2006 remains to be seen. What should become an issue, however, is the fact that parties to civil action have requested substitutions for Judge Gritton at a rate alarmingly higher than any other judge in the circuit. The right to request a substitution is granted in Wisconsin Statute 801.58.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Balskus recently requested a report on substitutions for the circuit judges in Winnebago County. At my request, he forwarded me the information he received from District Court Administrator Jerry Lang, summarized in Table 1:

Table 1: Winnebago County Circuit Court District 4 Judge Substitutions: 1/1/2000 thru 12/31/2004

Judge Subs Total
Carver, William J. 24 24
Crane, William E. 16 16
Gritton, Thomas J. 1025 1025
Haase, Robert A. 64 64
Hawley, Robert 80 80
Key, Barbara 98 98
Schmidt, Bruce K. 88 88
Woldt, Scott C. 17 17
Total 1412 1412

As shown in the table, over a four-year period the closest to Gritton's 1025 substitution requests was judge Barbara Hart-Key's 98. Such an imbalance raises a wealth of questions. Why do so many visitors to the Fourth Circuit want a judge other than Gritton? Is it because he is perceived as being too tough? Unfair? Connected to Paulus? What is going on here?

On July 15, 2003 the Appleton Post Crescent reported that in a federal probe of bribery allegations, Appleton attorney Richard Bollenbeck declined to testify as to whether he had paid bribes to Joe Paulus or former Outagamie County DA Vince Biskupic. In the story, former Bollenbeck client Melinda Otto "alleges Bollenbeck promised her a lenient sentence based on his ties to Paulus and Winnebago County Circuit Judge Tom Gritton, who presided over her case."

Could possible ties to Bollenbeck or others involved in the federal probe have something to do with the high amount of substitutions? We don't know. What we do know is that come reelection time, Judge Gritton will have to provide some kind of compelling explanation for the high rate of substitutions.

This story is copyright 2005 by Tony Palmeri.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Irving Street

Contributed by: Anonymous
What is the story with Irving Street? How long has it been messed up, and when will it be finished? I don't get to that part of town too often, but I can see that it will be a MAJOR hassle if it's still torn up when school starts.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Irving Street
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, August 10 2005 @ 02:22 PM MDT
West Irving Street between Jackson and North Main has been under construction since late June and will be until Oct. 3. It has been a major hassle so far and when school starts it ought to become even more interesting.

I don't think anyone expects that major reconstruction can happen with no noise, headaches or inconveniences. But what makes it especially bad is the attitude of some of the contractors or subcontractors and utility people involved in this project. Some of these folks have no concerns when they block people's driveways on the side streets. It seems that the very least they should do is notify the residents if they plan to block their driveways. But they don't. Instead they block the driveway with their trucks or with other materials or equipment and when you need to get out you're expected to run around finding a supervisor to clear the way for you. It's just plain inconsiderate and annoying, not to mention, probably illegal.

Also, at the end of many workdays, the contractors have left huge "craters" in the road on Irving Street (which is open to local traffic) without putting up proper barricades or barrels to prevent accidents from occuring by people accidentally driving into them. Do they not understand how hazardous this is? And the flashing lights on the barricades they do have up in some places often don't work at night or they flash so faintly that they may as well be non-existent.

Also, whether or not traffic can get down a given road or side street often changes from day to day - even from hour to hour - but the "local traffic only" signs continue to stay up. So, for example, a person can start down a road that an hour earlier they got through on, only to get so far and then have to turn around because trucks and materials are now completely blocking their passage.

Some of the contractors have been very decent to work with and the city staff has been wonderful, too. But they all need to understand that people's lives and sleep are already being disrupted by the work alone, so they should take appropriate steps to make sure they don't cause even more, unecessary headaches.

Finally, there is a small contingent of college students who just can't seem to leave their hands off things and mind their own business, especially after a night at the bars. These "children" routinely, especially on the weekends (from Thursday night through usually Saturday), knock down barricades that are up and move others of them from one place to another, which creates even more safety issues for motorists. They have been seen throwing construction materials around (the ones they can pick up, that is) and they seem to take special pride in tipping over the construction crews' Port-a-Pottys. The crews have now begun chaining them to the phone pole, but the kids are still tipping them over as far as they are able to. Mind you, most students at UW-O are decent and respectful young adults. But maybe the workers should find a way to secure that small group of vandals who give their fellow students a bad name to their dorm rooms instead of chaining the Port-a-Pottys to the phone pole. That would eliminate at least some of the problems.

- Cheryl

Irving Street
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 10 2005 @ 09:47 PM MDT
Thanks Cheryl - that is very helpful - and unfortunate...

Irving Street
Authored by: admin on Thursday, August 11 2005 @ 11:07 AM MDT
Just a quick update: This morning the contractors on this job (Vinton Construction) began work around 6:45 a.m. That is in violation of the city's noise ordinances and people around the construction area were not happy - myself included. I made a call to the city and let them know about it and at least one neighbor called Vinton Construction. This is the very kind of disregard for the neighbors that I talked about yesterday.

It would be nice if when awarding bids in the future, the city and city council took these kinds of things into consideration, especially since we neighbors are paying a huge chunk of the bill personally and all citizens are paying another huge chunk through our taxes.

- Cheryl

Irving Street
Authored by: Michelle Monte on Thursday, August 11 2005 @ 02:44 PM MDT
Is this the same Vinton Construction out of Manitowoc that just got prosecuted for bid rigging?

Thanks for reading.

Irving Street
Authored by: admin on Thursday, August 11 2005 @ 02:46 PM MDT
I believe they are one and the same. Makes one wonder what the city is thinking, if that is in fact the case, doesn't it?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sheriff's Budget Off 2 years...

Contributed by: Anonymous
As recorded in the June 20, 2005 "Winnebago County Board of Supervisors Judiciary & Public Safety Committee" Minutes, "Sheriff Brooks explained that due to a calculation error made in his budget, he has a $818,000 shortfall in wages for fiscal 2005." It seems 17 employees were not added to the budget!

As recorded in the July 30, 2004 "Winnebago County Board of Supervisors Judiciary & Public Safety Committee" Minutes, the "Sheriff's Report" states "You will see a change in the Sheriff's Office budget for 2005. We will be going back to the way it had been done in the past."

As recorded in the October 12, 2004 "Winnebago County Board of Supervisors Judiciary & Public Safety Committee" Minutes, "Sheriff Brooks explained that a transfer of $522,000 is needed to cover the projected shortfall for the year 2004..." A motion to approve this transfer of funds was made, seconded and carried.

Am I wrong, or isn't one of the duties of the County Board to monitor spending and ask questions and expect results from the department heads. Now, it is my understanding that other county departments may be restructuring and possibly losing positions because of these errors (Parkview Health Center, maybe others).

Thought you may be interested in some of the minutes.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Sheriff's Budget Off 2 years...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 05 2005 @ 02:06 PM MDT
In my opinion, the people on the county board, as a whole, have been asleep at the switch on things like this. The departments are supposed to be accountable to the board, who are supposed to be accountable to their bosses - the citizens. Something is seriously wrong when things like this happen and there seems to be no fallout. If I handled my own finances this way, I'd be living on a bench down by the YMCA.

Sheriff's Budget Off 2 years...
Authored by: Jim B. on Friday, August 05 2005 @ 02:48 PM MDT
The question is what is the solution? The names change but the same problem continues!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Harris Sales Tax

Contributed by: palmeri
I don't know if raising the county sales tax a half percent is a good idea or not--though I lean against it because sales taxes tend to be regressive. But I am disappointed that Mark Harris did not talk more about this issue during his campaign for county executive. He lambasted Jane Van De Hey for mismanaging the budget, but never do I recall him saying that raising the sales tax would be an option he would seriously consider. He also had ample opportunity to introduce a discussion of raising the sales tax when he sat on the county board, but I do not recall him doing that.

So, this has the look of just one more "bait and switch" political campaign: run for office saying that you will look for ways to be more efficient, make cuts, yada yada yada. But then the moment you get in office, ask for a tax increase. Very disappointing. --Tony

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

The Harris Sales Tax
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 05 2005 @ 11:31 PM MDT
didn't he say this was a result of the recent legislature and governor? i believe the northwestern also reported other ways he is looking to avoid elminating jobs such as pay range caps. he should also talk with the union to see if there are savings there too as to not lose jobs. do you have any suggestions?

The Harris Sales Tax
Authored by: bigdog on Wednesday, August 10 2005 @ 02:01 PM MDT
Mark should take some of the money from his hair care budget as that is a good start.......And how about addressing the budget problems before they occur.....Reduce the size of county government and the number of elected officials......Shop the insurance for non represented staff........

The Harris Sales Tax
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 10 2005 @ 02:18 PM MDT
The Bigdog is right - our county is BLOATED and needs to do more to reduce spending.