By Jennifer Eisenbart
It’s been a year of new beginnings, controversy and tragic circumstance in the Waterford and Union Grove areas, with plenty of important headlines.
Here are some of the top news stories coming out of the Waterford and Union Grove areas in 2016.
Waterford Waterway Management District moves forward with dredging
While the Waterford Waterway Management District has the support to perform a dredging project, many questions remain on who will pay what – and when the project will happen.
Town of Waterford Chairman Tom Hincz has been fighting with the state government trying to push the state into handling the cost of the project, saying it is the Department of Natural Resource’s responsibility – not the taxpayers, since it is scenic urban waterway owned by the state.
Meanwhile, there is still confusion over who will pay what for the dredging. According to the original plans by the WWMD, riparian owners will likely bear half of a $12 million price tag. Who those riparian owners are – or what other taxpayers have to be defined – is apparently up in the air.
Waterford Woods residents have been notified that, while not part of the Waterford Waterway Management District, Waterford Lake will be dredged as part of the dredging project. That could cost owners anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000.
Meanwhile, the WWMD continues to move forward. With the dredging permit officially issued at the end of July, the group is still working on securing funding.
To that end, the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission had awarded the WWMD a grant for $155,628 and presented a check to the group in September for $80,880 to complete the grant, which addressed the dredging permit.
Tom Ditscheit decides to retire after 44 years
After 44 years in law enforcement, Town of Waterford Police Chief Tom Ditscheit will hang up his badge at the end of the year.
Ditscheit confirmed his retirement Nov. 7. He has been with the town police for 14 years and chief for nine of those. Before that, he worked in Milwaukee as a police officer.
A replacement has not yet been decided by the Town Board, and Ditscheit said he would only offer an opinion when asked.
His last day will be Dec. 31. His successor is Matt Johnson, a sergeant with the town’s police force.
The Town and Village of Waterford decided last year to work together on policing, delaying what Ditscheit said was his choice last year. However, while on vacation this year, he realized the department had made a successful transition.
The department is currently at nine full-time officers and 15 part-time positions.
“The guys and women who are working here, are really stepping up to the plate,” Ditscheit said.
Ditscheit had retired from the Milwaukee Police Department and decided to join the boat patrol in Waterford part-time while he built a small ranch.
“I actually took a year off and built a little horse ranch,” Ditscheit said. “After that, I though, ‘what am I going to do?’”
House explosion ruled murder-suicide
An explosion that demolished a home on Ketterhagen Road May 14 was ruled a homicide in the weeks that followed.
The explosion leveled the home at 29235 Ketterhagen Road. The bodies of Craig Lambert and Nicholas Chaulkin were found and identified, and a tissue sample found in the rubble was ruled to be that of Kimberly Howe, Lambert’s girlfriend.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling and his department investigated the scene and came to the conclusion that Lambert murdered Howe and Chaulkin, then set the fire that eventually resulted in the explosion.
The crime scene was investigated for more than two weeks, as the sheriff’s department discovered there had been a domestic dispute between Lambert and Howe. Howe’s daughter, Tamara Burgos, said that her mother and brother had left the home following the dispute, and didn’t believe they had returned.
However, the sheriff’s department expressed certainty that it had positively identified the three victims.
“We base our comments on evidence and the totality of the investigation,” Schmaling said. “We have done nothing short of a thorough investigation. There is no doubt we have the remains of those three individuals.”
New Aurora facility opens to great fanfare
An estimated 3,000 people turned out for a tour of the new Aurora Southern Lakes facility, an autograph session with three former members of the Green Bay Packers, free food and a ribbon cutting for the new facility Oct. 1.
The facility, which officially opened Oct. 17, houses a day surgery center, a Vince Lombardi Cancer Care department, and three floors of specialty departments that include a complete women’s imaging center, ear, nose and throat, rehabilitation and a pain clinic.
The Oct. 1 open house drew dignitaries from around the area, including Aurora President and Chief Executive Officer Nick Turkal, Executive Vice President and president of the medical group Jeff Bailet, numerous government officials including former City of Burlington Mayor Bob Miller, current Mayor Jeannie Hefty, and Sandi and Dave Conrad – a couple whose medical experience with Aurora helped shape their lives.
Both spoke about their experiences – Sandi as a breast cancer survivor and Dave as a cardiac patient – and how the new facility would help them.
“The cancer center is just beautiful,” Sandi said. “I can’t tell you how moved I was when I first saw it.”
Sandi also cut the ribbon at the end of the event.
Numerous members of the staff of the new facility were on hand for the event and earlier in the week for a handful of private tours.
Among the areas of pride for the staff is a private area for the women’s imaging department, where women who are waiting for mammograms have their own area, and where patients’ families can be brought in to discuss any issues.
Man who led police on wild chase set to be tried
Andrew Obregon, who was the top news story in Racine and Kenosha counties last year, is finally set to go to trial in January.
Obregon led law enforcement officials on a three-week chase following the death of Tywon Anderson Sept. 21, 2015. Wanted for questioning, Obregon fled from police several times, including two high-speed chases.
Obregon was finally captured on Oct. 13, 2015 after attacking a woman who was checking her father’s home and stealing her car. He was captured by a police dog in Zion, Ill., after authorities used the satellite communications system in the car he stole to disable the vehicle.
Obregon, 33, stands accused of 28 felonies, including first-degree intentional homicide of Anderson. He tried in December to change his public defenders, but the motion was denied by Judge Chad Kerkman.
Court officials expect Obregon’s jury trial to begin Jan. 30.
DOT work will shut down Highways 83/20 in Waterford
After getting the Rochester repaired and opened again this summer, Village of Waterford residents – and the surrounding area – will be faced with another long Wisconsin Department of Transportation project.
The work will reconstruct the existing pavement and bridge, and also address operational and safety concerns along the project corridor. The project has been in the works since 2010 when officials began collecting data.
The Village of Waterford has been proactive in addressing the upcoming reconstruction process, working throughout this year to address items as they have come up.
The village granted an easement in February for a portion of the project, and asked residents for feedback on the process as part of a village-wide survey that was approved in June.
More recently, the Village Board approved a plan to sell two real estate parcels near the intersection of highways 83 and 20.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is paying the village $7,450 to use the two parcels during the imminent reconstruction of the two thoroughfares, which are under the auspices of the state.
The state expects to undertake the highways 83/20 reconstruction project in 2018.
School referendums going to the voters
Four different area school districts are planning to go to referendum this spring, including a second attempt for Waterford Union High School for a new field house.
In this latest go-around, WUHS officials are considering a project that is identical to the proposal presented to voters throughout the school’s boundaries nearly four months ago. It includes a six-lane track with a number of related amenities and a 6,884-square-foot fitness center.
Waterford Union High School Superintendent Keith Brandstetter said the anticipated cost of the project has inched upward from the figures in April. When residents voted on the referendum proposal this spring, the work was expected to cost $12.21 million. Revised numbers now suggest the work would cost $12.56 million.
The Yorkville K-8 district, which feeds into Union Grove High School and serves elementary and middle school students in the Town of Yorkville, has grappled with budgetary deficits for a number of years, Alexander said.
A few stopgap measures, such as offering seats to out-of-district students through the open enrollment program, have stopped some of the financial hemorrhaging.
“But we’ve done our projections, and it’s just not sustainable to go down the track we’re on right now,” Alexander said.
The Dover Joint School District No. 1, also known as Kansasville School, began dealing with the possibility of a referendum when parents came forward wanting to see improvements made to the school.
Currently, several areas of the school serve not only two, but three purposes – like the library, which is equal parts classroom, library and computer lab.
Students also don’t have a cafeteria, and take their lunch back to their classrooms. Since the higher grades at the school are required to change into athletic clothes for physical education, the lower level bathrooms also serve as locker rooms.
Union Grove Union High School is also pursuing a referendum.
Union Grove woman charged with attempted murder
According to the Racine County Sheriff’s Department, Phyliss Madeja allegedly tried to kill her husband after a domestic incident just after midnight Tuesday.