YORKVILLE — Town officials on Monday took the first step toward Yorkville incorporating as a village.
The Town Board and Plan Commission on Monday night passed a resolution to hold a spring referendum to ask residents whether incorporation should be pursued. No date has been set for the referendum.
One section of the Foxconn legislation states that towns adjacent to the site of the future manufacturing plant have the option of incorporating into a village or city, regardless of whether they meet the state’s standard qualifications for incorporation, which include meeting population density targets.
“This simplified the procedure,” said Yorkville Chairman Peter Hansen. “This one said all you have to do is have a referendum.”
Hansen said the state’s office of economic development notified him that the future Foxconn site in Mount Pleasant will not officially be designated an electronic district until Jan. 1, so any official movement toward incorporation has to wait until that time.
Hansen recommended the board vote Monday on authorizing a referendum and then finalize the date with another motion after the new year.
Veteran Town Supervisor Terrence McMahon asked that the proposed referendum date, April 3, be removed from the motion in case the board decides to reschedule. April 3 is the date of the regularly scheduled municipal and school elections. But McMahon said the town might have to hold a primary in February before the general election in April and suggested the board might want to hold the referendum then.
After Monday’s vote of intention to hold the referendum, McMahon suggested the town hold an information session for the public a few weeks after the referendum date is finalized. Hansen agreed and announced that town officials would try to schedule at least one information session around the third week of January.
Hansen said the biggest motivation to incorporate is so that the town will be able to maintain its borders. Under state law, cities and villages have more statutory power than towns, including the authority to annex land from towns.
“We’re not becoming a village for the sake of becoming a village,” Hansen said. “We’re doing it so that no one can annex our property.”
McMahon threw out the suggestion that the board consider upgrading the town all the way to a city classification instead of a village. Former towns like Muskego, New Berlin and Mequon incorporated as cities.
“In the law it says we can be a village or a city, why not be a city?” said McMahon. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re thinking big, so think big.”
The other supervisors and plan commissioners said they would like to have some time to research the difference between the two before deciding.
“Village sounds more small town,” said Plan Commissioner Douglas Nelson. “And I like that.”
If Yorkville did incorporate, it would surround the Village of Union Grove, much the way Mount Pleasant surrounds Sturtevant. But Union Grove Village President Mike Aimone said Monday that if Yorkville becomes a village, Union Grove would still have avenues for expansion, though he didn’t go into specifics.
“We’ll address that as it arises,” he said.
Overall, Aimone said he doesn’t foresee the municipalities’ relationship changing. The two entities already share a municipal building and a fire department.
“We’ll continue to work with the Town of Yorkville, taking into consideration what’s best for the citizens of Union Grove and Yorkville,” he said. “We look forward to being good neighbors.”
RACINE — Racine Police Chief Art Howell and former Chief Art Muhlke share multiple connections spanning many decades, they’ve come to learn.
In addition to sharing the same first name and title, the chiefs also have a common connection to Muhlke’s step-grandson, Bill Buhler, president and general manager of ButterBuds, a Racine food ingredient company.
Through somewhat of a chance encounter in Chicago, both Howell and Buhler learned some history and came away with respect and appreciation for one another.
In June, Buhler organized a trip for local leaders to watch an experimental transcendental meditation program in action at a Chicago school. Howell took part in the trip and ended up sitting next to Buhler during lunch. Buhler has been a meditation advocate since the 1970s.
“You’re the second Art that I’ve known as chief of police,” Buhler told Howell during that break.
And from there, they launched into a conversation about Buhler’s step-grandfather, Art Muhlke, who was Racine police chief from 1938-1948 and worked for the department for years prior. Buhler mentioned a photo he had of Muhlke and his fellow motorcycle officers, which Howell thought would fit perfectly in the new museum in the police station lobby at 730 Center St. Buhler subsequently presented a framed copy of the photo to Deputy Chief William Macemon, the museum’s curator.
While there had long been a display case in the police station lobby that included some artifacts, including the machine gun John Dillinger used to rob a Downtown Racine bank, the extended museum made its debut in May, after Howell decided the lobby was too cold and unwelcoming.
While the department’s six Community Oriented Policing houses, spread through the community, were designed to welcome visitors, Howell said the police station did not have the same feel. And he wanted to change that.
The museum consists of a series of glass cases below the main stairwell that contain information and objects related to the department’s past. The cases are sponsored by different entities and individuals in the community, including ButterBuds and SC Johnson. It includes a display of various police vehicles from the past and the lie detector machine that the department formerly used to test recruits. There is also an example of the corner call boxes that police used to communicate with the station in the early to mid 20th century. As all of the department’s historical artifacts can’t fit in the cases at the same time, they are displayed on a rotating basis. Howell plans to add Buhler’s photo to the lineup.
“If you come into the building you can see how this organization has evolved and how it’s grown and how it’s community-friendly,” Howell said. “I think the new lobby is more reflective of the organizational culture than the institutional, cold marble walls.”
Howell also believes the museum is beneficial to his officers, so that they can see how the department has progressed over the years.
Buhler knew Muhlke when the former chief was probably in his 70s, Buhler estimated. Muhlke married Buhler’s grandmother, Amanda Buhler, after both of their spouses had died. Buhler remembers Muhlke taking him and his cousins on fishing trips to northern Wisconsin and Canada. But his encounter with Howell inspired him to do some research about the man. He soon headed to the library to read old newspaper clippings about the former chief.
“I learned a bunch of stuff about Grandpa Muhlke that he didn’t tell us about,” Buhler said.
Buhler discovered photos of Muhlke as a young man. He got to see the motorcycle Muhlke rode during his police career and learned about the challenges the former chief faced.
“I feel very blessed by these circumstances that have brought this man’s life and memory back to me in a detail and clarity I never could have imagined,” Buhler said. “It opened to me a perspective of the times he lived in, of our community, and of the challenges he faced”
These challenges included dealing with a lack of officers during World War II, and organized crime and corruption.
Muhlke started work for the department in 1919, driving the police ambulance. While working as a sergeant, he established the traffic beureau’s record system. He also created the first of a series of training schools for police. Muhlke seemed particularly concerned about safety.
“This concern was not only with regard to the traffic situation with the quickly changing scene as more and more automobiles were owned and driven, but also to see that the motor vehicles of the Police Department received proper maintenance,” Buhler said.
He was also interested in supporting youth, including the Boy Scouts.
Buhler believes that the two Arts share many similarities.
“I knew Art Muhlke over a period of years, and his integrity was evident to me in the things he said and did,” Buhler said. “I am not surprised to find it confirmed in his record with the Police Department. Chief Art Howell and I are just beginning our acquaintance, but the record of his accomplishments — and his persona — clearly illustrate this quality as well. Chief Art Howell’s integrity is immediately evident to anyone who meets him. You just look in his eyes, and there it is.”
Howell said he was impressed when he learned of Buhler’s law enforcement connection. This allowed him to relate and feel a sense of kinship and connection to Buhler.
“I’m a big proponent of community policing and I think it’s great that in this particular community there’s no shortage of people like the Buhlers and others who want to support public safety through supporting the Police Department whether it’s through TM (transcendental meditation) or whether it’s through supporting the museum,” Howell said. “It’s just great to have community partners that want to basically work in collaboration with law enforcement to keep the community safe.”
MOUNT PLEASANT — For the first time in 16 months, Mount Pleasant is poised to have a full-time administrator, the top staff position in the village government.
After spending roughly 20 minutes in closed session on Monday night, the Village Board voted unanimously to appoint Maureen Murphy, a veteran in municipal and county administration, as the new village administrator. Murphy’s first day on the job will be Nov. 20 and her salary will be $112,500.
The village has been without a full-time administrator since July 2016 when the Village Board parted ways with former administrator Kurt Wahlen. Mount Pleasant Police Chief Tim Zarzecki has been filling in as interim administrator.
Currently living in West Bend, Murphy has been handling family medical issues the past two years but before that spent decades in public service.
When asked why she decided to come to Mount Pleasant, Murphy responded with one word: “Foxconn.”
“My particular brand of management includes a lot of public involvement,” Murphy said. “Foxconn was the draw … it is a monumental project and it will put Wisconsin on the map, internationally, not just nationally.”
Murphy said she wants to move things forward with regards to Foxconn, but Project Manager Claude Lois will remain as chief overseer of the project for the village.
From December 2014 to July 2015, Murphy served as human services administrator for Washington County. Before that, she served two years as administrator for Door County. She was administrator for the Village of Slinger in Washington County for more than six years, and before that she was administrator for the City of Mequon in Ozaukee County for almost four years.
In 1992, Murphy worked in Milwaukee County as director of legislative affairs/special projects manager and would be in that position for almost 10 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in village administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Murphy said the Mount Pleasant Village Board had a desire to “involve the public” in village operations and “to let the citizen taxpayers know what we do. I think that’s essential.”
“The staff is outstanding here,” Murphy said. “A lot of places that you work don’t have such an outstanding staff. And I’ve met them and spent some time with them and they want some good, calm, consistent leadership.”
At Monday’s Village Board meeting, Murphy received unanimous praise with each of the board members who said they look forward to working with her.
When Murphy stepped to the microphone, she turned around and faced the dozen citizens who stayed through the closed session and addressed them directly.
“The direction I’ve been given so far is to involve the people in this government,” Murphy said.
Murphy talked to the crowd about involving them in the process of forming a strategic plan for the future and possibly starting a “citizens academy government, so we can involve you all and show you really what a jewel we have under this building.”
“We have absolutely fabulous department heads, so you are well served,” Murphy said. “I’m inviting everybody to my office. So once I get settled, please stop by and say hello.”
The hiring of an administrator marks a significant step forward for the village, which has had turnover in several posts in recent years. The positions of village finance director remains vacant and trustees have yet to agree on appoint someone to fill a vacancy on the Village Board.