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City revenue challenges
Salmon-A-Rama could leave: City panel denies request to reduce event fees

RACINE — Salmon-A-Rama may pack up its fishing poles and go elsewhere.

The Finance and Personnel Committee voted Monday to recommend that the City Council deny Salmon-A-Rama’s request to reduce fees for holding the annual fishing contest at Pershing Park, 800 Pershing Drive. The organization requested that the city waive the set-up and takedown fees for the July 2019 event.

The request was brought to the city after the event’s organizers realized at their February meeting that the fees the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department is charging this year are more than double what they paid in 2018.

After Monday’s meeting, Salmon-A-Rama Vice President Jim “Doc” Poplawski called the committee’s decision “awful” and said the organization might consider relocating. The ultimate decision is to be made by the organization’s board at its meeting on March 6.

‘Resources have to come from somewhere’

During the city budget discussion last fall, Mayor Cory Mason and other department heads said they had transferred some operation costs to fees in order to help keep down the tax levy.

“We were working really hard to keep property taxes down this year,” Mason said on Monday. “The resources have to come from somewhere.”

Parks Director Tom Molbeck confirmed at the Monday meeting that last year, after their deposit was returned, the department charged Salmon-A-Rama a little under $3,000. This year, Molbeck said the total charged would be a little under $7,000 for two days of set-up, one day for takedown and nine days for the event itself.

Molbeck’s staff compared their fees with Kenosha, Janesville and Madison and said that while those cities’ fees were lower at the outset, they would “nickel and dime” renters for items like garbage cans. Molbeck said Racine’s fees look higher, but are all-inclusive packages.

“We are not pricing to price out anybody,” said Molbeck. “We’re asked to come up with fees for our budget and this is what we had.”

A ‘reasonable rate’

The 2019 event fee schedule is available on the city’s website. The Journal Times contacted the city and the Parks Department to ask for fee schedules from 2018 for comparison, but did not receive one as of Tuesday.

Eva Spalla of Racine wrote in a letter to the editor to The Journal Times that the fee for the Racine Christmas Coalition to display its annual Nativity scene on Monument Square had gone up from $2,500 to $3,200.

“Racine needs to thank the group for providing the Nativity and make a donation rather than trying to make money on it,” wrote Spalla. “It is unfair to expect this exorbitant fee for such a worthy cause and all the good it represents. It should remain in its place on Monument Square.”

Cari Greving, event director for Real Racine, the county’s tourism promotion agency, has already begun planning for the organization’s 19 annual events, the majority of which take place on city property. She said it appears public event fees have doubled across the board.

But Real Racine Executive Director Dave Blank said the increase will not affect its planned 2019 events.

“We just said, ‘Well, we’ll pay the additional dollars,’" said Blank. “Believe it or not, the city charges a reasonable rate for prime lakefront property in the middle of the summer.”

Blank said that, while he’s been a longtime supporter and organizer with Salmon-A-Rama, he agreed with the city committee’s decision not to give the event a discount.

“Everybody has to be treated the same,” said Blank. “If they get something cheaper, there’s a long list of event organizers that would like to get something cheaper.”

Downtown Racine Corp. Executive Director Kelly Kruse issued the following statement:

“(The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department) has been a great partner to the DRC. Although rate hikes are never pleasant, we certainly understand the need to increase after seven years holding steady,” Kruse wrote. “Currently we are working with them to make sure Downtown’s Monument Square continues to stay activated throughout the entire summer with events, and they have been nothing short of accommodating and helpful.”

Request denied

Salmon-A-Rama was held at Festival Hall for decades before it relocated to the parking lot by the Reefpoint Marina in 2014. In 2018, the event partnered with the city again and moved to Pershing Park.

Alderman Mary Land of the 11th District said she is concerned that by having the fees so high, the event organizers may have to relocate again.

“This is a good community event here providing lots of good things to our community,” said Land. “I think this is a steep raise in price for them.”

Mason and 8th District Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II expressed concern that if the city made an exception for Salmon-A-Rama, it would have to do so for other organizations, which would skew the city’s budget.

Shakoor and aldermen Terry McCarthy of the 9th District and Tracey Larrin of the 4th District voted Monday to send the proposal to the full City Council with a recommendation to deny Salmon-A-Rama’s request. Land voted in opposition.

The council is expected to make a final vote on the matter at the next City Council meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., Room 205.

This article has been altered from the original to accurately name of The Christmas Coalition.

“We were working really hard to keep property taxes down this year. The resources have to come from somewhere.” Mayor Cory Mason

Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant Police deliver annual report; first in "a couple of decades"

MOUNT PLEASANT — It’s been a while since the Mount Pleasant Police Department has made a public annual report but interim Police Chief Matt Soens hopes it’s something that can be done every year going forward.

“We have not done an annual report in a couple of decades,” Soens said. “We figured with the size and growth that Mount Pleasant is experiencing, not only the department but the village as a whole, this is a good time to start doing (an annual report) every year.”

On Monday, Soens presented a report to the Village Board that showed in 2018 the department dealt with: roughly 1,100 traffic crashes; 28,000 incident reports; almost 9,000 citations; and more than 600 open records requests.

And Soens noted that he paperwork from those incidents likely involved the department’s 11-person civilian staff.

“Most of this paperwork, if not all, somehow, somewhere will filter through our clerks, through our civilian personnel,” Soens said. “If we didn’t have our civilian personnel, we would not be as efficient as we are.”

The department’s detective bureau investigated hundreds of incidents, from arson to fraud and assault.

And Soens said the department also had 36 death investigations, which ranged from natural deaths to suicide and homicide.


There are 53 sworn officers in the department and there are currently five openings, including for the top post of police chief. Former Chief Tim Zarzecki retired last year and the department is currently in the process of hiring a new chief.

To attract applicants for those five remaining spots, the department has set up a booth at a career fair in Madison and is planning to attend career fairs at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and at Case High School.

“Part of the problem we’re having now is there’s just a low number of applicants,” Soens said. “If you look back two decades ago, you could have 200 people applying for, say, two positions. Our last (hiring) process we did last fall we had 39 people show up for physical agility and the written tests, which we do on the same day.”

Soens said attracting qualified candidates is a problem “nationwide.”

The department has a citizens academy that has been growing in popularity. Last year, Soens said, 27 citizens went through the program, which gives the public a firsthand look at various police operations. The enrollment was the largest in the history of the program.

The participants ranged from 18 to 78 years old.

Training benefits

The department’s on-site training facility has proven to be beneficial to the department. With an indoor shooting range, Soens said the facility provides officers the opportunity to practice real-life scenarios.

“We can use an open concept, where we can practice different tactics and movement,” Soens said, “things that we would need to do on the street if that situation ever arises.”

In previous years, Soens said officers have had to travel to other places for training and that would likely overtime for the officers.

“We can accomplish in 30 minutes now what would take us an hour and a half or two hours to do it,” Soens said, adding that officers can now train during their normal work hours.

The department can also host training sessions for other departments in Wisconsin and Illinois. And, if there are a few open spots in those trainings, Mount Pleasant officers can join the training free of cost.

The department also has a 10-person civil disturbance team to provide a “visible presence” during protests and special events countywide.

“We activated this team three times in 2018, obviously the largest operation to date that the team participated in was the Foxconn groundbreaking, when we had the president here and other dignitaries,” Soens said.

Soens said the department also has a peer-to-peer counseling team that will reach out to officers immediately after they finish a response to a traumatic scene.

“Unfortunately, we see a lot of things that we don’t necessarily want to see, but it’s part of the job,” Soens said. “Some of the incidents that we respond to are very traumatic and we found that over the years, to be quite blunt, we haven’t done a good job of taking care ourselves and each other.”

“Most of this paperwork, if not all, somehow, somewhere will filter through our clerks, through our civilian personnel. If we didn’t have our civilian personnel, we would not be as efficient as we are.” Matt Soens, interim Mount Pleasant police chief

Wrestling controversy
WIAA files to appeal Hayden Halter decision

RACINE — The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has filed a petition seeking permission to appeal the court decision that allowed Waterford High School sophomore Hayden Halter to resume wrestling after he was suspended for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

That news came out Tuesday, one day after Wade Labecki, WIAA’s deputy director, said the WIAA was focused on state tournaments and deferred questions about an appeal.

The appeal follows concerns voiced by the WIAA and state referees that courts intervening in high school sports matters could have problematic effects on athletics statewide. If the right to appeal is granted, it could throw into question the results of the Division 1 120-pound state wrestling championship that Halter won Saturday.

After Halter’s family took the WIAA to court, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Michael Piontek issued an injunction on Feb. 8 that blocked the WIAA’s suspension just days after it was issued. During the Southern Lakes Conference meet on Feb. 2, Halter questioned an official’s decision during the match and flexed his arms after he won, each instance netting an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

Under WIAA rules, an athlete is suspended for one match after two unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Appeals to the calls can be made at the tournament, but not after it is over. Halter appealed after the match but the calls were sustained.

Because Halter’s next match would have been the regional tournament, he would have been blocked from individual competition for the rest of the season in his pursuit of a second consecutive state title.

Comments reserved

Any victories Halter obtained during his would-be suspension could be revoked if the WIAA succeeds in its appeal.

“We’ll let the appeal speak for itself,” Labecki said in a phone call Tuesday. He declined to comment further.

When asked in an email Monday whether the WIAA would appeal, Labecki did not offer a direct response to the question but made no indication of the imminent appeal.

“We will continue to focus on our tournaments,” he wrote Monday, referring to tournaments involving other sports. “... We won’t have anything to provide you for the near future.”

The Halter family declined to comment on the appeal.

During the Feb. 8 injunction hearing, WIAA lawyers argued that the judge’s decision could open up the opportunity for a stream of litigation against referees’ and umpires’ rulings. Piontek said the organization would have to contend with that possibility going forward.


Newspaper subscription scam reported

RACINE COUNTY — The Journal Times wants residents to be on the alert for a scam involving newspaper subscriptions.

A longtime Kenosha News subscriber alerted newspaper officials that she received several calls from a man claiming to be from the Kenosha News’ new parent company, Lee Enterprises, which also owns The Journal Times.

The subscriber said the man claimed that subscriber information was lost when the Kenosha newspaper was purchased, and he asked the woman for her banking/routing information.

The woman did not give the man the information.

Neither The Journal Times nor the Kenosha News are contacting subscribers about “lost” subscriber information. Anyone who receives such a call should not give out any personal information and, if possible, write down the number of the caller and report it to police.

For any questions about subscriptions, please call 262-634-3331.