2019 Year in Review

Joe Block

In Memoriam


The area saw several prominent residents pass away in 2019, as well as a few local tragedies.

Denman G. Kramer, “The Balloon Man,” passed away at the age of 100. Kramer was the long-time superintendent of the Prairie du Sac dam. A founding member of the Sauk Prairie Optimist Club, Kramer was very active in the community, particularly as “Dynamo” the clown. His balloon animals were known to all in the community.

The community lost Doris Litscher-Gasser, a prolific storyteller and historian of the Sauk Prairie area. She compiled over 5,000 pages of local lore, bound in countless volumes at the Tripp Museum. Litscher-Gasser lived a rich and varied life.

Her artwork first appeared in the former Sauk Prairie Star in 1954. Eventually she wrote a column, and chronicled the lives of local residents. Litscher-Gasser continued submitting artwork to the Star News up until her death.

Curt Mueller, founder of Mueller Sports Medicine, recently passed away as well. Mueller gave back to his community, and was known for his unconventional lifestyle. All the while he built Mueller Sports Medicine into a successful business. Former long-time employee Wyttenbach Gavol said “He’s a colorful personality; he is out-of-the-box. He didn’t care what people thought. And whether right or wrong, some of his personal decisions I maybe didn’t agree with, but I wouldn’t have worked here for 23 years … I would have done anything for him. Even my husband doesn’t understand that. But [Curt] would do anything for you.” 

Kou Her drowned after rescuing his children below the Prairie du Sac dam this summer. Her rescued his three children and wife. 

The Wisconsin River was high that day, flowing at double its normal rate.

Donald and Colleen Soper died after getting lost a few days after Thanksgiving. The elderly couple was visiting family in the Town of Black Earth. The couple became lost, eventually driving onto a secluded woodland trail in the Town of Vermont, where authorities discovered them  following an exhaustive three-day search of the area. When first responders did arrive, they found Mr. Soper had died. Mrs. Soper was still alive and was transported to a local hospital, where she later died. 


More flooding 

and severe weather


Moderate rain and warm temperatures led to exceptional runoff over frozen ground across the area in late winter. Mazomanie and Prairie du Sac were particularly affected by flooding. Temperatures reached 60, with just under a half inch of rain falling. Area snowpack was deep and cold winter temperatures left the ground frozen.

Mazomanie residents reported flooding on State St/County Highway Y, north of the Black Earth Creek bridge. Within a few hours the road was impassable. Cramer, Hudson, Finch, Curtiss and Bridge Street in Mazomanie were closed. These areas lie within the village’s mapped floodplain. Highway 78 saw flooding, and Amenda Road in the town of Mazomanie was impassable.

The day before the flooding Black Earth Creek at Mazomanie was at four feet. By midnight it had risen to just under 11 feet, into minor flood stage.

Mazomanie Fire and Mazomanie Public Works led an effort that also included around 20 volunteers. The group filled around 5000 sandbags, and placed sandbags at six locations that were prioritized. Many other residents picked up sandbags as needed.

Mazomanie Public works director Mark Geisler reported a few wet basements, but no widespread flooding to residences. He had the following to say about the flood event: “In my 25 years in Mazomanie I have seen similar events three times, not including last August. While I agree with the moderate [flood stage] description, I feel that we were on the cusp of severe.”

In Prairie du Sac, an area surrounded by Lueders Road, Lincoln Street, Broadway Street and 12th Street flooded.

According to Village Administrator Alan Wildman, “The volume of water from the rapidly melting snow and rain coming from the fields north and west of the above area was more than the two retention ponds could handle.  The ponds were designed to handle water from the streets and development around them, not from the farm fields.  Just for perspective, 12 inches of snow on 40 acres of land is approximately 1,300,000 gallons of water.”

According to Wildman, three homes had water in their basement.  One was very substantial with water as deep as seven feet.

“There is no history know of anything like this happening before. The pond at 13th and Grand [constructed around 1974] has been near full before but did not require pumping as the water filtrated through the bottom of the pond.  An example is the 2008 flooding that saw the pond full in the evening after several inches of rain, but it was empty by the next morning. Even in 2008, the streets did not flood,” said Wildman.

Throughout the summer rainstorms continued to hit the area, inundating Community Park in Black Earth and closing Kahl Road.

Madison saw 50 inches of rain in 2018 and 45 inches in 2019. The normal is 34 inches.

The excessive rainfall, severe cold during the winter, heavy snowpack, and temperature swings caused a historically bad year for local farmers. It was not just this year--the area, and the Midwest, has experienced extreme weather that has greatly affected farming.


An increase in crime


Sauk Prairie experienced a string of robberies from September through October of this year. In addition, the McDonald’s in Sauk City was robbed. around Oct. 6.

On Oct. 7, Madison police reported that two men were arrested over the weekend on multiple charges stemming from the car thefts and residential burglaries, going so far as referring to them as “kingpins” in the multi-county burglary ring that had affected the region. A police spokesperson said the men – identified as Cleaster L. Moon, 24, and Joshua E. Pitts, 17, both of Madison, were taken into custody over the weekend and are believed to serve key roles in the coordinated burglaries and car thefts.

On Sept. 4 and 5, entry was made into unlocked vehicles and garages resulting in stolen property. On Sept. 10, a vehicle was stolen from the Village of Prairie du Sac and was recovered in Juneau County. On Sept. 13, there was a report of a vehicle that stopped in a driveway of a Town of Prairie du Sac home. The three males were startled by the homeowner and then fled. On the morning Sept. 16, law enforcement responded to reports of burglaries to homes in the area. These burglaries occurred in the early morning hours while the homeowners were at home sleeping. Another burglary occurred on Sept. 23 in Prairie du Sac.

The Sauk Prairie Police Department beefed up its patrol of the Sauk Prairie area, routinely assigning multiple officers during specific shifts which – among other reasons - added to the department’s overtime budget. 

“It’s a lot of personnel hours,” Strunz said. “We have been pushing to have multiple officers on a shift for years. I think this obviously supports what we have been saying for months – we are short-staffed and the department needs help.  When you have two stolen vehicles and how many people involved – how would you like to be the sole responding officer?”

Strunz said the department will be “way over” on overtime hours because it has had to staff at a significant level in an effort to combat the burglaries.

To help reduce those costs, Strunz said administrative staff – those who are salaried and typically work during the daytime – have been called upon to help. That includes Strunz, as well.

On Nov. 18 at approximately 7:30 a.m. A child was reportedly approached by a man who offered to give them a ride to school. The man was  described as a white male, 40-50 years of age, wearing a dark colored winter cap (beanie) covering his ears, a hooded sweatshirt with strings in the front (unknown color), pants that didn’t go all the way down to his shoes, socks, and tennis shoes.

The Sauk County Sheriff’s Office also took a similar report of an incident that occurred on Nov. 18 and 19 in the Town of Prairie du Sac.  On Nov. 18 a silver Dodge Caravan type of vehicle operated by a middle aged male stopped and asked a child, who was waiting for the bus, if they needed a ride to school. On Nov. 19 the same van operated by a middle aged female stopped and asked that same child if they needed a ride. 


A kidnapping in the Black Earth area from 2018 came to light at the beginning of 2019.

On Nov. 11, 2018, Cameron Krause, 18, of Mazomanie, and Brody Randall, 17, of Spring Green, allegedly kidnapped a man in Black Earth, and forced him to drive at gunpoint to Mazomanie, where a group of people beat him into unconsciousness. Krause and Randall have been charged with several crimes and are out on bail.

According to court documents, late in the evening on Nov. 10, 2018, the victim was at his residence in Black Earth. He texted a female and unlocked his door, with the intent of having sex. A around midnight, a relative of the woman entered the victim’s apartment, and, brandishing a handgun, said “You’re [expletive] coming with me then.”

According to the victim, Krause and Randall then entered his apartment, both displaying handguns in their waistbands. They followed the victim down the stairs and into his vehicle, where they had him drive to a location in Mazomanie. During the drive, Krause was ejecting the clip from his handgun and putting in back in, according to reports.

The victim was told to drive to a back area at a residence in Mazomanie, where he exited the car and was immediately struck from behind. The victim said he was then “beaten, kicked, [and] punched” until he blacked out. He estimates approximately 11 to 12 people beat him. The victim regained consciousness roughly 2 hours later and drove to a friend’s house, where the police were called.

The victim suffered a broken nose, fractured left eye, fractured jaw, bruises to his ribs and bruises to his back and legs, in addition to a concussion.

A Dane county deputy noticed on Nov. 11, 2018, at a briefing, that he was familiar with the minor involved in the beating. He believed the identities of the suspects matched individuals he knew. Brody Randall was subsequently identified in a photo lineup by the victim, as was Krause.

Detectives and deputies made contact with Krause and Randall. Both suspects denied any involvement. They were subsequently arrested. Both Krause and Randall have been charged with the following crimes: criminal trespass, use of a dangerous weapon; false imprisonment, use of a dangerous weapon, and substantial battery, use of a dangerous weapon.

On Dec. 29, 2018, Krause was told his girlfriend would have to move out a residence he was staying at. According to the complainant, Krause then began “going crazy.” The complainant expressed concerns about Krause’s drug activities, as well as friends coming over to use marijuana. The individual said she would throw out any marijuana she found, and according to reports, Krause said she would “be sorry if she did this.”

Krause then left the residence, slamming the door and knocking pictures down, causing damage.

Since Krause had been charged with the above crimes, he was subsequently charged with felony bail jumping, criminal damage to property—domestic abuse assessments, and disorderly conduct—domestic abuse assessments, as his release was contingent on him not committing another crime after his release. 

On April 4 , 2019, Krause, 18, was found guilty of use of a dangerous weapon and substantial battery—intended bodily harm.

Krause’s 18 month prison sentence was stayed, as was his 18 month extended supervision.


Former Sauk County 

Board member charged 

with possession of 

child pornography


Former Sauk County Board supervisor for Prairie du Sac, William Wenzel, will have a sentencing and plea hearing in the spring of 2020 for five counts of possession of child pornography, all Class D felonies, according to court records. 

According to the criminal complaint, Wenzel was charged following an investigation involving Sauk Prairie Police Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation.

On Jan. 28, a DCI special agent informed a Sauk Prairie Police Department officer that an investigation was being done regarding peer-to-peer sharing networks. During the investigation, the agent connected to a device that had accessed a nearly four-minute video showing a “prepubescent” female involved in an explicit sexual act with an adult male. Authorities tracked the device to a home in the Prairie du Sac area and later discovered that the IP address was connected to Wenzel, according to the criminal complaint.

On Feb. 22, law enforcement officers and agents executed a search warrant of Wenzel’s home, where they discovered a laptop. The computer was searched and investigators found digital files that were “consistent with child pornography.” Ten files were bookmarked for review as being from the “Jenny” series, which is a known child porn series that has already been identified by law enforcement, according to the criminal complaint. The files depicted what appeared to be a 9-year-old girl engaging in explicit sex acts, one involving a dog.

When questioned by investigators, Wenzel said he had been in New Orleans for two weeks on vacation. He said he owned the laptop and was the only one who knew his wi-fi password, according to the criminal complaint.

Class D felonies carry a fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to 25 years, according to the State of Wisconsin.


Sauk Prairie police officer resigns after attempting to tase fellow officer


Sargent Jaime Wepking of the Sauk Prairie Police Department resigned in Nov. 2018 after an incident against a fellow officer. The events came to light in the spring of 2019.

Wepking was subsequently hired by the Baraboo Police Department.

On Oct. 27, 2018, Wepking was attending a Halloween party in Prairie du Sac. According to Wepking, he consumed about 10 cans of beer. Witness statements indicate that Wepking also played four to six games of beer pong. Witnesses stated that Wepking was impaired, which included slurring his words, and Wepking confirmed he was intoxicated.

About four hours after arriving at the party, Wepking stated to a witness that he wanted a can of chewing tobacco. The wife of an off-duty Sauk Prairie police officer attending the party called one of the on-duty officers, requesting that he purchase the tobacco. The caller initially asked the officer to bring the tobacco to the party. According to an officer who overheard the phone call, Wepking was heard in the background of the phone call “stating ‘no,’ not to bring it to the party as he didn’t want to put [the officer] in that position. Meaning that [the officer] would be outside of his jurisdiction and at an alcohol party.” It was decided to meet at Mid-State Equipment, which is out of the Sauk Prairie police department’s jurisdiction.

An individual at the party who had not been drinking drove Wepking to Mid-State. Security footage shows the car arriving at 12:36 a.m., Oct. 28. The officer who was called to get the tobacco purchased it at Kwik Trip and proceeded to Mid-State. The other Sauk Prairie police department officer who was on duty decided to drive there as well.

Wepking retrieved the tobacco from the officer, paid him, and they hugged. Wepking then approached the officer who was subsequently tasered. The officer stated, “as Wepking came towards him, Wepking reached out with his right hand.” The officer “thought Wepking was going to shake his hand.” The officer continued, “Wepking grabbed [the officer’s] taser and pulled it out of the holster.” He said “he did not say anything but in his head he was thinking ‘what the [obscenity]?’” The officer then saw the Taser’s flashlight and laser light come on, meaning it was armed. According to the officer, “as he was reaching for the taser Wepking pulled the trigger.” One of the probes struck him in the left bicep, going through his shirt. The other missed. He was not shocked.

According to Wepking, he went to “bear hug” the officer and “that was when his hand bumped [the officer’s] taser.” Wepking then “went to wiggle [the officer’s] taser”, and “all of a sudden he had [the officer’s] taser in his hand.” Upon further questioning, Wepking said he “put his hand on the taser, manipulated the locking mechanism,” and removed the taser. He stated that he “did not pull the trigger and does not know how it went off.” The officer leading the investigation told Wepking that the security video shows him pulling the trigger. The investigating officer told Wepking that his version of events did not match the security video. 

According to the officer who was struck by the taser, Wepking repeatedly asked if he was okay and apologized. Wepking then removed the probe from the officer’s arm. The officer stated that Wepking said “something like ‘[obscenity] do we do?’” He then said Wepking turned to the driver of the car and said “you didn’t see anything.” The other officer confirmed Wepking said this. The individual who drove Wepking to Mid-State said that at no time did any of the officers talk about not re-porting or covering up the incident. He also denies that Wepking said “you didn’t see anything” or anything similar. 

Wepking told investigators that “he did not know what he was doing at the time of the incident.” He added that he did not do it maliciously. The officer who was tasered agreed that it was not done maliciously.

Wepking subsequently gathered the discharged taser probes and cartridge and took them with him. According to security footage, everyone left the scene 8 minutes after the taser was discharged. According to the individual who drove Wepking, they returned to the party and Wepking continued “as if nothing ever happened.” He left a short time later.

The two on duty officers then returned to the police station, and contacted their superior, who directed them to gather evidence. One of the officers said “they attempted to contact Wepking on his personal cell,” and “wanted to tell Wepking that what had happened was ‘not cool’ and to inform him that they would be reporting the issue.” They were unable to reach him. Wepking later texted the officer who was tasered and asked “How’s arm?”

The officer who was tased said in an interview that “this was not the first time Sgt. Wepking has grabbed his taser.” He said Wepking “has grabbed his taser several times in the past and just shook it in the holster,” and “doesn’t say anything when he does it.” The officer said he had not told Wepking to not do it because “Wepking is his supervisor.” Wepking, in his interview, said that officers “have wiggled his gun while it was in his holster,” and that he had done that to other officers, including one of the officers present at the incident. Wepking also said he grabs other officer’s tasers “just to goof around.”

The officer who was tasered said he and Wepking were friends, and had not had any problems with him. He said that fellow officers “give each other [obscenity],” and that “he is the guy that people crack jokes about.” He said the jokes usually come from Sgt. Wepking. The officer reported that “one of the things that has been said repeatedly that bothers him” is when Wepking and a fellow officer refer to him using an obscenity that implies sexual relations with a farm animal. Wepking denies calling him this. The officer works with the same group of people, which includes Wepking. He said “when all three of them are working together he tries to stay away from them to avoid the ‘drama’ that comes up.” The “drama” includes name calling and jokes.

Wepking was told to remain on vacation status and not to respond to any calls as a police officer for the department, the Sauk County Emergency Response Team, and “not to act in a law enforcement capacity until further notice.” The Sauk Prairie police department then conducted an investigation, as well as the Rock County Sheriff’s Department. Wepking resigned shortly after.

The Rock County Sherriff’s Department concluded “we believe there is probable cause to arrest Jamie Wepking.” The charges were: disarming a peace officer, and endangering safety by the negligent operation or handling of a dangerous weapon. The recommendation was sent to the Sauk County District Attorney. Due to a possible conflict of interest, it was referred to the Columbia County District Attorney. 

The Columbia County District Attorney subsequently declined to make public documents concerning the case against former Sauk Prairie police officer Jaime Wepking. In a phone call with the Star News, Assistant District Attorney Jordan A. Lippert would only say “we decided it wouldn’t be appropriate to press charges.”

Columbia County District Attorney Benda L. Yaskal, who was not the District Attorney when the case came before the office, said in a letter “The contents of a District Attorney’s files are highly confidential. Public disclosure of the contents of any file would threaten the orderly administration of justice and imperil the privacy of victims of crime and those accused of criminal behavior that has not been proven beyond a  reasonable doubt in court. For those reasons, the contents of District Attorney’s files are exempt from disclosure under open records law and I must deny your request for records.”


Sauk City 

opens waterpark


Sauk City celebrated the opening of its riverfront park on Thursday, Aug. 15. The public opening was preceded by an event attended by village officials and area residents, where the splashpad passed its first test with flying colors, based on kids’ reactions.

Started in the spring, construction progressed quickly as the village redeveloped the park into what it hopes will be a premier destination for the region. It features a splashpad, and soon a zip line, sledding hill, river access and a kayak/canoe landing area, concessions, four soccer fields and three smaller fields.

The $2.4 million dollar project received $1.375 million in grants, with an additional $90,000 donated from the community. With grants and local donors, the village had to pay only one third of the total cost. Pivotal contributions included DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant and the Land & Water Conservation Grant.

Perhaps the highlight of the grand opening was the new sign. Polliwog Studio—Bernie, Sue, and Maggie Poff—created it, and it features several colorful characters. Their artwork also appears around the park.


Budget issues 

for local communities


The State of Wisconsin’s levy limit, which restricts municipalities’ ability to increase their budget, caused issues for the 2020 budget in several villages.

Sauk City enacted a wheel tax to make up a $45,000 budget deficit. A wheel tax is a $20 fee for owning and operating a registered vehicle. Prairie du Sac already has a wheel tax.

Many Wisconsin municipalities – especially ones experiencing low or no growth – have had a challenge balancing their budget, because state statute limits how much a municipality can tax its residents. It’s based on a percentage of new growth from the previous year. Like many rural communities, Sauk City has been experiencing a period of slow to no growth. So while insurance premiums rise and other state mandates require municipalities to spend more money adhering to added man-dates, it becomes tougher for communities to balance their budget without having to cut services.

In the Village Mazomanie, the budget was slashed, due in part to costs from 2018’s flood. The Village had to cut one of its deputies in order to save money, going down to two shifts. Long-time first shift deputy Nate Alwin was reassigned. It also faced increased costs due to the Historical Society Museum roof. In early winter the village began receiving funds from FEMA for incurred flood costs.

The Village of Back Earth also cut its budget, choosing to take out loans to pay for some projects.

Wisconsin Heights School District successfully passed an operating referendum for the next five years, at $2.5 million per year. Residents of the school district overwhelmingly approved the increase in taxes. Due to Wisconsin’s restrictions on school funding, “property-rich” rural school districts frequently have to ask for funds above what they are able to tax.

Sauk Prairie School District is looking into a $65 million referendum in April 2020 to fund improvements to district buildings. The money is slated to be spent on the following:  Sauk Prairie High School/Indoor pool, $38.5 million for the school, $12 million rebuild the indoor pool; Sauk Prairie High School athletic field relocation/repair, $7.8 million; Merrimac Community Charter School, $5.5 million; outdoor recreational pool, $1.2 million; River Arts Center expansion, $3.4 million, $1.5 already secured with a private donation.


SPSD Superintendent 

Cliff Thompson 

steps down, 

Jeff Wright takes over


Thompson had spent the last 7 years as superintendent, and chose to step down and let Wright take on the role.

 “It has truly been an honor to lead, teach and serve with our school board, administrators, staff and teammates in the district office,” said Thompson at an August school board meeting. “Thank you for skillfully and sensitively along with a positive spirit in striving to serve and sup-port our school district students, families, staff and community members one person and one day at a time.”

He continued, “It is with great appreciation that I express my deepest gratitude and with great enthusiasm and anticipation that I share that the best is yet to come, the best is yet to come. It has been an honor to be a part of and work through this transition this summer with our administrators and Jeff [Wright].”


Army starts 

Badger cleanup over again 


The effort by the Army to clean up pollutants affecting residential wells around the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant has gone back to the starting board.

In 2011 the Army concluded a Revised Alternative Feasibility Study, with the following listed objectives: “protect human health by preventing exposure to contaminated groundwater from BAAP, to restore groundwater to the extent practicable, and minimize the impact of the contaminant plumes on the environment.” One of the remedies stated by the Army was to “in-stall a residential water system” for the town of Merrimac. No water system was installed.

In 2017, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin questioned Army Secretary Robert Speer about the issue, noting she was dis-appointed by the Army’s reversal on its promise to install the water system. She asked Speer to promise that the Army would better communicate with the residents and stakeholders about the cleanup. He promised to “look into it,” but stopped short of making that promise.

In the meantime the Army has increased testing of residential and test wells. Over the past two years several residential wells have tested over the limit for safe drinking water. Those residences were put on bottled water and had new wells installed. One residence remains on bottled water.

During the production of ammunition at Badger, toxic chemicals reached the groundwater through the disposal of propellant waste in open burn pits, ditches, and tanks. Contaminated soils have been removed, but four groundwater plumes have been identified. The plumes reach south from the former plant to Sauk Prairie, Merrimac, and Lake Wisconsin. 

2 attempts at dredging Gruber’s Grove Bay in Lake Wisconsin in order to clean up contaminated sediments from wastewater discharge were unsuccessful. The Army is planning another dredging, this time noting that technology has advanced.

Last Thursday the Restoration Advisory Board met. The board is composed of representatives from affected and area com-munities. They will work with the Army going forward towards a remediation plan. The board was created in 2011 following the Army’s initial attempt to clean up Badger.

Town of Merrimac administrator Tim McCumber, who has been involved in the process since the beginning, asked Army officials at the meeting to “admit that we screwed up 5 years ago.” Randy Cerar, who is now in charge of the cleanup process, said that the Army “was not getting the best guidance.”

The cleanup process involves complex reports and data, and the citizen members of the board are provided with funds to contract with experts in the field in order to advise them. The Army limits the total cost to $25,000. Since the remediation process began 8 years ago, those funds have all but been exhausted. Cerar said that the representatives would have to apply for permission to exceed the amount. He said he was confident the extra funding would be approved.

In December,  the Army presented information on the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study for groundwater at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant (AAP) and released the draft final report for public comment.  


Sauk Prairie Recreation Area will see 

high-impact activities


The Wisconsin State Natural Resources Board decided Oct. 22 to uphold the original Master Plan for the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, allowing high-impact activities to occur on the state land. The board, which serves as the policy-making entity for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, made no changes to the plan, despite considerable concern noted for the impact those activities could have on the restored prairie land.

According to Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance Executive Director Charlie Luthin, some of those activities include dual-sport motorcycles, military helicopter training, dog trialing and other undefined special events.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m not surprised at the decision,” Luthin said. “We kind of expected it. The Natural Resources Board that exists today voted that plan in three years ago. Actually, we were more disappointed with the DNR; after three years of litigation, we thought they might have said, lets add a few points in for compromise.”

The decision by the Natural Resources Board was due to an administrative challenge by the Alliance. The Board was obligated to reconsider the master plan. Although no changes were made, the Alliance is allowed to appeal the Oct. 22 decision, which it is considering. 

The Alliance claims the DNR is in violation of its original agreement following the Badger Reuse Plan, created 18 years ago to serve as a guide for what the land could be used for in the future. The plan called for low-impact recreation on the land, such as bird watching, hiking and biking. When the DNR was granted the land by the National Parks Service, it agreed to adhere to the Badger Reuse Plan. 

“The National Park Service approved [the DNR’s appeal to acquire the land] based on [the Badger Reuse Plan] in 2004,” Luthin said. “Now the DNR says it doesn’t feel it should be held to their promise made to the National Parks Service or the people of Wisconsin. “They set it for low impact; the DNR said they would follow through with that. Now they have a different plan with high-impact activities. That’s why we sued and hold the DNR accountable for this. Because they decided they were not going to stand by that promise.”


Geisler, Wick, 

recognized for outstanding service


Mazomanie Fire Department chief and Public Works Director Mark Geisler won several awards for his work in 2018 during the floods. Geisler won Firefighter of the Year, as well as the United Way of Dane County Community Volunteer Award.

In addition, District One EMS Director Jim Wick was honored as the First Responder of the Year for the 81st Assembly District. 


Village of Black 

Earth Trustee had

 possible conflict of 



During the summer the Village of Black Earth moved forward with a project to repair and improve Community park, which was damaged in the August 2018 floods. The repairs are funded in part by a Dane County Grant, and may include FEMA funds as well.

Trustee Josh Wahl, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the project, is employed by one of the subcontractors for the project. Wahl is listed as “project manager” and as part of the “management team.” The company, Electric Construction Inc., is listed as a subcontractor on bid documents for the project.

On Thursday, Aug. 29, the Star News sent a letter to Village President Pat Troge and Wahl noting the possible ethics violation. The Star News had consulted with legal counsel at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Counsel confirmed based on the information available that Wahl’s vote appeared to be a violation of state statute. In their opinion, awarding the bid to the company Wahl works for entails a ‘substantial benefit.’ In addition, Wahl’s employment with the company meets the criteria of ‘association.’

In a Sept. 3 letter to the Star News, Wahl wrote, “Neither I nor my immediate family hold any of the listed positions with the company such that I would be deemed associated with it for purposes of the Code of Ethics.” 

In a Sept. 3 discussion with counsel at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, they confirmed again based on information provided, that Wahl appeared to be in violation of the statute. The statute states, “...director, officer, or trustee...,” and Wahl is listed as “project manager” and as part of the “management team.” 

On Aug. 7 the village board approved the project by a 4-3 vote. Trustees Wahl, Matt Kahl, Troy Esser, and village present Pat Troge voted for the project, with James Coyle, Ted Pritchett and Tom Parrell voting no.


Black Earth fails to 

publish board 

meeting minutes


During the summer the Star News discovered the Village of Black Earth failed to publish meeting minutes in the newspaper for every board meeting dating back 18 months. Since Jan. 1, 2018 at least 14 village meetings occurred. In that timeframe, seven sets of minutes have been published. The minutes have been posted online on the village’s website. Administrator/clerk/treasurer Shellie Benish said the oversight was due to changes in staffing, and were corrected.

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