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Independent investigation concludes Election Day error was honest mistake

Sept. 29, 2011 2:54 p.m. | An independent investigation found no willful criminal misconduct in election-night practices that led Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus to omit 14,315 votes cast in the city of Brookfield in spring elections last April.

However, a report on the independent investigation conducted by former Dane County prosecutor Timothy Verhoff found that Nickolaus violated state law requiring county clerks to post all returns on election night.

The Government Accountability Board released the report Wednesday, more than five months after Brookfield's 14,315 belated ballots gave incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a 7,316 vote statewide lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenberg in what had been a razor-thin race.

Change called for

The G.A.B. does not have constitutional power to remove a county clerk from office; however, it has issued an order requiring Nickolaus to conform her election reporting practices to state law and take steps to ensure accountability and transparency prior to the February 2012 spring primary.

» Read Full Article

Waukesha County building projects get green light

Sept. 27, 2011 10:04 p.m. | Waukesha - Attempts to kill several county building projects in the five-year Waukesha County capital projects plan made no headway Tuesday night as the County Board adopted a $115 million plan almost identical to the plan proposed by County Executive Dan Vrakas.

Only the first year of the plan will affect the 2012 budget.

The board voted 18-4 to move a study of remodeling or replacing the Waukesha County Courthouse ahead one year, from 2014 to 2013.

An attempt to remove a $36 million health and human services building, which is mostly under contract to build already, was defeated 22-0, with even the motion maker, Supervisor Robert Hutton, voting against his motion.

Attempts to eliminate biking trail improvements and replacement of pit toilets in county parks with flush toilets were also soundly defeated.

» Read Full Article

Waukesha County Board rejects business loan plan

Sept. 27, 2011 9:54 p.m. | Waukesha - The Waukesha County Board on Tuesday rejected County Executive Dan Vrakas' economic development initiative that targeted small businesses with the potential for high growth for tax-financed, no-interest gap financing loans.

In a rare defeat for Vrakas, the measure - proposed as part of his 2012 budget - was rejected with 13 supervisors opposed and nine in favor. The Executive and Finance committees had recommended approval, and Vrakas announced the new program at a news conference last week.

The Small Business Leverage Loan Program, as it was to be called, would have started with $300,000 in tax funds and would have permitted loans of up to $50,000 to eligible companies in existence at least a year. Targeted businesses would be in manufacturing, technology, suppliers of local manufacturers and similar job creators.

Economic development and financing experts said small businesses are often financed to the hilt, often asset rich but cash poor. Lending institutions in the past may have provided loans through second or third mortgages, a market that has dried up with new regulations and dropping values.

But several supervisors spoke out against the program.

» Read Full Article

Get your sports video fix in our Prep Sports Primer

Sept. 27, 2011 7:53 p.m. | Join sports director JR Radcliffe for this week's Prep Sports Primer, the fastest 90 seconds in local high school sports.

JR takes a look at some of the top stories in the area, including the 6-0 Muskego football team, some dominant efforts by the Brookfield Central girls cross country team and more.

Go to video

See last week's primer

Waukesha County levy rises less than 1% in Vrakas budget

Sept. 27, 2011 7:01 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas presented his 2012 budget to the County Board on Tuesday night, a spending plan with a tax levy increase of 0.6% - the lowest in nearly 30 years.

Vrakas said in an earlier interview that it was the toughest budget he's faced, given significant cuts in state funding, the continuing effects of the recession and the state-imposed tax levy limit that restricted its increase to the percentage growth in tax base from new construction.

Despite all that, the county is maintaining infrastructure and services, he said.

Most taxpayers would see no increase in the county portion of their tax bill, which the county calculates has increased $14 in five years for a median-valued home. With many property values dropping, the 4-cent increase in the county's proposed equalized tax rate - to $2.01 per $1,000 full market value - could even mean a drop in individual county tax bills this year. Municipal and school taxes make up a far greater share of tax bills.

Vrakas' proposed budget of $284.4 million is up 6%. Within that budget, spending of $244 million on operations is down 1.4%, largely from personnel and pension savings and because the state rather than the county will now contract for $3.5 million in services for children with autism and similar long-term care needs.

» Read Full Article

Former Wauwatosa West basketball coach Landisch loses battle with cancer

Sept. 26, 2011 11:37 a.m. | Former Wauwatosa West boys basketball coach Mike Landisch lost his year and a half year battle with cancer Sunday night.

Landisch, 31, is survived by his wife, Colleen, daughter, Makenna, and son, Caden, who was born in August. He was placed in hospice four weeks ago.

The Wauwatosa community and beyond, embraced the likeable Landisch, who discovered he had kidney cancer in January, 2010. There were several fundraisers set up to help him and his family battle medical bills.

Landisch's final season as a coach was one of the best in the school's recent history.

The Trojans finished with an 11-6 Woodland Conference record and a 15-11 overall mark and they won their first regional championship since 1996.

» Read Full Article

Falls police ask for help in identifying suspected gas drive-off accomplice

Sept. 23, 2011 3:56 p.m. | Menomonee Falls Police are looking for a white man believed to be involved in a series of gas drive-offs at the Good to Go Citgo gas station, N88 W15167 Main St.

In thefts in June and July, the driver of a white Chevy Suburban with tinted windows and shiny chrome wheels pumped $114 and $115 of gas and drove off without paying. The vehicle either has no plates or stolen plates during the drive-offs. On Sept. 19, the owner of the gas station recognized the vehicle and shut off the pump preventing any theft.

On the first two successful thefts, police suspect a second driver distracts the clerk in the station while the driver of the white Suburban steals the gas. The second man then gets into a second car and drives away. Police released a photo of the suspected accomplice on Thursday.

If you recognize the man, call Menomonee Falls Police at (262) 532-8700.

Waukesha County considers closing girls detention unit

Sept. 23, 2011 2:10 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County would close its secure detention unit for girls next year and contract with Washington County for the service under a proposal outlined Friday by Health and Human Services Director Peter Schuler.

The estimated $200,000 saving would be used to fill other gaps in the department's budget, including replenishing a fund that pays for services aimed at keeping youth from more expensive incarceration or out-of-home placements, Schuler said.

The proposal will be included in County Executive Dan Vrakas' 2012 budget proposal, which he will release Tuesday. The Health and Human Services Committee will take up the budget Thursday.

A study group had been working since January to find efficiencies in the 36-bed Juvenile Center, which in recent years has operated far below capacity. It had not reached a conclusion, despite a May deadline, and Vrakas' plan effectively ends the committee's job.

"Our job is at an end," Corporation Counsel Tom Farley, who chaired the group, told members Friday.

» Read Full Article

Falls teachers union, district at odds over taking dues from paychecks

Sept. 22, 2011 1:48 p.m. | The fight over Act 10 in Menomonee Falls apparently didn't end with the ratification of new teacher contracts in May.

A new battle has been undertaken by the Menomonee Falls Education Association, which asserts that since that contract was signed before the repair bill was made law, Act 10's stipulation that school districts can no longer take union dues out of paychecks does not apply.

The mere fact that the contracts were signed before the institution of Act 10 means the contract itself is valid, but the argument now is whether this secondary provision applies.

The teacher's union says it does not, while the school district says their legal counsel insists it does. Falls is arguing that since Act 10 became effective on June 29 and the 2009-11 contract expired on June 30, as of July 1 the language of Act 10 ought to apply to the newly signed and enacted 2011-13 contract.

MFEA wanted to bring in an arbitrator to decide the case, but that arbitrator would only have been able to rule on the language of the collectively bargained agreement itself, not how that agreement applies to the law.

» Read Full Article

Fast-rising GT boys v-ball team holds off Bay in five games

Sept. 21, 2011 9:28 p.m. | Welcome to the state's top 10 Germantown boys volleyball team.

Now you're going to get everyone's best shot.

And that was indeed the case Wednesday night at Whitefish Bay, as the Warhawks had to come back from a two games to one deficit to pull out a 23-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 15-9 decision against the determined Blue Dukes in a North Shore Conference dual.

"They just started to get the feeling (in the fourth game) that they were going to take control of the match and not let the officials decide it," said Warhawk coach Brian Rushmer. "We started getting the ball up better (on the dig) and that really helped."

"We have a lot of talent, but if you can't control the ball (on the dig) you can't win. You make a bad play, just move on."

» Read Full Article

Vrakas announces Waukesha County small-business loan initiative

Sept. 21, 2011 4:34 p.m. | Waukesha - Existing Waukesha County small businesses with growth potential could get tax-financed, interest-free loans of up to $50,000 under an economic development initiative County Executive Dan Vrakas announced Wednesday.

Called the Small Business Leverage Loan Program, the effort would start with $300,000 next year, enough to serve a half-dozen businesses or more. The program is set for County Board action Tuesday.

Vrakas said he's been looking for an economic development tool that the county could use. Director of Administration Norman Cummings suggested the loan program after learning of a similar effort in Minnesota.

"A lot of companies can get around third base, but they need that extra push to get to home plate," Vrakas said in announcing the initiative at a news conference Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, in an appearance before the County Board's Finance Committee, which recommended approval of the program, Cummings said: "We are typically not in this business. But in these times and these kinds of difficulties," he said, the county needs to join the effort to help promote job growth, especially among small businesses.

» Read Full Article

Needing a "signature win" Falls netters rout DSHA in GMC clash

Sept. 20, 2011 9:36 p.m. | The Menomonee Falls girls volleyball team entered Tuesday night's pivotal Greater Metro dual meet with archrival DSHA ranked second in the state.

"But that was just because of our name," said Indian coach J.C. Bruns, noting the flat third-place effort in the Watertown Invite the Indians were coming off on Saturday. "We were floundering, just not playing well ever since the Joust (the season opening tournament)."

"I was thinking about my pre-game speech though and I walked into the small gym (where the team was gathered) and they just started screaming. They were ready. I didn't need to say anything, so I just walked out."

"They were as up for any match as I had seen them. We needed this match, not so much for conference implications, but more than anything else, we needed a signature win, something we could hang our hats on."

"....We were just looking for a complete match and DS just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

» Read Full Article

Paper carrier catches Menomonee Falls coupon thief

Sept. 20, 2011 10:05 a.m. | An alert Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper carrier caught a man in the act of stealing a newspaper from a Menomonee Falls business during the early morning hours of Sept. 11.

According to the police report, the paper carrier observed a man approach the newspaper shortly after he delivered it to the front door of Player's Pub, N86 W16396 Appleton Ave., at 5:20 a.m.

When the suspect picked up the newspaper and began placing it in a plastic bag he was carrying, the carrier confronted him. The man dropped the newspaper and left the scene.

The carrier told police he had witnessed the same man steal newspapers on "multiple" other occasions.

Police located the newspaper thief a short time later at Subway, N85W16001 Appleton Ave., and questioned him about the theft.

» Read Full Article

Robbery spree covers three counties

Sept. 19, 2011 6:12 p.m. | A masked man has captured the attention of police, not just because of the number of armed robberies he has committed - 15 so far, all in the past month - but the unusual geographical breadth of his hits.

He has covered eight police jurisdictions in three counties, hitting gas stations and liquor stores near freeways and highways in the greater Milwaukee area. And he's not working alone; after the robberies, he jumps into the passenger seat of a getaway vehicle.

"What is kind of unique here is the fact that it's spread out in such a wide range of jurisdictions, from Ozaukee to Waukesha County, Milwaukee County," Milwaukee police Lt. Kenneth Grams said Monday. "So that's fairly . . . I'm not going to say unique, but that's not real common."

The man started his armed robbery spree just before 10 p.m. Aug. 18 at the S&M Petro Mart on Stevenson St. in Milwaukee.

Since then, the man has committed 14 more nighttime robberies, police said. All the stores are within a mile of major highways, and all the robberies except one occurred between 8 and 11 p.m. Three of the robberies were repeats at stores he previously had hit, Grams said.

» Read Full Article

Strong first half leads Falls gridders past WAC

Sept. 17, 2011 12:37 a.m. | It was all about establishing a tone and an atmosphere for the Menomonee Falls football team Friday night against West Allis Central after the Indians' rough loss to Brookfield East last week.

And the job was done quickly, as Falls scored on its first three possessions and never looked back despite a late-game rally by the Bulldogs, earning a 28-12 Greater Metro Conference decision.

"We had some good practices this past week," said Falls quarterback Brett Krause. "They were needed because that was a bad loss last week. We needed to just come out and pound it."

Despite a shaky second half, where Central shut out the Indians, Falls managed to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Greater Metro Conference, good for a four-way tie for second in the hyper-competitive league. Central fell to 1-2 and 2-3 respectively.

"Our guys did a great job of coming out and establishing a tone," said Indians coach John Baker. "We needed to get to where we were playing more physically and we did that.

» Read Full Article

Falls: Suspicious object turns out to be used firework

Sept. 16, 2011 6:00 p.m. | Menomonee Falls public safety officials have canceled the alert regarding a suspicious object in a mailbox. The item was determined to be a used firework.

Residents, drivers warned to avoid area in Menomonee Falls

Sept. 16, 2011 4:52 p.m. | Public safety officials have issued the following alert regarding a suspicious device found in mailbox.

Avoid the area of Crestwood, Westview and Daylily due to the large amount of emergency personnel. In addition, several of the roads are blocked as a precautionary measure.

United Way in Waukesha County seeks boost in giving

Sept. 13, 2011 3:38 p.m. | Waukesha - United Way in Waukesha County has set a fundraising goal of $4.3 million this year, a 5.2% increase over the $4,090,947 it raised in 2010, to help fund health and human service agencies that assist people in need.

The $4.3 million target for the annual fundraising campaign is the same amount the organization sought in contributions last year but fell short of because of the down economy.

"With the significant need still present in our community, we feel it important to strive for that $4.3 million yet again this year," said Courtney Capes, manager of marketing and communications for United Way in Waukesha County.

In 2009, $4,261,000 was raised.

United Way in Waukesha County's campaign runs through Dec. 30.

» Read Full Article

Homestead shows its many weapons

Sept. 09, 2011 11:48 p.m. |

It may have taken until the final two minutes of the first quarter, but when the weapons on the Homestead offense made their presence known Friday night, they did so in a big way.

Highlanders senior quarterback Cody Berger completed five passes of 23 yards or more in the first half, which led to a 27-0 halftime lead and paved the way to a 44-19 North Shore Conference victory over Port Washington at Al Urness Field Friday night.
 
The two players in on the biggest of the plays were senior wide receiver Stephen Sheperd and junior Jay Schneider, both of whom scored a pair of touchdowns on the night and also both seemed to have their feet under them in their first year as starters.
 
“It’s great to have them out there,” said Berger, who completed nine of 15 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns on the night. “(Sheperd and Schneider) are both very dangerous. Every time they touch the ball, they have a chance to go all the way. It’s really awesome.”
 
Sheperd followed Antoine Easterling’s rushing touchdown to open the scoring with a 47-yard touchdown reception just 15 seconds later to make it 13-0 Highlanders.

“He’s got awfully good hands and he’s got a burst,” said Homestead coach Dave Keel on Sheperd, who caught his second touchdown of the night, a 15-yarder, on a quick slant in the second quarter.

“Cody was hitting guys right where they needed to be. That pass he threw to Sheperd on the slant was something special. He’s playing like a senior quarterback should play.”

Schneider made his presence felt despite catching just two passes from Berger, one of which was a 38-yard touchdown pass with just under four minutes left in the first half.

“He’s very shifty and very fast,” said Berger. “It’s awesome to have him on offense.”
 
As impressive as that touchdown was, he showed his true playmaking ability on a 61-yard punt return just seconds into the fourth quarter that sealed the victory for Homestead (2-0 North Shore, 3-1 overall).
 
“He really had some terrific blocking, specially (junior) Tyler Gehrke, who did a good job blocking a guy twice as big as him,” Keel said.

After being shut out in the first half, Port Washington (0-2, 1-3) scored on its first two possessions of the second half and pulled as close as 27-13. Homestead sacked quarterback Taylor Davenport seven times.
 
Five of those sacks came in the first half and two of them came from senior linebacker Xavier Crumpton.

“We have a real fast defense and we just try to get to the ball,” said Crumpton, who also had four tackles for a loss. “Coach tells us we always have to get to ball and that’s what we did. When we have an opportunity to blitz, we’re going to blitz.”

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Crumpton is emerging as a leader on this defense.

“He’s a pretty good football player that gets around out there,” Keel said. “I really like watching him play. He’s got just a tremendous burst.”

The victory extends Homestead’s conference winning streak to 63 games and with the bit of adversity in the third quarter, Keel was happy to have his team experience the push from Port.

“In the second half, they put two on the board and you have to give their kids a lot of credit,” said Keel, who also had to watch Port score on a 65-yard pass with 36 seconds left in the game. “I was glad to have our resiliency tested and I think our kids came through.”

East stakes its claim

Sept. 09, 2011 11:39 p.m. | The Brookfield East football team might be able to finally silence the critics after shutting out previously-unbeaten Menomonee Falls on Friday, 21-0.

"I was not surprised with how well Brookfield East played," Falls head coach John Baker said aftewards. "The kids are believing, they were 3-0, they played extremely hard."

The Spartans are now 4-0 overall following their impressive victory, the only team in the rugged Greater Metro Conference without a loss this season.

They are tied with Brookfield Central (2-0, 3-1) for first place in the conference, following the Lancers' 56-38 victory over Sussex Hamilton at home, giving the top of the GMC a Brookfield flavor.

East coach Tom Swittel continues to pull all the right strings in his second season at the helm, as he has put together a 13-2 record since taking over.

» Read Full Article

Spartans blanked previously unbeaten Falls, 21-0

Sept. 09, 2011 11:07 p.m. | The Brookfield East football team might be able to finally silence the critics after shutting out previously unbeaten Menomonee Falls, 21-0, Friday night at the Falls.

"I was not surprised with how well Brookfield East played," Falls head coach John Baker said aftewards. "The kids are believing, they were 3-0, they played extremely hard."

The Spartans are now 4-0 overall following their impressive victory, the only team in the rugged Greater Metro Conference without a loss this season.

They are tied with Brookfield Central (2-0, 3-1) for first place in the conference, following the Lancers 56-31 victory over Sussex Hamilton at home, giving the top of the GMC a Brookfield flavor.

East coach Tom Swittel continues to pull all the right strings in his second season at the helm, as he has put together a 13-2 record since taking over.

» Read Full Article

Sweep not so easy for Falls v-ball team against BC

Sept. 07, 2011 10:15 p.m. | With 10 Greater Metro Conference titles since 1996 to its credit, the Menomonee Falls girls volleyball team is used to having its way in league play.

But with a young back row still working out the kinks and some mystifyingly inconsistent play dogging the team, the Indians had to work hard to go 2-0 in GMC duals with a 25-18, 26-24, 25-23 decision over a veteran Brookfield Central team Wednesday night.

"When people ask me how we're doing I say 'fair to moderate'," said Indian coach J.C. Bruns. "We had some inconsistencies with our pass tonight. We passed fairly well for good stretches at times tonight, but then at other times, it went 'Bye-Bye'."

Lancer coach Scott Spiess, whose team returns eight players this season, knew that his side missed out on a great chance tonight.

"We did have a good chance," he said, "but we couldn't quite make enough plays at the end of each game to make it work. We're more competitive, more so than in the past. We've just got to get it into our heads that we believe we can do it."

» Read Full Article

Bay's defense does just enough against Germantown

Sept. 02, 2011 10:58 p.m. | A penny for Whitefish Bay football coach Jim Tietjen's thoughts as Germantown was sitting on his team's three-yard line with 2.2 seconds to go and his exhausted defense desperately clinging to a 21-17 lead?

"As a defensive coach, I'm just thinking of the next play in front of us," he said. "That it's the most important one of the game. I try to get them settled in and in the right positions."

And his thoughts after junior linebacker Jeremiah Holt tomahawked the ball away from Warhawks receiver Louis Tuszynski in the middle of the end zone, sending the rest of the Bay team racing out onto the Lubar Stadium Field Friday night in pure joy?

"...Our kid made the hit and the scoreboard tells the story."

And that's how the North Shore Conference season got underway on a muddy, windless night as the Bay defense lost the battle to Germantown (over 430 yards allowed) but won the war.

» Read Full Article

Waukesha County exec pitches $115 million in projects

Sept. 01, 2011 9:14 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas released his five-year, $115 million plan for county projects Thursday that he says balances the need for maintaining infrastructure with services that ensure economic vitality.

The biggest item in the next five years - the largest-ever project, a $36 million new health and human services building, got under design this year. Major road projects, including the widening of Janesville Road in Muskego and the Waukesha west bypass, were under construction or study in previous years.

A first phase of Janesville Road widening between Moorland Road and the east county line finished in 2006 and cost $11.3 million. The new phase in Vrakas' plan between Moorland and Racine Ave., which had been delayed and is now proposed through 2013, will cost $27 million in state, local and county funds.

A second major road project previously identified as a future need is the widening to four lanes of North Ave. in Brookfield. Construction on the easterly phase, from 124th St. to Moorland Road, would start in about 2015 at a projected cost of nearly $18 million in county and federal funds. Design of the westerly phase, from Calhoun to Pilgrim roads, would begin in 2016 with construction in future years and a projected cost of about $9 million.

Vrakas will again ask the County Board to approve a study of remodeling or replacing the Waukesha County Courthouse, at a cost of $250,000. The board last year rejected the study on a 14-8 vote. Vrakas is asking for it in 2014, when the health and human services building is expected to be finished. Officials have discussed using the vacated health and human services building to temporarily house courthouse operations while courthouse remodeling goes on.

» Read Full Article

Community Watch

» Independent investigation concludes Election Day error was honest mistake 9/29

» Waukesha County building projects get green light 9/27

» Waukesha County Board rejects business loan plan 9/27

» Get your sports video fix in our Prep Sports Primer 9/27

» Waukesha County levy rises less than 1% in Vrakas budget 9/27

» Former Wauwatosa West basketball coach Landisch loses battle with cancer 9/26

» Falls police ask for help in identifying suspected gas drive-off accomplice 9/23

» Waukesha County considers closing girls detention unit 9/23

» Falls teachers union, district at odds over taking dues from paychecks 9/22

» Fast-rising GT boys v-ball team holds off Bay in five games 9/21

» Vrakas announces Waukesha County small-business loan initiative 9/21

» Needing a "signature win" Falls netters rout DSHA in GMC clash 9/20

» Paper carrier catches Menomonee Falls coupon thief 9/20

» Robbery spree covers three counties 9/19

» Strong first half leads Falls gridders past WAC 9/17

» Falls: Suspicious object turns out to be used firework 9/16

» Residents, drivers warned to avoid area in Menomonee Falls 9/16

» United Way in Waukesha County seeks boost in giving 9/13

» Homestead shows its many weapons 9/9

» East stakes its claim 9/9

» Spartans blanked previously unbeaten Falls, 21-0 9/9

» Sweep not so easy for Falls v-ball team against BC 9/7

» Bay's defense does just enough against Germantown 9/2

» Waukesha County exec pitches $115 million in projects Updated:  9/1

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