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Remembering a story I never wrote

April 10, 2014

I was nursing a midafternoon beer when I saw him cross the street.
He headed for a bank across from the tavern.
My first thought: Why does a Zen master need money?

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Anchor Covenant Church finds new home

April 10, 2014

An ad appeared in the Regional News a few months ago, inviting people to attend Anchor Covenant Church, a congregation with a long history in Lake Geneva, in its new location, the former Immanuel Lutheran Church, at 1229 Park Row. The copy ended with the phrase, “Old building, new church.”
That line just scratches the surface of the story Anchor Covenant has to tell.
The congregation began as a Bible study in the home of one of its members. After some time passed, Sunday services began being held at Covenant Harbor, a summer resident camp in Lake Geneva. Later, the church met at Woods School on Sundays, then moved to the Lake Geneva YMCA. Most recently, before this move, they shared the sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Lake Geneva, holding their services in the evening.
Through all of the growth and moves, the church has strived to be an active presence in the community, reaching out in many ways. It was always a dream to have a building of its own and the congregation has reached the first step of that goal.
The church is a member of the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church in America, also the parent organization of Covenant Harbor. Property at the camp and another one in Upper Michigan can be used by congregations for conferences, outdoor activities and camping.
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Bruce Bruns, has been in Lake Geneva since 2010. He became a full time pastor in Los Angeles in 1997, following completion of his theology studies. Acting first as the youth pastor, he later became an associate, then assistant and finally the head pastor of the congregation.
As the congregation attempted to find a permanent location, several options seemed possible. The exploratory effort to purchase the old Arrow Manufacturing facility, now the site of Kwik Trip, proved impractical, considering the cost of necessary renovation. Discussions and more possible solutions continued. In the meantime, the congregation continued to meet, grow, carry out missions and serve the community as well as its members.
The next step sounds almost impossible to believe. A member of the church is also a member of the Lake Geneva Fire Department, where the Rev. Mark Moller-Gunderson, a pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, is a captain. In a discussion about relocating the Anchor church and the move of Immanuel to a new building, Pastor Mark said to him, perhaps jokingly, “Well, you will buy our building, won’t you?”
The germ of the process was planted, and the work began. Prayer and consultation resulted in a positive response to buy the existing facility. A capital campaign was carried out and with the help of the lending branch of the conference, the deal was made, with a contract signed in January 2013. On Easter Sunday that year, the congregation moved its office and activities into the new location, sharing space and facilities with the Lutheran group, whose congregation moved to its new building Dec. 29. The sale of the building closed on Jan. 3, 2014, and the first 10:30 a.m. Sunday service for Anchor Covenant was held Jan. 5.
One of the first planned activities was a 24-hour prayer vigil, where participants could sign up to pray for half hour or hour commitments. Pastor Bruns had his turn at 2 a.m. For an hour, he spent most of the time walking in all parts of the building. He sensed the history of the church and all it represented as well as the feeling of exciting and promising things to come.
The building presents many opportunities for the congregation to carry out its plan to put down roots, a home base, to be in service to the community, as well as to its members. Some ongoing activities of the congregation are Love in Action Sundays, quarterly events where members go out into the community to be in service, wherever needed. The church supports two specific missionaries. In June, the senior high youth will go south to work with a local church, helping to build and repair homes and conducting Bible school for the children.
Members of the congregation want to remain flexible, to see where God is leading them to benefit the community.
Various age groups and activities are included in the life of the congregation. There are evening meetings for middle school through seniors in high school. Children have classes during worship time and there are two regular Bible study groups. Outreach and compassionate ministries include taking food to shut-ins on a monthly basis and having programs at Havenwood, a home for seniors, and at Woods School.
There is a “house band,” including the pastor on guitar at various times. The middle school and high school students provide instrumental music during worship services once a month.
Some remodeling has been taking place in the building. The overflow area of the sanctuary has been changed and the hope is to establish a coffee house facility, with opportunities for local musicians and artists to have a place to share their work. The upper floor has been converted to be used by the young children and infants, with classrooms and nursery facilities. Woodwork in the building has been restained and replaced where necessary and new windows have replaced the stained glass that moved to the new Lutheran church. About 90 percent of the work has been done by members and friends of the congregation. Much more will be done to the building, as time and funds allow, but the important part of being a church goes on, serving, reaching out and worshiping the Lord.
Including the community in the life of the congregation is very important to it, and a big step on that path has already taken place. The Walworth County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity has been operating without a space of its own almost since its inception. It now has an office and conference space at the church and Larry Green, head of the affiliate, will be in that office during hours yet to be determined.
The only paid staff at the church are a part-time office coordinator, a part-time music director and the pastor. Volunteers are welcomed and necessary to help keep the church alive, providing individuals the opportunity to serve God by serving in the church.
Pastor Bruns and his wife, Alissa, a teacher at Woods School, live in the Pell Lake area.
They have three sons, Sam, Jack and Dakota.
The family and the church, are determined to be in Christ and in the community, now settled in at 1229 Park Row.

Recent Commentary
The grace of Opening Days now and then
April 03, 2014

Editor’s note: Opening Day is something special in the hearts of boys everywhere. This is a reprinting of a column that was first published Opening Day 2013. The magic is still there.
It was 37 degrees Monday, the first day of April.

One more column on parking structure
March 27, 2014

I know you’ve read enough about parking.
In fact, when reporter Chris Schultz copy edited my last column on parking he scribbled: “No mas”…aka No more!
As it turned out, that’s not what he meant. But that’s what I thought he meant because I know people are tired of the subject.

A warm response to cold weather
March 27, 2014

What a winter it has been. That is a phrase heard many times in reference to many things, but it couldn’t be more proper when considering a warm clothing drive conducted even before the winter began.
When Ryan Mikrut, a former Lake Geneva resident living in Milwaukee, heard from a friend who is a teacher in Lake Geneva that in October, before things really got cold, children were coming to the school where she teaches without long sleeves, to say nothing of having warm coats or hand coverings for the cold weather to come. Mikrut pondered about such situations in light of what it would mean to any child. Familiar with such needs in her home city, it seemed very wrong for the situation to exist in Lake Geneva and she felt she must do something about it.

Locals, government should be on same page on parking
March 13, 2014

Part 3 of a series
So why should the citizens of Lake Geneva support a parking structure?
The need for more parking has been discussed for years.
In my last two columns, I’ve argued that a parking structure is needed to help solve the parking problem.
And because the most likely source of funding — TIF — sunsets in 2017, that decision should be made soon.
Last week, the city parking commission recommended that the parking structure be built behind the old theater.
That recommendation will go to the city council. I doubt there will be a unanimous vote, but I suspect a majority of the council will let the citizens decide by putting it to a referendum.
A referendum is required for any expenditure of more than $1.1 million and the parking structure is expected to cost close to $8 million
While a recent study predicted voters would support a parking structure, I have my doubts.
This is a conservative community and many citizens aren’t big fans of the visitors who invade Lake Geneva every summer.
Other people are against TIF on principle. I understand their concern. It’s too easy for TIF to become an easy piggy bank for pet projects. And while it may not be a tax in the traditional sense, it does collect money from taxpayers.
That said, citizens need to understand it’s now or probably never. The money is available and if anything fulfills TIF’s goal of improving downtown, a parking structure does.
And I doubt a greater purpose would be found if the money were redistributed to the taxing bodies — which would be the case if TIF closes.
More directly, citizens would find their own parking problems lessened.
There’d be less encroachment in residential areas by tourists.

There’d be more of an incentive to come downtown to shop.
Locals will also gain because a healthy downtown makes for a healthy economy.
Right now many locals feel disenfranchised. They’re the ones who vote. They’re the ones who pay taxes. Yet it seems to them that many of the decisions made by the city are only done to encourage the business community. To many citizens it seems like a one-way street.
To help change that image, the city should go out of its way to provide support for parking rules that directly benefit the citizens of Lake Geneva.

Here are a few suggestions:
1) Keep the residential sticker program that allows for two-hour free parking, maybe even extend it as few people use up the full two hours anyway. I understand that the city has about 5,700 residential stickers. It seems obvious that some people have found a way to get more stickers than they need or have moved since acquiring one: the city should restart the program and be even more vigilant about proof of residency.
2) Continue the program of free parking during the winter months, at least for citizens.
3) Establish rates in the parking structure that encourage downtown workers to park there instead of on the street. Not only will that keep spaces open for visitors, but it will help fill the parking structure during the winter.

A parking structure: Building for the future
March 06, 2014

Second in a series
See part one here.
The issue has been staring Lake Geneva in the face for decades.
Too much traffic. Not enough parking.

Perfect storm: Why itís time to build a parking structure
February 27, 2014

Part 1 of a series

It’s like a childhood crush.
You fall fast, but she’s not the one you’re meant to take to the altar.
The idea of tearing down homes on Wisconsin Street across from Central Denison School to make way for a parking structure seemed like a good idea at the time.
It stemmed from a conversation between the local school district and the city, who would have teamed up on the project. But when the idea was raised about a month ago, public reaction was swift and strong against it.
Tearing down four homes for a parking structure in a largely residential area just didn’t sit well — even with those who floated this trial balloon.
Luckily, the city and school snapped out of it before this fatal attraction got any deeper.
It’s the latest chapter in the city’s decades old saga of not enough parking but nowhere to go.
This is the first of a three-part series on the subject.
This week we’ll focus on the status quo. Next week: Why a parking structure makes sense. Lastly, we’ll explain to our taxpayers what’s in it for them.
The parking issue has been studied to death. Over coffee. On the floor of the city council. And in several studies that dealt with actual facts.
The problem is no mystery: The city of Lake Geneva doesn’t have enough parking to hold the multitude of visitors who come here every summer.
There are some who wish those visitors would just go away and leave our wonderful city for themselves. But, like it or not, the rest of the world has discovered Lake Geneva. That started about the time of the Chicago fire and if some citizens believe it’s going to stop any time soon, they’ve been smoking some of that Colorado weed.
So, by now, they should at least consider how we can make the best of it. For the rest of us, who recognize Lake Geneva’s economic life blood is tourism, there’s been too much hand-wringing for too many years.
A study held last summer pretty much summed up what other studies, and common sense, have long determined: The city needs more downtown parking for at least the summer.
Whether all this huff and puff is worthwhile for such a small portion of the year, is a subject for a later discussion.
So where do we stand now?
A critical mass has formed.
People as diverse as downtown leader Kevin Fleming and former mayor Speedo Condos believe a parking structure is needed.
We have a new head for the chamber of commerce who is bursting with new ideas and would love to see the parking issue resolved.
Mayor Jim Connors and alderwoman Sarah Hill have dedicated themselves toward some sort of resolution.
And, most important, the clock is ticking.
There’s a pot of money, about $8 million, sitting in a TIF fund. That’s about the amount needed for a high-quality parking structure. But the TIF fund sunsets in 2017.
A referendum must be held to approve any city expenditure of more than $1.1 million.
Since the money is already available in TIF, and wouldn’t require any further increase in taxes, this seems like a time when the voters are most likely to swallow that pill. Even that is about a 50-50 proposition. The odds of it passing without money already in the bank seem almost nil.
As a result, it’s pretty much do or die time for a parking structure.
City officials have been looking at possible sites the last few weeks.
That site across from Central Denison died under an avalanche of anger.
Also eliminated was a site one block east on Wisconsin Street.
It would have required the purchase of several buildings and a larger area is needed.
There was some discussion of putting the lot at the current location of the U.S. Bank. That has also been rejected. Just too much hassle and too many what ifs to navigate.
Some people have mentioned relocating the post office and putting a parking structure there, but no one in a position of authority sees that as a viable solution. Apparently, the P.O. was approached several years ago and there were just too many hurdles.
So we’re left with two possibilities: Behind the old theater or behind what was McCullough’s Drug Store.
They both have the advantage of being all or mostly owned by the city. They also are the site of existing surface lots. The disadvantage of such sites is that the surface spaces wouldn’t be available for parking during construction of the parking structure.
That’s where we stand.
The days of flirting with wanna-bes are over.
It’s time to settle down with something that will survive the trials of a tough marriage between the business community and our citizens, be as attractive as it is practical, and stand the test of time.

Next week: Why? Why? Why?

Creating an annual bucket list
February 20, 2014

I turned 27 earlier this month. Like most birthdays after 21, the day rolled in quietly and left without much fanfare.
I got a free coffee in celebration at Caribou Coffee in Lake Geneva, and a few friends and family members gave me some nice birthday cards.

Building a house of worship
February 20, 2014

The efforts of ordinary people cannot be underestimated. Examples of such effort are all around, whether all the details are evident or not. And such efforts deserve to be recognized.
An example of this kind of efforts was celebrated Jan. 12, with an open house marking the relocation of Immanuel Lutheran Church from 1229 Park Row in Lake Geneva to 700 N. Bloomfield Road, to a brand new church building, made possible by the efforts of ordinary people, the community they live in and the prayers of people in many places in the world.

Reporter hears readers at resident roundtable
February 13, 2014

I wasn’t hoping for much when I set up a meet-and-greet at the Walworth Public Library on Feb. 5.
Maybe the librarian would join me for coffee and we would talk about how people were too busy these days.
Instead, I was surprised by nine guests, all with opinions on Geneva Lake West and all readers of the Regional News. Mention of another paper did come up at one point, but it wasn’t very complimentary.
Not to brag, but no one had any serious complaints about how the west end of the lake is covered.
Big Foot High School’s return to referendum was a touchy subject for some, as most of the group no longer had children in school.
School budgets and tax levies are tough subjects to cover. These are important stories to write about because people in the district need to know, but concrete answers are hard to find.
In the most recent article about the referendum and school finances, Big Foot District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann said the district faces so many unknowns in preparing a budget.
“I think they’ve done a good job teaching the kids,” Ann Catlow said. “But I don’t think they’ve done enough to reach out to nonparents in the district. I don’t think the newspaper has explained the impact to nonparents. We all have to pay the property taxes. I think most people will vote against it, honestly.”
Art Anderson said he is always curious about property tax rates.
“We have to keep paying them,” he said. “Even with state taxes going down, it seems like local taxes continue to increase.”
From Big Foot, the group’s discussion turned to the elementary school and the school board’s fight against planned Highway 14 changes.
Village Trustee Kent Johnson was at the informal meeting, and he said he doesn’t understand the school’s position.
“The fact that the highway will be moved closer to the school seems to be the school’s key issue,” Johnson said. “Well, it’s that close to the library here, and there isn’t a problem. Darien and Sharon schools both have highways very close. There aren’t these problems there that the (school) board says will happen here.”
Johnson said the state DOT has voted down a bypass of the village several times.
“The Antique Mall will be torn down regardless of which reroute of the highway (is made),” he said. “It’s supposed to move by December of this year.”
Trudy Schubert, local author and volunteer baker for the meeting, said she’d miss the store on the corner of Main and Beloit streets.
“The park, too, I love the park,” she said. “It’s small enough as it is without taking more away from it.”
Johnson said the Rotary Club’s Corn and Brat Festival may move from Heyer Park in Walworth to Fontana’s Reid Park.

“I heard last year’s was supposed to be the last here in Walworth,” he said. “I’m not sure if they’re moving or not.”
It’s clear that the park and the village square are integral parts of this community. The square holds a charm for residents who are attached to Walworth.
To improve the paper, Catlow suggested more event listings, before they happen.
“So often, I see a photo of something that has already happened,” she said. “Well, I would have gone, if I had known about it.”
Catlow said she would like to see a calendar in the Geneva Lake West section, something she can tear out of the paper when she gets it on Wednesday and stick on her fridge for the week.
I used to cringe when I heard about people tearing pieces from the newspapers I worked on. But it’s really a way to save a bit of the work I did.
Not everyone can save the whole newspaper like I do every week. At least one little clip gets weeklong fame.
There’s a calendar of events is this week’s issue for the west end of the lake. I hope it makes it to at least a couple refrigerator doors. Along with the calendar, the group asked me to reach out to more local civic group leaders for information. If you’re a leader of a group, like the 4-H or the Rotary or the American Legion, and you have a report to give, send it our way.
We’ll do our best to ensure information makes it to the readers. I don’t know if the Regional News will host similar events in the future, though I had a good time. Before the meeting officially started, I heard some gossip that I can’t share here. Everyone at the table had the same goal: to keep the community alive and active. I hope the Regional News keeps the community informed.
Special thanks to the Walworth Public Library for their gracious hosting of the event. We overwhelmed their small space.

Jade Bolack is a reporter for the Lake Geneva Regional News.

Columns, content and community
February 06, 2014

Here’s what I think a Community and Commentary section — the one you’re holding in your hand — should be and the direction it’s growing:
1. The Community and Commentary pages emphasize opinions and contributions by staff members and the public.
2. The label “community” implies content that provides a local flavor — which isn’t necessarily news or opinion.
3. The label “commentary” or anything with a column “logo” or marked as a “letter” indicates that the opinions expressed are the opinions of the author.
4. We don’t run editorials in the traditional sense. We won’t hide behind the editorial “we.” The editor’s opinions are the editor’s opinions and not necessarily those of others on the newspaper. The belief that any editorial is an expression of the newspaper is a myth. Newspapers are inanimate objects and can’t have opinions. The only way to make that claim is to take a vote and I’ve never been on a newspaper where people can agree on much of anything. The fact is that on most newspapers the “editorial” is actually developed by an elite group of people who answer to someone else who has the final say anyway.
5. I believe the prime job of a newspaper is to show both sides of an issue and let the reader decide. That doesn’t mean I won’t have opinions, but I’ll try to present them in such a way that the reader can see the other side as well. It was something I learned in debate — in order to make your point effectively you need to truly understand the other perspective. This deviation from the hyper aggressive editorials some people savor is a growing trend in newspapers. It’s also a reflection of the editor’s less-than hyper aggressive personality. On the other hand, the editor — that would be me — reserves the right to foam at the mouth should the occasion warrant it. Strong opinions nourish a newspaper and sometimes I’ve been remiss in not having more of them; I’ll try to do better.
6. We won’t run anonymous opinions or letters to the editor. You should have the courage of your convictions. Each letter needs to be signed and a city address included. We also need a phone number or email address in case we need to verify the letter or ask questions, but that information won’t appear in the paper. In general, we only run letters written by people with local connections.
7. Yes, we run some opinions that may be deemed as crazy. It’s been my experience that crazy ideas die faster when they’re shown in the light of day. If the expression of those ideas is resisted, then the teller of those tales enjoys martyrdom. And, there’s always a chance, they may be right. After all, the idea that the world was an orb circling around the sun was once considered insane.
8. We don’t have special rules regarding word limits or numbers of times someone can contribute. The editor reserves the right to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis. Some of our contributions run overly long and it’s my hope to edit them more this year.
9. We’ll try not to run libelous statements in letters or, we hope, anywhere else. You may think it’s the truth, but we need facts to back it up. And, in a lawsuit, the paper is as financially responsible as you are. We don’t have time to verify every opinion you may have. We make such choices based on their news value and the practicality of verification.
9. There is more leeway with commentary on public officials or public figures. For the most part, they’re not subject to traditional libel laws and criticisms come with the territory. Like everything else in the paper, we reserve the right to edit out particularly venomous or tasteless comments.
10. We resist writing editor’s notes on letters to the editor. The writer should get the final say in their letter. Again, we reserve that right but don’t plan to use it. We also reserve the right to disagree with the writer but in a separate forum. Excluding changes for style, grammar, spelling or obvious “mistakes’ we won’t change the content of a letter without contacting the author.
11. We encourage criticisms of the newspaper. They make for good reading.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.

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