December 28, 2011 | 07:51 AMLYONS - Voters replaced the town chairman with a town chairwoman.
A new sewer plant opened its gates and turned on its aerators to ensure that town effluent is clean before it's released into the environment.
A place for fun and healing opened, paid off its mortgage and is now seeking tax-exempt status from the town.
Those were the top stories of 2011 in the town of Lyons.
Voters made April a cruel month for incumbents, and the town of Lyons was no exception.
Newcomer Joy Bartelson, 40, defeated longtime Lyons Township Chairman William Mangold by a count of 402-353.
She is a customer service representative for a private distributor and lived in Lyons for 13 years after growing up in Spring Prairie.
Bartelson ran her campaign on a promise of getting the town moving in the right direction. She said the town had been "riding on a flat line for too long and there can be improvement. When decisions have been made, it's been irrational, not thought out and without the participation of taxpayers."
An October open house at the Lyons Sanitary District 2, 5996 Clearwater Court, featured beautiful weather, good food and a brand new $4 million wastewater treatment plant.
Too bad more people didn't show up.
The treatment plant is something more than 550 households in the town contribute to, every time the residents flush their toilets or take a shower.
It's here that the dirty water from Lyons homes and businesses is scrubbed and cleansed before it's returned to the environment.
To those who recall the old blue metal pole building that housed the old treatment facility, the new plant is quite a change. The old building is gone, replaced by a freshly planted lawn and a sign identifying the new plant.
The old facility was approaching 30 years old and had reached the end of its service life.
The Lyons Sanitary District officially broke ground for a new sewage treatment plant on July 1, 2010. Construction of the new plant took about one year to complete. It was officially put into service in September.
The Lyons district was able to secure a 20-year, $2.7 million loan at 2.2 percent interest, through the state Department of Natural Resources Clean Water Fund.
Country Estates, which is connected to the Lyons District treatment plant, secured a $1.45 million Wisconsin Rural Water Construction loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It also received a $3.1 million grant for updating sewer pipes and manholes.
The new facility includes a processing building, an administration building, an operations building and a storage facility. At the center of it all is the giant aeration tank, where wastewater is mixed with bacteria, which consumes pollutants.
Water is then sent to a final clarifier and to an ultraviolet disinfection tank before being released to the nearby White River.
Groundbreaking for a $737,000 tornado and disaster shelter at Country Estates mobile home park didn't happen as expected on Nov. 19.
Groundbreaking may have to wait until spring.
The problem isn't at the local end. The Country Estates Community Association has all its grants approved and funding is allocated, said Cynthia Ganka, the association manager. The problem is at the Washington, D.C. end.
The federal government had a slight issue getting its budget approved.
Without a budget, there is no money for the grant allocations. No grants meant no construction.
Instead, Ganka and Country Estates will have to wait until Congress gets its ducks in a row and approves a budget.
Federal officials expressed confidence that the federal budget will be approved by Jan. 1, she said.
Plans call for the shelter to be 2,455 square feet. Under FEMA regulations that would be big enough to shelter everyone living at Country Estates.
Country Estates serves 206 manufactured and mobile homes, and population of about 400.
Country Estates is just south of Hospital Road. Offices for Country Estates and the Country Estates Sanitary District are at 6978 Prairie Lane.
The shelter will be just east of the sanitary district office on Prairie Lane.
The view from Timber Ridge
In October, and with little discussion, the town of Lyons Board of Review voted 5-0, to uphold its assessments of the condominium hotel rooms at the Timber Ridge Lodge at Grand Geneva Resort.
The individual owners of the 224 rooms at the lodge filed a lawsuit in Walworth County Circuit Court against the town in June alleging the town overvalued their properties in a recent appraisal.
After the vote, Don Millis, attorney representing the room owners, said the town's action wasn't unexpected. He said the two sides are still talking, hoping to settle the assessment dispute before it goes to a judge. He said town officials recently asked for more information on the owners' challenge to the official assessment.
"We're hoping to settle this issue," Millis said.
Millis and the room owners claim that a depressed real estate market and difficulty in selling condominium hotel rooms has caused a drop in the market and a decrease in the value of the rooms.
According to the town, the total assessment of the disputed property is about $45.6 million, while the condo owners claim the actual value of the properties is about $25.6 million.
Attorney Ben Brantmeier, who represents the town in the lawsuit, said the town Board of Review was still hoping to settle the issue.
"We're still keeping our ears and eyes open to reach a resolution," Brantmeier said.
The condominiums are vacation properties the owners may use for a limited time each year, and during the rest of the year, are rented out to Timber Ridge Lodge guests.
Owners receive a share of the room rental.
The lodge is on the property of the Grand Geneva, owned by Marcus Corp. Marcus Corp., Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge are not involved in the lawsuit.
Cost of Rustic Falls
Almost a year ago, Rustic Falls Camp at 5537 Cranberry Road opened its doors to a group of children from West Chicago.
With that, Eric Lentz and his wife, Deanna Hallagan, saw their dreams come true. Lentz, his family, friends and volunteers worked since 2006 to repair, renovate and restore an abandoned dairy farm and fieldstone farm house into a special retreat for people in need.
Hanging over their heads was a $110,000 mortgage on the property that had to be paid off by October 2011.
On Aug. 23, Lentz paid off the $110,000 mortage on the property and ownership was transferred to the nonprofit Frank Lentz Foundation. The foundation is named after Eric's late father who was a child psychologist in Illinois.
Lentz was at the Lyons Town Board in October, announcing that that he had filed paperwork to grant the property tax exempt status starting in 2012. The visit was a courtesy call. No Town Board action was required.
Rustic Falls itself sits on about five acres that straddles Cranberry Road.
The center of the camp is the two-story fieldstone farmhouse, which has been renovated and restored with mostly volunteer effort to sleep up to eight.
Surrounding Rustic Falls is 87 acres of the old Drumlin farm now owned by the Seno Woodland Education Center.
Seno and Rustic Falls have a mutual use agreement. Guests of Rustic Falls can hike the Seno grounds, Guests of Seno can use the facilities at Rustic Falls.