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The year in news: Lake Geneva



Who were some of the most interesting and influencial people in 2010. Pick up the Regional News to find out.
December 29, 2010 | 09:23 AM
2010 wasn't quite as eventful as the previous year, but there still were some significant accomplishments, stories and controversies.

There was the long-awaited completion of a new road in the city, the closing of a local bank, changing faces and attitudes at City Hall and tragic deaths. All were the stories that shaped the year in news in Lake Geneva.

Here's a more detailed look at the top stories and themes in 2010.

Edwards Boulevard extension

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Residents, businesses and tourists waited more than two years for the completion of the frontage road connecting Highway 50 with Sheridan Springs Road. Finally, in October, the road and bridge was opened officially following a ceremony in which city, county and state dignitaries gathered.

Work still is not complete. The intersection of Sheridan Springs Road and Interchange North will be reworked and traffic lights will be added to relieve traffic and make the area safer for those turning onto Interchange North from Sheridan Springs. That is expected to be completed for spring.

Not everything fell into place to make this road happen, which caused delays during the project. Issues revolved around the purchase of the 19-acre WE Energies property and obtaining other easements for the work.

On April 1, 2008, Lake Geneva voters approved the Edwards Boulevard extension project on a 1,110-658 vote. The project, which was approved by voters to not exceed $2.9 million, will extend Edwards Boulevard north from the Target and Best Buy area to Sheridan Spring Road and it includes a bridge over the White River. RYAN Companies, developers of Target, chipped in $600,000 because the road work started in 2010.

Tax Incremental Financing District money paid for the road, which did not reach the original $2.9 million price tag. Also, city officials believe the sale of parts of the WE Energies property will help recoup some of the money spent on the project.

Tragic deaths

The October murder of Lake Geneva's Sandra Teichow left many in the area stunned. After all, Teichow was in her hometown of Racine just trying to make a difference by helping some poor people.

Instead, she lost her life. Teichow, 67, was found dead in a wooded area near the Root River on West Sixth Street in Racine. She had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma to her head and upper body. There also were signs of defensive injuries on her hands and arms and signs of sexual assault.

Teichow had spent much of her life giving. She taught children in places as far away as Bosnia and Belarus, collected shoes for Guatemalan children and helped build brick houses in Nicaragua.

Convicted sex offender Wilbert L. Thomas, 65, was charged with her murder and was found competent to stand trail.

Carter Dorwin had a million-dollar smile and he showed it off every day at Eastview Elementary School.

The 9-year-old loved wrestling, being outdoors with his fellow Cub Scouts and with animals. But, Carter won't have the chance to spend another afternoon fishing, on the wrestling mats, camping in the woods or holding his dog Toby.

In mid-November, Dorwin was killed when the car his mother was driving was struck by another vehicle while on the way to school. Carter died at the scene right about the time he should have been sitting in Bonnie Anderson's third-grade class.

The death of the boy hit the community hard.

Continuing the difficulty is the unknown factors that led and caused the accident. Jeremy C. Dees has been charged with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and two counts of reckless driving causing injury. Initial thoughts at the scene were that alcohol may have played a part. Dees had three prior drunken driving convictions, including the latest in May 2008.

However, a test indicated no alcohol was in Dees' blood. Dees, who is still in jail, waived his preliminary hearing and no further court dates have been posted on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website.

Changing faces, culture at City Hall

A new mayor, treasurer, clerk and a pair of new aldermen are some of the changes at City Hall in 2010.

Following a tumultuous time in 2009, it became kinder and gentler in the City Hall Council Chambers. New Mayor Jim Connors took over and brought his easy-going nature to the mayor's office. That resulted in a quieter and calmer time at City Hall. New aldermen Tom Hartz and Ellyn Kehoe joined the other six aldermen in what has appeared to mostly be a respectful time among the aldermen and mayor.

The most significant change other than the mayor taking over was the departure of longtime city clerk Diana Dykstra. After about 10 years at City Hall, Dykstra accepted a job as the village of Darien's administrator. Following Dykstra's departure, Jeremy Reale moved from southern Illinois to Lake Geneva to take over as the new clerk.

Issues at City Hall seemingly reached a boiling point between aldermen in February, March and April when Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier alleged "mismanagement" by city staff regarding four separate issues. Those issues revolved around the use of funds without a resolution when it came to the purchase of the WE Energies building, improper use of petty cash funds, the payment for park benches and the use of library credit cards from 2005 to 2008.

Fesenmaier wanted to hire outside counsel to investigate the specific items, but that effort failed at the Personnel Committee meeting. The committee later agreed to an internal investigation into the allegations, which would be spearheaded by the Lake Geneva Police Department and City Attorney Dan Draper. There has been no public discussion regarding any findings.

A different scenery?

The Wrigley Drive bridge is in the midst of an overhaul this winter. But, it's what hasn't happened that is of more interest.

Ideas to make changes to Flatiron Park failed, apparently leaving that area as is for the time being. The Beautification Committee wanted to add several pieces to the lakefront park, including a stage area, focal point and more sidewalks. However, the council nixed all the ideas except the addition of a sidewalk on the east side of the park.

As part of the plan, the city asked officials with the Chamber of Commerce to decide on a future for that building. An expansion concept was proposed. City officials will take another look at the concept again in 2011 after it received a negative response from the Plan Commission in late 2010.

City officials are in the midst of working with owners of the former Traver Hotel building, located at 323 Broad St. The 140-year-old building has been called an eyesore and has been vacant for quite some time. The city and owners are working toward improvements being made to the building soon. However nothing has happened as of yet.

Record-setting, closures

A toasty warm and sunny summer led to one of the best years ever on the Riviera Beach as well as beaches around Geneva Lake.

But, with busy times on a beach also comes dangers in the water. The Water Safety Patrol reported they hadn't seen the volume of people on the lake in several years. That led to by early August the need to pull 16 people from the water. On Memorial Day weekend, patrol lifeguards saved five people and then in mid-July, on one weekend, the patrol pulled six boaters and three swimmers to safety.

The economic downturn hit First Banking Center in the teeth. In November, Walworth County Sheriff's deputies stood by at the entrances to the Lake Geneva branch of First Banking Center, as Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation officials spent a full weekend preparing for what appears to now be a smooth transition.

First Michigan Bank acquired the troubled First Banking Center which is headquartered in Burlington, with 17 total branches, including several in the Geneva Lake area. That announcement came on the heels of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions closing the bank. First Banking Center had been in financial trouble for quite some time. The bank had been in the process of raising capital from private investors to improve its financial position following losses during the rough economic times.

It was the 149th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the country this year and the second in Wisconsin. The most recent institution to close was Maritime Savings Bank, West Allis, on Sept. 17.

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