Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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'Shame on the DOT'

by Jade Bolack

October 03, 2013

WALWORTH — The Walworth School District may hire a lobbyist to sway the Wisconsin DOT to change its plans regarding Highway 14.

“It has been suggested by our attorney that we look into hiring a lobbyist,” School Board President Kelly Freeman said at the Sept. 30 board meeting. “Believe it or not, there are lobbyists out there who just lobby against the DOT.”

The school has consistently pushed back against the DOT’s plans to reroute Highway 14 closer to the school building.

Freeman said the DOT hasn’t listened.

“(Our attorney has) had personal experience (with the lobbyists),” Freeman said. “It seems like a lot of communities have had these issues. (Our attorney) thinks because of the school situation, really it’s something that we as a board should think about.”

Board Vice President Jacob Ries said he wants to see the cost of hiring a lobbyist before going further.

“I’m curious on the cost,” he said. “We’ve just reviewed the budget, and we’re in a crunch ... There is a lot of different ways to use the dollars we have. That might not be as quite a high a priority as other things on the budget.”

The board agreed to look into prices and other options.

Freeman and the board members also sent a letter to Julie Jenks, a DOT official, saying the rerouting decision was “a travesty.”

“The letter reads ... we take exception to your perception that your decision making was based on solicitation of all parities involved,” Freeman read from the letter. “This is false. You have not listened to us and to the 776 district citizens who absolutely object to a federal highway being moved closer to a school.”

Freeman said the DOT has referenced other schools with close highway access.

“That is totally different than physically moving a highway closer to a school,” Freeman read from the letter. “How can you say that the information gathered at previous meetings helped solidify the selection of this plan? ... the current plan is a travesty and will forever change our little village. Whatever happened to local control? Shame on the DOT.”

All board members signed the letter, and it will be sent to Jenks, elected officials and village leaders.

“I feel that it’s imperative as school board members that we do whatever is possibly necessary to show the DOT that this reconfiguration is not at all (suitable),” Freeman said. “(It’s not suitable) for the safety of our children, for the safety of our school, for our building.”