Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Reporter hears readers at resident roundtable

by Jade Bolack

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.