July 28, 2016Lake Geneva will seek area support for creation of a Premier Resort area around Geneva Lake.
With that would come support for a half-percent premier resort sales tax to support roads and infrastructure.
The city council on Monday voted 6-2 to direct City Administrator Blaine Oborn to contact other area communities to see if they are interested in holding referendums to become a premier resort area.
The city needs to seek wider support because the two state legislators representing the city, State Sen. Steve Nass and State. Rep. Tyler August, are against creating a premier resort area in their districts.
Oborn talked about reaching out to Williams Bay and Fontana, both of which are represented by Amy Loudenbeck.
Oborn said he believes that he can get back to the council with a report on the consensus of local communities by October.
The goal, he said, is to get the proposed creation of a premier resort area onto the April 2017 ballot.
Creation of a premier resort area is not unheard of, Oborn said. He said the state Legislature allowed Door County to apply for premier resort designation as a region.
With referendum approval of a premier resort area designation is also authority by a municipality to impose a half-percent sales tax on all goods sold in retail outlets designated as tourism related.
For example, Walmart is considered a tourism related store. Home Depot is not. Tools sold at Home Depot would not be subject to the sales tax. The same tools sold at Walmart would be taxed.
"There's no question that the more people we can get behind this, the easier it will be," said Mayor Al Kupsik.
The driving force behind this proposal is two fold. The cost of maintaining streets is getting more expensive. The state is not providing local communities with enough shared revenues to adequately maintain streets.
And, the city is looking at losing up to $400,000 in hotel-motel taxes to VISIT Lake Geneva, the promotional name used by the Geneva Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Geneva Visitors and Convention Bureau, as the state Legislature directs 70 percent of all hotel-motel tax money into the coffers of local nonprofits promoting tourism.
The city imposes a 5 percent hotel-motel room tax. Although state law allows a room tax of up to 8 percent, the city is not considering changing its room tax rate.
Lake Geneva will not have to immediately pay 70 percent of its hotel-motel tax to the chamber. For 2016, the city will pay the chamber $100,000 plus 25 percent of room taxes more than $450,000.
However, starting next year, the state law begins marching the city back in time.
In 2017, the city will be allowed to keep only as much as it kept in 2014, in 2018, only as much as it kept in 2015, and so on until 2021, when the city will be allowed to keep only so much room tax as it collected in 2010, which was $362,377. Or the city can choose to keep 30 percent of the room taxes collected, whichever the city prefers.
The chamber, as Visit Lake Geneva, has contracts with Fontana, town of Lyons and Lake Geneva. Darien Shaefer, president of the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and VISIT Lake Geneva, has said that the additional hotel-motel room tax money sent to his organization will allow for more marketing to bring more people to come to the Geneva Lake area between Labor Day and Memorial Day, when the tourism market is weak.
Alderman Bob Kordus, chairman of the council's Public Works Committee, said more people will mean more wear and tear on the city streets.
Public Works Director Dan Winkler said that, based on his annual surveys of city streets, Lake Geneva's local streets and roads rate on an average of between six and six and a half. That's on a scale where 10 is the best, and four to five means "do something yesterday," Winkler said.
According to Oborn, the city has 41 miles of roadway, and the pavement has an average lifespan of 30 years. However, the city can afford to maintain only a mile of that roadway a year.
At some point the clock will catch up with the concrete. Oborn said the city borrows $500,000 a year for road maintenance. City property taxpayers pay for that borrowing, he said.
Alderman Ken Howell said the city is faced with a simple decision, either it maintains its infrastructure or it does not.
If the city commits to maintaining its infrastructure, then is has to decide how it will finance that work.
He said the city can put all of the cost on local taxpayers, or it can seek to have some support come from those outside the city and state who shop in Lake Geneva.
In the 6-2 vote, aldermen Doug Skates and Chris Gelting voted against the proposal to move forward with the premier resort designation and tax.
Later, Skates said he's not entirely sure a case has been made for a half-percent sales tax.
"I hate to raise taxes," he said.
The main problem, Skates said, is that there is always a tendency for taxes to creep upward. So, a half-percent becomes one percent and then one and a half percent, he said.
Gelting said he would like to see any city tax increase in one area balanced by a tax reduction somewhere else.
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July 28, 2016
There’s no business like shoe business.
Just ask Ray and Paula Torcaso.
The brother and sister team own and operate two shoe repair businesses, one in Lake Geneva and the other in Kenosha.
Torcaso’s Shoe Repair is listed at 253 Center St. Still, it’s not easy to find. The address is of the arcade building in which their shop is located. Their actual location, suite 8, is on the northeast corner of the building, facing Geneva Street.
The Kenosha shop is at 6811 39th Ave.
Met at their Lake Geneva shop, the Torcasos are cheery, hardworking and never at a loss for a quip or comment. Wrapped in aprons, they go about their business sewing and polishing.
A sign on the back wall reads: “We treat shoes, heel them, attend to their dyeing and save their soles.”
While they talk, they work, Ray goes into the back room looking for the right shade of green dyed leather to repair a pair of worn out Naturalizer slip ons, while Paula examines the amount of repair work that will be needed.
Paula said the shop also repairs belts, purses and bags, almost anything with leather. Ray also creates and repairs orthopedic inserts to shoes, she said.
Sometimes, said Ray, especially when working in front of an audience, he feels like he’s in a museum exhibit.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes before visitors stop by.
Not everyone comes in to talk about shoe leather. One neighbor came in to announce she won $1,000 at a recent church raffle.
Others come in with footwear in hand, asking if Ray or Paula might be able to patch, resew, resole or retread their favorite boots, sandals or shoes.
And in the meantime, they share some of the recent family history, who’s doing well and who isn’t.
“It’s sort of like a barber shop,” said Ray.
“You develop a relationship and you learn people’s names and find out about other peoples’ lives,” added Paula.
The air is tinged with the pungent smell of polishes and glues.
The shop is open from front to back. Visitors can see everything when they come in. Ray said he keeps it that way because people are fascinated by the machinery and materials.
The equipment is a mix of old and new. Some of it is quite expensive. An inseam stitcher would cost $14,000 to replace, Ray said.
The shop also boasts an East German shoe patcher. It’s an excellent piece of equipment, said Ray. That makes sense, when one considers most shoes worn in the former East Germany were made in the former Soviet Union.
“Europeans appreciate shoe repair,” Ray said.
The Torcasos came to Lake Geneva about 36 years ago, when they bought a shoe repair that was going out of business.
This is their fourth location in Lake Geneva, said Ray. The first was on the very edge of the city.
Changes in leases and building ownerships pushed them further into the heart of the city, said Ray. But they never gave up Lake Geneva.
“I like Lake Geneva,” said Paula. “Nice town; friendly people.”
The Torcaso family has a long history in shoe making and repair.
Ray said his grandfather, Raymond, came to the U.S. when he was just 16. The elder Raymond came from the province of Calabria in the toe of the Italian boot.
Already an accomplished shoemaker when he arrived in this country, Raymond had been apprenticed to shoes and shoe repair when he was 5, Ray said.
Raymond Torcaso came to Kenosha and set down roots, establishing a family business 80 years ago in that city.
By contrast, Ray said he was “pretty old” when he started learning the trade, almost 12 years old.
The Torcaso family worked together in their shop in Kenosha. But it didn’t feel like a job, Ray said.
“I would be working with my grandpa and my dad,” he said. “It was like having a family get-together.”
They egged each other on with banter and quips and the occasional criticism that can only come from family members, he said.
It has to be passion, said Paula. “You don’t have a 401K, you don’t have benefits and you work with your hands,” she said.
Raymond said his grandfather would go to the shop on Sundays and just sit.
And his late father, Joseph, would say, “If I win the lottery, we’ll have a big shoe shop,”
There was no thought that if he won the lottery he wouldn’t have to work again, said Ray. “No, we’d just have a bigger shop.”
July 28, 2016The city compost site at 1065 Carey St. was established for the convenience of city residents.
The site is open and accessible all day, every day of the year, for leaves, branches, grass clippings and other yard waste dropped off by city residents.
But others are using the site as well, and what they're leaving isn't compost.
Tom Earle, assistant public works director, told the Lake Geneva City Council's Public Works Committee on July 13 that large house hold appliances, lumber and railroad ties are being left at the site.
He said it takes about two and a half days a week for city crews to clean up the site.
"After hours and on weekends we receive materials, mixed loads and other garbage from private contractors and nonresidents," Earle told the committee.
"We shoo people out of there daily," Earle said.
The city has actually improved over the past year, or so, Earle said. The city has installed surveillance cameras around the site. But their utility is limited because the camera is not staffed 24 hours a day and the cameras are not sophisticated enough to pick up license plate numbers, he said.
Earle said he's spent some late nights at the public works department, keeping an eye on the surveillance monitor trying to catch people throwing inappropriate material into the site.
He said he's been able to read contractor names off sides of trucks.
He said once called, the contractors stop dumping.
However, after checking the city ordinance, the city has established no formal rules for the compost site, said Earle. "It's a free for all."
Earle said he's not that concerned about town of Geneva residents dropping off grass clippings at the site, because that's what the compost piles are for.
But he wants to keep out the noncompostable materials, like construction waste and appliances.
Alderman Bob Kordus said he thought the fence would stop the contractors from dropping off waste.
Mayor Al Kupsik said the city needs to create an ordinance setting hours of operation and what will be accepted at the compost site....subscribers>>
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Kids receive Jedi training at library eventJuly 28, 2016The force was strong with the Lake Geneva area's Jedi-warriors-in-training.
Children from the ages of 4 to 12 participated in the Lake Geneva Public Library's Star Wars Party this past Tuesday and Thursday.
The party, put together by Youth Services Librarian Sarah Soukup, had crafts, games, food and, of course, a good old-fashioned lightsaber fight.
Soukup announced herself as an empress from another planet. The kids, as Jedi-in-training, had to complete their Jedi mastery through a battle.
But the children first needed their lightsabers, the staple of every young Padawan.
"Their first task was to make lightsabers," she said. "We took pool noodles that were cut in half, so that they are only about the size of an arm, and we used duct tape to make the handles and black electrical tape to make the buttons."
Once the up-and-coming warriors had their lightsabers, Soukup unleashed evil balloons from the dark side. The Jedi had to use their sabers to keep the balloons afloat as part of their training.
After the kids completed their training and became full fledged Jedi knights, they celebrated with a feast that was held in honor of their success.
"We have all Star Wars themed snacks," Soukup said. "I baked Wookie Cookies, which are just chocolate chip cookies with extra oatmeal so they look furry. We also have TIE fighters, which we made with graham crackers, marshmallows and Nuttella. When you put them together they look like the TIE fighters."
There were also Ewok cookies, which were Teddy Grahams, and an assortment of renamed soda to fit the Star Wars theme.
"We have Yoda Soda Serene, which is Yoda's Buddha self, and Yoda Soda Extreme, which is Sprite and Mountain Dew," she said. "We also have Vader-Aid, which is Coke and Anakin Ale, which is Root Beer."
While the children certainly enjoyed their training and feast, the space-themed party didn't just create new Jedi warriors.
"We have all of the Star Wars books, Star Wars novels, Star Wars easy readers and character guides, and all of those items get checked out from the library," Soukup said. "It is a way to promote our materials that we have and to show kids that, yes, we do have this."
She said her hopes of doing parties like the Star Wars event will open children's eyes to the possibilities of reading.
"It gets them in the library and gives them something to do over summer, gives them an excuse to come to the library," she said. "And when they come and check out the Star Wars book, they can check out any of the other books they are interested in, and so it is really just to get them in the door."
July 28, 2016
ELKHORN — Never Say Never Inc. needs help to carry out an Aug. 13 spaghetti dinner and auction fundraiser for an all-inclusive playground to be built in Veterans Park near Molitor Field.
The dinner will be from 3 to 7 p.m. that Saturday at Elkhorn Middle School, 627 E. Court St., Elkhorn.
According to a press release from Dusti Ocampo, who is the head of Never Say Never, the group needs donations.
It also needs baskets, buckets and bins to create baskets for auction items.
Finally, the group needs volunteers to work the auction and dinner.
Lots of them.
Ocampo said the nonprofit is looking for church youth groups, scout troops or other civic organizations to sign up, although individual volunteers are also welcome.
Sign up online at www.volunteersignup.org/KY7AF.
Shifts will be about two hours each.
Never Say Never’s design company, Leather’s & Associates, will be at the fundraiser to give a presentation and unveil the playground design.
Bayside Athletics and Toe to Toe Ballet will perform at the dinner.
In October 2015, Ocampo, mother to Kameron, a special needs student at Lakeland School, presented the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners a proposal to create an inclusive playground for children of all abilities.
The park board endorsed the plan and the Lake Geneva City Council set aside 11,000 square feet of land at Veterans Park for the project and earmarked $15,000 toward the purchase of equipment.
The Never Say Never Playland will be ADA accessible and will be the first of its kind in Walworth County with custom-designed play equipment such as; adaptive swings, accessible merry-go-round, stainless steel slides, ramps instead of stairs and a poured-in-place rubber foundation.
Never Say Never has set a goal to begin building the playground in Spring 2018.
July 28, 2016
The School District of Williams Bay approved the 2016-17 budget proposal.
The district’s audited fund at the start of the 2015 budget year was $1.9 million. At the end of the budget year, the fund equity equaled $1.79 million. The fund equity, also known as the district’s saving account, will be used for the following one-time payments:
ò A retention pond, which will be $160,000
ò New and replaced equipment for the technology education lab, totaling $75,549.
ò New phone system at the middle/high school, equaling $19,413
ò Technology infrastructure upgrades to the middle/high school, which equals $70,438.
Also included in the budget:
ò The district’s checkbook will start at $331,673 more than the revenues in the 2015-16 budget, due to an increase in open enrollment for the upcoming school year.
ò Expenditures for the 2016-17 year are $8.33 million. This is a 4.62 percent increase over last year’s unaudited expenditures.
ò The district will levy $388,370 as part of the Energy Efficiency Exemption. This is for payment of a 20-year loan taken out to complete energy efficient projects at the middle/high school. Savings in operating costs will help offset the levy, according to the district.
ò The district will receive state aid estimated at $24,500.
ò The district’s tax levy is $8.14 million, which is a 0.22 percent increase from last year. District Administrator Wayne Anderson said this is partially because of the new elementary school’s payment.
ò The proposed tax rate of 8.25 per $1,000 of assessed value is based on the fall 2015 equalized property valuation. Anderson said the levy will be updated in November with the fall 2016 equalized property valuation.
The school district also approved a transportation resolution which will provide more transportation to students around the area.
The district will provide transportation for elementary students, from 4K to fifth grade, who live more than one mile from the school. Transportation will also be provided for middle/high school students from grades six to 12 who live more than a mile and a half away from the school.
Anderson said the construction for the new building is almost complete.
“We are beginning to move in furniture,” he said. “We are still a bit ahead of schedule and we are not over budget.”
The school also hired seven new teachers and one new aid for the upcoming year.
July 28, 2016
International Little Artists will have a special event at Seminary Park from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 1.
Parents and their children will be able to purchase up to three different art projects to do in the park which will then be sent to other children around the globe.
Families can also sponsor a connection kit with ILA to mail to a school or community.
There will also be a silent auction to benefit ILA with items ranging from a two-night hotel stay to a historic photograph.
International Little Artists, founded by Lucie Hake of town of Geneva, is a program in which students and children from different countries create drawings and murals for children in other countries.
Art from Lake Geneva area schools and Agape House in Walworth have already traveled to Haiti and the Czech Republic. Art from children in those countries have gone on to other nations.
Artwork from those countries have also flowed back here. In its first year, the program had already established artistic communications among children living in 54 countries.
The drawings are carried from place to place by international travelers, business people and missionaries who cooperate with the ILA program.
July 28, 2016Social attitudes toward tattooing are also changing.
And, apparently, the ordinances controlling tattooing in Lake Geneva may be changed as well.
Once a way for sailors to pass their time or commemorate old girlfriends, tattooing has become a cosmetic option done at spas or salons to cover over skin discolorations and scars, to replace lost eyebrows or to provide for permanent lip or nail coloration.
After a short and lively debate at their July 18 meeting, members of Lake Geneva Plan Commission generally agreed on two options: either control where tattoo shops can locate or control where on their bodies customers may be tattooed.
The lack of certainty was because the plan commission agenda just said the commission should discuss the issue. It did not call for a recommendation and no straw vote was taken.
Ken Robers, city zoning administrator, said city staff and the city attorney would draft proposed ordinance changes based on those preferences for consideration by the plan commission and the city council.
During a January meeting of the Lake Geneva City Council, Alderwoman Elizabeth Chappell noted that there was at least one salon in the downtown that offers permanent makeup.
She asked the council whether the city's tattooing ordinances could be changed.
Oborn said the issue was discussed with staff, but he also wanted the opinion of Vandewalle & Associates, which does Lake Geneva's city planning.
Vandewalle issued a report dated June 20 that pointed out the changing societal perceptions of tattooing are bringing it more into the mainstream.
Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo.
Two commissioners also admitted to some body art.
"I have two tattoos, but they're not for everyone," said Robers. Commissioner John Gibbs said he, his wife and daughter also have been inked.
The five options presented by Vandewalle are:
1. Leave the status quo.
The current city tattoo parlor ordinance, dating to 1976, defines tattoo parlors as a "sexually oriented land use," and limits the parlors to areas zoned heavy industrial. There are no parcels zoned heavy industrial in the city.
The two tattoo parlors doing business in the city are grandfathered in, said Mayor Al Kupsik.
City Administrator Blaine Oborn pointed out that someone wanting to open a new tattoo parlor in the city could do it, but the location of the parlor would have to be rezoned to heavy industrial, a process Oborn conceded would be "very difficult."
2. Limit conventional tattooing by allowing only cosmetic tattooing.
The Vandewalle report indicates that Sun Prairie has passed such an ordinance which has a definition for cosmetic tattooing.
But Robers said enforcement of that kind of ordinance would be difficult, short of having a police officer checking on everyone's tattoo.
Wisconsin state law does not differentiate between conventional and cosmetic tattooing, he added.
3. Allow tattooing outside heavy industrial zoning, but limit the tattooing to above the clavicle.
4. Limit tattooing only to specific areas of the body.
5. Do not limit tattoo parlors at all and allow them everywhere.
Commissioner Sarah Hill felt the whole thing was a waste of time.
"I want the last two minutes of my life back," she joked, after hearing out Vandewalle's options as read by Oborn.
She called the staff consideration of the zoning change a waste of time and the Vandewalle report a waste of taxpayer money.
But Kupsik pointed out that at least one spa was offering cosmetic tattooing in the city and the commission and council had to determine whether it should be allowed.
Commissioner and Alderman Doug Skates said he, too, did not want to spend much time on the issue and said he preferred the third option, limiting tattoos above the clavicle.
"If someone wants to do a Mike Tyson, so be it," said Skates. "They'll have to live with it."
Commissioner Tom Hartz said he preferred the fifth option, but with some amendments.
"At the risk of offending my seat mate and neighbor," he said, referring to Hill, "We're sounding a tad bit Victorian," Hartz said.
He suggested that the city reclassify tattooing as a personal and professional service confined to central business and general business zoning requiring a conditional use.
Conditional use permits require plan commission review, a public hearing and city council approval.
Hill later said she agreed with Hartz's proposal.
After the meeting, Oborn said he decided to get Vandewalle involved in the discussion about zoning for tattoo parlors. He said there is enough in the city's planning budget to cover the costs of the report, and he has the authority to order administrative expenditures of up to $5,000.
He estimated the cost of the report at between $1,000 and $2,000, although he said the city has not yet been billed for the report....subscribers>>
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July 28, 2016
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KENOSHA — United Communications Corp. (UCC), the parent company of the Lake Geneva Regional News, has named a new chief financial officer.
Tina M. Schmitz of Kenosha will start as the company’s CFO on Aug. 16, succeeding Ron Montemurro, who will be retiring from UCC after 31 years.
Schmitz will leave her role as vice president of finance/CFO of YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee to return to work in Kenosha where she had previously served as CFO of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and prior to that as CFO of Kenosha Unified School District.
A Carthage College graduate in business administration and accounting, she also holds a master’s degree in leadership from Capella University. Schmitz serves on the boards of United Way of Kenosha and Tempo Kenosha.
Montemurro, a native Kenoshan, began his career as an accountant with the Kenosha News in 1985 and eventually became general manager of the division.
In 1993 he became a vice president of UCC and was named CFO earlier this year.
“I want to thank the entire Brown family for their unwavering friendship and support over my time with UCC which made my service possible,” said Montemurro.
Montemurro will enter semi-retirement following his departure from UCC. He will take on a role as CFO of VigeoMedia LLC, a company in which UCC is an investor.
VigeoMedia is the creator of the VigeoXchange, a digital fundraising platform that connects local businesses and consumers with local charitable organizations through point of purchase donations.
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Lake Geneva 8-year-old competes in Omaha competitionJuly 28, 2016
For an 8-year-old Lake Geneva boy, the challenge isn’t simply solving a Rubik’s Cube, but how quickly he can put the mind-numbing puzzle together.
Jack Klug traveled to St. Mary’s College in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 16 to compete in the St. Mary’s Scramble.
The Scramble is a contest for people who have mastered the Rubik’s Cube matrix, and the Central-Denison third-grader was the youngest competitor there.
In the two-by-two competition, Jack solved the puzzle in just under eight seconds.
He also competed in the three-by-three competition at the event.
Jack left Omaha with a T-shirt and plans to compete in more Rubik’s Cube events, the next of which is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
His parents, Amy and Eric, said they don’t mind driving their son across the Midwest to attend Rubik’s Cube contests.
Jack said neither of his parents can solve a Rubik’s Cube, but they are supportive of his hobby. Jack has a bag of 17 Rubik’s Cubes, which are all different sizes and shapes.
Often friends of Jack are surprised to learn that there are Rubik’s Cube competitions.
“There’s a subculture for everything,” Jack will respond.
A YouTube education
Jack was introduced to Rubik’s Cube by his cousin, 11-year-old Owen Goebel of Lake Geneva.
On Mother’s Day, during a family gathering, Owen showed Jack a Rubik’s Cube and how to solve it.
Jack was hooked on the puzzle. When Jack was attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube he went to YouTube for advice.
There he found a video describing the “layer by layer” method. He learned a set of algorithms to help him solve the puzzle.
“There’s a set of moves and they are easy to remember,” Jack said. More fairly, the algorithms are easy for Jack to remember.
An example of an algorithm is “down invert, right invert, down, right” or more concisely “Di, Ri, D, R.”
There’s dozens of these types of algorithms. It might not be a surprise, but Amy said her son is enrolled in a advance math course.
Recent Lake Geneva News
Derrick gets recognition for years of fire serviceJuly 21, 2016
Public service runs like a common thread through some families.
And Deputy Fire Chief Dan Derrick’s family is one of them.
Derrick and his 44 years of service as a Lake Geneva firefighter were highlighted by Acting Fire Chief John Peters during the Lake Geneva Police and Fire Commission meeting earlier this month.
Peters said he wants to acquaint the commissioners with the men and women who serve on the city’s volunteer, paid per call fire department.
Derrick started his firefighting career in 1972 under his father, Fire Chief Tom Derrick. He holds a number of certifications including firefighter, driver/operator, safety officer and emergency medication technician. He earned citations for Firefighter of the Year in 1979 and Walworth County Firefighter of the year in 1979 and Fire Officer of the year in 2008.
Derrick, a 1961 graduate of Badger High School, is also a lifelong resident of Lake Geneva.
Two of Derrick’s sons are also in public service, Ryan serves with his father on the fire department; Dan is a sergeant on the Lake Geneva Police Department.
Derrick owns and operates the Derrick Funeral Home and Cremation Services on Park Drive, a family-owned business that started in 1912 and is one of the longest continuously operating businesses in the city.
He was recently recognized by the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association for 50 years of service.
Derrick has been married to his wife, Sandy, for 52 years. They have three children and five grandchildren with a sixth on the way.
According to Peters, Derrick enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, weekends up north with his family and long naps on his favorite recliner.
He is an active member of St. Francis de Sales Church and a member of the Rotary Club of Lake Geneva.
During the meeting, Derrick said he was surprised by Peters’ presentation to the commission. Derrick said he had no idea that Peters was going to recognize him in this way.
Members of his family, however, had apparently been clued in, because they showed up for the meeting.
“I’m feeling very humble,” Derrick said.
Lake Geneva Dream Team celebrates 15th seasonJuly 21, 2016Lake Geneva Dream Team celebrated its 15th anniversary with its round robin of games at Veterans Park on July 11 and July 13.A special night game was also played this year under the lights at Molitor Field on July 15.John Swanson, founder of the Dream Team program, said there were 62 players on the Dream Team this year.Swanson, a special needs teacher at Lakeland School, Elkhorn, started the program in 2001. The Dream Team is made up of special needs boys and girls ages 6 to 20.Some of the kids are in wheelchairs. Others need help finding their way around the base paths.The Dream Team draws volunteers like a pop-up draws infielders.Among the helpers were the Badger American Legion Team, Lake Geneva YMCA, the Whitewater High School baseball team and the Kenosha Youth Baseball team from west Kenosha County.About eight west Kenosha players, 10 to 12, helped with the 6- to-10 year old Dream Teamers on Monday, Swanson said.Also on Monday, the Whitewater baseball team played against the high school age dream teamers, he said.On Wednesday, it was the Lake Geneva Chevrolet Team taking on the older Dream Teamers.“This is a big day for these guys because we practiced, practiced, practiced,” said Shawn Yago, who was playing catcher for the Chevy team.Elena Montes, a Dream Team volunteer, said her son, Salvador Montes, 22, started on Dream Team three years ago. She said the program has helped her son with those important baseball mechanics, such as holding the glove, holding the bat and keeping the cap on.Tracy Sonn, whose son, Kian, 22, is on the Dream Team, said her family has been participating for 15 years.The program runs for six weeks, she said.A special family day on July 4 at Veterans Park brings the Dream Teamers and their families out for some holiday baseball fun.The last game, a night game, is a big one for the team.“It’s all fun for them to have a night game,” Tracy said.“They look forward to it every year” added husband Jeff Sonn.Jeff and daughter Odessa, 14, were also Dream Team volunteers this year. Their younger son, Julian, who graduated from Whitewater High School this year, brought the Whitewater High School baseball team to Lake Geneva to play the Dream Team, Tracy said.
Pokemon Go running rampant in LGOne reporter’s attempt to catch ‘em allJuly 21, 2016As a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up. An astronaut. A firefighter. An archaeologist, because dinosaurs.But the most fantastic of my 7-year-old self’s career choices was by far to become a full-fledged Pokemon trainer equipped with an endless supply of Pokeballs for catching, a bike to travel the world and, most importantly, no bedtime.Ah, what a world.Unfortunately, the latter never came to fruition for a few reasons: first off, I hear the benefits are terrible, and second, Pokemon are fictional.So that dream remained just that, and as I grew older, I simply discarded my childhood whim to chase after fictitious cartoon animals altogether.That is, until Pokemon Go was released in the United States on Wednesday, July 6.The free mobile game designed for smartphones made the Pokemon-wrangling dreams of children past and present everywhere a reality – er, augmented reality – and from the nation’s response, clearly I wasn’t the only one who wanted to catch ‘em all.Mere hours after developer Niantic Inc., a San Francisco-based offshoot of Google parent Alphabet Inc., unveiled the app, Pokemon Go blasted off to number one in both the Apple and Google Play stores.Pokemon fever has run rampant across the country since, with millions of spirited gamers leaving their homes to search far and wide for the most coveted and elusive digital beasts.And, like the thousands of other local fans in southern Wisconsin, my quest to be the best, like no one ever was, began with a single swipe of my finger.The game opened just as I remembered, the same way all Pokemon games do, with a choice between three starting Pokemon; in this case, the trio established in the original games released in the U.S. in 1998.After selecting the grass-type Bulbasaur, my game began in earnest, allowing me to venture out into the streets of downtown Lake Geneva to join the droves of other players.Branching outThe game encourages players to gather at local landmarks and businesses, dubbed “Pokestops” and “gyms.”Pokestops offer supplies, such as the Pokeballs used to catch wild Pokemon by flinging them across the screen, while gyms offer a place for players to battle each other for bragging rights.With my team still too weak to contend with those of other, more dedicated players, I decided to forego the competition and instead retreat to Library Park to bolster my roster.And despite playing at noon on a Thursday, I was surprised to find the park rife with players, as children and adults alike strolled the sidewalks and traipsed through the trees.Among the Pokemon tamers patrolling the park were Justin Evans, 21, and Michael Zaslavsky, 18, who offered to take a break from their own misadventures on the lakefront to share their views of the game, as well as provide a few tips and tricks to this novice.“Nostalgia is probably one of the top reasons (I play),” Evans said, commenting the majority of the players he’s seen have been his age.“It’s mostly been (people) our age, because that’s our generation,” he said. “We grew up with it and I have seen just tons of people, all the time.”The game serves as a great motivator to exercise, he added, noting that “I’ve walked more in the past week than I have in probably the last few months.”And his labors took little time to bear fruit.“(I feel) fine,” he said. “Better. More energy, and it’s only been out for a little more than a week.”Echoing that sentiment was Zaslavsky, who said he’d already walked more than 20 miles and gone on Pokemon hunting trips lasting more than 10 hours at a time.My feet ached just hearing about it.“I mean, I’m not the healthiest person, but it’s just easier to keep going if you can forget about what you’re doing and just focus on talking to friends and playing the game,” Zaslavsky said.And it’s imperative to bring water and food on extended tours around town, they added, especially in the sweltering summer heat.But the game is far more than a simple exercise app.During my time playing, I found that it also works as a social bridge, breeding camaraderie among players.Essentially, the more players active in one location, the rarer the creatures that will appear, and the rarer the creatures the stronger they are.That’s why so many people can be found wandering around downtown – there are more Pokemon to catch, as well as more Pokestops to provide the means to catch them and more gyms to battle in.As a result, players were often more than happy to let this newcomer join their group as they meandered through the city streets.Hidden dangerNot everyone should be so trusting, however.In O’Fallon, Missouri, four teens were arrested for armed robbery on Sunday, July 10, after luring unsuspecting Pokemon Go players to Pokestops, the Associated Press reported.And while the majority of players may not fall victim to this form of premeditated crime, social media has run rampant with reports of traffic accidents, scrapes, bruises and general clumsiness since the game’s launch, allegedly due to players being too fixated on their phones to keep track of their surroundings.I have to admit, it does happen.Despite being sure to keep my phone at my side while walking through town and down the Lake Shore Path, I still nearly tripped while attempting to catch the floundering fish known as Magikarp.However, I also found that a measure of common sense and situational awareness can go a long way, and once I unglued my eyes from the screen I was fine.
Looking at officer safety after ambushesJuly 21, 2016
Local police departments are prepared to respond as the nation is left reeling after two more ambush attacks on police.
After a police officer was shot multiple times in his patrol vehicle in Milwaukee on Sunday, Milwaukee police instructed its officers to respond to calls in two-person teams until further notice. The officer, Brandon Baranowski, was taken to Froedtert Hospital for surgery. Milwaukee police Sergeant Tim Gauerke, during a homicide review commission conference, said the officer’s injuries were not life threatening, and that the bullet-proof vest Baranowski was wearing had saved his life.
This ambush, along with the recent Baton Rouge shooting, poses a very real question about police safety.
Town of Geneva’s Police Chief Steven Hurley said he respects Milwaukee’s decision to use partners for response calls. However, he said it is just not possible to adopt the same method in the town of Geneva.
“Unfortunately with a smaller department, we just don’t have the manpower to put two officers in the same car consistently,” he said.
Recently the department adjusted its work schedule to allow for more officers working together.
However, Hurley said that was not in relationship to the recent ambush attacks on police.
“Instead of having as many overlapping shifts, we have two officers working each shift,” he said. “So at least half of the time, two officers are working together per shift.”
Even though the schedule update is not in correlation to the attacks, Hurley said it does create a strong sense of awareness and safety.
Hurley also said the department has been taking time to discuss the events around the nation with his officers.
“We all have heightened awareness, and there are more discussions amongst ourselves as a department,” Hurley said.
He said his officers are all professionally trained and are prepared if an incident like Baton Rouge, Dallas or Milwaukee were to occur here.
“We are all professionally trained and we have continuous training throughout the year,” he said. “We are trained to deal with situations like this and we have to be prepared for if and when they occur.”
Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell said his department’s patrol strategy will be kept internal for safety reasons.
Unrelated to the attacks, Picknell said he has planned for body cameras on officers for the upcoming year.
“It has already been a part of my budget for 2017 as a pilot program,” he said.
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office will have a fully implemented body camera program in 2017, and Picknell said this will give both departments an opportunity to work closely with one another.
“It will be a close learning opportunity with a like operation,” he said. “There will be many moments of learning from Racine’s implementation.”
While the initial price of police body cameras isn’t to be overlooked, Picknell said the ongoing cost of storage is also pricey.
“The storage, redaction and retention of the videos is a costly part of the entire program,” he said.
His hope is that body cameras will allow for less disputes and more protection for both citizens and officers.
Presto! Magician appears in Lake GenevaJuly 21, 2016
It was no magic formula that brought magician Tristan Crist to Lake Geneva.
After 10 years performing at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, four of those years in a 400-seat theater, Crist was ready to move on to something more intimate.
With 20 years of magic experience, Crist knew what he was looking for.
In a study of possible new venues for his magic theater, Lake Geneva moved to the top of list.
Lake Geneva has a good location, has a good summer tourist population, and has attractions all year long.
What Lake Geneva didn’t have was evening entertainment for folks who came to spend a day at the lake, said Crist in a recent interview at his aptly named Tristan Crist Magic Theater, 609 W. Main St.
Voila, a niche!
But finding a place to carve out that niche was not easy. Crist said he checked out a number of downtown buildings. What he found was that their floor plans were long and narrow, which made creating a theater space difficult.
He thought he had a lease locked up on a building further west on Main, but that building was sold out from under him.
He looked at the Geneva Theater, which at that point was still for sale.
It’s enormous. With four theaters, it was three more theaters than he needed.
Crist did say he and Shad Branen of Burlington, who now owns and is renovating the Geneva, have talked about collaboration, with Crist doing a show there.
Crist finally found and settled on a former furniture store that had closed a year earlier, located in a space just across from the Geneva Lake Museum. Although it has a Main Street address, the front marquee faces Mill Street.
Generously listed at 1,200 square feet, Crist went to work on the space, not with a magic wand, but with hammer and nails.
‘I will learn’
Crist has a degree in theater technology and design from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, and he learned carpentry in Baraboo, where he constructed the 400-seat performance space in one of the Circus Museum’s storage buildings.
“My attitude has been if I don’t know how to do it, I will learn how to do it,” he said.
Crist focused on creating an intimate 43-seat theater and performance stage. The tight seating arrangement brings audiences up to two feet from the magic show. The farthest seats are no more than 20 feet away.
Crist’s first Lake Geneva performance was on Dec. 12, 2015. Social media, Crist’s marketing chops and a good, family-oriented show have been bringing them in since.
And the show is no small potatoes. Crist does illusions that other magicians attempt only in larger venues that discourage close scrutiny.
“There’s no one else doing big illusions this close,” Crist said.
He and one of his assistants trade places in the blink of an eye in a Harry Houdini-inspired trick called “Metamorphosis.” He appears to step through a solid mirror and cuts his own arm into three pieces and then welds it back together in the blink of an eye.
And, of course, he instantly teleports a motorcycle right under one of his leather-clad assistants. No, it’s not a Harley, but it’s still impressive.
Perhaps Crist’s most amazing piece of magic is the most intimate. He takes the rings from three people in the audience and places them in a gold cup. When he pulls the rings out, they appear to have been forged into a three-link chain.
The trick is so unbelievable that a spectator in the back row shouted: “I don’t believe it.” Crist walked up to the back row and let the doubting Thomas look at the rings. He was convinced.
The ring owners also got to examine the chain and identify their rings.
The rings were then put back in the gold cup where they were re-separated and returned to their owners.
Although he wanted an intimate setting for his show, Crist said he had been worried that it might be too small. He said he noted in one online review, some guests wrote they thought the show couldn’t be that good because the theater was so small. Fortunately, they stayed and had their imaginations blown.
Crist said informal audience surveys indicate that about 80 percent of the people who come to see the show are from out of town. If there is a common thread about magic and magicians, it’s that the craft is hard work and the practitioners are a passionate and devoted lot.
Crist tells a story of how, at the age of 6, his grandfather taught him a card trick.
From that moment on, he said, he had a fascination with legerdemain.
Crist said his parents believed in giving their children maximum exposure to the arts. As a child he took ballet at the Milwaukee School of Ballet, he performed with First Stage Milwaukee, (now First Stage Children’s Theater) and continued on in theater when he attended Marquette University High School.
And he read countless books about magic and magicians. He practiced magic in a theater he built in his basement at home.
He had his first paid gig at 13.
Crist said he worked his way through college giving magic shows at medium level theaters and campsites around the state.
He used his ballet training to maintain stage presence and his corny sense of humor to connect with and gently guide his audience through each illusion.
Control is important, said Crist. A magician has to have a handle on the sights and sounds that make the illusion work. Crist keeps a remote control up his sleeve to direct lights and call up music.
“It’s all the little things that come together to create a product that’s good,” Crist said.
And his control extends beyond the curtain to the business end of the theater.
He handles the finances, marketing and booking.
“I’ve kept it all in house,” he said. That means he doesn’t have to pay an accountant or lighting effects specialist.
And that makes his young female assistants happy.