Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

The year in news

by Lisa Seiser

December 29, 2011

The biggest stories of 2011 werenít one-time front page news events. These kept making headlines week in and week out through a portion of 2011. But now that they are done, they are likely to be forgotten in 2012.

Hereís a more detailed look at the top Lake Geneva stories in 2011.

Sal Dimiceli on CNN

While Sal wonít be forgotten as he continues each day to help those in need in the area, the 2011 story of his quest to become the CNN Hero of the Year ended earlier this month.

Dimiceli, a local real estate businessman and philanthropist, didnít win the $250,000 from CNN, but he received $50,000 for being a top 10 finalist. He was honored in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium in front of dozens of actors, actresses, athletes and musicians. He was on stage in front of millions talking of the plight of the elderly and poverty-stricken.

However, the CNN Heroes show wasnít his only appearance and recognition for his efforts. He also was on local television morning shows and on nationwide CBS for a feature.

It all started back in July when a short video of Sal appeared on CNN Heroes. Nobody, including Dimiceli himself, had any idea what would come of that short video clip.

Once Dimiceli became a top 10 finalists, CNN videographers came back again and this time spent several days in Lake Geneva, including hour after hour at the Lake Geneva Regional News office conducting interviews. The crew also went on the road with Dimiceli to see the poverty stricken and how he helps them through their tough times.

A few weeks later, after seeing the initial CNN broadcast, Black Eyed Peas front man came to Lake Geneva to meet with Dimiceli. He spent the day and also was videotaped by the CNN crew who came back for the visit.

Then earlier this month, Dimiceli spent a few star-studded days in L.A. rubbing elbows with people such as CNNís Anderson Cooper, the president of CNN Worldwide Jim Walton and J.R. Martinez.

Dimiceliís recognition brought national attention to the plight of poverty and the Lake Geneva area as a whole.

Federal lawsuits resolved

They lasted more than two years, involved city officials, e-mails, a referendum and a pair of developers unhappy with the process that resulted in an end to their project proposal.

During the last couple months the lawsuits filed by Mirbeau of Geneva Lake and Geneva Ridge Joint Venture regarding development proposals on more than 700 acres on the east side of the city officially have ended.

The cityís insurance carrier and the developers agreed to settle the two cases. Geneva Ridge Joint Venture, also known as Hummel, received a $2.1 million settlement, while Mirbeau received $1.75 million.

Both settlement figures were well below the cityís insurance limit of $5 million per suit. That means there were no direct out-of-pocket expenses for the city or its taxpayers. It remains to be seen whether the cityís insurance through the League of Wisconsin Municipalities will increase because of the settlements.

The settlements were much less than both developers were asking for. Mirbeau was suing for $29 million, while Geneva Ridge Joint Venture was suing for $123 million.

The settlements werenít the only news regarding the property on the southeast side of the city. Prior to the September settlement with Geneva Ridge, aldermen gave the nod to a plan amendment for the property.

That didnít come without citizen and area resident claims of illegal meetings, settlement deals behind closed doors, criticisms of city officials and threats of lawsuits from angry people. But in the end, none of that changed the minds of some council members who voted for the Master Plan Amendment.

The amendment appears to pave the way for Geneva Ridge to propose a development on the land. However, before any development can occur on the property, a zoning change would have to be approved by the council.

Parking, parking, parking

Come spring, new parking pay station kiosks will be downtown and there will be no more coin-operated meter heads.

Some believe this is the wave of the future and the way to go, but it took some time convincing others.

The 60 modern-looking kiosks are computerized parking system that will allow people to use coins, bills or credit cards to pay for parking. They will replace the 948 meter heads in the city.

The cost for the new system is about $810,000, which will include the kiosks, signage, installation and connectivity. Annual costs will be about $50,000, but officials have been told there will be an increase in parking revenues because of the use of credit cards.

Another significant parking change is an increase of rates from 50 cents per hour to $1 per hour in the stalls throughout the city.

That increase is expected to add about $400,000 of revenue for the city.

Lake Geneva already receives annually about $750,000 in revenue from parking meters and tickets.

City officials believe the new parking system will pay for itself with increased revenue in about five years. That increase does not include the doubling of parking rates.