Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

One’s desire to be annexed

by Steve Targo

April 12, 2012

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a series about the town and the village of Bloomfield establishing separate government systems. An article about the village seeking people to fill various positions appeared in the March 22 edition of the Regional News, and one about sharing services between the town and the village was published in the March 29 edition.

BLOOMFIELD — Several years ago, whenever town officials used the word “annexation” in public, it embodied everything that would tear their community apart — loss of land to a nearby city or village and the tax revenue that property would bring, erosion of borders, lack of control — all of which serving as a reminder to those who moved to the rural countryside to get away from it all that their idyllic community’s days are numbered.

But when Bloomfield Town Chairman Dan Schoonover talked about annexation Friday during a special interview, it was in defense of the village of Bloomfield’s annexation request filed Feb. 1 to take in the remaining town. Currently, the matter is before the Walworth County Circuit Court.

According to Schoonover, this request is the greatest issue affecting his town, a community which made history last year when it incorporated a 12-square-mile region northeast of Highway H as a village. That region is the location for most of the Bloomfield population. Before the village was incorporated, the 2000 census had Bloomfield’s population at 5,537.

But now, the remaining town has about 1,400 people, and back when the same people served on both the town and village boards in Bloomfield, the annexation request went into motion. That meant, for a time, Schoonover was a town supervisor and a village trustee.

He explained why he supported the annexation request.

“The goal all along was to annex the township into the village just to put it back the way it was,” Schoonover said. “There was never any intent to separate the two permanently.”

But at a March 28 motion hearing, Walworth County Judge James Carlson granted motions to intervene in the annexation request by several entities, including the city of Lake Geneva, the village of Genoa City, the Joint 1 School District, Immanuel Lutheran Church and Pioneer Mobile Homes. A scheduling conference has been set for June 13.

“This isn’t a common court case,” Schoonover said. “I guess, listening to the judge and what he said, these parties met the requirements to (intervene). Now, the lawyers get to put all their information together as to why the interveners feel it shouldn’t happen and, of course, our attorneys get to explain why it should.”

All of which he said is new to him. Schoonover hasn‘t been in local politics long. On April 3, Schoonover was elected in his first chairman’s race, albeit unopposed. He was first appointed town supervisor in 2009 and elected to that position in 2010.

But he said when the new Bloomfield Town Board was established with him and Supervisors Tom Sullivan and Sue Leedle, he was asked to be chairman.

“I really wanted to make sure that the township ran as smooth as possible with as little changes as possible for the next few months,” he said as to why he agreed to take the helm.

However, he stressed that chairman is only a title.

“No matter who took the chairman’s title, it’s still a group effort,” Schoonover said.


Nevertheless, the group effort finds Schoonover closer to the spotlight, talking about issues with the press which other officials would have handled in the past.

But in terms of last year’s incorporation and the ongoing annexation issue, Schoonover echoed the intentions of those who spoke before him, including Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe and Village Trustee Doug Mushel, the latter having filed the village incorporation petition.

“It’s never been a hidden fact that the goal was to make the township a village,” Schoonover said.

He said neither was the way Bloomfield is going about the incorporation — something which Monroe previously said is called “annexation by referendum.”

Schoonover said that’s how Bristol and Caledonia did it.

“I think the village and the town of Bloomfield have a very strong case,” Schoonover said. “I think other townships have done what we’re trying to do and are very successful at it.”

He said he could understand the concerns from those who filed motions to intervene, especially Genoa City and Lake Geneva. Schoonover said although there is no immediate concerns that those incorporated communities would annex town of Bloomfield land, “what about my grandchildren? Cities don’t stop growing.”

He said there are no current development plans in which an annexation request from Lake Geneva or Genoa City would pose a threat to the town. But that’s only for now.

“Genoa City’s only planned growth would be to take land from Bloomfield,” Schoonover said. “They don’t have any other direction they could go.”

So what’s wrong with being annexed by these other communities? Why does it have to be Bloomfield?

“Bloomfield is what we’ve always been,” Schoonover said. “Why would we want to go into Genoa City or Lake Geneva? I don’t think the differences in the cost of living between the two even comes into play.”

Another challenge, a new experience

As the fate of the town of Bloomfield hangs in the balance, Schoonover said he and his supervisors need help.

“We need people to help us on our committees,” he said.

There are several committee openings, and Schoonover encouraged people to call him after 6 p.m. at (262) 248-9375.

“We just need people to be involved,” he said.

Otherwise, with a 77-23 cost sharing split already agreed upon with the village of Bloomfield — the village taking the lion’s share of the cost burden — Schoonover didn’t say what lies ahead for him has been a challenge.

Even if that means him and his supervisors have to take the road less traveled.

“It’s been a learning experience, that’s for sure,” he said. “This is something that hasn’t been done much and you kind of write it as you go.”