WILLIAMS BAY — It wasn’t long ago that there were tensions between the folks at village hall and the folks in the school district.
But the Williams Bay School Board and the Williams Bay Village Board are trying to bring their acts together.
Joint village and school board meetings are not unheard of, but at the joint meeting on Monday, instead of sitting apart, the seating arrangement along the table in the school lecture center alternated school board members and village trustees.
“We’re trying to get a more cohesive identity between the community and the school district,” said Jack Lothian, president of the Williams Bay School Board.
One of the bigger issues facing the two boards right now is that of pedestrian safety on Theatre Road.
Originally designed as a rural roadway, the construction of two subdivisions, Prairie View and Bailey Estates and the recent completion of the new Williams Bay Elementary School may be turning Theatre Road into a more urbanized throughway, as parents and children bike and walk to the elementary school.
Although the speed limit is 35 mph, residents agree that not all drivers adhere to the limit.
Village President Bill Duncan said the village board plans to direct its village engineer, to come up with alternatives to make the road safer for pedestrians.
Trustee Jim D’Alessandro said the issue will come before the village board’s streets and highways committee in September.
While sidewalks would be the most obvious solution, it is also the least popular and most problematic
An alternative to sidewalks would be a nonpaved, combination walkway and bicycle path. But the cost and feasibility of a walkway-bike path has yet to be determined.
A further complication is that not all of Theatre Road that borders the school property is in the village. Some of it is in the town of Delavan.
School board member Kristi Granberg asked why there were so few sidewalks in the village.
“People don’t want them,” said Trustee Don Parker, a long-time member of the village board. “They like the rural look. They don’t want to look like the Chicago suburbs.”
D’Alessandro said the Williams Bay Business Association will release a survey in three weeks in which residents were asked about sidewalks.
Trustee Greg Trush, long a supporter of a more pedestrian-friendly Theatre Road, said there is nothing in the village’s agreements with the subdivision developers that calls for them to cooperate with a bicycle path.
However, Trush said the idea could be pitched to them as a way to draw new development to the two subdivisions.
“Developing a bicycle path and pedestrian walkway is 100 percent a way to keep Williams Bay a rural community,” Trush said. “In a rural community people should be able to walk safely and bike safely to their destinations.”
In other joint board business:
Funds that had been set aside to raze the old elementary school, $450,000, were already returned to the voters, Superintendent Wayne Anderson told the boards. On Feb. 13, the school board voted to reduce its 2017-18 levy by $450,000, Anderson said. Instead of razing the old school, the district sold it to a private individual.
Future growth in the village appears to be limited. The only two areas with significant amounts of undeveloped residential property are in the Prairie View and Bailey Estates subdivisions, said Trush. And, he added, if those subdivisions were built out, the village might have some water issues.
“We aren’t limited on sewer, but we are limited on water,” said Duncan.
The Williams Bay School board wants a new electronic sign out in front of its high school, middle school and elementary school campus. That’s been held up because of village zoning limitations on electronic signs.
“We don’t want a sign that distracts drivers,” said Lothian.
Trustee James Killian said he would be ready to work with the school district for a new sign. “If you come back with a sign that you can change once or twice a day, I would consider it,” he said.
The two boards also discussed having a resource, or liaison police officer in the schools.
Trustee George Vlach, a former police officer, said he would be in favor of a resource officer. He said the schools and village should get police to interact positively with the students in the elementary and middle schools, because that will eventually ease police and student relations when those students get into high school.
However, staffing that position would be difficult to do now, because the department is down one officer and Police Chief Laura Washer is still recovering after a motorcycle accident earlier this month. Funding for the resource officer would also have to be worked out between the schools and the village.
Police Capt. Chris Douglas said he worked with an Explorer program at his previous department. The Explorers are high school age students interested in police and fire protection as careers.
The program brings the students into the police and fire departments to give them early experience in the first responder fields, Douglas said.
However, the program requires guidelines and supervision at the department level, and right now, staffing is tight, he said.
Finally, the two boards discussed a house at the corner of State Highway 67 and Theatre Road.
A white picket fence and some landscaping in the yard are limiting the sightlines of drivers as they enter the intersection heading south. There have been four accidents at that intersection in the past year.
However, the property is not in violation of any ordinances, and it’s in the town of Walworth. Killian suggested that the school and village boards contact the town and see if something can be worked out with the homeowner.