Dear Santa, please bring Falls...

As We See It

With the Christmas holiday one week away and the new year high on the horizon, it is the time of year when we pause and reflect on the happenings of the past 12 months.

It is also the time of year when we give to those we care about, as well as to those who are in need.

As we reflect on the past year, we can say that Sheboygan Falls had much to be thankful for in 2014.

It again was a year filled with many positives, as well as some not-quite-so-good stuff as well.

There are a number of people that are deserving of praise for a job well done over the past year, while in other cases we are simply left scratching our heads to wonder “what were they thinking?”

That is why we are once again hoping Santa has at least a few packages in his bag with Sheboygan Falls’ name on them.

Some of the items on the list have been there for quite some time, but for whatever reason Santa has not obliged us just yet.

Maybe this is the year, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe Santa just needs a little more convincing, or maybe he knows something we don’t?

We will just have to see how the future unfolds.

• A Municipal Building that is a source of community pride.

The 58-year-old Municipal Building has been undergoing a major makeover for the majority of 2014.

The plan, which expands the 27,000-square-foot building to 43,702 square feet, features much-needed space additions for the City Hall, fire department and police department, as well as an ADA accessible Common Council meeting room, while eliminating the gymnasium, which had become targeted as “wasted space.”

Few, if any, could disagree that the building was in need of a major makeover.

However, the $7 million renovation plan has been a hot topic of discussion with some members of the community concerned that the Common Council decided to pass the project through a resolution, rather than put it to a public referendum.

The result of the extra expenditure has been a 16.76 percent increase in the city’s portion of the property tax rate.

In addition, the decision-making process regarding interior and exterior design details and adjustments that were made after the bidding for the project came in under budget have been put into question as well.

It has not been an easy time for city employees who have had to carry out the important business of the city while adjusting to temporary accommodations.

The City Hall and fire department were moved for several months and the police department has remained in operation under continuous construction at the Municipal Building.

It appears that city workers and city residents have been as patient as possible during the transition process.

The building is progressing nicely and in the next few months the glistening newly remodeled building should be completely up and running.

Here’s hoping that the building will be everything that it was promised to be and more.

The people of Sheboygan Falls deserve it.

• A smooth resolution to the Lions Club German-American Museum and Beer Garden proposal.

In late September, the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club introduced a preliminary proposal to construct a German-American themed Museum adjacent to Settlers Park in downtown Sheboygan, which would also feature a beer and brat garden along the lines of those featured at parks in the Milwaukee area.

The proposed project has stirred up a great deal of debate within the community in recent months.

While some have applauded the Lions Club for taking the lead in developing a plan to bring additional development and potential tourism to the city, others have been highly vocal in their displeasure for the project.

Community members living in the neighborhood surrounding the property in question have noted that it is located in a residential community that is not designed for such a project.

At three recent city meetings, neighbors have expressed their direct concern about the consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as a lack of parking and the high volume of traffic in the area.

There has also been an underlying tone of antagonism between Lions Club members and the neighbors in the area surrounding Settlers Park, which is clearly the most concerning and, quite frankly, unacceptable element of this issue.

As has been noted at these meetings, the Lions Club has supported the community in countless ways over the years and it would appear it has the best intentions of the city in mind with this project, as would be indicated by their stated intention of donating funds from the museum-beer garden to the city parks.

While the public outcry has been strong at times, and many justifiable questions and concerns have been raised, the Lions Club appears to be undeterred in formulating a site plan for the project.

Lions Club President Al Mayer recently expressed a willingness to address the concerns that have been raised about the project and adjust the plans accordingly.

We hope that occurs and that a potentially positive project for the city of Sheboygan Falls can be formulated for the good of everyone involved.

With an open ear, a thoughtful mind and a clear vision for the future of the city of Sheboygan Falls, we believe those entrusted to make these important decisions can see a project such as this through to a fruitful end.

Steady progress for the Middle School plan.

For the second time in two years, the Sheboygan Falls School Board put a referendum out to the community asking for support in the construction of a new middle school building. And for the second time in two years the community rejected the referendum, as a partially scaled down $27.6 million referendum to build a new middle school and early learning center at the site of the current elementary school was voted down and another separate $2.6 million referendum asking to build an auditorium for the middle school was defeated.

After spending nearly four years gathering public input, weighing options and formulating two plans to replace the aging middle school, the School Board announced shortly after the April 1 election that it would not be seeking another referendum in the near future.

As we’ve stated in the past, the board has again done a commendable job of staying focused on its facilities improvement goals, engaging the public in the decisionmaking process and keeping the community informed each step of the way, but it just has not been enough. While it is not actively putting together another plan for the immediate future, the board continues to work on its next step.

It recently toured a new elementary school in Lake Mills to gather ideas and it continues to meet with its construction manager to develop ideas and concepts.

We are happy to see the board take a step back from the referendum process this year, while at the same time continuing the process of evaluation and planning for the future. The next steps will be crucial. Taking it slow just might be the best way to go.

Growth in the business community.

By the looks of the classified advertising section these days, the local economy seems to be showing a few more signs of life with more companies willing to hang out the “help wanted” sign.

While Sheboygan Falls lost few a businesses in 2014, it made up for it with the addition of new businesses, such as Distinctive Design Studio, Richardson Kitchen and Bath, StoreFront Gallery and Studio and ML Photography.

The Sheboygan Falls Common Council has also stepped up to add additional roads and infrastructure to make Vision Business Park off of County C and County TT more appealing. Maybe 2015 will be the year that a company or two puts Vision in their sights.

We hope 2015 will bring even more business of all shapes and sizes to Sheboygan Falls.

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