Fort Atkinson Public Library to hold Online Bracelet Demonstration July 9

Art lovers are invited to join Shelby at the Dwight Foster Public Library as she demonstrates how to create a wrap bracelet using memory wire and beads.  This program is intended for individuals age 16 and up and will happen as a Facebook video event at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 9.

The library has craft bags with the materials included available at the second floor desk.  Each bag contains 1 piece of memory wire and enough beads to make 1 wrap bracelet. Anyone interested may choose the one they would like to check out.

Questions? Contact Amy Lutzke at (920) 563-7790.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is (Finally) Open!

By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner staff
whitewaterbanner@gmail.com

Front entrance
The inn shares its entry driveway with the UW-W Community Engagement Center
Lobby
Explanation for the inn’s name: Fairfield Farm was the favorite vacation home of founder J. Willard Marriott and a place known for the warm welcome it provided to family and friends.
Snacks and sundries are available 24/7, including frozen meals for a late dinner prepared with the in-room microwave.
16 of the rooms are suites, actually one large room with a comfortable sitting area
Low level exit signs are now required in hotels. They’re easier for children to see, and since smoke rises, it may obscure a high level sign.
The manager said this is her favorite feature of the inn.  The window shade in each guest room acts as a focal point, displaying photography taken at the Fairfield Farm. The material is sheer and allows light to pass through the photography, warming up the room and creating a comfortable environment.

The long awaited Fairfield by Marriott Whitewater opened its doors on June 29 at 1242 W. Main Street. The Marriott Corporation indicates it’s one of 35 properties they have opened this month. The franchise is owned by WWHP, LLC, while it is the 11th property managed by Golder Hospitality of Minnesota, which has inns in Platteville, WI; Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio. The three-story inn has 71 rooms, each furnished with either a king bed or two queens. Sixteen of the rooms are suites, which include a sofa bed, and six rooms are ADA accessible, four of which have roll-in showers. The several rooms that are designed for guests with hearing impairments have a push button doorbell which also activates a strobe light in the room.

General Manager Kae Shisler told the Banner that she has been in the hospitality business for 43 years, having started behind the front desk right out of high school. She lives in Milton, and while managing the Holiday Inn Express in DeForest she heard about the construction of our new hotel and jumped at the chance to forgo her grueling daily commute.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required a temporary change from the hot breakfast buffet that will normally be served in the spacious dining room. For now, guests will be able to pre-order a “grab-‘n-go” breakfast. Many steps are being taken to minimize the risks of infection. Each guest is provided with hand sanitizer upon checkin. The housekeeping staff normally doesn’t service a room during a guest’s stay, and when they check out, if possible, the staff waits 24 hours before entering the room for cleaning. Guests are encouraged but not required to wear masks in the public areas, whereas the staff always have facial coverings.

Amenities include a fitness center, a pool, and free WIFI. Guests may access their Netflix and other streaming services on their TV. In-room amenities include a microwave, refrigerator, and Keurig coffeemaker. Rather than the traditional printed directory, guests may access information via their television, including a number of local restaurant listings that are being provided at no charge to the establishments.

Ms. Shisler acknowledged that business travel is still at a low ebb, so the opening has been expectedly quiet. Weekends for July, however, are booking fairly well. Rack rates will, of course, vary depending upon the season and the demand. Weekday stays this week are advertised on the Marriott website for rates beginning at $89 plus tax, with the holiday weekend jumping to $129 and up.

Shisler indicated that the General Manager of a new property is normally hired six months before opening, but with the COVID-19 related delay in finishing construction she has actually been employed for a year already, which has enabled her to do a good deal of training with the 11 person staff, which is about half what it will be at full occupancy. “It’s been a long time coming,” Shisler stated, “and we’re excited to serve the Whitewater community.” The Banner welcomes Kae, her staff, and Fairfield to Whitewater and wishes them increasing success as travel returns to more normal times.

Whitewater Resident Named to Dean’s List at UW-Eau Claire

EAU CLAIRE (June 30, 2020) – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire extends congratulations to the 3,100 students named to the spring 2020 Dean’s List. Their academic performance has been outstanding, and we recognize these students with pride.
     
The Dean’s list eligibility criteria can be found online at https://www.uwec.edu/news/news/spring-2020-deans-list-4269/.
     
Students from this area who were named to the Dean’s List are:

Whitewater, WI

 Naomi Allen, Nursing and Health Sciences

“Flash Food Drive for the 4th” Today

Mark. Your. Calendars. July 1-2. Flash Food Drive for the 4th!

COVID-19 has created a historic time to live. One in three Wisconsin adults is unemployed, and we are not able to engage safely in simple events that celebrate our community, such as 4th of July activities. But as historic cooperative efforts have proven, we rise together. Let’s celebrate Independence Day 2020 by helping each other.

Whitewater GroCo is excited to partner with the Whitewater Community Food Pantry, The Community Space, the Whitewater Community Foundation, and Whitewater Unites Lives to raise food and funds for our community. 

💥

Big takeaways from the CARES Act:
If you don’t itemize, the CARES Act allows for a new deduction for charitable gifts made in 2020 in cash (not property, e.g. food) of up to $300.
If you do itemize, the CARES Act, allows for you to deduct up to 100 percent of your Adjusted Gross Income (increased from 60 percent) for charitable gifts made in 2020 in cash.
If you would like to donate by mail, please send a check to:
        Whitewater Community Foundation
Attn: Whitewater GroCo Food Drive
        PO Box 428
        Whitewater WI  53190
       

If you would prefer to donate online, you can go to https://www.whitewatergrocery.co/flashfooddrive.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food or food from your garden, please take your items to:
Whitewater Community Food Pantry, 146 North Street
July 1 and 2 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Community Space, 834 E Milwaukee
July 1 3:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
July 2 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.

As a thank you, we plan to have our GroCo yard signs available for FREE. If you aren’t able to pick up a sign, e-mail volunteerwwgroco@whitewatergrocery.co, and we will arrange to get one to you. 

Thank you so much for supporting our community.  #GoGroCo.

UW-Whitewater announces detailed plans for a safe return to campus

Banner comments:

  • Originally it was indicated that a final system-wide decision about reopening campuses for the fall would be made on July 10. A favorable announcement was made already on June 14. UW-W was actually the first campus to announce its decision, on May 29. When Chancellor Dwight C. Watson was asked how the university was able to make this announcement so early, he indicated that he knows the school is in a unique position related to its importance to its host community. Since he knew that Whitewater’s economy would suffer disproportionately if the campus did not reopen, he pressed for the earliest possible decision.
  • Classes will be held in a variety of face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats. They will begin as scheduled on September 2 but will go fully remote before Thanksgiving week for the remainder of the semester. In case of unusually high COVID-19 outbreaks, it could be necessary to move all classes to online at any time.
  • Originally it was indicated that face coverings would be strongly recommended but not required. The new guidance states that face coverings will be required in most public/shared indoor spaces, except, for e.g., residence hall rooms, during athletic training, and while eating/drinking. Exceptions may be requested by those who are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons.

(Whitewater – June 29 – UW-W Press Release) University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight C. Watson announced today detailed plans for both the Whitewater and Rock County campuses as students, faculty and staff return for the Fall 2020 semester.

“Our desire is to have our campuses as open as possible. We will not be the same university we were in the Fall of 2019. Yet, we are committed to providing students with excellent instruction, support and services,” Waston said. “Our first priority has always been, and remains, providing for the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. We know that in bringing students, faculty and staff together there is inherent risk, but we are doing everything possible to mitigate that risk and to ensure the best learning environment possible.”

“Warhawks Return: Practices for Fall 2020” lays out the university’s key principles of operations, including expectations for face coverings, social distancing, personal hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, and health screening/testing.

Classes will begin in the fall as planned on Wednesday, Sept. 2, and will be held in a variety of face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats. After Friday, Nov. 20, all courses will move to a fully remote modality for the remainder of the fall semester. Residence halls will be open and available during the entirety of the semester.

Everyone is encouraged to visit the recently launched Warhawks Return website. This website will be updated often with current information and has a user-friendly, frequently asked question format for various constituents.

The Warhawks Return plan is the result of months of research, planning and implementation, with collaboration among university leadership, faculty, staff, students and community members.

“We’ve come together in real and meaningful ways this entire year as we’ve faced other challenges,” Watson said. “Warhawks do not shy away from obstacles; instead they soar and find alternative ways to serve students and ensure their success.”

UW-Whitewater will host three Town Hall meetings on Thursday, July 9, regarding the return to campus. Questions can be sent in advance to cainen@uww.edu no later than noon Thursday, July 3.

The sessions are:

  • 11 a.m. for faculty and staff at both campuses

Event address for attendees:
https://uww.webex.com/uww/onstage/g.php?MTID=eb6bdd19b108c4e43c16c01f2ba0736ff

Event number: 133 707 6554
Event password: YgTJwP3hG44

US TOLL FREE
+1-855-749-4750
Access Code: 133 707 6554

  • 1 p.m. for members of the Whitewater and Rock County communities

Event address for attendees:
https://uww.webex.com/uww/onstage/g.php?MTID=e4da4e370782b0019effb1106ffedd972

Event number: 133 987 1219
Event password: TMgqJ7Zmk42

US TOLL FREE
+1-855-749-4750
Access Code: 133 987 1219

  • 3 p.m. for incoming and returning students and their families

Event address for attendees:
https://uww.webex.com/uww/onstage/g.php?MTID=e83f204a2da133bd39b75c1f6edf19377

Event number: 133 125 3473
Event password: PXfd6h336Rc

US TOLL FREE
+1-855-749-4750
Access Code: 133 125 3473

Sorry to Say, Majestic Cleaners is Folding

Bob Ardelt said that the taxidermy mounts above him have been there over 60 years, as they were inherited from the original owner. The rest of the mounts in the store are Bob’s.

By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner staff
whitewaterbanner@gmail.com

Bob Ardelt, who has owned and operated Majestic Cleaners for the past 44 years, has announced his retirement effective July 31, 2020. It appears that Majestic may have been operating at the same location, with the same name, rather close to a century, as Bob indicated to the Banner that his father started working for the original owner, Link Hause, in 1939 when he was in junior high. Bob’s parents bought the business in 1959, and he bought it from them in 1976. Admitting that revenues have fallen off considerably in recent years, Mr. Ardelt stated “no one dresses up any more.” He didn’t try to sell the business, but he owns the building, and he expects that his daughter may decide to renovate it and provide a different service. Here’s wishing Bob and his wife, Connie, a very happy, healthy, well-deserved retirement.

United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties Merging with Watertown Area United Way

Fort Atkinson, WI – June 25, 2020 – The United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties has announced that it is merging with the Watertown Area United Way effective as of July 1, 2020.

“We are so excited to be moving forward with finalizing this merger, prior to kicking off our 2020 United Way Campaign,” states Megan Hartwick, United Way executive director. “There have been many discussions in the past year, among many groups throughout the county, about how to better increase collaboration among local organizations to more effectively support those in need. We wholeheartedly believe this merger of two local United Ways will put us in a position to do just that – to grow support for our mission to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our communities.”

“Bringing the Watertown Area United Way under the umbrella of the United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties makes sense, in that it gives us the opportunity to leverage our donations in the best possible way in our combined service areas, in turn strengthening the support of our partner agencies,” states Chris VanGundy, Watertown Area United Way board president. “Our donors trust us to make sure their dollars go where they’re needed most and will have the greatest impact, and we believe this merger will allow us to more effectively do that.”

The United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties will continue to support its existing service area of Fort Atkinson, Jefferson, Whitewater, Lake Mills, Palmyra, Sullivan and Helenville, but will now also support Watertown (zip code 53094), Waterloo, Ixonia and Johnson Creek. Hartwick will continue to serve as the executive director for the organization.

“I couldn’t be more honored to continue my work leading our United Way for our service area, but to also now be entrusted with the responsibility of supporting and growing United Way’s presence in the greater Watertown area is something I am inspired by committed to exceling at,” Hartwick adds.

“The board members of the Watertown United Way are excited for the opportunities this merger will bring to the Watertown community. Working with Megan over the last few years, it’s clear that she will bring a revitalized vision of the United Way to Watertown and be able to provide a solid presence for our agencies and donors,” VanGundy states.

The Watertown Area United Way has been a solely volunteer-led organization with a five-member board of directors. Two of those board members will be joining the board of directors for the newly expanded United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties.

“I’m looking forward to joining the board of the United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties as a voice for Watertown. I think having the experience of working in the Watertown community under the United Way for over 7 years, I can bring the knowledge I’ve gained about the specific needs of Watertown and how we can best address those needs to the merged organization,” VanGundy adds.

“Having Chris’s participation on our board, along with Helen Zuehlke, former president of the Watertown board, will be a tremendous asset,” Hartwick states. “They have established a trusted presence of United Way in the greater Watertown community, which will allow our organization to grow our support more quickly and effectively.”

That growth will begin starting with the fall 2020 United Way Campaign.

“With the hardships our communities have endured as a result of COVID-19, we know the 2020 campaign will bring a tremendous amount of changes and challenges,” Hartwick states. “However, we also feel very optimistic that the merger will further show our communities that United Way is committed to doing all we can to ensure support to those who need it most and to ensure the overall strength of our communities. Now more than ever, United Way’s support is needed and this merger will lend itself to our ability to increase that support.”

Anyone with any questions about the merger and the organizational changes can contact Hartwick at the United Way office at 920.563.8880 or unitedway@idcnet.com.

__________________________

The United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties’ mission is to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our communities. We do that by providing support to community programs, projects and local agencies that provide critical health and human services to those in need. This network of helping services can be described as a “safety net” for those in our midst in need. Whether it is transitional housing, literacy education, after-school programs and education, health and dental care, end of life care, mentoring programs, job training or disaster relief, the United Way identifies the greatest needs in our community and helps to fund agencies that can meet those needs.

For more information about our local United Way, you may visit the website at www.uwjnwc.com or “like” the Facebook page. For details regarding the United Way’s online volunteer tool, please visit www.volunteermain.com.

Beatrice (“Bea”) Perich (nee Beatriz Martinez), formerly of Whitewater and New Berlin, was born to eternal life at her daughter Joni’s home June 22, 2020 at the age of 97 years young

Beatrice (“Bea”) Perich (nee Beatriz Martinez), formerly of Whitewater and New Berlin, was born to eternal life at her daughter Joni’s home June 22, 2020 at the age of 97 years young. 

Bea was born on February 23, 1923 in Cachipay, Colombia and came of age in Bogota where she studied accounting and became a full-charge bookkeeper. She liked numbers and professional sports for as long as she could remember.  Marrying these two interests, she invested in Colombia’s professional futbol team. At one time, she hoped to go to Paris, to live there but her mother discouraged her, or may have outright forbid her from leaving Bogota. Years later, she communicated with friends who had emigrated to the U.S. and decided to cash in her soccer team stock holdings and pursue the American Dream. The United States would soon be her home.  She arrived in America in 1950 and lived for a short time in Milwaukee at the Convent of the Sisters of the Divine Savior.  She answered a classified ad for a bookkeeper at Falk Corporation in “the valley.”  During her interview, the manager called Falk’s international sales manager in to continue the interview.  Both were very impressed with Bea’s skills, poise, professionalism, and perfect grammar. Apparently, an expansion was afoot, and Bea was told of Falk’s growing international sales in Colombia and other South American countries. Falk was in need of a bilingual sales assistant.  She was asked if, instead of the finance department, would she be interested in translating RFPs to English and sales quotes to Spanish.  She said, “Of course!” They asked her if she could start right away and she pulled a half peanut butter sandwich from her pocketbook and said, “I am ready to start today, I have my lunch here.”  And so, she did. In those days, Bea rode the Milwaukee County Route 35 bus from the convent to Falk, where she deboarded at the 16th St Viaduct, and traversed the steep steel grate stairs.  Only once did she allow her leather bound high heels to slip through the steel grates. The grating ripped the leather from a heel and her beautiful Italian pumps were ruined.  Then, snow fell one day, and she hadn’t thought to bring overshoes to protect her pumps, so she climbed the snowy stairs to board her bus home and was sad to find another of her beautiful imported shoes was ruined.  One day a gentleman friend who had settled in Chicago called to say hello and Bea confided in him that the commute was lethal for her treasured imported leather shoes, and with that conversation a plan was hatched to move to Chicago. He greeted Bea at Union Station with a ring in hand.  Mom explained she was just a friend. 

In short order, Bea enrolled in an evening citizenship class at Lakeside Elementary School where she met Zivan, the love of her life.  When she walked in the classroom, she gave her characteristic wink and smile to Zivan and found an open seat near him.  He was smitten.  At times the instructor would catch them whispering to one another and call out, “Who is the instructor here, Mr. Perich?” They began dating, going out for dinner and after 3 months, Zivan asked, “Bea why not get married, we will save money on rent and eating together.” They married and on day one, Zivan asked what she could cook. Bea replied,  “I can boil water and make you a cup of tea!”  At that he taught her to cook and bake. Bea had a natural talent, intuitively combining herbs and ingredients and became a fabulous cook. Her family endlessly enjoyed delicious home cooked meals and feasts. Her knowledge of nutrition, along with her love of and natural talent in cooking, came into play beyond the Perich family—in the 1960’s Bea found herself employed at the UW Extension office in Walworth County. There, Bea would travel to low income and migrant farm worker families to teach nutrition, cooking, and how to economize at the grocery store. Teaching others energized and gratified her.

Bea and Zivan had a beautiful life together, were endlessly devoted to one another, and were married for 56 years. Coming from distinct cultures and religions might have been difficult for some, but their marriage seemed to be stronger despite the differences. They married three times—first in the civil court, then when his fellow Serbs learned of this they insisted on a Serbian Orthodox ceremony. Next, Bea’s family, devoutly Catholic, protested and the pair wed again in a proper Nuptial Mass receiving the Rite of Marriage sacrament.

The next chapters of life played out in the Chicago suburbs of Glen Ellyn and Wheaton, then later in Wisconsin in Whitewater, New Berlin, and finally in Milwaukee County. They held on to their little farm even while the family moved to New Berlin to make Zivan’s daily commute more manageable. Upon retirement, they returned for a decade to “the farm” where grandchildren were always welcome. There the grandchildren learned to drive, enjoyed climbing trees and playing in the hay loft, driving the golf cart, shooting free throws with their Grandma, and going to Whitewater Lake to fish. The most treasured memories came from those times on the farm where together Bea and Zivan enjoyed tending to their magnificent vegetable garden, cherry, apple, pear, plum and peach trees, grapes and beautiful flowers. Bea was a critical thinker, lifelong learner, fabulous cook, skilled knitter and embodied an infectious joie de vivre—everyone she knew loved her. Her grandchildren brought her tremendous pride and joy and she was delighted with the arrival of her great-grandchildren. She was super patriotic and voted in every election no matter how small, with one exception—due to COVID and having recently moved to the Jewish Home, Bea’s absentee ballot never arrived on time and she missed the April 7th vote in which she was bound and determined to vote for a new Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge. She was very disappointed the ballot never came but afterward remarked with delight when she learned her lady won!

Bea’s final year on earth was filled with enjoyment—at 96 Bea loved her weekends at Joni’s little farm. It reminded her so much of the treasured times on her own piece of paradise in the country. She gardened pulling weeds and planting with the same energy and determination she had displayed years earlier. No one could believe this kind of strenuous work could be performed by little Bea in her advanced age, so Joni memorialized much of her activities in photos. When asked what her secret was to her long life and beautiful complexion, Bea urged ladies to have an avocado each day—one half to eat, and the other for a facial mask. During weekends at Joni’s she would sit for hours under a big oak tree and enjoy God’s bountiful nature where an abundance of birds kept her company. Even at this age, she could easily walk a quarter mile. Bea loved her weekends with Joni, out in the country where she enjoyed a queen’s treatment of pedicures and hair styling. Bea enjoyed her last glorious vacation in her final year too—she and Joni travelled to Cabo to escape the wintery spring and she was the fan-favorite of the resort. A vacationing nurse made a daily poolside check on Bea, and Joni made sure she kept drinking enough water to stay happy, healthy and hydrated. Every day she was greeted with smiles, birthday treats, and even a personal singing waiter.

Bea was a grateful, generous woman of faith and praised God’s blessings in all living things. Among her virtues were an immeasurable enjoyment of life, endless generosity, compassion, and the ability to clown around for the mere purpose of giving the gift of laughter and joy to others. Laughter always emanated from any room Bea inhabited. Everyone who met her loved her.  Bea was always ready for any new adventure and expended endless energy in pursuit of enjoyment—joy in anything at all—like conversation, beholding natural beauty, eating and quiet reflection. When in isolation visiting on FaceTime, we would talk about the pandemic and how terribly lonesome people were in lockdown and she would comment, “Well nobody likes the isolation, but we have to be patient, so the virus doesn’t spread.” She always had compassion for others and accepted the sacrifice of isolation for the greater good of protecting others from sickness. When the horrible murder of George Floyd happened, she conversed with compassion and an understanding of the pent-up frustration in the Black community with hundreds of years of inequity and injustice.

Bea will be deeply missed and never forgotten. She is forever remembered by her daughters Helen (David) Peplinski, Mary (Luke) Perry, Johanna Perich, grandchildren; Tyler (Anna) Willingham, Rachel (Andrew) Schneider, Dr. Roman (fiancé Stephanie Marin Kayser) Peplinski, Jordan (AJ) McCormick, Jacob Peplinski; and great-grandchildren Blake Zivan, Grace Beatrice and Shelby Margaret Willingham;  and Silas Finn Schneider. She is reunited in everlasting life with her beloved husband Zivan, cherished grandson Garrett Willingham, darling sisters Blanca Auza and Elvira Hebel, and dear parents Luis and Cristina Martinez.

The family wishes to thank Jewell Falkenberg for helping to bring Bea home, Barb Berg, Vitas Hospice and the caregivers who loved Bea at Ovation Jewish Home.

The family will gather at Utters Corners Cemetery for a private graveside service and follow with a day at Whitewater Lake in memory of Bea. In lieu of flowers, memorials appreciated to Jewish Home and Care Center, Attn: Foundation, 1400 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee WI 53202 or go to https://ovation.org/foundation/make-a-donation/ (or to a charity of donor’s choice).

Nitardy Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Online condolences can be made at www.nitardyfuneralhome.com

Responding to a Vocal Crowd, Walworth County Board Declines to Give Health Officer the Authority the State Has Already Given

Audience at the Walworth County Board of Supervisors meeting of June 9, 2020. Image from Walworth County video

By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner staff
whitewaterbanner@gmail.com

At its June 9 meeting (click here for video) the Walworth County Board of Supervisors listened for nearly two hours to public comments regarding a proposed ordinance (included at the end of this article) that would essentially adopt state statutes and codes authorizing their health officer to take certain steps to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Although the ordinance was recommended by county officials shortly after the Safer at Home order was struck down, the health officials reported that there had not been any problems getting citizens to comply with orders pertaining to COVID-19. The ordinance could apply to any communicable disease, authorizing health staff to quarantine an infected person, involuntarily if necessary, using “quarantine guards.” Additionally, if deemed necessary, staff could order for a person’s furniture or clothing to be destroyed to avoid spreading disease. Violators, which could include businesses, could be subject to fines ranging from $25 to $500 per day. The proposal had been recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee at its meeting (click here for video) on May 20 by a vote of 7-1, with Supervisor Ryan Simons voting no.

The proposal from county staff resulted from a suggestion from the Wisconsin Counties Association that the counties check their ordinances to ensure that they had adopted the state statute. Apparently a large number of counties already had such an ordinance on the books. According to a member of the board who spoke with the Banner on condition of anonymity, although Supervisor Simons offered no reason for his opposition to the motion in the committee, afterwards he apparently made a number of contacts with citizens encouraging them to oppose the recommendation to the board. The unnamed supervisor also reported that Representative Cody Horlacher and State Senator Steve Nass posted comments on their Facebook pages encouraging people to speak in opposition to the proposal at the June 9 board meeting. (Click here for Rep. Horlacher’s Facebook post on June 9.) This struck the aforementioned supervisor as odd, in that the county proposal was essentially identical to existing state law.

Dozens of county residents, including three from Whitewater, spoke against the proposal. Many appeared in person in a nearly filled chamber, with virtually none wearing masks, while others spoke by telephone. Comments included accusations that the proposed ordinance would be unconstitutional, that it would be taking away freedoms guaranteed to citizens, that it was an “overreach,” granting unsupervised powers to unelected officials, and that there were no qualifications cited for health officials. Some people voiced suspicion that COVID-19 represents as serious a health threat as has been reported. The fact that quarantine guards would have “police powers” led some to believe (mistakenly) that they would be able to arrest people. “We are not scared of COVID-19,” said Sarah Hardison of Genoa City. “But we are terrified of government overreach and loss of freedom.” Madison Elmer, a resident of the town of Walworth, stated, “This seems like something that would happen in Russia – not here.” One citizen threatened to sue Walworth County if the public health measure was approved. Others stated that the board was trying to sneak something over without notice. Supervisors were threatened with being defeated in the next election. The crowd applauded, shouted, and occasionally heckled. Chairwoman Nancy Russell urged them to stop. Some responded with more applause and shouting. Only one person, Aaron Parker of Whitewater, spoke in support of the proposal, stating that he felt that freedom does not give “a license to do whatever you want regardless of how it impacts others.”

Following the citizen comments, County Corporation Counsel Michael P. Cotter indicated that the proposed ordinance was almost verbatim to language found in Wisconsin Statutes Chapters 251 (Local Health Officials) and 252 (Communicable Diseases), Wis. Adm. Code DHS 145 (Control of Communicable Diseases), and a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in 1904, Lowe v Conroy. In drafting the proposal he added minimal language from other counties’ ordinances, as well as the proposed penalty. He chose to only include a monetary fine and not the provision for up to 30 days of jail time that the statute allows. Mr. Cotter stated that the ordinance “doesn’t expand the powers of the health officer other than to allow them to give a ticket to a person if they don’t abide by an order.”

Supervisor Daniel Kilkenny, although indicating that he would be voting against the ordinance, agreed with the perspective that the substance of the proposal is already in state law, and stated that those who oppose the provisions should be taking it up with their state representatives if they oppose the state’s approach to controlling contagious diseases. “If you woke up today thinking this didn’t exist, it already exists,” Kilkenny said.

After virtually no discussion, the board voted 10-1 to reject the proposed ordinance, with Jerry Grant offering the only dissent. The anonymous board member who spoke with the Banner indicated that she/he had voted with the majority only due to the public pressure, believed that Mr. Grant was in the right with his vote, and wished that they had felt that they could also vote that way.

After the meeting, the Banner spoke with County Corporation Counsel Cotter, who acknowledged that the extensive opposition to the proposal was a surprise. He stated that the basis of the state statute dates back to the late 1800s. In fact, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in 1904, Lowe v Conroy, did not question the decision of a local health authority to order the destruction, without a hearing, of cattle hide and meat that were believed to be infected with anthrax. Attorney Cotter stated that he did not feel that the Health and Human Services Department would be disadvantaged by the outcome. The health officer can still enforce the provisions of the state law; it’s just that if a citizen fails to comply with a quarantine order, the county will have to go to Circuit Court instead of “writing a ticket.” Although Cotter stated that he “understands the frustration,” of those speaking at the meeting, the county was not trying to sneak anything through, and he was glad that citizens were interested.

The Banner also contacted Carlo Nevicosi, Deputy Director of the County Health and Human Services Department, who commented, “I was certainly surprised by the public interest in the issue, although maybe I shouldn’t have been.  It’s pretty rare that we get much public interest in our board meetings.  Our Public Health still has all of the authorities it needs and we’ve used them quite judiciously over the years.  I can think of only one case in the past few decades where we needed to use a quarantine guard.  This was a situation related to active tuberculosis.  I think I understand the crowd’s concerns with the ordinance.  What may not be well understood is that State statutes 251 and 252 already grant health officers those authorities that were written into the ordinance.  The larger issue for that concerned group may ultimately be with the state legislature that grants the authorities in the first place.”

According to a press release from Jefferson County, their Board of Supervisors is reviewing the potential for such an ordinance while awaiting further discussion, analysis, feedback from the public, and guidance from a statewide working group.

Finally, Banner staff reached out to Jerry Grant, the only board member who opposed the motion to defeat the proposed ordinance. Mr. Grant provided the following response:

“Dear Editor:

Whitewater Banner

This is the opinion of Jerry Grant, not of any other member of the Walworth County board.

The County Board meeting of June 9, 2020, received a large amount of public input concerning an ordinance involving authority of the County’s Health Officer. The comments provided to the County Board, except for one speaker, opposed the ordinance. The issue stressed was the amount of authority the County Health Officer would be given. Having the ordinance fail did not take any authority away from our County Health Officer that is not already provided for in the State Statutes. This was pointed out to the Board by the Corporation Counsel and County Administrator.

The State Statutes REQUIRE OUR HEALTH OFFICER TO ENFORCE THE STATE LAWS CONCERNING COMMUNICABLE DISEASES. The State Statutes, in part, read the local health officer shall promptly take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress, and control communicable disease. If local authorities fail to enforce the communicable disease statutes and rules the department shall take charge and expenses incurred shall be paid by the county or municipality.

If you really have the fear as stated at the County Board meeting, you really need to proceed with your complaint to the Wisconsin Legislature to have changes made in the laws.

Jerry Grant – Walworth County District 4″

**************************************************************************************************************************