State officials host public hearing on town’s plan to create Village of Tichigan

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Concerns of increased property taxes, a diminished rural environment and the true implications of landlocked borders dominated a public hearing on the Town of Waterford’s incorporation effort as residents had their say before state officials.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration, the state agency tasked with reviewing townships’ conversions into cities and villages, is set to render a decision late this year on the Town of Waterford’s potential incorporation into the Village of Tichigan.

As the review process continues, the DOA on Aug. 2 held the first of three open meetings and hearings on the town’s incorporation effort, which was filed at the beginning of 2020 in Racine County Circuit Court.

DOA officials heard from multiple Waterford residents — in the village and town — on the latter’s quest to be renamed Tichigan and seek a new municipal status.

Based on the comments gathered at the meeting, most of the residents were opposed — or at least skeptical — of the town’s plans to solidify its borders and become a village.

Town resident Jeff Klass said he moved to the community from West Allis because he desired a more tranquil way of life. He said he believes incorporation could lead to a litany of unintended consequences.

“I’m going to fight this every way I possibly can,” Klass said. “I think this is going to become a bait and switch. I think you all are saying everything is going to be sunshine and cotton candy, and then reality will hit, and there will a special assessment for this or a tax increase for that. The mill rate will have to go up and up and up.”

Robert Ulander, who lives in the northwest corner of the town, said the petitioners’ application, in his view, fails to meet the state’s statutory requirements for incorporation.

“The territory proposed for the Village of Tichigan is larger than the City of Oak Creek, with one-sixth of the population,” Ulander said.

Ed Olender, who has lived in the Waterford Woods area of the town for the past 22 years, said his efforts to gain a deeper understanding from town officials on the impact of incorporation fell flat.

“I started investigating. I gained no knowledge from the (town) board,” Olender said. “I actually had to go a village meeting and get my questions answered there.”

Olender said his quest for additional information prompted conversations with leaders in other communities about the incorporation process.

“Here’s what I learned: When somebody incorporates, very few people stand to gain,” Olender said. “The citizens, the residents, will lose. They will end up paying for those that gain.”

Of the speakers weighing in at the public hearing, one gave his adamant support for incorporation, citing different philosophies between the two communities on fiscal matters.

John Gomez has an interest in both Waterfords. He is a village resident, but owns a business in the town.

“The Village of Waterford is ridiculously expensive,” Gomez said. “They spend a lot of money, and they’re looking to you to get out of debt. I’m a village resident, but I’m going to stand with the town.”

The state DOA will continue collecting public testimony on the incorporation petition through Aug. 12.

Residents wishing to provide feedback can do so by emailing wimunicipalboundaryreview@wi.gov or sending a letter to the Municipal Boundary Review Program, Division of Intergovernmental Relations, Wisconsin Department of Administration, P.O. Box 1645, Madison, WI 53701.

To read an additional story regarding the justification Town of Waterford officials are offering for their plan to incorporate, see the Aug. 6 edition of the Waterford Post.