Neighborhood town hall meeting at McKinley
Tonight, Alderperson Scott Gordon (11th district) hosted a neighborhood town hall community meeting at the McKinley Grade School, 5520 – 32nd Avenue. Present were: Gordon, Senator Bob Wirch, County Board Supervisors Ron Frederick and Boyd Frederick, the city of Kenosha’s public works director Michael Lemens, deputy city attorney Matt Knight, Kenosha Police Captain Eric Larsen, Kenosha Police Sgt. Brent Sagedal, crime prevention officer Jeff Wamboldt, and gang prevention officer Aaron Dilhoff.
Gordon introduced those he invited to the group of about thirty citizens. “They’ll answer questions about anything. We will not leave here until every question is answered.” He informed the group that the city’s budget was released on Monday, as well as the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). He had copies available for review. “There’s a 2.2% levy included in the current budget proposal, which translates to a $30/home, 60 cents a week increase in taxes. This budget includes no cuts in police, fire, or emergency medical services. This is very important.” He also gave a construction update: they are going to start paving tomorrow.
Sagedal is in charge of the Community Service Officers (CSO’s). One of their duties is to deal with parking issues. There are four CSO’s on days. Larsen said that 20,000 parking tickets had been issued last year. With the hiring of the new CSO’s, that number has now doubled.
Citizens had expressed their displeasure with parking, speeders, parents dropping off their kids for school and blocking driveways, etc. Sagegal told them to call the police, get a supervisor out there. One citizen said that, when he did talk to a police officer, he told him “Good luck with that.” Sagedal said that officer had been spoken to. Larsen suggested writing down the license plate number. They can then send out tickets.
One citizen wanted to know if stop signs could be placed at the intersection to slow down traffic. However, Lemens explained that stop signs are a traffic control device. They don’t just put one in to slow down traffic. There are specific requirements for stop signs. “A stop sign requires that people stop there all the time. Most people will then see that there is no need to stop. Therefore, they’ll go through it, and then disregard it. Overall, they’ve found that the speed gets higher people people get frustrated.” He did say that he will review the intersection again.
Wamboldt is involved with Neighborhood Watch (NW). He reminded everyone that he has an open door policy. He brought a NW package with him. “We have at least five NW’s in this area. We’ve got room for another dozen,” he said.
Another citizen complained about the speeding that happens all the time, even when the bars close. “People are not just speeding, they’re flying. And, the people are not just from around here. They’re taking a short cut to 52nd Street.” Lemens said that he would look at both intersections. He asked that people note the time of day. Possibly an officer could be placed there at that time.
The question was raised about changing the drop off routes for the students now that McKinley Middle School has been closed. The school’s principal, Teresa Giampietro, was present and said that she is working with the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) to make changes to the parking lot and drop-off area. She said that she’d really like to see a one-way street similar to that at Tremper High School. “I know that we’re smaller than Tremper, but the kids are younger. It will require that we move some fencing, but that takes money.” She said that changes are in the works.
Wirch said that he was there tonight to listen and learn. He said that he was there to answer any questions about state programs. “They do good constituent work out of my office.” One citizen asked how HUD can come into the neighborhood, and buy a corner house $85,000 over the assessed value, for $161,000. “It’s ridiculous,” the neighbor said. “Then, what will they do? Rent it out for $1,000/month?” Wirch told the gentleman to call his office, and he gave his number: (262) 694-7379, and they would look into it.
Other complaints raised were kids playing basketball during the summer and leaving trash behind. Gordon said that that was a KUSD issue. “It’s KUSD’s property,” he said, but he said that he would follow up with KUSD.
Then, the discussion turned toward the Rodriguez house. Dilhoff said that he helped Knight with the injunction. Knight said that the city filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the property for criminal and gang activity. “It was a first for the city.” Knight said that it got complicated because the legal owner of the property passed away at the beginning of the year, and the house is in foreclosure. But, Dilhoff said that the types of police calls being received from that house now are basically for noise and trash, not the criminal element calls that were being received like at the time the lawsuit was filed. “Basically, we have to start the whole process over again,” Knight said. Knight said he talked to the bank’s attorney’s this afternoon, and they have filed for a special administrator to be named by the circuit court to pursue the foreclosure. “This is not an overnight remedy,” he said. “Between now and next year, the foreclosure should go through, and they’d then be able to get the people out of the house.”
Another lady talked about marijuana use. Wamboldt said, “If you call the police, they’ll come.” Dilhoff did say that, at 2 pm, it’s a very busy time of the day for the police. If a citizen calls for the odor of marijuana, it’s a low priority. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have priority over a traffic accident where there are injuries involved. Dilhoff told the woman to sign a complaint. “We can’t arrest someone for something we don’t see. I would arrest the Rodriguez boys every day if I could.” Sagedal said that, if people feel that the police service is not good, they can come to the police department and file a complaint there.
Another man brought up the fact that his car was stolen and his garage got robbed. “The problem is that you let HUD move in here too fast. They’re destroying the hell out of the neighborhood.” Larsen suggested purchasing “game cams.” They’re available at Gander Mountain for about $100. Hunters use them to take pictures out in the woods to watch an area to see what kind of game is walking around. Some are motion activated. They can take 32,000 images, either every 10 seconds, or only when motion is detected. “We’re seeing a proliferation of homeowners getting cameras.” Once a picture is taken, it can be brought to the police. “Then, we throw up the image on our Facebook page, and you’d be surprised how people give up their friends all day.”
Larsen also said that there are more day time burglaries happening lately. They think that no one is home. Suggestions made by the police were not to keep TV’s in view of picture windows and keep garages locked. Larsen said that it happened to him. He was robbed during the day with his garage open. “They are gutsy.” Wamboldt said that these are crimes of opportunity. “Take away the opportunity.” Suggestions he had were leaving a radio or TV on if you’re away from home. “Make yourself a hard target,” he said.
Another man had a problem with his daughter, Facebook, and prostitution. He said that he called Ryan’s office, and they did nothing. Larsen said that Facebook and Craig’s List are more difficult to deal with because they’re out of state.
On the middle school, Gordon said that there are no proposed buyers. “The building is not in bad condition. But, it’s a KUSD building. The city has no control over it. It will cost the school district $1 million to tear it down, so I don’t think anything like that will happen. It’s too soon to do anything. It will probably be boarded up.”
A citizen asked Wirch if there were any funds to help with the school. Wirch replied that there are federal funds that city is using for brown fields. He said that he would ask him staff tomorrow. Ron Frederick said that they will probably leave it up til they find another use. “Or else, it will just be an empty field.”
Regarding the Chrysler property, Gordon told the group, “You’ve probably noticed the fence up on 30th Avenue. The Old Carco company is preparing for demolition. They put the fencing up to prevent illegal dumping,” he said. Knight said that the trust has hired a demolition company, and he expects that, within the next six to nine months, all of the buildings will be torn down. There were some issues with permits. One person made the comment, “I can’t believe they’re tearing down perfectly good buildings.”
People wanted to know what would be put in its place. Gordon said that they are going to tear the buildings down to grade. If they abandon the property, it will cost $10 million in the bankruptcy proceeding. The city would then move forward with the clean-up. “It’s a long process,” he said. Ron Frederick also reminded everyone that there are some underground issues as well. He said that, “It’s best to tear it down and sell it off.”
Someone suggested that the Menominee Indians move their casino plans to that site. Knight said that it would take years and years to get that property cleaned up. “The environmental contamination was significant. They will remediate it a little at a time. It will take a long time.” Someone asked about a superfund, and Knight said that the city has received $10 million from the federal government to help with the clean-up.
Ron Frederick also said that the proposed county budget for next year is coming in with a 0% increase. “But, he said, it wasn’t without pain. They are co-pay’s for insurance and the dental program.”
He asked the audience how many of their house assessments went down. Almost everyone raised their hands. “I live on 60th Street, and my house assessment went from $122,000 to $102,000. All of us have lost a part of our net worth.”
Someone asked about the property on 52nd Street and 30th Avenue. Boyd Frederick said that that was the property that Walmart was looking at. “But, there’s been no discussion about it for over a year now.” One man said, “How come their grass can grow high? They only cut it twice a year. It’s an eyesore. But, I can’t let my grass get that high.” Gordon said that was not in his district.
The old Walmart property was brought up. Someone had suggested creating a mobile home park on that property. Gordon said that the reason that nothing is being done with the Walmart property is that Walmart is still paying the lease on it. “There is no motivation to do anything.”
One woman wanted to know if the city was taking any action to crack down on slum lords. She mentioned the crime-free program. Wamboldt said that there were 2,000 cities in the United States that have enacted city ordinances regarding landlords. She said that she thought she read that the crime rate dropped by 85% in these cities. Wamboldt said that there has been talk about licensing landlords in the city of Kenosha. Knight said that one of the other attorneys in his office is currently working with an alderperson regarding a landlord ordinance. In fact, he stated that he thought there was a meeting scheduled with that alderperson and that attorney tomorrow morning.
Gordon suggested that she come to Common Council meetings and make her thoughts known during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting. They are held the first and third Mondays of the month.
Gordon said that the vacant house on 31st Avenue and 52nd Street is about to be rented again. Trash has been cleaned up.
He also said a few words to promote the food drive which is coming up on Saturday, October 13th, to benefit the Shalom Center and the Salvation Army. He encouraged all to bring their food item donations to the Harbor Market on that day from 9 am to 2 pm.
Gordon said that the neighborhood will regroup again after the first of the year.