Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Washington County Fair officials react to death of Troy Gentry

Neighbors in Washington County are stunned by the news of the death on Friday, Sept. 8 of Troy Gentry from the country duo Montgomery Gentry.

According to a Twitter post from @mgunderground, the 50-year-old Gentry “was tragically killed in a helicopter crash which took place at approximately 1 p.m. today in Medford, New Jersey.”

Montgomery Gentry headlined the Silver Lining Amphitheater on July 27 during the Washington County Fair.

Washington County Fair Park executive director Kellie Boone said, “All of us at the Washington County Fair Park were deeply shocked and saddened to hear about Troy Gentry.  We were fortunate to have them at the Fair twice in the last several years. They were so nice to work with and very genuine about having fun on stage for their fans. Our thoughts are with their family, friends, and fans.”

160th anniversary celebration Sunday at St. Mary’s Immaculate Parish in Barton

Archbishop Jerome Listecki will join honored guests at 9:30 a.m. for a 160th anniversary Mass and celebration on Sunday, Sept.10 at St. Mary’s Parish in Barton. Following Mass there will be a breakfast in the Parish Center and the unveiling of the new interior church design.

West Bend crossing guard bouncing back from accident

West Bend crossing guard Phyllis Wendt was extremely lucky this week following a two-vehicle accident at Seventh Avenue and Decorah Road. Witnesses said the accident happened about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday as two vehicles collided, jumped the curb and Wendt, 92, dove out of the way.

Wendt was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. West Bend Police “determined a 35-year-old male driver was southbound on S. Seventh Avenue and stopped for the stop sign at W. Decorah Road.

The male proceeded from his stop and struck a vehicle eastbound on W. Decorah Road. The vehicle that was struck was driven by a 36-year-old female from West Bend. There were no injuries to the drivers or occupants of the vehicles that collided. The investigating officer issued the 35-year-old male a citation for Failure to Yield Right of Way.

Wendt said the doctor told her to take it easy. During a visit at her University Drive apartment on Thursday we spent about 30 minutes reading everybody’s nice notes and well wishes. Phyllis laughed at the note from the woman who said she was the best babysitter and now her son is 39 years old.

Phyllis said the intersection of Seventh and Decorah is pretty dicey and she reminded motorists to slow down. Phyllis also wants to tell everybody “thank you” for the prayers and well wishes.

Plan Commission questions Kwik Trip about store No. 2

The West Bend Plan Commission had quite a few concerns about the development of a Kwik Trip gas station/convenience store on the corner of Decorah and Main Street in West Bend in the location formerly home to Walgreens.

During the Tuesday night meeting commissioner Jed Dolnick listed off a number of issues he presumed could cause safety and traffic problems. “From a business standpoint it’s a perfect location but this is not in the best interest of the city,” he said.

Dolnick questioned traffic patterns of a gas station combined with the high volume of vehicles from the schools and the location of the driveways onto Fifth Avenue.

Fellow commissioner Jim White had concerns about traffic congestion and he gave the example of the backup when exiting onto Decorah from the West Bend Plaza shopping center.

Neighbor Karen Wachholz addressed the Plan Commission about several of her concerns regarding the development, much of which dealt with construction noise and music and speaker announcements from the station attendants.

After about 20 minutes of presentation and discussion the Plan Commission voted to table its decision until a traffic study was completed by Kwik Trip.

MOWA unveils design for Cultural Center

Architect Jim Shields took members of the West Bend Plan Commission on a great virtual tour of the proposed Cultural Campus at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. There are two acres of vacant land just south of MOWA and plans are to add mature trees and flower beds and have a paved walkway that flows gracefully from the bridges over the Milwaukee River through the park and to the museum or the Eisenbahn State Trail.

Some of the plants on Veterans Avenue and Water Street include white oak, flowering pear, sugar maple, hydrangea beds and an aspen grove. Following the presentation Plan Commission member Jim White asked who would be paying for the park and maintaining it and Shields said MOWA would take care of it. A date for construction has yet to be determined.

Bank Mutual to consolidate with Associated Bank

There’s more movement in the banking industry and it is probably going to affect the landscape in West Bend. According to an article in the Biz Times the Bank Mutual branch in West Bend is one of 36 branches in Wisconsin that will be consolidating with Associated Banc-Corp.

According to the Biz Times “The companies plan to close 28 Bank Mutual branches and eight Associated Bank branches.”

In a July 20, 2017 release, Associated Banc-Corp (“Associated”) and Bank Mutual Corporation (“Bank Mutual”) jointly announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Bank Mutual will merge with and into Associated.

The Biz Times published a list of branches in Wisconsin that will be affected.

Bank Mutual, 1526 S. Main Street in West Bend, is one of 28 branches that will consolidate with Associated. The receiving branch is the Associated Bank, 715 W. Paradise Drive.

So far there is no timeline on the deal however the Biz Times is reporting “the transaction could close in the first quarter of 2018.”

On a history note:  Paradise Auto Wash sold Nov. 23, 2013

Paradise Auto Wash has been sold. Associated Bank bought the property at 715 W. Paradise Drive for $1.15 million. According to the minutes from the Plan Commission meeting the Green Bay-based Associated will raze the carwash and build a 3,830 square-foot bank.

Other Associated Bank locations in Washington County are on Highway 60 in Jackson and Slinger and another in Germantown.

Doug Pesch owned the car wash. “I bought it with a couple other partners in 1996 and sold the house and garage on the property for $1,” said Pesch. That house was moved to Alpine Road and later that year Pesch built the five-bay carwash. The 2013 assessment was $486,200.

Village of Kewaskum reviews land donation

More than 150 people crowded into the Municipal Annex building in Kewaskum on Wednesday night to take part in a discussion on whether the village should accept a donation of 31 acres from the Reigle family.

The land is on Edgewood Road and County Highway H. Early plans are to turn it into a sports complex with youth soccer fields and baseball/softball diamonds.  Officials said the park would help ease overcrowding at the Kiwanis Park.

Some highlights from the meeting in Kewaskum:

Quite a few neighbors were concerned about parking, kids walking through their yards to get to the park, the safety of the 2-acre pond, who would maintain the park, will there be lights and night games, what’s the potential cost to the village, and how many mature trees will be removed.

Bob Zarling spoke from the heart. “The motto of the Kiwanis Club is to help the children of the town, one child at a time. Jim Reigle has been a member of Kiwanis for over 50 years and he’s been a very generous supporter. Jim has lived here since 1947 and he’s had his kids in school here and he kept his factory here and he loved the village and to turn down a gift of about $640,000 would be a real slap in the face to a man who has given his life to this community.”

The village will receive about $4,000 a year in taxes from the proposed park.

Funding for the park would come from private donors and corporate sponsors.

The village does not anticipate any expense to maintain the park as that job would be split between the Kewaskum Athletic Association (KAA) and the Kewaskum Youth Soccer Organization.

The village would own the land but would lease it to the Kewaskum Youth Soccer Organization and the KAA.

The early drawings of the proposed park were deemed “a concept plan” as the design is expected to change.

One board member said quite a bit of money could be raised by selling the timber on the property.

The overall feeling in the room appeared to be support for the project…. but many aspects of the proposed plan still needed to be determined.

The Village Board will vote on Monday, Sept. 18 whether to accept the donation. If approved the Village Board will then have to apply for rezoning the land from residential to park/institutional.

New tenants announced for strip mall on S. Main Street

An intimate groundbreaking this week at1721-1775 S. Main Street in West Bend as officials from Inland Real Estate made their new strip mall project official.

Larry Sajdak, Executive Vice President – Leasing at Inland Commercial Real Estate Services, talked about the 7,200-square-foot addition that’s being built by American Construction Services Inc. of West Bend.

Sajdak outlined a couple new businesses that would be moving in including ATI Physical Therapy, Cricket Wireless (which is currently located inside GameStop on Paradise Drive), and a nail salon. Sajdak said they are also in talks with Firehouse Subs and they should lock in that deal shortly.  “These businesses will really help drive a lot of business to the area,” he said. “The stores are necessity based and Internet resilient.”

Sajdak said they are currently in discussion with Kroger regarding the former Grimm’s Dollar Express on the north side of the grocery store. Sajdak mentioned a “fuel pad” but said it’s “very early in the conversation.”

National Guard soldiers from West Bend to deploy this month

Nearly 30 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers will deploy to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield this fall. An element of the West Bend, Wisconsin-based Detachment one, Company B, 248th Aviation Support Battalion is deploying to the Middle East with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintenance support personnel.

The unit’s Soldiers have trained extensively for this deployment, focusing on aircraft maintenance and their standard soldiering skills. Soldiers from the 248th Aviation have deployed overseas multiple times in support of military operations since Sept. 11, 2001, including in 2010-11 to Iraq and 2006-07 to Kosovo.

The Wisconsin National Guard is currently planning a sendoff ceremony for the deploying soldiers and will announce those details as the unit’s deployment draws near.

Girls try hockey FREE Event at Kettle Moraine Ice Center

On Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. the Kettle Moraine Ice Center and Washington County Youth Hockey Association are sponsoring a Girls Try Hockey Free Event for ages 4-14. All gear will be provided; many coaches and older skaters will be at the rink, ready and eager to help. This is a great opportunity for girls to experience firsthand a featured winter Olympics sport with no monetary commitment.

Public meeting Sept. 14 on reconstruction CTH P

The Washington County Highway Department will be reconstructing County Trunk Highway P from State Highway 60 north to Woodland Drive in the Village and Town of Jackson in 2018.

The project area will be designed to meet current and future traffic needs and improve the safety for the traveling public. The roadway will be closed to through traffic during construction. A public meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 at the Gathering Hall at the Jackson Community Center (N165 W20330 Hickory Lane) from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Updates & tidbits

-Cobblestone Hotels will host a ground breaking for its newest addition to the Cobblestone Family and Wissota Chop House in Hartford on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m.

– There will be a groundbreaking Sunday, Sept. 10 at 9:15 a.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (WELS)  in West Bend as the church/school prepares for a $3.2 million expansion. The expansion will include four additional school classrooms, renovated bathrooms, and a new welcome center. The groundbreaking is open to the public; everyone is reminded to bring their own shovel.

-The 19th Annual Richfield Historical Society Thresheree is Sept. 16 and 17 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. There will be wonderful family-fun activities including a live auction, tractor parade, and kids can build a scarecrow.

-Washington County’s annual Clean Sweep is Saturday, Oct. 7 from 8 a.m. – noon at the Washington County Highway Facility, 900 Lang Street.

-The West Bend VFW Post 1393 is looking for a bar manager, full-time and part-time bartenders. Please send resumes to PO Box 982 West Bend, WI 53095

– Crossroads Music Fest is Saturday, Sept. 23. This year’s free Christian music event is being held at Hartford Town Hall on County Road K in Hartford. From noon – 7 p.m. there will be live music, food, a silent auction, and lots of family-friendly activities.

-The last big bash of the summer is Saturday night, Sept. 9 at the Boltonville Fire Department. The Street Dance starts at 5 p.m. with food and refreshments. There is an $8 donation at the door to see Rebel Grace. Proceeds benefit the volunteer Fire Department.

West Bend Elevator celebrates 70th anniversary with a few hundred friends

The crew at West Bend Elevator rolled out the red carpet for hundreds of guests to help the Gonring / Kratz family celebrate the 70th anniversary of the West Bend Elevator.

Farmers, vendors and friends were treated to an open bar, as well as Nesco’s full of thick slices of steak. Many in attendance spent the evening recounting their affiliation with the mill and memories about owner Johnny Kratz. “I was three years old when my parents bought the mill,” said Joyce (Kratz) Gonring referencing the purchase by Johnny and Grace Kratz in 1947.

Johnny Kratz got his start working at Thiel’s Mill in Slinger. “When Mr. Thiel’s son came out of the service my dad knew there wasn’t room for two young men to be in that company and he went to West Bend,” said Gonring.

The mill was a lifestyle for the Kratz’s. Joyce recalled her youth of being underfoot, her mother driving truck and, as a teen, how her dad called on the boy down the street, 15-year-old Dave Gonring.

“I was outside my home on N. Ninth Avenue in West Bend, the Kratz’s lived one house over and Joyce came up and said my dad wants to talk to you,” said Dave Gonring.

“I went down to see what he wanted and he asked if I wanted a job. I think he wanted to find out if I was good enough to take his daughter out.” Shortly thereafter, in 1957, Dave Gonring stepped into the elevator business.

“I had yet to acquire a driver’s license so I was assigned to shovel off trucks, unload cars and I learned how to tie a miller’s knot; I was a dumb city kid ya know,” said Dave Gonring.

Those were the days when the elevator’s primary business was grinding feed, corn and small grains, later shipped in bags.

For 120 years the elevator was located on a modest site at 204 Wisconsin St.

Neighboring businesses included Kasten Oil to the south of the mill, Standard Oil, Brittingham & Hixon Lumber Company, Gehl Company, Cooley Box Factory, Cooley International, Enger Kress, White House Milk and Home Lumberyard to the north.

There were dedicated employees at the West Bend Elevator like Herbie Melbinger, Syl Van Beek, and Ira Weber Jr. The mill was a gathering place in town and John Kratz new ‘99.9 percent of his customers by name.’

“He was a jolly man,” said Loran Butzlaff of Kewaskum. “I knew him for over 50 years; he had a good reputation and was a good businessman.”

Joyce Gonring, 74, recalled the challenges of operating alongside the Chicago and North Western Railway. “It would just be forever when they were moving trains and how long it would take to get across Highway 33 to the elevator,” she said.

Active in the community and on the County Board, John Kratz knew he was hemmed in downtown and had the foresight to invest in seven parcels by, what was then a two-lane road called Highway 45.

“The West Bend Elevator had no room for expansion and that was very much in the plans,” said Joyce Gonring.

In May of 1980 the West Bend Elevator completed the move to its current location on Hwy D.

In January 1987, John Kratz passed away and Dave, 75, and Joyce Gonring took over the business.

“We have about 700,000 bushels of storage now in our silos,” said Dave Gonring. “We’re up to 31 employees and we like to hold these gatherings just to show appreciation for all the people who have shown their support all these years.”

The sad part, according to Dave, is all the people that are missing. He hesitates to start listing names including Tony and Bud Goebel. “Those fellas were from up in the Holy Land,” said Dave. To this day the West Bend Elevator has been staffed by four generations of the Kratz/Gonring family and the Elevator has stayed true to its mission statement instilling a tradition of dedication to customers and providing them with the high quality supplies and service.     History photo courtesy West Bend Elevator

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