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0810, 26 Sep 15

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Proposed senior apartments on Veterans Avenue

Some business leaders in the community are speaking out about the proposed senior housing development on Veterans Avenue. Several weeks ago the West Bend Common Council voted unanimously to approve an Offer to Purchase 1.2 acres of property in TIF No. 5 and 9 which is currently green space located to the south of the Museum of Wisconsin Art to the roundabout on Water Street.

The offer was made by Bob Bach, Project Manager at P2 Development Company LLC in Saukville. He is proposing a $5 million housing development. That property had been sitting empty the last 10 years.

The Thomas J. Rolfs Foundation, Inc. had also submitted to the city of West Bend a Vacant Land Offer to Purchase dated and signed on August 4, 2015. The offer had an acceptance date of on or before August 20, 2015. The offer was neither accepted nor countered.

“From a BID perspective it makes sense to put the building there because of the increment and the money that we would get coming into the BID,” Mike Husar, president of the downtown Business Improvement District, said.

Husar made clear he was giving his own opinion and not the BID’s regarding the development.

“However, I don’t believe putting a three or four story apartment building next to the arts center makes any sense at all,” he said.

Husar emphasized he had been talking about using the parcel on Veterans Avenue as green space for the past year and a half. “I understand the increment but sometime we need to look into the future at what’s in the best interest of the entire community long term and not just today,” he said.

“It’s a perfect place to put Germanfest, the Farmers’ Market and all of those venues. They should close Veterans Avenue, make it a walking area, put everything over in the Gehl lot, including parking and make the green space part of the Milwaukee River restoration project.”

Prudence Pick Hway is president of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Wisconsin Art. The organization has deliberately withheld commenting on the situation, although Hway confirmed the board has its vision too concerning the space to the south of the museum.

‘The board of directors of any institution and most importantly, nonprofits, have to concerned they have a fiduciary responsibility for the sustainability of the organization and in this case MOWA,” she said. “We’ve always tried to be good corporate citizens and we believe in our roll we can enhance and improve, from every aspect including quality of life and economic development, the present and future of West Bend.”

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow acknowledged he felt the pushback on the multi-level apartment proposal. “My job last week was to get punched in the face a couple of times and hopefully, if this is going to stay green, I can organize the people to get together to have that conversation,” he said.

A possible compromise appears to be in the works and Sadownikow said progress is being made.

“I’ve invested probably 60 – 80 hours in the last three weeks with some folks to try and find a way to keep that space green,” said Sadownikow. “What it would mean is the museum stepping up to the plate and making an offer that would be of interest to the council and at the same time this developer would have to agree to look at a different site.”

Sadownikow said he understood why the museum would like to keep it green, but…. “I understand their motivation but there are some economic realities we have to face,” he said.

Those realities include a TIF district that’s been failing for over 10 years.

Sadownikow made clear the city has not sold the property. “All the council did was approve an Offer to Purchase,” he said. “The developer (Robert Bach) still has to come back with plans, he still has to come back and commit that the apartments will be market-rate apartments for those age 55 and older.”

Sadownikow said the challenging balance is, “Is there a way to gain the positive benefits of the development and at the same time keep the space green and at the same time be true to the TIF district.”  The council will move into closed session on Monday, Oct. 5 to receive an update on the situation.

Remembering Yogi Berra

Fond memories of Yogi Berra were shared this week as Doug Gonring remembered the Berra from 1986 when he was in spring training with the Houston Astros.

“I was about 23 years old and I lived in Mrs. Gloria Wright’s basement my second year in pro ball and she had a little fan club that called me ‘Little Yogi,’” said Gonring.

Relaxing in his office chair with the West Bend Elevator dogs at his side, Gonring kicked back and reminisced about bench coach Berra and Mrs. Wright. “She housed a couple minor leaguers and she thought I looked like Yogi Berra,” he said.

At spring training Yogi Berra came into the clubhouse and that’s where Gonring learned what for.  “‘Where is this Little Yogi,’” said Gonring doing a gruff Berra impersonation. “I stood up and raised my hand and he looked at me and said, ‘You’re too damn big to be a Little Yogi’ and he turned and walked out. I knew he liked me from then on.”

Gonring heard the news of Berra’s death on the radio Tuesday. “I thought about the Hummel statue my grandma got me of Yogi,” he said. “I never got his autograph or my picture taken with him. We didn’t have ‘selfies’ back then – somebody would have had to have taken your picture.”

An “icon of the game” is how Gonring describes Berra. “None of the kids know about his service in World War II; it’s a shame,” Gonring said. “Everybody loved Yogi. It wasn’t because of his coaching ability; he did things everybody dreamed about doing.”

Humble and a “man who held a presence” is how Gonring described him. “Yogi was always the darling of baseball – short and pudgy. He was a three time MVP and won 10 World Series; he was a pretty special man.”

Gonring recalled walking down to the ballpark. “I saw him and called him Mr. Berra and he stopped me in my steps and said, ‘I don’t call you Player Gonring, my name is Yogi and you call me Yogi.’  Here I am getting my ass chewed out by a Hall of Famer,” said Gonring.

“Baseball will miss him,” said Gonring. “I’m going to miss him. To be able to say I walked on the same field as Yogi – that’s my little claim to fame.”

Husar’s praise WBPD for capturing robbery suspects

The West Bend Police Department announcing this week that five people from Detroit, Michigan have been indicted in the Dec. 29, 2014 robbery of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds, 131 N. Main Street in West Bend. “I always thought they would find them but I didn’t think they’d find them this fast,” Mike Husar said during a one-on-one conversation Tuesday evening.

Husar credited the “due diligence and fortitude of the West Bend Police Department” with keeping the case in front of the FBI and eventually solving the crime.

“They were staying in very close contact with us,” said Husar. “It was because of Detective McCarthy’s push and the police chief and Detective Richard Lucka and the entire detective bureau at the West Bend Police Department, their pushing the feds to keep working; without their initiative this would have never happened.”

Husar confirmed, even though the robbery happened in December they knew eventually they would be hit because of the crime wave sweeping across the country.  “They were checking us out,” said Husar acknowledging an earlier attempt the robbers made to case the store.

“Through the efforts and alertness of our staff and the response of the West Bend Police Department we stalled it,” he said. “But the size of this group, they’re very patient and they couldn’t get us when it was slow – they had to get us when it was busy and everybody’s guard would not be on high alert and that’s why they hit when they did.”

Starting in July 2014 the smash-and-grab robberies were a crime spree making its way across the state. Witness complaints and surveillance video all caught the brazen crimes – men wearing hoodies, smashed display cases with hammers and snatching pricey merchandise before running out of the store. Rolex watches were key item.

The incident at Husar’s following a similar pattern. On Monday just before 4 p.m. five men walked into the store with hammers, shattered a display case and stole a number of high-end watches. The incident took about 30 seconds and Mike Husar said, “The robbers were professionals.”

“We had customers in the store at the time,” Mike Husar said praising his staff.  Multiple calls were made to police and Mike Husar said they were at the store in a matter of moments. “It is unnerving,” he said.

The West Bend police detective bureau, working in conjunction with the FBI, made several trips to Detroit to interview suspects. Husar said they were notified about a week ago that police had made headway. Husar initially thought all the merchandise was pawned to the Far East. He doesn’t expect he’ll get any items back because the insurance company paid out on the claim.

“It’s important for people to realize West Bend is a safe community,” said Husar. “Things happen but because of the due diligence of the West Bend Police Department this is a very safe community. This department has the ability to solve major crime and keep crime out of this community.”

Trying out for the Milwaukee Bucks drumline 

Three students from the West Bend High Schools drumline are still awaiting word to see whether they made the Milwaukee Bucks drumline. Troy Matenaer, Carlitos Salazar and Duwayne Davis drove down to the Bradley Center on Friday evening to tryout.  “There were about 40 people there,” Matenaer, a West senior, said.

Matenaer said they all tried out in a group. “First we played ‘eight on a hand’ which is like a warm up, then we played ‘double beat’ which is another warm up, then we played a piece the Milwaukee Bucks drumline play at half time,” he said.

“We think Duwayne made it because when we rotated people the person in charge would say ‘you stay’ if he liked you,” Matenaer said. “Carlitos and I would rotate a bit but Duwayne was in a good portion of the time.”

Aside from the nervous audition, Matenaer said the Bucks drumline instructors made it clear that this position was demanding. “They said you have to be dedicated because the Bucks drumline plays about half the home games and then they play in the community a lot,” he said. “They said they would have some alternates come play so maybe Carlitos or I would get a call.”

The age range of the people who tried out was between 16 and 40 years old. Matenaer said, on the drive down to Milwaukee they talked about being nervous and on the way back they talked about similar things. “Duwayne talked about how we were all going to make it and on the way back me and Carlitos were kinda bummed but Duwayne praised all of us. He was really nice about it,” Matenaer said.

High School Band Director Leah Duckert praise all three boys for their effort. “I’m amazingly proud,” she said. “It shows how courageous they are and how much integrity they have and it shows their work ethic. They know they just can’t walk in and blow through the audition. These kids are practicing hours a night so that shows their determination too.”

Bergmann’s Appliance & TV opens in new location

The sign for the new Bergmann’s Appliance & TV is in place at 205 Kettle Moraine Drive N. in Slinger. The store, previously at 111 Kettle Moraine Drive N., just finished moving 800 feet up the street. “We needed more parking,” store manager Jeanine McElhatton said. “The ball tournaments affected us and then when the Slinger House did its remodel there was no parking.” Bergmann’s features one name, two stores and three departments which include electronics, appliances, bedding and lift chairs. More information is available at

Updates & tidbits

A couple of updates on property sales. Steven Kearns sold his home, 4505 Arthur Road in the Town of Polk to Itex Millennium Manor LLC for $1.6 million and neighbors Joseph Menter Jr. and his wife Kathleen sold their home, 4509 Arthur Road, to the same buyer for $3.25 million.

-The property sale has also been posted for the former Coachman House/ Club Ten 06, 1006 S. Main Street in West Bend. The property sold to LCM Funds 19 Kenosha LLC for $320,000 on Sept. 10, 2015.

The haunted cornfield is up and running at Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm.

– Jennifer Lenzendorf has opened AIMS Fitness LLC at 3130 Newark Dr.  She is the third generation family business in that spot.

– Raymond E. Moser, age 88, passed away Friday, September 18, 2015, at St. Joseph Hospital of West Bend. He was born on March 3, 1927 in Barton to William and Evelyn (nee Falk) Moser.  He married the love of his life, Wyleene (nee Falk) Moser from Georgia. A celebration of life will be held on March 13, 2016 at the Chandelier Ballroom (Hartford).

American Legion members in Allenton celebrate 70 years

Five members of the American Legion Post 483 in Allenton were recognized for their longevity with a special tribute last weekend.  Joe Reinders, Willard Derge and Roy (Rex) Weyer all received certificates for being a member in good standing of the American Legion continuously for the period of 70 years. Francis Nenning and Joe Spaeth received a certificate for 60 years with the American Legion.

Assembly Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) is a member of Legion Post 483. “There are not a lot of people in society today who have this kind of commitment to stay in an organization for 40, 50, 60, or 70 years,” Kremer said. “We have a floor session this week in the assembly and I’m adjourning in your honor and talking about these Legion members; you will also be receiving plaques from the state.”

Willard Derge, 90, enlisted in the Navy in 1944 when he was 18 years old. Derge served as the ships baker on the USS Lycoming – APA-155 and he baked 600 loaves of bread a day. “My ship was part of the Okinawa invasion,” said Derge. “When I saw many Japanese suicide bombers attacking U.S. ships, this is where I saw just how ugly war can be but the good Lord brought our ship and crew home safe.”

Joe Reinders, 90, was drafted into the Marines Dec. 1943 – June 1946. “It took 14 days to cross the ocean,” he said. A World War II veteran, Reinders was involved in three different campaigns including the Battle of the Bulge. Reinders has also been member of the Honor Guard for 65 years.

Roy (Rex) Weyer was in the service from Feb. 12, 1945 – Nov. 21, 1946. He was honored for 70 years with the Legion.

Korean War veteran Joe Spaeth, 85, from the town of West Bend was 21 years old when he was drafted into the Army on March 28, 1951.”I was a mechanic for Weiss Hardware in Allenton on the corner of Main Street,” Spaeth said. Basic training was at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and then Spaeth was flown to Korea. “I was part of the 74th battalion combat engineers. Charged with maintaining roads, Spaeth worked as a grader. Corporal Spaeth returned home to his job at Weiss Hardware after being discharged Dec. 27, 1952.

Francis Nenning was born in 1925 and served in the Army from March 22, 1946 – Dec. 8, 1947. He was a private first class with the military police in the Philippine Islands.

History photo – celebrating Homecoming

Next week homecoming celebrations are on tap for the West Bend High Schools. There’s dress-up day, the Powder Puff football games along with the East vs. West varsity football game… and, of course, the homecoming dance.

This 1935 photo, courtesy the Washington County Historical Society, features a float in the homecoming parade – although former WCHS researcher Gene Wendleborn said the parade represented the returning of soldiers and not a high school celebration.

Local historian Jerry Mehring said the young gal with the star crown  and staff is Marita Yahr. “She was a student advisor later at the High School which was where Badger now stands,” he said.   Marilyn Dondlinger said, “The gorgeous young woman on the running board, facing right, is my mom LaVerne Timm Hetzel. She was known to all by the nickname ‘Sunshine.’ My mom and dad, John Hetzel, were married at Holy Angels Church on August 31 of that year.  They raised three children; she was a fantastic cook and bowler.”



0810, 26 September 2015


  1. Steve Austin

    As always great comprehensive piece by Judy.

    Would be a shame if West Bend lost that green space next to the art museum to low income senior housing.

    I always question whether these developers that keep piling into West Bend the last 30 years with their “market rent” projects are materially adding to the tax base versus how their projects impact the nature of the community. Yeah, I said it. Someone needed to.

  2. T of B

    The proposed senior apartment project is not rent subsidized low-income housing. Low income developer tax credit assisted housing would be a remote possibility, but even then the majority of the units would be market rentals. Since there is so much competition for those tax credits (WHEDA), most developers would only do an option to purchase, pending actual award of tax credits.

    In any event, City needs to consider something that “fits”. A 4-story building would be a stick in the eye visually.

  3. Steve Austin

    Appreciate the clarification.

    Still stand by contention that parcel needs something special. The art museum, river, and relocated Binkery anchor things nicely for that space. Tossing apartments in there doesn’t fit.

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