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0739, 12 Dec 15

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Matt Prescott pleased with West Bend Theatre/bridge update

The West Bend Common Council is scheduled to vote January 4, 2016 on the latest effort to save the bridge from demolition behind the West Bend Theatre. Developers have deemed the bridge an integral part of revitalizing the theatre.

This week there was a unanimous decision by the Downtown West Bend BID Board to cover any expenses related to the removal of the bridge, up to $75,000, should an effort to save the bridge fall short.

“This is huge for the momentum of the restoration right now,” said Matt Prescott, owner of the West Bend Theatre. Prescott and his company, Madison-based Ascendant Holdings, bought the theatre in May 2012.

“This is great news because the majority of the people connected to the restoration are pretty convinced the bridge is an essential part and certainly the city is in a no lose situation. This is certainly great for the theatre.”

Three years ago when Prescott purchased the theatre his intentions were simply to “restore the theater to its historic status” by demolishing the newer additions inside, hollowing it out and getting it back to the configuration of the old theatre.

“I want to stabilize it, get the roof back in shape and clean it up – so we know what we’re sitting on and see what uses people might come up with,” he said in 2012.

“This is exactly how I saw it playing out,” said Prescott on Thursday. “I wouldn’t have minded if it happened a little sooner but we bought it (the theatre) to stop it from deteriorating so people could see the potential the building had.”

Prescott said the next phase of the project is now starting to take shape. He said he is encouraged by a group of people coming together to officially start the restoration process.

“The bridge was important for the people to take the time, put the group together and determine how much time, energy and money to put in,” he said.

As far as the Prescott commitment is concerned, he said, “I still own the theatre. I’m holding it for now for this effort and I’m fully supportive of it.”

Questioned whether he planned to sell, Prescott said that had “yet to be determined.”

“If I do it or my family donates it has yet to be determined,” said Prescott. “I’m fully supportive as is my dad, George Prescott. It would be hard to imagine the Prescotts not involved in some way, shape and form going forward.”

One more step forward to saving the theatre/bridge

The Downtown West Bend BID Board met Thursday morning and voted unanimously to cover a surety, up to a $75,000 on the theatre bridge.

That means if the project to rehab the bridge does not move forward by January 31, 2017 and the bridge has to come down the BID would be responsible for covering that cost.

The reason the surety is need is because in the coming weeks the mayor is going to go before the Common Council and try to convince them to waive a $45,000 federal grant to cover demolition of the bridge. “I have to protect the taxpayers,” said Mayor Kraig Sadownikow.

The mayor was clear he supported the bridge project but if something happens he does not want to leave taxpayers holding the bag. “It’s not reasonable to say we swung and missed,” he said.

The surety, if needed, would be paid back to the city by the BID over a 5-year period.

Members of the BID board said the bridge should be retained, not only to help the revitalize the theatre but also to provide access to parking and act as an economic conduit to downtown businesses.

This motion by the BID still needs to be approved by the Common Council and a flood plain study must also still be completed.

Property tax bills arriving this weekend

Neighbors should find an early Christmas present in the mail this weekend as property tax bills have been sent. City of West Bend finance administrator Carrie Winklbauer said the property-tax statements went out Friday. If you can’t wait, log onto the Washington County website and tap in your parcel number and you can get your statement now.

The link:

Couple things to be aware of: this will not work if you’re using Mozilla Firefox as your search engine. You have to use Google Chrome or Internet Explorer version 9.  Winklbauer said a couple people have already come in and paid their property taxes. The lottery-tax credit for this year is $92.02 which is a bit less than last year, $94.75. The first-dollar credit is $56.96 which is a smidge more than last year at $55.99.

Holy Angels sponsors Family Promise Christmas dinner  

The Walnut Room at Holy Angels School in West Bend was bursting with holiday spirit Thursday evening as teachers hosted children and their parents from Family Promise from a Christmas dinner.

“Texas Roadhouse donated the meal, Starbucks and McDonald’s donated the drinks and Pick n’ Save donated the cookie decorating material,” Renee Altendorf, teacher and event organizer, said.

The evening started around 5:30 p.m. with a sit down supper followed by cookie decorating, arts and crafts and a rather heated game of ping pong. “They loved the food, running around in the open space and the kids really love the ping pong,” said Altendorf.

About 45 people were treated to dinner including Family Promise board member Mike Bloedorn. “This program shows the families the community cares about them,” he said. “It’s a great evening of camaraderie.”

To cap off the evening Santa and Mrs. Claus made a surprise appearance. The couple came armed with baskets of candy canes and a few early Christmas gifts. Family Promise is a nonprofit organization, located in the former Restat building on Elm Street, that provides food and shelter for homeless families.

New amphitheatre unveiled by West Bend Mutual

“This isn’t Summerfest but it’s our little piece of Summerfest,” Joshua Schoemann, Washington County administrator, said. The new 50 x 100-foot stage, financed in partnership with West Bend Mutual Insurance, is part of a plan to upgrade the facilities at Washington County Fair Park and attract new talent to the venue.

Construction of the new amphitheater stage is expected to begin in early spring 2016 and be completed in time for the June 15, 2016 Washington County Fair.

Tidbits from the press conference:

-“Our admissions are remaining the same,” said Sandy Lang, executive director of Washington Co. Fair Park and Conference Center. There will be no additional charges to see a performance from the grassy hill at the Silver Lining Amphitheater during the fair.

-“This is permanent and it will be attractive to other venues coming in,” said Lang. “It’s a win, win all around.”

-“Bids will be let in January and the existing stage will be totally removed and that work will begin soon,” said Chris Zwygart, vice president-chief risk officer at West Bend Mutual

-None of the current policy holders will see a rate increase because of this project. “We are pleased, as part of our philanthropy program, to set aside money in a charitable trust that helps us with charitable contributions and that allows us to draw from that trust without affecting insurance premiums,” said Zwygart. “Making our community a better place to live and work is beneficial for everyone including our company and our policy holders. When we’re able to attract individuals of higher talent to serve our policy holders, everybody wins including the community.”

-“And the taxes won’t go up for people in the community so they win twice,” said Schoemann.

-“I never thought this would happen for the Washington County Fair Grounds,” Lang said. “In the long run this will help draw more than the six days of the county fair.”

-“We chose a gift to Washington County because this is a place we’ve considered home,” Zwygart said. “This has been our home the last 120 years and the community has been very supportive of us and that’s why we wanted to give this gift back to this community.”

-“We wanted to hit the sweet spot with some of the design elements that Summerfest may have but we also have the at-home feel that a smaller community would have,” said Zwygart.

-“The idea of having more acts, smaller acts is definitely a possibility,” said Zwygart.

-“Thank you, thank you, thank you to West Bend Mutual Insurance Company,” County Board Chairman Herb Tennies said. “This will help make the Washington County Fair Park one of the best in Wisconsin.”

Lighthouse gone at Lighthouse Lanes

A local landmark has been razed as the lighthouse on the corner of Lighthouse Lane and Sleepy Hollow Road has been torn down.

Jim Otten from Kettle Moraine Appliance bought the building. He’s gutting it and using it for storage. On Saturday the demolition got underway which included bringing down the classic lighthouse that became a local landmark.

Records in the Research Center at the Washington County Historical Society show the building dates to the late 1930s when it was a tavern and gas station located along the old Highway 55.

Harold and Alice Laubenstein from Cedarburg purchased the Lighthouse Lanes and Bowling Alley in the mid-1940s. The couple added a dance hall and called the place Lighthouse Ballroom. Other owners were John Bertram who ran it as Lighthouse Lanes Dance Hall and Art and Edna Sepersky who owned and operated Lighthouse Lanes from 1952 until Art retired in 1982.

Details on the construction of the lighthouse are sketchy. “It was built as an attraction,” said Sepersky. He recalled there used to be 8-foot high neon bowling pins decorating the roof. Wedding dances were held until 1949 when 10 bowling lanes replaced the dance floor.

Fundraiser for the Rick Riehl family

Fundraiser basketball game for Rick Riehl: Former West Bend East English teacher and basketball coach Rick Riehl inspired many and on Dec. 18 the West Bend East girls basketball team will take on West Bend West and a fundraiser will be hosted for the family of Rick Riehl. According to East varsity basketball mom Cathy Zettler there will be a 50/50 raffle, basket raffles and a silent auction. Concessions will also be open. All the fun starts at 5:30 p.m.

Home sales up in November in Washington County

Solid gains in home sales for the month of November in Washington County according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. Overall in the Metro Milwaukee market home sales were up 5.0 percent as 1,182 homes sold in November compared to 1,126 the same month in 2014. Comparing the numbers to 2013, sales were up 6.9 percent (1,106 in ’13). In Washington County the November sales grew by almost 25 percent compared to a year ago.

According to the GMAR, “November was the tenth consecutive month of positive sales this year. A good sign the market is running smoothly, but not overheating, because of factors like limited growth in household income and availability of credit.” As far as inventory is concerned, November was the fourth consecutive month and sixth month this year, new listings decreased.

Looking ahead, the GMAR said “it is almost a foregone conclusion that the Fed will begin a process of increasing interest rates as soon as this month (December). A Fed interest rate increase will probably have a mild impact on mortgage rates initially, because the mere discussion of interest rate increases (particularly inflation expectations) causes a reaction in the long-term bond market, which has been mild thus far. But, as rates tick up throughout 2016 they may force buyers to get off the fence.”

Pooch Palace on the move

Within the next few weeks Pooch Palace will be setting up shop around the corner from its current location, 827 S. Main St. The shop is opening in the former Snap Fitness, just to the south of Jeff’s Spirits in the Decorah Shopping Center. The new location will feature a couple of grooming rooms, a bathing room, kennels and tons of space for a new doggie daycare. Pooch Palace was established in 1996. Owner Dawn Dunker said customers come from all across Washington County, neighboring counties and one person even brought their dog in from Canada.

Hundreds turn out for Husar’s Diamond Dash

Fantastic family fun during the inaugural Husar’s Diamond Dash held Sunday at Enchantment in the Park. Tim Zellmer, 23, of Elm Grove finished in first place (15:37) and Sue Miller, 41, of West Bend was the first woman to cross the finish at 19:23.  En Fuego got everyone warmed up with a bit of Zumba to Mariah Carey prior to the start of the 5K which made three laps through the lights of Enchantment in the Park. Money raised during the Diamond Dash benefited the Full Shelf Food Pantry.

Mosaic event at the Museum of Wisconsin Art 

Hundreds of people turned out Friday evening at the Museum of Wisconsin Art to celebrate the Volunteer Centers Community Mosaic. There were 320 squares and West Bend Police Captain Tim Dehring was called to explain his square. “What did West Bend mean 300 years ago and what will it be 300 years from now,” he said.

Looking to present a larger picture, Dehring took his canvas and soaked it in the Milwaukee River for a week. “I buried it in the earth of West Bend for a week, I made a tea of leaves, evergreens and grass clippings and then I let it sit in the sun for a week,” Dehring said.

After West Bend became soaked into the canvas, Dehring made a wood-carving stamp of a print of the Milwaukee River which flowed in blue paint through town. “This really is about West Bend being infused; the people and the nature and really our community,” said Dehring.

The Volunteer Centers Sue Millian said, while beautiful – Dehring’s artwork did have a slight aroma…. but for a good cause. Money raised during the evening benefited the Volunteer Center of Washington County. The primary sponsor for the evening was Delta Defense.

Mary Hafeman named American Top 50

Mary Hafeman has been selected as one of the 2015 Golf Range Association of America Top 50 Growth of the Game Teaching Professionals. “This especially exciting for me since GRAA receives an outstanding batch of applicants for this honor and I have been selected from a group of highly regarded teachers,” Hafeman said.

A professional golfer for over 30 years, Hafeman’s parents introduced her to the game when she was 10 years old. “It’s just as exciting as when I started coaching and introducing golf to my students,” she said.

Hafeman’s experience playing on the LPGA Tour has given her an advantage to coach a person to lower their score, talk about strategies, adapt to pressure, and get results they want. Hafeman is in the process of putting together 2016 plans for a LPGA Girls Golf Program for 6- 16 year olds and PGA Junior Sports Academy for both boys and girls 9-14.  More information can be found at Hafeman’s website

Local students recognized for Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy

During Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting students from the middle schools and high schools were recognized for their participation in the local VFW’s Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests.

The Patriot’s Pen Essay contest required students to write an essay based on the theme, “What Freedom Means to Me.” The top 10 students from the Patriot’s Pen contest were: Maya Butschlick, Sawyer Felten, and Dawson Zillmer, Grace Biermann, Reagan Dricken, Rhea Dricken, Mason Schulteis, Regann Roth, McKenzie Van Beek. First place was Sam Amerling who received a check for $100.

The Voice of Democracy contest required high schools students to write an essay and record a 3-5 minute audio rendition of that essay on the theme, “My Vision for America.” Winners included Gemma Claire Urlakis, Grace Marie Urlakis, and Christian Young, Noah Doak, Ryrie Roth, Abigail Doak, and Eve Anna Urlakis. First place went to Quinn Skidmore who received a check for $125.

Updates & Tidbits

Santa’s coming to the West Bend Airport at 8:30 a.m. today, Saturday, Dec. 12. The event is open to the public. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson will be serving up breakfast.

The 12 Days of Christmas at Savoring Thyme, 248 N. Main St., features a different special each day. Visit to get each day’s special. Open Monday – Friday next week until 7 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

-Quite a few holiday concerts on tap in the next week at Hartford Union High School. Monday, Dec. 14 is the bands Jazz Holiday Concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 it’s the Orchestra Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 21 is the Choral Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m.

– An odd smell was reported at Green Tree Elementary School in West Bend around 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The Fire Department responded as did We Energies. Crews did a complete evaluation of the building as students and staff were moved to the playground and eventually dismissed at the regular end of day. “The safety of our students is our primary concern,” said Principal Katie Weyer. Emergency crews did not find any air-quality concerns. Weyer said they have “no reason to believe there are any issues in the school.” Initial findings were that the odor could be due to a back draft related to the high winds that day.

– The West Bend High School Drumline will be recognized during the Jan. 11 meeting of the West Bend School Board. A proclamation will be read in their honor.

-Michael Desmond, gas jockey at Paradise Shell in West Bend, is directing a Christmas program on behalf of St. Peter’s Parish at Slinger Elementary School on Dec. 20 at 9 a.m.

– November students of the month from Holy Angels School in West Bend were sixth grader Will Mueller, seventh grader Ellie Meurer and eighth grader McKenzie Zywicki.

Christmas past in downtown West Bend

A bunch of kids in December 1910 stand outside a storefront in downtown West Bend waiting for Santa. The picture was taken in front of the A.C. Fuge Hardware Co. located on the east side of S. Main Street. The building is currently the site of the old Stewart-Peterson. The Washington County Historical Society Research Center said obviously “the building has been extensively remodeled.”12311148_1666175260331435_3822016544596702195_n


0739, 12 December 2015


  1. Steve Austin

    If the Prescott’s want to rebuild the bridge to nowhere and revamp the theater, that would be wonderful. However the quotes above don’t sound necessarily like they want to commit to doing that. That’s ok and understandable, but you’d hate to lose that federal grant to tear it down in the meantime.

    Of course why the federal government is granting money to West Bend to tear down a tiny local bridge is the topic for another post.

  2. T of B

    Lot of moving parts with the theater/bridge thing but what is being put out there is a nonprofit entity owning it and raising funds for renovations & operations. Something called the West Bend Cultural Alliance. Estimated renovation cost is $3,000,000. I think Matt Prescott is telegraphing the potential for his family to contribute to that endeavor, by donation of the building and maybe more. Most philanthropists don’t want to be the only “money horse” – want to see other people at the table.

  3. Dale Kent

    The picture showing Christmas past in WB is interesting. It’s dated December 1910. You’ll notice there is no snow. Must have been climate change.

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