‘This may be my last meeting’: Board trustee walks out during Village Board public hearing

By Andrew Harrington
Posted 6/5/24

Through about an hour of listening to comments from the public, Board Trustee Tom Schutz walking out the door and a pair of amendments, the Ellsworth Village Board approved Grant Street and Piety …

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‘This may be my last meeting’: Board trustee walks out during Village Board public hearing


Through about an hour of listening to comments from the public, Board Trustee Tom Schutz walking out the door and a pair of amendments, the Ellsworth Village Board approved Grant Street and Piety Street special assessments June 3.

The special assessments are in the amount of 50% of the costs of curb and gutter, sidewalk, multi-use trail and water and sewer laterals and 100% of the cost of driveway apron construction, according to village documents.

The special assessments will be for the east and west sides of North Grant Street from the intersection of Cairns Street to Main Street, the east and west sides of South Piety Street from the intersection of Main Street to West Humble Avenue, the north and south sides of Woodworth Street from Grant Street to Chestnut Street and the north and south sides of Strickland Street from Piety to Grant Street.

Discussions on May 16 extended the proposed pay period for residents from three years to five years at a 6% interest rate.

The June 3 meeting saw more amendments to the proposal, as the period to pay back the assessment was increased to 15 years, with the plan for a multi-use asphalt trail being changed to a concrete sidewalk. The pay period begins when construction is complete. The assessment can be paid back in fewer years if the property owner chooses.

According to Administrator/Clerk-Treasurer Brad Roy, options for the project bid for companies include either the option to begin and complete the project by the end of the 2025 construction season or the option for the company to begin and complete the Grant Street portion of the project during the 2024 season, but it must be complete by the Oct. 15 deadline. The rest of the project would be completed in 2025. Regardless of the options, the pay period would not begin until the entire project is completed, so payments would not begin in 2024.

The most-mentioned points of concern from the public included having a multi-use trail rather than a sidewalk, a current perceived lack of safety on Grant Street, the repayment terms, truck traffic and a lack of transparency with the residents.

The proposal originally included an 8-foot-wide multi-use trail that would allow for bicycle and foot traffic as part of the project. Due to the public speaking out about the project, the board eventually amended the proposal to replace the multi-use trail with concrete sidewalk. While the sidewalk may pose a higher cost to residents, many felt it would be a better fit in the community.

Some cited the difficulty to maintain asphalt, the way it would look in the community, claiming the width of the trail is unnecessary and more before it was amended out of the proposal.

“The term penny wise, pound foolish comes to mind,” resident Matt Mason said. “Repairs are going to be continual with that, and I would assume within 15 years you’re going to be assessing us again for a replacement.”

Schutz raised a question about whether Village Board President Becky Beissel values the taxpayers or “beautify”-ing the village more.

“Quoted, right from you Becky, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to beautify this town,’” Schutz said. “And on the taxpayers' dollars, you’re making quotes like that.”

Beissel denied saying the quote Schutz mentioned before Schutz asked Beissel to “own up to it.”

Schutz continued, mentioning the possibility of leaving the board entirely.

“This may be my last meeting because I’m so sick of this frickin’ board lying,” Schutz said.

“I’m done,” Schutz said before walking out the door.

Resident Wendy Riester spoke as Schutz was departing, questioning where tax dollars go.

“It’s concerning to me, living here for this long and not seeing where my dollars are going,” Riester said. “Except for making things look pretty.”

Beissel said the budget is on the village’s website and available for people to see where their money is going.

Trustee Andrew Borner said the board has made and is continuing to make efforts to spend responsibly.

“My first year I sat on the finance board,” Borner said. “We had to cut $750,000 from our budget.”

Beissel was asked about why the multi-use trail was proposed, and said it was less costly and sounded like a “creative solution.” Beissel said the concerns of the public were not brought to her attention during the proposal process.

“We had several meetings and didn’t get feedback from the community,” Beissel said.

Attendees said they did not provide feedback because they were not aware of the project.

Some residents said truck traffic on Grant Street has gotten out of hand, bringing loud noise, increased danger to pedestrians and wear and tear to the road. While it was not a part of the proposal, members of the board expressed interest in rezoning the area to not allow for truck traffic, and Beissel said discussions for restricting truck traffic in the area have started already.

Residents called for action regarding the safety on Grant Street, with claims of drivers hitting 60 miles per hour, drivers that “nearly go airborne,” accidents and close calls.

Prior to leaving the meeting, Schutz recalled a dangerous encounter on the day of the meeting.

“I was going north on North Grant this morning with the school bus,” Schutz said. “I got right by West Charlotte, and I was going to let a kid out and a car came over that hill so frickin’ fast.”

A common theme brought up through the public hearing was transparency with the residents. While a notice was sent to the affected properties, the residents felt a lack of information was provided including how much they would owe and what the repayment would look like.

“You guys decide all this stuff behind closed doors, and then we got this person on Facebook and that person on whatever,” Marlene Lansing said. “Why isn’t this made public to us? We are the taxpayers.”

Ellsworth Village Board, Grant Street, Piety Street, special assessments, curbs, sidewalks, Tom Schutz, Ellsworth, Wisconsin