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Guilty verdict in 1999 Germantown murder

Nov. 10, 2010 4:44 p.m. | A Washington County jury took less than three hours to return a guilty verdict against a man charged in the brutal slaying of a co-worker outside the Germantown box factory where they worked in 1999.

Mark J. Libecki, 49, had testified in his own defense Tuesday, telling jurors that a third co-worker, from whom Libecki was buying cocaine inside Libecki's SUV, had killed Theresa Wesolowski, 22, while she was in the back seat with him. Libecki said the other man, Tommy J. Thompson, threatened to kill him, too, if he ever talked about the crime, and Libecki never did for 7 1/2 years, even after Thompson died in 2003.

Before closing arguments in the case Wednesday, Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen amended the charging document to first-degree intentional homicide, from the same charge as party to a crime. As a result, Libecki, of Theresa in Dodge County, faces life in prison at his sentencing Feb. 3.

His trial began Nov. 8 in West Bend before Washington County Circuit Judge Andrew Gonring.

Wesolowski's murder had frustrated authorities for years. She was found dead in the gutter near her car about a block from Stone Container, W180-N11900 River Lane. She had been stabbed more than 40 times. Investigators at first focused on her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend.

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Trustee Lemmer explains Kwik Trip vote

Nov. 19, 2014 11:50 a.m. | Bonnie Lemmer, the only Menomonee Falls Village Board member to vote against allowing a new Kwik Trip in that community, has responded to my request for comment.

Lemmer didn't get back to me in time to make the deadline for Tuesday's blog post (and Wednesday's print edition story) about the board vote. But here's some excerpts from an email I received from her late Tuesday night.

"I tried to find out why the Board voted against the Kwik Trip on Silver Spring near Lilly Rd. about three years ago. I could not find the answer. That would been a better spot with a four lane highway and a double width boulevard.

"As much as I would like a Kwik Trip in the Falls, I had concerns. After looking over the petitions, both for and against, there were many signatures of people that didn't even live in Menomonee Falls. Most people I heard from that wanted the Kwik Trip did not live near the area. I know many people at the Planning Commission meeting were for the proposal.

"My concerns were:

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UberDork Cafe opens in Falls

Nov. 19, 2014 10:27 a.m. | Welcome - UberDork Cafe

Welcome to Natali Heuss owner of one of our newest businesses downtown - UberDork Cafe. Natali grew up in Menomonee Falls and was always looking for a place to take her 2 children for art and science classes, games, and a little geekness thrown in but couldn't find such a place so she decided to create it.

She chose downtown Menomonee Falls because she believes it is easy to find, there is lots going on already down here and thinks that downtowns are the heart of a town and she says she is all about the love.

Uberdork Cafe is a many-colored entity. From a cafe offering beverages and snacks to Art & Science classes being offered.

UberDork is the place for gaming - board and console, as well as working on that scout badge.

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Menomonee Falls approves Kwik Trip plans

Nov. 18, 2014 12:35 p.m. | Menomonee Falls — A highly visible gateway to Menomonee Falls will feature a Kwik Trip gas station in the near future.

Following careful consideration regarding a number of site and building aesthetics over the course of the last couple of months, the board in a 6-1 vote on Nov. 17 approved a conditional-use permit allowing the operation of a convenience store and gas station on a 1.9-acre parcel on the north side of the intersection of Main Street and Pilgrim Road.

Consistent with prior updates to the land use plan and zoning for the property, the plans came to the board after rigorous scrutiny by the plan commission and architectural control board, who have challenged such visual features as the height and type of fencing around the property, the general look of both the building and the canopy above the gas pumps, and the overall appearance of the project as a whole.

A high standard for the site was set from the start of conversations months ago, but ultimately led trustee Bonnie Lemmer to vote against the project.

"I think Kwik Trip is a wonderful company (with) great food and great cappucinno," she said. "My concern is really that corner .. . they're trying to cram so much stuff into a little space. I really feel that Kwik Trip would be wonderful for Menomonee Falls, but I'm really concerned about that area."

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Menomonee Falls approves flat tax rate for 2015

Nov. 18, 2014 11:28 a.m. | Menomonee Falls — In spite of a major change to the operation of the Menomonee Falls Fire Department, taxes for the village portion of the 2014 tax bill will remain the same.

The Menomonee Falls Village Board on Nov. 17 approved a budget that calls for a flat rate of $5.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is the same as 2013. The static rate will support a levy of about $22.41 million, which is up about a percent from last year's $22.20 million.

The budget itself retains the status quo in the majority of areas, Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said, except for what will be a major change to the operations of the fire department.

The main focus of the budget will be increasing the staff at the fire department by 7.1 full-time equivalent positions, to be filled with part-time employees.

"The changes to the fire department is the single most significant change in the village budget," Fitzgerald said. "We've been planning for this over a five- to six-year period, and this is sort of the culmination of that as the new stations come online in 2015. We are ramping up in terms of manpower so we can literally accommodate full-capacity fire and emergency medical service out of those new stations."

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Taxpayers could see small increase to village taxes

Nov. 17, 2014 9:45 p.m. | Germantown — Taxpayers may see a small uptick in the village portion of their tax bill for 2014.

The Germantown Village Board on Nov. 17 approved a budget that calls for an increase of 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, up to $4.97 from $4.66 in 2013. The slightly increased rate will support a levy of about $11.17 million, which is up 0.84 percent from last year's $11.07. The vote was 6-2.

The exact impact the increase will have on the average taxpayer remains unknown, as the village also underwent a revaluation this year that resulted in the average homeowner seeing a 5-percent decrease in assessed value.

"It is an increase, the levy did go up, but the decrease (in assessed value) should result in a minimal increase," Finance Director Kim Rath explained. "But that's if everyone's average."

A similar sense of uncertainty about the ultimate result on tax bills surrounded the school board's approval of the 2014-15 budget earlier this year. Along with the school district, taxpayers in Germantown also pay portions to Washington County and Moraine Park Technical College.

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Germantown moves forward with fire department referendum for 2015

Nov. 17, 2014 9:21 p.m. | Germantown — It could be up to the taxpayers to decide whether they would like a full-time fire department in Germantown, after the village board voted to proceed with preparations for a referendum to appear on the ballot in the spring.

After careful consideration in the board's lengthy discussion on the matter Nov. 17, they voted 6-2 to support putting together a referendum that would allow the village to exceed its levy limit for purposes of employing as many as 16 full-time employees who would man the department 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The bulk of conversation focused on response times, which Fire Chief Gary Weiss has said is one of his main concerns with the way the department operates. The sentiment was echoed by residents in the audience at the meeting, who pleaded with the board to allow residents to voice their opinion in April.

"The difference is in response times alone," said Germantown resident Chris Yatchek. "It can be a matter of life and death and property loss or minor damage."

Matters of that multitude should be decided by the residents of the village, added Stephanie Lietzau-Erdmann, rather than the board it elects.

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CMH earns "Top Performer" recognition

Nov. 17, 2014 10:29 a.m. | Menomonee Falls — For the second straight year, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Community Memorial Hospital was recognized as a 2013 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission. Only 712 of the nation's nearly 6,000 hospitals achieved the Top Performer distinction for two consecutive years.

Community Memorial Hospital was recognized for its performance on accountability measure data for: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. To be a 2013 Top Performer, hospitals had to meet three performance criteria based on 2013 accountability measure data, including:

· Achieving cumulative performance of 95 percent or above across all reported accountability measures

· Achieving performance of 95 percent or above on each and every reported accountability measure where there were at least 30 denominator cases

· Having at least one core measure set that had a composite rate of 95 percent or above, and all applicable individual accountability measures had a performance rate of 95 percent or above within that measure set

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Paul Farrow announces for Waukesha County executive

Nov. 14, 2014 11:54 a.m. | Madison — State Sen. Paul Farrow is running for Waukesha County executive, while Rep. Dale Kooyenga has decided he will not seek the position.

Farrow, a Pewaukee Republican and the son of former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, announced his plans late Thursday, after news emerged that County Executive Dan Vrakas would not seek re-election.

"We have proved time and time again, that our pursuit of lower taxes, community involvement, and electing good stewards of the public trust helps build strong communities and a county that we are all proud of," Farrow said in a written statement announcing his plans. "I look forward to continuing that tradition if I have the honor to serve as county executive."

Kooyenga, a Brookfield Republican, said Friday he had been encouraged to run but decided against it.

"After prayer and discussing with my amazing wife, Jennifer, we decided I can best fight for our values and principles by continued service in the Legislature," Kooyenga said in a written statement.

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Menomonee Falls School Board lobbies for funding, local control

Nov. 13, 2014 2:46 p.m. | Menomonee Falls — Equality in school funding, mandates and accountability are among the items taking the spotlight as the Menomonee Falls School Board works to produce a priority list to provide to local legislators.

A draft of priorities was discussed at length during a school board meeting Monday, Nov. 10, and will resume conversation at their meeting Monday, Nov. 24.

The proposed priorities would announce the district's united support for several legislative issues, including the establishment of a sustainable funding system and consistency in mandates and accountability standards from district to district and school to school.

It is the second time the board has put together such a document, following a similar effort in February 2013.

"In order to provide feedback to our local legislature, the school board reaches agreement on the items they would like to provide one voice on as it pertains to those items," explained Superintendent Dr. Pat Greco.

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Vrakas to retire as Waukesha County exec, sparking likely GOP tussle

Nov. 13, 2014 9:50 a.m. | Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas announced Thursday that he won't be running for re-election in the spring.

The announcement comes some eight months after Vrakas made public the fact that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He completed treatment in 10 weeks and returned to work full time in June.

Word of Vrakas' impending retirement announcement had several leading Waukesha Republicans scrambling to gauge and, in some cases, lock up support for what will be an open seat. The general election for the nonpartisan office is to be held in April.

Heading the list of potential candidates are Sen. Paul Farrow, a Pewaukee Republican, and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, a Republican from Brookfield. Both are considered rising stars in the party.

"I would say that Farrow is probably the favorite, but this is incredibly early," said one Waukesha Republican. "Dan hasn't even announced that he's not running." 

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Graham's memory honored with fundraising party for childhood cancer

Nov. 13, 2014 12:02 a.m. |

It's sad that Kim Graham will miss the fundraising party for childhood cancer that will be held in her memory on Friday, Nov. 21 at the Sterling Chalet, 1271 Appleton Ave., in Hubertus.

Because it will be a heck of a good time.

Graham, a Germantown High School and UW-La Crosse graduate, passed away this March at the much too young an age of 24 after a long battle with Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of childhood cancer.

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Fundraising party for childhood cancer honors Graham's memory

Nov. 12, 2014 9:20 p.m. | It's sad that Kim Graham will miss the fundraising party for childhood cancer that will be held in her memory on Friday, Nov. 21 at the Sterling Chalet, 1271 Appleton Ave., in Hubertus.

Because it will be a heck of a good time.

Graham, a Germantown High School and UW-La Crosse graduate, passed away this March at the much too young an age of 24 after a long battle with Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of childhood cancer.

A garden was dedicated next to the Germantown tennis courts this past fall for Graham, a former tennis star at the high school and for former coach Kelly Sackett, who also passed away this year after losing a fight with cancer (see story at

Graham spoke often during her six-year battle with Ewing's of giving back to those who helped her fight the disease and of also easing the lives of others who are engaged in similar tussles with cancer.

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Waukesha County keeps taxes flat in 2015 budget

Nov. 12, 2014 6:10 p.m. | The Waukesha County Board on Wednesday adopted a final 2015 budget with an increase of slightly less than 1% to the general property tax levy.

The total levy stands at $100.49 million for 2015, up $987,100 from this year.

The property tax rate needed to generate the 2015 levy is $2.08 per $1,000 of equalized valuation, down seven cents from this year. The decrease in the rate coupled with a rise in property values will result in no change in the county portion of the December tax bills for most homeowners.

The tax rate and levy were unchanged from the budget recommended by County Executive Dan Vrakas.

Vrakas praised the board for approving a budget that does not increase the property tax burden on homeowners. The final budget "maintains our role as a low tax leader in the state," Vrakas said.

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Brandtjen opts to retain seat on Waukesha County Board

Nov. 12, 2014 1:01 p.m. | The newly elected representative for Assembly District 22 has decided to do double duty, at least for now. About a week after her victory over challenger Jessie Read (D), Janel Brandtjen (R) announced Tuesday, Nov. 12, that she will retain her position on the Waukesha County Board for the foreseeable future.

Brandtjen begins her term in Madison on Monday, Jan. 5, for the assembly seat, which was created in 2010 and includes the towns of Erin and Lisbon; the villages of Lannon and Butler; and portions of the villages of Richfield and Menomonee Falls.

In the meantime, she said her focus will remain at least partially on her county board role, which she feels is more crucial now than ever.

"Waukesha County is raising taxes instead of cutting them, increasing spending when they should be decreasing spending and growing the size and scope of government," she said in a news release. "That's everything I've been fighting against."

Originally elected in 2008, she fought to retain the role against challenger and then County Chairman James Dwyer in 2012, a challenge she said makes her hesitant to leave the position.

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Quest Specialty Coatings challenges OSHA findings

Nov. 12, 2014 10:20 a.m. | Menomonee Falls — It could be a while before workers at a local company are deemed to be working in safe conditions again. Quest Specialty Coatings is formally contesting the violations issued last month by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a process that OSHA representatives say can take months.

"We disagree with the citation(s) and hope we can work with OSHA in reaching an agreement on the maters that have been raised," said Dawn Zellmer, director of environmental health and safety for Quest. "We have filed a letter of contest, and given that the proceedings are under litigation, we cannot comment further."

A total of eight safety violations were found in an inspection conducted in May, prompted by a complaint regarding three separate fires at the Menomonee Falls company. The company faces more than $130,000 in fines after OSHA found the company guilty of willful, repeat safety violations, which OSHA representative Scott Allen said are meant to be taken very seriously.

"We feel it is pretty egregious to willfully disregard the rules and regulations of OSHA," Allen said. "That means you're willfully putting your workers in harm's way and there is no excuse for that."

The company had until Friday, Nov. 7, to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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