Village vs. Town, Effects on Palmyra after Annexation

 On a typical commute on highway 59 into Whitewater, a driver will pass through the small towns of North Prairie, Eagle and finally Palmyra. These towns from the road are the quintessential small town in America. They are a quiet place where everyone seems to know everyone. But appearances can be deceiving, especially for the Village of Palmyra. On the outskirts of the Village of Palmyra begins farmlands that used to belong to the Town of Palmyra. It is here that an issue is visible from the road in the form of signs.

One of the signs visible displayed to traffic on highway 59

One of the signs visible displayed to traffic on highway 59

The signs do not contain the normal content expressed in a campaign or business sign. These signs read messages such as “No SPecial Interest Control over TOWN FARMS and AIRPORT” or “Save our Century Farms From SPecial Interest” and are visible from both directions of traffic. The highlighted SP represents the logo of local whole foods supplement manufacturer, Standard Process, located in what is not the Village of Palmyra.

   Upon asking a clerk at one of the town’s two gas stations, a short explanation of “land or something” being taken from the town farmers by the village was received. The clerk more or less said that they had not been closely following the situation. Immediately, the term eminent domain comes to mind.

When searching the phrase “eminent domain Palmyra,” the only relevant result was a 2012 story on the Wisconsin State Farmer website titled “Eminent domain divides an historic farm” written by Gloria Hafemeister. Although the story was old, it gave some background into the beginning of what was happening in Palmyra.

This story detailed a struggle the Calkins family was going through to preserve their farmland and town. Steward Calkins was the chairperson of the township of Palmyra for 40 years, before passing away in early 2015. The Calkins had caught wind that the village wanted to annex their farmland to be used as part of the village expansion plan for the industrial park. “The Calkins had no plans to sell the farm that had been in their family for more than 150 years and figured the village expansion could go elsewhere. Then they found out just how serious the village was about their proposal. They received annexation papers and learned they didn’t have a choice.” said Hafemeister.

View of Calkins family farmhouse. The house has survived 6 generations.

View from the road of Calkins family farmhouse. The house has survived 6 generations.

At this point, it is important to point out the difference between eminent domain and annexation. Eminent domain is the taking of land by the government for public use, with a payment of compensation. Annexation, in this case, is adding the land from the town into the village. Annexing to be approved by government institutions needs to be in tidy and connecting squares. To have the annexation accepted, the land of others in the area between must be brought in during the annexation. The land involved in the annexation was 382 acres owned by Stand Process, 148 acres from the late Chairperson Stewart Calkins, 66 acres from Robert Wilson, 38.4 acres from Robert Oleson, 12.4 from Lawrence Tutton, and 91 acres from the Palmyra Municipal Airport. The airport was owned by the Town of Palmyra. A petition for annexation requires permission by over half of land owned. Standard Process is able to file a petition without consent of the other owners because it owned a majority of the land.

Map of Annexation

Map of annexation showing properties in the old Town of Palmyra

The original petition mentioned in the story was from the first attempt by Standard Process. This failed due to a technicality of proper notification required to be delivered to the owners involved in the annexation. Standard Process sent a notice to the town where Kathy Oleson, wife of Robert Oleson, was the town treasurer. This was invalid because it was addressed to the town, not to the property residents. Lacking proper notification, the adopted petition from Standard Process was reversed. Standard Process next filed an identical petition, but notified the owners through a legal notice in the Jefferson Daily Union. The petition was finally submitted Nov. 17, 2014 and adopted Feb. 3, 2015.

What are the issues related to the annexation that would cause the Town of Palmyra and those involved to be so against it? Many factors play into the anti-annexation stance by these parties. These factors include taxes, the airport, costs, roads, ideological differences, and bad blood. Who is involved and affected with the annexation? Various town and village public servants, Standard Process representatives, and farmers. It is clear many of the issues extend beyond what they seem to encompass.

For the farmers who were interviewed and wished to stay off the record, many problems came to mind. One spoke about not wishing to pay the higher tax rates. For real-estate taxes in the town, it runs at the rate of about .016 mills and about .02 for the village. Farmland, however, is taxed at a lower rate across the board, but village board trustee Bill Lurvey said “I’m not exactly sure on the tax rate for farmland. However, I do recognize that it is slightly higher.”

A higher tax base does play a role for the Village of Palmyra to accept the annexation request, according to Lurvey. Even though David Turner, president of the village board, had said that taxes “were not part of the equation.”

The village is currently about $180,000 in debt, according to a 2012 audit by James R. Frechette. Palmyra needs new revenue and to make smart cuts. However, Standard Process will now be in a tax increment finance (TIF) district for the next 5 years. So for the next 5 years, Standard Process will have no real-estate tax. TIF districts are set in place to help subsidize the cost of new development. Once the tax revenue is allowed to flow, the estimated $4,000,000 worth of Standard Process will begin approximately $35,000 in new tax revenue. Also, as the company expands and grows, so will tax revenue from new workers and the facility itself.

“Nobody is looking at the cost it would take to hook up the sewage system,” said a farmer. This was an issue that was covered by Standard Process’s communication manager, Karren Jeske. “Standard Process would bear all the cost [to connect the sewage], unless homeowners would want to tap into the system. Grants may also be available from the state to help with this cost.”

Google Satellite view of the Village of Palmyra and the annexed land. Strip above town is the airport

Google Satellite view of the Village of Palmyra and the annexed land. Strip above residential properties is the airport.

Standard Process has continually said that they are annexing to ensure that all of its assets were in the same municipality to allow for consistent decision making, growth and the use of village utilities. What exactly is the growth plan for Standard Process? Throwing aside possible farm expansions and a hotel for visitors to the convention center, the major project being debated is a road. The said road would connect highways 59 and 106. Turner has said that, currently, trucks have to make a 270 degree turn off highway 59 to reach the industrial park. Turner brought up concerns with traffic on the road due to such extreme turns. Village chairperson Frank Koustopoulos commented on this issue and said “I asked truckers who make the turn what they would think about the proposed road. They said it would be a “waste of money.””

Koustopoulos also cited his past experience with trucks and said that you do what you are told as a truck driver. Koustopoulos also suggested his idea for fixing the 270 degree turn issue. “Rather than building a new road, take 15 feet off the nearby yard to build a larger radius”

Turner had said that the option was considered while work was being completed on highway 59, but the board hadn’t even considered it an option during the annexation.

townsign

The now outdated airport sign.

The considered road to connect highway 59 and 106 has been an issue not only because of taxes, but also because it would cross directly at the end of a runway strip at the Palmyra Municipal Airport. The airport is now controlled by the Village of Palmyra after the annexation. Before, it had been owned by the Town of Palmyra since 1948. As with everything else related to the annexation that passed Feb. 2, it is a point of divergent schools of thought. Koustopoulos, who was the lone dissent during the votes, is a pilot who keeps his plane at the airport. Being a pilot himself, Koustopoulos said he is worried about safety issues with the close proximity. He sighted a time a pilot crashed into the Cawkins’ fence because of dense ground fog. Town of Palmyra chairperson, Larry Kau, said that he was against the possibility of a road because of the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ). RPZs according to hud.gov are “a trapezoidal area off the end of the runway that serve to enhance the protection of people and property on the ground” in the event an aircraft lands or crashes beyond the runway end. Runway Protection Zones underlie a portion of the approach closest to the airport.” Owners of airports [Village of Palmyra] must adhere to these rules set by the FAA if they are a Federally Obligated Airport. This means that if an airport accepts money from the federal government, it falls within the rules of the FAA. This will be an issue that will be seen in the future fights over land and use in Palmyra.

Given the situation, the village board tried to appease the interests of the landowners as well. The appeasement attempt was to allow the parties who wanted out of the village to have an opportunity to detach. Once a petition to detach its filed by the landowners, they must be accepted back into the Town of Palmyra to finish the petition.

Kau said when asked about petitions to detach “The village is continually changing conditions and will not accept [petitions].”

Lurvey said in response to the accusations “They did nothing wrong. But they copy and pasted original land [from the annexation] for the most part. This included Calkins Rd. which may be an option B for future expansion of the industrial interests, if the original road doesn’t work.”

spfront

Standard Process’s water feature in front of the corporate office in Palmyra. Courtesy of Standard Process

spair

Aerial view of the Standard Process facilities.

Who is the SPecial interests that some think control the town? They are Standard Process, an organic supplement company who has made their midwest headquarters in Palmyra since the early 1980s. Both the Town and Village of Palmyra have a combined population of about 3,000 people. In this small community, they employ over 330 people and are growing, although not all of the workers are from the area. Of these 330 jobs “80% of the jobs only require a high school diploma,” said Turner.

Karren Jeske, when asked about how Standard Process gives back to the community, said ”First and foremost we hire people for quality jobs. We are constantly giving money for community programs such as defibrillator for the ems, funds for police dogs, donations to the library, our workers volunteer and donated a $1.2 million sports facility. For the county of Jefferson we have donated to money to a child leadership program. We are a community driven company.”

Turner said that he has never heard of Standard Process turning down a charitable cause when asked. Furthermore, he went on to say how humble they are about the charity work they have done.

combined

The hardly visible signs of Standard Process’s $1.2 million donation.

When visiting the complex they donated, it was difficult to see the signs claiming their donation. The signs were small foot long signs with exception of a 3 foot sign on the playground. As Turner said before, the park was a humble offering to the town.

Village board members had another overarching issue that seemed to be at the forefront of arguments. Standard Process will leave if they have too much trouble in the town of Palmyra. How true is this argument? Turner and other members who voted for the annexation think it is a major issue. When asked if Standard Process planned to always remain in Palmyra, Karren Jeske of Standard Process said “No promise, it’s impossible to tell the future. It’s a possibility to move due to issues between the town and village. However, we have no plans as of now. Standard Process only has plans to expand.”

trek

Trek’s Oconomowoc Location. From JS Online

Jeske mentioned that during the controversy, they did get offers from other towns to move. Turner had mentioned this being a realistic option if the town and village could not work together for the community at large. Further, Tuner mentioned the moving of Trek to Johnson Creek, adding that similar struggles between Trek and Oconomowoc had allowed Johnson Creek to offer land values at $771,000 for free just to create a few quality jobs in the town. To really drive the point, Turner mentioned the 300 jobs lost in Burlington, a much larger community than Palmyra, and vowed to do everything in their power to keep the jobs in the town. “300 jobs lost in a town this small and we would be beyond devastated… I will do everything I can to keep Standard Process in Palmyra,” said Turner

When speaking with the Village of Palmyra, police chief James Small had noticed no difference since annexation had taken place 3 month prior. Small said that there has been no increase in response times or call volume for emergency service. The largest concern for the local police force is the increase of heroin in the area. Hired in mid Feb., Small said that, for the most part, he stays out of the local politics the best he can. The annexation seemed to be a lot of nitpicking and back and forth arguments to him.

Nothing has seemingly affected the average citizen in Palmyra. Only a few residents are vocal about what is happening. Why has the annexation been so dividing between the Village and Town of Palmyra boards? The reasoning may go back to what was mentioned in almost every interview—history and bad blood.

With the interviews with farmers and other residents who had lived in Palmyra for many years, there were backstories each gave to help fill in the blanks. Stories of their family’s history in the town to stories of general conflicts between the clans. It became apparent midway through interviews that things had primarily stayed the same in Palmyra for years. Change, to many of the people, was something to avoid.

Standard Process’s methods and actions to grow in the Palmyra upset the consistency that had existed for years. Kostopolus gave insight into how things were done in the city before Standard Process. “An issue such as the annexation should have been talked about with the Calkins or the Wilsons at the table over a cup of coffee. That is how things are done around here.”

When Standard Process notified the farmers about the annexation by sending in a letter to the town, bad blood was made between the two parties. Lurvey, when asked about the way Standard Process went about initiating the annexation, said that this is standard procedure for the process. In this case, the standard procedure was not the standard process taken by members of the Palmyra community. People in the town don’t forget things that happened 150 years ago; they will not likely forget what happened only 4 years ago.

Mainst

Photo of Palmyra store front with dirt roads, before cars.

In a new age of social media and instant content sharing corporate responsibility is no longer a personal decision; it has become a business decision. People who are now in the position of power, now require more self regulation than ever before. Standard Process may or may not have done something wrong depending upon your viewpoint. Now the real challenge is for the community, including its business and political leaders, to decide what direction they wish to march towards. How can those involved mend relationships that have been damaged, or is it even worth the effort? In the coming months, actions will define the future of this community in an unprecedented scale. Koustopolus said that he was by no means against Standard Process, and everyone else who was in opposition of the annexation made this clear. People realize the importance of this company in the community. Upon this foundation could be the roots that secure a strong relationship between those who have lost connection with others and their differing convictions. Everyone has the opportunity to change the world, but it doesn’t start on a large scale. Change happens on a personal scale before it has an opportunity to reach outwardly. Be the change that the world needs.

McDonald’s Hamburglar Now Steals…..Hearts?

In a new move to turn the page on poor first quarter earnings; McDonald’s has now mad the Hamburglar “hot”. After releasing a photo of the new Hamburglar, Twitter took to proclaiming the iconic character as sexy.hamburglar7n-1-web

The new thief of burgers is wearing typical Hamburglar attire, except for one thing Yeezys Red Octobers. Red Octobers typically retail for well over $5,000. Stealing hearts and hamburgers must be a profitable venture these days.

McDonald’s is off to a good start. Like the reboot or not, it has many group of people talking about a forgotten character. Although the other side of the isle is claiming him to be creepy.

What do you think? Leave a comment down below.

The original Mashable story is here.

SourceFed Reviews

Oddness of social media

With any great tool and innovation, mankind always seems to find a way to either use it wrong or badly. For example, the Gatling Gun was originally created to be the end all for war. Richard Gatling created the deadly gun so that man would stop fighting because of how deadly the weapon was. Obviously his plan went in the opposite direction. Bright Idea

The story covered by Mashable outlines a less deadly use of new technology. The article covers dumb comments posted to Walmart’s page. This highlights the trend of misuse of technology. Facebook has brought together families, helped planning major revolutions, maybe even a few eating contests, but these comments go the exact opposite direction. One comment asked the page “where can i find parking”. They all can’t be zingers.

Comments such as these show another side of our society that we all enjoy laughing at, the clueless. As mean spirited as it may be we all could use a punching bag every once in a while. If you want to read into these awesome comments posted to the Walmart page click here.

What is you favorite/dumbest comment every by you or that you have seen? Leave a screen shot or just write it in the comments below.

Facebook still hasn’t released Apple Watch app

With the unveiling of Apple’s new product the Apple Watch, developers have been scrambling to release apps for the product. Facebook, the single largest smartphone application has not yet released their app for the new medium. Many questions have been raised about why not that range from industry politics to lack of preparation.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

What makes the lack of a Facebook app for Apple Watch so confusing is that Instagram, a company owned by Facebook already has an app available. CEO promised that the Apple Watch would be able to connect to social media. So far the promise is in the air when the most popular social media outlet is not at the table.

A spokesman for Facebook said that they are always excited for new medium to expand into such as the Apple Watch. This however answers nothing and only raises more question. How long until Facebook releases its application? Will the Apple Watch be the next iPhone. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Original article is here.

Internet.org loses traction in India

Net neutrality is not just an issue the US must deal with from legislators and telecom companies. India has now started a grassroot movement to defend their own rights from Internet.org. After major backers of the program removed their support of the Facebook owned organization, many are believe it might fall apart in the country.

The reaction is due in part to a massive letter writing campaign started by proponents of net neutrality. The internet provided by Internet.org is accused of prioritizing content from it’s business partners. This crumbling of free internet comes at a cost to the millions of individuals who would have received this program that currently reaches over 7 million in other countries.

The largest of the backers to have removed support was New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) and the Times Group. This reaction mirrors recent trends in the US towards the issue of net neutrality. Many of the supports believe that a free and open internet is a human right rather than a commodity.

For more information on net neutrality here is a video on the topic: here

Social media marketing opens the door for mayhem

upsUPS is facing a PR scare after they allow the internet community to be involved in decorating a Ferrari. How could this got wrong? The social media marketing team may have not even considered this question. The issue at hand for UPS is an innapropriate meme that is now stuck onto a Ferrari racing car they sponsor in China.

The inappropriate meme in question is “dick butt”. Dick butt comes from a 2006 webcomic sketched by artist K.C. Green. The meme is usually used in situations where it doesn’t belong and is unexpected. The use of this meme is appropriate given the contest that UPS sponsored. The said contest from UPS was from its followers to submit photos to be included within a mosaic it was creating for a sticker to be added to a racing Ferrari.

Although the image is small, it is confusing how it was able to get past the marketing team at UPS. The only certain in this case is from the outside, this is absolutely hilarious. This is not the only time a campaign has been taken over when given room by the marketing team. Mountain Dew’s marketing team faced a much worse onslaught than just one individual submitted post.

In 2012, Mountain Dew had to take down its “Dub the Dew” campaign to name the new apple favor they were to unveil. This happened after the bowels of the internet, an online forum called 4chan, caught wind of the crowdsourced naming. Soon the top names upvoted were “Hitler did nothing wrong” and “Fapple”

These crowdsourced campaigns are a good marketing strategy as long as they are not infected by common internet trolls or pranksters. Is there a better way these campaigns should be run? Leave a comment down below!

For more information on topics mentioned in the article click the links below:

Instagram Allows Menstrual Cycles

This week Instagram has allowed a women to post a picture of a mess made from a menstruation.

After having her photo removed two separate times Instagram user Rupi Kaur has been allowed by Instagram to keep the photo posted. The photo was allowed to stay because it did not violate any of the terms of service, Instagram claimed it did not follow community guidelines. Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 4.07.30 PM

Kaur is a poet and claims that the reaction from the site proved her views on misogyny. The photo has spared debates about gender roles, misogyny, and how media sites judges what is and isn’t art. Kaur did mention in a response that pictures of bondage and underage girl objectification go unnoticed.

Would instagram react the in the same manner if a man were to showcase something on the same scale as Kaur? How should or shouldn’t social media draw the line between art and smut? Leave a comment below.

Original story here

Social Media is Competing for Your Bank Account.

The newest trend in social media is connecting your bank account. In November of last year Snapchat introduced Snapcash. Snapcash allows users to connect their credit card to seamlessly send cash to other users. This move by Snapchat wasn’t the first, and will not be the last in the market.

Facebook is looking to enter in its bid for ecommerce. Rumors have been around since a hack of the messenger app back in October, revealed developer notes hinting at a future installation. Now, with the release of a Facebook pay option the conversation has shifted to “Can we trust Facebook with our Bank Account?“.

Look of the New Cash Addition to Facebook Messenger

Look of the New Cash Addition to Facebook Messenger

The regulation towards these apps by government is slow to catch up. Snapchat has already had issues with pornography and prostitution through its cash app.

How do you feel about the rise of cash apps? Do you use any? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.