Spat Regarding Spring Splash and Boomer or Bust Leaving the Police’s K-9 Division in Awkward Spot Highlights the Annual Common Council Meeting

At the Feb. 7 meeting of the Whitewater Common City Council, the hottest issue of the night was the announcement of the organization Wisconsin RED pulling out of the annual Spring Splash event, which will take place on Saturday Apr. 29. The council deliberated for over an hour discussing the impact of last year’s Spring Splash had on the community as a whole. Although it was made clear by Whitewater’s City Manager Cameron Clapper that Spring Splash would not be cancelled, Clapper made it clear that along with Wallace O’Donell, the Council’s Legal Representative (attorney)  held many recent conversations with Wisconsin RED’s leadership. In said discussions O’Donell made it clear that he felt it would be best for both sides if Wisconsin RED did not promote Spring Splash via social media, due to the potential legal ramifications that could occur if things got even more out of hand than last year’s event.

O’Donell says that although he did not force Wisconsin RED to pull out of the event, O’Donell did not regret the outcome either, making it clear that although Wisconsin RED controlled their event very well, they also “attracted a large group of out of town troublemakers who although they were not affiliated with Wisconsin RED were brought to this because of the organization’s social media presence.” Council members Stephanie Goettl and James Langnes III, the youngest members of the council disagreed with O’Donell and Clapper, feeling that although the results of last year’s event were regrettable, that the removal of Wisconsin RED, though voluntarily could create more problems, with Langnes going so far as to say their removal could “create a vacuum” and cause more chaos than it prevents. Goettl was adamant about the decision feeling very anti-student, stating that “it is difficult for this body to make decisions on the behalf of this community without seeming anti-student, and this decision will probably only spread that sentiment going forward.”

Local parties will still be allowed, but they will not have the sponsorship of Wisconsin RED, who are a promotion service, that is primarily focused making and selling apparel.

Goettl also had a great of frustration that the entire was not made aware of the meetings with Wisconsin RED, or consulting with the rest of the beforehand for their individual input. Clapper acknowledged that he did push ahead on his own, but made it clear his intentions were not to undermine the rest of the council. While the council was divided the members of the community present at the meeting were intent on making sure that last year’s chaos would repeat itself or get worse. Larry Kachel, the Chairman of the Greater Whitewater Committee, made it clear that he expected the Council to be prepared, asking them about collaborative efforts between the University of Whitewater, the Council, local municipal police and fire departments, and the bars that supply the alcohol which was at the root of the last Spring Splash’s problems. Kachel said “that these types of discussions should have taken place last May after the event was over, April will be here before you (the council) know it and I would like to know there is a plan to keep the event under control, with or without Wisconsin RED.”

The Council no official action on this issue as it was merely meant to be something addressed although Clapper and Council President Patrick Singer acknowledged that further discussion on the issue would be likely upon hearing the rest of the Council’s and the public’s opinion on the matter. A press release was created by the Council made it clear that agreement to part with Wisconsin RED was a decision not to punish Whitewater students, as most of the trouble last year was caused by outside forces.

Another major talking point of this Council meeting was how to resolve the situation of the City of Whitewater Police Department’s K-9 drug unit Boomer leaving. The dog was sworn in May 2014, serving under Officer Joe Madison. However, Madison is leaving the department to pursue law enforcement in a new jurisdiction and would like to take Boomer with him as a family pet, retiring Boomer from police service in the process. The issue before the Council as presented by Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher, was the request to purchase a new K-9 unit to replace Boomer, which would cost $3,500 for the dog and additional $4,000 for officer training. In response to the question as to why Boomer could not serve under a new officer, Otterbacher said “that unfortunately there is no guarantee that Boomer would take to a new handler.” The other major concern was that since the dog was purchased as a result of a fundraising effort, Otterbacher was nervous of the impact this could have on future community projects that rely on those types of efforts. Goettl echoed these sentiments by saying “the dog is part of the community and I don’t think they expected he would leave less than three years later, the community could feel efforts for fundraising could be derailed in the future with no warning.” No decision was made on the future policy for such events, although Boomer will be released from service upon being purchased and adopted by Officer Madison’s family.

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