New Taxpayers Group Launches Petition Drive Over Radisson Fiasco

Under proposal, all capital spending of $1 million or more by village would have to be approved by residents in a binding referendum.

Taxpayer anger over the village’s nearly $18 million loan to owners of the Radisson hotel is growing, with a newly formed Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association deeming the Village Board’s actions on the hotel a “colossal blunder” and launching a petition drive to prevent similar projects in the future.

The association, which formed only Tuesday, released a statement Wednesday announcing that it was starting a petition drive to initiate a binding referendum that would require the Village Board to submit any capital expenditures of $1 million or more to a binding referendum.

"As most of us are aware, as Menomonee Falls residents we are now owners of a hotel," the statement said. "No more telling example could be conceived as to why municipalities and government entities should never be involved in financing any private development projects or chase companies with taxpayer incentives."

The association said it needs 2,700 signatures to force the matter to binding referendum.

The association's statement urges concerned residents to attend Monday's Village Board meeting and promises to have additional information about the group available at that time. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. at , W156 N8480 Pilgrim Rd.

“From a conservative point of view, the government just had no business making a loan of $18 million to a group of people who wanted to run a hotel,” said Bill Savage, treasurer of the association. "If the hotel was a viable option, they would have found private investors and private banks and entities that would give them the money and make the loan to them.”

Savage said that people interested in joining the taxpayers association can call him at (414) 218-0959.

Organizing began informally

Savage said the effort on the petition drive started organically in the past week, with concerned citizens who used Scott Walker email lists “to get people out there” to Monday's meeting. People weren't using official campaign lists, but rather “they were concerned people who have put together lists over the past few years.”

The fledgling taxpayers association then jumped on board the effort, putting out the statement and further publicizing the issue, which sparked a segment Wednesday by WISN Radio talk show host Mark Belling, who was harshly critical of the village’s decision to loan money to the hotel.

“Please come to the meeting and help show how engaged and enraged the community is with the Village Board and their cavalier use of our tax dollars,” the group's statement said.

The action also came after revelations this week by a local newspaper that discovered through an open records request and review of loan documents that loan money was now being used to finance payroll for the troubled facility at N88 W14750 Main Street.

Farrell joins group, but is mum on petition

One Village Board member, Dennis Farrell, told Patch on Wednesday that he had joined the taxpayers group. However, he said he wanted to keep an open mind and learn more about the petition question before commenting on it. And he defended the village’s decision to lend money to the troubled hotel’s owners.

“This was an eyesore. Something had to be done to eliminate that,” he said. “At the time, (the loan) seemed to be the only recourse.”

He called the taxpayers group a “fine organization.”

Farrell said he was hesitant to comment  further on the project “because it’s in litigation.”

Other board members were not at home for comment Wednesday.

Battling it out in court

The village confirmed in mid-June that it has in Waukesha County Circuit Court involving the village’s mortgage on the Radisson.  The village holds the mortgage because it’s the primary lender on the property.

The village $14.4 million in principal that it advanced, as well as interest and other costs. In the suit, the village is seeking property and collateral from five members of the ownership group of the hotel.

The hotel, banquet facilities and a restaurant, remain open.

Things have gotten progressively worse, with contractors saying they weren’t paid, the Waukesha County District Attorney getting involved on the contractors’ payments, and now the report that some of the money is going to payments for payroll.

The development agreement between the village and owners dates to 2010, when the village agreed to provide the nearly $18 million loan to jumpstart the hotel’s construction.

One of the developers quickly filed for bankruptcy. The village has already appointed a receiver to monitor day-to-day operations of the facility.

The newly organized taxpayers' association has started a blog and has a Twitter account. The blog describes the organization as “a group of citizens who want to make sure their hard-earned tax dollars are used efficiently and effectively. We are not affiliated with any past or present PAC or organization. We want to elect conservative leaders to office to represent us.”

However, the organization has been Tweeting in past races support of Republicans like state Rep. Don Pridemore and Gov. Scott Walker. Its Twitter site has 32 followers. It also has a new Facebook page.

Jefferson Davis, the controversial former village president, also sent an email Wednesday to multiple media organizations urging them to cover the Radisson story and excoriating the board.

“Supposedly a group of citizens are organizing to appear at the Village Board Meeting on July 2 in support of the contractors who have been stiffed by the village and to ask questions about the end game for the taxpayers to see how much their tax bills are going to go up to cover the some $18 million taxpayer funded loan that the hotel owners have not made any payments on for two years,” Davis wrote.

W . Benz August 21, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Sure I'll bring the other screen names you may know ! can we vote on anything or do you decide the agenda. I'am sure the Bar will be open if your there. Hey how did you like the RINO's doing a end run on your petition .... The RINO's still spending and your having a meeting @ the Solyndra Hotel . Bring your $$ because "we all have to support this" boondoggle ...The RINO's thank you for waiting until the spring Election I'am sure. So what recycled Candidates are you running against the Cabal ??? -- Good Luck your going to need it . Chris Davis
Pj August 21, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I think Eddie should run!
Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association August 22, 2012 at 12:50 AM
For all three seats!! =)
W . Benz August 22, 2012 at 01:32 AM
.You Bet !!! That's how many trustees we should have 3 and a Village Prez since we don't have districts and Trustees are all elected @ large . The PR rep of MFTax can't run for trustee he doesn't live in M.F. The RINO's are going to roll on you Guys big time now that D. P. has been elected I give the tax group 2 years and you'll be History... How's that petition going ?? better yet where is it going ..
Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association August 28, 2012 at 12:14 PM
This just in! Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association questions the need to pave the bugline trail. President urges the public to engage. At a recent meeting of the Menomonee Falls taxpayers the question of spending $700,000.00 of County money to pave the bugline bike trail quickly became one of the top points of discussion. The issue was elevated by a citizen who had just joined the group that evening. “My wife and I are cutting every corner just to meet our household obligations and the county is going to spend that kind of money on something like that?” the member stated. The statement was well received as many of us in the area are struggling with the current economic conditions. President Steve Welcenbach pointed out that an ill-advised quest for federal dollars was the underlying motive to pave the trail. “Scott Walker was right to turn down federal money when he was at the county level and Waukesha would be wise to follow his example” said Welcenbach, “we must get the spending under control, at the federal level in particular”, he added. The next public meeting dealing with the bugline project will be held at the Pauline Haas Library in Sussex on Wednesday August 29, 2012 from 5 till 7pm. In the meantime the Taxpayer group asked anyone with concerns about the project to call their county supervisor and tell them to reduce their tax levy by the $700,000 they would have spent paving a trail.


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