Wauzeka-Steuben taking action toward community revitalization, school referendum

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By Correne Martin

Strategic economic development plans have been a focal point for members of the greater Wauzeka community as of late. The most paramount goals are to attract and retain residents and businesses and increase enrollment at the school. Also materializing is a potential referendum for general operations, aimed at April 7, 2020.

Citizens, school leaders, parents and others vested in the villages of Wauzeka and Steuben and the Wauzeka-Steuben School District have formed a collective that has held visioning and marketing meetings as early as February of 2018. Driftless Development, the Crawford County Economic Development organization, as well as CESA have stepped forward to lend expert guidance.

On Sept. 11, about 23 stakeholders at Century Hall were presented a list of assets as well as growth opportunities determined at an Aug. 7 session. 

The assemblage of mainly village and school board members, village employees, business owners and retirees spent a half-hour conceptualizing various community issues and assets and discussing how they’re all connected. Topics included the school, business, housing, day care, young families, recreation and broadband. 

Committee volunteers were identified and people were urged to bring on board other stakeholders who weren’t at the meeting. 

“These are very complex issues Wauzeka, Crawford County and, really, all of the Upper Midwest are facing,” said Jim Bowman, Driftless Development Executive Director. “They’re not going to be solved overnight.”

He acknowledged that it takes time and hard work to deal with issues like disproportionate capital and growth, population loss, lack of housing, business success, and maintaining a healthy prosperous school district.

Bowman’s counterpart at the meeting, Jessica Jane Spayde, is the new Community Development Extension Educator for the Crawford County UW-Extension. The two vowed to dedicate their expertise to the community over the next seven months and beyond, as everyone collaborates to fluidly address Wauzeka’s constraints and amplify its resources.

“We want to dig into the assets and illuminate the connections you have too,” Spayde said. “We encourage the community to pull together and be as innovative and creative as possible to take action toward the best solutions. The more contributions, the greater the solutions.”

Anyone interested in joining upcoming economic development conversations or committees should contact Spayde at 326-0223 or Spayde@wisc.edu or Bowman at (309) 756-8041.

Also, at the Sept. 11 meeting, a draft plan was unveiled, detailing a timeline toward the school referendum. School board member Tom Martin briefed the group. 

School referendum 

meetings for citizen input

The next opportune chance for input from taxpayers, post-secondary students and other interested parties is an October “movers and shakers meeting.” Contact the school district at (608) 875-5311 to become involved.

A visioning committee is compiling a list of village stakeholders the administration and school board can meet with to discuss the school district’s needs, why they’re necessary at this time and to gain feedback from these individuals before moving forward. These participants are being chosen because of their prominence in the village, whether economically, socially or otherwise. The visioning committee feels it’s these individuals who represent, by and large, the opinion of the district.

Following Oct. 2, school administration will put together a presentation on what the Wauzeka-Steuben School District has done to maintain fiscal solvency, what the trends are right now, what needs to be done at the April election and what ramifications could happen if that doesn’t happen. Interim Administrator Gary Albrecht said that referendum proposal will be made on Oct. 28, at the district’s annual meeting. The night will begin with a preliminary budget hearing at 6:30 p.m. in the Hornet’s Nest gym, then the annual meeting will follow.

A referendum phon-a-thon and community forums will likely occur afterward, leading up to the election. 

David Alexander, the newly announced Interim Superintendent at Wauzeka-Steuben, will also be transitioning into his position, from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, with plans to assume all duties beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

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