Gary is an author, trial lawyer, Mequon-area resident and town of Cedarburg supervisor. He is a columnist for the News Graphic and writes for several Wisconsin area magazines and is a national columnist with The American Thinker and PJ Media. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and has three sons ages 18 to 28. Gary won Ozaukee County in his bid for the Wisconsin Assembly's 60th District in 2011, but came up just 58 votes short.
Using research provided by the Tax Foundation – a nonpartisan tax research group in Washington, D.C. – Forbes studied every county in America with a population over 65,000. They isolated counties in which over half of the per-pupil spending comes from property taxes, and then scratched off any county in which the average SAT score fell below 1,050 (math and verbal combined) or in which the ACT scores dropped below 22. Forbes ranked the remaining counties using a ten data point system which included factors such as cost of living, graduation rate, standardized scores, home price, property tax rate as a percentage of median home prices, percentage of homes occupied by the owner, per-capita income, air quality, crime rates, and commute times. When the dust settled, Ozaukee County sat in second place, behind Hamilton County, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis, as the best place to raise a family in the country.
If Forbes’ rankings had considered geographic factors such as being situated on the world’s largest supply of fresh water or being within an hour’s drive of Titletown, USA, in contrast to Hamilton County’s being smack dab in the middle of one of the flatter and more boring states in the country, Ozaukee County clearly would have topped the list.
Forbes’ rankings also gave significant weight to things such as parks, recreation programs, and athletic opportunities. But what they didn’t know when they released the list on June 30 is that the quality and quantity of athletic facilities currently available to Ozaukee County residents is about to get even better. That alone should earn it top billing on the Forbes list.
On July 2, the Town of Cedarburg unveiled its support for a new major sports and athletic complex to be located in the town at Five Corners, just north of the City of Cedarburg. The new sports complex will be located on 95 acres near the southwest corner of Highway 60 and Washington Avenue, behind the Grafton State Bank and Town Hall on what was formerly known as the Prochnow Landfill.
The new facilities will feature a huge array of recreational opportunities for Cedarburg and Ozaukee County residents, including soccer, softball, baseball, football, and archery. It will also boast playgrounds, shelters, hiking trails and batting cages. Finally, Cedarburg will have the facilities needed to host games and tournaments for area youth and adult sports leagues. It will serve as the gateway to Ozaukee County for hundreds of thousands of parents and athletes traveling here from all corners of the Midwest, many of whom are future county taxpayers.
Ozaukee County has been in desperate need of such a facility for decades, and the new complex will solve many of our athletic and recreational space needs for generations to come. A conceptual plan along with other details can be seen at www.town.cedarburg.wi.us. The new park will provide additional traffic for Cedarburg businesses, including both City of Cedarburg merchants and those locating within the town’s new Five Corners Master Plan area.
There are still many hurdles to be overcome and the park will not be built overnight. Various planning, fundraising, and regulatory issues must first be addressed before construction can begin. Seven acres of the property was used as a landfill between 1945 and 1972. But such was also the case with Lime Kiln Park in Grafton and Mee-Kwon golf course in Mequon. The power to control title of the property – currently ready to be assigned by a special administrator for the Estate of Marvin Prochnow – rests with the Town of Cedarburg, the City of Cedarburg, Emerson Electric Corporation, and Brunswick Corporation (now Mercury Marine). These four entities make up the responsible parties who must remediate or clean up the property, and they are all working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a plan to do so. While the cost to clean up the property is not precisely known, the acquisition of title to the property and its cleanup is the subject of discussions between the City of Cedarburg and the Town of Cedarburg. Much progress has been made in these negotiations, and it is the town’s fervent desire to present town, city and county residents with one of the biggest and most impressive sports facilities anywhere in Wisconsin. You can help make this dream a reality by attending an Open House at the Cedarburg Town Hall at Five Corners on Tuesday, July 15th between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. to learn more and voice your support. This truly will be a monster gift from the community of Cedarburg to its children and grandchildren.
The proposed sports complex is only the beginning. Less than two miles away, thousands of hockey players of all ages are excited at the prospect of a second ice rink being built in the county. The Ozaukee Youth Hockey Association and the Ozaukee Ice Association are in negotiation with Ozaukee County to acquire the Ozaukee Ice Center located at 5505 Pioneer Road on the Mequon/Cedarburg border. The current facility is home to Concordia University’s men’s and women’s Division III college hockey teams, along with high school teams from Cedarburg, Homestead, and Grafton. In addition, hundreds of Ozaukee County families also have young athletes involved in the Ozaukee Youth Hockey Association programs, resulting in sparse ice time availability and practice times as early as 5:00 a.m. and as late as midnight for some young athletes. The need for a second rink reached critical mass some years ago, and a solution in the form of a second rink built right next to the current rink appears to be a step closer to reality.
Once OYHA acquires the facility from the county, which it gifted to the county years ago, its plan is to partner with Concordia University to build the second facility and give the Concordia Falcons a dominant athletic presence in the heart of Ozaukee County. The resulting second rink will provide Ozaukee County with another premier destination for tournaments and sporting events, and give ample practice and ice time to users of all ages, including plenty of public skating time.
It is a given that Forbes did not consider these huge two sports and athletic developments along with many other salient attributes of Ozaukee County when it nudged Hamilton County, Indiana to the number one ranking on its list. As fresh water becomes the currency of the new millennium, Ozaukee County joins a short and distinguished list of communities living next to the world’s largest fresh water bank. When you consider these things, it is no doubt safe to assume that whether or not you have children in area schools or athletic programs, Ozaukee County is now unofficially the best place in America to live and raise a family. With a little community support for the new Sports Complex and hockey facility, it will only be a matter of time before we make that first place ranking official.