Focusing on Dayton’s issues
Four candidates are running for the two supervisory seats in the April 7 Dayton Town Board election.
Jim Peglow, John Miller, Jane Haasch and Mike Halpin were nominated to the ballot at the town caucus on Jan. 27.
Supervisor Glen Newsome is not seeking re-election.
Jim Peglow was first elected as town supervisor in the spring of 2007. By the fall of that year he had become town chairman due to the deaths of Harry Thoms and Ken Hurlbut. He was re-elected as chairman in 2009, then did not seek re-election two years later.
In 2014, Peglow was re-appointed to replace Lee Schroeder who had resigned from the board.
Peglow has been a professional firefighter in Neenah-Menasha for 21 years.
Originally from Minoqua, he has lived in Dayton since 2004. Previously, he lived in the town of Waupaca for about eight years.
Peglow has an associate’s degree in fire prevention technology from Fox Valley Technical College. He is currently taking online classes in emergency management with Columbia Southern University.
As with many Dayton candidates, Peglow is concerned with the ongoing controversies that affect the town’s ability to govern effectively.
“Part of what would make the meetings more civil would be having less items on the agenda every month,” Peglow said. “Overwhelming the agenda with all these different items makes it appear that the board doesn’t have time to review the agenda. We need to bring to the board only what is necessary and timely.”
Peglow said his primary goals are to continue maintaining the town’s infrastructure and to reduce conflicts among residents and between residents and the town board.
When asked about the future of the Little Hope dam, Peglow said, “The next step the town board should be taking with the dam is to make sure the county moves forward with renovation of the stream, taking care of invasive species on the shoreline and protecting the riparian landowners’ property rights.”
Peglow said he did not believe the town board should continue investing time and money into saving the dam if the administrative law judge rules in favor of abandoning the dam.
“If the judge rules in favor of transferring ownership of the dam, then the town has to come back together and talk to the riparian group to see if they have the ability to move forward with their portion of the financial responsibility,” Peglow said. “Just because the ownership is transferred to the town does not mean the dam will be saved. If either group decides they cannot afford this, we still can put a request in for removal.”
On the issue of tree trimming in Dayton, Peglow said the shoulders of town roads must be maintained for safety reasons.
In the past, Dayton relied on private contractors to mow the shoulders, but the work was not always done to the town’s specifications.
“The trees and woody vegetation got a foothold and it became a problem,” Peglow said. “There are safety concerns and traffic concerns for school buses, farm equipment and people with recreational vehicles and campers.”
Dayton began trimming trees and mowing the shoulders while Peglow was town chairman.
“I contacted landowners and spoke with 90 percent of them. That can alleviate a lot of issues,” Peglow said.
Jane Haasch is a retired educator with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Mount Mary College and further education at Marquette, Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She taught math at Fox Valley Technical College for 23 years. Prior to that she supervised a youth program in Milwaukee.
She has also been a strong advocate of sustainable energy and sustainable economic development.
For the past 20 years, Haasch has owned a 40-acre farm in Dayton where she built a solar-powered home.
“My house produces all the electricity it needs, plus more,” Haasch said.
She is in the early stages of developing a sustainable residential project on the property.
“I’m doing this to use up the development rights on the property to save farmland,” Haasch said. “I want to show farmers that they don’t have to sell their land off in five and 10-acre parcels.”
Haasch is a member of the Dayton Plan Commission and the Waupaca County Implementation Steering Committee.
“I believe communication could be improved in the town of Dayton,” Haasch said. “I get along with just about everybody and I think that’s what it takes on that board. I think the town board needs to be more transparent with the money it spends.”
She wants the Dayton Town Board to follow the comprehensive plan that citizens spent more than three years developing in conjunction with the rest of Waupaca County.
Haasch noted that one of the primary goals of Dayton’s comprehensive plan was to retain the town’s rural character.
She sees a disconnect between Dayton’s rural character and the town cutting down trees along the highway.
“I belive in safety, but I also believe in being reasonable about how we care for our environment,” she said.
Haasch said a group of citizens had volunteered to help with the tree trimming, but they were ignored.
Haasch said she does not support town taxpayers subsidizing the Little Hope dam.
“It’s a trout stream and from knowledge gained over the past decades, it is healthier for the environment to have a free-flowing river,” Haasch said. “I understand the residents who lived on the mill pond are adjusting to change, but I believe that the land over time can become just as beautiful as living on that mill pond and probably attract more wildlife.”
John Miller grew up in Minnesota and is now retired on the Chain O’ Lakes. During his professional career, he provided insurance coverage for affinity groups, such as the American Legion and professional groups.
Miller said he had never been involved in politics until recently.
“When we became residents up here, I became more interested in what was going on in the town of Dayton,” Miller said. “I started going to town meetings and I was amazed at what was happening and the lack of transparency.”
Miller said Dayton residents need a clear idea of how their tax dollars are being spent.
“People have a hard time understanding the town budget when there’s one line that just says, ‘transportation,’ but they can’t see exactly where the money is coming in or where it’s going,” Miller said.
Miller said the town board should develop a long-term plan for maintaining Dayton’s infrastructure.
“If you need $300,000 for funding a bridge, you need to know if you have the money or if you need to go into surplus,” Miller said.
Miller noted that while state grants may pay the costs of building a bridge after the project is completed, the town board may find itself running a budget deficit until it receives state funds.
“If the town had a three-year plan, then we would be able to say where we stand in the process of funding our bridges,” Miller said.
Miller wants Dayton to post its budget and monthly financial reports online so that citizens can get the details at any time.
“Trying to rebuild the dam would be extremely costly,” Miller said. “I don’t know if it’s realistic for the Little Hope people to absorb that cost.”
If the judge rules in favor of removing the dam, Miller wants there to be plans on how to restore the shoreline. He also wants the town board to pursue financial assistance from the state and county for restoring the area.
Mike Halpin grew up in Waukesha County and moved to the Waupaca area in 1990.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been working in title insurance since 1986.
In 2007, Halpin sold his firm, Title I, to Stewart Title where he is now in charge of the independent agents. That same year, he moved from Waupaca, where he had served the prior three years on the common council, to the town of Dayton.
“My wife has owned property there since 1998, and I bought the first house there around 2002,” Halpin said.
He said he decided to run for the Dayton Town Board after attending the budget hearing in November.
“Enough is enough. Town government shouldn’t be a circus. It should be rational, calm with give and take,” Halpin said. “A budget hearing should be simple. You ask what it’s going to cost and why do we need to do it.”
Halpin said he does not believe the Little Hope dam should have become such a controversial issue.
He described the town’s legal costs associated with efforts to save the dam as “outrageous” and “a waste of taxpayer money.”
“I can see Chris’s personal side on the issue, but there are times like that when as an elected official you need to divorce yourself from this personal side of the issue,” Halpin said. “I think objectivity may have been lost.”
Halpin recognizes that the removal of the dam has resulted in a decline of property values in the Little Hope area, which he attributes in large part to the uncertainty over the pond’s future.
He also thinks the town should not be taking financial responsibility for replacing the dam.
“A lake district would be the appropriate vehicle to go through.” Halpin said. “The property owners there should be looking for grants or state support.”
He also believes that once the dam situation is resolved, town board meetings may be less heated.
“The questions and answers will be much more civil because decisions going forward will be more limited,” Halpin said. “The dam is virtually gone and time heals all wounds.”
Halpin described the town’s spending on tree trimming and equipment purchases as unnecessary, noting that Dayton’s capital expenditures “went from nearly zero to the extreme.”
“I don’t know of another township that does anything like that,” Halpin said, regarding the town’s roadside tree cutting. “With a capital budget, once you spend that kind of money, you can’t get it back.”
He also criticized the town chairman’s efforts to install numerous no-parking signs and replace stop signs.
“I don’t agree with moving every stop sign in the town of Dayton because they’re quote-unquote illegal,” Halpin said.