AP NEWS

Kekoskee merger denied by judge

March 15, 2019

JUNEAU — The battle between two small towns could hit the state Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Judge Joseph Sciascia decided to send back the state’s decision to allow the unincorporated town of Williamstown to attach to the village of Kekoskee.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration accepted the request last fall. Williamstown ceased to exist and its territory combined with Kekoskee to surround the city of Mayville, combining operations into a larger village. Mayville opposed the move and appealed the state’s decision to Dodge County Circuit Court, saying it did not follow the law.

Sciascia said that he did not believe state law allowed for Williamstown to just disappear with a boundary agreement between the two municipalities.

“The fact that we’re having this discussion means that there’s some ambiguity in the statute, that the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court’s going to have to straighten it out,” he said.

Lawyers for Kekoskee and the state said that the law did allow for the decision, backed up by past court cases.

“To me, it’s clear there are multiple ways to do all these things,” said Chris Blythe, assistant attorney general for the department. “I think it’s not implausible that a boundary change can mean an elimination.”

Matthew Parmentier, attorney for Kekoskee, said that if a boundary agreement isn’t the way to go about what Kekoskee and Williamstown did, then it’s not clear what would be the right way.

“We think the statute specifically allows for what we did,” he said.

However, Sciascia disagreed with their argument.

“This isn’t the same fact situation,” he said of the past cases. “In this case, the boundary agreement is being used to totally absorb and eliminate one municipality and reduce the pair of them down to one survivor.”

Mayville was against Kekoskee and Williamstown coming together because the larger village completely surrounds it borders, making it more difficult for the city to annex land and grow than if the land were unincorporated.

The parties in the case also agreed to stay the judge’s decision until a further review by an appeals court. That means everything will remain the same for now as Kekoskee settles into its new life. Kekoskee and Mayville have also come to some agreements that would allow Mayville to continue to have some review over land divisions near its border and that zoning changes in Kekoskee would go through the county.

The parties will draw up proposed orders before the judge makes his decisions final.

“Sorry I can’t make everybody happy, but it is what it is,” Sciascia said. “Good luck everyone. I hope that this gets resolves one way or the other with the least amount of expense and aggravation to everybody.”