Referendums top stories De Pere in 2018
By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – The Press Times expanded into De Pere in August of 2018, so there was not a full year of coverage, but there were lots of stories that were newsworthy in the four months that were covered.
The biggest story of De Pere in 2018 was the successful passage of three different referendums that will benefit the youth of the city.
The West De Pere School District had two referendums pass.
The first asked permission to borrow $64.8 million to build a new intermediate school, renovate three school buildings, make district-wide updates to infrastructure and to relocate athletic fields.
This will come with a grade reconfiguration to help the district address a student enrollment that is currently at about 3,200 students and could rise by more than 1,000 by 2030.
“It’s a great place to raise children, and the town of Lawrence and the town of Hobart have been growing because of it, and also the city of De Pere,” said West De Pere Superintendent John Zegers in August. “We like to think we provide an excellent educational environment for students K-12, and humbly I’d like to tell you that’s the reason. We have high-quality staff and a supportive taxpayer community and we’re very grateful for those.”
The second question asked for $9.9 million for a new multi-purpose indoor facility, along with improvements to the outdoor facilities.
The district currently sends students to the Swan Club on the city’s east side to take some standardized tests.
The new multi-purpose facility will allow for more testing space and indoor practice space for teams during the offseason.
The first question passed 6,667 to 3,465. The second question was tighter and only passed by 157 votes, 5,138 to 4,981.
Also, in November, voters in De Pere said yes to two aquatic facilities, one on each side of the city, at a cost of up to $900,000 per year, 7,268 to 4,294.
A movement started by two De Pere women called Save De Pere Pools worked with the city, the parks department and voters to spread awareness on the pool issue.
“For so many of the kids, that’s their safe place, their place to go and get some fresh air, get off electronics and have some structure, adult supervision, and interaction with other kids from school,” said Betsy Hornseth in October. “It’s a really important place for that demographic, and it would be such a shame to see it go, on either side of the river.”
Hornseth was joined by Katie Carviou in the Save De Pere Pools movement.
The city is now working on how to jump-start the process, because the pool at VFW Park on the west side sustained structural damage that is anticipated to cost close to $800,000.
A new faculty member in West De Pere also made waves, despite having four legs.
In September, The Press Times covered the story of Fenton, a facility dog who helps improve students’ capacity for learning.
“Since I’ve had Fenton as part of my classroom, I’ve had students become far more engaged because they’re more relaxed when they’re learning something difficult,” said WDPHS special-education teacher Laura Lenss in September.
Children helping children was the theme of another story that proved to be popular in De Pere in 2018.
Ben Nusbaum and Brett Weckwerth, sixth-graders at Foxview Intermediate School, held a party in October where 40 friends and their families helped put together 10 bicycles after the duo raised $1,300 in donations.
The bikes were given to children in foster care.
“Doing good is good for kids,” said Tammy Weckwerth, Brett’s mom in September. “They get so much all of the time; it’s good that they’re learning how to give back and to think about someone other than themselves. They’re so one-sided at this point in life.”
Finally, a De Pere resident celebrated something more than a milestone.
Ella LaLuzerne celebrated her 104th birthday in October among family and friends at Birch Creek assisted living home, where she’s lived for the past year.
She was born in Brussels, Wisconsin, in 1914, where her Belgian maternal grandparents, Alex and Josephine DeDecker Flemal, had settled in 1870.
Ella’s family includes 16 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 29 great-great grandchildren.