Spotlight: 50 years ago

Verona Elementary principal Richard Hyde (right) watches as linotype operator Henry Busch shows the printing process to fifth-graders in a tour of the Oregon print shop where the Verona Press was printed.

50 years ago

• An outcry from citizens about a secret meeting and a failure to post notices forced the village to void a controversial vote and rethink the purpose of a committee.

The village’s extraterritorial zoning committee had adjourned to a 15-minute discussion about a proposal to sell motorized equipment such as snowmobiles out of a garage on his home’s lot off County Highway PB, upsetting opponents who had watched the remaining hourlong discussion. 

A petition with more than 50 names had objected to the “spot” zoning of commercial within an agricultural area. The project was eventually withdrawn, and coincidentally, the committee was renewed for a year.

• Parents put pressure on the school board to develop a handbook that would let them know what the district expected of them. 

After investigating the matter, the board decided it didn’t have enough support and dropped the idea.

• The library board wrote a letter to the Press complaining of loud, disruptive kids who had been unwilling to heed rules or take warnings.

• Mount Vernon celebrated its quasquicentennial (125 years) with a parade, tug-of-war, dances and fireworks in a three-day event. Music included polkas, a square dance, a country band and a brass band.

• The village gave approval for rent-subsidized housing for the elderly. 

Former Village President Ole Week voted against it, complaining that it would be foolish to update ordinances and allow people to live in apartments smaller than 600 square feet and objecting to having 100 units.

• The football team finished tied for first place in the Capitol Conference with Lodi with a 5-1-1 record. It was the Indians’ second straight shared title.

40 years ago 

• Fitchburg considered withdrawing from Fitch-Rona EMS after some conflicts over the use of the Hurst “Jaws of Life” tool.

A couple of accidents in the Town of Fitchburg resulted in the EMS calling Verona’s fire department instead of Fitchburg’s because Verona had the tool and Fitchburg used other methods of extricating victims. It turned into a major political issue, and Fitchburg commissioned a study to determine whether it was feasible to have its own EMS district.

The issue wouldn’t be solved for several months, with Fitchburg claiming to have a similar tool it didn’t own, a committee deciding whether the EMS had the right to call specifically for the Hurst tool and the state eventually getting involved.

• The Common Council took the U.S. Census Bureau to court over the way it counted residents. The tally was correct, but the Fourth Ward had the wrong number, complicating redistricting.

• The city considered cutting library hours after it was discovered the county would likely drop funding from 70% of actual expenditures to 20%.

• The council agreed to increase city worker salaries by 7.6 percent after department heads complained at a personnel committee meeting that employees were understaffed and overworked and lobbied for more than 10 percent.

30 years ago 

• The school district set a February referendum for building a new or expanded high school.

The building at the time had a capacity of 700 students, which it expected to exceed by about 100 before the building could even be built. Now, the building, which is home to Badger Ridge Middle School, can accommodate around 1,600.

• A planned strings program for fourth- and fifth-grade students was canceled when it could not muster the 63 students required to be financially feasible.

The program, by Ward-Brodt Music Mall, was a community response to the school district’s unpopular decision to cut its strings program for those grades. But only 41 students signed up, and only three students’ families inquired about scholarships that would have paid for the program.

• The Verona Area school board decided to build a new central office without borrowing money.

It approved spending $140,000 in leftover tax-increment financing money from the closing of a district and $135,000 from the sale of land where its old district office was toward the $300,000 project.

• The boys and girls cross country teams both advanced to the state meet after winning their conference championships and blasting through sectionals for twin titles.

• The city approved a plan for 15 “affordable” homes in Cross Country Heights on smaller-than-normally allowed lots, priced at $74,000 to $93,000.

• A school board committee discussed the possibility of year-round schooling in conjunction with the space needs study planning for the expansion of Verona Area High School.

• Twelve high school students were arrested for stealing dozens of items from the community as part of a scavenger hunt. The stolen items included mailboxes, part of a bus stop sign, a license plate off a police car, a city flag, a population sign and hubcaps.

• Two teens were arrested for slashing 29 tires on 16 cars in August.

• The boys soccer team posted shutouts of Lake Mills and Mount Horeb to clinch the conference title in its third year of competition. 

• A new post office opened on Enterprise Drive, in the city’s east-side commercial park. The $390,000 building replaced the old 100 S. Shuman site, which had trouble accommodating its 17 employees.

20 years ago

• The Verona Area School District announced that a recall election for two board members would be held the following month.

The timing had been a problem, with the board clerk, Ken Behnke, expressing concern that the election could end up falling on the week of Thanksgiving or force a primary the week of Christmas.

Jeff Urso and Erik Phelps submitted papers to run for the seats held by Gregg Miller and Nancy Horns.

• The school district changed a charter school enrollment policy that had angered some parents because of unintended consequences.

Rule 360, designed to help the schools meet state demographic requirements, had ended up keeping some in-district families out even when there were openings. 

The amended rule put top priorities on families whose kids received special education services or qualified for free or reduced lunches from enrolling in charter schools, except at the kindergarten level, where siblings took top priority.

• The Verona Area Chamber of Commerce held a formal opening for the Military Ridge State Trail segment that had recently been built, linking Verona to Madison and Fitchburg.

The daylong party was at the trail head at County Highway PB, where the Park and Ride lot is now. Though the 3-mile trail segment technically opened July 30, rain washed it out within a couple of days and it was closed again for a few weeks.

• Verona’s football team earned its first playoff berth in eight years with a triple-overtime victory over DeForest, then beat top-seeded Wilmot Union at home, handing the No. 4-ranked Panthers their first loss.

• High school teachers in the district picked a variety of ways to use the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as teaching tools. Some talked about stereotypes, others had students express their feelings when it happened or analyze how other people and the society at large dealt with the shock and anger over the event.

• The city approved a plan by Verona Community Betterment to build a shelter at Festival Park, also known then as Hometown Park.

• Verona and Fitchburg approved the purchase of a second ambulance for Fitch-Rona EMS. EMS chief Jon Erdmann said it would allow the district to be covered 75% of the time and keep an ambulance stationed in Verona most of the time.

10 years ago

• Verona Community Betterment voted to dissolve after almost 40 years of operating the city’s annual festival, Hometown Days. 

Facing a shortage of volunteers, the group had tried to get the city and chamber of commerce to help, but eventually, a local business decided to pick up the festival for two years before the chamber began handling it.

• The Verona Area School District confirmed its decision to begin holding 4-year-old kindergarten, now known as Pre-K. 

It had opted to start the program nearly a year earlier, but difficulties with staffing and contracts had put it in jeopardy. 

• Tuvalu Coffeehouse and Gallery owner Erika Hotchkiss announced she would challenge longtime incumbent County Board member Mike Willett. 

Hotchkiss won election the following spring but chose not to run again in 2014, when Willett returned to that seat.

• The Capital Area Regional Planning Commission for a fourth time denied the city’s attempt to plan expansion to the southwest -- in a sensitive area near the confluence of the Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek. 

Though the city would eventually gain that approval, after a lawsuit by Mazomanie forced a change in the state’s rules, the city has yet to develop any of it.

• City clerk Judy Masarik resigned months after a mistake in a Wisconsin Supreme Court recount put Verona in the national spotlight.

• The girls volleyball team finished the regular season 33-0 and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history.

• The football team continued its undefeated run, advancing to the state sectionals, where it would host conference rival Sun Prairie.

• The Verona girls cross country team finished 12th at the state meet. Verona senior Matt Wolf finished 47th as an individual.

• Verona Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Karl Curtis took a stab at being a playwright, writing and directing a comic monster musical called, “Undertow,” for the Verona Area Community Theater.

• St. James Lutheran Church commemorated its 125th anniversary with a public Oktoberfest celebration. The event included fall activities, games for kids and a traditional German meal.

• Verona’s No. 1 doubles team of Cari Monroe and Cassidy Schorr won the program’s first doubles victory at the state tennis championships. Morgan Wilson also advanced to state.

• The Verona Public Library brought in a traveling dinosaur exhibit.


– Jim Ferolie

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