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Monday, August 23, 2010

Ignorance or Hostility? Commissioners Hagemann and Verhey Miss Point on Prairie Village

Friday's MDL included a letter to the editor from Doug Erickson, a Prairie Village board member and Lake County Commission candidate. Erickson writes concerning the Lake County Commission's decision last week to eliminate a $1000 handout the county had considered giving to our local pioneer museum and showgrounds. That $1000 was already much less than the $5000 Prairie Village had requested.

The original article in Wednesday's paper reported that Commissioners Roger Hagemann and Bert Verhey justified their vote against the aid by saying Prairie Village is bringing in more money now than in past years. Commissioner Dan Bohl was not quoted on his reasons for voting against the aid; Commissioners Scott Pedersen and Chris Giles voted for the allocation.

In his letter, Erickson adds some more comments from Commissioners Hagemann and Verhey that don't speak well to either intelligence or the fairness of those two commissioners. Erickson claims that Hagemann said that Prairie Village doesn't give anything back to Lake County. Erickson says Verhey reasoned that since Prairie Village had "$2000 just laying [sic] around for somebody to steal," Prairie Village wasn't in dire need of public assistance.

Wow. Let's tackle Verhey's non sequitur first, since that's an easy pitch. I dread to think that, when an indigent comes before the county asking for financial assistance for medical bills, Commissioner Verhey might say to the poor sap, "Well, the sheriff's report says someone robbed your house last month. Gee, if you've got stuff just lying around for somebody to steal, I guess you don't need any help from us."

As for Hagemann's assessment that Prairie Village does no good for the county, nothing could be farther from the truth. Prairie Village has built the only really successful, long-lasting tourist event in this county, the Steam Threshing Jamboree. Nothing else that happens in Madison backs up traffic on Highway 34 all the way to town (memo to Hagemann: that's a good thing—now send a deputy or two earlier next time to direct through traffic along the shoulder). Prairie Village has the best infrastructure for outdoor cultural events in the county. Prairie Village already hosts the Motongator Joe music festival (well, if you can call "hillbilly testosterone outlaw country" music). Raise some cash, build a permanent sheltered outdoor stage, get Joe to loosen his contract control over Prairie Village events, and you could host a number of big music events there.

Now maybe Hagemann's point was that Prairie Village doesn't contribute directly to the county's budget. The county gets no cut of the sales tax Prairie Village generates, and as an independent municipality, Prairie Village doesn't pay property tax (at least I think that's the case). If that's Hagemann's reasoning, he's out of step with the thinking of most local leaders, who are willing to provide enormous handouts to non-profits like Interlakes Community Action Program that pay no taxes but generate good for the community via other economic activity. And would Roger Hagemann deny assistance to indigents just because they rent an apartment and don't directly pay property tax?

The comments Erickson attributes to Hagemann and Verhey suggest either ignorance or hostility toward Prairie Village. Their attitudes reflect an anti-Prairie Village sentiment that I've sensed on other occasions around the community. Are other folks just envious and bitter that Prairie Village can survive and succeed while the Madison Chamber of Commerce continues to scratch its head and wish Madison had some signature tourism event?

Prairie Village is an enormous economic and cultural asset to the community. The only other operations that bring similar visibility and tourist revenue to Lake County are Lake Herman State Park and high school sports... both of which are brought to courtesy of your tax dollars. Prairie Village provides more direct, demonstrable good to our local economy than all of the vague, unspoken, unproven machinations of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation. If the Lake County Commission can double its deficit to hand the unaccountable LAIC $25,000, the county can afford the $5000 Prairie Village requested to fix up old buildings and tractors, preserve our history, and continue to draw tourists to Lake County.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree, Cory. I couldn't believe the remarks made by the commissioners. But I had heard before also that the city/county didn't appreciate Prairie Village much, and I guess this proves the point. Prairie Village is a wonderful attraction that is growing and attracting more events yearly, and a little support from said commission is surely warranted.


  2. Here's something to consider. There are hundreds of volunteers, taxpayers, who spend countless hours working at Prairie Village each season simply for the satisfaction of improving the Village for all to enjoy. Every one of them pays admission fees out of their pocket to attend the Steam Threshing Jamboree and all the other events throughout the summer. They do it out of a desire for preserving the past for all generations to enjoy and learn. It is a labor of love that is shared by thousands each summer. It is a living museum, part of our cultural experience, and Commissioners Bohl, Hagemann and Verhey should reconsider their vote and bring this funding issue back, because Prairie Village benefits this county's residents and businesses tremendously. Anyone who hasn't attended in recent years should stop out this weekend. I'll gladly buy all three commissioners an admission ticket. Unbelievable experience!


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