Independent investigation concludes Election Day error was honest mistake

Sept. 29, 2011 2:54 p.m. | An independent investigation found no willful criminal misconduct in election-night practices that led Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus to omit 14,315 votes cast in the city of Brookfield in spring elections last April.

However, a report on the independent investigation conducted by former Dane County prosecutor Timothy Verhoff found that Nickolaus violated state law requiring county clerks to post all returns on election night.

The Government Accountability Board released the report Wednesday, more than five months after Brookfield's 14,315 belated ballots gave incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a 7,316 vote statewide lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenberg in what had been a razor-thin race.

Change called for

The G.A.B. does not have constitutional power to remove a county clerk from office; however, it has issued an order requiring Nickolaus to conform her election reporting practices to state law and take steps to ensure accountability and transparency prior to the February 2012 spring primary.

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City moves forward with business marketing plan

Sept. 28, 2011 4:34 p.m. | The Muskego Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved to proceed with a $30,000 business marketing plan that will assess business elements and needs in the city.

The plan hopes to bring awareness of businesses desires for development and help the city pinpoint areas best suited for industry.

Also, the city again reiterated the benefits of the proposed park on Little Muskego Lake and its attractiveness for businesses - perhaps ultimately leading to the development of a "downtown" area in Muskego. The council approved this proposal 4-2.

Consultant firm Vierbicher/Voltedge, chosen by the Community Development Authority, will assist the city with the business marketing plan, which will start immediately.

West Girls win Blue Division volleyball title

Sept. 28, 2011 11:44 a.m. | The New Berlin girls volleyball team clinched the Blue Division Championship of the Woodland Conference last night.

The Vikings beat Cudahy (25-9, 25-8, 25-17) to finish unbeaten with a 6-0 record.

Senior Rebecca Gasper (8 kills, 5 service aces, 3 blocks) and Sarah Franzen (19 kills, 3 blocks) and Carey Devine (7 digs) led the stat attack.

Coach Joel Golsteyn's Vikings are now 19-2 overall.


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Waukesha County building projects get green light

Sept. 27, 2011 10:04 p.m. | Waukesha - Attempts to kill several county building projects in the five-year Waukesha County capital projects plan made no headway Tuesday night as the County Board adopted a $115 million plan almost identical to the plan proposed by County Executive Dan Vrakas.

Only the first year of the plan will affect the 2012 budget.

The board voted 18-4 to move a study of remodeling or replacing the Waukesha County Courthouse ahead one year, from 2014 to 2013.

An attempt to remove a $36 million health and human services building, which is mostly under contract to build already, was defeated 22-0, with even the motion maker, Supervisor Robert Hutton, voting against his motion.

Attempts to eliminate biking trail improvements and replacement of pit toilets in county parks with flush toilets were also soundly defeated.

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Waukesha County Board rejects business loan plan

Sept. 27, 2011 9:54 p.m. | Waukesha - The Waukesha County Board on Tuesday rejected County Executive Dan Vrakas' economic development initiative that targeted small businesses with the potential for high growth for tax-financed, no-interest gap financing loans.

In a rare defeat for Vrakas, the measure - proposed as part of his 2012 budget - was rejected with 13 supervisors opposed and nine in favor. The Executive and Finance committees had recommended approval, and Vrakas announced the new program at a news conference last week.

The Small Business Leverage Loan Program, as it was to be called, would have started with $300,000 in tax funds and would have permitted loans of up to $50,000 to eligible companies in existence at least a year. Targeted businesses would be in manufacturing, technology, suppliers of local manufacturers and similar job creators.

Economic development and financing experts said small businesses are often financed to the hilt, often asset rich but cash poor. Lending institutions in the past may have provided loans through second or third mortgages, a market that has dried up with new regulations and dropping values.

But several supervisors spoke out against the program.

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Get your sports video fix in our Prep Sports Primer

Sept. 27, 2011 7:53 p.m. | Join sports director JR Radcliffe for this week's Prep Sports Primer, the fastest 90 seconds in local high school sports.

JR takes a look at some of the top stories in the area, including the 6-0 Muskego football team, some dominant efforts by the Brookfield Central girls cross country team and more.

Go to video

See last week's primer

Waukesha County levy rises less than 1% in Vrakas budget

Sept. 27, 2011 7:01 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas presented his 2012 budget to the County Board on Tuesday night, a spending plan with a tax levy increase of 0.6% - the lowest in nearly 30 years.

Vrakas said in an earlier interview that it was the toughest budget he's faced, given significant cuts in state funding, the continuing effects of the recession and the state-imposed tax levy limit that restricted its increase to the percentage growth in tax base from new construction.

Despite all that, the county is maintaining infrastructure and services, he said.

Most taxpayers would see no increase in the county portion of their tax bill, which the county calculates has increased $14 in five years for a median-valued home. With many property values dropping, the 4-cent increase in the county's proposed equalized tax rate - to $2.01 per $1,000 full market value - could even mean a drop in individual county tax bills this year. Municipal and school taxes make up a far greater share of tax bills.

Vrakas' proposed budget of $284.4 million is up 6%. Within that budget, spending of $244 million on operations is down 1.4%, largely from personnel and pension savings and because the state rather than the county will now contract for $3.5 million in services for children with autism and similar long-term care needs.

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Eagle Scout project honors veterans

Sept. 26, 2011 2:54 p.m. | Jordan Heller will use his Eagle Scout project to honor New Berlin's veterans.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 93, Heller created a project that includes a 45-minute video of interviews, stories and recollections of local veterans as well as a booklet containing pictures and historical information.

With help from other members of Troop 93, Heller collected various materials, including interviews, over many months. They also recorded many hours of video, which was later edited into a more concise presentation.

His efforts, titled "Multimedia Tribute to the Veterans of New Berlin," will be publicly unveiled at 7 p.m. Thursday at VFW Post 5716, 17980 W. Beloit Road. Cake and coffee will be served after the program.

The project will also be on display at the VFW post and the New Berlin Public Library's Veterans History Room and will be presented to a history class at New Berlin Eisenhower High School, where Heller is a senior.

Former Wauwatosa West basketball coach Landisch loses battle with cancer

Sept. 26, 2011 11:37 a.m. | Former Wauwatosa West boys basketball coach Mike Landisch lost his year and a half year battle with cancer Sunday night.

Landisch, 31, is survived by his wife, Colleen, daughter, Makenna, and son, Caden, who was born in August. He was placed in hospice four weeks ago.

The Wauwatosa community and beyond, embraced the likeable Landisch, who discovered he had kidney cancer in January, 2010. There were several fundraisers set up to help him and his family battle medical bills.

Landisch's final season as a coach was one of the best in the school's recent history.

The Trojans finished with an 11-6 Woodland Conference record and a 15-11 overall mark and they won their first regional championship since 1996.

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Undefeated Muskego shuts out Sabers

Sept. 24, 2011 12:53 a.m. |

A glance at Muskego’s scoreboard on Friday night might have you believe the Warriors dominated Franklin. A 20-0 Homecoming win. More than 250 rushing yards. Two forced turnovers.

But there’s no statistic for missed opportunities, and the Sabers had plenty in a game that was more competitive than the final score implies. While Muskego remained perfect, improving to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Southeast Conference to stay tied with Kenosha Bradford, Franklin was shut out for the second time this season and dropped to 4-2 (2-2).

“I wouldn’t say we let one get away,” Franklin head coach Louis Brown said, “because a lot would have had to go right for us to win tonight. But I did think we could have beaten them. There are no excuses though. That’s a great team.”

Franklin sophomore quarterback Sean McGuire fired precise passes on his first several drives. The problem was, his receivers weren’t catching them.

“We made too many mental mistakes,” Brown said. “Too many dropped passes, penalties, just things you can’t do against a team that good.”

Locked in a defensive battle for most of the first half, Muskego struck first on an 11-play, 40-yard drive capped by senior running back Jordan Gruettner’s 3-yard touchdown run with 4:47 left in the first half. The drive started when Franklin attempted a fake punt on fourth and 14 from its own 41-yard line. The Warriors weren’t fooled, as senior Jeff Glisch made a key stop.

“That was the play of the game in my eyes,” Muskego head coach Ken Krause said. “It’s fourth and 14, we’re expecting a punt, and we end up scoring. That was just a huge play.”

Franklin went three-and-out on its next possession, and Muskego responded with a four-play, 54-yard touchdown drive. Senior running back Brady Simkowski broke free from 20 yards out, and a scoreless tie became a 14-0 Warrior lead in less than three minutes.

“That was when I thought we had them,” Simkowski said. “We went up 14-0 right before the half, and obviously you never quit, and you start 0-0 in the second half, but those were big plays.”

With 1:40 left in the half, Franklin rallied and reached Muskego’s 28-yard line with 3 seconds to play. Junior Joe Falzon attempted a 45-yard field goal to put the Sabers on the board before the half, but it fell just short, bouncing off the crossbar in a fashion that seemed to fit Franklin’s fortunes all night.

Both teams traded punts to open the second half, but Franklin again found some offense and reached Muskego’s 2-yard line. Muskego’s defense tightened, and after three failed rushes, including two from the 1-yard line, a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

“We kept knocking on the door, but you have to give them credit,” Brown said. “They made those goal line stops, and those are good teams that make stops like that. I’ve been there.”

After multiple deflating moments, Franklin’s defense kept fighting and gave the Sabers yet another chance. Another stop allowed Franklin to take over at Muskego’s 45-yard line. The Sabers drove inside the red zone and faced another fourth and 1 from the 5-yard line, but again, Muskego’s defense denied them.

The Warriors put the game out of a reach with another touchdown from Gruettner to build a 20-0 lead with 4:01 to play. Gruettner finished with 54 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns.

“I give all the credit in the world to our defensive staff,” Krause said. “Our motto all year has been 11 Warriors to the ball, and I thought we did a great job of swarming to the ball. That was an impressive performance.”

Equally impressive was the Muskego running attack, which amassed 254 yards, including a 36-carry, 200-yard effort from Simkowski. The Warriors did not throw a single pass all night.

“They were more physical than us,” Brown said. “They come off the ball well, their running backs are big. They definitely wore us down.”

With a potential matchup of undefeated teams looming in two weeks when Kenosha Bradford visits Muskego, the Warriors are trying not to look ahead.

“I don’t want to sound cocky,” Simkowski said, “but I think we’re pretty good. We’re not even looking at Bradford though. Our motto is one game a time.”
Krause said he noticed a change in his team after a mediocre game against Racine Park last week.

“We played Park, and we gave up 27 points, and I think it was a turning point in our season,” he said. “Our seniors started to get on each other, and they were determined to never have a week of practice like that again. And this week, we got a good week of work in, and I think it showed.”

Muskego visits Racine Case (1-3, 2-4) next Friday, while Franklin hosts Racine Park (2-2, 3-3).

Happy homecoming as Lions beat Whitnall

Sept. 23, 2011 10:16 p.m. | New Berlin Eisenhower’s 28-14 victory Friday night over Whitnall was an important victory for a couple reasons.

First of all, the Lions hadn’t had a homecoming win the last two years.

Second of all, it improved their record to 3-2 in the Woodland Conference Black Division, tied for second with Whitnall and Greenfield behind first-place Greendale (5-0).

Third of all, it showcased power running back Tony Stewart, who scored all four of his team’s touchdowns.

“This is big,” a happy Lions coach Jeff Setz said afterwards, while watching the homecoming events on the field. “We’ve lost our homecoming game the last two years. That takes a lot of pizzazz out of the whole night, the whole weekend. I know the kids are excited about it – both the football players and the whole school atmosphere.”

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Waukesha County considers closing girls detention unit

Sept. 23, 2011 2:10 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County would close its secure detention unit for girls next year and contract with Washington County for the service under a proposal outlined Friday by Health and Human Services Director Peter Schuler.

The estimated $200,000 saving would be used to fill other gaps in the department's budget, including replenishing a fund that pays for services aimed at keeping youth from more expensive incarceration or out-of-home placements, Schuler said.

The proposal will be included in County Executive Dan Vrakas' 2012 budget proposal, which he will release Tuesday. The Health and Human Services Committee will take up the budget Thursday.

A study group had been working since January to find efficiencies in the 36-bed Juvenile Center, which in recent years has operated far below capacity. It had not reached a conclusion, despite a May deadline, and Vrakas' plan effectively ends the committee's job.

"Our job is at an end," Corporation Counsel Tom Farley, who chaired the group, told members Friday.

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Vrakas announces Waukesha County small-business loan initiative

Sept. 21, 2011 4:34 p.m. | Waukesha - Existing Waukesha County small businesses with growth potential could get tax-financed, interest-free loans of up to $50,000 under an economic development initiative County Executive Dan Vrakas announced Wednesday.

Called the Small Business Leverage Loan Program, the effort would start with $300,000 next year, enough to serve a half-dozen businesses or more. The program is set for County Board action Tuesday.

Vrakas said he's been looking for an economic development tool that the county could use. Director of Administration Norman Cummings suggested the loan program after learning of a similar effort in Minnesota.

"A lot of companies can get around third base, but they need that extra push to get to home plate," Vrakas said in announcing the initiative at a news conference Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, in an appearance before the County Board's Finance Committee, which recommended approval of the program, Cummings said: "We are typically not in this business. But in these times and these kinds of difficulties," he said, the county needs to join the effort to help promote job growth, especially among small businesses.

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Waukesha County contractor fined for 6th environmental violation

Sept. 20, 2011 6:08 p.m. | Waukesha - For the sixth time since 2005, Eagle contractor Lee Cresca or his business, Eagle Spring Environmental Ltd., has been successfully prosecuted for illegal waterway and wetland disturbance activities, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Tuesday.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hassin Jr. on Tuesday ordered Cresca and Eagle Spring Environmental to pay a total of $7,500 in fines and fees for illegally filling wetlands and grading and removing soil from the shore of a pond without permits from the state Department of Natural Resources.

The work occurred at a construction site in New Berlin in September and October 2009.

Cresca and Eagle Spring also must pay $38,426 in judgments from the five earlier cases, under Hassin's order. Those prosecutions involved two incidents in Racine County, and one incident each in Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha counties.

"Wisconsin law requires that contractors obtain and follow permits designed to prevent pollution and to protect public rights in the state's wetlands and navigable waters," Van Hollen said in a statement.

Local firm is finalist for BBB ethics award

Sept. 19, 2011 7:50 p.m. | Batzner Pest Management of New Berlin has been named a finalist for the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin Foundation 2011 Business Ethics Torch Award.

The award is a statewide competition that honors companies and charities doing business in Wisconsin that demonstrate excellence in ethical practices, service, honesty in advertising, management practices and employee training in ethical behavior.

Peer recognition and reputation also play a role in determining the award winners.

Awards will be based on the size of the organization. Winners will be announced at the BBB's ninth annual Torch Awards banquet Oct. 19 at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

New Berlin settles lawsuit filed by former police dispatcher

Sept. 19, 2011 3:52 p.m. | New Berlin - A lawsuit filed by a former New Berlin dispatcher after her personal medical and financial information was revealed by a New Berlin police detective has been settled, her attorney said Monday.

A settlement requiring New Berlin, Detective Nicole Saftig and their insurance company to pay his client $150,000 was reached through mediation Friday, according to attorney Walter Kelly. The settlement also required Saftig to issue a public apology, which was done in court Friday, Kelly said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph ordered the case returned to a federal court judge for dismissal after both parties stipulate to the agreement.

New Berlin City Attorney Mark Blum said Monday he was unaware of the decision. Another law firm was hired to handle the case and a representative could not be reached for comment, nor could Saftig's attorney, Paul Bucher.

Blum said "most likely" the city's insurance carrier would cover the cost. He said Common Council approval may not be necessary.

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West downed by Cudahy

Sept. 17, 2011 9:36 a.m. | New Berlin West's football team continued to build confidence, but it was Cudahy that came away with a 19-7 victory on Friday in a defensive Woodland Conference battle.
The Vikings (1-3) took a 7-3 lead early in the third quarter when Preston Porter hit Adrian Peil for a 57-yard touchdown strike. But Cudahy rebounded, getting its own long touchdown when Teontae Morgan caught the ball and scored from 23 yards away, and two more fourth-quarter scores put the game out of reach.

"It was the secondary's best game of the season, and really, we're starting to gain confidence defensively, flying to the football," said West coach Aaron Mack. "We're tackling really well and playing with that urgency that we preach to the kids, and they're buying into it. Our defensive coaches are doing a great job getting them ready."
Peil's long touchdown came on a post route.
"In the style of game they chose to play defensively, it was going to be ugly," Mack said. "They blitzed every down, and they're going to get us sometimes. You have to make it hurt hwen you do catch the football, and we had guys open all night long and just didn't connect. It really came down to making plays (on offense). Who's going to make plays when it matters most?"
All of West's positive yardage came through the air, with Porter connecting on 10 of 27 passes for 187 yards. Cudahy held the Vikings to negative-30 yards rushing while compiling 135 passing and 98 rushing yards.
Damian Bartay had two field goals for the Packers, including a 24-yarder that accounted for the only scoring in the first half. Peil finished with three catches for 140 yards.
"The bottom line is this game comes down to the idea that you can't beat yourself," Mack said. "I thought we let one slip away. The way the kids played for four quarters -- we played our butts off. It was physical and we didn't back down. We just didn't make enough plays. I have to do a better job to get our kids ready to play, and we'll come back next week."
West travels to face Blue Division leader Pewaukee next Friday.

Eisenhower finally breaks through

Sept. 16, 2011 11:59 p.m. | With the football season passing its halfway point Friday night, a palpable urgency could be sensed at Wauwatosa West High School.

Both the host Trojans and visiting New Berlin Eisenhower were coming off back-to-back close Woodland Conference losses and could ill-afford a third.

Shaking off a sluggish start, the Lions roared to a 31-10 victory, evened their record in the Woodland at 2-2 and, most importantly, rediscovered their mojo in the process.

"It always helps to win a game," said Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz. "Hopefully, our guys will start believing again that we have a good team and a good future. It's those tough losses where you really start questioning yourselves and questioning what your doing, but tonight's win gets us back on track."

Early on, it seemed Eisenhower had yet to recover from its 2-point loss to Greendale the week prior. Costly penalties and turnovers kept the game scoreless for nearly the entire first quarter.

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New supermarket under construction in West Milwaukee

Sept. 15, 2011 8:00 a.m. | Construction has started on a 61,000-square-foot West Milwaukee supermarket that focuses on selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Cermak Fresh Market is being built at 1541 Miller Park Way, just south of the Target store.

The store is expected to have a grand opening in January, according to Village Administrator Kim Egan.

Another new West Milwaukee food store, GFS Marketplace, plans to have a grand opening the first week of October, Egan said. The 15,000-square-foot store is at 2064 Miller Park Way.

United Way in Waukesha County seeks boost in giving

Sept. 13, 2011 3:38 p.m. | Waukesha - United Way in Waukesha County has set a fundraising goal of $4.3 million this year, a 5.2% increase over the $4,090,947 it raised in 2010, to help fund health and human service agencies that assist people in need.

The $4.3 million target for the annual fundraising campaign is the same amount the organization sought in contributions last year but fell short of because of the down economy.

"With the significant need still present in our community, we feel it important to strive for that $4.3 million yet again this year," said Courtney Capes, manager of marketing and communications for United Way in Waukesha County.

In 2009, $4,261,000 was raised.

United Way in Waukesha County's campaign runs through Dec. 30.

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Brick leads Greendale past Eisenhower

Sept. 10, 2011 1:31 a.m. | Both New Berlin Eisenhower and Greendale made their share of big plays on both sides of the ball in their Woodland Conference football game on Friday night. As Greendale’s 27-25 winning margin shows, though, the Panthers made just a few more than the Lions.

“Our kids rose to the occasion,” said Greendale coach Rob Stoltz, whose team improved to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in the Woodland Conference, tied for the Black Division lead with Whitnall. “Resiliency is a big thing that we preach. We made some plays when we had to.”

Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz could not say the same of his team, which slipped to 1-2 in the Woodland and 2-2 overall.

“We did a lot of good things, just not quite enough,” Setz said. “It seemed we were kind of always working ourselves uphill and just couldn’t make a big play when we had to, although we made some.

“We came up short on a few other plays that we needed to make, whether it was offense, defense or special teams.”

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Pewaukee gets a leg up on Ike

Sept. 02, 2011 11:04 p.m. | It’s not often a kicker goes 1-for-3 and gets the game ball. But it was Pewaukee sophomore Jacob Stern’s 26-yard field goal with three seconds left that resulted in just that, as the Pirates edged host New Berlin Eisenhower on Friday night, 9-6.

“Supposedly I won the game for us,” Stern said after being mobbed by his teammates. “But I’ve never missed this much in my life.”

Tied 6-6 with just over three minutes to play, the Lions attempted to convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line. The Pirates defense stuffed a quarterback keeper, giving their offense a short field to set up Stern’s game-winning attempt.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Stern said. “Obviously, I hope we get a touchdown on that last drive, because it’s my team, but I knew that if I got the chance to kick it, I’d make it. The difference between the one I missed and that one was that I took about five minutes to prepare. I just tried to clear my head. I prayed to God I’d make it.”

Stern missed a 25-yard attempt in the second quarter and later missed an extra point after Pewaukee’s only touchdown of the night, a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior Brock Bateman to junior Derek Folkert.

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Waukesha County exec pitches $115 million in projects

Sept. 01, 2011 9:14 p.m. | Waukesha - Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas released his five-year, $115 million plan for county projects Thursday that he says balances the need for maintaining infrastructure with services that ensure economic vitality.

The biggest item in the next five years - the largest-ever project, a $36 million new health and human services building, got under design this year. Major road projects, including the widening of Janesville Road in Muskego and the Waukesha west bypass, were under construction or study in previous years.

A first phase of Janesville Road widening between Moorland Road and the east county line finished in 2006 and cost $11.3 million. The new phase in Vrakas' plan between Moorland and Racine Ave., which had been delayed and is now proposed through 2013, will cost $27 million in state, local and county funds.

A second major road project previously identified as a future need is the widening to four lanes of North Ave. in Brookfield. Construction on the easterly phase, from 124th St. to Moorland Road, would start in about 2015 at a projected cost of nearly $18 million in county and federal funds. Design of the westerly phase, from Calhoun to Pilgrim roads, would begin in 2016 with construction in future years and a projected cost of about $9 million.

Vrakas will again ask the County Board to approve a study of remodeling or replacing the Waukesha County Courthouse, at a cost of $250,000. The board last year rejected the study on a 14-8 vote. Vrakas is asking for it in 2014, when the health and human services building is expected to be finished. Officials have discussed using the vacated health and human services building to temporarily house courthouse operations while courthouse remodeling goes on.

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Waukesha County Fair


It might be hot out there, but interns Maddy Heim and McKenna Oxenden are enjoying all aspects of the Waukesha County Fair. Check out their coverage of the new pig, duck and goat races, the 50th annual Fairest of the Fair contest, as well as their ranking of the top food items.

Best Summer Ever


We've made it easy for you to get out and go this summer. From hitting the trails for a bike ride or walk, to where to find beer gardens in the area, to the best places to swim in Waukesha County to the best summer drinks and summer reads, check out our 2016 summer guide.