We need your help – and we need it now.

Dear Friend of the Wehr Nature Center:

For the past 40 years the county park system has maintained a contract with UW Extension for environmental education programming staff at the Wehr Nature Center. This partnership has resulted in national award winning environmental and educational programs that I know you, your family and the community have enjoyed. The 2015 Budget that has been submitted to the County Finance Committee eliminates this contract, and with it, several UW Extension positions at the Wehr Nature Center.  The positions slated for elimination are the Director’s position, held by Deb McRae; the Volunteer Coordinator position, held by Mary Gaub; the Natural Areas Manager position, held by Mark Verhagen; the Outreach Coordinator position, held by Pat Fojut and the Educator positions held by Carol Howard, Holly Walz, Barb Lukaszewski, and Jill Hagen-Smith. The county proposes to offset these eliminations by creating four county positions, although only one of the positions would be assigned to the Wehr Nature Center.

As a Friend of Wehr, you undoubtedly know the amount of time and energy required of these positions to produce the programs you value.  It is bad enough that the County is considering eliminating these positions.  What is worse is that they have not considered the ramifications of these decisions downstream. For example:

  • Each year the Center hosts public facing educational and family events such as Maple Sugar Days, Owl Prowl, Bug Day, Cider Sunday and Halloween Haunts – just to name a few. These events would most certainly be eliminated as a result of the proposed staff reductions.
  • Wehr’s volunteers provide thousands of hours of high quality work to enable Wehr to serve schools and families throughout southeastern Wisconsin and maintain 220 acres of natural area.  It is well known by those working in the volunteer community, that it takes personal relationships to foster volunteer commitment.  A wholesale elimination of Wehr’s key staff would significantly harm the Wehr volunteer corps, and the very valuable work that they do.
  •  The staff, volunteers and Friends of Wehr are actively working to improve handicap accessibility of Wehr’s building and trails.  Significant effort has gone into building and trail redesign. Work has begun on soliciting funding for these changes.  This work would be severely curtailed, if not eliminated as a result of the proposed staff reductions.

In addition, the Friends of Wehr organization provides approximately $50,000 for Center maintenance and program funding each year.  This past year the Friends of Wehr and the Wehr staff also completed a successful campaign to replace all the windows in the nature center.  Donations totaled over $88,000 and resulted in significant improvement in the county owned building.  This campaign would not have been successful without the tireless efforts of all the staff, volunteers, Friends of Wehr and the local community.  However, the county has not acted in good faith.  Given the on-going yearly financial contributions to maintain the Center and its programs, the significant donation to improve the building, and the ongoing fundraising efforts and work associated with the accessibility project, all parties should have had input into the staffing plan and budget affecting Wehr.  This was not the case.

So how can you help? If you value your experiences at the Wehr Nature Center, please contact your Milwaukee County Supervisor, the co-chairs of the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee, and John Dargle, Milwaukee County Parks Director.  (Contact information can be found on the list below.)  Ask them to reverse the budget proposal, which would end the partnership with UW Extension, and to maintain the existing Nature Center positions. In addition, if you would like, there is a petition available to sign at the Friends of Wehr mailbox at the Nature Center.  Please stop by and sign it as soon as you are able. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at pbrings@att.net. Time is of the essence – the Finance Committee is already considering this budget.  Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

Paul Brings, President

Friends of Wehr Board

 

Milwaukee County Board – Contact Information

Please contact your respective County Board Representative as well as Willie Johnson, Jr. or David Cullen, since they are the Finance Committee Co-Chairs.
In addition, please contact John Dargle, Director of Milwaukee County Parks.  Please ask them to reverse the budget proposal, which would end the partnership with UW Extension, and to maintain the existing Nature Center positions.
Non-Milwaukee County Residents – Please contact Willie Johnson, Jr. or Dave Cullen, the Co-Chairs of the Finance committee
(phone numbers below).
Time is of the essence.  Please act now.  Thank you.
District Supervisor Additional Board Positions Phone Number Email Address
1 Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. 414-278-4280 theodore.lipscomb@milwaukeecountywi.gov
2 Khalif Rainey 414-278-4278 khalif.rainey@milwaukeecountywi.gov
3 Gerry Broderick 414-278-4237 gerry.broderick@milwaukeecountywi.gov
4 Marina Dimitrijevic Also serves as Chairwoman 414-278-4232 marina.dimitrijevic@milwaukeecountywi.gov
5 Vacant Contact Marina Dimitrijevic (Chairwoman) 414-278-4232 marina.dimitrijevic@milwaukeecountywi.gov
6 James “Luigi” Schmitt 414-278-4273 james.schmitt@milwaukeecountywi.gov
7 Michael Mayo, Sr. 414-278-4241 michael.mayo@milwaukeecountywi.gov
8 Patricia Jursik 414-278-4231 patricia.jursik@milwaukeecountrywi.gov
9 Steve Taylor Also serves as Second Vice-Chair 414-278-4267 steve.taylor@milwaukeecountywi.gov
10 David Bowen 414-278-4265 david.bowen@milwaukeecountywi.gov
11 Mark Borkowski 414-278-4253 mark.borkowski@milwaukeecountywi.gov
12 Peggy Romo West Also serves as First Vice-Chair 414-278-4269 peggy.romowest@milwaukeecountywi.gov
13 Willie Johnson, Jr. Also serves as Finance Committee Co-Chair 414-278-4233 willie.johnson@milwaukeecountywi.gov
14 Jason Haas 414-278-4252 jason.haas@milwaukeecountywi.gov
15 David Cullen Also serves as Finance Committee Co-Chair 414-278-4263 david.cullen@milwaukeecountywi.gov
16 John Weishan, Jr. 414-278-4255 John.weishan@milwaukeecountywi.gov
17 Anthony Staskunas 414-278-4247 anthony.staskunas@milwaukeecountywi.gov
18 Deanna Alexander 414-278-4259 deanna.alexander@milwaukeecountywi.gov
Contact Information For John Dargle, Milwaukee County Parks Director
Phone Number:  414-257-4774
Email Address:  john.dargle@milwaukeecountywi.gov
Address: 9480 Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53226
Mailing Address for Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors
Milwaukee County Courthouse
901 North 9th Street, Room 201
Milwaukee, WI   53233
414-278-4222

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IMPORTANT UPCOMING BUDGET MEETINGS

There are several upcoming public meetings that are slated to discuss the proposed 2015 Milwaukee County budget. We urge you to attend as many of these meetings as possible to voice your concerns about the elimination of the UW Extension contract with the County, and with it several UW Extension positions at the Wehr Nature Center.

The County Board will be having two public meetings regarding the 2015 Budget. The meeting dates and locations are noted below:

Monday, October 20, at 10:00 a.m.
Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Administration Building
5225 West Vliet Street
Milwaukee, WI

Monday, November 3, at 6:30 p.m.
Milwaukee Art Museum, Windhover Hall
700 Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI

Ninth District County Supervisor Steve Taylor will be having two Town Hall Meetings to hear your concerns about the 2015 budget specific to his District – The Wehr Nature Center falls within this District.

Wednesday, October 22, at 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Hales Corners Park Pavilion
5675 South New Berlin Road
Hales Corners, WI 53130

Wednesday, October 22, at 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Oak Creek Community Center
8580 South Howell Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154

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