Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strange stuff from Wis DOT....

A few weeks ago, one of the principals of Pabst Farms Development participated in an open forum on the progress of the development, particularly the "upscale" regional shopping mall proposed as whipped topping for the dead-in-the-water Pabst Farms Subdivision.

Daniel Warren (in addition to being one of the big dogs at Pabst Farms Development is President of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission AND President of the Waukesha School Board) was quoted twice in the Waukesha Freeman saying to the group that WisDOT had spent "five to six million dollars already" on the new diamond interchange to be added to Oconomowoc to accommodate all the shoppers and upscale residents who would soon be flocking there.

The audience included lots of skeptical Oconomowoc citizens, grown weary and cynical over empty promises and hallucinated "hopeful signs" that the upscale mall was actually going to happen. They were looking for news about who was signing up to open stores--some reality to balance the baloney about Bonwit-Teller, Lord & Taylor, Ikea (that's upscale?) pipe dreams that had been floated early in the game.

"Five to Six Million Dollars," already spent on the interchange, this was big news, considering that the project has been put on hold, delayed, assigned a low priority, and--in most observers' realistic estimation--abandoned. I called the local DOT Communications pro, located in Waukesha. Who should answer but Dennis Shook, former Waukesha Freeman scribe, cut loose from that superb daily fishwrap several years back, in one of their regular purges.

Shook is a garrulous guy (and I'm not shy). So, there was a bit of small talk We reminisced briefly about some of the Freeman glory days. Then, I asked him where Warren got his information, whether he could confirm it. Shook said that his information was that "four to six million" had already been spent on the interchange; he mentioned something about the high cost of "grubbing". We shot the breeze a bit more, then I hung up.

A few hours later I sent him this e-mail.

"I talked with you earlier this morning. And, now I have a request. Will you please do some digging and provide more precise figures than the ones you offered this morning.
"As I recall it, I asked you whether Daniel Warren, quoted twice in the Waukesha Freeman, was correct in saying that "five or six million" had already been spent on the Pabst Farms interchange. Your response was that "four to six million had already been spent.
"I'd like to be able to quote you on a precise figure. More precise numbers, broken down by category, distinguishing among dollars spent, allocated, contracted, disbursed or any other useful category that DOT uses.
Thank you in advance."
To which Shook replied:

Dear Sir: I was unaware that you were quoting me at all. As you did not identify yourself, you should not use my comments.

Dennis A. Shook
WisDOT, SE Regional Office
Regional Communications Manager
141 NW Barstow St.
Waukesha, WI 53188
(cell) 1-414-750-2395

To which I replied:
The only thing I'm interested in is the figures on what has been, to date, "spent, allocated, contracted, disbursed" on the work defined and identified as Sawyer Road/Hwy P diamond interchange upgrade.

Everything else we discussed was just small talk. Mr. Warren, one of the Pabst Farms principals, appeared to have an official source for his statements. I am interested only in getting the same information that Mr. Warren has.

I would appreciate your getting those figures for me, as I am aware it is public information and available to the public.

Jim Bouman
I let this sit for a week and a half, thinking that Shook was working on it. When nothing arrived, I called his supervisor in Madison. The supervisor lit a fire under him. Seemingly, he had persuaded himself that I didn't mean it; or, that his retroactive declaration of "Off the record" held water.

Today I got this:

Dear Mr. Bouman:
Thank you for your inquiries on the Highwa P/Interstate 94 interchange. Here are the answers I was able to collect:
*To date, WisDOT has spent $8.8 million, broken down as : $1.4 million for design, $5 million for real estate acquisition, and $2.4 million for clearing and grubbing (including the crossover).
*WisDOT does not have a final project cost because the project size has yet to be determined.
*No other funds have been spent on the project or allocated to it.
Hope this helps. Thank you.
Dennis A. Shook
At long last, it is revealed: The reason Dennis Shook got canned from the Waukesha Freeman.

In most circumstances, a pink slip from Freeman editor, Bill Yorth, could be spun as advantageous to a job-seeker: too objective, insufficiently devoted to right wing causes, inclined to analytical thinking, determined to use the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law to get the facts, literate...lotsa stuff in short supply among journalists these days.

He's Civil Service, now. He's got Marty Beil backing him up. Dennis has settled in for the long haul. He'll retire as a WisDOT bullshit artist.


Anonymous said...

5 million for land acquisition sounds really out of line. The entire parcel north of Cty DR over to the hospital is only 8+ million and was contested last year. Almost all the land north of I-94 for the interchange is Pabst Farms land, and was valued as farm land (nothing). I hope this was not a big sloppy kiss to Peter Bell et al.

James Rowen said...

And as someone asked me today in an email, why not simply get an option on the land, instead of an outfight purchase.

James Rowen said...

Funny Freudian typo: Outfight purchase? No - - outright. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

sounds like the author has a problem with certain people or certain authority. Let it go dude, everybody would probably complain about how you do your crappy job with better reason.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.