October 31, 2013
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Library celebrates award with party
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Scott de laruelle
Unifed Newspaper Group
It may not have the samefeel of hoisting a cham-pionship trophy or cut-ting down the nets, but foreveryone in the area witha stake or interest in the2013 Wisconsin Libraryof the Year Verona PublicLibrary, Saturday will be achance to have a little fun.The library was honoredearlier this year in rec-ognition of distinguishedachievement in service,particularly for its pub-lic programming and itsstrong participation inreading programs.The party includes a visitfrom Mo Willems’ popu-lar storybook characters,Elephant and Piggy, kids’karaoke with The Gomersand glitter tattoos, crafts,cake and refreshments.It begins at 10 a.m. withappearances from localelected officials, includingSen. Jon Erpenbach.Verona Public Librarydirector Brian Simons saidthe award “recognized alllevels of what it takes toprovide outstanding ser-vice to the community,”and credited funding sup-port from both taxpayersand elected officials forearly literacy initiativesand children's program-ming.“Without the Friends of the Library the, SummerLibrary Program would bea shell of what it is,” hesaid. “Without the Board'swillingness to support avision of library servicethat builds a communitythrough literacy and life-long education, we couldnot do move services inthe progressive manner wehave.”Simons pointed out the“highly skilled, motivatedand dedicated library staff that organizes and main-tains an increasingly busybuilding which hosts hun-dreds of programs a year.“I tell the staff all thetime that a library is a ser-vice,” he said. “In order todo service you need peoplewilling to serve, and inorder to do great service,you need great people.”
City of Verona
Commissionconsiders anotherbig restaurant
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Verona Press editor
A plan for what would beone of the biggest restau-rants in the city is back onthe Plan Commission agen-da after being withdrawnearlier.The commission will givefeedback and hold an infor-mal discussion on the EastVerona Avenue proposaland will also consider finalplans for Epic’s Campus 4and a revised proposal formore than 200 residentialunits on the east side of thePrairie Oaks subdivision off Cross Country Road.The restaurant was firstsuggested in August –though not described ordiscussed in any detail– as part of the initialreview in August for anew AgSource building onEast Verona Avenue. TheAgSource building earnedfinal approval earlier thismonth and (prep work hasalready begun on the 6-acresite sandwiched betweenConsolidated Food Serviceand the nearly unmarkedBadger Prairie Health CareCenter cemetery.It would take part of thespot that was once plannedfor the similarly sized andnow aborted Murphy’sHometown Hideaway.Like the more compli-cated plan for a restaurantnext to the bike trail thatgot a preliminary approv-al earlier this month, therestaurant appears to be alocally owned startup.At 5,700 square feet, itwould be the third-larg-est restaurant in the city,behind Gray’s Tied House(10,525 square feet) andCuco’s (6,473 square feet),and it would also include apair of outdoor volleyballcourts.A letter submitted withthe proposal calls it a “fam-ily-oriented restaurant andsports bar” with a “neigh-borhood atmosphere” thatwould feature an outdoorkids area, a private partyarea and a potential rooftoppatio. It promises to haveat least a dozen Wisconsin-made craft brews on tapand locally sourced meatground and stuffed on site.It could not be approvedbefore December, when itcould return for site planapproval from the com-mission and a permit forrestaurant activity from theCommon Council.City planning directorAdam Sayre told the Pressthe restaurant had beenremoved from the agendato avoid creating any con-flicts with the time-sensi-tive AgSource building.Epic’s $200 millionCampus 4 got its usu-al treatment earlier thismonth, with questionsand comments that weremore curious than criti-cal on a set of buildingsthat exceeds city standardsby wide margins in mostaspects. There was a brief discussion on the build-ing height – which is farabove the city’s maximumin some spots – but becauseof its location there wereno serious objections.The developer hopingto expand at Prairie Oaks,meanwhile, is returningwith a revised concept thatwould spread out the 108apartment units and 111senior housing units overthree or more years, adher-ing closer to the city’syear-old apartment phasingpolicy.
Billboards promote Verona
Verona Press editor
With room tax fundsincreasing every year, theVerona Area Chamber of Commerce continues to look for bold ways to promoteVerona.The latest is a set of bill-boards in three locationsaround the state, coax-ing potential visitors to“Explore. Play. Stay.”That’s a marketing themethat’s been worked on for acouple of years and finallyhoned this past spring byassistant Terri Weiss, whowas here for just a fewmonths before taking anoth-er job.The chamber has used thattheme in a statewide bik-ing magazine and in ads inother communities’ visitor’sguides chamber executivedirector Karl Curtis said. Ithas also promoted similarconcepts in radio ads and ina Discover Wisconsin showpartially about Verona thataired last year.But the most noticeable– if you happen to be goingthat way – are the bill-boards, which went up inAugust. They’ll be up untilDec. 1 and likely will goback up again in the springto coincide with the peak youth sports season.The idea, Curtis said, isto focus on the thousands of people who come into Vero-na each year for sportingevents such as soccer, base-ball and lacrosse tourna-ments and encourage themto spend time and moneyhere, rather than headingto Madison or other nearbyareas during their downtimeor for their overnight stays.One of the billboards isin Janesville, along U.S.Hwy. 14 west of the Inter-state, another is in Stough-ton, along U.S. 51 near thechamber office and the thirdis in Columbus.“We’re getting reallygood feedback. People arenoticing them all over thearea,” Curtis said. “We get alot of people who see themcoming back from Packergames.”The billboards cost about$15,000 for production of the signs and leasing thespace this year. Next year’sbillboards won’t have theproduction cost but likelywill be up for a longer peri-od.The cost of the billboardsis just a drop in the buck-et for the room tax funds,which have risen steadilysince the opening of the Hol-iday Inn Express in 2008 tomore than $100,000 a year.And they’ll likely go upagain with a new FairfieldInn and Suites being builton West Verona Avenue andlikely to stay full year-roundwith Epic visitors.“The chamber is work-ing on an overall market-ing plan for ways to use themoney, which admittedly issomething we should havehad in place already,” Cur-tis said.That money, a portion of the hospitality tax collectedby the city, is required bystate law to be used for tour-ism-related expenses, whichcould be anything fromsponsoring local eventsthat draw out-of-towners,like Verona Area Perform-ing Arts Series shows, tomarketing campaigns. Thechamber has considered hir-ing an employee focused onmarketing and promotions,although that’s still a diceyproposition with a pro-posal moving through thestate Legislature to severelyrestrict control of the roomtax funds. A better option,Curtis said, might be con-tracting a part-time position.“It creates a challenge,”Curtis said. “We have tofind a good way to use thosefunds. When you kind of don’t know what you’regoing to have… That’s oneof the reasons if we out-source this, we’re not losingan employee, were just end-ing a contract.”
This billboardoff U.S.Hwy. 14 inJanesville isone of threestatewidepromotingVerona. Theothers are inStoughtonandColumbus.They will beup until Dec.1 and likelyreturn in thespring.