Janesville64.5°

Mystery calls prod for opinions on proposed development

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Kayla Bunge
February 18, 2008
— City residents have been receiving phone calls from a supposed research company asking how they’ll vote on the controversial Mirbeau-Hummel development, but it’s not clear who’s behind the calls.

Most of the calls have transpired in the same fashion: the caller states he is conducting a survey and begins asking questions about national and state politics. The questions eventually become more pointed and specific to Lake Geneva.


Alderman Larry Magee’s phone rang at 9:45 p.m. Feb. 7.


The caller stated he was from Promark Research, a survey research and data collection company in Houston.


Magee was asked about his thoughts on conservation and preserving the lake and then about the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development.


“He kept asking Mirbeau this, Mirbeau that and Mirbeau something else,” Magee said.


When Magee asked what the purpose of the survey was, the caller said, “I’m just doing what I’m told.”


Alderman Don Tolar’s experience was similar. When he asked questions about the survey and who is behind it, the caller couldn’t provide an answer.


"He said he didn’t really know,” Tolar said. “That was about the extent of it.”


The calls have come from a Canadian phone number, according to the Caller ID of people who have been called. The Janesville Gazette dialed the number but received a busy signal.


The number is listed on several Web sites, where people can report unwanted phone calls. Reports indicate the caller usually is conducting a survey.


Promark Research declined to comment.


Those on either side of the Mirbeau-Hummel development say they aren’t involved.


Mirbeau-Hummel representative John Terrell said the developers have nothing to do with the calls.


“I don’t know who’s doing it,” he said.


The Friends of Geneva Lake group isn’t doing anything, either, co-founder Penny Roehrer said.


Nick Egert, an attorney representing Lower Density Development LLC, which has offered to purchase the Hummel property, said the group “has no comment at this time.”


Glen Loyd, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said there’s not much residents can do about the calls. Having their phone number on the state and national no-call lists doesn’t protect them from survey calls.


“If it was a company soliciting business ... we would go after the company,” Loyd said, “But if it’s a legitimate survey, then we wouldn’t.”


Magee said the calls are upsetting.


“Maybe if I wasn’t in office ... it wouldn’t affect me in that way ... but you wonder who’s doing it and for what purpose,” he said.


Does the alderman think the survey calls are linked to someone on either side of the Mirbeau-Hummel development?


"Instinct tells me that it is,” Magee said. “How they’ll take these questions and twist them around, I don’t know.”



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