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Optimism bubbling for Lake Lawn deal in Delavan

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ANN MARIE AMES
March 18, 2011
— By the end of the day, Lake Lawn Resort could have a new owner.

Already, the Delavan community is buzzing with excitement about the possibility of a reopened Lake Lawn.


At a special Delavan City Council meeting Thursday, Walworth County philanthropist Jim Drescher said he was optimistic about a meeting scheduled today with Anchor Bank of Madison.


"The bank said to me, 'We believe you're our buyer for the resort,'" Drescher said. "What that means for sure, we can't know until we meet."


Drescher said he was not sure what details of the contract the bank wants to discuss, but it could be a $900,000 city of Delavan special assessment on the property. Drescher said if that's the case, he might need to bring the contract back to the city council for approval before he can sign it.


Drescher last week offered $9.3 million to buy Lake Lawn from Anchor Bank and a group of 12 other banks that own portions of the debt on the property.


Drescher raised $12 million from a group of five local investors in order to pay cash for the resort, make some repairs and operate the resort debt-free through 2012.


As late as Wednesday afternoon, Drescher had not gotten a response from Anchor Bank. Drescher has said time is of the essence to close the deal so that professionals can treat Lake Lawn's golf course and keep it in shape for the summer season. Without care, the course by mid-summer would need total rehabilitation to be operable, he said.


Drescher has not decided what his leadership role would be if the resort were to reopen. He said he is first concerned with the short-term goal of acquiring the property.


Anchor Bank in 2009 filed a foreclosure action against the former owners of Lake Lawn on a $51.9 million loan and in October bought the resort in at a Walworth County sheriff's auction for $19.97 million. The bank closed the resort in December. More than 300 people lost their jobs.


Drescher takes with him into today's meeting a bounty of good wishes from the attendees of Thursday's council meeting. The meeting was the most crowded in recent history, and, unlike other recent meetings about Lake Lawn, included only positive comments from council and audience members.


Walworth County residents, many of them former Lake Lawn employees, packed council chambers to encourage the bank to sell to Drescher and his team.


"The city absolutely is 100 percent behind this project," said Travis Egan, president of the Delavan Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. "We want to make sure this resort is restored back to its proper place where it belongs."


Dave Sekeres of Whitewater worked for 18 years at Lake Lawn, most recently as the resort's rooms manager. He asked the city council members to keep communicating with Anchor Bank on behalf of the community until a contract is signed.


"Keep doing it for the condo owners, the hundreds of unemployed workers, the other local business owners," Sekeres said. "Do it for the people of Delavan so that they can be proud of Lake Lawn Resort again."


Council to offer top job to Pieroni

The Delavan City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to offer the city administrator job to Denise Pieroni, a former village manager in Barrington, Ill.


She would replace Administrator Joe Salitros, who plans to retire.


The city will contact Pieroni today, city attorney Steve Koch said. The contract details will not be available until Pieroni accepts the job, he said.


Pieroni worked for Barrington starting in 1991. She has a bachelor's degree from Marquette University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield.


She could start working for the city of Delavan on May 23, Clerk Sue Kitzman said.



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