Rock County cleared the final hurdle for buying the old Pick ‘n Save building on Janesville’s south side Thursday after the county board authorized the purchase, paving the way for the deal to be finalized in June.
County board members voted 26-0 to buy the $4.4 million property, which includes the former grocery store and adjoining parking lots. Members also voted to retain Venture Architects as the design firm on the development for $796,000 and authorized the initial $5.2 million borrowing resolution.
County officials unveiled plans to buy the former grocery store earlier this month. The plan calls for shifting all human services department programs in Janesville to the building by late 2020 or early 2021.
About $17 million is budgeted for remodeling, engineering, parking lot resurfacing and buying furniture. In all, the move is expected to cost $20.5 million.
Much of the county’s human services offices are in the health care center, a 47-year-old former psychiatric hospital on County F near the jail. That building, a 222,000-square-foot behemoth, has three times the amount of necessary space, officials say, and an entire floor is empty. Officials have said the building likely will be vacated and could be razed in 2024.
Other human services offices are located at the Rock County Job Center and in separate facilities on Franklin and Court streets in Janesville. Offices at the Eclipse Center in Beloit will remain where they are.
Officials have said all offices at the Rock County Job Center could move to the new complex, including the state’s Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. Such a shift would leave the job center vacant, and officials have said they could eventually sell it.
Director of Human Services Kate Luster has praised the consolidation plan, saying combining all human services programs in Janesville in a one-stop-shop complex will be a boon for clients and employees and foster a more hospitable climate.
Developer Jim Grafft and his family bought the property in January 2018 for about $2.9 million. The 129,000-square-foot structure has been vacant since Pick ‘n Save moved out in November 2017.
Pick ‘n Save’s departure triggered outcry from south side residents, many of whom have clamored for a grocery store in the area.
Before the board’s meeting Thursday, Rock County Administrator Josh Smith told the finance committee the building was valued at $4.24 million. Rock County Facilities Management Director Brent Sutherland said the building’s interior has been completely stripped, including the freezers and coolers.
Venture Architects is charging 5.85% of the cost of construction, shy of the 7% to 8% fee projected in the county’s facilities master plan.
Design and development are slated for August to September, with bidding to open in early 2020. Venture Architects representatives wrote in a memo to the county that the schedule could be “accelerated.”
That could mean bidding could begin this year, according to the memo. Such a move is “aggressive but possible,” and the firm will work with the county to “determine how to best fulfill that goal without compromising design and document quality,” according to the memo.
Officials said board members could vote on the final borrowing resolution for the purchase this year.
Consolidating the human services departments in a new building is part of the master plan, which Venture Architects unveiled in September. The plan details about $150 million in facilities upgrades over the next eight years.
Other recommendations include building a new Huber dormitory, expanding the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Rock County Jail, and investing nearly $15 million in the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Just looking at the facts of the brutal 2003 rape, Judge Barbara McCrory said Thursday she could have slept well at night sentencing Joseph H. Ostrowski to the maximum prison term he faced—40 years.
It’s a crime Ostrowski says he doesn’t remember committing.
District Attorney David O’Leary said the incident—Ostrowski armed with a knife sexually assaulting a woman sleeping in her home in a rural subdivision east of Beloit—was one of the worst sets of facts for a case he has seen.
During the assault, the woman prayed as Ostrowski tied her up and threatened her life.
O’Leary said this upset Ostrowski, who then threatened to cut out her heart because she said it belonged to God. He then stole her Bible.
“I thought it was a nightmare,” the woman said, according to remarks O’Leary read aloud.
But after Ostrowski suffered heat stroke in 2015 in Las Vegas, his resulting retrograde amnesia left him with no memory of his previous life.
At first, Ostrowski thought what police told him was impossible. But he then saw the DNA evidence from a condom and from the electrical cords used to bind the woman.
“It had to be me,” he said in court Thursday.
His attorney, Jason Sanders, said he couldn’t imagine a more difficult case on which to sentence someone.
Left with that choice, McCrory sentenced Ostrowski to 10 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision. McCrory called the woman a survivor instead of a victim.
It’s double the prison term Sanders asked for and half the prison term O’Leary requested.
Ostrowski, 44, on Feb. 14 entered an Alford plea to a charge of first-degree sexual assault while armed. That plea means he maintains his innocence but acknowledges there’s enough evidence for a jury to convict him.
Ostrowski said Thursday that incarceration was appropriate.
“Because it scares me that I don’t understand the circumstances that allowed me to be involved in any crime like this at all … I feel like extended supervision is appropriate indefinitely,” he said.
“As much as I think about it and I can’t understand how it could happen, it did happen.”
Although Ostrowski cannot know, he said his “best guess” is that alcohol or drugs were involved, “since it’s been such a big part of my life.”
The DA spoke at length about how sexual assault affects survivors, especially as psychological trauma that can stay with them forever.
The survivor in this case moved out of state, O’Leary said. She can’t watch shows such as Law & Order. She can’t stomach calling herself a “rape victim.”
Even in the immediate aftermath, O’Leary said, such heinous acts can cause survivors to behave differently than one might expect.
After cutting the ties, Ostrowski asked her when her alarm was set for. She told him 5 a.m. He told her not to call anyone or go anywhere until then.
O’Leary said she got her gun and hid in her closet. She waited for 5 a.m. and then called her husband.
Since then, she “has lived with this nightmare for 16 years,” O’Leary said.
Sanders, Ostrowski’s lawyer, said the vast majority of what the DA said was true. And if it was 2003, he would understand a harsher sentence because nobody would know if Ostrowski might attack someone again.
But because his client only had relatively minor police interactions in the last 16 years, he said his client was not a danger.
All that McCrory had left to consider was punishment. Sanders cautioned against the impulses associated with that.
“Now, it’s my belief that in this context punishment is vengeance wearing the robe of righteousness,” Sanders said.
“In front of the court today is the body of a guilty man whose mind has just now come to terms with the notion that he was in some way connected with this crime,” he later said.
Police arrested Ostrowski three months before Ostrowski and his longtime girlfriend had plans to get married. He has 653 days of sentence credit.
In the future, he still wants to marry her.
He said he also wants the opportunity to get to know his mom and other family.
Ostrowski’s sister, Nancy Pavon, said she and her mom didn’t know where Ostrowski was for the last 15 years. They often wondered why he lost touch with them.
During Pavon’s first Saturday visit in the Rock County Jail, Ostrowski didn’t recognize her. She hoped he could remember, but nothing she did could spark his memories.
She kept visiting—every Saturday since.
“Saturday, Joe,” Pavon told the man who couldn’t remember all their shared childhood moments as she left the courtroom. “I love you, Joe.”
William F. “Bill” Dilley
Norman Leon Hammond
Harold K. Hendrickson
Robert L. “Bob” Henze
David P. Shaughnessy
Todd R. Stevens
Roy D. Windhorst Jr.
When Dwight C. Watson was on his UW-Whitewater tour, he saw some young men walking by wearing bras.
They were rallying in support of breast cancer.
So Watson made a donation, got a bracelet and continued on the tour, where he marveled at some of the artistic and historical parts of campus.
That resonated with Tom Kind, the outgoing president of Whitewater Student Government, who gave Watson his tour.
“He’s the kind of person that really wants to walk around and be part of campus,” Kind said. “I’m really excited to see him be a very vested member” of UW-Whitewater’s campuses and communities.
Watson will take more such walks at the university. He will start Aug. 1 as the 17th chancellor at UW-Whitewater, UW System officials announced Thursday.
Watson told The Gazette on Thursday that UW System President Ray Cross interviewed him May 17. After receiving the job offer, Watson signed a contract Monday.
The UW Board of Regents unanimously approved the appointment Thursday morning. Watson will make $240,000 as chancellor.
Since the move became public, Watson said he was in a “bubble of euphoria.”
“Dwight has demonstrated an ability to build meaningful relationships and to lead faculty and staff as a provost and dean. He is an accomplished faculty member,” Cross said in a news release Thursday. “He is approachable and authentic, and his references repeatedly described his leadership style as collaborative and engaging.”
Watson was one of two finalists along with Interim Chancellor Cheryl Green. Two other finalists dropped out of contention earlier this month.
The university’s previous chancellor, Beverly Kopper, resigned in December, which was months after Cross banned her husband, Alan “Pete” Hill, from campus after repeated accusations of sexual harassment.
Watson said he thought the circumstance was “situational and not systemic.” With the problems solved, he said the university is in a good position to move forward.
Kopper is set to teach in the psychology department starting in fall.
One of the tasks Watson will face is filling open administration positions. Recent departures include the provost, athletic director and assistant vice chancellor for student diversity, engagement and success.
Watson is now the provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Southwest Minnesota State University, a job he started in 2015.
Through his own experience attending the University of South Carolina-Sumter, Watson told an audience at UW-W’s Rock County campus that he saw the importance of making campus accessible, affordable and attentive.
Watson, who previously worked at UW-Eau Claire, said Wisconsinites are hardworking and committed people. He appreciated those qualities.
Now 57, he said he saw the fit with Whitewater as being at the right place at the right time with the right people.
The university’s faculty senate and its chairman, David Simmons, have been critical of the chancellor search process, saying faculty have been “marginalized” with limited chances to provide their input.
Simmons was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Kind, who also sat on the system’s search and screen committee, said the process felt rushed at first. He said they also had some semifinalists who took their names out of contention.
Through the challenges, Kind still said he was happy with how the process worked out. He felt the regent representatives listened to campus voices.
The incoming student president, Jen Purcell, said Watson’s apparent empathy for others will be important in his leadership role.
“It was evident that Dr. Watson has a heart for students and a commitment to providing students with transformational and empowering educational experiences,” Purcell said in an email.
Kind said some students told him about an instance in which Watson was listening to various shared governance groups. At one point, Watson stopped the conversation and said it was time to hear from students.
Purcell said she will emphasize “the importance of shared governance in this time of transition,” so they can make every student’s time at UW-Whitewater worthwhile.
For Watson, some of the next steps include renting a place while he investigates options for a permanent home.
He also said he’s looking forward to future dance and theater productions.
This story was updated at 8:20 p.m. Thursday.