Bob Schrank has lived on the same piece of land near Clear Lake in Milton for most of his life.
Thanks to this year’s heavy rains and snowmelt, he soon might have to build a new house.
The 62-year-old teacher is the fourth generation to live on his family’s farmstead. His son and grandson, the fifth and sixth generations, also live there.
But with the persistent flooding, Schrank said the historic house soon could be reduced to a pile of wet rubble. He estimates his family has a 50-50 chance of losing it.
They’re certain they will lose numerous trees, two outhouses and possibly the garage, which stands in place of the old barn.
“It’s always in the back of your mind about what’s going to happen next,” Schrank said. “The last thing we want to do is have to evacuate the house and burn it or tear it down, but if we have to do it, we have to do it.”
Flooding is nothing new for those who live near Clear Lake.
Rain and runoff were believed to be major factors in flooding that occurred from 2008 to 2011, but researchers couldn’t nail down an exact reason for the high water. After a drought in 2012, the water mostly receded.
A heavy-duty drain system has operated in the Schrank house since the last major flood 10 years ago, but this situation is much worse, Bob Schrank said.
The family has installed a berm to keep the recent floodwaters at bay. After that, they don’t have other options.
“We can’t really do any more,” Schrank said. “The berm is essentially our last effort. If it gets too high for that, we’re sunk.”
This type of flooding is especially difficult to manage because unlike a river, lake water doesn’t ebb and flow.
Colin Byrnes, Rock County director of planning and development, said getting flood insurance can be difficult because the Federal Emergency Management Agency—or FEMA—doesn’t identify any floodplains near the lake.
But flooding is a real issue for those who live there, Byrnes said.
“Over time, we’ve had these rainy periods, and the groundwater and runoff is filling these water bodies,” he said. “It’s a low spot, and the bathtub is getting full.”
Down the road from the Schranks, Donna Anderson has lived near the lake for 46 years. She said her property experienced minor flooding from 2008 to 2011, but nothing like this.
Her basement flooded earlier this spring, and other buildings in the back of the property are partially under water. Still, Anderson said she’s lucky compared to the damage others have suffered.
“Last time it flooded, it wasn’t anything near this. This is the worst flood we’ve had,” she said.
Nearby Blackhawk Campground has seen similar problems. The beach is under water and closed, employees say, and numerous campers have standing water creeping toward their doors.
In a statement, the campground said it is working with local agencies to address flooding and has installed a new access road to keep campers safe after water overtook the old road.
Recovering from the flooding will take a while. Ten years ago, it took four to five years for water levels near the Schrank home to return to normal.
Considering that this year is worse than usual, all residents can do now is hope for the best, Schrank said.
“The helpless feeling that we’ve done everything we can do is the hardest part. The worry, the concern—it’s hard,” he said.
“But it is what it is, and we will try to just keep plugging along.”
Communication and respect are crucial to building good relationships between young people and police.
But some young people might not be quite ready—or feel comfortable—having that conversation.
Those seemed to be the two themes of Tuesday’s “Bridging the Gap: Police + Youth Town Hall” meeting at Rotary Botanical Gardens, which at least 50 people attended.
The event was a joint effort of Project 16:49, a local organization that helps homeless and unaccompanied teens, and national organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids’ Police Training Institute works with police departments nationwide to show officers how to de-escalate conflict and have positive interactions with youth. The institute has held town hall meetings across the country to talk about the issue.
“Any time we can have a conversation, we can move things forward,” said Juan Cloy, deputy director of community outreach and training for the organization.
The event’s panel featured three young people, Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore and two Janesville police officers.
Cloy opened by asking the officers how they felt about their interactions with local youth. He then asked the young people what their interactions had been like and if they trusted police.
In response, two of the young people said “no,” and a third said “sometimes.”
What changes do they want to see?
One young woman mentioned “eye contact” and “respect.” A young man said he would like officers to take more time to communicate with people in incidents that involve police.
The third member of the panel declined to answer the question at all and just shook her head.
Cloy asked if officers thought there was a gap between the work of police and young people in the community.
“Yes, I think there is a gap,” Moore said. “While we have a good community mission (public safety), we often have to use negative methods to accomplish the mission. With that, there’s going to be a gap.”
The police department has worked to get officers into communities they serve with events such as neighborhood cookouts and National Night Out and, perhaps most important, making connections with youth.
Moore said officers took the time to get to know a group of kids with whom they’d had negative experiences. That relationship became more positive when officers learned more about the kids. One kid said he wanted to play football, but he couldn’t afford the shoes. A police officer bought him a pair.
Denise Stutika, an Edison Middle School resource officer, said the relationships she’s formed with students have made a big difference and have helped them trust her.
After difficult incidents with students, she’s even found apology notes in her mailbox at school.
Robert A. Edwards
Patricia J. Gates
Dwaine E. Giese
Pauline Joyce Schupbach
John L. Shereck
Robert C. Sulzer
Mary Jean Van Tuyle