By Peter J. Devlin
Despite an effort to remove streetlights that no longer serve their original purpose, the Brussels Town Board Wednesday voted to not remove two from poles in the Kolberg area where a convicted repeat sex offender resumed residency two weeks ago.
Two men, who would not give their names for this story, said they were very concerned about the presence of the registered sex offender in their community because of the number of children who live in close proximity.
The unnamed sex offender was released from prison last month after completing a sentence on a conviction of having sexual contact with a child under the age of 13, Town Clerk JoAnn Neinas said.
“Instead of taking streetlights out, we should light the place up,” said one man, who said he lives next door to the offender’s residence and has grandchildren who visit frequently.
The other anonymous speaker at the meeting said he lives directly across County D from the offender’s residence and has younger children.
Town Chairman Joe Wautier said that although the town adopted an ordinance in 2008 requiring convicted sex offenders to locate substantial distances from any place where children gather, the town can’t enforce the law in the current instance.
The ordinance would prohibit any offender from establishing residency within 2,500 feet of a park or other places where children gather, including places of worship. Emmanuals Lutheran Church is located near the offender’s residence.
But because the offender listed his current address with the State of Wisconsin in 1999, “he’s grandfathered in,” Wautier said. “We got the letter from the town’s attorney saying we can’t do anything as a town.”
The offender “told the parole officer he’s looking for a different place,” the town chairman said, “but when I drove through there, I see they’re fixing the place up.”
The two neighbors claimed the property was owned by a relative, disputing the offender had actually lived at the address before his recent release.
“No, not living there,” Neinas said. “Registered with the Department of Corrections. Registered as a sex offender.”
In addition to voting to leave the two streetlights in place in Kolberg, the board also voted to leave in place another light near another registered offender’s residence.
The board did vote to remove 11 other lights that are situated at locations where long-closed taverns and stores were once located.
Supervisor Joel Daoust estimated the town would save more than $2,600 each year while retaining 34 lights, each costing about $20 per month.