The Town Board's lawyer has filed a new court action seeking to drag the Village of Sussex into the legal battle between the town and the Pauline Haass Library Board over "control and custody" of 65 acres of farmland that the late widow willed to the town for library purposes.
Sussex village trustees were expected to make a decision this week — behind closed doors — on how to respond to the town's legal maneuver, which is intended to force the village into joining mediation sessions between the town and Library Board over settlement of the legal dispute.
Village officials have consistently argued that they should have no role in the legal battle because it involves land over which the village has no control.
Town officials have rebutted that the village must be involved because any agreement reached between the town and the library Board will have to be approved by the village, according to a joint municipal agreement that created the library.
Town lawyer Kathy Gutenkunst has filed a summons seeking to name the village as a party to the lawsuit between the town and Library Board.
The Village Board was scheduled to meeting in closed session Tuesday night, after this paper went to press, to decide how to respond.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge James Kieffer will eventually determine whether the village will be part of the lawsuit and engage in mediation with the town and Library Board.
Kieffer has ordered the town and Library Board to attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement before Oct. 20, when he is expected to schedule a trial for either later this year or early next year.
Town Chairman Matt Gehrke has said he would welcome negotiations with the village but has said it is "pointless" to negotiate with the Library Board. Other town supervisors have said they are willing to negotiate with the village but not the Library Board.
The library was created in 1988 by a joint municipal agreement between the town and village, which outlines how the municipalities will share the funding and governance of the library.
The town is likely to terminate the agreement at the end of this year because the two municipalities have not been able to reach a new agreement on how they will share the cost of the library operations in the future.
Sussex is expected to take over the library operations. Town residents will have to pay a countywide library tax; a share of those revenues will be provided to the library by county officials;
The Library Board filed a lawsuit last year seeking "control and custody" of the Haass farmland.
Library lawyers argued state law requires any assets donated to a library must be in the "control and custody" of the library board.
Town officials have rebutted that Haass clearly intended the land be used for "town library purposes," and it was deeded to the town before the Pauline Haass Library was created by the agreement between the two municipalities.
There is also disagreement between officials over whether the assets of the library would have to be divided between the two municipalities if the agreement is terminated.
The farmland at Hickory and Lake Five roads could become a bargaining chip in future negotiations between the town and village over library assets after the agreement is terminated, according to some sources.
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