Roundabout opponent looks back at successful effort

Chris Skrzynecki poses with the stop sign at the new exit/entrance to Central High School off of Highway 83. Skrzynecki fought for a t-intersection with the stop sign instead of a much more costly roundabout. /Submitted photo by Justin M. Skrzynecki

A little over a year ago, Salem resident Chris Skrzynecki started out on a quest that may at times seemed to drive him in circles, but in the end saved the Central High School district hundreds of thousand of dollars.

Skrzynecki took up the quest of defeating a roundabout intersection at the school’s new exit/entrance onto Highway 83. Before Skrynecki took up the cause, the roundabout seemed a foregone conclusion. Months later, after countless hours of investigation and deliberation on the parts of both Skrzynecki and the Westosha Central High School Board, the roundabout had been completely abandoned by state officials and the School District’s originally-requested “T” intersection was approved by all parties involved.

Skrzynecki recently sent us a statement about the effort and we asked him a few questions too. Here’s the result:

WOTI: How did you get involved with the intersection issue?

Skrzynecki: Like most people I like to keep up with the going on’s of the community. Reading the paper each day is also something that I enjoy. As you can see those two things go together. So that day back in October when I read that the roundabout was not only an option for the school but the all but done choice, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A roundabout, on STH 83? It just didn’t make sense. The little that I knew was, that the schools choice was because of the stop light rejection. And then the real reason I got involved came up. The state for all intents and purposes was trying to blackmail the school and the village into the roundabout with the threats of the improvements at 50/83/75. If you remember some one at the DOT was letting the school off the hook for the intersection improvements if they choose the roundabout. I didn’t know that the state could just let a municipality or in this case a school district off the hook using taxpayers money. Also, the logic that was being used to get the school to make the intersection improvements in the first place was that the school would in fact ‘Increase the traffic thru 83/50/75’, was just not true. That’s why I got involved.

WOTI: How did you find the process?

Skrzynecki: After I wrote my letter to the school board and then attending the following meeting, I was discouraged by the fact that the school just didn’t seem to have simple answers for simple questions. Well, I love a challenge. Asking questions is easy, getting answers , not so much. Because of my occupation I am afforded time off because of inclement weather. I’m a roofer. This time last fall and winter allowed me to sit down and ask questions of different people. As a citizen I felt that I was allowed to talk to employees of the state, and was pleased to secure a meeting with the DOT. So when the logic came out and the answers were what I knew them to be from the DOT, I felt empowered. To then be able to say what I said at that board meeting the next night, in front of all those people and then have a school board stop a project because of what I said, well that’s a feeling I won’t forget for a long time. After that it was all gravy. People came up to me and said I was right and that I should keep going. The further along I went the better it got. And here’s something you may not know, I had talked to a few people on how to go about suing the school board for misappropriating funds. That was in my back pocket. So getting started was just asking questions. Keeping up the energy, was getting the right answers. People have there names on walls at schools, I have mine on the back of a stop sign. You know, I just might go do that.

Skrzynecki said he wanted to send the following thanks to people who helped him along the way. — DH

“In recognition of everyone’s hard work and dedication to this cause, I would like to publicly acknowledge and thank those people who facilitated my requests for information and offered their undivided attention and assistance throughout my pursuit to question and eventually stop the WisDOT roundabout project from coming to fruition.

“I’d like to send my sincere appreciation to Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, Wisconsin State Representative Samantha Kerkman, Wisconsin State Senator Robert Wirch and his assistant Michael Tierney, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department personnel Larry Apker, Paul Falduto and Evie Carver, TES, Inc.’s Wayne Higgins, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Southeast Region representatives Art Baumann, Andrew Dirks and John Haug, and local residents Darrel Damon, John Roberts and Michael Ullstrup.

“Darren Hillock of and Deneen Smith of Kenosha News have also been of utmost help in getting fair and accurate reporting of this endeavor out to the public from the very beginning. Their inquisitive nature of questioning, which ultimately lead to other avenues of investigation not originally anticipated, was invaluable.

“I’d also like to recognize Town of Salem Chair and friend, Linda Valentine. Throughout this effort, Linda offered her words of encouragement, professional advice and office in support of the eventual defeat of the WisDOT roundabout project. Also offering help during this time was resident Chris Gustafson. Anyone who knows Mrs. Valentine or Mrs. Gustafson can attest to their individual tenacity when either of them gets behind an issue of importance to them. This issue was no exception to the rule. Thank you both.

“Finally, I’d like to send my sincere gratitude to Westosha Central School District Superintendent Scott Pierce, Mr. Pierce’s assistant Kim Hole, and school board President Mary Ellen Pearsall. Mr. Pierce responded promptly and thoroughly to every email request sent to him, systematically responded to every question presented to him during meetings and offered the help of his assistant Kim Hole to provide any documents requested. Mrs. Pearsall, while somewhat restricted in what information she could offer on the Board’s behalf at the time of this ordeal, was always eager to listen to arguments on both sides of the issue. Once presented with the “correct” facts, however, Mrs. Pearsall took immediate action and without hesitation halted all work on the roundabout project. In doing so, she arguably saved the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses that may have otherwise been passed directly on to the district’s taxpayers. As one of those district taxpayers, Mrs. Pearsall, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for your actions.”


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