Salem approves resolution to explore cooperative plan with Silver Lake

town-of-salem-sign-webNote: This story has been edited from its original version to more accurately reflect the language in the resolution. — DH

The Salem Town Board on Monday took the first step in a process that ultimately could make Salem and Silver Lake one municipality again, bringing village status to Salem in the process.

The board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the exploration of a cooperative plan with the village of Silver Lake. All Salem Town Board members were present. There was little discussion of the item at a special meeting that started at 5 p.m. at Town Hall.

Town administrator Patrick Casey, before the vote, said the resolution authorized the beginning of discussion about a boundary agreement with Silver Lake.

But after the meeting, town Chairman Diann Tesar acknowledged that this is the start of looking at a possible agreement that could effectively merge Salem and Silver Lake into a single municipality.

Silver Lake Trustee Patrick Dunn, who was in the audience, also said his understanding is that the goal of the process will be to merge the two municipalities.

The Silver Lake Village Board will also consider the resolution, perhaps as early as Wednesday, when it is scheduled to hold a Committee of the Whole meeting, Dunn said.

A boundary agreement with a village was cited by a Salem citizen committee that studied incorporation models last year as the most streamlined of all of the possible ways Salem could incorporate as a village. It would not require a referendum, though an advisory referendum could be held or forced by a petition of a sufficient number of residents. Michael Ullstrup, the chairman of that committee, speaking at a meeting last summer, called a boundary agreement the “wild west” of incorporation methods because anything the two municipalities agreed to could in theory be included in the agreement, such as the two municipalities becoming one and the new municipality being a village.

Another advantage of incorporation via boundary agreement would be the inclusion of all of the town in the new village. A traditional incorporation requires compact area and typically farmland and less dense areas are not allowed to be part of the incorporation. Tesar has said she would not be in favor of an incorporation that cannot include the whole town.

Incorporation has been an on again, off again goal for Salem through recent years. Villages have powers over self determination and driving economic development not available to towns. The also have secure boundaries as land inside a village cannot be annexed into neighboring municipalities.

Silver Lake and Salem have been sharing more services over the last year. Silver Lake contracted with Salem for fire and rescue services, dissolving its own fire department. In recent weeks, Salem assisted Silver Lake with some public works projects.

A boundary agreement driven consolidation of Salem and Silver Lake would also satisfy an element within Silver Lake that has been seeking to unite with Salem. A effort to dissolve the village and become part of Salem failed in 2014 when a referendum gained an insufficient majority of Silver Lake voters. Two leaders of that effort, Bruce Francart and former village president Jeff Albrecht, also were in the audience at Monday’s special meeting.

The area now consisting of the village of Silver Lake was part of Salem before the village incorporated in 1926.

Salem has a population of over 12,000. Silver Lake’s population is about 2,400.

Salem and Paddock Lake have a boundary agreement in effect through 2027. That agreement does not combine the municipalities, but defines growth areas for Paddock Lake.



  1. Bernard Punsley says:

    The cooperation between the Salem Town board and our Village of Silver Lake board has been phenomenal! They work together well to identify issues, prioritize them, and act where appropriate. Exploring a boundary agreement is just that….exploring the pros and cons. It will be an open process, citizen input will be invaluable. The “whiners and naysayers” pretty much have formed their opinions(which they are entitled to). Let’s at least get the process rolling and see where it takes us. We are so used to having our elected leaders “stick their heads in the sand” here in Silver Lake. This new approach is most enlightening!

  2. Bruce Francart says:

    We are on our way to a better future for all of the citizens this affects. A highly efficient governed community. Keep it positive folks! Darren, well written! Thank you!

  3. Chris says:

    Does Salem keep fire and rescue equipment and personnel in our existing facilities or do we now have longer response times?

  4. Bernard Punsley says:

    @Bruce Francart: Well said, Bruce. The article was highly informative. Whether citizens of both Silver Lake and Salem are for, against, or undecided, it would behoove them to become well-informed. I am fairly confident “the old guard” of Silver Lake will try to paint this as a “dissolve” movement. Wrong. That issue has looooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg since moved on. We have 2 distinct village/town boards with highly dedicated and motivated ELECTED OFFICIALS who ARE looking for a better future for their constituents.
    Lets keep the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” to a minimum.

  5. This is a very good idea to merge both communities into one. Good for the citizens and good for the new business climate around the area.

  6. Mike says:

    Chris…why would there be longer response times? Nothing has changed except that the Salem board passed a resolution to explore a boundary agreement with Silver Lake. PERHAPS, the two will merge IN THE FUTURE but in the meantime, nothing has changed.

  7. Chris says:

    FTA, Mike:

    “Silver Lake contracted with Salem for fire and rescue services, dissolving its own fire department.”

  8. All that's left to do is pick the name says:

    No matter if it takes one year, three years or 10 years, it’s inevitable that these two communities will become one village.

    The failure of the dissolve in Silver Lake actually is a blessing in disguise. By Silver Lake remaining a village, Salem will save tens of thousands and possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal cost by having the boundary agreement ultimately serve to merge Salem with the existing Village of Silver Lake instead of working to become their own village separately. Though it remains to be seen if either community will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this consolidation, it is again, inevitable.

    Deciding the make up of the NEW village board, deciding the location of the new village hall and watching which people ultimately survive the political process are all things that remain to be seen.

    But until then let’s now go forth and put a special suggestion box in each of the two Village/Town halls and have people stop at their leisure and drop suggested new names in the box. While Silver Lake will always keep its name as Silver Lake as do Trevor, Wilmot and Camp Lake, the new village needs to have a new name. And if ‘Salem Lakes’ does not make the cut then something else will have to be picked.

    And if it’s going to be something new, then when that new name goes up, high on the top of the water tower, the person or persons who suggested it can have a plaque with their names on the bottom of the water tower.

  9. ralph jankovic says:

    Will the new name be the village of Silverlake or the village of Salem?

  10. Be careful what you wish for says:

    To all those so excited to become Salem, be careful what you wish for. What do Silver Lake residents gain by becoming Salem? And before Bernie, Francart or others respond, I could care less if I save $100 on my taxes. I didn’t move to Silver Lake to save money on taxes. We will become a step sister to Salem and our voices will be silenced. But at least, GG and others will have a chance to get themselves or their relatives jobs I guess.

  11. It's annexing, not merger says:

    What is not said in the article is that for the Town of Salem to become a village, the village of Silver Lake would annex the entire Town of Salem. The current town board would be dissolved and the new “Silver Lake” village board would be in power for a period of time, at least until normal village elections rolled around. The whole idea has merit, no question, but it is not without risk for either population. As far as anyone saving on taxes, what little is paid out now by Silver Lake for duplicate services, like town clerk & others, is so small in the grand tax scheme that it would not even be noticed. Hopefully both boards think this whole process through and cover as many pitfalls as possible.

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