TOWN OF ONALASKA — If the town of Onalaska becomes a village as town board members hope, it’s going to be called Midway.
The Onalaska Town Board unanimously approved the Midway moniker at a special board meeting Tuesday. It’s a name that has some history in the town. The unincorporated settlement at the crossroads of Hwys. OT, XX and ZN, which includes the town hall, is called Midway.
Some board members favored Charleston, which they said was the name of the enclave before it became Midway, possibly a nickname referring to its geographic location between La Crosse and Galesville. Other suggestions included calling it Lake Onalaska after the town’s most prominent resource and Lytle after the man who donated the lumber to build the town hall, as well as Onalake, Prairie Hills, Asbury and Brightwater, which board member Sandy Thompson said is the “Indian” meaning of Onalaska.
Although Town Chairman Rolly Bogert said he wouldn’t mind calling it the village of Onalaska, he saw the value in a name change. The town clerk probably gets 20 calls a day from people who are actually trying to reach the city of Onalaska, he said, and the town had a long delay in collecting grant money for work on the town shop because it was misrouted to the city.
Bogert doesn’t expect problems over changes to postal addresses and delivery. It’s unlikely the U.S. Postal Service would issue a new ZIP code for Midway, he said.
The town is seeking incorporation as a village to prevent Holmen or the city of Onalaska from annexing town property, which Bogert said diminishes the town’s tax base. “I think they’ve taken enough from us,” he said. “I think we need to set (the boundaries) in stone.”
There will be nothing halfway about the town’s efforts to collect petition signatures to start the process of becoming the village of Midway. The state requires only the signatures of 50 registered town voters who own property, but Bogert is shooting much higher. He wants to collect signatures that represent half of the people eligible to sign, which he estimated would be 1,500 to 1,800 people.
Only two people are allowed to collect signatures on the petition, a primary and an alternate custodian. The board voted to make Bogert primary and Town Clerk Melissa Erdman the alternate. They must collect the first signature on the petition by June 29 and have six months before the petition must be submitted.
A circuit court will review the petition, and the proposal must also pass a voter referendum.
Holmen and the city of Onalaska can challenge the town’s bid to become a village in court, and Holmen seems certain to mount a challenge. The Holmen Village Board held a closed-door discussion at the end of its meeting Thursday about challenging the town’s incorporation and voted to seek requests for proposals for legal representation on both the incorporation challenge and to defend an annexation being contested by the town.
Holmen Village Administrator Scott Heinig would not give specifics about the grounds for an incorporation challenge, but he was clear that a challenge was ahead. “We’re prepared to expend whatever resources are necessary to defeat what the town is proposing,” he said.