The Potawatomi Park Observation Tower will receive the needed repairs to stabilize the structure before the scheduled restoration begins in 2025. Both local state lawmakers, Rep. Joel Kitchens, and Senator Andre Jacque have been asking for the state to approve emergency funds immediately instead of waiting on the construction of a ramp for accessibility and additional parking that was included with the restoration as part of Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed budget for 2023-25. Jacque, through a press release on Monday, stated “it was frustrating that it took this long, but I appreciate the Governor is finally recognizing the immediate need for intervention to save the tower, and I especially applaud our local groups for their tireless advocacy of this project. The effort to save the Potawatomi State Park Observation Tower is an example of public engagement at its best, bringing together citizens, local governments, and community groups, such as the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society Foundation.”
Rep. Kitchens says he doubts that the tower structure would have made it if stabilization didn't happen for two years.
Under the State Building Commission, the Governor can immediately authorize up to $500,000 to save the structure. In a poll conducted earlier this month on Door County Daily News, 117 respondents said the tower should be restored immediately, while 40 responded that the Governors’ timeline was fine and 29 voted that restoration was too costly.
RELEASE FROM SEN. JACQUE AND REP. KITCHENS
The Evers Administration this afternoon reversed course and agreed to an emergency stabilization project for the Potawatomi Park Observation Tower long requested by State Sen. André Jacque and State Rep. Joel Kitchens.
“It was frustrating that it took this long, but I appreciate that the Governor is finally recognizing the immediate need for intervention to save the tower, and I especially applaud our local groups for their tireless advocacy of this project,” said Sen. Jacque, a member of the State Building Commission. “The effort to save the Potawatomi State Park Observation Tower is an example of public engagement at its best, bringing together citizens, local governments, and community groups, such as the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society Foundation.” “It is overdue, but I am grateful Governor Evers has taken this step to stabilize the tower. We should bear in mind that the $500,000 allocated for stabilization would cover the cost of repair of the tower,” Rep. Kitchens said, “I hope that this will be a first big step toward saving this beloved and historic tower.”
In a letter sent to Gov. Evers on March 8, 2023, reiterating past requests and the pathway of existing funding and statutory authority, the Door County lawmakers requested that he immediately direct his administration to stabilize and repair the Potawatomi Observation Tower, in a manner that preserves its current historic structure, utilizing the emergency repair funding under State Building Commission procedures already available for that purpose. As referenced in the Wisconsin Building Commission policy manual, Wis. Stats. 16.855(16)(b)2 provides for the Governor to authorize emergency projects with expedited timelines up to a cost of $500,000 with actions to be reported to the Building Commission at its next regular meeting. Gov. Evers issued the directive to his state Department of Administration Secretary today.
While Sen. Jacque and Rep. Kitchens noted that the Governor’s current Capital Budget proposal does include repair of the structure, the timeline it proposes would have postponed any stabilization of the Tower, which is listed on both the state and federal registers of historic places, until January of 2025, at which point there is a strong likelihood that the tower would already have succumbed to the elements and fallen over.
“Allowing the continued deterioration of the historic Tower has constituted willful neglect that put a vital piece of our area’s livelihood and heritage at risk, and has ignored the expressed opinion of local residents, who have wanted the state to complete such repairs for years,” Sen. Jacque said. “It is critical that such action be taken now to repair the Tower before further damage and deterioration can occur through yet another change of seasons.”
“We need assurances from the Governor that the stabilization repairs will be in accordance with the Historic Preservation Code in order to protect the Potawatomi Tower’s placement on the list,” Kitchens said, “Otherwise, the state will not only be over spending, but we’d lose the Historic Landmark designation many people worked very hard to get for the tower.”