Call for Action: Should seasonal residents get a lifetime boat slip in Lake Mills?

LAKE MILLS, Wis. — A Lake Mills man is calling for action over what he calls an unfair process to gain a lifetime piece of his home town.

Neal Shade lives in Lake Mills year round, and for good reason – the small town has amenities including a historic downtown, frequent festivals and a beautiful lake for all to enjoy. One of those amenities he doesn’t get to enjoy is one of the 25 highly coveted boat slips along the town’s lake.

“They actually chuckle a little and say you’ll get Packers tickets before you get a boat slip,” Shade said.
Shade signed up for a slip back in 2007. The wait list was 100 people or more; the timeline, maybe 20 years. Part of the reason the wait is so long – the boat slip benefit lasts for life.

“For 25 folks to have this benefit for a lifetime, I found it wasn’t very fair,” Shade said.

Shade has been doing some digging into the process and the people involved. He found only nine of the folks with boat slips are full-time Lake Mills residents. Most own vacation property at the nearby Sandy Beach Trailer Park.

“There’s even one or two with a Florida address,” he said.

Lake Mills has owned the 25 boat slips in question since the 1970s from a private owner. Part of the purchase agreement, according to city officials, was to allow residents of the next-door Sandy Beach neighborhood to continue to keep their boat slips. Over the years, as those slips started to become available, the city established three criteria to meet in order to qualify for a boat slip: you either have to be a city resident with established resident in Lake Mills 30 days prior to obtaining a slip, a Sandy Beach Mobile Home tenant with an active lease between May and October, or you have to own residential property and reside there between May and October. We asked city management if that’s fair.

“We’ve been using what’s fairest… for what we have,” said City Manager Steve Wilke. “But could you say it’s absolutely fair? Probably not – but then how many things in life are?”

Shade has kept track of the city process over the past few years, calling attention to the issue, getting it on board agendas and continuing to ask questions.

“Over the past two years now, it’s kind been hot potatoed around on the parks board,” he told us.

“The idea of a lottery system has been discussed, all sorts of different aspects been discussed.”
The Parks Board is in charge of recommendations, then City Council could sign off. So far, no suggestion has made it very far.

“Is there something remarkable that’s going to make it worthwhile changing?” City Manager Wilke asked. “I don’t see it, and so I’d say it’s a 60 percent change that it stays as is.”

Boat slip contracts are due to the city April 15. As of this month, no changes had been recommended to City Council.