Walworth County Government Today: Where to go for county, city services

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Dave Bretl | September 18, 2017

A county employee and loyal reader suggested that I write a column about the locations of county departments. She felt sorry for folks who showed up at the office where she works only to be directed to a different building. If a column can save folks a few steps and aggravation in transacting their business with us, I am happy to write one.

Court business seems to generate the most confusion from my perspective. In April, 2005, the county's courts moved from downtown Elkhorn to a new facility, called the Judicial Center. The Judicial Center is located at 1800 County Road NN next to the Sheriff's Office and across the street from the Lakeland Hospital. Functions that support the courts, like the Clerk of Circuit Court, or offices that frequently appear in court, such as the District Attorney, Corporation Counsel and Child Support are also located in the Judicial Center. 

Some people who haven't been to court for a long time will still come to the old courthouse located at 100 West Walworth Street in downtown Elkhorn.  Although these mistakes are less common with the passage of time, they do occur and are particularly aggravating to the person involved since the new and old locations are two miles apart. Our Information Technology department is the final occupant of the Judicial Center. It was moved from the basement of the Government Center, in part, to take advantage of the airport-style security offered by the facility as well as its more strategic location. The majority of our employees work in close proximity to the Judicial Center.

So to review, if you have court, go to the Judicial Center; that is, unless you have court with the City of Elkhorn. I hate to do this to you, but there is one more nuance to the court situation. If you were issued a municipal citation by the Elkhorn Police Department, like a speeding ticket, your case will be heard in Elkhorn Municipal Court which is held (stay with me here) in the old county courthouse (the Government Center) in downtown Elkhorn. To be more specific, your case will be heard in the “west wing” of the Government Center. 

Additionally, the first floor of west wing is occupied by the Elkhorn Police Department. This is probably a fair time for you to ask what the Elkhorn police are doing in our Government Center. The answer to this question goes back decades to a time when the county wanted to build a new courthouse.  After overcoming dissention on our own board, the City dissented next, fearing that an exodus of hungry lawyers, jurors and defendants would negatively impact its downtown. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on attorneys and years in court, the parties agreed that Elkhorn could remodel and occupy the west wing of the courthouse for 25 years. 

That agreement was subsequently amended for reasons that will exceed the space I am allotted for this column, but the upshot is that the Elkhorn PD and its municipal court will be in the west wing of our Government Center until 2034 at which time they will pay rent or we will take over the space. I answered some angry phone calls over the deal at the time. No one knows what the future will bring; however, in my estimation the deal has worked well so far. Elkhorn did a first-rate job on the remodel and being co-located with a police department that can respond to emergencies in your own building isn't such a bad thing.  I have no doubt that we would have expanded to take over the space now occupied by Elkhorn, but I'm not sure that would have been such a great result, either. The City pays for its own heat and light and maintains everything within the outside walls of the structure. Our remodeling worked out well, too and the building, which is approaching its sixtieth birthday, should be able to serve county taxpayers for many more years to come. If you want to watch a county board meeting or transact business with the below-listed departments, 100 West Walworth is where you want to go. Departments located in the downtown Government Center are: Administration, Human Resources, Veterans, Treasurer, County Clerk, Finance, Register of Deeds, UW-Extension and Land Use and Resource Management. I know the employees in our Finance Department will want me to include the following explanation to cut down on their counter traffic. If you have business with Elkhorn, watch the signs carefully. The building is divided so you can't get here from there. If you are entering the Government Center underneath a canopy marked “Walworth County,” you will be sent back outside to find the Elkhorn entrance.  

A few more pitfalls to avoid include the following:  Human Resources, which is responsible for our hiring and work rules is not the Health & Human Services department which offers a wide-range of social services. The County Clerk, who keeps our records straight, is not the same as the Clerk of Circuit Courts who keeps the courts running smoothly. Finally, the phone number to the jail, which is close to, but a little different than my direct extension, is 741-4510. I am happy to talk to you if you misdial, but my success rate in transferring calls is less than fifty percent.

Thanks for the idea for this column, Kathy. If you need to transact county business and are unsure where to go, call first. If you don't know who to call, give my office a call at 741-4357.

Dave Bretl is the Walworth County administrator. Contact him at 262-741-4357 or visit www.co.walworth.wi.us.

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