It is official: Roberts will not allow any sex offenders to move into its Village limits. At least, not any one who hasn't lived in Roberts before.
Ordinance 2010-1 describes safety zones for sex offenders and was initiated by Police Chief Dan Burgess earlier this year. He was concerned that since Hudson, North Hudson, Hammond and Baldwin all had adopted similar ordinance - and other local municipalities were considering adopting the same - Roberts might be left vulnerable to any sex offenders that wanted to move into the western Wisconsin area.
At the board's request, Burgess adapted some of the existing ordinances to fit the Village of Roberts' situation, such as restricting access within 200 feet of the Hazel Mackin library or any area it operates on.
However, Burgess said the only snag that has developed is a proposed state statute out of Milwaukee that would give the state control of sex offender zones, negating the local municipalities' ordinances.
"I spoke with a representative who co-sponsored the bill and he said that local ordinances would be grandfathered in," Burgess said.
Mike O'Keefe, from the Department of Corrections, told the board that there are 71 sex offenders living in St. Croix County. If they are not on supervision, and they stay compliant with the registry, such as letting them know where they are living, where they work, what their vehicle registration is, etc., they are legally allowed to live wherever they want.
"We haven't had sex offenders re-offend sexually," O'Keefe said. "We catch them mid-stream, through drinking, tip-offs from other people, etc."
He did say that they should be restricted from posing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and from handing out trick-or-treat candy at their homes on Halloween. He cited an instance when a registered sex offender - thus visible on www.familywatchdog.us - had his lights on and a stream of children were lining up to get candy from his home. He said that part of the onus is on the parents to know if there are any sex offenders living in their neighborhoods.
Burgess said there is already a sex offender living downtown, but he would be grandfathered in; this ordinance is more to prevent non-Roberts residents who are offenders from moving in.
One of the board members asked how the Village would address a situation where the mobile home park occupants - which include two sex offenders - would be told to seek shelter in the school gymnasium in the event of severe storms.
"I don't know if officers could identify offenders that quickly in a rush of people," Burgess said. "I don't think that is feasible."
The board members discussed giving the school office personnel 8x10 photos of the sex offenders, but it was rejected because the office personnel would not always be present during an emergency after school hours.
"I think it's the parents' responsibility to get their kids together in an emergency," said Terry Dull, board member.
A suggestion to refuse sex offenders emergency shelter was rejected because it was argued that if the Village allowed them to live there, they are bound to offer them emergency shelter.
Katy Kapaun, board member, eventually suggested that the Village board take a pro-active stance and approach the known sex offenders with this new ordinance and ask them if they have any plans as to emergency situations.
"If they are sheltering their own children, we need to address this ahead of time," Kapaun said.
The ordinance also states a committee of several group members, such as police chief, Village board member, citizen member and others, would be activated should a registered sex offender ask to live near a child-safe zone. If a sex offender wanted to attend the Good Neighbor Days parade, for example, the police chief has the authority to make the call without the committee.
"You aren't excluding these people," O'Keefe said, "you are just giving them reasonable conditions to live under."
The ordinance was approved unanimously.
For the complete story, see this week's New Richmond News.