Complaint cites poor maintenance of Sun Prairie crash victim mem - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Complaint cites poor maintenance of Sun Prairie crash victim memorial

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 MADISON (WKOW) - A complaint that led to the removal of a roadside memorial to crash victim Kim Sylvia cites maintenance issues with the highway tribute, although the victim's family members dispute that.

Officials removed the memorial of a cross, angel figurines and other objects from near Highway 19 and Town Hall Drive in Sun Prairie last month.

A Sept. 4 email to Wisconsin Department of Transportation official Christa Wollenzien describes the memorial site as untidy. "It is surrounded by plastic flowers and the grass has grown up around it. It is obvious that this is not being maintained," the email states.

DOT officials redacted the name of the email's author when the document was released to 27 News, citing "...the sensitivity of the subject matter raising concern about retribution and harassment."

The victim's daughter, Amanda Sylvia mounted a petition drive to have the memorial restored. She says the victim's boyfriend frequently cut grass and weeds around the memorial site.

Wollenzien's email response to the complaining person says looking into the issue and removal of the memorial could take weeks, but the roadside tribute was removed within days of the complaining email. Amanda Sylvia says victim family members were never informed of the complaint, or its nature.

"We're not looking for them," Wollenzien says of maintenance issues with roadside memorials. But Wollenzien points to state policy on roadside tributes, and its requirement a memorial be removed if a complaint is lodged, if the site is poorly maintained, or if there's a roadway safety issue. Roadside memorials in the public right-of-way are illegal, but Wollenzien says officials "...try to look the other way." A policy manual states those responsible for erecting roadside memorials should expect their removal after a year. Sylvia's death took place in June 2012.

At least one state lawmaker is seeking revisions to the policy to allow more latitude for the presence of the memorials.

Sylvia's roadside memorial was removed around the same time DOT officials informed loved ones of another Sun Prairie crash victim, Maureen Mengelt, that a memorial to Mengelt could not remain near the site of her death. Mengelt's memorial involved several thousand dollars in fundraising to place a plaque in concrete at the site.  An alternate site for the memorial is being sought.

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