By Jake Magee
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — From Gary Schultz’s home on a hill, a section of the Rock River meandering east and then south toward the Centerway Dam can be seen through the leafless trees.
It’s a section of the river that wouldn’t see any change if the city removes the Monterey Dam, but that’s not stopping Schultz from putting $200,000 of his own money on the line to save it, the Janesville Gazette reported.
Schultz, 79, said he’s spent a lifetime accumulating his fortune, but he’s no stranger to charity. It’s why he, on the behalf of the Friends of the Monterey Dam, is willing to put up money to retain a landmark he believes many residents care about.
Schultz’s home at 2436 Belmont Court near Riverside Golf Course is evidence of his wealth.
The lifelong Janesville resident owns four acres with a scenic view of surrounding woodlands. He designed and built the heated garage where he keeps his Mercedes and custom-painted Bobcat skid loader — the 15th he’s owned throughout a decades-long career of concrete pouring.
Outside under an awning sits his Range Rover, the fourth he’s owned and a vehicle popular with other prominent Janesville residents. Schultz suspects he started the trend.
Schultz and his wife, Sue, take months off each year to go on vacations. It’s not unusual for the Schultzes to spend $25,000 on a cruise to Alaska or a trip to Las Vegas, he said.
Life wasn’t always cushy, though.
As a child, Schultz was dirt poor, but he had a love for work, he said.
From the mid-1960s through the early 1990s, Schultz poured concrete and replaced sidewalk for the city. He worked 16-hour days, and because others couldn’t keep up, he did it alone, Schultz said.
“I’m too fussy. I’m awful to work for,” Schultz said with a twinkle in his pale-blue eyes.
Almost every major concrete-pouring business in the area has asked Schultz to share his tips and secrets, which he gladly gave, Schultz said.
“I showed ’em what I did. They learned a lot of tricks from me,” he said.
After making a decent amount of money, Schultz said he began investing. He has about $30,000 in the bank, and the rest is invested, Schultz said.
“I did it with these two hands,” Schultz said, squeezing his fingers into fists. “Nobody gave it to me. I didn’t inherit it.”
Schultz has donated thousands of dollars and likely thousands of hours to Janesville, he said.
When Rotary Gardens was starting, someone asked Schultz to use his skid loader to help move dirt and make trails. Schultz obliged.
“I only work 16-hour days. What’s another hour?” Schultz said with a laugh.
When Palmer Park’s CAMDEN Playground was under construction, Schultz pulled up in his signature white 1966 Chevy pickup truck — a beloved vehicle he’s owned for 50 years and refuses to sell. A volunteer at the park recognized Schultz and his rig and asked him to help pour the concrete trails. Again, Schultz complied, volunteering for about a week at a loss of about $10,000 in potential income, he said.
“And I don’t care. It was kind of fun,” Schultz said.
In 2011, he gave a $25,000 classic car to Project 16:49 to raffle off as a fundraiser for Rock County’s homeless teenagers. He put in hundreds of hours and another $10,000 to restore the vehicle before donating it, he said.
“He and his wife are awesome,” said Tammy DeGarmo, Project 16:49 executive director. “Everyone talks very highly of him.”
When asked why he’s generous with his time and money, Schultz said he’s escaped death three times.
“I kind of figured there’s some reason they want to keep me alive, and I’m grateful,” he said.
“I think the good Lord treated me good. I’m healthy. I’m strong as hell. Got a heck of a lot of good ideas,” he said.
Schultz said he’s not some “big shot.”
“I do everything from my heart,” he said. “If somebody needs help, I’m right there.”
And now he said he’s ready to help again.
Schultz puts the Monterey Dam on the same level as the Tallman House. It’s something the city needs to keep, if for no other reason than its sentimental value.
“It’s a landmark. It’s history,” he said.
Schultz doubts city claims removing the dam would lower the downtown Rock River levels only about 5 inches during normal flow conditions. If the dam is taken out, the area will look like a “soup hole,” Schultz said.
“That’s what Janesville won’t get through its thick skull,” he said. “They don’t realize it’s gonna be a mud hole. They can’t visualize that.”
Schultz would love for the city this spring to remove the southern half of the dam, which he claims is in worse shape. The water level downtown would drop so much the city would scramble to repair the dam, Schultz said.
If the dam were removed, Schultz doesn’t believe the area could look anything like the landscaping and shoreline restoration plan consultant Inter-Fluve has proposed, especially not for the estimated total price of $1.1 million. He called the plan “the biggest joke I ever saw.”
At the Janesville City Council’s last meeting, Schultz proposed dropping $200,000 of his own money into seeing the dam repaired, a project estimated to cost $700,000. Reading the body language of council members, most didn’t care what Schultz had to say, he said.
“They got their minds set by somebody,” Schultz said. “I don’t know who, but they’re getting to everybody.”
Schultz would prefer the city hire a local contractor to repair the dam instead of the “foreign” names the city has considered or hired before.
“We got people right here,” he said.
State statutes require projects costing more than $25,000 be publicly bid, said city engineer Mike Payne.
Regardless of whether someone “foreign” or local did the work, Schultz said he would pay the contractor $200,000 upon completion, and the city would pay the remainder.
After reconsidering, Schultz said he’d be willing to pay the city the $200,000 directly if that were the only possible way to see the dam repaired.
“I’ll put my money back into the city because they helped me get the wealth I got,” Schultz said.
Schultz said others are willing to add $100,000 to his donation. An online campaign was started to collect donations to save the dam.
The city council will consider whether to remove or repair the dam at its meeting on Monday.