Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 19:56
City’s application to obtain landmark gets tenative approval
Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada announced Tuesday that the city’s application to obtain the iconic lighthouse that has become a symbol of the community has tentatively been approved by the National Park Service.
“My hope would be that by mid-April, late April at the worst, we will be extended conveyance,” Mlada told the Common Council.
There are some minor language issues to be cleared up and a little more information required by the Park Service before it will make a final recommendation on the transfer of the lighthouse, he said.
That additional information must be submitted by April 1, he said.
Michele Curran, a historian with the Park Service, said in a Sunday e-mail to Mlada that the agency was impressed with the city’s application.
“You put a lot of thought and work into the application and it was impressive,” she wrote.
The additional information is needed in order to recommend approval of the city’s application to the director of the National Park Service, Curran wrote.
The director, in turn, makes a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior, who in turn makes a recommendation to the General Services Administration, which makes the final decision, she said.
“It’s good news, but we have more work ahead to seal the deal,” Mlada said.
Many considered it to be a foregone conclusion that the city would be given ownership of the lighthouse when the Michigan-based Geek Group did not submit an application for the structure — something it had said it would do.
But Mlada noted that the competition provided an impetus for the city to submit a thorough, impactful application.
Mlada thanked the lighthouse committee, which spent months compiling the city’s inches-thick application.
“This is going to be a tremendous asset to the community for a long time,” he said.
Since the Art Deco-style lighthouse was built in 1935, it has been a symbol of Port Washington, used on everything from the city’s logo to postcards.
Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 19:54
Manitowoc firm changes mind about decision that would have cost 80 local jobs
In a fortuitous change of direction, City of Port Washington officials received word last week that Manitowoc Cranes no longer plans to close its manufacturing plant on Mineral Springs Drive.
In December, the company notified the city via a certified letter that it would be closing the local plant this year, eliminating 80 jobs.
According to the company, those positions were to be eliminated in three phases from June through August.
The layoffs would be permanent, according to the company, and efforts would be made to help the displaced workers find employment elsewhere.
The job reduction notice was a requirement of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Just two months later, on Friday, Feb. 19, the city received a follow-up letter with a decidedly different message.
“Please be advised that we have made the decision to keep open this facility and, therefore, are cancelling these reductions,” Manitowoc Cranes Vice President of Operations Dan Kaltenbaugh said in the letter to Mayor Tom Mlada.
Kaltenbaugh said notice of the reversal was sent to all employees who had been told they would be losing their jobs.
When it was thought the plant was closing, city officials pledged to work with the company to find a new tenant for the sprawling building in the industrial park.
Manitowoc Cranes opened its Port plant more than seven years ago.
When the notice of the closing arrived at City Hall, Mlada said it was “deeply disappointing … a real blow for the community.”
Mlada said the change of heart was out of the blue.
“It was unexpected but very much appreciated,” he said.
“When the initial decision came down, we realized it was probably a corporate move that was out of the hands of the local people, but we reached out to them and offered to help in whatever way we could.”
It didn’t take long before officials realized there was interest in the Manitowoc Cranes building.
“It is a really nice facility and the interest level from other companies is an indication there are people in the business world who would like to call Port Washington home,” Mlada said.
The mayor said he was unsure whether the strong market appeal of the Port facility gave Manitowoc Cranes officials reason to reconsider the closing.
“You always feel more comfortable with the known than the unknown, and Manitowoc Cranes is a known entity,” he said.
“What I do know is keeping 75 to 80 jobs here is a really good thing. Manitowoc has been a good corporate partner for the community.”
Although he has not had formal talks with the leadership at the company, Mlada said he has had indications that the decision to keep the plant open is a long-term commitment to the Port.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 19:53
Grafton resident convicted of attempted murder, wounding fiancee faces long prison term
A 32-year-old man pleaded guilty last week to seriously wounding his fiancee when he shot her in the leg trying to kill a police officer during a standoff at his Grafton home last February.
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams accepted the pleas of Joseph W. Damrow and found him guilty of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and second-degree reckless injury.
Damrow is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31 and faces a maximum 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision for attempted homicide and 7-1/2 years in prison and five years of extended supervision for reckless injury.
Damrow has been held in the county jail on $150,000 bail since being arrested in connection with the shooting at the home at 1104 Spring St. he shared with his fiancee.
Police were called to the house around 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, in response to reports of gunfire.
Grafton police officers and members of the Ozaukee County Special Response Team assumed tactical positions outside the house and ordered Damrow to come out.
He refused, but when gunshots were heard, several officers approached the door. After hearing a woman crying and screaming, then more gunfire, Sgt. Eric Sutherland of the Grafton Police Department kicked down the door and officers entered the home, according to the criminal complaint.
Sutherland and Grafton officer Justin Gehm, who heard Damrow’s fiancee Krista Dillon yelling, “He shot me,” said they were approaching the kitchen when three gunshots rang out, the complaint states.
A later investigation showed that Damrow fired the shots into a wall separating him from the officers.
The officers found Damrow lying on the floor of the kitchen. Next to him was a .40 caliber Ruger semi-automatic handgun with the slide locked back because it was out of ammunition.
Also on the floor was Dillon, lying in a pool of her blood caused by a bullet that shattered her femur and ruptured her femoral artery, according to Sheriff Jim Johnson.
She was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa where she underwent surgery.
While Dillon fought for her life, Damrow fought with officers, thrashing and spitting on them as they tried to subdue him, according to the criminal complaint.
As he was being taken to a squad car, Damrow kicked one of the officers in the face. Once inside the car, Damrow broke his restraints and again spit on officers who were trying to subdue him, the complaint states.
Damrow was eventually taken to an area hospital for medical evaluation.
Officers who searched Damrow and his home found more than two grams of cocaine, marijuana and $610, according to the complaint.
An investigation revealed that one of the shots fired by Damrow exited his house and struck a neighboring home. Officers also determined that the shots that went through a kitchen wall were fired in the direction of the officers, the complaint states.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 21:16
Potential buyer of North Port strip mall wants to keep grocery there, city offficials say
A Milwaukee area group is negotiating to buy the North Port Shopping Center on Port Washington’s far north side with an eye to keep a grocery store in the strip mall, city officials said Monday.
City Planner Randy Tetzlaff told the Community Development Authority that the potential buyer is working not only with the owner of the property but also with Joe Sanfilippo, owner of the Sentry food store, to ensure a market remains part of the shopping center.
The owner and buyer have apparently reached an agreement on the sale price, Tetzlaff said, and are now working to get cost estimates for potential upgrades to the center.
The heating system, parking lot, signage and other aspects of the center all need upgrading, he noted.
“It needs some love,” he said.
Tetzlaff told the CDA that the negotiations “sound very encouraging,” but he warned that there are still potential roadblocks that could stymie the sale.
“Something is in the works, and if it comes to fruition it could be great for the city,” he said.
Tetzlaff said he does not have a potential timeline for the sale, noting the city is not involved in the negotiations.
The city did work to introduce the potential buyer and current owner, he said.
“My objective was to get it in more local hands,” Tetzlaff said, adding finding a buyer who wants to retain a grocery there was also a key for the city.
Sentry, he noted, is about 47,000 square feet — a size that falls between most small, independent grocery stores and the large retail chain stores.
The potential owner has indicated that when Sanfilippo retires, the owner is likely to look at a smaller, more intimate grocery, Tetzlaff said.
The owner of the North Port Shopping Center is a Miami-based limited liability corporation that two years ago put the center up for auction. The bidding reached $2.45 million but did not meet the seller’s asking price.
The shopping center was built in 1987 on 6.5 acres at the intersection of Seven Hills Road — also known as Highway LL — and Wisconsin Street.
It has 67,215 square feet of rental space, 89.5% of which is currently leased to seven tenants. There is 7,328 square feet of vacant space in three storefronts.
There is also vacant land adjacent to the shopping center, but Tetzlaff said he did not know if the potential buyer would also purchase this property.
Tetzlaff also updated the CDA on other potential redevelopment sites in the city.
Port Washington State Bank has acquired the former Portobello’s property on Washington Street, he said, another positive move since the former owner was from out of town and allowed the former restaurant to fall into disrepair.
“They don’t really have plans for it at this time,” he said of the bank. “I’m just glad they’re the new owners.”
Although the city began marketing the former trailer park site on South Spring Street, Tetzlaff said, there have been no offers on the site.
“Some people have called,” he said, adding they are concerned over the limits imposed by overhead power lines and the adjoining railroad tracks.
“There’s just not a lot of developable land there,” he said.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 21:15
Magritz sentenced to 18 months for filing bogus deed to rural land he lost
It’s back to prison for Steven Magritz, the 70-year-old man who has harassed Ozaukee County and its officials with fraudulent documents since losing his Town of Fredonia property to tax foreclosure in 2001.
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams sentenced Magritz to 18 months in prison and three years of extended supervision last week for filing what he called a “confirmation deed” with the Register of Deeds Office in 2011 — a deliberate attempt to cloud the county’s ownership of the property, District Attorney Adam Gerol said.
Earlier this month, after listening to a day-and-a-half of testimony and deliberating for less than an hour, a jury found Magritz guilty of one felony count of criminal slander of title, the same crime he was convicted of in 2002 and sentenced to prison for in 2003.
During the Feb. 11 sentencing hearing, Gerol said Magritz’s actions and recalcitrant attitude have perplexed a court system that now must fashion a sentence for a man who will turn 71 next month.
“This case, since its conception, has been a conundrum,” he said. “What is to be done with a man who refuses to be bound by our laws?”
Gerol described Magritz as an intelligent man, but one whose distorted world view has cost him his property and his liberty. From the onset of the county’s foreclosure actions, Gerol said, Magritz thumbed his nose at a legal process that, had he chose to participate in it, would have afforded him recourse.
“He seems to see his life as a life of pretext, and not lawful protest,” Gerol said. “His crowning achievement was to refuse to pay property taxes, then completely abuse the process.”
Magritz defended himself during a sometimes odd trial, at one point denying he was the Steven A. Magritz named in the criminal complaint.
“I am a man created in the image of God,” Magritz said. “I am not a name. I am a man.”
Gerol said Magritz was competent to stand trail and, at least by the legal definition, sane.
“There’s a definition of insanity that is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” he said. “That fits in many ways.”
Magritz, who has contended his home and land were not subject to property taxes, launched his campaign against officials after the county seized his 62-acre property on Shady Lane off Highway I in the Town of Fredonia through tax foreclosure proceedings and evicted him and his wife from their home in 2001. Magritz had not paid property taxes since 1997 and owed about $30,000.
The property, which includes sprawling woodlands along the Milwaukee River, is now part of the county’s adjacent Hawthorne Hills Park.
Magritz retaliated by filing a slew of false documents, including involuntary bankruptcy petitions and fake liens, against a number of county officials. That resulted in the cancellation of credit cards and continuing credit problems for some officials.
The filings were investigated by a special state Domestic Security Unit created by then-Attorney General Jim Doyle, and Magritz was charged in Dane County Circuit Court with seven counts of criminal slander of title in May 2002.
Seven months later, a jury convicted him of all counts, and in January 2003, Magritz was sentenced to five years in prison.
After serving his time and completing 18 months of probation, Magritz, who lived in a Port Washington apartment at the time, filed his confirmation deed with Ozaukee County in November 2011.
“The moment he was off supervision, we again started to get these pseudo legal letters ... legal gibberish,” Gerol said. “Without some type of significant sentence and control, this is a gentleman who won’t be deterred.”
Two weeks after filing the bogus confirmation deed, Magritz was charged with a felony. A court summons sent to his home was returned to the Clerk of Courts Office with a red stamp on it that read, “Refused for fraud.” Then he disappeared.
Nearly four years later, in September 2015, Magritz was arrested in Waukesha County and transported to the Ozaukee County jail, where he remained until his sentencing.
Gerol, noting Magritz refused to be fingerprinted and have his photo taken once in custody, would likely have been free while awaiting trial had he simply responded to the summons by appearing in court in 2011.
“The fact he’s been locked up is a shame, and it’s entirely his fault,” Gerol said.
In court last week, attorney Gary Schmaus, who was appointed by Williams to be Magritz’s standby counsel, said Magritz did not intend any harm by filing the confirmation deed. He meant only to correct errors in previous deeds to the property before filing a federal lawsuit in an effort to reclaim his land.
Williams said, “No one bought that. This court didn’t buy it. It’s just a bunch of gibberish.”
Magritz had little to say during his sentencing.
“If at any time in the past it appeared I consented to these proceedings, I did not,” he said.
Williams responded, “I think the defendant pretty much summarized it right there.”
Referring to Magritz as a “paper terrorist,” Williams said the fact Magritz was not deterred by his previous conviction and prison term “is a major flaw in the defendant’s character.”
Magritz faced a maximum three years in prison and three years of extended supervision. His sentence of 18 months behind bars and the maximum amount of supervision was recommended by Gerol.
While under court supervision, Magritz is not to file any documents with any court or send letters to official without the approval of his probation agent.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 20:08
Former Port High student guilty of soliciting a child for prostitution, possessing child porn sentenced to three years
A teenager who was 17 when he offered to pay a fellow Port Washington High School student to have sex with him, then threatened to blackmail her when she refused, was sentenced to three years in prison last week.
Samuel P. Green, now 18 and most recently living in Iowa, was also sentenced by Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland to 10 years of extended supervision.
Green pleaded guilty to felony counts of soliciting a child for prostitution and possession of child pornography in connection with text messages he sent to a 15-year-old girl in 2014.
Following up on a tip from Saukville police, who investigated another case involving Green, Port Washington police officers in April 2015 interviewed the 15-year-old Port Washington girl, who said she met Green the previous school year at Port High when she was a freshman and he was a junior.
The girl said that in June 2014, she and Green exchanged messages via Facebook, which led to a text message exchange in which Green offered to pay the girl for sex.
When she refused, Green, who had obtained a photo of the girl naked, threatened to send the picture to police, an apparent boyfriend and other people.
According to the criminal complaint:
The girl texted, “Sorry I can’t do this. It feels wrong. I’m so sorry.”
After Green texted “I’ll send out the nudes to everyone,” the girl replied, “No u can’t force me cuz that’s called rape.... I’m not ready for sex.”
She asked Green if “he likes to scare girls and rape them.”
Green replied, “I don’t rape girls. I’ve lured them into having sex with me.”
During last week’s sentencing, Voiland said, “That sounds a lot like rape to me.
“The really troubling aspect of this — what makes it really serious — are the threats that were made to the victim.”
Assistant District Attorney Patti Wabitsch noted this wasn’t the only time Green propositioned a girl.
In November 2014, Green pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of using a computer device to send vulgar messages to a 13-year-old Saukville teenager earlier that year.
According to that criminal complaint, Green sent messages to the girl offering to pay her $80 to have sex with him.
The girl said she told Green to stop contacting her.
“I will leave you alone if I get to see you nude,” Green wrote, according to the complaint.
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy withheld a jail sentence and placed Green on probation for one year. The judge also ruled that Green’s criminal record would be expunged if he completed probation.
But within months, Green violated the conditions of his probation, according to a report from a Department of Corrections agent. He agreed to stricter supervision rules so he could remain on probation, but violated those rules as well.
Ultimately, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to time he had already served in jail.
In court last week, Green’s attorney, Matt Last, described his client as a teenager whose actions were influenced by a troubled high school career during which he struggled for acceptance and was bullied. He said Green would benefit from counseling.
“Mr. Green is a young man who clearly has a number of issues that need to be addressed, and addressed quickly,” Last said. “He does recognize the need to be punished, but I feel in addition to a punishment, there needs to be a component to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Last recommended Green be sentenced to 18 months in prison and five years of extended supervision.
“I don’t view Mr. Green as someone who will continue to prey on young individuals,” he said. “I do believe if we can get to the bottom of what’s causing this behavior, it can be corrected.”
However, Voiland, who essentially followed the prosecutor’s recommendation, decided on a more severe sentence and as conditions of Green’s extended supervision ordered him not to have contact with the victim or girls under the age of 18 or possess devices, including cell phones, capable of accessing the Internet without the approval of his probation agent.
The judge also ordered Green to obtain his high school equivalency diploma.