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Editorials
It’s no time to abandon Port’s senior center PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 18:13

As the population ages, Port’s facility for seniors serves a key role in providing services that enrich the lives of city’s oldest residents and the community as a whole

As the American population grows increasingly older, senior centers that provide services ranging from wellness programs to activities that encourage senior citizens to remain active and involved in their communities are more important than ever.

    That’s what the experts say, and the importance they place on senior centers should be considered a resounding affirmation of the City of Port Washington’s long-standing policy of providing a facility and programs for senior citizens.

    Long before the Baby Boomers began flooding the ranks of senior citizens, Port officials realized the importance of maintaining a center and offering programs for its oldest residents. In 1972, The Port Washington Senior Center was established when the city used money provided by the Older Americans Act to renovate the former firehouse at the corner of Pier and Wisconsin streets.

    In 2011, city officials opted to lease the former St. John’s Church on West Foster Street and move the senior center there, a questionable decision that has contributed to the uncertainty surrounding the future of a senior center in Port.

    Almost overnight, it seems, City Hall’s attitude toward the Port Senior Center has changed. City Administrator Mark Grams said last month it’s unlikely the city will provide a center after its lease on the former church property expires in two years. A needs assessment has been commissioned to determine what senior services are needed in the future.

    While the city’s role in providing future services for senior citizens is nebulous, it’s clear that if it does not provide a senior center as it has for more than 40 years, services for Port Washington’s oldest residents will be greatly diminished at a time when an aging population makes them more important than ever.

    Consider that the median age of Ozaukee County residents is 44.5 years — among the oldest in southeastern Wisconsin — and the segment of the county’s population that is 65 and older jumped from 15% in 2000 to nearly 28% in 2010, and it makes the move to abandon the senior center that much more vexing.

    Aldermen aren’t questioning the demographics, but the thinking seems to be that future senior citizens won’t need or want a senior center.

    Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of the city’s Commission on Aging and an ad-hoc committee studying the future of senior services, has questioned the need for a center and said alternatives include having seniors share facilities with other organizations or provide their own center.

    “I’m 57, and I cannot picture ever going to a senior center,” he said. “I’m very busy, very active. I can’t picture a day when it will be different.”

    Driscoll may never darken the doorway of the senior center, but that doesn’t mean others don’t rely on it for everything from a meal site to a place to socialize and participate in a growing number of programs.

    The Port Senior Center has 488 members, and the programs it offers have multiplied to include the Green Felt Club pool league, Chicks With Sticks knitting group, exercise and wellness classes, art and craft programs and book clubs.

    While the city pays for the center and the salary of a director, seniors pay a membership fee, albeit nominal, and a fee for some programs.

    Whether the senior citizens of the future — Baby Boomers who work until later in life and remain active longer — will find value in senior centers is a question that has been asked and answered. Ronald Aday, director of aging studies at Middle Tennessee State University, has concluded that while senior centers must evolve to meet the needs of a changing demographic, they will continue to serve a vital role in providing services such as wellness programs and remain the means by which older adults remain active and engaged in their communities.

    The merits of senior centers aside, the city’s current course of action looks a little like an exit strategy. In 2011, with its center in the former firehouse in need of renovation, officials chose the new site in the former church, and not just because officials thought it would be a good facility for seniors.

     By agreeing to lease the former church from the owners of Franklin Energy, whose offices were there, the city not only convinced the company to stay in Port but filled vacant office space on the second floor of the downtown Smith Bros. building, which has since been Franklin Energy’s headquarters.

    But now, after investing $235,300 to make a former church and office building a senior center, the city is having renters’ remorse. The building, officials have said, is not an ideal facility for a senior center, and the annual rent payment is difficult for some aldermen to abide.

    This may be true, but a bad deal for seniors three years ago isn’t reason for the city to abandon its four-decades-long policy of providing a senior center. Instead, confident that tax dollars are well spent on a facility that is important to delivering services that have and will continue to improve the quality of life for a rapidly growing segment of the population and the city as a whole, aldermen should commit to maintaining a Port Senior Center. Then they, with input from senior citizens and others, can decide whether the current facility will do or if it’s time to find a new home for the center.



 
Robert Krebsbach PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 21:04

Saukville resident Robert Krebsbach, 72, died Thursday, Jan. 22.

A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated Tuesday at Gesu Church in Milwaukee.

Memorials are requested to www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org.

Arrangements were handled by Eernisse Funeral Home, Port Washington.

 
Redemption for the VK mistake PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 18:48

An enlightened, environmentally sound development on land left vacant after an unwise annexation would be a boon to Port Washington if TIF funding is viable

Redemption for the City of Port Washington’s 20-year-old mistake of annexing hundreds of acres of land far south of the city for a ridiculously grandiose satellite development that never materialized seemed about as unlikely as a vineyard growing in the concretelike clay that makes up lakeshore farmland in Ozaukee County.

    Now it seems both could happen.

    An inspired plan for the development of 227 acres of the land annexed in 1995 for the failed VK development would include a compact residential element, preservation of more than 100 acres of lakeshore land for public use and, yes, a vineyard.

    There would be 73 home sites, compared to the 100s planned in the VK development, surrounded by a vast expanse of green in a nature preserve and a 50-acre vineyard serving a winery that would be part of the development.

    The Plan Commission has approved the plan. Other city officials are lavishing it with praise.

    Their enthusiasm is understandable. The development called Cedar Vineyard represents an enlightened approach to residential land use that is the antithesis of the discredited concepts that gave us urban sprawl.

    Both city officials and the developer have been calling it a low-density development, but that is true only in that the home sites take up less than half of the huge VK tract. The residential component itself is quite dense—dense in a good way.

The majority of the lots will be just over a third of an acre in area, ample but of a scale that suits a clustered conservation subdivision.

    In an interview with Ozaukee Press, Tom Swarthout, president of the development company, the Highview Group, noted that while “big McMansions created cocooning,” his project will encourage residents to connect with their neighbors.

    The charm of a conservation development is that though the lots may be of modest-size, they will have a vast shared “front yard” consisting of scores of acres of green space with lake views.

    The vineyard is a surprise. Who knew that the dense soil affectionately known in these parts as “Luxembourger clay,” a far cry from the well-drained terroir prized by French and California vineyards, would be conducive to growing grapes?


    The operators of the development’s planned winery on the west side of Highway C near Stonecroft, who own vineyards near Kewaunee and Sturgeon Bay, seem to know. They plan to sign a 30-year lease for the Cedar Vineyard land.

    The conservation area between the home sites and the lake is more than a boon to the environment. It is also the catalyst that makes the salvage of the VK annexation possible. This is thanks to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, which has been pressing for preservation of part of the property, both to protect natural areas and to give the public access to some of the last undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin.

    Assuming the Land Trust can find the roughly $2 million needed to buy the land earmarked for conservation and Ozaukee County agrees to take ownership and maintain it as natural park, the developer will have the prime ingredient needed for a conservation development, and lake bluff stabilization by the county to boot.

    The Cedar Vineyard concept shines in its own right, but when compared to the VK extravaganza’s planned excesses—outsized houses by the hundreds, commercial buildings for stores and offices, a resort hotel, even a marina, all of which would have been more a competitor to the city than a part of it—it looks even better.

    For all of its promise, though, the development comes with a caveat, and it’s a big one. None of it will happen if Port Washington does not extend city water and sewage service to the site, a massive construction project expected to cost upwards of $5.6 million.

    City officials propose to accomplish it by creating a TIF district that would facilitate borrowing for the infrastructure work and paying back the loans with the taxes collected on the new development.

    TIF districts are sometimes confused with magic, but they only work if the developments they make possible achieve a high enough valuation to compensate the city for the infrastructure outlay in a reasonable amount of time. If the expected tax base increase falls short, all city taxpayers are on the hook for expenditures that benefit private real estate development.

    City officials should be wary of being too dazzled by the potential of this creative development to do the math very carefully before signing off on the TIF district.



 
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