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Chief drops new firehouse study from budget PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 18:42

After years of advocating for second station in Port, Mitchell says council will now have to decide if it’s priority

When Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell presented his proposed 2018 capital budget to the Police and Fire Commission Monday, there was one item that was conspicuously missing.
    “You notice the glaring omission?” Mitchell asked commission members, referring to money for a feasibility study for a second fire station.
    Mitchell told the commission he made his pitch for a new station to aldermen in June, and because of that decided not to include the $13,500 for the study in his capital budget.
    “They know our needs,” he said. “The ball’s in their court now.”
    Mitchell has been actively advocating for a second fire station for years, saying it’s important to ensure public safety.
    The existing firehouse is cramped, inefficient and doesn’t have adequate facilities for women or paramedics, fire officials have said.
    They envision a new fire station being built west of the railroad tracks, near much of the city’s population base, noting this would also ensure that a derailment or disaster would not cut half the city off from needed emergency services.
    The commission has sought funding for a feasibility study and space needs analysis for a second firehouse for the last three years.
    While aldermen placed that amount in the city’s contingency fund last year, City Administrator Mark Grams said the funds have been spent on other needs.
    Those include funds to bring the tall ship Denis Sullivan to Port Washington, hire marketing director Nicole Styles and make some repairs to the waterpark, Grams said.
    Grams, who met with Mitchell to review the proposed 2018 budget on Tuesday, said he doesn’t envision the council including funds for the fire station study in the budget.
    “He’s got other (budget) priorities next year,” Grams said of Mitchell.
    Those include a new tanker truck to replace the current, 32-year-old truck at an estimated cost of $400,000, replacing one of the ambulances at an estimated cost of $225,000, and replacing two heating, ventilating and cooling units at the firehouse for $10,000.
    “We’ve pushed those (vehicle replacements) off for the last couple of years,” Grams noted. “We’re at a point I don’t know that we can do that anymore.”
    In addition, Mitchell’s capital budget requests for next year include $4,000 for anti-exposure coveralls for the dive rescue team and $25,000 to replace one ambulance cot with a power-assist unit.
    Grams, who is meeting with department heads as the budget process begins to wind its way to the Common Council, said the 2018 budget is expected to be “very tight again.”
    The proposed budget is tentatively scheduled to be reviewed by the city’s Finance and License Committee on Oct. 26, Grams said, with the Common Council reviewing the spending plan on Nov. 7.
    A public hearing on the budget is to be held on Nov. 21, and aldermen could approve the document that night.

Council’s resolve on Blues Factory shows cracks PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 18:02

With costly seawall fix for controversial lakefront project looming, schism between aldermen becomes clear

    Divisions among Port Washington aldermen sprang into clear focus Tuesday as the Common Council discussed cost estimates for repairing the north slip sheetwall and making amendments to the city’s agreements for the Blues Factory development.
    Ultimately, the Common Council voted 4-2 to proceed with an angular driven tieback system to repair the sheetwall and ensure its stability, a process expected to cost between $70,000 and $145,000.
    Aldermen also approved amendments to the Blues Factory Inc.’s agreement to purchase and developer’s agreement to reflect a new closing date of Jan. 18 for the north marina slip parking lot.
    The amendments, also approved by a 4-2 vote, also change many of the dates in the agreements to reflect the new closing date and ensure the city’s cost for the sheetwall repairs will be capped at $85,000.
    Aldermen took a total of five votes on the issues, with virtually every one ending in a 4-2 vote with aldermen John Sigwart and Mike Gasper — two of the newest aldermen — voting on one side of the issue and the other aldermen — Mike Ehrlich, Paul Neumyer, Jonathan Pleitner and Dave Larson — voting the other way.
    The votes included a motion to do nothing to the sheetwall but observe it, to delay a decision on the proposed sheetwall repair until the council’s Oct. 17 meeting, to adding a clause in the agreements declaring the Blues Factory would waive any riparian rights over the lakefront, despite the fact City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said that it has no rights over the lakefront.
    The most spirited debate swirled around the sheetwall repairs, something the city has grappled with for months after determining that many of the structural supports for the wall — the tiebacks that hold the wall in place and the deadmen that anchor the tiebacks — were either missing or deficient and the wall had started to bow.
    After engineers for the Blues Factory declined to have new supports tied into the foundation of the building, the city looked into several alternative ways to anchor the sheetwall, ultimately deciding Tuesday to go with a completely new system of supports.
    The alternative, which is less expensive — $50,000 to $120,000 — was to incorporate the existing tiebacks and deadmen that are intact into the new system.
    Sigwart argued that the city should negotiate with the Blues Factory to see if it could tie the supports into the building foundation, saying the potential savings could be significant.
    In the alternative, he said, the city should do nothing and observe the sheetwall for six months or so. If there are no changes to the structure, he said, the city should consider not doing anything to the supports.
    “That strikes me as an effort to kill the development,” Mayor Tom Mlada said, noting that the developer wants to move up the purchase of the property, not delay it.
    No matter what, the city needs to ensure the sheetwall is secure before the lot is developed, Mlada added, noting that numerous city panels have agreed that developing the parking lot is the best option for the community.
    Other officials noted that the city can’t ignore the fact there is an issue with the sheetwall. If nothing else, they said, it increases the city’s liability if something were to occur.
    “Now that we know this, it’s hard to un-know it,” Eberhardt said.”Whether you have a parking lot or a park or a blues factory, you know about this.”
    Gasper also argued that the developer should pay the cost of the work, saying it is only needed because of the development.
    “It seems like the need to fix the wall is entirely based on the development,” Gasper said. “This is on top of the discounted price for selling the land and the million-dollar incentive. It’s like the deal keeps getting worse for the city.”
    Mlada argued that using the land for parking is a worse deal, saying development will bring in tax revenue while bringing business to downtown and spurring other development in the area.
    “I think we have a great deal in place,” he said.
    Gasper also questioned the design of the building, especially what he called a “monolithic wall” facing Washington Street, and then asked if developer Gertjan van den Broek is pulling a “bait and switch” that would ultimately result in condominiums, not the planned entertainment complex, being built on the site.
    Van den Broek and his attorney, Bruce McIlnay, noted that their agreement with the city calls for a specific use —the Blues Factory, a Paramount Records-based entertainment complex with a restaurant, performance space and banquet hall.
    The museum previously planned will now be incorporated into  the entire building, not just a portion of the facility, they added.
    At that point, Larson called for the debate to end and a vote to be held.
    The city had received two estimates for the sheetwall repair systems, but now needs to obtain bids for the work. However, before that can be done, it must engineer the repair work.
    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said he may ask the city to hire Miller Engineers and Scientists to do the engineering work, something he said could likely be done in three weeks.
    After that, the city would need to bid the project.
    The city’s agreement with the Blues Factory limits the city’s cost for the work to $85,000, with the Blues Factory picking up any extra cost.  
     The revised offer to purchase calls for the Blues Factory to buy the parking lot for $250,000 by Jan. 18 — the previous deadline was Feb. 28.
    While the previous agreement would have allowed the Blues Factory to use its developer’s incentive to pay for the land, the amended agreement calls for the purchase to be funded privately.
    Receiving cash for the land will provide the city with the funds to fix the sheetwall, officials said.
     If the Blues Factory doesn’t move ahead, the city has the option of buying back the parking lot for the purchase price with the total discounted by any excess amount paid for the sheetwall work.

United Way launches aggressive campaign PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 19:04

Northern Ozaukee agency increases goal by $100,000 to address homelessness, mental health issues

   With its agencies facing ever increasing and complex problems, United Way of Northern Ozaukee is increasing this year’s campaign goal significantly — to $400,000.
    “There are some critically needed programs that have surfaced that we want to take part in,” Executive Director Barbara Bates-Nelson said. “The needs are changing and there are needs emerging that we are looking at.
    “We feel like we have a responsibility to help. We have our existing partners and we have these new areas where we want to make a difference, so we’re going to try to raise an additional $100,000.”
    Last year’s United Way of Northern Ozaukee campaign goal was $300,000, and it raised $313,000 to support 14 community nonprofit groups, Bates-Nelson said.
    Reaching the goal isn’t going to be easy, she admitted, but it’s needed if United Way is to continue helping its existing agencies while aiding in new ways as well.   
    “It’s definitely going to be challenging,” she said. “But we just have to get in front of as many people as we can.
    “There’s tremendous pressure out there to get dollars, and it’s tough sometimes to get people to recognize the needs here.”
    With this year’s campaign, United Way plans to continue its efforts to fight homelessness, Bates-Nelson said.
    “We see it as very important,” she said. “We’re trying to provide a safety net for people.”
    So many people are a medical condition or car repair away from homelessness in a county that doesn’t always see the needs, Bates-Nelson said, noting last year United Way assisted 48% more people — 72 individuals and 30 families — at risk of being homeless than in the previous year.
    “People don’t realize it,” she said. “When they think of poverty, they think of the inner city. But we see people living paycheck to paycheck, who suddenly have a major expense and it just spirals from there.”
    As part of this effort, United Way is directing people to, where they can take a walk in the shoes of Alice, a woman living on the edge and make the choices she needs to in order to survive, Bates-Nelson said.
    “It really brings those tough choices home,” she said.
    This year, the United Way is also looking to increase its efforts in children’s advocacy, mental health initiatives, she said.
    “Mental health is a big issue,” Bates-Nelson said. “There are so many things tied to it, including substance abuse.”
    She pointed to a recent analysis that showed a 4% increase in the number of residents reporting mental health conditions between 2008 and 2014, that 3% of people had considered committing suicide during the past year. Eleven people committed suicide during 2016, according to the analysis.
    As part of the mental health initiative, United Way hopes to help fund a child advocacy center in Ozaukee County, Bates-Nelson said.
    “This will be a team of people who will be able to follow a case from the time a child’s voice is heard through prosecution and treatment,” she said.
    In the past, the county has worked with a center in Milwaukee, but the caseload was so great that it could no longer handle the work. Now, a local child advocacy center is being formed to handle cases in Ozaukee, Washington and Sheboygan counties, she said, with funding coming from all three counties.
    “This will be a first,” Bates-Nelson said. “A stand-alone center for each of us would be a huge investment, but working together we can provide a state-of-the-art model.
    United Way is currently in the process of creating an online directory of services available to people in the county, Bates-Nelson said, and it is also embarking on several campaign-opening events.
    The Stone Soup event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 7, at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Saukville, is intended as a way to bring people together and make soup to be distributed to those in need through the Saukville and Family Sharing food pantries and Advocates of Ozaukee.
    The organization is still looking for volunteers and ingredients for the soup, including fresh garden produce and nonperishable food items such as Parmesan cheese, pasta and vegetable and chicken stock, as well as homemade desserts and healthy after-school snacks.  
    United Way is also taking part in a Pay it Forward event, in which 1,000 special tokens are being handed out to people in the community who have done some good.
    Bates-Nelson said she hopes these stories will then be posted on the United Way Facebook page and inspire others to take action and make a difference.
    In addition to the campaign, United Way of Northern Ozaukee is taking part in a Fashion Fling event this week in which women can trade in used handbags for as much as $20 off a new purse from Zing boutique in Port Washington.
    Anyone interested in providing ingredients for the Stone Soup event or volunteering for the event is asked to contact Bates-Nelson by calling (248) 613-7855 or emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Bank courts new buyers but Cedar Vineyard deal still alive PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 18:55

Port land back on the market, but officials say plan for subdivision, nature preserve moving forward

    Plans for the proposed Cedar Vineyard development on Port Washington’s far south side appeared to be in question last week when the land it is to be built on was listed for sale in the Wall Street Journal, but officials said this week that they are confident the project — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve 100 acres of environmentally sensitive land, ensure public access to the lakefront and bluffs flanked by single-family houses, a vineyard and winery — will move forward.
    “Every action I’m seeing from the developer tells me we’re  close to a closing date,” Tom Stolp, executive director of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, said. “We have our funding in place. I’m excited we’re going to get this done.
    “I think this is a gesture from the bank to cover its bases.”
    “The bank” is Waukesha State Bank, which owns the land and listed it for sale for $18 million Friday in the Journal’s mansion section, touting it as “lakefront property with 240 acres of pristine vacant land and 1.25 miles of continuous Lake Michigan frontage.”
    Keith Van De Laarschot, a commercial banker with Waukesha State Bank, said this is the first time in almost three years the property has been marketed.
    The initial sale agreement with the Highview Group has been extended several times but recently expired, he said.
    “We’re not against their plan if they can pull it together,” Van De Laarschot said. “We love this project. It’s just unfortunate it hasn’t been able to go to closing.”
    He would not comment on whether the bank is continuing to work with the developer.
    Developer Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, said Tuesday that plans for the subdivision are moving ahead.
    “We’re confident we will be able to wrap it up in the next few weeks,” he said. “Everything’s in place.”
    That includes the bank funding and grants, he said, as well as the engineering, contractors and needed permits from the Department of Natural Resources.
    “We continue to move forward,” Swarthout said. “We have continued to meet with the pertinent parties, including the Land Trust, county and city. They’ve known our position.”
    Randy Tetzlaff, Port’s director of planning and development, said the bank president had warned officials they could see the property listed for sale.
    “They’re getting tired of waiting for a closing date,” Tetzlaff said. “We’ve told them they’ve got to be patient. This is a complex deal.”
    In the years since the bank acquired the land from VK Development, which had proposed a massive subdivision there, the Highview Group has been the only firm that has been serious about developing the property, Tetzlaff added.
    The deal to create the Cedar Vineyard subdivision was fostered by officials from the city, Ozaukee County and the Land Trust, who worked with developer Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group to come up with a plan that would not only preserve the Cedar Gorge and ensure public access to the lake but also bring needed development to the city.
    It’s a complex deal, officials said, noting the Land Trust and government raised $2 million — a $1 million stewardship grant from the Department of Natural Resources and $1 million from the Wisconsin Coastal Management’s coastal estuarine land conservation program — to purchase the roughly 100-acre nature preserve that will encompass Cedar Gorge. Those funds were raised through grants, and just getting the needed documents approved by the granting agencies took a significant amount of time.
    The City of Port Washington also put in place a tax incremental financing district to help pay for the extension of utilities to the property. Without that, it would be virtually impossible to develop the land, officials said.
    “It is complex and has taken longer than some people expected,” Stolp said, but in the end it will be worth it.
    “This is an innovative development. It is an enlightened development,” he said. “We’re talking about such a huge block of land.”
    The development is important, he said, because it encompasses development alongside a preserve, with the Land Trust and county ensuring the preserve will remain open space in perpetuity.
    And to have a vineyard integrated in a housing development and nature preserve, with the scenic Lake Michigan backdrop that will be accessible to the public makes Cedar Vineyard truly unique, Stolp said.
    “I think we’re on the cusp of something unique and something really neat,” he said. “We remain optimistic, and we’re excited.”
    The delays have been frustrating, Tetzlaff acknowledged, but officials believe the project will go through.
    Swarthout said that 12 of the 82 lots in Cedar Vineyard have been reserved, even though he has not yet purchased the property, and he expects the rest to sell quickly once the land is bought.
    “We’re hoping this is just a little hiccup,” he said.

School Board agrees to sell land to local businessmen PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 18:42

Port property purchased by district in 1969 likely to become subdivision

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday accepted an offer from two local businessmen to purchase 54.5 acres of farmland the district has owned for more than 47 years.
    The district’s agreement with Hillcrest Investments, owned by Randy Buser of Port Washington and his brother-in-law Jeff Mayer of the Town of Grafton, is expected to be finalized early next year. Until then, school officials and Hillcrest representatives have agreed not to divulge details of the sale, which has been the subject of closed-meeting negotiations since January.
    “All the nuts and bolts of this deal have been put together,” Hillcrest Investments attorney Michael Penkwitz said Tuesday. “This is a done deal.”
    Although school officials said they will not disclose the purchase price until the deal is finalized, the sale of the land, which is on the City of Port Washington’s west side north of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL,  is expected to net the district a handsome sum.
    The district will have to spend the proceeds on capital improvements in order to avoid a decrease in state aid, and although the School Board has not yet earmarked the money, officials have said it could be spent on school improvements not funded by the $49.4 million referendum approved in April 2015.
    Another potential use of the money is a contribution to the sweeping redesign of the Port Washington High School athletic fields, a plan that includes the installation of artificial turf football and baseball fields. School officials, however, have said they hope private donations solicited by the PWSSD Foundation Inc., a recently formed nonprofit organization, will raise most, if not all, of the money for the project.
    Although the district purchased the land and has held onto it as a future school site for nearly five decades, it has come to be seen as a marginal location for a school and an ideal site for residential development, with city infrastructure — water and sewer service, streets and sidewalks — abutting the property on three sides.
    In addition, the land, which the district has leased for agricultural use for years, is flanked by subdivisions on three sides — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods of White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east.
    Buser declined to comment on specific plans for the property but acknowledged it will be some sort of residential development.
    Following the approval of the referendum, which financed the expansion of Dunwiddie Elementary School and the ongoing  renovation and construction at Port Washington High School, the board decided there was no longer a reason to hang onto the  54.5 acres.
    Small by contemporary high school standards, the property is better suited to a residential development that would put the land on the tax rolls and hopefully provide homes for families with children to boost the district’s enrollment, officials said.
    The school district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944.

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