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What happened to ‘Save the Harbor’ money? PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 21 June 2017 20:06

Officials say president of defunct nonprofit needs to account for donated funds; she says group provided education, returned balance to principle donor

    In early 2014, at about the same time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the Port Washington breakwater needed repairs costing millions of dollars it didn’t have and the city was talking about acquiring and repairing the lighthouse, a grass-roots group formed to, in its words, “save the Port lighthouse and breakwater.”
    The group, which registered with the state as a nonprofit organization under the name Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation Inc., held a well-attended organizational meeting, auctioned donated photographs, collected donations in “Save the Harbor” buckets in downtown stores and at city events and sold lighthouse necklaces and kites with a logo that featured a life ring around the lighthouse.
    Residents volunteered to help the cause. Even Boy Scouts chipped in by selling kites.
    But three years later, as the city continues to scrape up money for ongoing breakwater repairs and launches a fundraising effort to pay for lighthouse repairs, officials say they have no idea what happened to the more than $31,000 raised by the group but know that it didn’t benefit efforts to repair the breakwater or lighthouse.
    “We didn’t see any of those dollars,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “We didn’t realize any benefit from this organization.
    “The people of this city are legitimately looking for accountability. There was money that went to this organization that isn’t coming back.”
    Mary Jo Joyce of West Bend, one of the founders and president of the now-defunct Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation, said Tuesday that most of the money the group raised was spent on “educational outreach” and to cover the expenses of the nonprofit organization.
    “The money was used to conduct educational outreach which resulted in awareness of the structural deficiencies of the breakwater and increased support for repairing it,” she said.
    Reacting to allegations of mismanage-ment or worse on social media, Joyce said, “I’m aware of the muckraking going on. It’s untrue. Nobody in the organization was paid. We’re not talking about a lot of money or malfeasance. We’re talking about dedicated volunteers who tried to make a difference.”
    When asked this week how the group’s money was spent, James Meyer of Port Washington, an organizer of the group who served as its vice president, said, “I’m not going to elaborate on that. I’m going to direct you to Mary Jo Joyce. She’s the one who is taking care of that. I walked away from the group because of other things I had going on.”
    According to the Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation’s 2014 financial statement filed with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, it raised $31,133 in charitable contributions and reported another $1,923 in revenue for a total of $33,056.
    The group reported spending $3,442 for the management of the organization and $10,874 for services it provided, leaving it with a balance of $18,296 at the end of 2014.
    It did not have to file a financial report in 2015 because it claimed less than $5,000 in contributions.
    Joyce said that the vast majority of the money the organization raised — $30,000 — was donated by the Sailing Association of Sheboygan (SEAS), and when the Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation dissolved in 2016, the balance of that donation — between $13,000 and $14,000 — was returned to SEAS. She said the foundation’s by-laws required that if it ceased to operate remaining fundraising proceeds be donated to an organization of “similar purpose.”
    According to its website, SEAS is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to creating affordable pathways for the community to safely enjoy boating on Lake Michigan” and provide “educational programming and access to boats while removing barriers to participation created by financial, physical or cognitive needs.”
    According to Leslie Kohler, chairwoman of the SEAS Board of Directors, SEAS donated $10,000 to the Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation on Feb. 13, 2014. Her father, Terry Kohler, donated $20,000, she said.
    On Dec. 20, 2016, SEAS received a check for $13,409 from the Safe Harbor Preservation Fund, Kohler said.
    In an email sent Tuesday, Kohler defended Joyce.
    “I do not believe that Mary Jo Joyce or the board of GLSH in any way conducted themselves without integrity and certainly did nothing that was illegal,” Kohler wrote. “It seems to me that all this hoopla on Facebook is merely a witch hunt (started by) somebody that must have spent $25 for a necklace and wonders where the money went.”
    City officials are among those who wonder where the money went and say Joyce still owes a full accounting for the money the Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation collected for the stated purpose of funding breakwater and lighthouse repairs.
    In November 2016, and again the following month, the city sent letters to Joyce requesting documents, noting that people who supported the group had been asking how the money it collected has been used to accomplish its mission “to contribute to improvements to the breakwater and lighthouse in Port Washington.”
    Among the documents requested were federal and state forms recognizing the group as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, IRS form 990, which requires nonprofit organizations to provide detailed accounting information, and a statement of funds available for lighthouse acquisition and improvements.
    Joyce did not provide the documents, officials said.
    “I received a short response from her, something to the effect of, ‘I don’t know what you’re looking for, but there’s nothing there,’” Mlada said.
    Joyce said Tuesday, “The city made demands it wasn’t in a position to make.”
    City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said Joyce’s unwillingness to provide the documents is cause for concern.
    “For me, the biggest concern I have is why wouldn’t you respond to a reasonable request for information?” he said. “That’s the elephant in the room.
    “This organization collected money from donors and is unwilling to account for that. The city has a lot of questions about how this was handled.”
    When asked if the city plans to take further action, Eberhardt said, “The city doesn’t wish to spend money on legal fees to chase money that apparently is not there anymore.”
    Jeff Ewig, who attended the foundation’s organizational meeting in 2014, donated a photo to its fundraising auction and put a donation bucket on the counter of his Port Washington store, Ewig Bros. Fish Co., said organizers made it clear the group’s goal was to raise money to pay for repairs to both the breakwater and lighthouse.    
    “That’s what I was led to believe, but it seems that changed somewhere along the line,” Ewig said. “That’s pretty crappy if you ask me. They raised a good amount of money that we could certainly use now.
    “It all seems pretty fishy to me.”
    Although the foundation’s fundraising materials described the effort as one that would benefit the breakwater and lighthouse, Joyce said this week that the organization was focused strictly on the breakwater.
    “The acquisition and preservation of the lighthouse was never our mission,” Joyce said.
    Not long after the foundation was created, two events — an announcement that the Army Corps of Engineers would allocate nearly $1 million for breakwater repairs and a decision by the city to hire a consultant to seek grants for the project — undercut the organization’s effectiveness and ultimately led to the decision to dissolve the Great Lakes Safe Harbor Preservation Foundation, Joyce said.
    “We didn’t think that people would donate once we knew the Army Corps had allocated money for the breakwater,” Joyce said. “We raised a small amount of money from our local efforts, and in the end, we weren’t successful in getting past startup and decided to close.”
    Mlada said the foundation could have had a meaningful impact on efforts to repair the lighthouse, noting that the city’s immediate priority is to raise $30,000 to replace the portholes in the pierhead light to make the structure weathertight.
    “Even if we received a portion of what the group raised, we would be a long way toward that goal,” he said.     
   

 
Dealer guilty of homicide in Fredonia drug death PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 18:28

Man pleads guilty to selling Percocet that led to overdose by PWHS grad


    A Milwaukee drug dealer pleaded guilty in an Ozaukee County courtroom Monday to second-degree reckless homicide for selling the narcotic painkillers  that contributed to the overdose death of a 27-year-old Port Washington High School graduate and Fredonia resident in December 2015.
    District Attorney Adam Gerol recommended Michael Roby, 56, be sentenced to six years in prison followed by six years of extended supervision for selling Percocet to a woman who purchased it on behalf of Jacob Tietz on Dec. 29.
    The next morning, Tietz was found dead at his home of “mixed drug toxicity of which Percocet was a substantial factor,” according to the criminal complaint.
    During Monday’s hearing, Tietz’s mother, Ann Brown, displayed a photo of her son and told Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland how he battled drug addiction but, after serving time in jail, put his life back together.
    Brown said her son had been sober for 19 months, but on Christmas Day 2015 fell off a hoverboard and broke his foot. He underwent surgery and was left in excruciating pain. Because of his history with drug addiction, doctors were cautious about how they treated his pain, and ultimately her son looked elsewhere for relief, Brown said.
    “Jacob was my baby, and at 27, he was too young to die,” she said. “The loss of my son Jacob was the most devastating feeling in the world.”
    Brown urged Voiland to craft a sentence that makes it clear Ozaukee County will not tolerate drug dealers.
    “We need to get tougher with drug dealers,” she said. “Maybe we should set an example with a long sentence for Michael Roby.
    “Please do the best for our community and get Michael Roby off the streets.”
    Voiland is scheduled to sentence Roby on Aug. 23.
    Roby was arrested on Jan. 5, 2016, six days  after deputies responding to a rescue call were told by Tietz’s father that he discovered his son’s body in his bedroom at 11 a.m. Dec. 30.
    Near the body was a tissue with dried blood, a rubber tourniquet, syringe and other materials used to “cook” and inject drugs, Detective Sgt. Chad Eibs, an Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force supervisor, testified during a preliminary hearing last year.
    Deputies also found Tietz’s cell phone, which they used to track down a woman he was communicating with about buying drugs.
    The woman was arrested later that day and told authorities that Tietz contacted her about buying drugs. She said she knew Tietz had a drug problem because they had attended alcohol and drug abuse counseling sessions together in the past, according to the criminal complaint.
    The woman said she made arrangements with “my guy Mike,” whom she later identified as Roby, to buy 16 Percocet tablets, Eibs testified. At 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, she said, she picked up Tietz at his home and, after stopping at an ATM where he withdrew money, they drove to meet Roby, she said.
    At a grocery store parking lot at 60th Street and Capitol Drive in Milwaukee, the woman got into Roby’s vehicle and paid him $200 provided by Tietz for the Percocet tablets, Eibs testified.
    The woman said Tietz snorted some of the Percocet in her car, Eibs said.
    “She said she was 100% sure she had been buying drugs from Michael Roby for years,” Eibs testified.
    About a week after Tietz’s death, the woman agreed to help authorities set up a sting that resulted in Roby’s arrest.
    On Jan. 5, the woman called Roby and told him there was “a kid up in Fredonia that has like $400,” according to the complaint.
    She said she negotiated a deal with Roby, who agreed to sell her $400 worth of 20-milligram Percocet tablets at $14 each, and arranged to meet him, the complaint states.
    Members of the Milwaukee drug unit, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force descended on the meeting location and, as they were attempting to make the arrest, Roby swallowed the contents of a pill bottle.
    When told by officers he could die of an overdose, Roby said, “I don’t care,” according to the complaint.
    Authorities discovered a loaded gun near Roby, the complaint states.
    Roby, whose bail was set at $50,000, has been in the county jail since his arrest. Voiland ensured he will remain there until his sentencing by revoking his bail.

 
Council to hire company to engineer Blues Factory site fix PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 18:49

Firm to study marina lot that may be in need of costly repair ahead of sale

    Engineering proposals for work intended to shore up the north marina slip parking lot slated to become home to the Blues Factory entertainment complex will be considered by the Port Washington Common Council next week.
    City Administrator Mark Grams said the city expected to receive proposals from three firms that will analyze the situation and develop solutions to stabilize the parking lot, paving the way for development of the Blues Factory.
    “That will give us options,” Grams said of the proposals.
    The city was expected to receive proposals from three firms — Cullen Engineering, JJR and Terra Construction and Engineering. Grams said the study could cost $15,000 to $20,000.
    Officials have estimated that shoring up the seawall could cost between $100,000 and $200,000 — an amount that will be borne by the city.
    The study is required because the city recently learned that the infrastructure that supports the sheetwall — the tiebacks that hold the wall in place and the deadmen that anchor the tiebacks — is largely nonexistent.     
    The city was required to locate the tiebacks and deadmen as part of its agreement to sell the parking lot for the Blues Factory. The discovery that the infrastructure was largely missing prompted the city to delay the pending sale of the property until February 2018 to give it time to deal with the problem.
    While that deadline is still eight months off, it doesn’t mean the city can put off work on the parking lot indefinitely since construction season is moving into full gear.
    But, Grams said, it also doesn’t mean the city has to rush into a solution.
    The engineering firm is likely to recommend adding more tiebacks with deadmen, Grams said, but how that work is done will influence when construction takes place.
    The work could be done just before construction of the Blues Factory, which means avoiding the busy summer season, he said.
    Or the engineering firm could recommend a solution that involves the proposed Blues Factory, Grams said, perhaps suggesting that any new tiebacks be linked to the entertainment complex’s foundation.   
    “We can’t do anything until we see the options that are presented,” Grams said.
    One thing that’s not likely to be recommended is doing nothing, he said, noting that there is some bowing in the sheetwall on the western end of the north slip.
    Although the city had dug up the pavement in the lot while it searched for the tiebacks and deadmen, it has since repaved the area.
    Grams said this was done to allow the summer festivals, beginning with this weekend’s Pirate Festival, to use the lot.
    Grams noted that developer Gertjan van den Broek’s design work for the Blues Factory is on hold as the city determines what will be done to shore up the parking lot.
    That’s because he needs to know where the tiebacks and deadmen are located so he can determine where to put the foundation for his building, Grams said.

 
City to spend more than it’s getting for marina lot PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 19:41

Council OKs bid for $154,000 of infrastructure work on car-trailer parking area it has agreed to sell for $140,000


    The Port Washington Common Council Tuesday approved a $154,000 contract to move the sewer lines on the car-trailer parking lot it plans to sell to architect Stephen Perry Smith for $140,000 next month.
    The low bid from David Tenor Corp. is far below the city’s initial estimate of $350,000 and the most recent estimate of $250,000.
    Even after the city figures in the potential cost of landfilling any contaminated spoils on the property, the total cost is expected to be less than $200,000, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
    The lower than expected price tag is due in large part to the fact that the city initially thought two sewer mains would have to be moved off the parking lot at the far east end of Washington Street.
    The current plan is to move one of the two lines into the street and relocate the other on the site to accommodate the 11 townhouses Smith plans to build there.
    The work will be financed through the wastewater utility, which has a substantial surplus, Grams said. The money will be repaid through the increased taxes generated by the townhouses, he said, adding the debt should be repaid in three to four years.
    “This is a TIF (tax incremental financing) project, but not a developer’s incentive,” Ald. Doug Biggs noted.
    TIF funds have traditionally been used for infrastructure work to facilitate development, officials said.
    Although the city will be spending $14,000 more for the utility work than it will receive from the sale of the land, officials have said the purchase offers other benefits. The real value comes from the increased tax base of the developed property and the impact of additional residential development in downtown.
    Four other firms also submitted bids for the project, which will be completed before the sale to Smith is completed, Grams said.
    Aldermen also approved several changes in Smith’s offer to purchase the parking lot to accommodate the work, setting the new closing date for the sale at July 17 — the Monday after Fish Day.
    That was done in part so Fish Day can use the parking lot for the July 15 festival, Grams said.
    Ald. Mike Gasper cast the lone dissenting vote on the amended offer to purchase.
    “I think we should resolve the boat-trailer parking issue before this happens,” he said.
    If the agreement and ultimate sale of the parking lot are approved, Smith’s townhouse development would become the first marina district proposal to be constructed.
    Smith is to begin construction of his project within six months after purchasing the property. If he doesn’t, the city has the option of buying the property back.

 
City officials crack down on owner of Simplicity site PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 20:03

Improvements have been made to defunct factory, but Port officials not satisfied


    Port Washington officials, who have been working to see improvements to the former Simplicity property for more than a year, are taking a hard line with the property owner.
    Following a closed session last week, aldermen directed the city attorney to move ahead with building code enforcement actions pending a final report on whether the improvements made to the property and the materials used comply with the city codes.

 
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