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Ozaukee Press
Butter lawsuit filed by owner of Grafton shop to proceed PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 18:32

Judge rejects state’s motion to dismiss case challenging constitutionality of Wisconsin grading law


    An Ozaukee County judge on Tuesday rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Grafton business owner and four other area residents against the State of Wisconsin over a law governing the sale of butter.
    The decision by Judge Paul Malloy means the case — filed March 16 by five plaintiffs including Kathleen McGlone, owner of Slow Pokes Local Food in Grafton, against Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel — will proceed.     
    McGlone used to sell Kerrygold butter, which is made in Ireland from grass-fed cows, while the other plaintiffs, including Nicole Batzel of Cedar Grove, want to be able to buy it.
    Kerrygold is sold in other states but Wisconsin prohibits the sale of Irish butter made from grassfed cows, and other brands of European butter, because it has not been graded according to state criteria.
    The law states a brand of butter may only be sold in Wisconsin if it has been graded by a state-licensed taster based on 35 characteristics that relate to flavor, appearance, aroma and texture. The statute makes no mention of the consumer’s safety or health.   
    The plaintiffs are represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a conservative legal group that argues Wisconsin’s butter law violates three elements of the state constitution:  due process, equal protection and guarantees of freedom of speech.
    The defense’s motion did not address the freedom-of-speech claim.
    Rick Esenberg, director of WILL, argued during Tuesday’s hearing that the butter law limits the options of butter sales based on the subjective criteria such as taste.
    “In this case, it seems appropriate to ask ourselves whether or not this law conveys any useful information at all. The state concedes it does not serve any safety interest and it doesn’t serve any health interest,” Esenberg said. “Why is it rational to assume that a state grader whose qualifications and training we do not know and these 35 vague and subjective criteria distilled down to a single letter grade will convey anything of value or interest to consumers.”    
    Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Katherine Spitz, who is representing the state, said, “The law tells consumers it’s butter and it also tells them what kind of butter they are getting for their money.”
    In May, the defense filed a motion to dismiss two of the three claims brought by the plaintiffs. WILL filed a brief opposing the motion in July.
   

 
Veolia halts burning in Port after releasing mercury gas PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 09 August 2017 19:02

Emissions detected as far away as Rhinelander blamed on malfunction

   The mercury recycling operation at Veolia’s City of Port Washington plant has been closed since July 5, when an equipment failure sent mercury vapors into the air, officials said.
    The amount of mercury released was below allowable levels, Department of Natural Resources officials said this week, and did not pose a health risk.
    “They were not elevated to a level that would cause alarm,” said Andrew Stewart, field operations director for the DNR’s air management program.
    Kevin Shaver, general manager at the plant at 1275 Minerals Springs Dr., said the mercury recycling operation was shut down on July 5 when a monitoring system in the room where the mercury recovery system operates detected a problem.
    Veolia burns items containing mercury, typically light bulbs or, in this case, dental amalgam, then captures the mercury through a filtering system after the element is vaporized, he said.  
    The company immediately shut down the oven, which burn at 1,100 degrees, Shaver said, noting the firm had to wait until the following day, after the oven had cooled, to inspect it.
    The following day, the DNR’s ambience air monitors as far away as Rhinelander and as close at Potawatomi in Milwaukee detected elevated levels of mercury, said Katie Praedel, air monitoring section chief for the DNR. The highest levels were at the agency’s Horicon station.
    The DNR checks the 40 monitoring stations in the state, which are extremely sensitive, every morning, she said.
    Normally, the DNR expects to see anomalies in the air on July 5 because of the many fireworks displays on the Fourth of July, she noted.
    The DNR used modeling to help determine the origin of the mercury, Praedel said, and after determining Veolia might be the source, officials contacted the company. There aren’t many mercury processing stations in the state, she added.
    By then, Shaver said, the company had already shut down the system because higher than expected levels were found in the processing room.  
    The company’s stack detection system did not show a release above the levels allowed in its permit, he noted.
    “There was a disruption in the piping in one of the (mercury recovery) units,” Shaver said.
    Veolia immediately inspected its equipment and found a hose had failed, Praedel said.
    The failure was in such a place that the plant’s emission detection system didn’t detect it, she added.
    The company estimated about 1.5  pounds of vaporized mercury was released, Stewart said.
    By comparison, he said, power plants are allowed to release more than 100 pounds of mercury annually.
    The mercury released from the plant was vaporized, a form of mercury that is not as much of a health concern as the methylmercury often found in lakes and fish — especially not at the levels that were released from the plant, Praedel said.
    “It’s below the levels that would cause inhalation health effects,” Stewart said.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inhalation of high concentrations of mercury vapor for relatively brief periods can cause severe lung damage.
    Shaver said the company is working with the DNR as it repairs and upgrades its system before restarting the operation.
    The goal, he said, is not to release mercury but to recycle it.
    Veolia’s Port Washington plant processes light bulbs — as many as 40,000 a day, Shaver said — as well as other items that contain mercury, such as dental amalgam.
    The firm also disassembles electronics at the Port plant, then sends the parts to other plants for recycling, he said.
    Items dropped off at the plant under its household hazardous waste program, with the exception of light bulbs, are also sent to other plants for recycling or disposal.
    The DNR is continuing to investigate the incident, Stewart added.
    “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and the company is taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Stewart said.
   

 
Plan calls for city to retain subdivision bluff land PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 19:17

Property along east side of development would be used for public trails, beach access

    The City of Port Washington would retain ownership of the top of the south bluff and the slope leading to the beach when the proposed Prairie’s Edge subdivision is developed, the Plan Commission learned last week.
    Members of the commission, which reviewed and approved plans for public access in the proposed subdivision July 20, were enthused about the proposal, saying it will ensure continued lake access for residents and visitors.
    “I think this is exactly what we were looking for, public access to our shoreline and our beach,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the commission, said. “This developer seems to care about having public access. I think this is a great opportunity.”
    The city and Black Cap Halcyon, a Milwaukee real estate investment firm, are negotiating an offer to purchase the city-owned property along the south bluff and a developer’s agreement for the proposed subdivision.
    Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said the plan is for Black Cap Halcyon to buy 35.19 acres, with the city retaining ownership of about five acres along the bluff — as well as the slope.
    Black Cap Halcyon would also dedicate another roughly five acres for public access, he said, with this land used for trails the firm would develop and maintain in perpetuity.
    Next to the trails, the firm would create a prairie grassland that would help protect the bluff from erosion, Tetzlaff said.
    “The developer has a vision for this area,” he said, noting he may install lighting, signs and benches along the trail at his expense.
    The city and the developer will apply for grants to help defray the cost of constructing the trails, Tetzlaff added.
    The trails would be used primarily for pedestrians, Tetzlaff said, with bicycles directed to a bike path along Highway C that would connect to downtown to the north and Cedar Vineyard subdivision to the south.
    The trails are envisioned as 14 feet wide — eight feet of pavement with three-foot shoulders — he said. They would meander along the bluff for roughly 3,130 feet.
    Tetzlaff said the city and developer would like to build a staircase to the south beach, but that will depend on whether the bluff is stable enough for this.
    If it works, he noted, there would be four public access points to the south beach — the beach access at We Energies as well as stairs at Prairie’s Edge and Cedar Vineyard in Port and Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton.
    “The long-term goal is to provide public beach from South Beach to Lions Den,” Tetzlaff said. “It won’t happen overnight, but that’s the goal.”
    Mayor Tom Mlada, chairman of the commission, commended the measure.
    “I think there’s a lot to be said for the city owning the public access,” he said. “I think you’d be hard pressed to find another community on the Great Lakes with this degree of public access.”
    Black Cap Halcyon has proposed a mixed-use development on the property, with development occurring in three phases.
    Prairie’s Edge would include 152 multi-family units, as well as 48 townhouses and 34 cottages in addition to commercial space. The developer has said the commercial uses would complement, not compete, with downtown shops and offices.
    Black Cap Halcyon — one of three firms that vied for the property — is expected to pay $2.86 million for the land and is asking for $4.1 million in subsidies for the project, primarily to pay for public amenities on the site.
    City Administrator Mark Grams said that when fully developed, Prairie’s Edge is expected to have a value between $50 million and $60 million.

 
Washington woos Ozaukee for partnership, even merger PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by JOHN MORTON   
Thursday, 03 August 2017 15:48

Citing ‘grim’ outlook for counties, officials to the west want to explore ‘any and all’ future options

Calling the outlook for Wisconsin counties grim, Washington County has asked Ozaukee County to join it in a new initiative to seek “any and all” opportunities for sharing services, even merging the two counties.
“The long-term outlook (for counties) is financially and politically unsustainable,” Washington County Board Chairman Rick Gundrum and County Administrator Joshua Scholemann wrote in a July 17 letter to Ozaukee County.
Ozaukee County Interim Administrator Jason Dzwinel said Tuesday he expected the County Board to discuss the proposal at its Wednesday, Aug. 2, meeting. That was the last regularly scheduled County Board meeting before Washington County’s Aug. 11 deadline for a response.
Lee Schlenvogt, chairman of the Ozaukee County Board, said the county is always looking at potential consolidation of departments between counties.
“Our mantra is if we can save money and not affect services, we’re all for it,” he said. “But consolidating counties? That’s a big step and would require a lot of research before we’d even consider it.
“But we’re going to take a look at it. I made sure every member of the board got a copy of the letter.”
Washington County is asking all of its neighboring counties to join it and invest in a program called the Future Regions Initiative, developed by the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin. The program provides workshops that focus on collaboration, engagement and accountability.
An application deadline is Sept. 30.
“We see this initiative  as an opportunity to fully embrace an alternative to the less-than desirable options of raising taxes or reducing services,” Washington County leaders wrote in the letter. “We strongly believe that partnering with one of our bordering counties toward the concept of ‘counties without borders’ provides the brightest opportunity for this reinvention.”
Costs of joining the Future Regions Initiative program vary depending on the number of counties participating and their populations. If Washington and Ozaukee counties alone were to pair up, Dzwinel estimated it would cost each county a one-time fee of about $12,000 for the three workshops led by the program’s staff.
“They help identify trends and scenarios in the region,” Dzwinel said of the workshops. “That’s what we’d be getting.”
Sharing services is nothing new for these two counties. They combined forces for a Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department and a child advocacy program (which also includes Sheboygan County), and talks between Ozaukee and Washington counties of merging public transit services are also taking place.
Dzwinel said he’d support the board’s recommendation, but noted, “We are used to dealing with things in a more pragmatic way” than doing something that could be seen as an extreme measure.
“We’d like to partner with any county if it provides for better services, but our first priority is always to take care of Ozaukee County,” he added. “It can start with some conversations, but combining counties is a big goal. It’s also a difficult hill to climb.”
Consolidation of counties is allowed by state statute.
In its letter, Washington County leaders, who said they have examined their county’s financial projections, wrote: “The culmination of this work is our acknowledgement of the stark reality that in order to survive, local governments in Wisconsin must fundamentally reinvent themselves.”
Dzwinel did not want to speculate on the challenges facing Washington County, but said, “They must see a substantial gap between what they will spend and what they will take in between now and 2021.”
Added Schlenvogt, “It’s probably pre-planning on their part, but what they wrote doesn’t sound good. Without exact numbers, I can’t say much because I don’t know what shape they’re in.”
The same concerns don’t exist in Ozaukee County, Dzwinel said, noting it has enjoyed the state’s lowest tax rate per capita every year except one over the past 15 years.
“We are far more opportunistic to meet the challenges of the next five years and beyond. We have worked hard the past 15 to 20 years to ensure we’ll be able to do that,” Dzwinel said. “Our analysis demonstrates that we will.”
Ironically, the area now known as Ozaukee County was once part of Washington County. Ozaukee County became its own entity in 1853.

 
Duplex subdivision gets conceptual OK PDF Print E-mail
Feature
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:55

Project that calls for 16 two-family houses on Port’s southwest side receives positive feedback from commission


    A proposal for a new subdivision on Port Washington’s southwest side that could accommodate 16 duplexes received conceptual approval from the city’s Plan Commission last month.
    A revised plan reflecting some changes recommended by the commission, such as creating a through street rather than a cul-de-sac, will be reviewed by the panel when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 20.
    Developer Lew Herro told the Plan Commission last month that the proposal for a 12-acre property at the northwest corner of Highway LL and Sunset Road is a “meat and potatoes” development that would complement higher-end housing recently approved by the city.
    “There are still a lot of people who want to own their own property,” said Herro, who presented the plan on behalf of property owner Mike Panarusky. “We’re not here to compete with all these fine developments.”
    The lots are “good sized,” Herro said, and would fit a mix of duplex styles, from ranch-style houses to two-story buildings,  or single-family houses.
    On some of the corner lots, he said, the duplex could be a single story on one side and two floors on the other.
    The minimum size for the duplexes would be 1,900 square feet, Herro said, and for ranch-style houses 1,600 square feet. Most of the houses, he added, would be larger than this.
    While there is no way to keep the property owner from renting out both sides of the duplexes, the market will likely ensure the duplexes will be owner occupied, Herro told the Design Review Board early last week.
    He estimated the cost of the duplexes would be about $400,000.
    “I think the market will encourage it (duplexes),” he said. “This is for somebody who wants to live there.”
    Herro noted that there’s a dearth of duplex lots in the area, while many families would like the option of building a home they can live in with their parents or siblings next door.
    “People young and old want to be able to build a duplex,” he said, adding that duplexes on the market today tend to be older buildings, not new structures.
    A three-acre lot on the south side of the subdivision is being reserved for a potential assisted living facility, Herro added.
    Herro’s plan, which was also endorsed by the Design Review Board, drew praise from both panels.
    “It’s a natural continuation of the development that’s already out there,” Plan Commission member Tony Matera said, referring to the neighboring Greystone Subdivision.
    “I think this use seems appropriate to the site,” commission member Amanda Williams added.
    “Our goal has always been to provide housing choices,” Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said. “This is all part of it.”
    Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, a member of the Design Review Board, concurred, saying, “I think it’s important we have a variety of housing out there.”
    “This would add to the mix in Port Washington,” review board member Jorgen Hansen added. “I think the concept is nice.”
    While Herro proposed the subdivision be developed along a cul-de-sac, the Plan Commission specified that a through street connecting to Galena Drive be constructed instead.  
    The subdivision plan has a ways to go before it becomes reality.
    In addition to the normal reviews, the property, which is in the Town of Port, must also be annexed to the city.
    “There are many steps involved,” Tetzlaff said.

 
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