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School district set to fell ash trees PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 18:01

Battle against borer means removing 40 infested trees around PWHS this weekend

    Told that there is no saving dozens of trees around Port Washington High School that have been ravaged by the emerald ash borer, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board cleared the way last week for the chain saws.

    JR’s Tree Service of Sheboygan is expected to cut down about 40 large ash trees on the south and west sides of the high school this weekend. The company quoted a price of $7,800 for the work, Jim Froemming, the School District’s director of business services, said.

    “The ash borer has hit this area harder than a lot of other areas in southeastern Wisconsin,” he told the board, which approved the tree removal.

    School Board member Brian McCutcheon said, “It’s the worst I’ve seen. They are dying from the top down. There are dead branches that could fall, but it’s also an eyesore.”

    The high school is near what appears to be the epicenter of the ash borer invasion in Port Washington, Jon Crain, the city’s arborist, has said. Trees in and along the Sauk Creek corridor show the most advanced signs of damage from the beetle, which has killed tens of millions of trees per state in the east-central part of the country.

    The City of Port Washington has treated some of its ash trees to ward off the borer but has cut down others, most notably in Upper Lake Park.

    The School District has no plans to treat its ash trees.

    “Trying to treat trees to protect them from the ash borer is very expensive, and there are no guarantees,” Supt. Michael Weber said.

    McCutcheon said, “A lot of these trees are so far gone it doesn’t make any sense to treat them.”

    The trees that will be cut down are on a hill off Webster Street that wraps around the high school and runs along the east side of the football field. Of particular concern is that some of the trees line an access road to the school and a road leading to the main entrance of the football field, where falling branches could be a safety hazard.

    Because the trees are on a hill, the stumps will be left in the ground to control erosion as recommended by the Stevens Point landscape architect firm Rettler Corp.

    The district plans a more thorough landscaping study but will wait until the future of the high school is decided.

    One option that is to be the subject of an upcoming referendum is to demolish about 70% of the school and rebuild on site, using portions of the wooded hills for new gyms and classrooms.

    The other option, according to a facilities study conducted by Bray Architects, is to build a new high school on a yet-to-be-determined site.


Image information: PORT WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL is visible through trees on the south side of the school off Webster Street because of defoliation caused by the emerald ash borer. At least 40 large ash trees infested with the borer in this area are expected to be cut down this weekend.                  Photo by Bill Schanen IV

 
City awarded another grant to help repair breakwater PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 17:41

Port will use $249,000 from DNR stewardship fund to upgrade entrance, walkway

    The City of Port Washington has been awarded a $249,500 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stewardship fund to help with its breakwater repair project.

    City Administrator Mark Grams said the grant will be used to improve the entrance to the breakwater, widening the walkway and making it handicapped accessible and adding a fishing platform.

    The award was half the amount sought by the city, Grams noted. This brings the total amount of grant money the city has received for the breakwater project to almost $750,000.

    This is a remarkable accomplishment, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    “We managed to accomplish something that, just a year ago, no one thought we would achieve,” he said Tuesday.

    The city is seeking to raise more than $1 million in grants to supplement the $950,000 in repairs being done by the Army Corps of Engineers. Mlada noted that, even though the city has received almost $750,000, it is only halfway to meeting that commitment.

    That’s because the city’s agreement with the Corps requires that the money be spent to reinforce and cap the steel-cell portions of the breakwater, he said.

    A $500,000 recreational boating grant received by the city would be used for that purpose but the stewardship money is earmarked for work near the entrance to the structure.

    The city is expected to learn soon whether it will receive a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, Mlada said.

    The Common Council on Tuesday held an informational meeting on that grant, which would also be used to reinforce and cap the steel-cell portions of the breakwater.

    News of the latest grant award comes as the Army Corps of Engineers winds up its work laying armor stone along the steel cell portion of the breakwater, a move that will absorb much of the energy of the waves and protect the deteriorating wall.

    The money from the Corps is being used as a match for the grants sought by the city — something Mlada said will make it possible to do repairs without burdening city taxpayers.

    “That was the beauty of the $950,000 from the Corps,” he said. “Without that money, not only were we not getting any armor stone, we wouldn’t have any money to leverage.”  

    The city will continue to seek grants to pay for the bulk of the breakwater repairs next year, Mlada said. The first priority is to complete work on the cap in the steel cell areas of the breakwater, completing its commitment to the Corps, he added.

    Its next priority is improving the west end of the breakwater, improving accessibility and adding a fishing platform.  The final portion of the project, improving the east end of the structure by installing a concrete cap and railings, is likely to be done in 2016 if the city receives the needed money.



 
Public input helps shape downtown vision PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 19:40

Crowd of residents, business owners gives Port planners ideas on how to develop six city sites for future use

    More than 85 people turned out Monday night to help Port Washington planners create a new vision for six sites in downtown.

    Their goal, said Mayor Tom Mlada, was to give a fresh look to the sites and come up with concepts for what they want and don’t want on these properties to create a vision that will lead development now and into the future.

    “We can either take the opportunity now or let it slip through our fingers,” Mlada said. “We can direct the growth or we can react to it.

    “Other communities around us are defined. Port Washington is still defining itself.”

    Developers who have looked at various sites in the downtown have estimated that new developments could add $20 million to $25 million, he added.

    Whatever development may result from the process will likely be done over time, Mlada said.

    “I think you’re looking at a phased-type approach,” he said, noting it may take some time before some of the property owners are ready to sell or redevelop their land.

    “I think there’s a possibility for some of these things to happen short-term, but I think it will take some time for it all to happen.”

    Development of one or more of the properties could spur additional development, Mlada added, given the proximity of several sites.

    “These could be truly catalytic,” he said.

    Mlada noted that the sites examined by the group Monday were culled from about 10 redevelopment sites examined by the city’s Community Development Authority.

    The crowd, broken into small groups, considered four development sites — a large site encompassing the Jadair Inc. property at 235 W. Grand Ave. east to Wisconsin Street; the north end of the Port Harbor Center at 222 E. Main St.; property occupied by Victor’s Pier Street Shanty at 301 E. Pier St. and a parking lot to the east; and the Portabello Pizza property at 218 E. Washington St.

    They also looked at two public open spaces — the parking lot at the north end of the north slip marina and Main Street from Milwaukee Street to the lake.

    The sites offer a variety of development points, representatives from Community Design Solutions, the city’s downtown planning consultant, said.

    The Jadair site has a densely wooded area, creek access and limited views of Lake Michigan in a part of downtown seldom noticed by residents, said Amber Piacentine of CDS, while the former grocery store at the shopping center, located steps from the marina “is an awesome location. The fact it’s been vacant so long is kind of baffling.”

    The other two development properties are also located near the lakefront, she noted.

    The parking lot could become an entry to the marina and a focal point on the lakefront, Piacentine said, while Main Street could be closed to traffic and be converted to a destination with enhanced markets and events year-round.

    The groups came up with a number of potential uses for each property, CDS’s Ryan Shortridge said, offering a quick look at options mentioned by several groups after the brainstorming session.

    For example, the Jadair site was often referred to as a multi-use property with residential uses and the potential for artists lofts or a performing arts center, he said.

    The shopping center has potential as a micro-brewery or banquet hall, perhaps with residences above, he said, adding several groups suggested the building be divided to offer lakefront views and access.

    A banquet hall or permanent public market were among the suggestions for the Victor’s property, Shortridge said, adding it has the potential to become “an iconic site,” while the pizza property was frequently mentioned as a place where residences or a drive-through coffee shop could be created.

    The north slip parking lot could be beautified and enhanced with a playground, water features like a splash pad and a bike rental facility, he said.

    CDS will analyze the ideas suggested by the group Monday, then create a concept plan for the areas, Mlada said.

    The group is expected to bring its ideas to the CDA as early as Sept. 15, then present them to the Common Council the following day, he said.

    The city is considering holding a public meeting prior to the council meeting so residents can look at the results and comment on them, Mlada added.


 
Department wants firehouse feasibility study PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 18:51

Port firefighters will request $13,500 in budget for architects to analyze space needs for second station

    The Port Washington Fire Department will seek $13,500 in next year’s city budget to conduct a feasibility study and space needs analysis for a second firehouse.

    The Police and Fire Commission, which tabled the matter last month after receiving bids for the study from both Bray Architects and 5 Bugles Design, said it wants to keep the process moving ahead, even though there is no money for the study in this year’s budget.

    Members recommended approving a $13,500 bid from Bray Architects, which has offices in Sheboygan and Milwaukee.

    The city also received a $18,300 bid for the study from 5 Bugles Design of Eau Claire.

    In addition to the fact Bray submitted the lower bid, commission members noted that the firm had approached the city seeking the work. Bray also offered to begin the study now and not bill the city until next year, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.

    Bray was also highly recommended by the Port-Saukville School District, he said. The firm is conducting a facilities study for the school district.

    The firm is also experienced in municipal building projects, officials said.

    “We don’t want someone designing this who has never built a fire station before,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said. “I don’t want to be the test case.”

    Commission members said they also like the fact the firm is located close to the city, noting it would be easier to meet with the company if needed.

    By recommending Bray’s bid, the commission in effect authorized Mitchell to include the study in the fire department’s 2015 budget.    

    Some members questioned how likely it is the city will allocate the funds in the budget.

    “I know the mayor is supportive,” Nelson said. “And the townspeople, I haven’t heard anyone question it. What I’ve mostly heard is ‘I can’t believe you haven’t done this already.’”

    Officials have discussed the concept of building a joint fire station with Ozaukee County that would not only meet the city’s needs but also those identified by the county, Nelson said.

    Potential locations for the new station could include several parcels owned by the county, Nelson said, chief among them land adjacent to the Ozaukee County Justice Center and the neighboring soccer fields.

    The former auto dealership across the street from the Justice Center, although privately owned, is another possibility, he said.

    However, Nelson said, it will be up to Bray to evaluate the sites.

    “We’ll leave it up to them to come up with recommendations,” he said.

    Although the city has talked about building a second fire station for years, the idea has gained traction recently.

    Fire officials point to cramped conditions at the firehouse, inefficiencies and the fact the building has no facilities for women or paramedics.

    Pointing to the fact that Ozaukee County also has space needs, particularly in the emergency government and sheriff’s departments, commission members have proposed building a joint facility.

 
Town approves $295,000 plan to remove bridge PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 20:11

Port Board OKs details of project intended to improve both Highland Drive and county bike trail

    The Town of Port Washington on Monday agreed to a plan to improve the Ozaukee Interurban Trail bridge on Highland Drive at an estimated cost of $295,000.

    Although expensive, this was the least costly of three options presented to the town by its engineering firm, Ayres Associates.

    The other options would require more extensive work and were estimated to cost as much as $325,000.

    “This is the cheapest option and it also achieves the safety you want,” Kris Anderson of Ayres told the board.

    The plan would eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road by 3-1/2 feet to improve sight lines for both motorists and bicyclists.

    Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt questioned whether the reduction in grade was enough to improve safety, noting motorists “fly” through the area at 55 mph or more.

    Anderson said it will bring the road into accordance with state requirements.

    “There will still be a hill there,” she said. “But it will be a gentler hill.”

    Another alternative is for the town to reduce the speed limit, Anderson said.

    Town Supr. Jim Rychtik noted the plan will improve safety, widen the road but have the least impact on surrounding properties.

    “I think that makes a lot more sense,” he said.

    “The lower you go, the wider the road has to be. I trust Ayres when they say 3-1/2 feet is enough. It’s dangerous because it’s narrow and you can’t see. The road is deteriorating. And with the box culvert the way it is, something has to be done.”

    Town Supr. Mike Didier said, “I don’t know why you have to do anything but the cheapest option.”

    The board will now have Ayres finalize plans for the work, then obtain cost estimates from the Ozaukee County Highway Department.

    If the estimate is deemed higher than desired, the town can still opt to bid the project, officials said.

    Who does the work will determine when the project is done, they added.

    Ozaukee County would likely do the work in conjunction with improvements to the bike trail, which it is expected to do this fall.

    If a private contractor is hired, the town will likely seek bids this fall and have the work done in spring.

    Depending on cost, the town could opt to delay paving the road for a season, Rychtik said. That would allow the new road time to settle and give the town more time to come up with the money.


 
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