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Port Washington

Study of PWHS outdoor facilities to sharpen focus for fundraising PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 18:14

School Board hires firm whose analysis of athletic fields will help foundation prioritize needs, cost

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board last week commissioned a study of outdoor high school athletic facilities that is intended to be a blueprint for fundraising spearheaded by a recently formed foundation.

The district will hire Point of Beginning, a surveying, landscape architecture and engineering firm from Stevens Point, to analyze Port Washington High School’s football, baseball and track and field facilities and recommend improvements.

The site analysis will cost $2,000, officials said. 

“The cost is not over the top because they see it as laying the groundwork for doing the work in the future,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

Improvements being considered include an artificial turf football field and possibly baseball fields, new bleachers and other football field-related improvements and an eight-lane running track.

Artificial turf, which is used by several schools in Port High’s athletic conference, seems to be central to the district’s improvement plan because the durable surface could be more heavily used for a variety of activities while reducing maintenance costs. For instance, the current grass football field, which is used almost exclusively for games, could also serve as a soccer field and be used for gym classes if an artificial surface is installed.

“Ideally, if you could do full turf on all the fields you could have soccer practice as early as you want in spring and accommodate gym classes and football,” Froemming said.

Because the school’s athletic facilities are in a relatively compact space just west of the school, the district decided it needed the expertise of a professional firm to redesign the outdoor athletic area.

“It’s going to take someone with some creativity to work with a piece of property like this and expand the outdoor athletic opportunities for our students,” Supt. Michael Weber said.

The recommended improvements will come at a significant cost, and having passed a $49.4 million referendum last year to make building improvements at the high school and Dunwiddie Elementary School, the district is not in a position to pay for them. That’s where the PWSSD Foundation Inc. comes in.

The group is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization and, while independent of the district, it is working closely with school officials to raise money for improvements in the district.

The hope is the foundation, which with its nonprofit status can offer tax incentives to prospective donors, will be able to leverage large corporate contributions in addition to smaller gifts from individuals and groups.

Of possible help in the foundation’s mission is a recently approved policy that allows the School Board to grant naming rights in exchange for large donations.

The first step, however, is the outdoor facilities study, which in addition to guiding the district will give the foundation a plan to show potential donors.

“The foundation asked for a commitment from the district to come up with a plan,” Weber said. “They have to have a target to shoot for.”

Board says yes to selling school land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 18:49

Decision paves way for Port-Saukville district to market 54.5 acres of farmland it has owned on city’s west side since 1969

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board voted unanimously Monday to sell 54.5 acres the district has hung on to for 47 years as a site for a school.

Convinced that with the approval of a $49.4 million school renovation referendum last year the district won’t need a new building in the foreseeable future, the board will seek proposals from real estate brokers, then choose a company to market what is now farmland north of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL on the City of Port Washington’s west side.

“I think this is a gem of a piece of property for residential development,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “It has really nice, family-friendly developments on three sides of it.”

The land is flanked by subdivisions on three sides — Spinnaker West to the south,  The Woods at White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east — and bordered by farmland to the north. Although ideally located for residential development, it’s a less-than-ideal school site because there is no suitable access to the land for the high volumes of traffic a school generates, officials said. 

The value of the land has yet to be determined, Weber said, but the property could net a significant sum. Under school funding rules, the district can use the proceeds to fund capital improvements or purchase other land without affecting the state aid it receives, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

“We’re going to have the broker work with an appraiser to determine the value of the land and a minimum price for the property,” Weber said. 

The school district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944, long before the subdivisions around it were developed.

“In (1969), the board dreamed of the future,” Froemming said last month. “The question is, does this property have a future in the school district today?”

The answer, school officials said, is no.

The district’s most pressing facility needs will be addressed by the referendum work, which includes a $45.6 million Port Washington High School project and a $3.8 million addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School. Even when the board broached the idea of building a high school on a new site, the land the district already owned wasn’t considered because it is too small by contemporary high school standards.

“It might be big enough for a middle school, but we don’t need a middle school,” Weber said. 

The land could also accommodate an elementary school, but the Dunwiddie project will address space needs in the primary grades. In addition, each of the three elementary schools have space to expand if needed in the future. 

Selling the property could benefit the district in several ways, school officials said. In addition to generating money for capital improvements, the sale will likely result in a residential development that will attract families to Port Washington and boost school enrollment.

“The school district has had this property since 1969, so the board wanted to take its time and make sure this was done right,” Weber said. “The big step was making the decision to sell the land. Now that that’s been done, I think the board will move fairly quickly.”

City rejects bids for next breakwater repairs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 22 June 2016 22:04

Aldermen decide to rebid improvement project after lowest offer comes in well above $550,000 budget

As a crew from the Army Corps of Engineers is completing repairs to the steel cell section of the Port Washington breakwater, the Common Council on Tuesday took the rare step of rejecting bids for the next phase of improvements to the structure.
    The city had received two bids for the work, with the low bid coming in at about $705,000, City Administrator Mark Grams said. The budget for the project was $550,000.
    Grams said the city had its consultant, Foth Infrastructure and Environment, look at the plan to see how it could be altered to meet the city’s needs, but even after these changes the project was still about $56,000 over budget.
    After consulting with City Attorney Eric Eberhardt, Grams said, the decision was made to rebid the project, redesigning as necessary before seeking the new bids.
    “Hopefully we’ll get more bidders,” Grams said, noting two or three other contractors said they wanted to submit bids but could not meet the city’s time schedule for the work.
    The city had hoped to start work on the gateway project in August, with work continuing through the remainder of the year.
    Even with the rebidding, Grams said, officials hope that work on the gateway project, including construction of a fishing platform and facilities to make it handicapped accessible, can begin late this year.
    The second phase of the gateway project, which includes improvements to the land surrounding the breakwater, is expected to be done next year.
    Mayor Tom Mlada said that the delay will mean that pedestrians will be able to access the breakwater longer than expected this year.
    Officials had expected that the breakwater would be open from July 4, when the current project wraps up, until the gateway project began in August.
    Now, Mlada said, the breakwater will be open throughout August and at least into September.
    The Army Corps crew currently working on the breakwater project has completed repairs to 11 of the 22 steel cells, Mlada said. The work should be completed in 10 to 12 days, as long as the weather holds.
    “It’s exciting that it’s almost at a close,” he said, adding that the delay in the gateway project “will give people the chance to get out there and see the great job the Army Corps of Engineers has done.”
    The Common Council on Tuesday also approved a grant application for the final phase of the breakwater project — repairing the structure from the steel cell section east to the lighthouse.
    The city is seeking $2.4 million from the Harbor Assistance Grant Program for the work, which would be matched by a $600,000 contribution from the city.
    The city has received a Harbor Assistance grant for the current work, Grams told aldermen.
    The city is also seeking money from the Army Corps of Engineers to complete that portion of the project. Mlada sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers this spring asking it to contribute $2 million to $3 million to complete that work.

School tax rate expected to hold steady PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 21:58

Preliminary PW-S budget calls for 1% decrease one year after referendum-driven hike

Port Washington-Saukville School District property taxes are expected to stabilize after spiking last year as the district adjusts to life with $49.4 million in referendum debt to repay.
    The School Board on Monday approved a preliminary 2016-17 budget that calls for a 1% decrease in the tax rate, expected to save the average taxpayer $9.
    That’s coming off a year in which the tax rate shot up 13.9%, costing the average taxpayer about $240, due to the first referendum debt payment and a $1 million cut in state aid, part of which was because of referendum borrowing.
    Shortly after voters approved the April 2015 referendum, which authorized funding for a $45.6 million Port Washington High School renovation and $3.8 million elementary school addition and parking lot project, the district sold municipal bonds to finance $33 million of the work.
    Even though work on the schools would not begin for about another year, officials wanted to take advantage of low interest rates, unaware of     the impact borrowing would have on the more than $13 million in equalized state aid the district receives annually.
    Municipal bonds sold to finance two-thirds of the projects were purchased by investors at a premium rate, in other words for more than their face value, which is not uncommon when interest rates are extremely low.
    The difference between the par value and the premium resulted in about $2 million in proceeds for the district, and without an offsetting cost in that school year, that made the district wealthier under the complex state aid formula and cost it $440,000 in aid. The district then refinanced $440,000 of referendum debt to lessen the impact on taxpayers.
    State aid is expected to rebound by $872,367 in the next school year, which starts July 1.
    Also working in the district’s favor, its health insurance premium will decrease by 1.8%, saving roughly $50,000, and benefits for several retirees are expiring.
    But challenges persist. According to early predictions, the district will have 31 fewer students, which affects the state aid it receives, its property and casualty insurance premiums are increasing and it has no room to increase spending under the state levy limit.
    “There are not too many changes from the previous year,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said. “Some people would say that’s a good thing, but it’s not a great thing. The district won’t have much more money to spend in this budget.”
    He said the decline in enrollment is expected to be a temporary trend caused by the graduation of several larger high school classes. Enrollment in the elementary school is strong, Froemming noted.
    The district will make a $1.6 million referendum debt payment in the 2016-17 school year. That amount will increase annually, hitting $2.6 million in the 2021-22 school year before tapering off slightly. It is expected to take 25 years to repay the debt.
    The district will also make payments of $236,954 for its Wisconsin Retirement System debt and $191,880 for its energy efficiency project debt, which according to the district resulted in a $20,000 savings this school year.
    The budget calls for a tax levy of $15.9 million, an increase of $74,307, or 0.47%. But because equalized property values in the district are expected to increase by at least 1.5%, the tax rate is expected to decrease slightly.
    The budget, which is approved in June to allow the district to begin spending from it in July, is preliminary. The final budget and tax levy will be approved in October after equalized property values are set by the state.

Deal ends legal battle sparked by campaign against offender PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 20:45

Rural Port neighbors settle suit filed years ago by family of man targeted because of his crimes

A protracted legal dispute between neighbors sparked by a 2009 campaign targeting a Town of Port Washington sex offender has been settled, an Ozaukee County Circuit Court judge was told Monday — the day the case was finally set to go to trial.
    Lawyers for Wanda Keller and her family and Barbara Patterson told Judge Joseph Voiland they had agreed upon a confidential settlement, bringing seven years of litigation that included a Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision to an end.
    “I really can’t say much, but I’m certainly glad this is all over at last,” said Keller, who along with her husband Allan and son Greggory Lentz filed a civil lawsuit against Patterson, the Kellers’ neighbor, in December 2009.
    Patterson was among a handful of area residents who in April of that year distributed material in the Port Washington and Saukville areas informing people that Mrs. Keller’s other son, Michael Lentz, was a sex offender living with his mother and stepfather at their Town of Port Washington home.
    The materials included Wanda and Allen Keller’s names, their address and phone number and information from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections sex offender registry about Michael Lentz. It also included information about a meeting for “concerned citizens” at the Niederkorn Library in Port Washington, which was cancelled at the urging of authorities for fear that violence would erupt.
    Michael Lentz, who has lived with his parents much of his life, was required to register as a sex offender in 2003 after pleading no contest in Washington County Circuit Court to two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of child enticement for having sex with two 15-year-old girls in a West Bend park in 2002. Lentz, who was 27 at the time of his crimes, was sentenced to one year in the Washington County jail as a condition of probation.
    Patterson could not be reached for comment this week, but in 2009 she told Ozaukee Press, “Our goal was to put his picture everywhere there might be young children.
    “This is just not the community for him. He should move on, for his own good and our good.”
    The revelation Monday that a case that has dragged on for years was settled at the 11th hour appeared to irritate Voiland, who noted that just three days earlier lawyers for both sides said they were prepared for the four-day trial and that jurors had taken off of work.
    “This case has been pending for seven years and the day of the trial we suddenly have a settlement,” he said, adding that he will consider assessing jury fees to the plaintiff and defendant.
    James Walrath, Patterson’s attorney, told Voiland that his rulings on two motions during a hearing on Friday prompted discussions between the parties and a settlement was reached over the weekend.
    Although relieved this week to have the case settled, Mrs. Keller said in April 2009 that the campaign targeting her son had turned their lives on end.
    “We’re getting harassing calls from people who scream horrible things in the phone,” she said seven years ago. “My husband is up half the night looking out the window because he’s afraid they’re going to burn our house down. I’m afraid someone is going to start shooting at us. I won’t let Mike out of the house for fear someone will hurt him.”
    The Kellers eventually hired a lawyer, who in August 2009 sent a letter to Patterson informing her the Kellers intended to sue her for invasion of privacy but Patterson could contact the Kellers’ attorney if she wanted to avoid litigation.
    Instead, on Aug. 27, 2009, Patterson petitioned the court for temporary restraining orders against Mrs. Keller and Greggory Lentz and filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. and Mrs. Keller and Greggory and Michael Lentz alleging “harassment, slander, extortion and threat to life.”
    The petitions and civil complaint alleged that Greggory and Mrs. Keller had guns they intended to use against Patterson, that Greggory had “documented violent behavior” and the Kellers had been spreading lies about her, much of which an appeals court later concluded was false.
    According to Patterson’s subsequent testimony during depositions, the allegations against Greggory stemmed in part from a police report involving an incident in Port Washington’s Upper Lake Park.
    In April 2009, Greggory Lentz confronted a woman whom he mistakenly thought was posting flyers about his brother. A confrontation between Lentz and another man ensued.
    Lentz, who was cited for disorderly conduct, told police he was being threatened by a mob in the park and said that if he attended the meeting of “concerned citizens” at the Niederkorn Library, “he believed an officer should be there or asked if he should bring a gun,” according to the police report.
    Temporary restraining orders against Mrs. Keller and Greggory Lentz were granted, but before they could be served, Patterson withdrew the petitions and her lawsuit.
    Months later, the Kellers and Greggory Lentz sued Patterson for invasion of privacy, defamation and abuse of the legal process. They alleged Patterson’s actions were intended to harass them and, because Patterson’s allegations in her restraining order petitions became public records easily accessible on the state’s online court record known as CCAP, Mrs. Keller’s lost work as an in-home nurse.
    Patterson subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, and then-Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram dismissed the lawsuit.
    The Kellers appealed the case, and while the court of appeals agreed with Wolfgram that they did not have grounds to sue for invasion of privacy or defamation, it ruled the family had a case for abuse of process.
    “When Patterson went to the courthouse on Aug. 27, 2009, she filed a complaint with allegations that were somewhere between grossly exaggerated and patently false, as evidence by her own testimony,” the court wrote in its 2012 decision.
    “Because of the timing of the petitions so close to the Keller’s attorney’s letter regarding a possible lawsuit, one reasonable inference is that Patterson allegedly filed the false petitions in an attempt to gain leverage in potential upcoming proceedings and/or an attempt to intimidate the Kellers from taking any action against her.
    “The undisputed facts in the record could lead a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that Patterson abused the legal process when she made false allegations against the Kellers and Greggory.”
    Patterson petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review the case, but her request was denied.

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