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Port Washington


Residents give city new ideas for upgrading Coal Dock Park PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:35

Brainstorming session marks start of studies into possible lakefront amenities, programs

Three years after Coal Dock Park opened, Port Washington officials are beginning to take a new look at the park with an eye toward future improvements.

About 35 people gathered at City Hall last week to begin the process, brainstorming about amenities and programs that could build on what is already there.

Their ideas ranged from the practical — bathrooms and increased parking — to the more whimsical — docking a retired coal dock boat there.

Mayor Tom Mlada said the meeting was intended to start a renewed planning process for the park.

“We need to take the initial vision for the park and build on that,” he said. “There’s so much potential there. Let’s start dreaming.”

After all, dreaming is how the park got started.

The city converted the 13-acre northern portion of the former coal dock, which many considered an eyesore, into a gem of a park and the 7-acre south dock into a bird sanctuary.

That first vision for the park, approved in 2009, was a 10-year plan that included everything from walking trails to a community center, themed interactive garden area, performance space, observation tower, deep-water docks and a floating pier.

When the park opened in 2013, the city had placed much of the basic infrastructure there, Mlada said. 

“I think the thought back then was, let’s live with it for a couple years and then see what’s needed,” he said. “We wanted to try and get a sense of how it would be used.

“Now we have to look at it and decide, where do we go from here.”

There is still some infrastructure that needs to be completed, Mlada said, including the railing along the promenade and electrical systems to support festivals and events.

But now, he said, is the time to look forward and plan again for the future.

“That was a 2020 plan. We’re halfway there,” Mlada said.

“Do you have unique family gathering areas? Do you have a bandshell? Do you have a floating pier? How do you connect the park to downtown? 

“This is the time to start going down the path.”

The city needs to consider such things as whether a building will be constructed at the park, Mlada said, noting that could be done in partnership with entities such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is considering creation of a shipwreck sanctuary between Port Washington and Two Rivers, Discovery World or Concordia University.

“The hope had been the park would become a four-season destination,” Mlada noted. “The reality is, then you would need a building.”

A bridge connecting Coal Dock Park with downtown was a consideration when the park opened, and it remained so for the group assembled last week.

But that’s an expensive project, one the city may not be able to afford for the time being, Mlada said.

“The bridge is obviously a nice idea,” he said. “From a cost standpoint, it might not be practical.

“I understand it feels like a little bit of a walk-around (to get from the park to downtown). But I do think there are cost effective ways to get the message across with signage.”

Mlada said he plans to take ideas proposed by the group last week to the Coal Dock Committee in the next month or so. 

“I think it could bring some new energy to the group,” he said, noting the committee has not met in a year or more.

 
Cedar Vineyard subdivision plan moves forward PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Thursday, 05 May 2016 20:11

Project on Port’s south side takes another step with commission’s approval of preliminary plat and zoning 

The proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision on Port Washington’s south side took another step forward last week as the Plan Commission approved a preliminary plat and zoning for the development.

The actions are contingent on a number of things, chief among them the Highview Group — which is developing the subdivision — buying the property.

Typically, rezoning and approval of a preliminary plat would occur after a developer has acquired the land, City Planner Randy Tetzlaff said.

But in this case, the bank that is financing the development is requiring those actions occur before the developer closes on the purchase, he said.

“We cannot close without the rezoning,” Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, told the Plan Commission.

Waukesha State Bank, which currently owns the land, doesn’t want it rezoned until it is sold, Swarthout added.

The solution, he said, is to make the actions — the sale and rezoning — concurrent.

“It will all happen at the same time, within minutes,” he said.

Tetzlaff said, “We want to say the city is committed to this (subdivision). That’s why we’re doing this now.”

The plan calls for 82 single-family home sites that vary in size, as well as business zoning for a winery that will be planted in stages over five years.

Swarthout noted that the first vines have been ordered and will be delivered in early June.

The winery will have a 100-car parking lot that will also serve a 101-acre nature preserve, as well as a public restroom that can be used by customers and visitors to the preserve.

Swarthout said he plans to close the purchase soon.

“It is our intention to start construction almost immediately,” he added.

At the closing, Swarthout said, the nature preserve will in turn be purchased by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust through grants and contributions from Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington.

“We will possess the county property for minutes, then it will be turned over,” he said.

 The commission’s action was also contingent on a proper legal description being obtained for each zoning area and that it meet all state and municipal codes.

The city’s action is among the final steps needed to approve the subdivision, Tetzlaff added.

“We’re finally near the finish line,” he said.

 

 
Marshfield High principal picked to lead TJMS in Port PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 19:09

Former Homestead official to replace longtime middle school chief Galarowicz  

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday selected Marshfield High School Principal Steve Sukawaty to succeed Arlan Galarowicz as principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Sukawaty, 52, a graduate of Slinger High School and former middle school teacher and guidance counselor, will begin work at the Port Washington school on July 1.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about this opportunity,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

Supt. Michael Weber said it takes a special breed of educator to work with middle school students, and the 16-member interview team is confident the district has found just such a person in Sukawaty.

“Working at the middle school level is a little different,” Weber said. “Children are growing. They’re maturing and they are excitable, so you really have to love the middle school level to work there.

“Steve’s passion has always been and continues to be at the middle school level.”

Sukawaty, who was an assistant principal at Homestead High School in Mequon from 2007 to 2012 before leaving for Marshfield,  said he’s happy to be returning to his middle school roots.

“Being around middle school kids is so revitalizing,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be returning to that level.”

Sukawaty said he’s also fortunate to be coming to the Port Washington-Saukville School District.

“Thomas Jefferson and the school district have a great reputation,” he said. “But what sealed the deal for me was my tour of the middle school. There’s just such a feeling of energy in the students and the staff.

“Mr. Galarowicz and his staff must feel really proud.”

In its recommendation to the board, the interview team, which consisted of administrators, School Board members, middle school staff members and a parent, said Sukawaty’s references praised his ability to work with others.

“All the references consistently praised Steve for his ability to get along with everyone, his passion and caring attitude toward students and his strong relationship skills,” the team wrote.

Sukawaty has a bachelor’s degree in social studies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a master’s degree in school guidance from UW-Whitewater and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

He taught middle school social studies in the Racine Unified School District and Kettle Moraine School District in Dousman and was a middle school guidance counselor at Steffen Middle School in Mequon before becoming a high school administrator.

Sukawaty said he and his wife Lisa, a special education teacher, and their daughter Nya, a fifth-grader, will move to Port Washington.

“I want to weave ourselves into the fabric of this community,” he said.

Sukawaty will replace Galarowicz, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 22 years at the helm of the middle school. 

He will join longtime Assistant Principal Liz Ferger, who did not apply for the principal job, on the school’s administrative team.

Sukawaty will be paid $110,000 a year, less than the $120,000 Galarowicz earns.

He will also be paid a stipend of $4,400 a year to oversee the district’s elementary and middle school summer school program, although the stipend will be less this year because much of the work will be finished by the time he starts his job.

“In every place I’ve worked, I’ve seen excellence,” Sukawaty said. “I know excellence when I see it, and Thomas Jefferson and the Port-Saukville District have got it.”

 
In just two months, $520,000 raised for St. Mary’s Church roof PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by MARK JAEGER   
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 18:15

Successful campaign means work on Port Washington landmark could begin as early as this summer

Just two months after being launched, officials at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Washington have announced that a drive to replace the slate roof atop the historic church has all but reached its goal.

The roof-replacement campaign has raised more than $520,000 in donations and pledges for a project expected to cost $550,000.

Parish spokesman Jim Kitzinger made the triumphant announcement Sunday at the start of Mass in the landmark church.

Kitzinger called the strong community reaction to the roof appeal “a smashing success.”

He said the money came from 250 parish families, as well as non-parishioners, businesses and foundations.

A substantial gift for the project came from the Simplicity Foundation.

Kitzinger said officials are still optimistic that the roof campaign will ultimately reach the goal of gaining support from 300 families, with the full $550,000 pledged.

With virtually all of the needed money in hand, Kitzinger said the church must now petition the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to proceed with the roof work.

If things go as expected, he said the roof replacement should begin this summer and be completed sometime this fall.

“This is a great achievement, one I never doubted, but one I never stopped praying for,” Kitzinger said.

The existing slate roof has been in place for 135 years without undergoing significant structural repair. However, it is starting to show signs of failure from weather, erosion and wear.

The need for a replacement has reached the critical stage to avoid sustaining substantial structural and plaster damage.

The new slate roof is expected to protect the building for at least 100 years.

The iconic church was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Although elated that the roof work can proceed, Kitzinger said the project “is but one step in rebuilding our physical structures to meet the needs of our new parish.”

The three Catholic churches in the Port Washington-Saukville cluster will merge into a single parish, St. John XXIII, on July 1.

 
City poised for Blues Factory land offer PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 18:03

Officials expect to receive formal proposal from developer of controversial lakefront project for May 3 council meeting

Port Washington City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that the Common Council could receive a formal offer to purchase a lakefront parking lot for the proposed Blues Factory by its May 3 meeting.

Aldermen have been holding regular closed sessions to discuss negotiations for the Blues Factory with Madison-based developer Christopher Long, including a session held Wednesday, April 6.

“We’re still working on it,” Grams said of the session. “We’re getting closer. It’s pretty much in their court right now.”

Grams said he does not expect the Common Council to hold a closed session on the Blues Factory negotiations during its April 19 meeting.

“If anything, it’ll be at the first meeting in May,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re shooting for.”

Grams said the Council could receive an offer for the property for consideration at the May 3 meeting, and action could be taken on the offer that night.

The Common Council has not begun work on a development agreement for the Blues Factory, he said.

The Blues Factory is a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex that would include a restaurant, banquet hall, performance space and museum marking the history of the record label in Port Washington.

Paramount Records, which is known for its blues recordings, was created by the Wisconsin Chair Co. to help sell its phonographs. When Long proposed the Blues Factory last year, he said he hoped to break ground on the development this April in order to ensure the development would be open in 2017 for the centennial of the Wisconsin Chair Co.

However, the potential sale of the north slip parking lot has proven to be controversial, with city officials touting the economic benefits of the Blues Factory and its potential as a catalyst for year-round development in downtown while some residents have questioned the wisdom of selling publicly owned lakefront land.

There are a number of issues facing the city and Long as they negotiate the potential sale of the parking lot.

Among those are likely the cost of the land, as well as $1 million in tax incremental financing incentives Long has said he will seek from the city.

The city has conducted environmental tests on the land that have shown some minimal contamination, and the question of who will remediate the property may also be an issue in negotiations.

City officials are likely also looking for ways to ensure the development will pay off for the TIF district, especially if incentives are provided for the development.

Long said last year that in addition to the incentives, the project would be funded through private equity — as much as $500,000 from accredited investors and $1 million in crowdfunding — as well as a construction loan.

 
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