Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 19:37
Melichar calls Schlenvogt’s elected posts in Port township, county a conflict, but Schlenvogt says they benefit community
The similarities between the two candidates for Town of Port Washington chairman are striking — both incumbent Lee Schlenvogt and challenger Jim Melichar, a town supervisor, are dairy farmers and longtime town residents. Preserving the community’s rural character is a prime concern for each of them.
Melichar said he decided to seek the chairman’s seat after a decade in office in large part because people asked him to.
“With Lee being elected to the County Board and having a lot of other priorities, I thought it would be the right time for me to step up,” he said, noting a number of residents have expressed concern about Schlenvogt’s dual role as town chairman and county supervisor.
“When you have two commitments, to the town and county, it’s difficult. I think the town needs a little separation there to do what’s right for the residents.”
His son Adam recently bought into the family farm, freeing up time that he can devote to the chairman’s job, Melichar added.
Schlenvogt, however, said the two positions complement each other.
“I think it’s an asset,” he said. “I have access to a lot of information through the county that I use to benefit the town. And it’s nice when the (town) board has a question for their county board representative, and the representative is there.”
His position on the County Board has given him the chance to hear various opinions and meet other people who can help the township, Schlenvogt said, and allows him to serve as a conduit of information to both his board and community and to other town chairmen.
Schlenvogt, a member of the county’s Farmland Preservation Committee, said the town needs to continue working on this initiative, although some proposed changes on the county level may be stymied by the state’s financial troubles.
To comply with the proposed county changes, the town needs to “tweak” its ordinance, Schlenvogt said, noting the cluster developments allowed by the town in a conservation zoning subdivision are too dense.
“I don’t know how detailed we have to get,” he said. “We need to get more information.”
Melichar, a member of the county’s Land Preservation Board, said the town carefully considered its conservation preservation ordinance before adopting it and shouldn’t change it just because the county wants it to.
“We spent seven years working on it because the county wasn’t doing anything,” he said. “I don’t want to just rewrite it.”
Local residents should have input into any changes, Melichar added.
One of the biggest challenges facing local government today is finances. The Town of Port Washington stands to lose 37.4% of its shared revenue and 3% of its transportation aid, a total of $11,841, under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget bill.
Dealing with that shortfall will be a focus for the township.
Schlenvogt said the town has few options, noting most of the services it provides — fire protection, a trash and recycling collection site and maintenance of the town hall — are fixed.
“Guess what’s left?” he said. “We just won’t be able to do as many road projects as before.”
There have been suggestions that the town consider privatizing its roadwork, particularly snowplowing. The town currently contracts with the Ozaukee County Highway Department for the work.
It’s something the Town Board should study and perhaps put to a referendum vote, Schlenvogt said.
“I really don’t feel the board should just make that choice,” he said. “There’s too much at stake. I’m not saying it’s good, and I’m not saying it’s bad. It is a big step, and there are a lot of things that need to be researched.”
The town will also look at privatizing cutting road ditches, Schlenvogt said.
“We’re going to take it slow and easy,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s right for the town.”
Melichar agreed that the town should look into the concept, both for snowplowing and road maintenance, but said it’s too early to make a decision.
“That’s something that’s going to take a lot of thinking and studying,” he said. “We should maybe take a look at it.”
The town should also work with Ozaukee County to see what its options are and whether it can help the county reduce the cost of the service, Melichar said.
He said he would also like to explore the possibility of allowing town officials who have heavy equipment to provide services to the township, such as brush cutting or removing tree limbs that fall on roads.
This work could be done at what would likely be a reduced cost and perhaps a more timely basis, Melichar said.
“There are a lot of things we should look at,” he said. “Privatizing or working with the county or partnering with other townships for services. If you think outside the box, it opens all sorts of things we haven’t considered.”
Melichar also said the town should make a point of reaching out to businesses, especially those in the Knellsville area, to ensure the community is doing all it can to retain them.
“We’ve never really sat down with the business owners to see what their needs are,” he said. “You’d hate to see them leave. They’re a big part of the town tax base.”
Both candidates said they are willing to spend the time needed to lead the town into the future without compromising all that residents treasure.
Schlenvogt pointed to his years of leadership in the town, in particular his work leading to a border agreement between the town and city of Port, and his willingness to work with residents as reasons people should vote for him.
“I just love the town,” he said. “I love politics. I love the people here. I’ve seen a lot of change, and I’ve worked hard to have the town the way it is.”
Melichar also cited his years of experience on the Town Board, his desire to take a fresh look at solutions that may not be obvious when dealing with problems and his dedication to the township.
“My focus is on the town,” he said. “I’m not looking to be on the County Board or any other political position.”
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:06
It’s official — the Highway 33 reconstruction project between Port Washington and Saukville should begin this spring.
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday signed a revised agreement with the state for the work.
“We’re less than one month away from the bid opening for the long-awaited Highway 33 project,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven told aldermen.
The city’s original contract with the state was signed in 2000, and a number of changes have occurred since then, he noted.
For example, the cost of obtaining real estate has increased tenfold. In 2000, it was estimated that the cost of obtaining real estate along the two-mile stretch would be $110,000, with the city’s share set at $12,500
Vanden Noven said.
“That was optimistic even in 2000,” he said.
Now, the entire cost of real estate acquisition is estimated at $2.5 million, with the city’s share expected to be $172,000, Vanden Noven said.
The city’s share of the entire project is $1.8 million, which includes a $142,000 credit that will be applied to the new streetlights, as well as a $605,000 landscaping credit because the city will be planting the trees along
the street, he said.
A significant portion of that money should be escrowed for median maintenance, Vanden Noven said, noting the trees will require a fair amount of care in the first few years and the city should hire a contractor to do this work.
One major change in the contract is the fact that it no longer covers work done for the Village of Saukville, Vanden Noven said. Instead, the village will have a separate agreement with the state.
That agreement was approved by the Village Board Tuesday.
The original contract required the city to pay the full cost of the highway work and obtain reimbursement from Saukville, he said. Saukville officials asked the state to separate the contracts, Vanden Noven said.
Last week, the Board of Public Works approved special assessing adjoining property owners for curb, gutter and sidewalk work along Highway 33. Preliminary figures show the assessments will range from $150 to
more than $100,000.
The largest assessment, however, is for city-owned property. Many of the highest assessments are for properties in the Town of Port Washington. These charges will be deferred until the land is annexed into the city.
A preliminary resolution on the assessments is expected to be considered by the Common Council in April or May, after bids for the work are opened and the actual costs are known.
A public hearing on the assessments will be held after that.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 20:16
Port officials look at paring sidewalk installation to help offset rising cost of improvements on city road
The success of a proposal to rebuild Lake Street to alleviate flooding in the area and beautify the area around Veterans Memorial Park in Port Washington this spring may depend on the Highway 33 reconstruction project.
That’s because the Lake Street proposal has increased significantly in price as the scope of the project has changed since it was initially considered last year, the Board of Public Works was told Tuesday.
Because the city doesn’t have other funds available, cost savings expected to be realized on the long-awaited Highway33 reconstruction might be the best way to finance the Lake Street project, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.
When the Lake Street project was conceived, the intent was to lower the road, install additional catch basins and provide an overflow spillway through the park, he said. The city received a $206,000 Community Development Block Grant to cover 60% of that cost.
But officials have since determined that the main storm sewer line must be replaced, Vanden Noven said. Plans have also been made to rebuild the public parking lot north of the American Legion hallto improve safety and aesthetics, and to add sidewalk to connect with existing walkways in the area.
The low bid for the project came in at $327,000, Vanden Noven said, leaving the city to come up with roughly $150,000 for the project.
In addition, We Energies has estimated the cost of burying the overhead wires in the area at $60,000 to $100,000, he said.
The Highway 33 project may be the most likely place to come up with the needed funds, Vanden Noven said.
That’s because the state has said bids for highway work have been coming in about 10% under budget, he said. If that occurs, about $100,000 might be available to help pay for the Lake Street project.
Bids for the Highway 33 project will be opened in April.
In addition, the city could eliminate some paths and sidewalks planned on Highway LL north of Highway 33 and on the west side of the road south of Highway 33, Vanden Noven said. That would cover much of the remaining shortfall.
The path on the east side of Highway LL south of Highway 33 should remain, officials said, because it will connect with sidewalks already in the area.
Ald. Jim Vollmar, a member of the Board of Public Works, said the city needs to decide whether the intent of the Lake Street work is to alleviate flooding or to beautify the area.
“It’s the aesthetics of this project that add to the cost,” he said. “I’m kind of torn. I would like the city to be more beautiful, but it’s a lot of money.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich, another board member, said it’s important to make the Veterans Park area aesthetically pleasing because of its prominence.
“It’s a high visibility area,” he said.
He proposed that the city eliminate the Highway LL walkways, saving an estimated $130,000, noting that these paths, which can be added in the future, don’t connect to other sidewalks.
The city should delay making a decision on burying the overhead wires until it has a better cost estimate, Ehrlich added.
But Vollmar said if the city wants to beautify the area, the wires must be buried.
“Personally, I think if we’re going to make it look beautiful, let’s go all the way,” he said.
Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the board, suggested the board consider postponing the Lake Street project until fall, when the Highway 33 project will be almost completed and the costs known. Then the city will know how much money can be diverted to Lake Street, he said.
T.P. Concrete, the low bidder on the project, may not be willing to hold its price that long, Vanden Noven said.
The board postponed action on the bid and delayed making a decision on burying the wires. Instead, it directed Vanden Noven and City Administrator Mark Grams to see if T.P. Concrete would honor its price if the project is delayed and when We Energies could give a better cost
estimate for burying the wires.
The board will hold a special meeting Tuesday, March 15, to hear the results.
The board also recommended on Tuesday that the city approve a revised contract with the state for the Highway 33 project. The initial contract for the work was approved in 2009, but since then the scope and cost of the project have changed, Vanden Noven said.
The city’s share of the project is estimated at $1.8 million, he said.
The DOT has indicated the contract must be approved by the Common Council by March 15 for the project to move forward this year, Vanden Noven said.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 20:06
State transportation secretary tells local officials that long-awaited road widening is still set to start this year
Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget won’t delay the long-awaited reconstruction of Highway 33 from Port Washington to Saukville, officials said Tuesday.
“The Highway 33 project is still scheduled to be let this spring,” Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said Tuesday. “That project schedule is not affected by the state budget.”
The work, which will extend from Tower Drive in Port Washington west to an area east of Highway W in Saukville, involves replacing the two-lane road with a four-lane divided highway, complete with turn lanes, curb and gutter, sidewalks, bike lanes, landscaping and new lighting.
The Highway LL overpass would be removed and replaced by a roundabout, one of three traffic circles included in the project. The others are in Saukville, at Northwoods Road and Market Street.
City Administrator Mark Grams said he recently checked on the project, saying he “went straight to the top” and talked to Gottlieb, a former Port Washington mayor and 60th District Assembly representative.
“He said there won’t be a problem, that everything’s still good to go,” Grams said.
On Tuesday, the Common Council approved a utility relocation agreement needed to bury the power lines along the highway.
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said bids for the reconstruction project will be opened by the DOT on April 12.
“I would guess we’ll have at least a half-dozen bidders,” he said.
Funding for the project has already been approved, he noted, and the DOT is working to expedite the project because of an aggressive timeline. Work on the road is expected to begin in mid-May, when the Highway LL overpass is removed, Vanden
Noven said, and be completed by the end of the year, with the exception of landscaping.
“I’m sure it’s going to take the entire construction period,” he said. “It’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time,”
If the contractor does not meet the project timeline, he will be assessed liquidated damages.
Throughout the project, Highway LL will be closed between Willow Road and Aster Street, Vanden Noven said.
Temporary lanes will then be constructed so traffic can continue to flow between Port and Saukville throughout the year, he said.
The only substantial detour on Highway 33 will occur between Tower and Portview drives in Port Washington in the fall, Vanden Noven said. There isn’t enough room to create temporary lanes on this stretch of road, he said, necessitating the detour.
“I think the disruption should be minimized,” he said. “Like any construction project, there’s going to be dust, noise and some confusion.”