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Port Washington


Inspection to pave way for lighthouse deal PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 20:52

Condition will help Port officials decide if they will try to acquire landmark also sought by Michigan group

    An inspection of the Port Washington lighthouse by the National Park Service will be done sometime in September, marking the start of a 90-day window for city officials to make an application to acquire the landmark, Mayor Tom Mlada announced last week.

    “The clock is ticking,” Mlada said. “We’ve got a lot to learn about it (the condition of the lighthouse. And there’s a lot of work to be done.”

    The Coast Guard has decided to divest itself of the Port Washington lighthouse, and earlier this year published a notice to discern if anyone is interested in acquiring the structure.

    Both the City of Port Washington and the Michigan-based Geek Group sent letters of interest to the General Services Administration saying they would like to acquire the lighthouse.

    Mlada said he initially hoped that a partnership could be forged with the Geek Group that would ensure the city had control of the structure, but that does not seem likely.

    The city has formed a committee of interested people to explore the acquisition and application, and one of those members recently went to Michigan and spoke to a Geek Group representative who said they believe they will be successful in acquiring the lighthouse on their own, Mlada said.

    “He said they have no interest in a partnership and they emphatically believe they will be granted conveyance,” he said.

    “Now, it’s up to us .... to submit an application, a robust one.”

    The lighthouse is a defining feature of Port Washington, Mlada said, one the city has to work to protect.

    “It speaks to who we are,” he said.

    Mlada asked that anyone interested in joining the lighthouse committee contact him.

    “We have to tell our story, what it means to us,” he said. “It’s important.”

    City officials agreed last fall to consider acquiring the distinctive lighthouse, but said then that the need to ensure the iconic structure remains in the harbor must be weighed against the cost of renovating and maintaining it.

    The lighthouse, which was built in 1935, consists of a metal Art Deco tower that rests on a 20-foot-square cement base that has large arches on each of its faces so it doesn’t obstruct the view of mariners using the harbor.

    Since it was built, the distinctive lighthouse has been a symbol of Port Washington, used on everything from the city’s logo to postcards.

    A trip to the breakwater and lighthouse is part of the tourist experience in Port Washington, and images of the lighthouse are captured by hundreds of photographers each year.

    The fact that the city is currently working to stabilize and improve the breakwater on which the lighthouse is located makes it even more important that officials ensure it is maintained, officials have said.

    The federal government has placed 154 lighthouses throughout the country on the market since it began divesting the structures in 2001, according to the National parks Service website.

    Ten of those, including Port Washington’s, have been in Wisconsin and 43 in Michigan.

    Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, lighthouses are first offered to governmental units, non-profit and educational agencies and community development organizations.

    They are conveyed to these groups at no cost, but these groups must maintain the lighthouses while the Coast Guard continues to maintain the lights.



 
City readies applications for breakwater grants PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 20:02

    Port Washington officials are hoping to parlay an $11,000 investment into enough money to make a real dent in funding the remaining improvements needed for the north breakwater.

    The Common Council recently approved agreements with Foth Infrastructure and Environment LLC to prepare applications for two grants for the breakwater project.

    Those grants, if approved, would complete the city’s $1 million commitment to the Army Corps of Engineers for work to be done next year on the steel-cell portion of the breakwater and provide a significant amount of funding for a walkway from that portion of the structure to the lighthouse, officials said.

    The city had applied for a $250,000 Harbor Assistance program grant from the Department of Transportation. But, City Administrator Mark Grams explained, area legislators and Foth officials recommended the city increase its request to $425,0000.

    “Our chances (to receive a larger grant) appear to be very, very, very good,” Grams said.

    Mayor Tom Mlada noted that the reason the city qualifies for this grant is that the Denis Sullivan has been visiting on a regular basis.

    If the city were to receive this grant, he said, the funds would be combined with a $500,000 Waterways Commission grant and $73,000 Boating Infrastructure Grant, Grams said.

    “We would be able to reach our $1 million commitment to the Army Corps,” he said.

    Just a few weeks ago the city was skeptical of its chances at any additional grant money, Grams acknowledged.

    “It’s looking brighter,” he said.

    The city will also apply for a Boating Infrastructure Grant for work on the breakwater east of the steel cells, Grams said.

    “There aren’t many grant opportunities out there (for that portion of the work), but this is one of them,” he said.

    The maximum grant is $1.5 million, Grams noted.

    “Will we get that amount? I’m not sure,” he said. “But we’ll shoot for the moon and see what we get.”

    Foth will be paid $5,000 for work on the Harbor Assistance Program grant and $6,000 for work on the Resources Boating Infrastructure Grant.

    Aldermen also approved the revised application for the Harbor Assistance grant.

    The steel-cell portion of the breakwater and the walkway east to the lighthouse are not the only areas the city is hoping to improve.

    The city is also raising funds for renovations at the entry to the breakwater, including making it handicapped accessible, installing a boardwalk and fishing platform and developing a kayak launch and wetlands.

    The cost of that work is estimated at $600,000, plus $100,000 for engineering.

    The city has already received a $75,000 stewardship grant for that work, he said. The Fund for Lake Michigan grant includes $75,000 for the entryway and $2,500 for the city to take part in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Grams noted.


 
Subdivision TIF plan clears final hurdle PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 22:09

Financing district that will pave way for Cedar Vineyard project gets board approval

    A tax incremental financing district that will pave the way for the Cedar Vineyard subdivision and improvements to Port Washington’s industrial park was unanimously approved last week.

    The Joint Review Board created the district Aug. 19 after reviewing the projected costs and benefits of the district, which will encompass 409 acres on the city’s south side.

    City officials have been outspoken in their support of the TIF district and the subdivision proposal, noting the development will not only bring high-end housing to the community but a public nature preserve that includes the Cedar Gorge and Lake Michigan bluff.

    The land includes the 227-acre Cedar Vineyard site, where 73 lots, a winery and vineyard are proposed to be created along Highway C, as well as a patchwork of industrial park land stretching from Highway C west to South Spring Street.

    The costs include $7 million for infrastructure — costs that are projected to be paid off within 16 years.

    The direct benefits of the district include an estimated $72 million increase in the city’s tax base and a significant increase in manufacturing jobs, according to a report by Christy Cramer of Trilogy Consulting, the city’s TIF consultant.

    “Obviously those increases in taxes won’t be realized until the district is closed,” she said.

    That’s because in a TIF district, taxes generated by improvements on the properties pay for the infrastructure over the length of the district.

      Cramer estimated the TIF district could result in an additional 1,147 jobs over its life. Of these, she said, 512 jobs would likely be created during the first phase, when the subdivision and some of the industrial park work is done.

    Board member Karen Makoutz, the Ozaukee County treasurer, questioned the method used to estimate the job numbers, saying it’s unlikely the winery and vineyard would create that many positions.

    But board chairman Doug Biggs, a city alderman, said that many of these jobs will result from improvements to the industrial park.

    Cramer acknowledged the numbers may not hold up over time, but noted they are an estimate.

    “It’s really dependent on what type of businesses would come in, and that’s a very difficult thing to say right now,” she said.

    Eric Ryer, the citizen representative on the board, said the TIF district will be good for the city.

    “I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “It looks like the lots (in the Cedar Vineyard subdivision) would sell and the nature park would be a great asset to everyone in the community.”

    City Administrator Mark Grams said the key to the district are the numbers.

    “It’s clear the TIF increment generated over 20 years will be able to pay the costs,” Grams said. “To me, that’s obviously the key, that it can generate the increment (taxes) needed to pay for the TIF borrowing.”

    The Joint Review Board is made up of representatives of all the taxing districts — the City of Port, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College — as well as a citizen member.



 
Board takes final look at subdivision TIF plan PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 20:30

Port committee decides fate of proposed financing district that would pave way for Cedar Vineyard project

    A committee was expected to decide Wednesday the fate of a proposed tax incremental financing district that would pave the way for a 73-lot subdivision with a vineyard, winery and 101-acre nature preserve on Port Washington’s south side.

    The Joint Review Board was scheduled to review the costs and benefits of the TIF district, which would include not just the Cedar Vineyard subdivision but also a portion of the city’s industrial park.

    Also on the agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting was possible action on a resolution creating the TIF district, which would pay for much of the infrastructure needed for the subdivision.

    The proposed TIF district has 409 acres that include the Cedar Vineyard land, which stretches on the east side of Highway C from an area south of the Kingdom Hall to south of Stonecroft Drive, as well as 27 acres on the west side of Highway C along the south side of Stonecroft Drive.

    It also includes a patchwork of industrial park land stretching from Highway C west to South Spring Street.

    The proposed conservancy was to be the topic of the Ozaukee County Board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 19.

    A presentation on the subdivision and the conservancy, called the Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve, was on the board’s agenda.

    While the Cedar Vineyard subdivision is being built by the Highview Group, the developer will sell the conservancy land, which includes property along the Lake Michigan bluff, to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

    A Department of Natural Resources grant is expected to pay for a significant portion of the $2 million purchase of the nature preserve, with Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington picking up the outstanding balance.

    The city will finance its share of the funding through the TIF district.

    The Ozaukee County Board, which agreed to the concept of paying as much as $1 million for the preserve in March, is expected to vote in September on a funding resolution that will cement financing for the conservancy.

    The TIF projects are expected to total $7 million, including $5 million for infrastructure —including sewer and water improvements, roadwork and trails — for the 227-acre Cedar Vineyard subdivision.

    Another $950,000 will go toward developing about 50 acres of industrial land along South Spring Street.

    The development, however, is expected to add $71.4 million to the city’s tax base and pay for itself within 16 years.

    In a TIF district, taxes generated by improvements on the properties pay for the infrastructure over the length of the district.

    The Joint Review Board is made up of representatives of all the taxing districts — the City of Port, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College — as well as a citizen member.

    After the board has approved the TIF district, the state will review it to ensure proper procedures have been followed and to certify the base value of the district.



 
PW-S district set to unveil designs for new high school PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 20:38

Officials say $45.5 million upgrade will create a facility that’s eye-catching, functional

    The Port Washington-Saukville School District will unveil in two weeks designs for a $45.5 million like-new high school that officials say will be stunning in terms of both form and functionality.

    Bray Architects and district work groups consisting of administrators and school board members have been refining plans to transform an aging and inefficient Port Washington High School, part of which dates to 1931, into a showcase of a school geared toward contemporary learning.

    Among the most significant changes and refinements to conceptual designs are plans for a two-story library and media center on the west side of the building and a plan to retain a large part of the current gym, Supt. Michael Weber said.

    The existing gym will be renovated around the existing floor to create an auxiliary, regulation-sized athletic facility that will eliminate the high school’s reliance on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School gym for some sporting events, Weber said.

    It will be one of two high school gyms. The other will be an arena-like facility built on the south side of the school.

    But one of the most striking and visible features of the high school will be its entrance and commons area, which will require the oldest, central part of the existing school to be demolished and rebuilt. The commons will be a gathering area large enough to accommodate events and an open cafeteria.

    The commons is envisioned as a grand entryway to the school from which the new gym — described as arena-style because people will enter from above the floor and because of its wraparound seating — will be accessible to the south and the auxiliary gym and academic wings to the north.

    Key to the design is the goal of grouping classrooms and other academic areas, which are currently spread throughout the sprawling building that has grown through a series of additions, in the same part of the school.

    To accomplish this, a three-story academic wing will be built on the hill on the west side of the school adjacent to the existing technology education wing near what is referred to as the Washington Heights building on the far north end of the school. Both the tech-ed and Washington Heights buildings will be renovated.

    “This is shaping up to be an awesome educational space for students,” Weber said. “It keeps our academic area connected to our tech-ed wing, which is a wonderfully large space for a high school our size, and the Washington Heights building.”

    The new academic building will feature modern classrooms arranged to facilitate both group and individual learning and, unlike the current school, have a significant number of windows, Weber said.

    “One of the themes of this entire project is the use of natural light,” he said.

    New choir and band rooms will also be built. The existing music facilities, which are adjacent to the auditorium, will be used for costume storage and as dressing rooms.

    Weber said the designs are still preliminary and will be tweaked as officials and architects continue to work on them.

    Throughout the process, he said, a close eye has been kept on costs. The project is within budget, although the ultimate test won’t come until the work is bid early next year.

    “It’s tight,” Weber said of the budget. “Construction costs have increased significantly over the last couple of months.”

    Rising costs mean that the district is unlikely to be able to do additional work as officials hoped, Weber said. One of the additional projects that was envisioned was the installation of a synthetic-turf football field estimated to cost as much as $1 million.

    Synthetic turf would be safer for athletes and, because it is far more durable than grass, allow the field to be used for more than just football games, administrators said.

    Without money from the high school project to install the field, the district will have to look for other funding sources if the project is to be done. One option being explored by an organization formed to advocate for the approval of the referendum that paved the way for the high school project is private funding, possibly from a corporation interested in naming rights.

    Bray Architects will present the high school designs to the Building and Ground Committee on Monday, Aug. 24.

    Also included in the $49.4 million referendum plan approved by voters on April 7 is $3.8 million for a classroom addition at Dunwiddie Elementary School. That project is on schedule to be put out for bids in January. Construction would start later that year.

    The high school project is scheduled to begin with the construction of the academic wing next year and be completed in 2019.

    While that work is still months away, construction began last week at Saukville Elementary School. Funding for an addition at the school was eliminated from early referendum plans, so the district is using $80,000 from its fund balance to pay for the installation of internal walls and doors to improve school security and public access to facilities such as the gym.

    The work is to be completed before school begins on Sept. 1.


 
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