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Committee considers Coal Dock Park railing PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 18:10

Panel weighs safety concerns against cost in making recommendation on installation of promenade barrier

    A recommendation to install a railing along the promenade on the north side of Coal Dock Park was to be considered by the Coal Dock Committee Wednesday morning.

    City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that he is hopeful the committee will recommend installation of a railing along the 1,000-foot-long walkway.

    In a community that’s increasingly concerned about waterfront safety, he said, the railing is seen by many as an essential safety device in an area where there’s nothing to prevent someone from tumbling off the dock into the lake, where strong currents are common.

    The park is a draw for tourists and residents alike, proponents of the railing note, since it was designed to be a regional attraction.

    The park has also received a significant amount of acclaim, including a recent award from American City and County magazine, which gave it a Crown Communities award.

    However, some people are concerned that the railing would detract from the lakefront views and take away flexibility that’s needed when large boats moor along the seawall.

    The promenade was built wider than normal — 18-1/2 feet — to ensure people can enjoy the walkway and lake but stay away from the edge, they note.

    Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, who is also the Coal Dock Committee chairman, said last year it would not be difficult to install the railing, noting the city considered adding one when designing the park.

    But while many people are in favor of installing the railing, not everyone is on board with the idea.

    “I have sensed that there’s a diversity of opinion about it on the committee,” Vanden Noven said.

    “For some people, it’s just a matter of priorities. I think it’s really going to come down to dollars.”

    There are committee members who believe other priorities take precedent, he said. Other amenities that the committee is working on include the installation of electric outlets and a park entrance sign, he said.

    One major stumbling block to the railing is funding, Vanden Noven said, adding this may cause some committee members to think twice about recommending its installation.

    The railing, which would match those along the city’s harborwalk, is estimated to cost $200,000.

    The city has about $100,000 remaining in Coal Dock Park development funds that could be put toward the railing, Grams said.

    Vanden Noven said he is talking to the Department of Natural Resources to see if it would amend the city’s existing stewardship grant for the park to provide additional funds for the railing.

    “I don’t know if that’s possible,” he said.

    The city could also apply for additional grant money, he said, noting these grant applications are typically due in November.

    “I think eventually we could get a stewardship grant for it,” Grams said.

    Last fall, Grams predicted that the railing would be installed this spring even though no money was placed in the 2014 budget for it, saying he believed there was enough support on the council to approve it.

    Vanden Noven said that the city has been approached by the Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees about a possible fundraiser to help pay for a portion of the railing.

    The club is planning a walk-run to be held in conjunction with Maritime Heritage Festival in August, and has talked to the city about donating its proceeds to the railing fund, Vanden Noven said.

    But for many — including members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, which recommended last year that the railing be installed — the time to move ahead is now. The idea of going through a summer tourist season without it is the wrong thing to do, they say.

    If the committee recommends installing the railing, the Common Council could take action on the matter when it meets Tuesday, Jan. 21, Grams said.

    If approved by the council, work could be done this spring, he said.


 
New group to explore breakwater options PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 18:28

Port council OKs mayor’s plan for advisory committee that will study ways to repair or replace aging lake structure

    Port Washington’s deteriorating breakwater is on the verge of getting a lot more attention.

    The Common Council on Tuesday approved the formation of a breakwater advisory committee to look at ways to repair or replace the aging structure.

    “This is really step one,” Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    He circulated a list of 26 potential committee members among the aldermen, saying the committee is an attempt to build a broad-based coalition with expertise in many areas that can reach beyond the city’s boundaries to build support for the project.

    “This is not just a Port Washington issue,” Mlada said. “This is an Ozaukee County issue and beyond.”

    Ald. Dave Larson questioned the potential size of the committee, saying it risks becoming bogged down and mired in logistics.

    “I don’t envision this staying a large group,” Mlada said, saying the large membership could be broken into smaller subcommittees that will focus on three or four areas — education, funding and advocacy, which would include public relations and lobbying efforts.

    There is also a citizens group forming to work on the breakwater issue, Mlada said, and the two could work together to have a greater impact on the issue.

    “If we can work hand-in-hand with this group, I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish,” he said.

    Mlada said he met with leaders of the citizens group Tuesday, and they will hold an introductory meeting open to the public at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at NewPort Shores restaurant.

    The Common Council on Tuesday also tabled action on a proposal to spend $25,000 on private consultants who would help the city raise money to fix the crumbling breakwater that protects the harbor.

    Foth Infrastructure & Environmental and SmithGroup JJR would collaborate on the project, which would provide basic design concepts and realistic cost estimates for the work, then shepherd the city through state and federal grant processes to help find funding.

    “We’re really not quite ready to take action on this,” said Larson, who is chairman of the Finance and License Committee.

    City Administrator Mark Grams will get more specifics on what the firms would do for the city and try to whittle down the cost, Larson said, and the Harbor Commission will be asked its opinion on the work.

    “Our budget is really strapped,” he said, noting the proposed study came to the council after the 2014 budget was set. “We’d ask them (Harbor Commission) to help us out.”

    Grams had expressed some reservations about the proposed study, especially since the breakwater is owned by the federal government, not the city, but a  number of aldermen said it is something the city has to do.

    That’s especially true since federal officials told Mlada they would expect the city to provide some funding for any repair of the breakwater, they said.

    “I think this is something we probably have to do,” Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of the Harbor Commission, said. “Nobody wants to spend any money — we don’t have any money right now. But I think we also have to ask what if we don’t do this.

    “We know it (the breakwater) will fail. We just don’t know when. We have to find the money.”

    The consultants bring an expertise to the issue that city officials don’t have, added Ald. Kevin Rudser.

    “Without some good direction from people who have done this, we could end up chasing our tail for a couple of years,” he said. “In the long run, that $25,000 is going to be a small down payment on what we hope to reap.”

    The study will also tell federal authorities that the city is serious about getting the breakwater improved, Ald. Dan Becker said.

    “We’ll be showing the powers that be, look, this community has its act together and has a plan in place,” he said. And that, he added, could give the city a needed edge when federal funds become available for the work. and the city needs to vie for them with other communities.


 

 
City to pay for study of rip currents PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 17:24

Port officials agree to help fund professor’s project that will monitor lakeshore water conditions, bluff erosion

    Port Washington officials, determined to improve lakefront safety, recently approved spending $2,500 to help fund a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor’s study of rip currents along the city’s lakeshore.

    The project, which will include both educational and informational components, will also look at the erosion of the city’s bluffs, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    “This is a very exciting opportunity for our city,” Mlada said, noting Professor Chin Wu worked extensively with Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon on its bluff stabilization project and was instrumental in creating an Integrated Nowcast and Forecast System (Infos) website at the Apostle Islands that provides a wealth of real-time information on currents.

    “He felt the technology he put in place at the Apostle Islands could be very appropriate and functional here,” Mlada said.

    Wu’s proposed Port Washington project largely revolves around development of an Infos website for the city that would involve monitoring water conditions, modeling them and predicting how they affect the currents, Mlada said.

    “It’s largely educational,” he said, noting the website could be accessed by the public and provide information on currents that would make the lakefront a safer place.

    “Can we ever make the lakefront entirely safe? No. But if you give people the information they need to make informed decisions, then we have gone a long way in making it a safer place.”

    The project is expected to cost $60,000, half of which Wu is attempting to obtain through a Wisconsin Coastal Management Grant, Mlada said. The city funding is a portion of the matching funds he needs to raise.

    “This is our way of saying we support this work,” Mlada said.

    Ozaukee County has also committed $2,500 in staff support for the project, he said.

    If Wu doesn’t raise the needed funding, the city will get its $2,500 back, Mlada noted.

    The website is already up with limited information on it, Mlada said, so funds would go primarily toward the purchase of the equipment needed to report, monitor and predict wave and current movement.

    “Without the monitoring buoys in the area, you really can’t have these real-time predictions,” he said.

    Wu’s project would be put in place on the north beach initially, Mlada said, and perhaps expanded to the south beach over time.

    “This would be a great tool for people,” Mlada said. “People thinking about going to the beach could check the conditions and determine whether the conditions are right.”

    In addition, information gathered through the bluff erosion portion of the study could give the city the tools it needs to help plan bluff stabilization projects — something city officials have considered for years, officials said.

    The project, which was recommended by the city’s Environmental Planning Committee, isn’t being funded through tax dollars, Mlada noted. The committee received an anonymous $10,000 donation to help with its projects, and this is one of three recommended for funding.

    The others are applying for a Bird City USA designation, which would cost $100, and funding a portion of an intern’s time to study issues the committee deems important, which would cost an estimated $2,600.


 
Town to ask voters if clerk should be elected PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 15:06

    Should the Town of Port Washington clerk be elected or appointed?

    That question will be put to voters this spring, the Town Board agreed earlier this month.

    The position is integral to the town and its operations, board members said, and if someone who isn’t qualified is elected it could cause havoc.

    “This is one position where, if you don’t have someone in who’s qualified or if you get a disgruntled person in, it could really put the town in a tizzy,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.

    By appointing a clerk, the town could ensure continuity and a professional operation, he said.

    “Otherwise, every two years you could have a new town clerk elected,” Building Inspector Rick Fellenz added.

    “It’s a pretty specialized job,” Town Supr. Jim Rychtik said. “I know what the town has invested in training to get a person who’s qualified for the job. I think this is a good idea.”

    Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt said it takes a substantial amount of training and experience to adequately handle the post.

    “I’ve been clerk for 3-1/2 years, and I finally feel comfortable, like I know what I’m doing,” she said — something her predecessor Susan Westerbeke told her would be the case.

    Schlenvogt also noted that the board could require more of an appointed clerk than an elected one.

    For example, she said, an elected clerk can hold as many or as few office hours as he likes. An appointed clerk, on the other hand, would have to keep the hours determined by the Town Board.

    The clerk isn’t a voting member of the Town Board and doesn’t determine policy, the board added.

    This wouldn’t be the first time the town put the question of the clerk’s position on the ballot. A referendum on the issue in 2010 failed, 343-319.

    Supr. Mike Didier noted that most townships have elected clerks. A 2012 Wisconsin Towns Association poll showed of the 1,257 townships, only 188 had appointed clerks, he said.

    Resident Terry Anewenter questioned the need for a change, saying elected clerks have served the town well.

    “What’s the point?” he asked. “We’ve had what — three clerks in 20 years. Jenny’s been unopposed the last two elections. She’s qualified.”

    Although the board informally agreed to the referendum this week, members deferred formal action until Jan. 6, when they will determine the actual wording of the question to be placed on the ballot.


 
City may invest $25,000 in breakwater campaign breakwater PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 18:12

Port Council considers hiring firm to champion its fight for repairs, find funding sources for local share of cost

    Port Washington aldermen are considering spending $25,000 to hire private consultants who would help the city raise money to fix the crumbling breakwater that protects the harbor.

    The city doesn’t have to raise the estimated $16 million needed to repair the breakwater, but it’s likely that it will have to raise $3.5 million as a local cost-sharing component, the consultant said.

    That cost-sharing component represents the city’s best chance at getting federal funds to finance the repairs, even though the Army Corps of Engineers has traditionally done the work entirely with federal funds, Mayor Tom Mlada said Tuesday.

    “Regardless of what happens (with federal funding), we’ve been told this will be a local-share solution,” Mlada said.

    Representatives of Foth Infrastructure & Environmental and SmithGroup JJR, which would collaborate on the project, told aldermen Tuesday they would provide basic design concepts and realistic cost estimates for the work, then shepherd the city through state and federal grant processes to help find funding.

    Some of the grant money could also be used to help pay their fees, they said.

    The consultants would also help the city create a harbor master plan, which Mlada said is essential for virtually all grant applications.

    “Without the plan up front, it’s difficult to get the grants,” said Brian Hinrichs, lead environmental scientist for Foth.

    The planning will also allow the city to tailor the breakwater to its needs and, just as important, to the requirements of grants, said Jack Cox, principal coastal engineer for SmithGroup JJR.

    Repairing the breakwater in its current configuration may not be the best thing for the city, he said, adding his group would create a concept design tailored to the city.

     The concept design and plans would give the city something tangible to present to officials and agencies that they, in turn, could use to promote the project, Cox said.

    The plans, which could include a phased approach, can be used to convince officials the project can be successful, Hinrichs said.

    “They want successful projects, and successful projects that are easier to do than if they start from scratch,” he said.

    Hinrichs said the city made great strides by traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby legislators and the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the breakwater and is responsible for allocating federal funds to repair such structures.

    That personal touch is important, he said, but the city needs to go further. His firm would not only work on state and federal grant applications, it will try to bring the decision-makers to Port to see the condition of the breakwater and its importance to the community, he said.

    “If it (a grant application) lands on their desk, it’s just one of 30,” he said. “We get them to your community. Without that step, your chances of getting a grant are probably one in 10. With it, that goes up to maybe 80% or 90%.”

    The firms would seek grants to offset the city’s share of the project cost, Hinrichs said. State grants could help provide the match needed for federal funds, he noted.

    The city needs to be prepared to apply for grants as soon as February, he said. Among the potential funding sources are the federal Harbor Trust Fund and the state stewardship program. Applications should be tailored to each program, something the consultants would do.

    Mlada said he is heartened by the fact U.S. senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri have signed a letter supporting the city’s efforts to place its breakwater repairs on the Army Corps of Engineers’ project list.

    “This is not a magic bullet,” Mlada said. “I’m not sure exactly how much this will move the needle.”

    The fact that both Baldwin, a Democrat, and Republicans Petri and Johnson signed the letter is also significant, Mlada said.

    Hinrichs agreed the letter is important, saying, “I don’t see those three signatures on one letterhead very often.”

    Mlada threw his support behind the consultants, saying their work could be vital to the city’s efforts.

    “This gets the ball rolling for us,” he said. “The iron is hot and we need to strike.”        The city has not budgeted any money for the breakwater, so officials would have to find funds for the work.

    The Finance and License Committee and Common Council will consider the consultant’s proposal Tuesday, Jan. 7.


 
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