Council OKs funding for lighthouse, park bluff

Money included in improvement plan won’t cover cost of projects but it will get them started

A capital improvement plan approved by the Port Washington Common Council Tuesday calls for spending $10,000 on engineering for the restoration of the lighthouse, seen here on a recent cold morning. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A $25.6 million capital improvement plan for 2023 that includes preliminary work on the lighthouse and Upper Lake Park bluff stabilization was approved with little comment Tuesday by the Port Washington aldermen.

The pricetag is significantly higher than the city typically undertakes in a year, City Administrator Tony Brown said, but that’s due in large part to required improvements to the water and wastewater plants.

Eighty-five percent of the $25.6 million, or about $21 million, he noted, is related to the water and wastewater facilities and 15%, or $4 million, to general city operations.

The water plant improvements are estimated to cost $18.3 million, Brown said, while the wastewater plant upgrades are estimated to cost $660,000.

Last year’s overall capital improvement budget was about $7 million, he said, of which about $1 million was for the water utility and $2 million for the wastewater utility.

This year’s capital improvement plan includes 55 projects, among them several initiatives that have been on the radar of officials and the public.

It calls for the city to spend $10,000 on engineering for the lighthouse restoration project, a priority for Mayor Ted Neitzke, who said last month he would not approve a budget next year that doesn’t include money for the project.

“We’re aspiring to get it done quickly,” Neitzke said Tuesday. “But we’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.”

Brown said the engineering work should allow the city to identify grant opportunities and hire an engineering firm to write grant applications if necessary.

The city has estimated it will cost $1 million to $2 million to refurbish the lighthouse, which has stood at the east end of the north breakwater since 1935 and become a symbol of the community.

The work includes repainting the structure, replacing the porthole windows and reinforcing the interior, as well as some asbestos abatement.

Neitzke said that the city is trying to work with state and federal officials to obtain funding for the lighthouse project, noting that the Army Corps of Engineers neglected the structure for years before the city acquired it in 2018.

The city will talk to the Army Corps to see if it will at least make repairs to the base of the lighthouse, which it owns, Brown said.

“We’re trying to minimize the cost to the city,” he said.

The plan also includes $60,000 to plan for the north bluff stabilization project, which is expected to form the basis for what promises to be a multi-million-dollar project that will redefine the city’s north lakefront.

The budgeted amount is intended to provide matching funds that will be proposed in a Wisconsin Coastal Management Program grant application, according to a memo by Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, who proposed the $10 million project be done in 2024.

Brown said the goal is to “get us to the point the council has options to consider moving forward.”

It will include a look at what grants may be available to help fund the project, he said, noting that a timeline for the work depends on financing.

Before that project moves forward, Neitzke said, the city needs to figure out what deferred maintenance projects need to be handled and how to finance them.

“We’ve been putting things off for years and they have to be dealt with,” he said.

The capital improvement plan includes a number of maintenance projects, including $50,000 for improvements to the bandshell in Veterans Park, which officials said is a “focal point” in a park that hosts numerous festivals and events.

That would include painting, tuckpointing and repairs to the cement and crack filling.

The shelter at Kolbach Park is also slated to be rebuilt at a cost of $96,000, according to the plan, and there will be WiFi and security cameras installed at Upper Lake Park for $15,000 to help deter vandalism there.

The Niederkorn Library roof is slated to be repaired at a cost of $165,000, with officials noting that the roof hasn’t been updated since 2001 and additional leaks have been found this year.

The roof at City Hall is also slated for replacement at a cost of $225,000, officials said, noting the current roof was installed in 2005 and leaks have been developing recently.

Box culverts should be installed at Spring Street and Garfield Avenue at a cost of $50,000 to help eliminate flooding in the area, the plan states.

In addition to the annual street improvement program, the plan calls for a $110,000 sidewalk maintenance program and a $215,000 alley improvement program be funded.

To fund the capital improvement projects, the city is expected to borrow $24 million, with the rest of the funding coming from the city’s fund balance, open space fund, reserves and $202,000 from the tax levy.

But while the city is borrowing $24 million, not all of that will be repaid through the annual tax levy.

The water and wastewater improvements will be paid through rate increases.


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