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.