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Port candidates to tackle issues at forum PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 19:25

A visioning and candidate forum for aldermanic candidates in the City of Port Washington will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 25.

The forum will be in the Lakeview Community Room in the former Wilson House at the corner of Main and Franklin streets in downtown Port.

The forum, organized by a group of Port residents, is intended as an opportunity for residents to discuss issues and share their visions of the city’s future with the candidates.

It’s also a chance for the candidates to meet residents.

There are two contested races in the  April 4 aldermanic election — in the 3rd District, where newcomers Michael Gasper and Don Cosentine will face off, and the 7th District, where incumbent Ald. Dan Becker and John Sigwart, a former city engineer, will compete.

Ald. Mike Ehrlich is running uncontested for the city’s 1st District seat.

In the 5th District, incumbent Ald. Kevin Rudser is not seeking re-election and newcomer Jonathan Pleitner, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, is the lone candidate on the ballot.Daily Press

 
Trump’s budget may endanger marine sanctuary PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 08 March 2017 19:22

Port mayor says public support for NOAA preserve particularly important with president’s budget looming

Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada on Tuesday asked area residents to ramp up their support for a proposed Lake Michigan shipwreck sanctuary, saying it’s more important now than ever because President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would significantly cut the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“We don’t know how that would potentially flow through to the Great Lakes fund or NOAA,” Mlada said, noting the budget proposal would slash funding for NOAA by 18%. “Clearly, I think there is some degree of concern with the potential cuts.

“Now is the time to let your voices be heard. This is something that’s simply too important. We have to push this down the field and into the end zone.”

Mlada said he is hoping for a good turnout at a public meeting on the sanctuary proposal  from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16, in the Lakeview Community Room in the former Wilson House in downtown Port.

Public comments on the sanctuary’s draft environmental impact statement and management plans will be taken at the meeting, with input sought on everything from whether people support the overall concept of a sanctuary to the borders of the proposed sanctuary — there are two alternatives, the original three-county plan and one that includes the waters off Kewaunee County.

Mlada and other officials have long touted the impact a national sanctuary could have on the area, in terms of education, tourism and community vitality.

That would especially be true if the sanctuary is approved — something expected by late 2017 or early 2018 — and NOAA decides  where to locate its headquarters. 

The only other Great Lakes sanctuary, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich., draws thousands of people annually to the community.

Mlada noted that an estimated 100,000 people visit Alpena annually, and the impact is significant.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism estimates that a visitor spends $60 every day at his destination, Mlada said — funds that could help area businesses survive.

He also noted that Alpena had one hotel before the Thunder Bay sanctuary was created, and now it has three.

The proposed three-county Lake Michigan sanctuary — NOAA’s preferred option — includes 37 known wrecks, and officials believe there could be as many as 80 others waiting to be discovered. Fifteen of these vessels are preserved virtually intact, officials said, adding 18 of the known wrecks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ten of the known shipwrecks are in the waters off Ozaukee County, with as many as 11 undiscovered wrecks believed to be off the county’s shore.

Public comments on the proposed Lake Michigan sanctuary are being accepted through March 31.

“This is our opportunity to weigh in,” Mlada said. “We need to do all we can locally to make sure our voices are heard. I don’t think we’re sounding alarm bells, but there is a sense of urgency.”

Ald. Dan Becker concurred, saying, “This is vitally important. There’s an environmental benefit. There’s a recreational benefit with the diving that would be done. There’s obviously a tourism benefit.”

The draft plans for the Lake Michigan sanctuary may be found at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin/wisconsin-proposed-deis-dmp.pdf.

Comments should be sent to Russ Green, NOAA’s regional coordinator for the Lake Michigan sanctuary,  at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, 1 University Dr., Sheboygan 53081.

They may also be emailed via the website www.regulations.gov and referencing the docket number NOAA-NOS-2016-0150.Daily Press

 
Shared-ride taxi service participation tops record PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Mitch Maersch   
Wednesday, 01 March 2017 19:08

With service attracting more than 113,000 patrons, county plans to add stops

Participation in Ozaukee County’s shared-ride taxi service reached a record high in 2016, and three more stops in Milwaukee County are being added.

Ridership reached 113,569 last year, a 4% increase from 2015 and a 52% leap from 2010, which had nearly 75,000 riders.

Three-fourths of riders using the service are elderly or disabled, County Public Works Director Jon Edgren told the Public Works Committee last month.

Billed service hours in 2016 increased by 5%, but total costs only went up 2.7% and net costs just .73%, according to a report to the committee.

The service got its highest fare box recovery ever, and buying fuel in bulk set the price per gallon at $1.75, Transit Supt. Jason Wittek said.

The county pays the state fuel tax but not sales tax, Edgren said.

Fuel efficiency reached a record in 2016, with the service getting 14.05 miles per gallon, up from 12.9 in 2015. Fuel cost was down by nearly $40,000.

Some of the savings is due to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Since 2015, the county replaced six Crown Victorias that got 19 miles per gallon with six hybrid vehicles that get 52 mpg.

Nearly 15,000 gallons of fuel totaling $25,000 was saved in 2016 due to fleet upgrades the past three years, according to a report to the committee from Wittek.

The service this year is replacing four of its vehicles and adding two hybrid cars to bring the fleet to 28 vehicles.

Three wheelchair-accessible mini-buses are being replaced, along with one rear-load wheelchair-accessible mini-van, which replaces a wheelchair-accessible mini-bus.

The old mini-bus gets nine miles per gallon while the new mini-van gets 25. Total cost for the vehicles is $240,000. Ozaukee County Transit Service has $275,000 in this year’s budget for vehicle replacements, the report said.

Ridership is continuing to climb. Wittek said that January had 10,218 riders, the biggest month in history of the taxi service. Ridership in January 2016 was 9,448 and the high for the year was 9,968 in March.

Numbers were aided by three additional stops in Milwaukee County this year.

The committee approved the boundary changes after a yearlong study with input from businesses, nonprofit agencies, education organizations and other governmental agencies.

In addition, the committee expanded the service by one hour from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays to accommodate second and third-shift workers.

The shared-ride taxi service could be merged with Washington County’s service, County Administrator Tom Meaux said.

The counties last year merged their public health departments.

The county’s express bus service had 80,601 riders in 2016, up 5% from 2015, but its third-lowest total since 1998.

Billed service hours and total costs were both down 1%, while net costs fell by 2%.

Wittek said the goal is to keep making the bus more attractive for casual riders. From Cedarburg, the bus can get to downtown Milwaukee in 22 minutes.

“That’s a pretty good deal,” Wittek said.

Summerfest ridership, with stops in Saukville and Grafton, returned to a normal level after bus drivers went on strike from July 1 to 3 in 2015. Ridership was 25,872 in 2016, up from 15,558 in 2015.

In 2014, the county started using Milwaukee County Transit Service buses exclusively to save on capital replacement costs.

For taxi and bus rates and more information, go to www.ozaukeetransit.com.Daily Press

 
Supreme Court overturns DNA decision in 1982 murder case PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 01 March 2017 19:05

Judges rule Denny is not entitled to have evidence from Grafton crime tested

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has ruled that Jeffrey C. Denny, one of two brothers sentenced to life in prison for a gruesome 1982 murder in Grafton, is not entitled to have evidence in his case tested for DNA.

In issuing its ruling Tuesday, the court overruled the Court of Appeals, which had said Denny was entitled to have evidence in his case tested for DNA more than 34 years after the crime. Such tests did not exist when Grafton resident Christopher Mohr was bludgeoned and stabbed to death at his home on Jan. 26, 1982.

The decision also effectively reiterates one made by Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland in January 2015 stating that Denny was not entitled to DNA testing of a shattered marijuana bong, a bloody towel, a pair of gloves and hair found clutched in Mohr’s hand.

Denny’s case is being handled by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which argued that the absence of his DNA on the objects could suggest he is innocent and the presence of other’s DNA could indicate someone else killed Mohr. The state’s case is being argued by the Office of the Solicitor General.

One of the main issues before the court was whether the result of DNA test would be relevant in Denny’s case.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Wednesday that the court’s decision recognizes “this is simply one of the cases where the evidence of guilt is so extreme that the defendant doesn’t get it (the testing).”

However, Gerol said, there are still questions left unanswered in the decision about when a defendant is entitled to post-conviction DNA testing that may mean it will be appealed. “There are some interesting things I think might make it amenable to federal review,” he said. “I don’t know that the U.S. Supreme Court has really weighed in on post-conviction DNA testing.”

Denny was 17 and his brother Kent was 19 when they were convicted of first-degree murder after a nine-day trial.

Jeffrey Denny is incarcerated at the Oakhill Correctional Institution. Kent Denny has died, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Division of Community Corrections.

The two were convicted in the death of Mohr, with the state arguing the murder grew out of a drug-related dispute between  Mohr and the Dennys.Daily Press

 
School District tries to spark interest in land it wants to sell PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:02

Port parcel seen as ideal for subdivision worth $800,000 by one estimate

Attempting to spark efforts to sell 54.5 acres of farmland the Port Washington-Saukville School District has owned for more than 47 years, the School Board last week decided to release a marketing report that describes the property as an attractive site for residential development.

The report, prepared by Moegenburg Research Inc. of Milwaukee, concludes that, based on an average size of 14,000 square feet, 127 lots could be developed on the property, which is north of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL on Port Washington’s west side. 

That suggests the property, once seen as a future site for a school, could be a windfall for the district, although the excerpts of the Moegenburg report released by the district do not include appraisal information.

The district has not released the appraisal to protect its bargaining interests, Supt. Michael Weber said, and is in the process of having the land reappraised in light of an increase in new home construction in Port Washington. 

Tom Didier, owner/broker of Re/Max United Port Washington, who is not involved in efforts to sell the property, said in an interview this week that with an increasing demand for residential sites in the Port Washington area, it’s a seller’s market.

“All the market indications are good, and inventory is very low,” he said. “All the data we’ve seen suggests this year will mimic last year, which was pretty busy.”

High demand for residential sites is driving up prices, although not to where they were in the early 2000s when land was selling for $20,000 or more an acre, Didier said.

“Then the market tanked,” he said.

But in the current market, land like that owned by the School District, which is abutted by utilities and city streets, could sell for $15,000 an acre, Didier said. That would make the property worth more than $800,000.

“I don’t think we’re back in the $20,000-an-acre range, but maybe $15,000,” he said.

Thus far, the School Board has been committed to the for-sale-by-owner approach. Although it solicited proposals from brokers, it shelved those in September when it received an unsolicited offer for the property. The board countered that offer, which officials described as attractive, but the counteroffer has lapsed.

The board received a second offer earlier this year, but after meeting in closed session to consider it, took no action.

“We’ve received a couple more inquiries,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming told the board last week.

Although farmland now, the property is seen as a desirable residential site because of its location and proximity to other subdivisions — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods at White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east. It’s bordered by farmland to the north.

Referring to comments from area real estate brokers, the Moegenburg report states, “They noted that the (property) has a great location within Port Washington and all utilities and services are to the site boundaries. The only downfall is the fact that there are a number of other subdivisions in the area that are trying to fill up, which provides greater competition.”

In May, a year after the approval of a $49.4 million referendum that reflects the board’s commitment to renovating and expanding its current schools rather than building new ones, officials decided it was time to sell the land the district has long owned.

The district purchased the property, which is comprised of two parcels, in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,944.

Since then it has been seen as a site for a future school, but as the city developed around it and the needs of schools changed, it became a less desirable school site. And with the approval of a referendum that provides $46.5 million to modernize the high school and $3.8 million to expand Dunwiddie Elementary School, officials said it was time put the property on the market.

Proceeds from the sale of the land are to be used to finance capital improvements, and a leading contender is Port Washington High School’s outdoor athletic facilities, officials have said. While the referendum is financing building improvements, it does not include money for outdoor athletic facilities. 

Officials envision a fairly sweeping project that would include the replacement of the grass football field with artificial turf, new lighting and sound systems and a press box. The project could be expanded to include artificial turf and other improvements to the baseball diamonds and track and field facilities. Daily Press

 
County won’t eliminate Summerfest bus stop PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Mitch Maersch   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 19:59

Popular service will continue to use Saukville lot

The Summerfest bus stop in Saukville has been saved.

Ozaukee County’s Public Works Committee last week agreed to keep the bus stop after getting input from the manager of one of the businesses that would have been affected if it was discontinued.

If eliminated, the county’s only stop for a bus to the world’s largest music festival would have been at the Home Depot and Target parking lot in Grafton.

Transit Supt. Jason Wittek told the committee he talked to the manager of Home Depot and “it went about as well as I thought.”

Wittek said the manager told him he did not like the idea of occupying the extra riders in his parking lot during late June and early July since the Fourth of July is one of the peak times for the big-box retailer.

Of riders using the Ozaukee County service, 63% use the Target and Home Depot lot. The parking capacity of the combined lot is about 900 spaces. The Walmart stop in Saukville has 500.

Wittek said he estimated an additional 200 parking spaces at the Grafton stop could be occupied if the Saukville stop was eliminated.

“If I told him 50 spaces, I don’t think he would go for that either,” Wittek said.

Committee member LeRoy Haeuser suggested respecting the manager’s wishes.

“Our businesses pay a lot of taxes,” he said.

Wittek said he hadn’t yet contacted the manager of Target.

Eliminating the Saukville stop would have saved the county an estimated $26,000.

At the committee’s meeting in December, Wittek said that if the Saukville stop was eliminated, Summerfest buses would have stopped in Grafton every 15 minutes instead of every 20.

In Wittek’s report to the committee, the Milwaukee County Transit System, which operates the bus, said eliminating the Saukville stop would streamline service while decreasing costs, increasing bus frequency and shortening ride times.

Due to the popularity of the service, MCTS had provided paid staff at both stops to help with payment and boarding. An online ticket purchase system implemented last year helped reduce costs.

Operating costs and maintenance for the two-stop service last year totaled $126,500, which was offset by $87,000 in ridership fees. That left the county paying MCTS $39,500.Daily Press

 
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