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PW-S board plans to create at-large school seat PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 17:54

Long-vacant position for towns of Saukville, Grafton prompts proposal that will require approval of voters

Lacking a candidate or even a willing appointee to fill a long-vacant seat, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board decided last week to try and change the way one of its nine members is elected.

The problem is the seat representing a small, sparsely populated section of the school district in the towns of Saukville and Grafton, which has been vacant for a year.

The board intends to change this seat to an at-large position that can be filled by a resident who lives anywhere in the district, not just in this small section of the district.

Board bylaws currently call for the board to consist of five members from the City of Port Washington, two from the Village of Saukville and one each from the Town of Port Washington and the towns of Saukville and Grafton. The proposed change would only affect the Saukville-Grafton town seat.

Although board members are elected from and represent specific areas of the district, all voters can vote for all candidates. For example, a Village of Saukville resident can vote for a City of Port Washington School Board candidate.

The proposed change, seen by officials as a preferred alternative to reducing the board to seven members, is not, however, a quick fix, and is one that must be approved by voters.

The board must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of 500 district residents to have a resolution put on the April 2017 ballot.

If the measure is approved by voters, it will not take effect until the three-year term of the current town of Saukville-Grafton seat expires in April 2019.

Although not expedient, the change is seen as needed. One of the dangers of a board with an even number of members, Supt. Michael Weber pointed out, is tie votes, although that hasn’t been a problem with a current board that almost always votes unanimously.

“They like to operate a lot on consensus,” Weber said of board members. “They express their opinions, then work things out.”

A vacant Saukville-Grafton town seat was not always a problem. For 16 years it was occupied by Jim Eden, who served as board president for two of those years before resigning in March 2014.

The board appointed Paul Krechel in July of that year. Krechel ran unopposed in the April 2015 election but resigned in October of that year.

Despite the district’s efforts to find an appointee to fill the seat, as well as an April 2016 election that failed to attract a registered or even a write-in candidate, the seat has remained vacant since Krechel’s departure.Daily Press

Exploreum, Light Station open for free Saturday PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 17:59

Port facilities among five area attractions showcased by Milwaukee Foundation

Expect the Port Exploreum and Light Station to be busy places on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The two facilities, both run by the Port Washington Historical Society, are among five Milwaukee area attractions open to the public for free that day, thanks to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Both the Exploreum, 188 N. Franklin St., and Light Station, 311 N. Johnson St., will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

A shuttle bus will run between the two buildings every 15 minutes.

Wayne Chrusciel, executive director of the Port Washington Historical Society,  said he expects as many as 250 to 300 people to visit the two Port attractions that day — far more than the 50 to 60 who visit them on a typical weekend day. 

In addition to drawing more people to the facilities, the event will provide the Exploreum and Light Station with a significant amount of publicity, Chrusciel said.

“I think this will give us an incredible amount of exposure with a lot of people who have never heard of us or who haven’t been in Port Washington for a long time,” he said. 

“We’re hoping it generates a lot of excitement.”

Both the Exploreum and the Port Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center have been receiving calls from people interested in the event since it was announced last month, Chrusciel noted.

The Exploreum is featuring the “Nothing But Nets: The Legacy of Commercial Fishing in Port Washington” exhibit, which will run through the end of the year.

Chrusciel noted that the tall ship Denis Sullivan will also be in Port, there will be a beer garden in Upper Lake Park and the city’s farmer’s market will be running on Oct. 15.

“It could be quite the weekend in Port,” he said. “We can really showcase the city and what we have to offer.”

The Foundation, in partnership with the Fund for Lake Michigan, is offering the free admission to what it calls “signature lakefront destinations” as part of its Gifts to the Community program.

Other facilities offering free admission Oct. 15 are the Milwaukee Art Museum, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Discovery World, all in Milwaukee.Daily Press

Many local households struggling financially, study says PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 17:53

Nearly one-third of county families barely making ends meet, according to United Way’s ALICE analysis 

Almost a third of Ozaukee County households struggle to make ends meet, according to a recent statewide study conducted by 43 United Way agencies across Wisconsin.

“These are people who are working but they are barely making ends meet,” said Barbara Bates-Nelson, executive director of the United Way of Northern Ozaukee.

“These people are working but they’re strapped. If that one emergency hits, it could put them over the edge.”

The so-called ALICE study — it stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed — is intended to cast a light on the state’s pool of residents who work at relatively low paying jobs, have little or no savings and are one emergency from falling into poverty.

The Ozaukee County communities with the highest number of households that fall within the ALICE or poverty levels are Thiensville with 44%, Saukville with 40%, Port Washington with 38% and Grafton with 35%, according to the study.

The study found that of Ozaukee County’s 34,913 households, 1,746, or 5%, are under the federal poverty level and 9,078 are under the ALICE threshold.

“We all know ALICE,” Bates-Nelson said. “ALICE is the recent college graduate unable to afford to live on his or her own, the young family strapped by child-care costs and the mid-career professional now underemployed.

“I think we would all agree that Ozaukee County is a great place to live and work but ... every day families are struggling to make ends meet and are forced to make choices or delay planning for the future, which puts the wider community at risk.”

Ozaukee County is one of Wisconsin’s wealthiest counties, and that is reflected in the study, which shows that 42% of families statewide, or 960,131, are struggling to support themselves. That’s triple the number expected, the study states.

The study, Bates-Nelson added, tells a more complete story than just one that looks at the poverty rate.

“When you think poverty, I think most people think of people who aren’t working,” she said. “These are people who are working, and they’re working hard but they’re barely making ends meet.

“When you put it in terms like that, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ It’s kind of staggering to people.”

The study measures the number of households that don’t earn enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

The study determines that basic budget based on the cost of living in each county. For Ozaukee County, that is $50,000 for households with members younger than 65 and $40,000 for those older.

Most of the households are renters, the study states, yet fewer than half of the state’s rental units are considered affordable.

Most Ozaukee County residents have high housing costs, the study states, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Because ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty rate, they often don’t qualify for government assistance programs, and nonprofit agencies often provide resources to help fill the gaps.

And those nonprofit agencies often rely on United Way for part of their funding. Last year, 12,000 individuals participated in United Way-funded programs, Bates-Nelson said.

“This mirrors what we’re hearing from the nonprofit community,” she said. 

“Our focus is to provide a basic foundation in education, financial stability and health, key elements that will improve the lives of both ALICE households and those in poverty for the long-term benefit of the wider community.” 

Bates-Nelson cited the United Way of Northern Ozaukee’s homeless prevention program, which helps people on a short-term basis get through emergency situations.

Most of those who use the program aren’t repeat customers but those who need a hand once, she said, adding the program enables them to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient again.

Last year, she said, the homeless prevention program helped 180 people who were in danger of losing their homes. As a result of the help they received, 83% are still in their homes today, Bates-Nelson said.

Another important issue United Way is focusing on is transportation, Bates-Nelson said, noting that if someone can’t afford a basic car repair they have few options to get to work. 

One of the most critical things about the study is that it illustrates the number of people who are forced to make decisions that have long-term effect — health care or electricity, medications or food — Bates-Nelson said.

“If you’re picking and choosing where you’re going to spend your money, chances are you’re putting off those preventive-type measures, like annual visits to the doctor that can catch problems before they become major health issues,” she said.

“You can only put off some of those things for so long.”  

United Way of Northern Ozaukee, along with its counterparts in Waukesha and Washington counties, conducted a similar study three years ago, and Bates-Nelson said that was an eye-opener because it showed that many people are struggling.

However, she said, it is difficult to compare the two studies because they differ in scope and detail.

“This was much more extensive,” she said.

“The exciting thing is that this study has been done statewide and, to some extent, nationwide,” Bates-Nelson said, noting similar studies have been done in 14 states. “It’s gaining momentum as a valuable piece of information to look at basic needs.”

There are no easy solutions to the issues in the Alice study, Bates-Nelson said.

“There are a number of issues here,” she said. “We’re looking to raise awareness and we’re looking for people to get involved in this. We’re trying to solve big, lasting problems.”Daily Press

County plans 2017 budget with no tax rate increase PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Mitch Maersch   
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 17:48

Committee recommends spending package that pared department’s initial requests

Ozaukee County’s Executive Committee is recommending a slightly larger budget carrying basically no increase in taxes to the County Board.

“We want to keep the taxes at no increase or a decrease,” County Board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt said.

The 2017 budget is slated to be $19.98 million with an estimated sales tax revenue of $7.8 million to be used to directly reduce the property tax levy.

The tax rate for library communities is projected at $1.80 per $1,000 of equalized property value. Non-library communities are expected to pay $2.10 per $1,000.

That would mean the owner of a  $250,000 home in a library community would pay $450 in county taxes and the same home owner in a non-library community would pay $520.

This year’s tax rates are $1.82 and $2.10, respectively.

When the budget first arrived on County Administrator Tom Meaux’s desk, it carried $7 million more in spending.

“Our staff did a good job working with department heads, and Tom Meaux did an extremely good job in getting us to a zero budget,” Schlenvogt said.

The county’s health insurance provider has not yet been selected but must be before the County Board takes action on the budget next month. Last month, the Finance Committee voted to put Group Health Trust on a 90-day notice of cancellation after the company failed to respond to the county’s request for proposal that was due in July.

“We’ve done this before. This is not the first time in my time here,” Meaux told the committee on Sept. 23.

GHT had submitted a bid just before the committee meeting, a zero percent increase not including the county’s employee clinic. But the county has another bid with a similar rate that includes the clinic.

While the Finance Committee works through bids from other health insurers, Schlenvogt said he doesn’t anticipate any change in the budget. “We have some good bids out there,” he said.

The budget includes $107,000 to restore the Miss Columbia mural in the County Board Room. Schlenvogt said restoring the ceiling is important since plaster is “actually falling off the ceiling,” and private funding and a grant will pay for the mural restoration itself.

The recently held Ozaukee County Autumn Open golf outing raised nearly $15,000 to be put toward restoring the 115-year-old mural.

Sheriff James Johnson took out a $20,000 request from his budget for cell phone analyzer equipment and software. He had made the request to retrieve cell phone data faster instead of using Milwaukee’s service.

But Mequon’s police department recently bought the equipment, and Ozaukee County will use their equipment for one year and see how it works.

The proposed budget calls for putting $112,000 in the capital reserve fund that could be used in case of a shortfall in capital projects in 2017.

The proposal recommends paying down $1.5 million in general fund debt. The general obligation debt will be $29.63 million.

The budget goes to the County Board on Wednesday, Oct. 19, for discussion with a public hearing scheduled for Monday, Oct. 31. The board may act on the budget Nov. 2. Daily Press

Challenge accepted PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 18:16

PWHS joins other local schools in Kapco program that inspires students to champion charitable causes

Port Washington High School is among four Ozaukee County high schools that have accepted the challenge of a Grafton company to tell the stories of those who make a difference in their communities and better the lives of others through campaigns that inspire generosity.

Port High is fielding three teams of eight students each that are competing against teams from Grafton, Cedarburg and Homestead high schools in the first-ever high school division of the Kapco Charitable Challenge.

Given their instructions last week by Jim Kacmarcik, president of Kapco Inc., a metal stamping firm, during a kickoff at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, students have less than a month to complete the challenge.

Their two-part mission starts with finding and telling the stories of first responders who through selflessness and courage have made remarkable contributions to their communities. Sara Grover, manager of operations and events for KNE, Kapco’s entertainment division, said the challenge is intended to highlight positive news in a day and age when negative stories abound.

For the second part of the challenge, teams were given $1,000 in seed money to spark campaigns to help those in need.

The idea, Grover said, is to inspire high school students to find creative causes and ways to involve their communities in an effort to better the lives of others.

“We want high school students to garner the support of their communities, to give others the opportunity to pay it forward,” she said. 

Kapco started the Charitable Challenge in 2008. Since then, college teams have raised tens of thousands of dollars for good works in their communities. 

Grover noted that in 2008 a team from Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon sparked what became a community effort championed by Kapco to renovate and make handicapped accessible the Grafton house of Karen Longoria, a preschool teacher battling cancer and mother of 13-year-old triplets, two of whom had cerebral palsy and used wheelchairs. The project was featured on NBC’s “Dateline.”

High school teams have until Oct. 25 to complete the challenge. That’s when they will present their accomplishment to a panel of judges from 6 to 9 p.m. at the KNE headquarters, 995 Badger Cir., Grafton.Daily Press

Should campers be allowed to park overnight in marina lot? PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 18:14

Harbormaster defends longtime practice after city gets complaints, questions

The sight of campers parked overnight in the Port Washington marina parking lot recently has raised a few eyebrows, especially since not far away a sign states “No Overnight Camping.”

Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said Tuesday that the marina has been providing a spot for a group of campers who visit about this time every year “for at least 10 years.”
They originally parked in the city lot next to the American Legion Hall, Cherny said, but when the city redesigned and reconstructed it, they couldn’t fit there.

Then the campers were moved to the city owned lot next to the former Victor’s restaurant, he said. However, that lot is being used to stage construction equipment this year.

“We’re not that busy right now, so they pulled in here,” Cherny said of the marina parking lot.

The campers usually stay for one to three weeks, visiting while the salmon are running, he said.

The marina charges them $10 a night, Cherny said, noting they don’t use electrical or water services. They do not have access to the marina buildings, he added.

“It’s not like a campground,” Cherny said.

“They’re decent people. They clean up after themselves,” he said. “They haven’t caused any problems. They don’t make noise or disturb others. They’re just here fishing and then staying overnight in their campers.”

Some of the campers set up grills and smokers, but Cherny said when he told them that wasn’t allowed, they packed them up.

There were never more than four or five campers in the lot at any one time, Cherny said. In the past, because the campers were inconspicuous, there weren’t any complaints about them, he added. 

But this year there were some complaints, he said, prompting him to look into the city’s policy on camping.

Cherny said he wasn’t aware of any city ordinance prohibiting camping. “If there is one, we’ll have to stop,” he said. “If they (aldermen) enforce the ordinance, we’ll stop doing it.”

The campers were all gone by Tuesday, he said, and the marina staff told them to call next year before they come to see if the practice would be allowed.Daily Press

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