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Port may take another look at funding county rescue boat PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Wednesday, 21 October 2015 22:19

Commission suggests itwill revisit debate overshared funding for service

Funding for the Ozaukee County rescue boat, which is housed in the Port Washington marina and operated by the county, could once again become a contentious issue.

Members of the Port Washington Harbor Commission last week suggested the city’s subsidy for the rescue boat be reduced.

Although City Administrator Mark Grams on Tuesday said the idea won’t fly this year, he said it could be brought up again next year.

“It’s too far into the budget process this year,” Grams said, noting he had broached the issue with Ald. Dan Becker, who is also a county supervisor. “We could look at it next year.”

The city currently provides the county with a free boat slip and $1,500 in fuel each season, Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said, as well as a $10,000 subsidy.

Harbor Commission members, when reviewing their budget on Oct. 12, said it’s time to revisit the issue.

“I think with all the big box stores and everything going on, the county’s doing pretty well,” Commission Chairman Gerald Gruen Jr. said. “When we agreed to do this, we had some money and they didn’t. Now we’re a little tight.

“I’m all for the rescue boat. I just think they may be a little better able to handle this.”

The city has traditionally provided the slip and fuel, Grams said. The financial subsidy was added after a number of county supervisors threatened for several years to end the rescue boat unless the city helped support it, noting Port Washington has the only harbor and marina in the county.

But charter captain Dale Allen noted that it’s not just Port residents who make use of the rescue boat’s services. When the boat goes to Belgium to aid a boater, Belgium doesn’t help pay for that service, he added.

“What if we just took it out of the budget and didn’t pay it?” asked commission member Jerry Baganz. 

“How should we voice this to the county?”

The commission’s discussion came as members heard that the city is facing a difficult budget year. 

In the past, Grams said, the city was able to increase its expenditures by 2% to 2.5% and still fall within the limits of the state’s expenditure restraint law. This year, because the consumer price index is low, the budget can only increase about 1.2%.

The budget is also constrained by state levy limits. Because of the way the formula works, Grams said, “this is the tough year. Next year we’re going to have another $100,000 we can levy.”

“It’s not a pretty situation,” Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of the commission, said.Daily Press

“We need to get their ear. Maybe if you put in the paper we’ll only rescue people from Port Washington it’ll get their attention.” 

The city’s finance committee met all day Tuesday to work on the proposed 2016 budget.

Grams said he still needs to finalize some numbers, but the budget is largely completed — with the rescue boat subsidy.

The budget also includes funding for another police officer, he said, although the position likely won’t be authorized until mid-year.

Proposed county budget includes new assistant district attorney PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by MICHAEL LoCICERO   
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 19:46

Committee backs request for position after state fails to pay for additional prosecutor

An Ozaukee County committee recom-mended last week that the county do what the state has not by funding an additional assistant district attorney position in the 2016 budget.

Although it’s the state’s responsibility to pay for county prosecutors, the Executive Committee added $74,462 to the proposed budget for a third assistant district attorney after being told by District Attorney Adam Gerol that a county-funded position is the only hope of getting his office the help it needs in the near future.

“I’m basically asking for this by default,” Gerol said. “The state should be funding this, but they failed. I don’t have an explanation for it.”

Ozaukee County last added an assistant district attorney in 1979 and has one prosecutor for approximately 29,000 residents.

The state average, Gerol said, is a 1-to-13,000 ratio.

Among counties of similar size, St. Croix County in northwest Wisconsin has six full-time prosecutors for 85,930 residents.

Eau Claire and Fond du Lac counties, with just more than 101,000 residents each, have eight full-time prosecutors.

Gerol said the lack of staffing has caused his office to “screw up from time to time.” 

“The easiest thing for a prosecutor to do is charge a case,” Gerol said. “We should be expected to put at least one day of preparation in for a case. I don’t have time to do that.”

Supr. Kathy Geracie, a member of the committee, said the county can’t afford to ignore Gerol’s request. 

“This is a commitment to public safety,” Geracie said. “This is common sense.”

Supr. Karl Hertz said he would likely support the new position when it’s voted on by the County Board, but cautioned that adding the position may make the state reconsider future funding in the district attorney’s office.

“I think it’s inevitable that the state would not fund more positions and we would be lucky to keep the ones we have,” Hertz said. 

The committee also recommended spending $114,000 on an energy action plan that would replace lighting at some county buildings with more efficient options.

An initial draft of the budget prepared by County Administrator Tom Meaux held the tax levy flat, following a board directive. However, the county can increase its tax levy by about $187,000 without increasing taxes because, in part, of an increase in equalized property value.Daily Press

With the changes made by the committee, the proposed 2016 tax levy is $19.7 million, an increase of 0.96% from this year, and the tax rate is $1.84 per $1,000 of equalized valuation, a decrease of four cents from this year. 

Residents who live in rural areas and pay the federated library tax as part of their county tax bill will see a tax rate decrease of three cents, or $2.12 per $1,000 of equalized value.

The county’s equalized valuation rose 3.19% from last year to $10.7 billion.

The board is expected to discuss the Executive Committee’s proposed budget on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, with adoption expected at the board’s Wednesday, Nov. 4, meeting.

Marina parking crunch concerns city officials PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 19:44

Proposed construction, seasonal shortage of spaces have commission exploring ways to help tenants, anglers

Parking took center stage Monday as the Port Washington Harbor Commission debated needs in the marina area, especially if three large building projects are constructed nearby next summer.

“I want to know what would happen with parking with all the proposed building that may be going on down here,” Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of the Harbor Commission, said. 

“What are our concerns here? I don’t think any of us want that to affect our marina tenants or fishermen.”

Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said the concern is easy to define — “The reality is there are times when there isn’t enough parking.”

There are 270 marina slips, he said, and only about 150 parking spots in the marina lot, not including the trailer parking.

“We are surviving on what we’ve got,” he said, noting the marina makes use of            about 20 trailer spots in the Victor’s restaurant lot and street parking when needed.

But if the construction projects move ahead at the same time, commission members said, the situation will change because the available parking will be reduced.

“It’s a domino effect,” commission member Jerry Baganz said. “We’ve had some safety valves, and those safety valves are being taken away, one by one.”

Those three potential projects are Port Harbour Lights, which is adjacent to the parking lot behind Duluth Trading Co.; the Blues Factory, which is proposed to take up the existing lot at the end of the north slip marina; and a development on the former Victor’s restaurant lot off Washington Street. 

Members of the charter fishing fleet have expressed concern about whether staging for the construction projects would take up the nearby lots, constricting what they said is already limited parking.

If their customers or marina tenants can’t find convenient parking, several captains noted, they won’t return to the city.

“It only takes one season to push people out of the marina,” said Dale Allen, vice president of the charter fishing association.

“If you lose 10 people, you don’t get those 10 back.”

Although City Administrator Mark Grams noted that a recent parking study showed there was sufficient parking in the area, commission members and the captains disagreed.

“What we’re really concerned about is peak parking,” Baganz said. “Ninety percent of the time there’s enough parking. But what does the city do when there just isn’t enough parking? We need to identify places to send people.”

When commission members discussed what they see as parking needs in the area, Driscoll said he wanted to hear not just their concerns but potential solutions as well.

Trailer parking is an acute need, commission members said.

Lisa Rathke, assistant harbormaster, suggested the city reconfigure the parking lot off Lake Street next to the Legion Hall to again allow for overflow trailer parking.

“If the Victor’s lot goes, we need to take out the boulevard at the Legion,” she said. “That would be very helpful.” 

The marina used to send trailer owners to the lot, she said, but after the city rebuilt it several years ago, newly installed medians made it impossible for trailers to maneuver in the lot.

Commission members also suggested the city think twice before selling any portion of the city-owned lot next to Victor’s, noting it is an important asset.

To ease the concerns of charter fishermen who said their customers can’t park nearby, Rathke suggested that the city create a loading zone in the lot behind Duluth Trading Co. 

Before the city rebuilt the lot, there were three short-term parking spots dedicated for this purpose, she noted.Daily Press

“That’s one thing we should have done,” Grams said.

Rathke also noted the need for marina staff and tenants to be involved in discussions about redesigning the marina parking lot — something currently being handled by the Main Street Design Committee.

While expressing concern about parking in the marina area, Driscoll said that can’t be the city’s only concern.

“We can’t just talk about the charters. We can’t just talk about the marina or businesses,” he said. “We have to talk about everything.”

A tribute to Port player, groundskeeper PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 20:09

Plaque honoring late Demge will be unveiled Friday night at entrance to school football field

DuWayne Demge spent a lot of time on the Port Washington High School football field, first as a player, then as a groundskeeper.

So it seemed fitting, his co-workers thought, to remember their friend who died of cancer on Feb. 8, 2014, with a plaque on one of two pillars at the entrance to the field named for his former coach, Al Urness.

“I called Al and asked him if he would like a neighbor on the archway, and he said, ‘Sure, DuWayne was a great guy,’” said Janet Trzecinski, secretary to the principal of Port High and a friend of Demge who helped organize the memorial.

The plaque, which is mounted opposite of the one acknowledging Urness’ contributions to the school and its football program, will be unveiled during a 6 p.m. ceremony Friday, Oct. 9, prior to the Port vs. Germantown football game.

“We decided this would be a very fitting place to remember our friend since he spent so much time on the field,” Trzecinski said. 

The “we” she referred to is a group of school district employees who remember Demge, a custodian and groundskeeper for the district for more than 20 years, as a big-hearted man whose life both as a student and adult revolved around the Port-Saukville School District.

    The group’s fundraising effort began before Demge’s death as a way to support him during what became a four-year battle against a rare form of lung cancer. Those efforts continued over the years, netting enough money, along with donations, to pay for the plaque. Among the donations was a gift from the Port Washington Firefighters Association, appropriate since Demge was a firefighter for many years.

    “The staff has done a lot of different things over the years to help him out during his fight and decided after his death that this was a good way to use some of the money raised because he was such an integral part of taking care of the field he once played on,” said Steve Schmidt, a school district custodian and assistant fire chief. 

Highland Drive expected to reopen in town this week PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 20:08

Highland Drive in the Town of Port Washington should reopen by the end of this week.

Town Chairman Jim Melichar said Monday that crews from Vinton Construction Co. of Manitowoc were poised to begin work on the shoulders of the road Tuesday, followed by landscaping.

“Everybody’s telling me how much they like it,” Melichar said, noting that some people have traversed the road even though it was still closed.

“It’s a safer feeling than before,” Supr. Jim Rychtik said.

Now that trees bordering the road have been cut back, Highland feels like a wider span, Supr. Mike Didier said.

The road project was spurred by the fact that concrete on the Highland Drive overpass was spalling and small pieces fell onto the trail below, prompting Ozaukee County and the town to take action to replace the structure — a large box culvert that serves as a bridge.

The project eliminated the bridge north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road and making it safer for both motorists and bicyclists.

The project, which began three weeks ago, was expected to cost $214,817.Daily Press

However, Melichar said that after he learned the contract only called for about 550 feet of the roadway to be resurfaced, he asked crews to pulverize and lay a new asphalt surface on more of the road.

The result, he said, is that all of the west end of Highland Drive will have a new surface.

“That was the worst part of the road,” Melichar said. “It would have cost us a lot more if we did it later.”

The additional work will cost the town $28,000, he said, an amount Melichar said will likely be covered by the road budget.

Man notorious for waging paper war jailed at last PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 20:03

Magritz arrested on 2011 charge that he filed fake document like those that put him in prison 12 years ago

A former Town of Fredonia man who was sentenced in 2003 to five years in prison for peppering Ozaukee County officials with bogus legal documents and, after serving his time, fled from authorities in 2011 when charged with filing another fake document, has been arrested after nearly four years on the lam.

Steven A. Magritz, 70, who was charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court on Dec. 1, 2011, with one felony count of criminal slander of title, was arrested in Waukesha County on Sept. 23 and transported to Ozaukee County, where he made his first court appearance on the 2011 case the following day.

Magritz launched his campaign of harassment against officials after the county seized his 62-acre property off Shady Lane in the Town of Fredonia through tax foreclosure proceedings and evicted him and his wife from their home in 2001.

The property, which includes sprawling woodlands along the Milwaukee River, is now part of the county’s Hawthorne Hills Park.

Throughout the foreclosure process and during the various legal proceedings that followed, Magritz was recalcitrant, as he was during two recent court appearances.

During his initial appearance on Sept. 24, he told Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy he did not accept the charges against him, then refused to confirm that he was, indeed, Steven Magritz, according to court records. 

Malloy set his bail at $5,000.

When asked by Judge Sandy Williams during an Oct. 2 preliminary hearing if he was Steven Magritz, he replied, “I do not recognize you, ma’am.

“I do not consent to these proceedings. I do not consent to accept your liability as a fiduciary of the public. I wish to be set at liberty immediately.” 

Williams ruled there was probable cause to support the charge against Magritz and bound him over for trial.

The judge urged Magritz, who is representing himself, to hire a lawyer or allow a public defender or court-appointed attorney to represent him. After Magritz said, “I don’t understand any of this,” Williams appointed stand-by counsel, which is a lawyer appointed to assist a person who has invoked his right to self representation to ensure a fair trail.

Magritz is charged with filing a “confirmation deed” with the Ozaukee County Register of Deeds Office in November 2011. Register of Deeds Ron Voigt, who said there is no such thing as a confirmation deed, testified last week that the document is an attempt by Magritz to reclaim his property. 

Magritz filed similar, often nonsensical, documents around the time the county foreclosed on his property, but then his attacks became personal and there were consequences for officials.Daily Press

He filed involuntary bankruptcy petitions and fake liens against a number of county officials, which resulted in the cancellation of credit cards and continuing credit problems for some officials.

The filings were investigated by a special state Domestic Security Unit created by then-Attorney General Jim Doyle, and Magritz was charged in Dane County Circuit Court with seven counts of criminal slander of title in May 2002.

Seven months later, a jury convicted him of all counts.

In addition to five years in prison, Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust sentenced Magritz to 18 months on probation.

Magritz faces a maximum three years in prison and three years of extended supervision if convicted of the pending Ozaukee County charge. 

He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 15 for arraignment.

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