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Editorials
Saukville and Port should connect on water PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 18:20

The fact that Saukville needs more water and Port Washington has an excess of it should lead to sharing a resource and a service

Why would the Village of Saukville drill a new municipal well at a cost of $2 million when a limitless supply of treated drinking water can be tapped less than 500 yards away?

    The question is not being answered in Saukville. It’s not even being asked. It should be.

    The fact that Saukville needs a new well as soon as one can be drilled and put on line should be the catalyst for giving serious consideration to connecting the village to the Port Washington municipal water system.

    The Port Washington water utility has more than enough capacity to serve the entire Village of Saukville. By connecting with a pipeline along Highway 33 only a little more than a quarter-mile long, the village could immediately augment its water supply, and as its wells inevitably degrade in the future could increase its use of Lake Michigan water from Port Washington as needed.

    A cost analysis would be a key part of any consideration of Saukville using Port Washington water, and there is reason to expect it would show such an arrangement to be a good financial deal for both communities.

    Wells are expensive. The $2 million price tag on the proposed new Saukville well includes $300,000 just for a test well. It is estimated that the total outlay for the new well will increase rates for village water users by 12%.

    The Port Washington water system has significant excess capacity. Serving additional water users with the existing water treatment plant and infrastructure could lower costs for all users. Every indication is that the city would be a willing water seller or even a partner in a future joint water utility.

     A Port-Saukville water connection is so logical that it was foreseen in the 1970s when Port Washington installed a new water tower to serve the city’s west side. The tower’s capacity and elevation were planned with the possibility in mind of sending city water to Saukville.

    Saukville has an efficiently-run water utility and its four wells have been adequate to serve residential and industrial customers. Still, wells are prone to problems. The village’s No. 4 well, dating to 1941, has been failing for more than a decade and now has to be replaced. In general, the aquifers from which wells pump water become depleted over time. As deeper sources are accessed, water quality declines.

      The City of Waukesha offers a telling example. Rampant development so overtaxed the  city’s well system that it can no longer provide safe drinking water. Waukesha is desperate to get Lake Michigan water, but has been thwarted by international regulations preventing the use of lake water by municipalities from which wastewater does not drain back to the lake.

    That’s the case with Waukesha, but certainly not with Saukville. The latter’s wastewater flows directly to the lake via the Milwaukee River. And thus abundant lake water is there for the taking.    

    It is hard to imagine any two municipalities that are better candidates for shared services than Port Washington and Saukville. The city and the village, which share a school district, have literally grown together. It is probably safe to say that at various points along Highway 33 many people aren’t sure if they’re in Port or Saukville, so seamless is the connection between the two communities.

    Yet a shared services task force made up of representatives from both communities has been meeting for years with little to show for its efforts.

    The place to start meaningful sharing of services that will benefit taxpayers of both communities is as basic as it can be—with the water people need to live.

    The Saukville well project cannot go forward without approval by the Wisconsin Public Commission, and the PSC could direct the village to look into getting water from other municipalities.

    Before it comes to that, village officials should act on their own initiative and move to take advantage of a safe, dependable water source that will never (in any foreseeable future) run dry. It’s only a few hundred yards away.


 
Too much noise, too little action PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 17:10

It’s time for the Town of Port to stand up for its citizens who have had to endure unacceptable noise from Briggs & Stratton for years

The term “good corporate citizen” is used so much around here these days that it’s ready to become a cliche. And that’s a good thing. It means that the boards of directors and executives of increasing numbers of industries doing business in the small cities, villages and towns of Ozaukee County understand their responsibility to support their communities in more ways than paying taxes and providing jobs and to be sensitive to the impact of their operations on their neighbors.

    Here’s a safe prediction: Briggs & Stratton will not be getting a Good Corporate Citizen of the Year award from the Town of Port Washington.

    Briggs & Stratton is the company that took away hundreds of jobs in Port Washington but left a nuisance.

    Briggs bought Simplicity Manufacturing Co., Port Washington’s biggest employer, in 2004, then three years later shut down the operation that employed 325 people. It sent the plant’s lawn equipment and snow thrower production and the jobs to Georgia. But it did not send along its testing operation. That remains in a developed area of the Town of Port Washington, where it has been annoying nearby residents with its noise for years.

    The testing involves running many engines for long hours. Neighboring homeowners say the engines run 15 hours a day on pavement from which their sound reverberates. With no noise-reduction measures in place, the sound of the droning engines is loud, travels far, is inescapable in homeowners’ yards and even penetrates the walls and windows of homes.

    
    There ought to be a law against this sort of nuisance, and it turns out there is. The Town of Port Washington has an ordinance requiring excessive noise to be controlled. More than a dozen neighbors came to a Town Board meeting last week to ask why the ordinance is not being enforced.

    Good question.

    The ordinance exists for just such circumstances as these. The neighbors and town officials have repeatedly asked Briggs & Stratton to do something about noise, with no results except a nose-thumbing from the company. The next step should be enforcement of the noise ordinance.

    Town officials answered the question by saying it is difficult to make citations against corporations for noise violations stick and that they were told by workers at the testing facility that suggestions that acoustic fencing be installed are “working their way through corporate.” There has to be a better answer.

     When the complaining residents persisted at the meeting, Town Chairman Jim Melichar reportedly got a bit testy. Elected officials have a right to display some irritation, of course, but citizens exercising their right to petition their local government for relief from a well documented nuisance should not be the target of it. The chairman’s testiness would serve the town better if it were aimed at the company that has defied the town’s reasonable efforts to effect a mitigation of the nuisance.

    It’s evident that everyone is frustrated. The neighbors keep asking for help and don’t get it. Town officials have tried to reason with the company and have gotten nowhere. Yet Briggs & Stratton has given no sign whatsoever that it is interested in doing even the minimum required to qualify as a good corporate citizen.

    That leaves one option: Put the town attorney on the case, get the sheriff’s department to serve a paper, enforce the ordinance.



 
Don’t clutter harbor views PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 16:31

Commercial development in open space at the north end of the Port harbor, as called for in a downtown redevelopment plan, would be a mistake

As late as the middle of the 20th century, the north slip of the Port Washington harbor was virtually surrounded by buildings. Views of the water were blocked by ramparts of brick and mortar. At the north end of the harbor, the massive presence of a Wisconsin Chair Co. building made the harbor invisible to anyone walking or driving on Washington Street or living in the nearby neighborhood.

    Progress came and in an era of remarkably enlightened land use the buildings were cleared away and the north slip was remade into a heart-of-the city marina embraced by walkways, a park and open space that ensures the satisfying water views that are now Port Washington’s signature.

    Now there is talk of a new round of progress, but this progress has a whiff of the not-so-progressive past about it in that it calls for filling the open space at the north end of the harbor, the very place where the chair factory structure once stood, with a building.

    Granted, the building suggested in a study commissioned by the city for a downtown redevelopment plan is a restaurant or brew pub, and not part of a four-story manufacturing plant, but it would nonetheless be a structure needlessly plopped in the middle of one of Port Washington’s public water views.

    The rationale repeated at a recent meeting of the Plan Commission is that the site, currently a parking lot, is too valuable to not be developed.

    The notion that commercial development must trump other uses of lakefront land doesn’t square with the lesson learned in the city’s journey from a cluttered, overbuilt and eventually blighted waterfront to today’s welcoming and aesthetically rewarding downtown harbor district: What is too valuable here—too valuable to sacrifice for commercial development—is public access to the water, including the visual access afforded by uncompromised views.

    Developing the open space at the end of the north slip would not only be a wrong use of lakefront property, it would be an unnecessary one. There is plenty of land available for commercial development north of the harbor, including a large tract of dramatically located lakefront land across Washington Street from the harbor, currently the site of a restaurant and an enormous parking lot, that has been crying for development for years. It could accommodate the restaurant or brew pub of which the planners are so enamored and other development as well, all with marvelous lake and harbor views, assuming nothing is built on the parking lot site.

     A few steps up Washington Street, the vacant former home of a Dairy Queen franchise and a series of failed restaurants, the dilapidated building with the gauche orange and green roof, sits on a large lot that will one day be appealing to developers.

    Port Washington doesn’t need to sacrifice the public spaces around the harbor to encourage development, even if that were an acceptable concept, which it is not.

    The planners are correct, however, in their judgment that parking is not a critical need at the lakefront. If anything, there is too much space now devoted to parking lots. A better treatment of the north slip parking lot than turning it into a restaurant site would be to redesign it as a landscaped area with fewer parking places but more green space and amenities for folks who want to tarry and take in the views and the splendid lakeside ambience.

    The site is too valuable to be used for anything else.


 
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