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Offshore shrilling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 16:32

Jet skis enthusiasts have every right to use Lake Michigan, but some sensitivity to the noise they make would improve relations with other lake lovers

You know it’s an early spring when complaining about jet skis starts in April.

Several people who live along the Lake Michigan shore asked the Belgium Town Board on April 5 to do something about a group of jet skis, or personal watercraft, that have been frequenting the lake on evenings near Sandy Beach Road.

The residents said a number of the boats are regularly launched from the beach at the foot of Sandy Beach Road at around 4:30 to 5 p.m. and then zoom back and forth close to shore until after dark.

As one town taxpayer told the board, “you get eight or nine running together and it’s noisy.” He added that the jet skis are often within 100 feet of shore.

It’s not hard to feel empathy for the shore dwellers. Their appreciation of the ambience of Lake Michigan includes hearing the natural sounds of the maritime environment. The lapping of waves and the cries of seagulls don’t stand a chance against the syncopated varooming of jet skis carving turns and jumping wakes.

The terrestrial equivalent of what the townspeople describe would be something like living next to a street on which motor scooters race back and forth for a several hours each evening.

Town Board members expressed sympathy for the residents’ plight, but acknowledged that they are limited in the help they can give. The board may have some leeway in regulating launching times, but the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has authority over the lake. What’s more, the DNR is famously protective of lake access and takes a dim view of efforts to limit it.

That is as it should be. Lake Michigan is everyone’s natural resource, and enthusiasts who prefer to do their boating with personal waterfront have as much right to use it as do fishermen, sailors, kayakers and owners of traditional powerboats.

Still, not all boats are created equal. Slow-trolling fishing boats, kayaks, canoes and sailboats make hardly a sound. Engine noise from conventional powerboats is rarely an issue because these vessels pass quickly by, usually traveling to a destination.

The same might be true of jet skis if they were moving from one point to another, but much of enjoyment of jet skis seems to involve gathering in groups and speeding around in a confined area. For people nearby trying to enjoy the lake in other ways, it is understandable that this can be annoying.

So what to do? Let the jet skiers can handle it. An easy remedy would be for them to move offshore and keep most of the noise that is the inevitable byproduct of their sport at sea. In good weather, in groups, with the wet suits personal watercraft operators routinely wear, and with the mandated safety equipment they have onboard, it should be safe to perform the various jet ski handling exercises far enough from shore that the sounds of their fun don’t disturb other lake lovers.

A conversation about this between the homeowners and the jet ski owners might prove fruitful. After all, they have something in common—both groups take much pleasure from Lake Michigan and have an interest in enjoying it in ways that do not detract from others’ enjoyment of this magnificent body of water.

The voters said it: The dam is priceless PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:18

The citizens of Grafton sent a clear message—heritage, character and beauty are too valuable to be sold for a federal hand-out

It wasn’t subtle, it wasn’t nuanced and it wasn’t open to interpretation. The message the citizens of Grafton sent to village officials last week was loud, clear and unmistakable, an amplified proclamation that community heritage, character and beauty are too valuable to be sold at any price, even for a federal hand-out to avoid an expenditure of local tax money. 

The message was sent by an overwhelming vote—a nearly three-to-one landslide—to approve a referendum that will save the Bridge Street dam.

“Save” is not too dramatic a word—the dam was for all intents and purposes doomed. The Grafton Board of Public Works had voted unanimously to demolish it. The conventional wisdom was that the Village Board would agree.

It was all about money: Federal stimulus money was available to remove the dam; if the dam stayed, it would have to be improved at local taxpayer expense within the next decade to comply with a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources order.

But the voters said: Don’t take the money and don’t take our dam.

The rescue of the dam adds a remarkable chapter to the history of Grafton. Rarely have so many citizens joined to make such an emphatic statement about community aesthetics.

They made a statement too about government spending at a time when it is politically popular to condemn the use of taxpayer money for anything but the most basic essentials. The voters said spending on the non-essentials that add to the enjoyment of life in a community is a responsible use of tax revenue.

The save-the-dam movement began with e-mails and phone calls to Grafton officials, letters to the editor and speaking out at public meetings. When that didn’t move Grafton officialdom, a petition drive to force a referendum was launched last fall, which garnered more than 2,000 signatures and ensured that a binding referendum would be on the April 2010 ballot.

Resistance persisted. As opposition to dam removal grew, a new cost estimate for repairs was released—a highly suspect number of $4 million, more than twice previous estimates. After the binding referendum became inevitable, the Village Board added an unusual second referendum to the ballot offering choices on how dam repairs could be paid for if the dam was saved. Some observers thought the second question was an attempt to influence the decision on the first by reminding voters of the cost consequences.

The voters weren’t having any of it. They voted 1,685 to 573 to save the dam because they saw what village officials didn’t—that the millpond, or impoundment, created nearly a century ago when the dam was built for a mill that figured prominently in village history is physically and emotionally part of Grafton’s heart, a lake within a village that offers pretty vistas, banks to stroll, bird watching, ice skating, fishing and boating, whose ambience has attracted development that has enlivened the downtown.

The lake within the village would have ceased to exist the minute the dam was removed.

The Village Board should take the vote as more than a mandate to save the dam. It is also a signal that the public expects the dam and the river to be developed to their full potential.

That means working out a sensible plan to make the needed dam improvements. With the deadline nine years away, there’s no rush, and the time should be spent determining the least costly way to meet the state’s requirements. Meanwhile, an environmental concern will be remedied by creating a fish passage through the dam, paid for with part of  the stimulus grant the county received for river work

It also means making better use of the river impoundment, finding ways to make it more accessible to the public and more valuable as a recreational resource. Paddle boats and other watercraft for rent, enhanced fishing opportunities and dredging to expand boating opportunities may be possibilities.

Village officials can explore such initiatives with no doubt about one thing—the public considers the dam and the recreational resource it creates priceless.

Paramedics for all PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 14:11

With the nearest paramedic service located at the southern end of the county, Port Washington is right to consider upgrading to the highest level of first-responder care

It’s an understatement to say the people of Ozaukee County are well served by medical services, what with a recently enlarged hospital operating in Mequon and a new hospital soon to open in Grafton, numerous clinics throughout the county and EMT (emergency medical technician) services in virtually every community. Nonetheless, there is a gap in emergency services that should be closed, and the City of Port Washington seems well suited to do it.

The gap—or perhaps it is better described as a stretch—in emergency medical care is that the only paramedic service in the county is located in Thiensville.

There are no gaps in EMT coverage. Squads of these well-trained first-responders are headquartered in cities and villages within a few minutes of any point in Ozaukee County, and it is safe to say they save lives every year.

But EMTs are limited by training and state certification in the life-saving measures they can take when helping victims of accidents or medical crises.

Paramedics are medical professionals trained and certified to take more complex measures to stabilize victims before they reach the hospital. Unlike EMTs, they can gives shots and administer potentially life-saving drugs, including those specified for cardiac emergencies.

With the county’s only paramedics located at its southern end, people in need of these measures to augment first aid provided by EMTs must wait precious minutes—15 to 20 minutes or more for Thiensville paramedics to reach an accident scene in Port Washington, as an example.

There have been instances in which EMTs have met Thiensville paramedics in a roadside rendezvous enroute to the hospital to save time, an expedient that may get the job done but is hardly ideal.

Against this backdrop, the Port Washington Police and Fire Commission’s decision to study the possibility of adding paramedics to the first-responders of its ambulance service is welcome. A paramedic program based in Port Washington would make advanced emergency services available to northern Ozaukee County residents about as rapidly as they currently are for people in the southern half of the county.

The idea is particularly attractive because a good part of the preparation needed for the Port Washington ambulance service to take the step to paramedic certification has already been done.

The service already has a heart monitor/defibrillator, a requisite for paramedic certification that can represent a large capital investment. What’s more, three members of its EMT squad are already certified paramedics, and two more are close to completing their paramedic training. According to Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, an ample number of part-time paramedics is also available.

Staffing demands are not to be taken lightly, because state requirements for paramedic services include having one paramedic and one EMT on each ambulance run and round-the-clock coverage.

Even though Port Washington has certified paramedics in its EMT corps, they are not allowed to perform  paramedic services until the entire ambulance service is certified as a paramedic program by the Wisconsin Department of Health, a process the city could initiate following its study.

The cost of operating a paramedic program and how it will be paid will, of course, be part of the study. If paramedic service would add to the tax burden, it would probably be a non-starter. If an operating plan showed program costs could be covered by fees billed to patients and their insurance companies, it would go a long way to making the paramedic upgrade feasible.

That could increase the cost of an ambulance ride for everyone, but it would likely be a price most would consider worth paying to close a gap that leaves northern Ozaukee County residents at risk of not getting the highest level emergency care when first-responders arrive.

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