Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 20:54
School Board approves 2.34% increase for one year, asks administrators to develop performance-pay system
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday approved a 2.34% salary increase for teachers, but then instructed administrators to devise a performance pay system that would change the way educators are compensated in the future.
The increase called for in a one-year agreement that is retroactive to July 1 will be applied to teacher salaries across the board.
That would change under a merit pay system in which teacher compensation would depend on performance as measured by criteria developed by administrators — a departure from a pay-scale system in which tenure was a significant factor in determining salary.
“It’s difficult to describe what the system would look like because we really don’t have one to base it on,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “Thus far, we have not discovered a merit pay system elsewhere that’s effective.
“Compensation would be based on individual performance, not just because you’ve been here a year longer. The concept is if you work another year, have strong performance and contribute to the educational system, you should be compensated for that. If you’re on a plan of improvement, you shouldn’t receive extra compensation until you’ve completed that plan.”
Kelly Green, co-chairman of the Port Washington-Saukville Education Association negotiating committee and a veteran high school teacher, said it’s important that teachers be involved in developing the criteria for a new pay system.
“I just want to be part of the conversation,” he said.
“There’s been no criteria developed and no performance pay system created that has been shown to measurably change student achievement. I think you achieve the same goals in a more productive way by hiring good teachers in the first place.”
When asked if the union has received any indication from the School Board that teachers will be involved in creating the performance pay system, Green said, “We don’t have a clear answer yet. We haven’t been told no, but we don’t know because there hasn’t been a committee formed yet.
“But given the way this district has operated in the past, I have confidence teachers will be involved in the conversation.”
Green said union members voted unanimously to accept the 2.34% salary increase, which is slightly less than the maximum 2.58% increase allowed under Act 10.
Wisconsin’s Act 10, the law that took most bargaining rights away from most public employees, still requires wages to be negotiated, although it controls the increase based on a formula tied to the rate of inflation. Other components of compensation, such as insurance benefits and pension contributions, are no longer negotiated.
“In negotiations, it’s not uncommon for both sides to walk away from talks not being completely happy,” Green said. “I suspect the board may have been happier with a smaller salary increase. I would have liked to see a larger increase for teachers.”
The School Board’s negotiation committee and teachers union have been working on a salary agreement since October.
“Our negotiations with the board were pretty typical, but the law we are bargaining under just isn’t fair,” Green said.
He noted that while teachers are receiving a pay increase, they are paying higher health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs and contributing more to their retirement benefits.
“Even after this increase, we’re a long way from where we were,” he said.
A sore spot among some teachers is the fact that while the School Board negotiated with its union for a wage increase that is less than the maximum, it approved a 2.8% increase for administrators earlier in the year.
“I think that number (the administrators’ increase) is on teachers’ minds,” Green said. “They understand that everybody in the district works hard, but they feel they are on the front lines of a very people-intensive job and deserve the same increase as administrators.”
The School Board also approved 2% wage increases for food service employees and non-union hourly workers. The increase for food service employees is retroactive to Aug. 28, while increases for other hourly workers take effect Jan. 1.
The Negotiations Committee is currently negotiating a pay increase with the support staff union.
Custodians, the district’s other unionized group of employees, have a contract through the end of the school year.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 19:07
City will trade public lot behind former Lueptow’s for larger one across street
The parking picture in downtown Port Washington changed Tuesday as aldermen agreed to swap one of its downtown parking lots for the former M&I Bank drive-through and parking area across the street.
The swap means developer Daniel Ewig will have a parking lot behind the Boerner Mercantile Building — the former Lueptow’s Furniture store — that he is renovating and the city will have a slightly larger public parking area across the street.
“It makes sense,” City Administrator Mark Grams said.
No money will change hands as part of the swap, but both properties will be upgraded to create more attractive and user-friendly parking, officials said.
The city-owned lot between the Boerner Mercantile Building and Associated Bank has 44 parking stalls and is primarily used by downtown employees, Grams said.
The former drive-through currently has 44 parking places, but after the building is razed could be reconfigured to have 69 parking stalls, he added.
The city will be responsible for removing the former bank building, Grams said, adding that the structure has “some pretty good salvage value” that will help offset the cost.
The property exchange agreement approved by aldermen following a closed session Tuesday — the second one in recent weeks dealing with the land swap — calls for the city to raze the building by Dec. 21, 2014, and use the lot for parking for 10 years.
Ewig is also required to use the former city lot as a parking lot, according to the agreement.
Both lots will be improved as part of the deal, Grams said.
Architect Mike Ehrlich, an alderman who abstained from Tuesday’s vote and did not participate in the closed session, will design the improvements to both lots, Grams said.
The designs are expected to be considered by the Plan Commission at its Dec. 20 meeting.
The exchange agreement calls for the city to remove two utility poles and bury the lines that run across the lot Ewig is acquiring by Sept. 30, 2013.
It also calls for improvements to the alley that runs along the north side of the Boerner Building and connects Franklin Street to the parking lot.
According to the agreement, Ewig will install a concrete base in the alley and the city will have decorative pavers installed there by Sept. 30, 2013. Ewig will also be responsible for improvements to the alley, in effect turning it into a pedestrian walkway. These improvements will be outlined in a license agreement with the city, which will continue to own the alley.
To facilitate the land exchange, the Plan Commission declared the city-owned parking lot surplus property during a special session prior to the Common Council meeting.
The commission’s declaration was subject to the land swap being approved by the council.
One major question is whether the public will still be able to use the alley off the parking lot to access “the (Post Office) mailbox we all use,” commission member Bud Sova said.
Residents will still be able to access the mailbox, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.
Image Information: A LAND SWAP approved by the Port Washington Common Council Tuesday will make developer Daniel Ewig the owner of the city-owned parking lot behind the Boerner Mercantile Building (foreground) and the city the owner of the former M&I Bank drive-through property across the street (background). Photo by Sam Arendt
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:43
Officials say similar groups have been instrumental in revitalizing other communities
Members of Port Washington’s Community Development Authority said Monday they want to take a more active role in the city as it works on everything from downtown revitalization to industrial development
“You look at what’s happening in this city, and this group has to be a part of it,” said Mayor Tom Mlada, a member of the CDA. “But we really need a sense of what we’re doing here.”
In refashioning itself, the CDA could take a page from communities such as Grafton, where the CDA has purchased buildings, worked with developers and commissioned development studies.
In Port, the role of the CDA has changed through the years, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development. It was formed about 1993 to be a conduit between the former St. Mary’s Hospital and the developer who would eventually turn the building into senior housing, but today functions largely to review applications for the city’s revolving loan fund.
“That’s not a CDA. That’s a loan committee,” member Ruth Lansing said. “We have an opportunity to change what we do moving forward, to build this committee to be a powerful group by becoming active. We need to take that opportunity.”
Lansing suggested the CDA could begin by looking at future uses for the 2.25-acre parcel the group owns on South Spring Street directly north of the trailer park.
The CDA could come up with an idea for developing the property and market it, she said, then use the proceeds to fund other initiatives.
The city’s intent was to market the land for residential or commercial development, Tetzlaff said. However, there has only been one serious inquiry about the property and that plan fell through.
Tetzlaff said that the CDA needs to fashion a role for itself that works in tandem with other city groups.
For example, Tetzlaff said, if the Economic Development Committee said there is a need for a business park, the CDA could identify potential sites, the Plan Commission could rezone those parcels and the CDA could then seek potential developers and work to create acceptable plans for the land.
Or the CDA could select redevelopment sites, the Plan Commission could define what is acceptable for them and the Economic Development Committee find acceptable businesses to locate there.
“We need to be there at the table, at the very least, to give more input,” Tetzlaff said.
Mlada, who said one of his initiatives is to revitalize city committees like the CDA, said the city should look to other communities as it seeks a mission for its CDA.
In Whitefish Bay, he said, the CDA was the force behind the master plan for Silver Spring Road.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily the role the CDA needs to play, but it’s one we should consider,” he said.
While Mlada and Tetzlaff were asked to research other communities and the roles and missions their Community Development Authorities have, they might do well to look south to Grafton.
“The redevelopment of Grafton could not have occurred without the assistance of the CDA,” Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said. “They’ve played a key role for us.”
One of the most notable examples of the CDA’s work has been the Grafton Hotel, which had fallen into disrepair and was declared blighted by the village. The CDA bought the building, negotiated with the developer and entered into a redevelopment agreement that resulted in the conversion of the building into apartments.
That’s far from the CDA’s only success. One of its most recent acts was to negotiate with a developer to put up a 45,000-square-foot, $5.2 million building on Cheyenne Drive to house Regal-Beloit Corp., a move Hofland said will bring 130 employees to the village.
In addition to buying and redeveloping land, the CDA has worked with consultants to create redevelopment plans for areas of the village, including site plans that target specific uses, Hofland said.
“They recognize their job is half done,” Hofland said. “They have several key parcels, both in downtown and the south commercial district, left to redevelop.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 18:45
Concerns with aesthetics, building materials prompt Port commission to send project back to developer
The Port Washington Plan Commission last week put the brakes on a proposal to build an apartment complex on the city’s south side.
Commission members tabled the concept plan for a 60-unit project, saying they want the developer to improve the aesthetics and quality of materials to be used for the five 12-unit buildings proposed at the corner of Sauk Road and Harris Drive.
Commission member Bud Sova was particularly outspoken in his criticism of the proposal, saying that when city residents were surveyed years ago, they said there were too many apartments in the community.
“We need to revisit that,” Sova said. “It’s something we need to do our homework on. There was a huge imbalance (in the ratio between single-family homes and apartments).”
City Planner Randy Tetzlaff noted that the city has come a long way since that time, noting that over the past 12 years, the city has approved more than 600 single-family homes and only 48 apartment units.
The commission previously approved a proposal to construct 150 units on the 10-1/4 acre parcel — more than double the number proposed by Premier, Tetzlaff noted.
“That doesn’t mean it was right,” said Sova.
The apartments proposed by Premier Real Estate Development are higher quality, Tetzlaff added, with amenities that include individual entries for each unit, laundry facilities in each unit, attached garages and cathedral ceilings.
Attorney Joe Goldberger, who presented Premier’s proposal to the commission, said the units will rent for between $795 and $975 a month. Similar developments built by the firm have done well, he added, noting many are full before the buildings are completed.
“We’ve built these in other communities and they’ve been welcomed with open arms,” Goldberger said. “This is a good project.”
Premier has financing lined up for the project, he added.
“We’d like to get started as soon as possible,” Goldberger said.
Commission member Amanda Williams asked for information to back up the firm’s claims that there is a market for the complex.
“For you to just say, ‘We know this is going to be successful’ is hard for me to buy into,” she said.
The firm made changes to reduce the amount of pavement on the site and added some architectural features to make the buildings more attractive — changes recommended by the Design Review Board, Goldberger noted.
Williams also suggested the developer use color to break up the facade and bump out some parts of the exterior walls to add interest to the buildings, as well as consider creating a berm to shield the view from the road.
Goldberger said he would discuss the suggestion with company officials, but noted that the project has to be economically viable for the work to proceed.
“In the end, the economics simply have to work,” he said, noting that the cost of the land is high and the developer is constrained by infrastructure previously installed on the property. “At some point, the project simply becomes cost prohibitive.”
But Sova said better materials are essential.
“We’re going to have to put up with this for the next 50 years,” he said. “Just to jump at it because it’s something to build in bad times doesn’t make it right.”
Sova was adamant that the buildings should be downsized, saying the complex is along the city’s southern entryway, an area that should be kept as attractive as possible with buildings that don’t loom over the landscape.
“This is going to be larger than anything we’ve built in the last 30 years, except for the high rise,” Sova said. “These are going to be pretty massive buildings close to the road. They’re not attractive, aesthetically.”
But Tetzlaff warned that breaking the project into more buildings will decrease the amount of green space on the property, adding the city has worked hard to
retain as much green space as possible on the site.
The buildings previously approved for the land included structures that were two stories high and would have contained as many as 44 units — many more than Premier is proposing, Tetzlaff said.
That fact seemed to convince some commission members the complex is worth considering, although they asked that additional work be done to minimize the impact of the project on the area.