Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:25
South end of lakefront land will open to public soon, but north end won’t be accessible until next June
The south coal dock will open to the public in the coming weeks, Port Washington officials said Tuesday, but the bulk of the dock won’t be accessible until next June.
Although the city had hoped to get infrastructure work on the north dock under way earlier this year, plan revisions needed to meet state requirements meant construction was delayed, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said last week.
Design work is being completed for the walking paths, promenade, parking areas, access road and a bridge that will connect the north and south portions of the former coal dock, he said.
“We’re building essentially the body of the park,” he said.
However, there’s more to the project than the work on the north dock.
Work to naturalize the bank of Sauk Creek is expected to be completed this fall, Vanden Noven said.
A bird sanctuary built by We Energies on the south dock is expected to open Aug. 6, Vanden Noven said. At that point, people will be able to walk from the south beach through the south dock to the intake channel.
Vanden Noven told the Coal Dock Committee Tuesday that he hopes to obtain bids for the north dock work in August. The Common Council could then award the bids in September, with construction beginning in October.
“Because there are no residents in the area, the contractor can work on and off throughout the winter,” Vanden Noven said.
In spring, city crews will build an elevated boardwalk along the east end of the north dock, he added.
The boardwalk will extend off the 1,000-foot promenade that will run along the north end of the property adjacent to the west slip. There will be no railing along the 18-foot-wide promenade to allow maximum flexibility for boats docking next to the dock, Vanden Noven said.
Five pedestals with low-light fixtures are expected to be installed on the promenade to service as many as 10 ships, he said.
The city now needs to consider what the park will be used for and the amenities that should be added, Vanden Noven said.
The park’s master plan called for everything from a water feature to an interactive children’s garden to a community center.
There is plenty of space for events and amenities, Vanden Noven said, noting that Rotary Park, where several festivals are held, is one acre while the coal dock is 13 acres.
A public meeting to garner input on the future amenities is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Mayor Tom Mlada, a member of the committee, suggested the first event should be relatively modest, perhaps something that will draw a few hundred participants rather than a large festival.
Others suggested the first event could be a grand opening for the park.
To help fund the future park development, Mlada said, the city should look into public-private partnerships.
A number of businesses and community groups have expressed interest in that, said committee member Sara Grover, executive director of Port Washington Main Street.
The committee also agreed the park should be called Coal Dock Park, which has been the working title for it.
Committee member Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said, “People know where the coal dock is, just like they know where Upper Lake Park is. It’s a destination.”
The name could be amended in the future, members agreed.
The city also needs to emphasize the connection between the dock and the downtown, committee members agreed.
“The harborwalk (which runs from the north beach to Fisherman’s Park and will eventually connect with the coal dock) feels like a long, out-of-the way journey,” said committee member Bob Mittnacht, who said the city should emphasize the park’s connection to Wisconsin Street.
The walk shouldn’t be too intimidating, especially for a city that prides itself on being pedestrian-friendly, Vanden Noven said, noting the distance from Veterans Park to the dock is the same as walking from Summerfest’s north gate to the main stage.
“Once the entry to the park gets more inviting, people won’t think about how long the walk is,” said committee member Kathy Tank, the city’s director of tourism. “They’re going to want to get there.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 17:41
Without money for soil borings, Port aldermen table next step in battling erosion problem
Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday decided to delay action on a proposal to conduct soil borings on the north bluff, saying they don’t have the needed funds to do the work right now.
Although officials had talked about taking the money from the contingency fund, City Administrator Mark Grams said that would wipe out the fund with almost half the year to go.
He suggested the city delay the work until later in the year so officials have a better idea if there will be enough surplus funds to pay for the project or until it can be included in the 2013 budget.
“How long are the bids good for?” he asked.
Delaying the project will also give the city a chance to see how well the recently installed curbs hold back runoff from the bluff, Grams said. “Let’s take the opportunity to see where we are,” he said.
The city received two proposals for the boring project, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said, adding he did not know how long the low estimate of $14,880 from Giles Engineering would be valid.
The project would include two soil borings to a depth of about 110 feet, Vanden Noven said, and installing piezometers to determine the levels of groundwater in the bluff. The results would be analyzed by the firm, which would also make recommendations on various stabilization measures, such as installing drain wicks and cutting back the bluff.
Ald. Jim Vollmar, who has pushed the city to look into bluff stabilization measures, said it may be prudent to delay the project.
“I think we’d all like to have this done, but if there’s no money to do it maybe it would be better to hold it over,” he said.
Aldermen directed Vanden Noven to see how long Giles would honor its price, and said they would address the matter again at the council’s Aug. 7 meeting.
But several aldermen said the city needs to continue to look at the issue of bluff stabilization.
“Our bluff is very important to us for myriad reasons,” Ald. Dan Becker said.
Ald. Joe Dean said the city needs to look at the big picture, adding the issue is a perfect one for the newly formed Environmental Planning Committee to tackle.
“I can’t imagine a higher priority for them,” he said. “I think the timing is right.”
The discussion, he said, could include not only what the city can do long and short-term but also ways to pay for it, including public-private partnerships.
The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is interested in working with the city on the project, Dean added.
The slumping bluff has plagued the city and beach-goers for decades. In the 1980s and 90s, it wasn’t uncommon for large portions of the bluff to collapse.
In April 1993, a huge mudslide took hundreds of thousands of pounds of earth down the side of the bluff and completely across the beach, leaving a mound of clay-like earth roughly 12 feet high.
Bluff stabilization was a popular topic for years. In 2001, the city commissioned a bluff study by JJR, a firm that specializes in waterfront projects.
The controversial plan proposed by the group called for cutting back the bluff significantly, as well as constructing breakwaters and revetments to protect the base of the bluff at a cost of $4.3 million.
The plan was doomed not just because of the high pricetag but also because many people feared it would require trimming the size of Upper Lake Park too much and destroy the beach below.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 18:25
Port officers praised after running into burning house to rescue sleeping resident
Port Washington Police Officer Jerry Nye and Reserve Officer Michael Kolbach are being hailed as heroes for running into a burning house and rescuing a 21-year-old man who was sleeping in the basement early Sunday morning.
“I almost want to deputize you for your efforts,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell told the officers during Monday’s Police and Fire Commission meeting. “It’s huge to see that kind of bravery.”
The man, Justin Kriegel, and his English springer spaniel Chelsea were rescued from the house at 230 Douglas St., but the family cat, Valley, didn’t survive, homeowner Tim Benson said Tuesday.
“The police officers and fire department guys are all awesome,” Benson said. “What we lost are material things. Everyone’s safe. We’re all doing well right now.”
Benson also called his neighbor Carol Beck a hero.
It was Beck who first saw sparks coming from the house about 1:35 a.m. Sunday and called police, Mitchell said. Nye and Kolbach arrived on the scene minutes later.
“They just started pounding on the door,” Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said. “They yelled and pounded and the door popped open.”
The officers searched the first floor, then found their way to the basement, where Kriegel was sleeping in a recreation room. They helped Kriegel, who walks with a cane, out of the house, stopping to grab the dog along the way, Hingiss said.
Once outside, Kriegel told the officers the family cat was inside the house, but the smoke was so thick they couldn’t get back to search for the pet, he said.
“When they went in, the smoke wasn’t bad, but when they left, it was pretty bad,” Mitchell said. “Without any concern for their own safety, they (the officers) entered the home. An initial negative search and increasing smoke conditions would have forced most people out of the building. Not so with officers Nye and Kolbach.
“In my opinion, if it were not for the heroic act by officers Nye and Kolbach, the subject they rescued would have most surely suffered severe, if not fatal, injuries.”
Mitchell, who arrived at the scene a few minutes after the officers, said the breezeway of the house was fully involved and the blaze was working its way into the garage and up a wall to the second floor of the house.
Because of the heat, Mitchell said, he immediately called the Saukville and Grafton fire departments to the scene and asked Belgium to cover for Port at the fire station.
The bulk of the fire was out within five minutes, he said, but due to the amount of cleanup work after he called for additional help from the Fredonia, Cedarburg and Belgium departments. The Waubeka and Thiensville departments stood by at the fire house.
The Port department was at the scene until about 5:10 a.m., Mitchell said.
Benson said he and his fiance Tina Kriegel, Justin’s mother, had gone out to dinner Saturday night and were shooting pool at Sundance when a police officer arrived at the bar.
“He said, ‘Your house is on fire,’” Benson said. They ran out the door and hurried home, but he said their hearts sank as they turned the corner onto Douglas Street.
“As soon as we turned the corner we could see it,” he said. “The flames were like 30 feet in the air.”
Their first thoughts were for Justin, Benson said, adding they were relieved to find him unharmed.
Benson’s 15-year-old son Kyle, who also lives in the home, was in northern Wisconsin at the time, he said.
After the fire was extinguished, firefighters took Benson through the house.
“That was hard,” he said, noting he has lived in the home for about 17 years, and built much of the cabinetry inside.
The couple was able to salvage some clothing, a number of pictures and Tina’s great-grandmother’s china, he said.
But the house is likely a complete loss, Benson said. Insurance officials estimate it will be at least November before the house is rebuilt and the family can move back in.
The reality of what happened is still sinking in, Benson said.
“You don’t know how much you have until you have nothing,” he said, laughing as he talked about how the family purchased a few groceries but then realized they had no knife with which to cut the cheese they bought.
The family is staying at the Baymont hotel in Grafton while seeking an apartment to live in until the house is rebuilt, Benson said.
Mitchell said firefighters believe the blaze started in the breezeway. The cause, he said, was likely electrical.
But Benson said the insurance company’s inspectors told him the fire probably started on the deck and worked its way into the breezeway. The cause, he said, is unknown.
There were smoke detectors in the house, but Mitchell said they were not going off when firefighters and police arrived.
That surprised Benson, who said there was one in a first-floor hallway and one in the basement. The smoke hadn’t gotten downstairs when police arrived, he noted.
“I can’t believe that one (on the first floor) wouldn’t go off,” he said. “Believe me, my next house, when it’s done, is going to have smoke detectors all over.”
PORT WASHINGTON POLICE Reserve Officer Michael Kolbach (left) and Officer Jerry Nye are being hailed as heroes for rescuing a 21-year-old man from a burning house on Douglas Street early Sunday morning. The house and attached garage were largely destroyed in the fire. Photo by Sam Arendt
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 17:40
Discovery of deadly ash beetle on Pier, Jackson streets confirms fear that infestation is spreading throughout area
Three more ash trees, these on Pier and Jackson streets in downtown Port Washington, were found to be infested with the emerald ash borer Monday.
That brings the total number of trees in Port known or suspected to be infested with the borer to roughly a dozen. About half were found atop the ravine overlooking the city’s bike path. Others are in Veterans Memorial Park and near the water filtration plant.
“It’s clear it’s here,” Jon Crain, the city’s arborist, said.
With the cluster of cases found in the area, it’s apparent the beetle has been here for years and has likely spread beyond that area, he said.
“I do suspect it’s throughout the city,” Crain said. “Chances are, if we’re finding it down there, it is throughout (the city) and we’re just not seeing it yet.”
That’s because it takes three to five years for the beetle to kill an ash tree. Many of the trees discovered recently are dead.
The drought we’re experiencing now is a cause for concern, Crain added, noting it weakens trees.
“The trees are really stressed out, and the borer thrives on stressed trees,” Crain said.
The city is now developing a plan to evaluate all its ash trees, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.
“We will be evaluating them at least once a year and take down the ones showing signs of infestation as quickly as possible,” he said.
The city shouldn’t wait until they’re dead because ash become extremely brittle when they die, Vanden Noven said.
“The Department of Natural Resources said if a dead limb falls onto the sidewalk, it will likely shatter into a million pieces,” he said.
In the ravine and other densely wooded or sloped areas, the city may have to let nature take its course because of the difficulty in getting to them, Vanden Noven said.
Once the infested ash trees are cut down, the city will have to grind the wood into tiny pieces to kill any larvae and insects in it, Crain said. The ash wood chips will be kept separate and won’t be available for public use.
The city already has a map showing the location of 1,100 ash trees planted along the streets, Vanden Noven said. Many streets in relatively new subdivisions have clusters of ash, including Bley Park Estates, Spinnaker West and the southern half of the Lake Ridge development, he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig said his department is doing an inventory of the ash trees found in parks as well.
In Upper Lake Park, which has already been mapped, there are 156 ash trees and 162 other species, Imig said.
Many of those ash are in a dense cluster along the bluff and ravine, Crain said, as well as in the center green space.
“Throughout the parks, it’s hard to say but I’d guess there are probably thousands (of ash trees),” Crain said.
Ash trees are so prevalent because they were considered a good tree to plant after Dutch elm disease decimated that species.
“I think the borer is going to be a lot like Dutch elm disease, where ultimately you end up with no ash trees,” Vanden Noven said.
“Ash is a great hardwood tree. It’s a good, durable street tree. They grow to a perfect size to provide a canopy and have a great shape.”
Officials haven’t planted ash trees along streets or in the parks since 2005, after they learned of the devastation caused by the borer in other parts of the country.
“From the photos I’ve seen of communities in Michigan, it’s not pretty,” Vanden Noven said. “If people want to know the value of having a tree in front of their home, they’re going to see it.
“If you live on a street with mostly ash trees, never in your lifetime are you going to see that same canopy over the street.”
The state has been working to find a biological solution to the borer, but it will take years before researchers know whether it is effective in this area.
In the meantime, residents with ash trees on their property generally have two options, officials said.
“If they have a tree that means a lot to them I suggest getting treatment on them fast,” Crain said.
Although not guaranteed, there are chemical treatments that can be used to try to prevent the borer from attacking trees. The most effective of these are injections into the trunk of the tree, Crain said, adding those that are put into the soil around the tree are less efficient.
Residents can also plant other trees now to replace ash trees on their property, Vanden Noven said.
“That way, when the ash tree does need to come down, you have a tree that’s beginning to mature to replace it,” he said. “There are lots of different species of trees, and some can grow quite rapidly.”