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Port may partner in pitch for maritime sanctuary PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 18:25

City considers joining forces with other lakeshore communities in pursuit of NOAA-funded project

    It’s been five years since Port Washington officials first pitched the concept that the city would be the ideal headquarters for a Lake Michigan maritime sanctuary.

    Today, the sanctuary is still in the planning process. But instead of vying to become the singular headquarters for the proposed sanctuary, Port Washington and three other lakeshore communities — Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers —  are considering a regional approach and, in effect, splitting the headquarters by having offices in each, Port Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday.

    “Here, you could come and start in one community and work your way up or down the lakeshore. In each community, you would have something special to concentrate on,” Mlada said. “This has been a long time in coming, but it’s an opportunity for each of us.”

    It could also be the first step toward other joint ventures, whether they be in educational initiatives or tourism programs, he said.

    Mlada, who met with the mayors of Sheboygan and Manitowoc to discuss the sanctuary proposal last week, said he will ask the Common Council to consider a resolution approving the partnership and supporting the creation of a national marine sanctuary in the area.

    That resolution probably won’t come to aldermen when they meet next week, Mlada said, noting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not yet started the nomination process. That’s expected to occur in the next several weeks as the agency publishes the rules of the process, he said.

    The proposed sanctuary would encompass an 875-square-mile area of Lake Michigan stretching from Port to Two Rivers in an attempt to protect the many shipwrecks in the area.

    That area contains 33 known shipwrecks, including 14 intact wrecks, and holds the best examples of many vessels that sailed the waters off Wisconsin, officials said.

    Proposed by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the sanctuary would complement the state’s Maritime Trail, officials said.

    NOAA is the trustee for 14 marine protected areas encompassing more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters, including 13 national marine sanctuaries.

    Among those is the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich.

    But the Alpena model, where one community holds a large facility for the sanctuary, isn’t going to occur here, Mlada said.

    “NOAA has been blunt in saying this isn’t the best way to do things,” he said, leading to the joint effort with other lakeshore communities.

    Although the mid-Lake Michigan sanctuary being proposed for the area was first considered several years ago, NOAA has been hamstrung because its site evaluation list for sanctuaries was deactivated in the mid-1990s.

    “We basically had no way of nominating a sanctuary,” Ellen Brody, NOAA’s regional coordinator for the Great Lakes and northeast region, said this spring.

    The rules that are expected to be published in the next week or so will re-establish the process to create a sanctuary, she said, and communities can then begin the nomination process.

    There is a great deal of interest in the program, Brody said, adding she does not know how many nominations will be received.

    “To make our application (for the sanctuary) as robust as possible, the best way is to work together on this,” Mlada said. “You have four communities who are very supportive and very much on board with this effort.”

    Existing facilities, such as the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and Spaceport in Sheboygan, and the Exploreum being built in Port Washington could complement the communities’ effort, he added.

    The impact of a marine sanctuary could be huge for the city, Mlada said.

    “There are so many upsides,” he said. “The economic impact of NOAA having a presence here would be substantial. This would be yet another reason for people to come to our community.”

    In addition to being an economic draw, the sanctuary would also be an outstanding educational resource, Mlada said.

    “The sky’s the limit on what we could potentially do and the impact it could have,” he said.


 
City agrees to grant terms for breakwater funding PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 18:49

Replacing houses, enforcing demonstration laws among requirements to receive block grant for repair project

    It may seem silly, but the Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to replace any low or moderate-income housing demolished as part of the breakwater repairs it plans to undertake.

    Aldermen also agreed to enforce any state, federal or local laws governing non-violent or civil rights demonstrations in the city “even though the chance of having these demonstrations is slim,” City Administrator Mark Grams admitted.

    “Basically, what this says is we won’t violate anybody’s rights who are demonstrating legally and lawfully.”

    Aldermen also approved a citizen participation plan following a public hearing on the project Tuesday.

    “We’ve had plenty of public input in the past (on the breakwater project),” he said, noting not just citizens but also state and federal officials have been involved in the discussion.

    It was all necessary as part of the city’s application for a community development block grant to help finance the breakwater repairs, Grams said.

    “Obviously, nobody’s being relocated,” he said. “However, we still need to have a relocation plan.”

    The city is seeking funding from both the Community Development Block Grant program for public facilities and the Recreations Boating Facilities grant program to help pay for improvements to the cap on the west end of the deteriorating breakwater.

    Aldermen on Tuesday agreed to pay the city’s consultant, Foth Infrastructure and Environment, $13,500 for its work on the two grant applications.

    “When you’re looking at getting $1 million in grant money, $13,000 is a small price,” Grams said.

    The city’s chances for the recreational boating funds are good, he said.

    “It sounds like we might be the only community in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan applying,” he said.

    The city previously agreed to pay Foth $15,000 for its work on an application for the Department of Natural Resources stewardship grant, and $15,000 for its work researching grant programs and meeting with agencies to pave the way for funding.

    “This is what we’re paying for — the expertise to shepherd these through the process,” Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    Grams said the city expects to apply for at least two more grants, adding the cost to write these applications is likely to be less because staff members will do some of the work.

    The city has committed to spending $1 million for improvements on the west end of the breakwater — a commitment made to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the structure, would spend the $950,000 it has allocated for the project to placing armor stone along 1,000 feet on the easternmost portion of the breakwater.

    The structure is weakest on the east end, city officials said, and the armor stone will help ensure the structure will last.

    City officials asked the Army Corps to use its funds for armor stone because there are virtually no grants available for this work. There are grants available to the city for other breakwater improvements.

    Funds spent by the Army Corps on the breakwater will be used as matching funds for any grants received by the city, minimizing the cost to local property owners, officials said.

    Grams said work on the breakwater will be done over two years, adding that the city can pay for its share of the work over three years.



 
Run/walk to help pay for park railing PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 18:20

August event planned by Port-Saukville Jaycees will raise money for much-discussed lakefront safeguard

    Frustrated by the lack of a railing along the Coal Dock Park promenade, the Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees is holding its first Land Regatta Run/Walk in August, with proceeds going toward the project.

    The four-mile course will be timed, while the two-mile course will be untimed and more of a family event, race director Christina Brickner said. It will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16, during Maritime Heritage Festival.

    “It seems awesome to go on a run past the tall ships,” Brickner said.

    With the race beginning and ending in Coal Dock Park, the railing seemed like an ideal project to raise money for, she added.

    “For this inaugural event, it was an easy choice for us, especially since the majority of our members have young families,” Jaycees President Morgan Herrick said.

    “We want to ensure that this park is as safe as possible for our children to run and play, so we believe this is a great use of the event proceeds.”

    All of the proceeds this year will go toward the railing, Brickner said, adding other charitable causes will be funded in future years.

    “We will not keep a dime,” she said.  

    Jaycees members feel strongly that the railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade on the north end of the park is needed, Brickner said.

    She recalled a day last year when she was pushing a stroller as she and her children walked on the promenade.

    “The stroller rolled on its own accord toward the edge,” she said. “All it takes is one fall, one tumble, and a child will go down into the lake. And it is quite a drop.”

    She’s not completely comfortable walking too close to the edge herself, Brickner added.

    The run will also help further the goals of the city’s Waterfront Safety Advisory Committee, with the Jaycees including water safety tips in race registration packets.

    Since Coal Dock Park opened last year, the question of whether a railing should be installed along the promenade has been debated.

    Aldermen agreed earlier this year that one should be, citing the issue of safety, but installation of a railing has been postponed as officials seek funding for it.

    With an estimated cost of $200,000, the railing is not an inexpensive amenity for the park. The city has applied for a Department of Natural Resources stewardship grant that could pay as much as half the cost, but it won’t know whether it will receive any funding until late June or early July, officials said.

    “We feel confident we’ll get at least some of the money,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said Tuesday, adding officials are hoping to get at least $45,000 in grant money.

    If the city doesn’t get all the money it is seeking, it will likely reapply next year for the remainder of the funds, he said.

    The city would be expected to match that amount, and Vanden Noven said that money would likely come from funds that remain in the Coal Dock Park development budget.

    Money raised by groups such as the Jaycees and the Port Washington Woman’s Club, which has pledged $1,000 toward the railing, could also be used to make up any shortfall, Vanden Noven said.

    If the city is confident it will receive the grant money, even if that occurs over two years, it would likely install the railing in phases beginning this fall, he added.

    That would be rewarding, Brickner said, noting she is hoping to get 500 participants in the Land Regatta Run/Walk this year and build on that in the future.

    The run/walk, which will take the place of Mayor Tom Mlada’s lakeshore run, has a second purpose as well, Brickner said — raising awareness of the Jaycees, which have been in Port Washington for 65 years.

    “Most people don’t realize that,” she said. “And like any civic organization, we struggle with membership. It would be great if some people learn about us and join us.”

    The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m. for people taking part in the four-mile run, followed by the two-mile walk/run.

    Check in begins at 7:30 a.m.

    The fee for the run/walk is $20 for people ages 14 and older if they register by Aug. 2 and $25 after that date. Included in the fee is a T-shirt and, for adults, a raffle ticket for prizes that include travel, gym and a sky-diving packages.

    There is no registration fee for those ages 13 and younger. They do not receive a T-shirt.

    To register, visit www.active.com. Forms may be dropped off at BMO Harris Bank and Smith Bros. Coffeehouse, both in Port Washington, and at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville.

    For more information, visit http://jci.port-washington.org.


 
Rezoning of former farm paves way for development PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 17:10

Port council takes next step in preparing Hwy. 33 land for commercial, residential lots and baseball complex

    The former Schanen farm on Port Washington’s west side was rezoned by the Common Council on Tuesday, with areas set aside for businesses, residences and a proposed baseball complex.

    The 40-acre property at the corner of Highway 33 and Jackson Road was zoned to allow commercial lots along Highway 33, with a stormwater detention pond on the corner of Jackson Road and Highway 33, residential lots on the east side bordering Bley Park Estates and a baseball complex on the southwest portion of the property.

    Only one person objected to the rezoning.

    Don Buechler, 1782 Second Ave., questioned why the city chose to place a baseball complex on such a valuable piece of property, saying a business park would be preferred, especially in terms of tax relief.

    “It seems there is a lack of planning here,” he said.

    The complex is likely to cause parking issues, Buechler said, and light pollution in the area.

    “I don’t see this as a good thing for me, personally,” he said.

    Linda Speerbrecher, 253 Brian Ct., asked what type of homes were likely to be built on the land.

    The zoning is consistent with that in neighboring Bley Park Estates, City Planner Randy Tetzlaff said, noting it calls for single-family houses.

    The property originally was envisioned as a soccer complex, Tetzlaff noted, then as those plans fell by the wayside, the city envisioned a multi-use site with homes, commercial properties and a park.

    As time went on, Port Youth Baseball, which has been looking for additional field space, proposed using the park area as a baseball complex, Tetzlaff said.

    The baseball complex would be built on the southwest portion of the property. A concessions stand, which would include restrooms, would be located in the center of the four fields — a regulation field, intermediate-sized field and two Little League fields.

    Port Youth Baseball President Rich Stasik told the Common Council that 320 families in the area are involved in the organization, which continues to grow.

    He noted that the complex will not only have baseball facilities but also a walking trail and playground open to the public.

    “Projects like this will allow us to serve all the youths in our community for years to come,” he said. “I do feel this is a good use of the land. We’re excited about the project, not only as a family but as an organization.”

    The rezoning was approved, with Ald. Mike Ehrlich abstaining.

    Ald. Dan Becker lauded the project, noting it is compatible with neighboring land uses and provides a valuable recreational area for the community.

    “Port Youth Baseball needs these fields,” he said. “Baseball is growing in our community.”

    The complex, as well as the commercial and residential sites that adjoin it, will provide a welcoming gateway to the community, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    “It’s something I think the community can be very proud of,” he said.



 
Bidding war allows PW-S district to slash insurance costs PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 18:22

Offers from five carriers pave way for 4% reduction in health-care premium for 2014-15 school year

    Earlier this year, Humana informed the Port Washington-Saukville School District it could expect its heath insurance premium to increase 13%— nearly double the 7.5% increase administrators had allowed for in the preliminary 2014-15 budget.

    That increase wasn’t necessarily unreasonable, the district’s consultant said, given the district’s claims experience over the last two years and industry trends, but that didn’t mean the district had to accept it.

    Humana chipped away at the increase, then earlier this month submitted a bid that instead of increasing the district’s insurance cost would cut it by 2%.

    That still wasn’t good enough to retain the district’s business.

    On Monday, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board approved a recommendation from its consultant and administrators to drop Humana as its health insurance provider and return to WEA Trust, the company it left two years ago.

    The result — a 4% decrease in health insurance costs.

    Instead of paying an additional $500,000 for health insurance, the district and its employees, who contribute between 10% and 13% to the premium, will save $176,000 next school year, officials said.    

    Several factors explain the district’s roller coaster ride through the health insurance industry, including the fact its long-term health risk outlook has improved, but the savings it was able to reap is due primarily to the number of health insurance providers who vied for the district’s $4.4 million of business, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

    “The market is very competitive right now, and that was advantageous for us,” he said.

    Five carriers bid for the district’s business, with four of those companies submitting final bids that offered to cut insurance premiums by between 1.1% and 4%.

    Working behind the scenes was Hays Companies, the employee benefit consulting firm the district hired two years ago to oversee its insurance portfolio.

    The district pays Hays $25,000 a year, and district officials said the decision to hire a consultant to represent the district’s interest in the complex realm of health insurance has paid off.

    “We are looking at several insurance carriers instead of just one, and that’s thanks to Hays,” Supt. Michael Weber told the School Board.

    Because the district was able to leverage the competitive nature of the health insurance industry, it did not have to significantly change benefits to save money, officials said.        The deductibles will remain at $500 for individual coverage and $1,000 for family coverage, although the maximum out-of-pocket costs for employees will increase from $1,000 and $2,000 for an individual and family, respectively, to $1,500 and $3,000. Office visit co-pays will also increase slightly, from $20 to $25 in network.

    WEA Trust sweetened its bid by offering a maximum 8% increase guarantee on a second year of coverage and is giving the district a $25,000 grant to promote employee wellness.




 
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