Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 19:06
Port aldermen deny liquor permit, saying bar is incompatible with downtown redevelopment plans
Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday voted 5-1 to deny Troy Koput a liquor license for Deville’s Lounge — the former Foxy’s tavern — saying a bar there is
incompatible with redevelopment plans for the downtown.
The Common Council cited the building’s proximity to other structures being rehabbed, particularly the nearby Boerner Mercantile Building that is undergoing
extensive renovations, as well as past conduct at the location and uncorrected building code violations in making its decision.
Only Ald. Jim Vollmar voted against the motion. Ald. Dan Becker was absent.
Vollmar, who noted the building is set up as a bar, said he would favor a strongly regulated business to having an empty building downtown.
But other aldermen said they didn’t see tangible evidence that Deville’s would be any different than Foxy’s.
Too much of Koput’s proposal is based on the hope that things will change, Ald. Doug Biggs, a member of the Finance and License Committee, said.
“Unfortunately, I learned very early in my career that hope is not a plan,” he said.
Ald. Paul Neumyer said he voted against the license because he wants the city to rewrite its policies regarding taverns to incorporate stricter regulations.
“I think we need to revisit that before we issue new liquor licenses,” he said.
The council’s action followed roughly 40 minutes of testimony, including statements by Koput and several of his supporters and Police Chief Kevin Hingiss,
each of whom was sworn in by City Attorney Eric Eberhardt during the formal hearing.
Supporters also lobbied aldermen during the public comments portion of the meeting before the hearing.
Nick Meier, 402 Heritage Rd., said Koput’s plan shouldn’t be judged based on the city’s experiences with Foxy’s.
“I don’t think any new business should be judged on a previous business’ record,” Meier said. “If it was a problem business, it should have been shut down.
“I think we should be encouraging growth rather than having another empty building. I don’t see how a lounge would be a negative.”
Ben Lanza, whose son Andy was the owner of Foxy’s, said he was disappointed by the council’s decision and frustrated by attacks on Foxy’s.
“For nine years, he (Andy) ran a good place,” Lanza said. “Now he’s being pulled down into the mud. Foxy’s was a nice place.”
Unlike Foxy’s, which catered to a young crowd, Deville’s was envisioned as a lounge where people of all ages could gather and socialize, Koput said, a
place like the one his grandfather enjoyed.
“I always liked the atmosphere there,” he said, referring to his concept as “an old-school lounge” where people could have meetings and socialize.
“It would be more social than drinking,” he said. “That’s how I’m trying to alleviate a lot of the problems that have occurred.”
He planned to serve food, Koput said, although he wouldn’t have a full kitchen initially. That, he said, could come in time.
While his business plan might not offer the specifics aldermen sought, Koput said, the work he has already done to the building is testament to the change
he wants to create.
“People who have walked through the business, they know it’s different,” Koput said. “All the comments I’ve gotten are that it’s much nicer.”
The city may have had problems with Foxy’s, he added, but he was not the owner of that establishment and shouldn’t be punished for those issues.
Christian Zaga, who was originally hired by Koput as the lounge manager but was let go after the city’s concerns came to light, said that the fact he had
worked at Foxy’s shouldn’t affect the decision on Deville’s license.
“I did work at Foxy’s. I did not have any management (responsibility),” he said.
Zaga said he had discussed plans for Deville’s and its security with Hingiss, saying he wanted to work with police.
But Hingiss, who said problems with Foxy’s “pretty much ran the gamut,” said he was concerned when Zaga said he hoped Deville’s would open by
Thanksgiving, when college students return home.
Without significant changes, Hingiss said, “You’re going to have the same people there; you’re going to have people overserved; and you’re going to have
the same problems.”
But Zaga said it’s unfair to judge the bar based on the number of calls to police. Bartenders are told to call when they need assistance.
“It’s a Catch 22,” he said. “We’re frowned upon because we called and asked for police assistance, but we’re supposed to cooperate with police.
“Now, a new business is jeopardized for calling police.”
Aldermen deliberated about 20 minutes following the hearing, which was recessed about halfway through so Koput could get a copy of his business plan for
But officials who looked at what Koput referred to as a portion of his business plan said there wasn’t enough detail to prove to them things would change.
“I was expecting you to come in here with a plan,” Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee, said. But the plan aldermen saw
wasn’t specific, he said, and didn’t outline such things as the hours, type of lounge, music to be played and food to be served.
“We have the utmost respect for what you want to do,” Larson said. “But there’s nothing tangible for us to go on.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich said he was intrigued by Koput’s plan for a lounge.
“I thought, ‘This is what we’re looking for,’” Ehrlich said. “But everything I saw in your business plan ... didn’t show a lounge. It showed more of a bar.
“I don’t want to see the same thing happening over and over. You’ve got to show me something that will be different.
“I hope you keep working on it.”
Koput withdrew his application for a cabaret license after the liquor license was denied and left the meeting.
However, several of his followers remained, seeking information on what recourse Koput has to obtain a license.
He can reapply for the liquor license or appeal the council’s decision in circuit court, Eberhardt said.
They also questioned why Koput’s application was scrutinized more than others, noting the council recently approved a license for the Port Hole without the
same amount of angst.
Just last Sunday, Dec. 9, a complaint of music being played the Port Hole so loud it shook a home was received at 1 a.m., according to police.
There were building code violations pending but the owner was given time to fix them, Zaga said, adding that business also doesn’t serve food and has
generated a number of calls to police.
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.”