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Port Washington

City to pay for study of rip currents PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 17:24

Port officials agree to help fund professor’s project that will monitor lakeshore water conditions, bluff erosion

    Port Washington officials, determined to improve lakefront safety, recently approved spending $2,500 to help fund a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor’s study of rip currents along the city’s lakeshore.

    The project, which will include both educational and informational components, will also look at the erosion of the city’s bluffs, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    “This is a very exciting opportunity for our city,” Mlada said, noting Professor Chin Wu worked extensively with Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon on its bluff stabilization project and was instrumental in creating an Integrated Nowcast and Forecast System (Infos) website at the Apostle Islands that provides a wealth of real-time information on currents.

    “He felt the technology he put in place at the Apostle Islands could be very appropriate and functional here,” Mlada said.

    Wu’s proposed Port Washington project largely revolves around development of an Infos website for the city that would involve monitoring water conditions, modeling them and predicting how they affect the currents, Mlada said.

    “It’s largely educational,” he said, noting the website could be accessed by the public and provide information on currents that would make the lakefront a safer place.

    “Can we ever make the lakefront entirely safe? No. But if you give people the information they need to make informed decisions, then we have gone a long way in making it a safer place.”

    The project is expected to cost $60,000, half of which Wu is attempting to obtain through a Wisconsin Coastal Management Grant, Mlada said. The city funding is a portion of the matching funds he needs to raise.

    “This is our way of saying we support this work,” Mlada said.

    Ozaukee County has also committed $2,500 in staff support for the project, he said.

    If Wu doesn’t raise the needed funding, the city will get its $2,500 back, Mlada noted.

    The website is already up with limited information on it, Mlada said, so funds would go primarily toward the purchase of the equipment needed to report, monitor and predict wave and current movement.

    “Without the monitoring buoys in the area, you really can’t have these real-time predictions,” he said.

    Wu’s project would be put in place on the north beach initially, Mlada said, and perhaps expanded to the south beach over time.

    “This would be a great tool for people,” Mlada said. “People thinking about going to the beach could check the conditions and determine whether the conditions are right.”

    In addition, information gathered through the bluff erosion portion of the study could give the city the tools it needs to help plan bluff stabilization projects — something city officials have considered for years, officials said.

    The project, which was recommended by the city’s Environmental Planning Committee, isn’t being funded through tax dollars, Mlada noted. The committee received an anonymous $10,000 donation to help with its projects, and this is one of three recommended for funding.

    The others are applying for a Bird City USA designation, which would cost $100, and funding a portion of an intern’s time to study issues the committee deems important, which would cost an estimated $2,600.

Town to ask voters if clerk should be elected PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 15:06

    Should the Town of Port Washington clerk be elected or appointed?

    That question will be put to voters this spring, the Town Board agreed earlier this month.

    The position is integral to the town and its operations, board members said, and if someone who isn’t qualified is elected it could cause havoc.

    “This is one position where, if you don’t have someone in who’s qualified or if you get a disgruntled person in, it could really put the town in a tizzy,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.

    By appointing a clerk, the town could ensure continuity and a professional operation, he said.

    “Otherwise, every two years you could have a new town clerk elected,” Building Inspector Rick Fellenz added.

    “It’s a pretty specialized job,” Town Supr. Jim Rychtik said. “I know what the town has invested in training to get a person who’s qualified for the job. I think this is a good idea.”

    Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt said it takes a substantial amount of training and experience to adequately handle the post.

    “I’ve been clerk for 3-1/2 years, and I finally feel comfortable, like I know what I’m doing,” she said — something her predecessor Susan Westerbeke told her would be the case.

    Schlenvogt also noted that the board could require more of an appointed clerk than an elected one.

    For example, she said, an elected clerk can hold as many or as few office hours as he likes. An appointed clerk, on the other hand, would have to keep the hours determined by the Town Board.

    The clerk isn’t a voting member of the Town Board and doesn’t determine policy, the board added.

    This wouldn’t be the first time the town put the question of the clerk’s position on the ballot. A referendum on the issue in 2010 failed, 343-319.

    Supr. Mike Didier noted that most townships have elected clerks. A 2012 Wisconsin Towns Association poll showed of the 1,257 townships, only 188 had appointed clerks, he said.

    Resident Terry Anewenter questioned the need for a change, saying elected clerks have served the town well.

    “What’s the point?” he asked. “We’ve had what — three clerks in 20 years. Jenny’s been unopposed the last two elections. She’s qualified.”

    Although the board informally agreed to the referendum this week, members deferred formal action until Jan. 6, when they will determine the actual wording of the question to be placed on the ballot.

City may invest $25,000 in breakwater campaign breakwater PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 18:12

Port Council considers hiring firm to champion its fight for repairs, find funding sources for local share of cost

    Port Washington aldermen are considering spending $25,000 to hire private consultants who would help the city raise money to fix the crumbling breakwater that protects the harbor.

    The city doesn’t have to raise the estimated $16 million needed to repair the breakwater, but it’s likely that it will have to raise $3.5 million as a local cost-sharing component, the consultant said.

    That cost-sharing component represents the city’s best chance at getting federal funds to finance the repairs, even though the Army Corps of Engineers has traditionally done the work entirely with federal funds, Mayor Tom Mlada said Tuesday.

    “Regardless of what happens (with federal funding), we’ve been told this will be a local-share solution,” Mlada said.

    Representatives of Foth Infrastructure & Environmental and SmithGroup JJR, which would collaborate on the project, told aldermen Tuesday they would provide basic design concepts and realistic cost estimates for the work, then shepherd the city through state and federal grant processes to help find funding.

    Some of the grant money could also be used to help pay their fees, they said.

    The consultants would also help the city create a harbor master plan, which Mlada said is essential for virtually all grant applications.

    “Without the plan up front, it’s difficult to get the grants,” said Brian Hinrichs, lead environmental scientist for Foth.

    The planning will also allow the city to tailor the breakwater to its needs and, just as important, to the requirements of grants, said Jack Cox, principal coastal engineer for SmithGroup JJR.

    Repairing the breakwater in its current configuration may not be the best thing for the city, he said, adding his group would create a concept design tailored to the city.

     The concept design and plans would give the city something tangible to present to officials and agencies that they, in turn, could use to promote the project, Cox said.

    The plans, which could include a phased approach, can be used to convince officials the project can be successful, Hinrichs said.

    “They want successful projects, and successful projects that are easier to do than if they start from scratch,” he said.

    Hinrichs said the city made great strides by traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby legislators and the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the breakwater and is responsible for allocating federal funds to repair such structures.

    That personal touch is important, he said, but the city needs to go further. His firm would not only work on state and federal grant applications, it will try to bring the decision-makers to Port to see the condition of the breakwater and its importance to the community, he said.

    “If it (a grant application) lands on their desk, it’s just one of 30,” he said. “We get them to your community. Without that step, your chances of getting a grant are probably one in 10. With it, that goes up to maybe 80% or 90%.”

    The firms would seek grants to offset the city’s share of the project cost, Hinrichs said. State grants could help provide the match needed for federal funds, he noted.

    The city needs to be prepared to apply for grants as soon as February, he said. Among the potential funding sources are the federal Harbor Trust Fund and the state stewardship program. Applications should be tailored to each program, something the consultants would do.

    Mlada said he is heartened by the fact U.S. senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri have signed a letter supporting the city’s efforts to place its breakwater repairs on the Army Corps of Engineers’ project list.

    “This is not a magic bullet,” Mlada said. “I’m not sure exactly how much this will move the needle.”

    The fact that both Baldwin, a Democrat, and Republicans Petri and Johnson signed the letter is also significant, Mlada said.

    Hinrichs agreed the letter is important, saying, “I don’t see those three signatures on one letterhead very often.”

    Mlada threw his support behind the consultants, saying their work could be vital to the city’s efforts.

    “This gets the ball rolling for us,” he said. “The iron is hot and we need to strike.”        The city has not budgeted any money for the breakwater, so officials would have to find funds for the work.

    The Finance and License Committee and Common Council will consider the consultant’s proposal Tuesday, Jan. 7.

City embraces museum plan for downtown PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 19:37

Port aldermen heap praise on Historical Society proposal for state-of-art, interactive facility

    The Port Washington Historical Society’s plan to create a state-of-the art, interactive museum in downtown Port was greeted with enthusiasm after it was presented to the Common Council last week.

    “I just think this is really, really cool,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “It makes me want to get more involved. This is awesome.”

    It’s not just local officials who are impressed by the plans, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who have proposed a Lake Michigan maritime sanctuary off the city’s shore and extending north to Two Rivers, are too, he said.

    “Clearly it was one of the pieces that impressed them the most” during a recent visit to the area, Mlada said.

    The museum is seen as a place where children and adults alike will be inspired as they learn about the city’s past, Bill Moren, chairman of the museum advisory board, told aldermen.

    “There is a surprise around every corner, a surprise with every touch,” Moren said. “This is our opportunity to keep our stories alive, our history alive.”

    Residents will be able to bring their memorabilia and get it digitized, and in the process create a living collection for the library, he said.

    The first exhibit at the museum will be an enhanced version of “The Man Behind the Camera: The Life and Work of Vernon Biever,” Moren said. It will encompasses not just Biever’s work as the official photographer of the Green Bay Packers but also his work as an Army photographer during World War II.

    A focal point of the three-story museum will be a lower level featuring a nautical-themed children’s museum designed to look like the deck of a three-masted schooner, complete with a captain’s wheel and crow’s nest. There will be eight interactive stations just in the children’s area, Moren said.

    The upper floors will be home to revolving exhibits that will tell the story of the community. There will be spaces that can be rented for private parties, as well as a second-story deck shaped like the bow of a ship that will overlook the marina.

    The Historical Society will be undertaking a $1.3 million fund-raising campaign to help pay the $2.5 million price tag for the museum, Moren said, noting that amount will not only finance development and staffing for the museum but also operations until it begins to make money.

    An anonymous donor contributed the first $1 million toward the museum.

    “As generous as that gift was, it’s not half as much as we need,” Moren said. “There’s a lot to do yet, and we need the community to be part of this.”

    Aldermen needed little convincing.

    “If there are things I can personally help with, I’d be glad to,” Ald. Doug Biggs said.

    Biggs told Moren that when he heard there were plans for a local museum, he initially thought it would be a dusty, dry place like similar facilities in so many communities.

    “I imagined all these little town museums I’ve seen, and I thought, ‘That’s going to draw 10 people a year, I guess,’” Biggs said.

    “This is unique. This is transformational, a place people will want to go.”

    “It’s phenomenal,” Ald. Dan Becker said.

    Moren said the Society will be kicking off its fund-raising campaign in the coming weeks.

    The museum, he noted, will be the Society’s third major building initiative, behind the renovation of the historic Light Station on Johnson Street and the creation of the group’s research center at 205 N. Franklin St.

Port council says yes to BID operating plan PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 18:28

Aldermen praise restructured agreement they say will improve relationship between city, downtown group

    The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday approved an operating plan for the Business Improvement District that aldermen said will lead to better relations with Port Main Street Inc., which is funded in large part by the BID.

    “I really think some real progress has been made,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “I like what I see here in the operating plan.

    “What happened a few months ago with Main Street financially is unfortunate. When bad things happen, there are consequences. But I feel some time has passed. It would be nice to have some healing.”

    Ald. Mike Ehrlich added, “I think we can finally move on.”

    Relations between the city and Main Street deteriorated after Rock the Harbor, a Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration in August that plunged the organization into debt, even though festival organizers had pledged not to use any Main Street funds for the event.

    Aldermen initially called for the Main Street board to resign, and ultimately voted not to make the city’s annual $25,000 contribution to the organization in 2014.

    But the proposed BID plan calls for enough oversight of Main Street that officials said they may reinstate the city contribution to the organization in the future.

    “BID and Main Street are important to our city and our downtown,” Becker said. “Hopefully the city will continue to fund Main Street down the road.”

    The BID operating plan calls for the organization to retain about $5,000 of the $60,000 it receives from the city through a tax on downtown properties, with the remaining money used to finance Main Street’s operations.

    However, the plan also requires Main Street to address the $5,000 deficit expected at the end of 2013 and to work more closely with the BID board than it has in the past.

    “The issues the council had concerns about, I think, have been addressed,” City Administrator Mark Grams said, noting the BID board is committed to keeping a close watch on Main Street’s finances and its review process is a good one.

    “I think the BID board has developed a good operating plan, and I think the Main Street board has done a good job, too.”

    “I’m encouraged by what I see here,” Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee, said. “I think it’s a good, solid plan.”

    Had it been in place originally, Larson said, many of the issues that plagued Main Street this past year likely could have been avoided.

    “I really appreciate the hard work the entire BID board has put into creating this plan. The board took to heart the
council’s concerns,” Ald. Doug Biggs, a member of the Finance and License Committee, said. “I’m very impressed by the work they did.”

    Larson said the agreement paves the way for the city, BID and Main Street to work together in the future.

    “We have to remember we’re all on the same page when it comes to where we want to go,” he said. “We as a council need to be part of the solution. We have the same goal of improving downtown Port Washington. I look forward to an improved relationship between all three groups.

    “Thank you for keeping this thing going.”

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