Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 18:30
Port group’s secret-ballot rejection of attempt to give ex officio members voting rights blasted by mayor, aldermen
Port Washington Main Street Inc. on Tuesday voted by secret ballot not to adopt a recommendation of the Common Council to allow the ex officio members of its board to become voting members.
The 7-2 vote angered city officials, who had lobbied for the recommendation.
“We weren’t even given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote,” Ald. Dan Becker said during the Common Council meeting that followed the Main Street board’s meeting. “It just shocked me.”
The council’s resolution called for the executive directors of Port Main Street, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council, as well as the city planner, to be full members of each other’s board of directors.
The Chamber has adopted the resolution, but the Tourism Council has not yet considered the matter.
After the vote, Main Street board member Harry Schaumburg said the ex officio members should not consider the vote a rejection of them or their work.
“The decision on this is in no way a reflection on the ex officio members, on their contributions,” he said. “I think we need to go on record and say this is not what we’re voting on.”
The ex officio members — Tourism Director Kathy Tank, Chamber Director Lisa Crivello and City Planner Randy Tetzlaff — have all been active on the Main Street board and as volunteers, board member Maria Kiesow noted.
Aldermen had lobbied hard for the recommendation to be adopted, appearing before the Main Street board in August to appeal for its approval.
Becker appeared at the Main Street board meeting Tuesday night to again lobby for its approval, saying, “It will only make this board stronger. The more people you have at the table, not just to express their opinion but to vote, the better. It’s great they all participate.”
Mayor Tom Mlada, a member of the Main Street board who was not present when the vote was taken, blasted the decision.
“It was an opportunity for the board to do the right thing, and it failed,” he said. “They took that opportunity tonight and flushed it down the toilet.”
Mlada said approving the measure would have rewarded the ex officio members for their hard work and dedication, saying they play a vital role and bring a valuable perspective to the Main Street board as well as coordinate efforts between the agencies, something that should be rewarded with voting rights.
“I think the losers were not just the three individuals who have been pouring themselves into Main Street for years now and have set a bar for collaboration and cooperation,” he said.
It would have made the Main Street board a better board, Mlada said.
“When we don’t have the best board possible, we don’t have the best program possible,” he said.
“For me, it’s a defeat that’s hard to stomach.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 20:38
Fire chief says yes, telling commission that department has outgrown current facility
It’s time the City of Port Washington considers building a second fire station on its west or south sides, where the community is experiencing the most growth, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell told the Police and Fire Commission Monday.
“We’ve really outgrown our current station,” he said. “I think the time has come where we need to seriously think about it.”
He suggested the city explore the former highways LL and 33 ramp land east of Eernisse Funeral Home on the city’s west side as a potential site for a new fire station.
It would provide easy access to highways, he said, and many department members live on that side of the community.
“The potential is there,” Mitchell said. “We need to look at this now while the land is still available.”
He considered locations in the former VK Homes property on the city’s southeast side, Mitchell said, but decided against recommending them.
“It’s too remote,” he said.
Space is at a premium in the fire station, Mitchell said. Since the current fire station at 104 W. Washington St. was built in 1968, he said, fire trucks have grown wider and longer.
Despite an addition built in 1995, he said, “The trucks are packed in there. You can’t open the door of one without hitting the side of the other.”
The training room is undersized for the current department, Mitchell said, and there aren’t designated restrooms for women.
“This was built back in the time when there weren’t female firefighters,” he said, noting the department has 20 to 25 women on its roster today.
In the future, the department is likely to need some sort of living space, particularly for paramedics, he said.
That space would also be needed when the city hires some full-time firefighters, Mitchell said.
“We’re heading in that direction,” he said, adding the department currently has about 70 staff members, including firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and divers.
The current fire station also lacks storage space and is not energy efficient, Mitchell said.
“There’s a lot a modern facility would do to make things more efficient,” he said.
Building a new station on the outskirts of the city would also trim the department’s response time, Mitchell said, noting firefighters would not have to fight traffic getting to the station and leaving in fire trucks. They would also be closer to some of the more remote portions of the department’s coverage area, he said.
“As the city grows, our response times are getting longer,” he said.
Mitchell said he envisions a new facility becoming the headquarters for the department, with administrative, training and storage facilities as well as operational space.
A larger training room could also be used as a community room for the city, he added.
The current station could then be used as a satellite station, Mitchell said, especially if the city made an investment in the building to increase energy efficiency.
The department has enough trucks to equip both facilities, he said.
Mitchell said he’s discussed the need for a new station with the city’s finance committee at budget time in recent years, but it’s time to make a concerted effort to jump-start talks.
Mitchell said he does not know how much land would be needed for a new station, nor does he have a cost estimate. Commission members suggested the city should consider a joint facility, noting the county Emergency Management Department is also in need of additional space.
“We’re all about trying to share things and cut costs,” Mitchell said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for shared services. It just depends on what everyone wants to put into it, or if there’s any interest at all.”
He told the commission that Cedarburg has the newest fire station in the county, and Saukville’s firehouse is among the best in the area.
Commission members agreed that it’s time to consider Mitchell’s proposal, but said more research is needed to make a case to the Common Council.
“I think you should pursue it,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson told Mitchell.
Commission member Mike Mueller said Mitchell needs to compile statistics on what comparable departments have in terms of facilities and equipment.
“You have a case for it,” he said. “The need appears to be there. Now, you have to create a business case for it.”
Image Information: PORT WASHINGTON’S fire station is cramped and inefficient, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said as he told the Police and Fire Commission it’s time to look for a location for a second firehouse. The current firehouse at 104 W. Washington St. was built in 1968, with an addition built in
1995. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 18:17
Proposed law to prevent unsafe lakefront activities goes to Port council Sept. 17
Even as they plan for Coal Dock Park’s grand opening celebration Sept. 28 and 29, Port Washington officials are continuing to refine the park’s use and makeup.
On Tuesday, the Common Council reviewed a proposed ordinance that would prohibit people from skateboarding in the park and from swimming and diving into the lake and Sauk Creek.
“We’ve already had instances of kids jumping from the promenade (along the north side of the dock) into Lake Michigan,” city Administrator Mark Grams said. “The current there is fairly strong, so we really want to discourage that.”
The danger comes because the power plant’s outflow is located nearby, he said, causing the current in the area to be stronger than it seems.
Youths have also been skateboarding in the park, Grams said, noting that activity is prohibited downtown.
“I saw a kid skateboarding on the railing to the steps there,” he said, noting this could cause damage to not just the railing but the steps as well.
Aldermen are expected to vote on the proposed ordinance when they meet Sept. 17.
The Common Council also approved an $8,800 contract with Dave’s Excavation and Grading to repair the lawn in the new park.
“It was rutted up pretty badly during construction,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said. “Right now, it’s essentially growing wild.”
The Port Washington company will till the area, regrade it and plant it with turf grasses and, around the boardwalk, with native plants.
Also Tuesday, the Parks and Recreation Board approved the idea of lending the Lions Club $15,000 from its open spaces fund to help fund a pavilion in the park.
The club would repay the loan over the next five years.
City Administrator Mark Grams had asked whether a three-year repayment plan was possible, Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig said.
Shawn Hokanson, president of the Lions Club, said the group is also contributing to beach signs and would like to stretch the payments over five years to ensure it isn’t overextended.
Board members agreed, with Ald. Kevin Rudser saying, “I’d hate to have to have three be the number and you have a couple of bad years with your fundraising.”
The pavilion would be a memorial to Tyler Buczek, who drowned off the north beach last Labor Day weekend, and Peter Dougherty, who drowned while kayaking off south beach last spring.
The cost of the pavilion is estimated at $90,000, and the Lions Club gift is the first major donation, said Jim Buczek, Tyler’s uncle and a member of the city’s Waterfront Safety Committee.
“We’re just getting the ball rolling,” Hokanson said, noting the club approved the donation several months ago. “We like to do projects that improve life in the city, and this fits in well with that mission.”
Mayor Tom Mlada, who is organizing a four-mile lakeshore run and walk for Sept. 28 as part of Coal Dock Park’s grand opening celebration, received approval from the Parks and Recreation Board to contribute any funds from the event to the pavilion.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 18:31
Port officials reaffirm decision to conduct tests at Upper Lake Park in effort to combat erosion problem
Port Washington officials last week reiterated their intention to conduct soil borings on the Upper Lake Park bluff in a continuing attempt to find a way to stabilize the hillside.
But the decision to spend $17,117 to hire Wisconsin Testing Labs was not without controversy.
The city’s two newest aldermen, who were not in office when the testing was initially approved last year, questioned the decision.
Ald. Kevin Rudser said he agreed with the project last year, but after attending a conference on bluff stabilization, he changed his mind.
“I’m not sure it’s worth spending the money,” he said. “The lake is going to take what the lake is going to take.”
Ald. Bill Driscoll concurred, saying he has done a significant amount of research into the issue.
“What I’ve found is a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t work,” he said.
But other officials said the borings will provide the city with information needed to make a final decision on a bluff stabilization plan.
“I think this is something we need to do,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “We have to do this to find out where our problems are.
“At the very least, we will get more information to help us decide where to go from here.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich agreed, saying, “This is the first step to find out how we stabilize the bluff. This will give us the information we need to make a decision.”
The council approved the borings last summer after learning about a wick system that could be used to draw water from the bluff.
The Common Council agreed to hire Giles Engineering — which submitted the lower of two bids — to do the work at a cost of $14,880 but delayed the project until this year because of budget concerns.
In the meantime, the city received a $7,440 Wisconsin Coastal Management grant to pay for half the cost.
But officials said Giles Engineering never provided the necessary proof of insurance to the city, so they approached Wisconsin Testing Labs to do the work.
The company will conduct two soil borings to a depth of about 110 feet and install 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.
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 moved tons of earth down the side of the bluff and across the beach, leaving a mound of clay-like earth roughly 12 feet high.
Bluff stabilization has been 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.