Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 18:45
Concerns with aesthetics, building materials prompt Port commission to send project back to developer
The Port Washington Plan Commission last week put the brakes on a proposal to build an apartment complex on the city’s south side.
Commission members tabled the concept plan for a 60-unit project, saying they want the developer to improve the aesthetics and quality of materials to be used for the five 12-unit buildings proposed at the corner of Sauk Road and Harris Drive.
Commission member Bud Sova was particularly outspoken in his criticism of the proposal, saying that when city residents were surveyed years ago, they said there were too many apartments in the community.
“We need to revisit that,” Sova said. “It’s something we need to do our homework on. There was a huge imbalance (in the ratio between single-family homes and apartments).”
City Planner Randy Tetzlaff noted that the city has come a long way since that time, noting that over the past 12 years, the city has approved more than 600 single-family homes and only 48 apartment units.
The commission previously approved a proposal to construct 150 units on the 10-1/4 acre parcel — more than double the number proposed by Premier, Tetzlaff noted.
“That doesn’t mean it was right,” said Sova.
The apartments proposed by Premier Real Estate Development are higher quality, Tetzlaff added, with amenities that include individual entries for each unit, laundry facilities in each unit, attached garages and cathedral ceilings.
Attorney Joe Goldberger, who presented Premier’s proposal to the commission, said the units will rent for between $795 and $975 a month. Similar developments built by the firm have done well, he added, noting many are full before the buildings are completed.
“We’ve built these in other communities and they’ve been welcomed with open arms,” Goldberger said. “This is a good project.”
Premier has financing lined up for the project, he added.
“We’d like to get started as soon as possible,” Goldberger said.
Commission member Amanda Williams asked for information to back up the firm’s claims that there is a market for the complex.
“For you to just say, ‘We know this is going to be successful’ is hard for me to buy into,” she said.
The firm made changes to reduce the amount of pavement on the site and added some architectural features to make the buildings more attractive — changes recommended by the Design Review Board, Goldberger noted.
Williams also suggested the developer use color to break up the facade and bump out some parts of the exterior walls to add interest to the buildings, as well as consider creating a berm to shield the view from the road.
Goldberger said he would discuss the suggestion with company officials, but noted that the project has to be economically viable for the work to proceed.
“In the end, the economics simply have to work,” he said, noting that the cost of the land is high and the developer is constrained by infrastructure previously installed on the property. “At some point, the project simply becomes cost prohibitive.”
But Sova said better materials are essential.
“We’re going to have to put up with this for the next 50 years,” he said. “Just to jump at it because it’s something to build in bad times doesn’t make it right.”
Sova was adamant that the buildings should be downsized, saying the complex is along the city’s southern entryway, an area that should be kept as attractive as possible with buildings that don’t loom over the landscape.
“This is going to be larger than anything we’ve built in the last 30 years, except for the high rise,” Sova said. “These are going to be pretty massive buildings close to the road. They’re not attractive, aesthetically.”
But Tetzlaff warned that breaking the project into more buildings will decrease the amount of green space on the property, adding the city has worked hard to
retain as much green space as possible on the site.
The buildings previously approved for the land included structures that were two stories high and would have contained as many as 44 units — many more than Premier is proposing, Tetzlaff said.
That fact seemed to convince some commission members the complex is worth considering, although they asked that additional work be done to minimize the impact of the project on the area.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 18:56
Award cites PWHS program that helps growing number of students earn college credits
The Port Washington-Saukville School District has received national recognition for an advanced placement program that is giving more students than ever a chance to earn college credits in high school.
The district is one of 539 school systems in the United States and Canada named to the AP District Honor Roll, the College Board, which administers the advanced placement system, announced Monday.
That puts Port Washington High School’s advanced placement program in the top echelon of AP programs in the nation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 16,025 public school districts in the United States alone.
Twenty-five other districts in Wisconsin were named to the honor roll. The Cedarburg School District is the only other one in Ozaukee County on the list.
“Success isn’t accidental,” Port Washington High School Principal Eric Burke told the School Board Monday. “We’re very proud of this honor, and it goes back to the teachers, students and parents in this district.”
The recognition is based on two factors — increasing student access to advanced placement courses and the percentage of students who earn a score of 3 or higher on AP exams.
The AP program prepares students for post-high school education with college-level courses and allows them to earn credits credit at most colleges by scoring at least 3 out of 5 points on AP exams.
It is not uncommon, administrators said, to have at least one Port High student graduate with sophomore standing in college because of AP coursework.
The AP Honor Roll recognition is based on the last three years of districts’ advanced placement testing. During that time, the number of Port High students who took AP exams increased from 226 to 295.
The percentage of students who scored 3 or higher on the exams has increased from 78% in 2010 to 85% in 2012. The school’s mean exam score is 3.3.
The school offers AP courses in 14 subject areas.
Port High is being recognized for striking a balance between student participation in the AP program and test scores, which is not the case in all school districts, administrators said. Some high schools, mindful that AP test scores are one of the measures by which schools are compared, only encourage their highest achieving students to take AP exams.
“Could our test scores be higher if we didn’t encourage all students to participate in AP classes? Probably,” Burke said.
“But we want all of students to have the opportunity to prepare themselves for college and earn college credits at Port High.”
Burke credited teachers and counselors with encouraging students to take AP courses and exams.
Chris Surfus, the district’s curriculum coordinator, said Port High’s AP program is also successful because the district provides funding to train AP instructors, which is not the norm.
“This is a pretty remarkable honor for our program,” Supt. Michael Weber said.
“One of the truest measures of whether you’re connecting the curriculum with students are advanced placement scores and, of course, the end result is having your students go to college with credits.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 19:41
Decision to limit crowd at park event Friday catches some Port officials off guard
The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will dedicate its World War II monument on Port Washington’s coal dock Friday afternoon in a ceremony that will give about 150 people their first look at the coal dock property — but not the general public.
The news that the 3 p.m. ceremony to dedicate the memorial, a replica of the Wisconsin Pillar at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., is by invitation only surprised some city officials.
“I thought it was open to anybody,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said. “I’m at a loss. It’s city controlled property. I always thought public property was open to everybody.”
Joe Dean, a city alderman and chairman of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight board, said the group decided to make the dedication an invitation-only event because of the vagaries of the weather.
“The weather is unpredictable and we have a tent that seats 150 people,” Dean said. “This is not meant to be controversial.”
Invitations went out to key veterans and volunteers who have given years of service to the Honor Flight and its efforts to take World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorial dedicated to them, he said.
Members of the Port Washington-Saukville Rotary Club also received invitations.
“We wanted to be sure they have a place,” Dean said. “We’re trying to do something nice for our vets, period. I think the vast number of people understand that.”
If other people show up for the ceremony, they won’t be turned away, he said, adding organizers request a reservation through the Stars and Stripes website.
The grand opening of the coal dock planned for June will be for the community, Dean added.
“Everyone will be welcome to view it when we have the open house,” he said.
Ald. Jim Vollmar said he, too, was surprised to learn the dedication is by invitation only.
“Most dedications should be open to the public,” he said. “The question to me is whether the coal dock is ready to be open.”
With construction crews continuing to work on infrastructure for the coal dock park, Vollmar said, there may be safety issues.
Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada concurred, saying the constraints of construction would make it difficult for large numbers of people to get to the memorial.
“I think it’s the reality of logistics,” he said. “I see a sense of urgency with the timing of the event, given the age of the veterans.
“I think we’ve got to get construction done and get through the challenges of the weather, and in June we’re going to have a very large grand opening event.”
Friday’s event will include performances by the Thomas Jefferson Middle School choir and vocalist Jenny Thiel, a presentation of colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, remarks by a variety of dignitaries and the reading of a eulogy for a World War II soldier by Abby Cibulka, an eighth-grader at John Long Middle School in Grafton.
Veterans Harvey Kurz and Joe Demler will place a wreath at the site.
Image Information: SMOOTHING CONCRETE along the promenade at the north end of the coal dock early this week was Jesse Keller of Cascade. Photo by Sam Arendt
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 18:12
PW-S spending plan for 2012-13 includes funding for energy-cost saving initiative
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday approved a revised 1012-13 budget that, despite being thrown a last-minute curve by a decrease in state aid, comes close to the district’s goal of a flat tax levy.
The spending plan, which includes funding for a roughly $2 million energy efficiency capital improvement initiative, results in a $14.2 million property tax levy — a .35% increase of $49,378 — that was also approved by the board.
The resulting tax rate of $9.71 per $1,000 of property value is a 34-cent (3.6%) increase from last school year, one that is due in part to an average 3.2% decrease in equalized property values in the school district.
On average, the owner of a $175,000 property would pay an additional $5.74 in school taxes, but how the rate affects taxpayers depends on how much property values decreased in their city, town or village.
While all five taxing entities in the school district lost property value, some lost more than others. Residents of communities that suffered the largest decreases in value are expected to see their school taxes decrease, while those who live in areas that had less of a decrease should see a tax hike.
For instance, equalized property values in the City of Port Washington decreased by about the average, so the owner of a $175,000 property can expect to pay $6.11 more in school taxes this year, according to school district figures.
The Village of Saukville had the smallest property value decrease, so village residents who live in the Port Washington-Saukville School District can expect to see the largest increase on their tax bills — $22.47 for a $175,000 property, according to district calculations.
Portions of the towns of Grafton, Saukville and Port Washington all experienced larger than average decreases in property value, which means school tax bills will decrease slightly in these areas.
In June, the School Board approved a budget that school officials thought anticipated key variables such as state aid and changes in property values. But last month, administrators were surprised by state aid calculations that showed the district, like the majority of school systems in Wisconsin, will receive less funding this year.
“We thought there could be a slight adjustment, but a decrease of this amount was definitely not anticipated,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “The loss of $180,000 is not as significant as what some other districts experienced, but it’s still quite significant.
“And we still do not have a sound explanation for why two-thirds of the districts in the state are receiving less aid.”
The decrease in state aid continues a recent trend in which local property taxes, as opposed to state aid, fund a greater share of education costs in the district. Until last school year, it was the state that bore that burden. This school year, local property taxes constitute 48% of the district operating revenue while state sources account for 44.7%. A number of other smaller funding sources make up the difference.
The loss of state aid could have been a larger problem had the school district financial outlook not been so positive.
For the first time in many years, the district began this year’s budget process without a proposed deficit. In addition, it retired its referendum debt last school year, taking the burden of a $473,429 annual payment off the tax levy.
The district also ended last school year with a budget surplus of $795,000, which was invested in fund equity. Fund equity is essentially the district’s savings account.
That set the stage for what administrators said was a unique opportunity — a capital improvement initiative designed to improve energy efficiency in buildings throughout the district.
Normally, school districts must win voter approval in a referendum to borrow more than $1 million, but the Port Washington-Saukville School Board used an exemption that allows boards to authorize borrowing in excess of $1 million for projects that improve energy efficiency.
The board on Monday approved a resolution that allows the district to increase its revenue limit to pay for the projects. It has authorized the borrowing of no more than $2.27 million.
To soften the impact of the debt on the levy, the board decided to apply $400,000 — half of last year’s budget surplus — from fund equity to the project.
This year’s payment on the 10-year loan is expected to be less than $200,000, which administrators point out is less than half of what the annual payment on the referendum debt was.
The energy-efficiency projects include replacing existing lighting with LED fixtures and bulbs, weatherizing buildings, installing water conservation devices and vending machine energy controls, upgrading air-handling controls and recommissioning ventilation systems throughout the district. The project also includes the replacement of heating systems at Dunwiddie and Saukville elementary schools.
The district’s performance contractor, McKinstry, estimates a $214,000 savings in energy and operational costs and potential incentives worth $41,548, for about a 10-year payback on the project.
“We’re very pleased that this budget allowed us a unique opportunity to address energy efficiency in our buildings,” Weber said. “The whole dynamic of the events surrounding this budget were very unusual, but we were able to take advantage of them to benefit our district.”