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Port Washington


Agreement offers new life for former bank PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 20:19

Development plan approved by Port council gives local businessman timeline to buy, renovate building


    The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday signed off on a developer’s agreement that provides a timeline for the renovation of the former M&I Bank building in downtown — a move that businessman Gertjan van den Broek said paves the way for him to purchase the dilapidated structure from Port Harbor Investments on Thursday.

    It could also end a controversy that has dogged the building since 2007, when Port Harbor Investments bought it and promised  a multi-million-dollar, high-end redevelopment that never came to fruition.

    The 13-page agreement approved Tuesday outlines the steps that must be taken by van den Broek to renovate the building, which includes the classic bank built in 1910 and the adjoining Businessman’s Club.

    Van den Broek, who is buying the building through the limited liability corporation Renew Port Holdings, is required to repair the facade of the dilapidated building by May 21.

    If by April 30 he secures a lease for a commercial tenant who requires different exterior improvements, he may request an extension, the agreement states.

    But if that doesn’t occur and the improvements aren’t completed by the deadline, the city may require the building to be razed within 45 days, the agreement says.

    Ald. Joe Dean questioned that clause, saying the building would then come down in early July.

    “We would be razing this building at the height of our tourist season,” he said. “That’s a little troublesome for me, even though I’m confident it won’t come to that.”

    The city has the option of delaying the work until after the tourist season, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt noted.

    The agreement also calls for van den Broek — who has said he envisions a four-phase redevelopment of the building — to submit concept plans to the Plan Commission by September, with the goal of having final plan approval by April 30, 2013.

    Construction of the first phase, the creation of three to five apartments on the upper floors of the existing building, or the second phase, the improvement of the commercial
storefronts, must be substantially complete by Oct. 1, 2013, the agreement states.

    At that time, the threat of the city requiring the building to be demolished will end, the agreement states.

    But if at least 51% of either phase is not completed by Oct. 1, 2013, the city may require the building to be razed.

    However, the agreement refers to the deadlines as benchmarks, saying that both parties agree to make “reasonable accommodation” to the  schedule if the market or financing require that the redevelopment proceed in a different manner.

    “To me, that’s one of the key dates,” City Administrator Mark Grams said. “Obviously, these redevelopment plans could change depending on the economy.”

    The city is also requiring van den Broek to provide a $60,000 letter of credit.

    Once the facade is improved, the letter of credit will be reduced by $20,000, the agreement states. When the plans and specifications for either phase one or two are approved, it will be reduced by another $15,000.

    The balance will be released on Oct. 1, 2013, if the majority of the improvements for phase one or two is complete, the agreement states.

 
Where’s the tower plan? PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:18

Port officials haven’t heard for weeks from group that wanted to build 80-foot-tall structure in Upper Lake Park


    A proposal to build an observation tower in Port Washington’s Upper Lake Park overlook area was advancing at a rapid pace earlier this year, but it has abruptly dropped out of sight.

    City officials withheld action on the proposal in January because representatives of the Friends of the Tower and their contractor could not attend the Common Council meeting.

    Since then, communications between the city and the group have been virtually non-existent, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

    “We haven’t heard a word,” he said.

    Port Washington businessman Pat Poole, a spokesman for the group, failed to return calls seeking information on the status of the tower.

    The Friends of the Tower has proposed raising between $300,000 and $500,000 to build the 80-foot-tall tower as a gift to the city.

    The structure would be an attraction for residents and visitors alike, Poole said, offering views that people can’t get anywhere else. The park was selected as a site because it is visible and, as one of the city’s highest points, would likely offer some of the most spectacular views, he said.

    The plan was endorsed by the city’s Plan Commission and Parks and Recreation Board. However, after officials got a graphic demonstration of the height of the structure and the views it afforded by being lifted in the fire department ladder truck, many aldermen expressed misgivings about its location, aesthetics and height.

    The concerns led some officials to suggest an alternate site be sought.

    “I am not adverse to this project,” Ald. Dan Becker said Jan. 17. “I’m just not in favor of this location. I don’t think it works, and I want to look elsewhere.”

    Neither Poole nor a representative of Jos. Schmitt & Sons Construction, which built a similar tower in Sheboygan in 2009, was available to attend the January meeting.

    “I don’t think it’s fair to pursue this (discussion) until we have a representative of the people who want to do it here,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said at the time.

    Representatives of the Friends group said they would notify the city when they can attend a council meeting, Grams said.

    “Until they come back to the city, there’s nothing we can do,” Mayor Scott Huebner said. “We’re just waiting to hear from them.”

 
Benefit critics carry the day in PW-S School Board primary PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 19:04

Larsson, Kelley finish first and second; Mueller, Fritsch also advance


    Ross Larsson and Earl Kelley, the two self-described conservative candidates for the Port Washington-Saukville School Board who have been critical of teacher benefits, received the most votes in Tuesday’s five-candidate primary race for two City of Port Washington seats on the board.

    Also advancing to the April 3 general election are Michelle Mueller and Brenda Fritsch. Leo Duffrin was eliminated from the race.

    Larsson, a 41-year-old real estate appraiser, received 865 votes (21.9%), while Kelly, a 74-year-old retiree, garnered 840 votes (21.2%), according to unofficial results from the Ozaukee County Clerk.

    Mueller, a 43-year-old technology consultant, finished a close third with 837 votes (21.2%), while Fritsch, a 44-year-old residential designer, received 752 votes (19%).

    Duffrin garnered 644 votes (16.2%).

    A total of 3,955 ballots were cast in the school board primary election.

    The results are unofficial until certified by the school district’s Board of Canvass and could change slightly because of outstanding absentee ballots.

    On April 3, voters will chose two of the four remaining candidates to replace longtime board members Patty Ruth, who is the current president of the board, and Myron Praeger, both of whom are stepping down at the end of their terms.

    Larsson and Kelley have worked to distinguish themselves as the conservative candidates for the board. They have been critical of the School Board’s decision to approve a teacher contract extension and outspoken about their desire to further curb benefits.

    Larsson, Kelley and John Soper, who is challenging incumbent Carey Gremminger for her Village of Saukville seat on the board in the general election,  collaborated on a mailing to voters titled, “Your conservative School Board candidates.”

    That message, Kelley said Wednesday, resonated with voters.

    “I think it must have because the candidates have similar positions when it comes to academics,” he said. “Where we differ is on the teacher benefit issue.”

    Fritsch, who has defended the teacher contract extension as being fair to employees and taxpayers, conceded that the issue of teacher benefits was undoubtedly a factor in the election returns.

    “It remains a very hot topic in this state, so I think it could have been a factor, particularly in a primary where voter turnout isn’t always so high,” she said. “I think that might change in the April election.”

    In a pre-election interview with Ozaukee Press, Kelley said the contract extension approved last year, which included a pay freeze and brought health insurance and pension contributions in line with the state’s budget-repair law, did not go far enough to  reduce teacher benefits.

    “Teachers — and even they seem to admit this — have a Cadillac benefit package. I’m not talking about changing it overnight, but taking one, two, even three years to bring teacher benefits in line with those of the general public,” he said.

    Kelley is also calling for the creation of an ad-hoc committee consisting of district taxpayers to oversee the creation of an employee handbook, which will replace teacher contracts next school year.

    Larsson said he sees the current board as “a group of people who are sympathetic to teachers and the unions when instead they should be sympathetic to parents.”

    Fritsch said her focus is on continuing the academic and extracurricular programs the district offers.

    Mueller and Duffrin pegged their campaigns on the need to expand the use of technology in schools, specifically saying the district needs to find the means within its budget to replace textbooks with tablet computers and electronic texts.

    “Our generation hasn’t prepared itself for the challenges we now face,” Mueller said in an interview. “Not changing that for our children would be an even greater mistake.”

       

 
Retirements will cost PW-S district 14 staff members PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 19:35

    The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday approved retirement requests for nine veteran teachers and five paraprofessionals.

    The 14 retirements are effective at the end of this school year in June and come on the heels of 23 employee retirements last school year, the most the district has had in recent history.

    Teachers who are retiring on June 30 are: Jim Juech, fourth grade at Saukville Elementary School; Pam Kirsch, special education at Thomas Jefferson Middle School; Cheryl Lanser, fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary School; Jerome “Bim” LeMahieu, fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Middle School; Linda Lohr, fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Middle School; Diane Pfaffenroth, first grade at Saukville Elementary School; Linda Raschka-Garcia, third grade at Saukville Elementary School; Christine Rismeyer, fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary School; and Lilly Wisotzke, fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

    Retiring paraprofessionals are Jane Allam, Thomas Jefferson Middle School; Kay Gnorski and Diane Kozlowski, both at Port Washington High School; Becky LeDuc, Dunwiddie Elementary School; and Linda Verhey, Lincoln Elementary School.

    “We have some great people leaving our district after many years of service and I’m sure we’ll have some great people coming into this district,” Supt. Michael Weber said.

    The deadline for submitting retirement notifications was Feb. 1.

    Of the 23 employees who retired last year, 18 were teachers. Many of the retirements were prompted by changes to the teacher contract, which was influenced by the state’s budget-repair law.

 
City loan to help couple buy historic firehouse PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 19:20

Port council agrees to lend $40,000 to business owners who want to convert vacant building into art gallery, hall


     The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to lend Blue Heron Artisan’s Gallery LLC $40,000 from its revolving loan fund to help finance the purchase of the historic firehouse at the corner of Wisconsin and Pier streets.

    The 20-year loan, which will help Betty and Jim Langford buy the building and renovate it as an art gallery and banquet hall, will have an interest rate of 1.625% interest, aldermen said.

    In exchange for the loan, the couple agreed to create the equivalent of two full-time jobs, officials said.

    The city agreed in December to sell the historic firehouse to the Langfords for $188,000. Although the sale was to be completed by the end of 2011, the couple ran into a financing glitch and the closing was delayed.

    The council’s action Tuesday paves the way for the couple to complete the purchase.

    Betty Langford told aldermen Tuesday that the couple plan to create an informal gallery on the main floor where artists would rent space.

    “The idea is to support the artists so they would have a place to sell and display their art,” she said.

    She has about 14 artists who are interested in the gallery, Langford said, adding the space could accommodate 80 artisans.

    On the lower level, the couple plan to create a banquet hall.

    There’s been a lot of interest in that space, Langford said. A music teacher is talking about renting space twice weekly, she said, and an exercise instructor is also looking to lease space.

    The hall could also be rented for one-time events, including a shower planned for May, she said.

    To help commemorate the building’s  roots as the city’s firehouse, Langford said she will create an area to showcase the fire department and its history.

    Langford said she plans to paint and install new floors in the building, which also needs a new furnace, attic insulation and upgrades to the electrical system.

    “I think this is a great use for the building, and I think this will fit nicely in the fabric of downtown,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said.

    People often talk about the need for a space for the arts, Mayor Scott Huebner said, and this would help meet that need.

    “I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

    The historic firehouse was last used as the city’s senior center. The center moved from the site to a new location in the former St. John’s Church on Foster Street last summer.


 
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