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Port Washington


PW-S school race field grows to three PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 19:15

Trio of candidates for two open board seats includes outspoken critic of benefits paid to district teachers

Three candidates, including one who has been critical of teacher benefits, have registered to run in the April election for two open seats on the Port Washington-Saukville School Board.

The candidates are Earl Kelley, who recently called teacher retirement benefits “ridiculous,” and Brenda Fritsch and Michelle Mueller, both of whom have children in the district and said they want to be more involved in a school system they hold in high regard.

The three are vying for two City of Port Washington seats being vacated by veteran board members Patty Ruth and Myron Praeger.

The election will bring change to board that has had stable leadership for more than a decade. Ruth will have served on the board for 18 years in April. For 14 of those years, she has been the board president.

Praeger has been on the board for 14 years.

Kelley, 74, who is retired from Patrick Cudahy in Milwaukee, said he was motivated to run by the board’s ongoing effort to create an employee handbook that will replace union contracts.

“Once I found out what type of benefits teachers in this district have, I was absolutely shocked,” he said. “I feel strongly that teachers must have fair wages and benefits, but what they receive now is so much better than what the rest of us get.”

Kelley, who was critical of the board’s decision earlier this year to grant teachers a one-year contract extension, said the board has done a good job managing the district with one notable exception.

“The board has gotten into a rhythm. The whole idea has been to keep teachers happy, and they certainly have done that,” he said. “People seem to forget that teaching is still only a 190-day-a-year job.”

Fritsch, 44, an architect who runs a design firm, is active in school parent groups and serves as chairman of the Milwaukee Area Technical College Technology Advisory Committee. She has three children in district schools.

“I’ve been involved in education for many years and am excited by the idea of being part of such a conscientious and balanced school board,” she said. “I’m very pleased with the board, the staff and the school system in general.”   

Mueller, 43, a technology consultant, said she is also pleased with the education her two children receive in the district and said she would like to use her background to make sure Port Washington-Saukville students are prepared for the 21st century.

“The information age is well under way and we’re a little behind,” she said. “Some of us may be able to eke by in life a little behind, but our kids won’t be able to.

“I get that there are budgets and we have to live within our means, but there are ways of putting technology in the hands of our kids while still balancing the budget.”

Board member Carey Gremminger, who represents the Village of Saukville, is seeking re-election and is currently unopposed. Candidates have until Tuesday, Jan. 3, to register for the April election.

The board is comprised of nine members representing the City of Port Washington and portions of the Village of Saukville and towns of Port, Saukville and Grafton that are in the district.

Members serve three-year terms. The president of the board is elected by fellow board members.

 
Port taxpayers can count on holiday gift: lower taxes PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:03

Taxpayers in the city and town of Port Washington will get a holiday gift this year — a tax bill that is lower than last year.

In the City of Port Washington, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 will pay $95.40 less in taxes this year, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

However, there will also be a new $44 annual recycling fee on the tax bill, bringing the overall decrease to $51.40, he said.

The owner of a $150,000 condominium that does not receive recycling pickup from the city would find his taxes decreasing by $71.55, Grams added.

And the owner of a business or manufacturing facility assessed at $500,000 would pay $238.50 less in taxes, he said, noting they would not be assessed the recycling fee.

The total tax rate in the city is decreasing almost 48 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, Grams said.

Each of the taxing jurisdictions — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District, technical college and state — had rates that were stable or lower than last
year, Grams said.

The largest decreases were 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the city and 26 cents per $1,000 for the school district, he said.

This was offset somewhat because the school credit decreased from $18.95 last year to $18.47 this year, Grams added.

The city’s 2012 budget is $8.6 million, a decrease of 1.24% from this year. The budget is supported by a $4.7 million levy, 3.33% less than this year’s levy.

However, the levy for next year does not include recycling collection and the city also decided to end its shared-ride taxi program.

Residents will instead have to depend on Ozaukee County’s shared-ride taxi for transportation services beginning next month.

Grams said the city’s tax bills will be printed by Ozaukee County next week. 

“All in all, Port Washington taxpayers should be pretty happy when their tax bills arrive in the next couple weeks,” he said.

In the Town of Port Washington, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 would pay an estimated $2,796 in taxes, $12 less than the $2,808 paid last year, Town Clerk Jenny
Schlenvogt said.

The overall tax rate is down six cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, she said, from $14.04 last year to $13.98 this year.

The town’s tax rate was up only one cent, from $2.21 per $1,000 to $2.22, she said.

The town’s assessed valuation increased slightly, Schlenvogt said, from $201,454,700 last year to $201,736,300 this year.

On Monday, the Town Board formally approved the 2012 budget of $542,000, a decrease of about $5,000 from last year’s spending plan.

“We had our annual meeting and presented the budget. Now it’s time to adopt it,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.

The town tax levy of $447,000 was approved by the electors last month. The levy is down slightly from last year’s $446,400.

 
Sale talks for former firehouse heat up PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:33

Port officials continue negotiating with potential buyers interested in historic Pier Street building


City of Port Washington officials are still negotiating with two parties that are interested in buying the historic firehouse at the corner of Wisconsin and Pier streets.

The Common Council met to consider two offers to purchase the building last week, but took no action on the offers, City Administrator Mark Grams said.  

“We’re getting close,” he said.

The city and buyers have been trading offers and counteroffers for the past week or two, officials said.

“It’s still pretty much up in the air, but it’s definitely a positive development,” Mayor Scott Huebner said, noting the council could meet again to discuss the offers late this week or during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. “Both (uses of the building) would be good for Port Washington.”

Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said a local party would use the structure as a commercial and retail property. The other party wants it for commercial, retail and residential uses, he said.

The historic firehouse, which is being marketed for $249,900 by Re/Max United, is on both the national and state Registers of Historic Places.   

The building at 102 E. Pier St. was designed by Milwaukee architect John Topzant and built in 1929 with tan brick walls, a Spanish tile roof, copper gutters and downspouts and the distinctive bell-tower-like hose drying tower.

Between 1929 and 1938, a matching addition was built to the rear of the structure.

The distinctive Mediterranean Revival-style building served as the city’s fire station until 1975, when it was converted to a senior center.

The sale of the building was a  key part of the city’s strategy in keeping Franklin Energy in the community.

To help ensure the company would move its headquarters to the top floor of Smith Bros. Marketplace on Franklin Street, the city leased the company’s former home in what used to be St. John’s Church at 403 W. Foster St.

The city moved the senior center to the Foster Street location during the summer.

City officials have counted on money from the sale of the historic firehouse to offset the cost of the lease and renovations to the former church.

In the meantime, the Port Washington Historical Society sought to lease the building from the city for a nominal annual rent in order to develop a museum there. Although officials were willing to sell the property to the society, they stressed that they need the proceeds from the sale and hope to have the building placed on the tax rolls.

The city gave the Historical Society an opportunity to buy the building before opening it for sale to the public.

Before marketing the building through Re/Max, aldermen attempted to sell the historic firehouse, which includes one row of parking in the adjoining lot, through a bidding process. That failed when no one bid on the structure.

 
Downtown Port to get two new stores PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 19:24

Businesses filling vacant spaces will specialize in clothing, dog grooming


Two new businesses are slated to open in downtown Port Washington in the coming weeks — a positive development just in time for holiday shopping.

Mobocracy, a shop that will primarily specializing in vintage clothing and accessories, is opening in the former Zing storefront at 307 N. Franklin St.

Next door, in the former Stadler law building at 309 N. Franklin St., Pretty Paws Port will be opening Dec. 1. 

“This is pretty exciting,” said Sara Grover, executive director of Port Washington Main Street. “That whole block is now full.

“There is a lot of interest in Port Washington right now. Things are finally moving.

“For years people have said Port’s a beautiful gem. For years, people have talked about Port. Now, people are starting to make things happen. I think 2012 is going to be a very good year for Port Washington.”

Interest continues to be high in downtown buildings, even the larger spaces that are often more difficult to fill, Grover said.

For example, she said, the FDIC has accepted a bid for the former Wind Rose property.

Mobocracy owner Craig Kasten said he had hoped to open on Black Friday, Nov. 25, but that may be delayed slightly.

“We’re still shopping for Friday, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” he said. “You only have one chance at a first impression, so we want to wait until everything’s set.”

Kasten, who lives in West Bend, said his wife Ashly came up with the concept for the store, which is targeting shoppers from their teens to their mid-30s.

“There is definitely a market for it, an untapped one,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll attract an older group as well.”

People walking by have already stopped and looked in to check out the store, which will also carry organic items such as T-shirts, lotions and soaps, said Kasten, who also operates an Internet auto-parts business.

“I think it’ll fit in well,” Kasten said. “I think it will complement rather than compete with the existing downtown businesses, and hopefully it’ll stand out.”

Even before he looked for a location for his new shop, he was familiar with Port Washington, Kasten said. His father had a boat in the marina for more than a decade, so he spent quite a bit of time in the city.

Pretty Paws Port will be the second location for Amanda Wampner’s dog grooming business, which has been operating in Saukville for the past eight years.

In addition to grooming, the Port outlet will also feature a retail outlet, said Wampner’s mother Sue Richison, who owns Dawgs in Motion in Saukville, where the Pretty Paws is located.

The decision to open a Port Washington location came after Vicki Milsap decided to retire and close Vicki’s Pet Parlor on Webster Street, Richison said.

The new location will initially be open for grooming Tuesdays through Saturdays, she said, while the retail shop will be open Mondays through Saturdays.

The retail operation will offer a variety of unique dog and pet items, including clothing, leashes, collars and decorative things, as well as “natural products for both humans and animals,” such as lotions and soaps, Richison said. A line of natural dog foods may also be offered.

The women looked at a few other locations for the operation before settling on the Franklin Street spot, Richison said.

“This seemed to be the best fit,” she said, noting there is plenty of parking as well as a green space next to the Pretty Paws Port building.

“And we’ve been amazed at how many people walk downtown with their dogs.”

 
Port officials still split over city gun law PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 20:20

Aldermen who continue to debate ban on weapons in municipal buildings will vote on ordinance Dec. 6


Port Washington officials remained split over a proposed ban on weapons in city buildings Tuesday.

“We haven’t had weapons in this building for 100 years,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said as the Common Council reviewed a proposed ordinance prohibiting weapons in city buildings. “Why would we allow it now?”

But Ald. Burt Babcock said weapons should be allowed everywhere or nowhere.

“I don’t like it when politicians pass laws, then exclude themselves from having to abide by them,” he said. “Why is it safe for everyone else to be walking around with weapons, but not here?

“If you’re going to pass a law allowing concealed carry, you should have it everywhere.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich told the council he is struggling with the issue, particularly as it pits safety concerns with constitutional issues.

“I do understand how having guns in a public forum like this could hinder debate,” he said. “But I haven’t been convinced a ban is the right thing.”

By the time the Common Council votes on the proposed ordinance banning weapons at its Dec. 6 meeting, Ehrlich said he hopes to have reached a conclusion.

The state’s concealed carry law, which took effect Nov. 1, presumes people can bring weapons into all buildings, but gives municipalities and businesses the opportunity to ban them.

To do so, the city must pass an ordinance and post signs at the entrances to its buildings.

Aldermen seemed equally as concerned about the potential liability that comes with a ban on weapons as they were about safety, which was the primary concern expressed when they authorized the drafting of the ordinance two weeks ago.

The state limits municipal liability to $50,000, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.        But he warned aldermen that the concealed carry law is evolving rapidly, saying, “This is a very grey area. One question gives rise to three or four others. You can expect some trailer bills to address some of the issues.

“Stay tuned.”

For example, he said, the law allows organizers of special events to ban weapons. But, he added, the many festivals held in Port Washington don’t appear to satisfy the requirements for a special event, and thus it appears weapons would be allowed at them.

Ald. Dave Larson reiterated his concern that posting signs notifying people that weapons are banned doesn’t ensure compliance with the law.

“That’s my concern, that with the posting of a sign (banning weapons) there’s an expectation of safety,” he said. “We have to enforce it. Have we talked at all about how we’re going to enforce it?”

The city should consider installing metal detectors at buildings, or searching people entering the buildings, he said.

“You’re chairman of the finance and Licence Committee. Is there money in the budget?” Mayor Scott Huebner replied, noting there is none. “There’s your answer.”

Huebner noted that the ban on weapons has been requested by everyone from city employees and department heads to the police chief.

It’s a particular concern in places where children congregate, he said.

“Do you want guns at the pool?” Huebner asked, adding the library board also wants a ban on weapons at the Niederkorn Library.

Neumyer, a retired police officer and current sheriff’s deputy, said he is particularly concerned that the legislature removed the requirement that people who obtain concealed-carry permits be trained.

“We don’t need citizenry carrying firearms who haven’t been trained,” he said, adding law enforcement officers undergo many hours of training before they can carry a gun. “It’s foolhardy.”

 
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