Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
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.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
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.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
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.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 19:28
Business district agrees to provide $55,000 for downtown group but wants to know how annual funds will be spent
The Port Washington Business Improvement District board last week approved a 2014 operating plan that continues funding for Port Main Street Inc, but with closer oversight by the BID.
“Our budget is Main Street’s budget,” President Neil Tiziani said, noting the plan calls for the BID to provide $55,000 for Main Street. “We’re not trying to meddle in your affairs. We’re not trying to dictate how you use the funds. We want to understand where the funds are going.
“We would like to play a supporting role. This, in fact, is a partnership. We’re all part of the same district. I think we can help each other. ”
But the money doesn’t come without conditions that Main Street must meet to receive the money, which will be dispersed in quarterly installments, the board agreed.
First and foremost, Main Street must maintain its agreement with the state and remain a Main Street community, members said.
“That state program is something we believe is important,” Tiziani said, especially the four subcommittees that direct much of Main Street’s actions and the volunteers who comprise them. “There are great things coming from those subcommittees.”
BID board member Brian Barber concurred, saying, “There’s no way we could replicate the amazing job Main Street has done with all the events.”
State Main Street officials agree that Port has a good program and has done great things for the community, he added.
Main Street needs to create an annual budget and strategic plan to be reviewed by the BID board by Dec. 1, the board agreed, and it must have a plan to make up for its $5,000 deficit in that budget.
“We want to make sure by the end of 2014 there is no more deficit,” Tiziani said. “I think we can do that without much difficulty. There are a lot of ways for us to get $5,000.”
Main Street must have a recruitment committee to recruit a new director in place by Dec. 1 — something Main Street officers said has already been done— and give the BID board a copy of the job description and compensation package.
BID members will be able to ask questions about the position and provide feedback, but will not play an active role in the selection or hiring process, the board agreed.
“That’s going to be the most important thing you do in the next year,” BID board member Ross Leinweber said.
The Main Street board is expected to play an active role in the group’s committees during the job search and continue this role after the new director is hired, the BID board agreed. At least one board member should serve on each subcommittee.
Each quarter, a member of one of the four subcommittees will give a report to the BID board on the group’s actions and plans.
One member of the Main Street board — it can be Scott Huebner, who is a BID board member — and the new director should present current and accurate financial statements to the BID board each month, along with progress reports, updates on volunteers and fundraising efforts, compliance with state Main Street requirements and reports on the committees and their efforts.
They will also present any funding requests, complete with information on how the money will be used and the expected benefit.
Each quarter, the BID and Main Street board should meet to discuss performance, expectations and other matters.
Huebner, who was instrumental in starting the Main Street program five years ago, said these are basic rules that should have been put in place back then.
“I think this would have been great to have from the start,” he said, adding it would have prevented some of the distrust and problems that exist between the groups.
“The intent is communication,” added BID board member Gertjan van den Broek. “Many minds are better than fewer.”
Tiziani said the BID board will serve as a bridge between the city and Main Street, providing a line of communication that will help the downtown district grow and bring the city’s annual funding contribution back.
The city’s 2014 budget does not include the annual $25,000 contribution to Main Street. Instead, the money was earmarked for economic development. That doesn’t mean the funds won’t be available if there is an initiative both groups agree on, city officials said.
The intent of the operating plan is to move past the problems that have plagued Main Street this year, BID board members said.
“One thing we have to do is move on, and this will help with that,” BID board member Wayne Chrusciel said, adding the terms of the agreement are not unusual.
Main Street is important to the entire community, Huebner added.
“Main Street is bigger than downtown,” he said. “It affects the entire city.”
The Main Street operating plan, which will be considered by the Common Council Dec. 3, was approved 6-2, with Chrusciel and Mark Schowalter dissenting.