Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 17:59
Port council weighs cost savings vs. safety in deciding to turn off half the lights along south end of road on trial basis
South Spring Street in Port Washington, which has frequently been compared to an airport runway because of the intense lighting, will be darker soon.
Aldermen recently agreed to spend $640 to have We Energies turn off every other light between Portview Drive and Sunset Road. This will leave lights lit every 100 feet on alternating sides of the street, which officials said should provide plenty of light.
“It’ll be the same as Wisconsin Street,” Ald. Jim Vollmar said June 21.
Ald. Joe Dean, however, dissented, saying the city should temporarily turn off the lights to make sure the area isn’t too dim without them.
“I do also think a decision of this magnitude is a decision we’re going to live with for 40, 50 years,” he said. “We should take a look at it first and be sure it will be right.”
Earlier in June, the Board of Public Works recommended that the lights be temporarily turned off, an experiment designed to let officials know whether they can move nine of the lights to Lake Street without creating a dark corridor on Spring Street,
Although officials believe the street will still be adequately lit without the lights, board members said they want to be sure before making a permanent change.
“If we pull the poles, there’s no going back,” Board Chairman Craig Czarnecki said. “We should take a look at it and see what it’s going to look like and see if there’s a backlash before we do it for good.
“People may say, ‘That’s great. It’s not the landing strip it used to be.’ But let’s avoid a worst-case scenario. Let’s make sure.”
But Vollmar, a member of the board, was the lone committee member to vote against the recommendation, noting that many communities are shutting off half their lights after midnight or turning them off all together as a cost-saving measure.
On Tuesday, he made the motion to turn the lights off permanently.
“Just do it,” he told the Common Council on Tuesday. “Why would we pay $600 just to turn them off?”
The city has been pondering the change for more than a year, he noted.
Ald. Mike Ehrlich, who is also a member of the board, said it’s important that the city make sure Spring Street won’t be too dark without these lights.
“My concern is we do it and it’s a little too dark there,” Ehrlich said.
The cost of testing the lights would be $1,200 — $640 each to turn the lights on and off.
“I guarantee that if you do it, you’re going to get 50% of the people who like it and 50% who don’t,” Mayor Scott Huebner said.
Dean questioned the cost of turning out the lights.
“Why does it cost $640 to turn the lights off?” he asked. “Has anybody said politely (to We Energies) ‘Are you out of your mind?’ and asked them to do it for nothing?”
Officials had talked to the utility, which owns the lights, but were told there would be a cost, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
Dean said he hoped the city could persuade the utility to waive the cost.
The decision comes as the city plans the reconstruction of Lake Street for fall. Officials are considering removing half the lights from South Spring Street and using nine of them on Lake Street as a cost-saving measure.
The remainder of the lights could be used at the entrance to the coal dock, officials have said.
Moving the streetlights to Lake Street would cost $24,600, officials said, while installing new lights could cost $48,500.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 18:25
PW-S program keeps students coming back, this year 1,100 strong
The two-week break from classes is over for the more than 1,100 children who returned to school Monday.
TUESDAY WAS JUST another tough day in class for Ryan Umhoefer and the other students in the Port-Washington-Saukville School District summer school fishing class. After organizing their gear, the students went outside to practice casting. They planned to fish in the Port harbor Wednesday.
Photo by Sam ArendtBut this isn’t school in the conventional sense. This is Port Washington-Saukville School District summer school, where more than half the students in the district flock to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School every morning with smiles on their faces and fishing poles and musical instruments in their hands.
“What a tremendous sight it is to see all these students coming to school with smiles on their faces,” said Arlan Galarowicz, middle school principal and summer school coordinator. “Summer school is just a riot. I’d do it until I was 90 if they’d let me.”
One of the largest programs of its type in the state, the five-week Port-Saukville summer school is a massive undertaking that offers more than 80 courses ranging from classes that reinforce core subjects such as reading and math to enrichment offerings that range from fishing, gardening and band to knitting and cooking.
A staff of about 100 educators and helpers is hired to teach the courses, and a legion of older students are enlisted to guide children, some as young as 7, from class to class.
“We’ve been told we have one of the best summer programs in the country,” Galarowicz said. “I’d like to see one better.”
Nineteen years ago, Galarowicz inherited summer school from former middle school principal Joe Groh, whom he credits with laying the groundwork for the successful program. Since then, summer school has more than doubled in size in terms of both enrollment and class offerings.
It has become the thing for children to do in summer. Galarowicz calls it one part of an ideal summer schedule that gives kids a structured, productive start to their day and allows for plenty of free time in the afternoon. Classes run from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“A lot of kids go to summer school, but what concerns me are the parents who say their kids don’t go because they sleep until noon,” Galarowicz said. “We can’t let our children sleep half their lives away, and what more powerful way to motivate kids than summer school.”
The courses may be varied, but they all are designed to teach, not merely to kill time. The benefits of extra help in subjects like math and reading are obvious, but even classes like fishing, gardening and knitting teach important life lessons, Galarowicz said.
Among some of the recently added classes are algebra readiness, card-making, Career Pathways, which teaches children about the education and training required for various jobs, Fitness and Healthy Eating, digital photography, Sewing and Design, weaving, engineering and Next Generation Math, a program that uses computer-based learning methods that Galarowicz hopes to use during the regular school year.
One of the recent success stories is gardening, a class that began with a relatively small number of students last year and was expanded this year because of its popularity. Administrators had to cut off enrollment at 100 students this summer.
Children in the class are in charge of planting and maintaining a large garden at the Harbor Campus senior living facility in Port Washington, then harvesting bushels of vegetables that they also learn how to cook.
“It teaches kids that food really doesn’t grow on the grocery store shelves,” Galarowicz said.
“Summer school classes prepare kids for the lives ahead of them in so many ways.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 17:49
Port Common Council considers ordinance that lowers maximum grass height, give scofflaws less time to comply
Port Washington officials on Tuesday took the first step to crack down on people who don’t care for their lawns.
Aldermen reviewed a proposed six-page ordinance on the control of weeds, grasses, lawns and natural lawns that is intended to help keep neighborhoods looking neat and keep nuisances to a minimum.
The proposed ordinance was sought by the council after Mayor Scott Huebner and some residents complained about the number of unkempt lawns in the city.
One resident decried the fact that developers often prepare lots but, when they don’t sell, allow the grass to grow unchecked and weeds to take over. As the weeds go to
seed, they spread to neighboring properties.
In recent years, Huebner said, the number of people neglecting their yards has increased substantially, especially as foreclosures have increased. That’s because the banks that end up with title to the properties are less motivated to maintain them regularly than homeowners, he said.
The current law, which allows grass and weeds to reach 12 inches before the city can step in, doesn’t prevent problems, Huebner said.
So far this year, the city has sent out 10 letters to property owners who have not kept up their lawns, according to the Department of Public Works. Of those, five lawns were cut by the city and the property owner charged for the work and four by the owner. The deadline for mowing has not been reached for the other property.
Last year, the city sent out 34 letters for unkempt lawns during the same time frame, according to department records.
The ordinance reviewed Tuesday is based on laws in the cities of Cedarburg and Appleton and Village of Germantown, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.
“The key to this ordinance is to classify the acts you don’t want to see as a public nuisance,” he said. “The ordinance makes it clear, it’s a duty to regularly mow.”
One of the keys to the ordinance, he said, is that lawns must be kept 8 inches or shorter, as compared to the current ordinance, which sets the maximum height at 12 inches.
Once a property owner is notified by the city that the lawn is too high, he would have five days to contest that ruling or cut the lawn, Eberhardt said. The current ordinance gives owners 10 days to comply.
If the homeowner doesn’t cut the lawn, the city could then go in and do the work, Eberhardt said. Not only would the city be able to charge for the cost of labor and equipment, inspection and administrative fees could also be charged.
“All of this is to gain compliance, but there’s a bit of a punitive aspect to it as well,” Eberhardt said, noting the hope is that it will deter property owners from becoming repeat offenders.
The proposed ordinance would require people with natural lawns to obtain a permit for them, Eberhardt said. To do so, property owners would need to present a plan for the lawn, including a list of the plants to be used and information on how it will be maintained.
“They can keep these areas, but they must get a permit,” Eberhardt told aldermen. “Is that burdensome? Is that outrageous? That’s for you to decide.”
Ald. Jim Vollmar questioned how this would affect people who live along the bluff and ravine, noting many of them maintain their lawns but keep the hillsides natural.
Unless a permit is obtained for these areas, Eberhardt said, the homeowners would be in violation of the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance also prohibits planting anything but grasses in the parkway, but Ald. Paul Neumyer pointed out there are several property owners who have done extensive plantings in the parkways.
He asked if the existing plantings can be exempt so the property owners aren’t affected by the proposed ordinance.
“I know the properties you’re talking about, and they’re fantastic,” Eberhardt said. However, he said, the plantings would not be allowed under the ordinance, which is intended to be part of the building code.
If the city makes the ordinance part of the zoning code, he said, these could be allowed as nonconforming uses.
Ald. Joe Dean said the city should use common sense when applying the ordinance, using it when complaints are lodged rather than having workers write up any tall lawns they see.
“We’re not sending our weed commissioner out to inspect every property looking for a blade of grass taller than eight inches,” he said. “Are we going to be reasonable?”
But the ordinance’s length and complexity had some aldermen questioning it.
“The mayor was just looking for people to cut their grass,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “Are we getting a little too complicated?
“Maybe it can’t be that simple today. We’re dealing with foreclosures. And it’s affecting people in our community.”
Eberhardt said the city’s current ordinance is not only brief but lacking in many ways.
For example, he said, the existing ordinance refers to natural lawns but “there is nothing that would give you teeth to deal with them.”
“This is a far better ordinance than what’s on the books now,” he said. “I think it’s a good ordinance.”
Aldermen are expected to tweak the ordinance when they give it a final review on Tuesday, July 19.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 17:43
Feedback at Monday meeting will help Port board decideif it should change land-use plan to comply with county’s
Town of Port Washington officials are seeking input from residents to decide whether to amend the town’s land use plan to comply with Ozaukee County’s plan — a decision that will determine whether town residents can participate in the state’s
revised farmland preservation program.
The Town Board will hold a special meeting Monday that will include a farmland preservation presentation at about 8 p.m.
“We want to hear from the people this affects the most before we spend the money to amend our plan,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.
The town sent 36 letters out to landowners who have been involved in the farmland preservation program, he said, although it’s not known if all of these residents continue to participate in the program.
Unless the town amends its ordinances to match the county’s, landowners won’t be able to participate in the farmland preservation program, Melichar said.
At issue is the town’s conservation subdivision ordinance, Melichar said.
The town’s zoning ordinances include a formula allowing development on a sliding scale, with a minimum lot size of 3-1/2 acres, he said.
“We spent three to five years developing our formula,” Melichar said. “We put a lot of thought and effort into determining what’s best for the landowners in our town.”
No one has used the conservation subdivision ordinance yet, Melichar said, noting it took effect just as the housing market slowed.
The county and state’s new farmland preservation rules allow development on one acre of land for every 20 acres that’s preserved, he said.
The town must make a decision on the land use plan by the end of the year.
“We’ll see what the response is at the meeting Monday and go from there,” Melichar said.
The Town Board is also poised to award contracts for ditch mowing, the replacement of three culverts and surface paving on Willow Road — highway items that in other years would have been handled through the Ozaukee County Highway
Department, Melichar said.
Contractors have until Monday to submit bids for the work.
“From what I’ve heard, there are quite a few private contractors interested in the work,” Melichar said. “I’ve heard that private contractors are bidding at the break-even point just so they have work. We’ll see what happens.”
The town sought a cost estimate from the county for the work, he said.
“It went up quite a bit from last year,” Melichar said. “I thought it was a good time to look at it (private bids).”
By seeking bids, he and the Town Board are fulfilling an election promise to seek competitive bidding on highway work, he noted.