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Port Washington


Planting boom shows Port’s Tree City side PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 17:36
APPROXIMATELY 400 TREES were planted in Port Washington, many along city streets, during the past month by members of the city’s Street Department. As they planted, Gerard Lanser (left) shoveled soil around a sapling held by Bill Carroll.
                                                  Photo by Sam Arendt

Addition of 400 trees along streets this spring part of beautification effort

Port Washington earned its title as a Tree City USA, planting 400 trees along city streets during the past month.

Many of those trees were along streets that were constructed or reconstructed last year — South Wisconsin, Division and Chestnut streets and Sunset Road west of Highway LL, to name a few, Street Commissioner Dave Ewig said.

Others were planted to replace trees that had to be removed or to fill in gaps in the tree line along city streets, he said.

The city has been planting between 300 and 500 trees annually for the past several years, said Ewig, with a goal of creating a canopy over the streets.

“I think most people value trees,” Ewig said. “I think they understand the value of the shade and the cooling effect.”

The benefits of trees are well known, ranging from the removal of pollutants in the air and the slowing of stormwater runoff. They are an aesthetic feature of a community that also increase property values.

Port city crews completed this year’s tree planting last Friday, Ewig said. It’s a month-long process that starts with digging holes for the trees — something that by itself takes a week — and ends with mulching around the newly planted saplings.

The city will monitor the weather conditions and, if it gets too dry this summer, will water the saplings two or three times, Ewig said.

Port Washington, like many communities around the state, lost its elms to Dutch elm disease decades ago and is on the cusp of losing its ash trees to the emerald ash borer.

But the city has learned its lesson and no longer depends on only one type of tree. It has diversified its trees, and this year planted several varieties of maples, lindens, elms, Kentucky coffee tree, ginkgo, flowering crabs and even a few evergreens, Ewig said.

The city doesn’t typically plant evergreens, he said.

“This year, we just felt there were a couple locations suited to that type of planting,” he said.

Those include an area along Spring Street between Third and Fourth streets and an area off South Wisconsin Street near the We Energies power plant, he said.

If people ask for a specific type of tree, the city will try to honor their request, Ewig said.

And in the few instances when someone asks that a tree not be planted, the city will consider the request on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Roughly 90% of the saplings planted by the city are bare-root trees. They not only cost significantly less than those that are balled-and-burlaped, they are easier to handle and faster to plant.

Through the years, they city has gotten the process down pat, Ewig said, with a success rate of more than 90%.

“We’ve learned a lot of little things about how to plant them,” he said. “We think that’s a pretty high rate of success. We’re pleased.”

The city budgets about $3,000 annually for replacement trees. The cost of trees planted along reconstructed streets is built into the project cost.

 
New Port law will take aim at fake pot PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 17:58

Aldermen cite need for ordinance in taking steps to ban possession, use of chemical

Fake marijuana — aka K2, Spice, Genie, Yucatan Fire, Blaze and any number of other names — has just started to make inroads in Port Washington, but aldermen on Tuesday took steps to make possession, use, purchase, sale and delivery of the substance illegal.

The Common Council had its initial hearing on an ordinance outlawing the chemical, which is often sold as incense, following in the footsteps of communities such as Waukesha, Eau Claire and Cedarburg.

Police Officer Kurt Knowski told officials that the substance was unheard of in the city until last September. Since then, he said, it has played a role in three incidents.

In one, he said, the driver of a vehicle involved in a traffic accident was under the influence of fake marijuana.

On April 20, he said, officers investigating a complaint at the Country Inn & Suites confiscated 26 grams of fake marijuana from a group of seven teens, five of them 15-year-olds. Two of the seven were cited for possessing paraphernalia.

Officers confiscated the fake marijuana but could not ticket the teens for possessing it because there is no law against it, Knowski said — a fact that’s likely to spread quickly among youths

“It’s a grey area,” he said. “It’s starting to get more prevalent.”

The substance is most popular among young people, Knowski said.

“They feel it’s not illegal so it’s safe,” he said. “They’ll tell us, ‘It’s not marijuana, it’s K2.’”

The substances look similar, Knowski said, but often smell different.

Fake marijuana has no THC — the active ingredient in marijuana, but it does have a more intense effect, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.

“You can smoke a lot less of this substance and still get the same high (as marijuana),” he said. “This substance has a tenfold greater kick.”

Knowski agreed, saying fellow officer Jerry Nye has said that while marijuana makes a person mellow, fake marijuana has the opposite effect on users.

“He finds them more aggressive, more belligerent and much more hard to control,” he said.

There is no test currently available to detect K2, Knowski said.

Police are hampered in trying to deal with the substance because it is not considered a drug, Knowski said.

“We’re asking the city to give us a tool to handle this appropriately,” he said, noting that the state has not yet enacted legislation outlawing the substance.

The proposed ordinance would call for a fine of between $100 and $500 for possession of fake marijuana and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for the sale, display, delivery or distribution of fake marijuana.

Police would also be authorized to seize the substance.

The fine for possession of fake marijuana is the same as the municipal fine for possession of marijuana, said Eberhardt, who noted that a three-gram bag of fake marijuana can sell for $30 to $40.

If fake marijuana is approved for medicinal use, the ordinance would make an exception for that purpose, he added.

“I think it’s very important to get ahead of this,” Ald. Dave Larson said.

Ald. Dan Becker, who asked the city to come up with the ordinance last year, said he would like to make Port’s legislation a model for other communities.

“It’s important we do something here and on the county level,” he said. Aldermen are expected to act on the proposed ordinance when the Common Council meets Wednesday, May 4.

 
Former teacher was accused of not supervising disabled student PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 18:01

PW-S educator who took retirement deal faced firing over alleged incidents

A veteran Port Washington-Saukville School District teacher who accepted a $20,000 retirement settlement was accused by administrators of leaving a 7-year-old student with severe cognitive disabilities unattended outside on several occasions, according to documents recently released by the district.

Jean Gorski was suspended with pay in January and retired on March 7 after administrators recommended she be fired for failing to properly care for a disabled student.

Gorski challenged the recommendation and requested a hearing before the School Board in March. That hearing, however, was cancelled when Gorski and the board agreed to a settlement.

Pending at the time was a claim Gorski filed with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division accusing the district of discriminating against her because of her age and disability.

The district denies it discriminated against Gorski and stated, “The district investigated Gorski’s conduct and performance in her position with the district and has concerns with respect to her conduct and performance,” according to the settlement
document obtained by Ozaukee Press through an open records request.

Gorski denies any “unacceptable conduct or poor performance,” according to the settlement.

Contacted last week at her Fox Point home, Gorski declined to comment on accusations she did not properly care for students. The latest document obtained by Ozaukee Press details the accusations against Gorski, who was hired by the district
in 1994 and was assigned to two special-education students at Lincoln Elementary School when she was suspended.

Gorski was accused of leaving one of her students unattended on three occasions beginning in September despite instructions from Principal Eric Burke that the student was not to be left alone while walking between the school bus and his classroom.

The 7-year-old student has cognitive disabilities and functions at the level of a 2 or 3-year-old, according to the district’s investigative report.

On Jan. 6, Gorski left the student unattended in the hallway and was reminded by Burke that the child was not to be left alone, according to the report.

The next day, Burke found the student, who appeared confused, alone outside on a sidewalk near one of the school’s parking lots. The temperature at the time was 14 degrees with a wind chill of 1 degree, cold enough that outside recesses were cancelled that day, the report states.

When confronted by Burke, Gorski did not offer an explanation and apologized, according to the report. But in a voice mail message left for Burke the next day, Gorski said she arranged to have a paraprofessional make sure the child got on the bus safely.

The paraprofessional said she didn’t speak to Gorski about the child and was in Burke’s office talking to him when the alleged exchange with Gorski took place, which Burke confirmed, according to the report.

Gorski’s attorney, Thomas Lenz, declined to comment on the case but directed Ozaukee Press to the discrimination complaint his client filed against the district on Oct. 19.

In that complaint, which has been dismissed because of a lack of proof, Gorski, 64, accused the district trying to force her to retire because of her age and disability. She had a knee replaced and suffers from arthritis, the complaint states.

Gorski said she requested an “accommodation” from the district in 2008 to comply with her doctor’s order to “avoid unusual high risk activities such as restraining violent or disruptive students who could easily kick her in the knee,” according to the complaint.

Following that request, Gorski claimed, the district repeatedly asked her to retire and shuffled her to different schools.

State investigators determined Gorski failed to show probable cause she was discriminated against and closed the case on April 11.

According to the settlement:

The district will pay Gorski $8,588 for attorney’s fees, $6,411 in wages and $5,000 to be converted into sick days that will be used as payments toward her dental benefits. The money will come from funds that were budgeted to pay her salary and benefits, Supt. Michael Weber said.

The district will provide Gorski with one year of family health insurance coverage and three years of Medicare supplemental insurance as called for under the 2009-11 master contract agreement.

The district will also “provide a mutually agreeable factual letter of reference.”

Weber said the board agreed to the settlement to avoid paying additional attorney’s fees and to end a dispute that was usurping administrators’ time.

 
City to lose $12,000 in state recycling money PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 13 April 2011 17:11

Port officials will turn to contingency fund to keep program operating this year

The City of Port Washington will lose about $12,000 in state recycling grant funding this year due to reductions in the Department of Natural Resources’ budget for 2011, City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday.

But Grams said Tuesday he does not expect the city will eliminate or reduce its recycling program.

“I think we can scrounge up $12,000 to take care of it,” he said, noting the recycling program is something that residents consider important.

The city receives about $30,000 in recycling grant money from the state each year — money Gov. Scott Walker has proposed eliminating completely from the 2011-13 budget.

But last week’s announcement that grant money included in the city’s 2011 budget was to be trimmed was a surprise, Grams said.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I don’t think anyone had any inkling it was coming. But, we’ll just have to live with it.”   

The City of Port Washington, which spends $137,000 annually to recycle, collected 891 tons of recyclables last year, much of it glass and newspaper. It also collected 2,185 tons of trash.

The grant money is paid to communities in late spring or early summer.

Grams noted that funds to cover the loss of the grant money could come from the city’s contingency fund, which has about $15,000 in it, or from savings in other line items.

 
PW-S open enrollment requests soar PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 17:14

District accepts record number of 112 applications from families who want their children to attend local schools

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday approved a record number of open enrollment requests from parents who want to send their children to Port-Saukville schools.

The board accepted 112 of the 114 incoming requests. It denied applications for two students — a special-education pupil and a child seeking placement in the early childhood peer program — because there is not enough room in those programs.

The board also approved 72 of the 75 requests from parents who live in the district and want to send their children to other schools. Applications for three special-education students were denied because of financial concerns.

Wisconsin’s open enrollment program allows parents to send their children to any public school in the state provided both the incoming and outgoing districts approve the applications, which must be submitted in February.

Districts can refuse to accept non-resident students if they do not have room in a particular grade level or program to accommodate that child or for disciplinary reasons.

Districts can also refuse to allow resident special education students to leave the district if the departure would cause a financial burden for the resident district, which is responsible for special education costs regardless of where the child is educated.

Supt. Michael Weber noted that approving the 112 incoming applications doesn’t mean the district will have that many new students when the 2011-12 school year begins in September. Parents still may opt to keep their children in their current schools or send them to other districts. Several parents who applied to the Port Washington-Saukville
School District also applied to other school systems, Weber said.

“How much of this actually happens remains to be seen,” he said.

The district’s experience is indicative of a flurry of open enrollment activity throughout the state this year, Weber said.

“What we’re seeing is a reflection of the popularity of open enrollment and the desire of parents to have choices in where their children are educated,” said Weber, who was a
member of the state’s open-enrollment planning committee when the program was created 13 years ago.

The number of applications received by the district this year is more than double the number it typically receives.

Usually the number of incoming and outgoing applications are roughly equal. This year, the district received 52% more incoming applications than outgoing.

Of the incoming applications, 64 (56%) were submitted by residents of the Northern Ozaukee School District in Fredonia.

Weber said the fact that 17 non-resident students have applied for admission to the district’s 4-year-old preschool program is telling, noting that a child’s resident district must
offer the same program under the open enrollment law.

“Since they have to be coming from districts that offer the same program, that’s a pretty good indication of the desire of parents to have their children educated in this district,” he said.

 
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