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Port Washington

PW-S employee manual keeps many benefits intact PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 18:19

But handbook approved by board Monday is still missing information about health insurance plan, pay

    The Port Washington-Saukville School Board voted unanimously Monday to approve an employee manual that, while incomplete, suggests employees will continue to receive benefits similar to those currently provided for teachers.

    The manual, which will replace contracts for teachers and support staff members on July 1, does not yet include details about health insurance coverage because the board is waiting for the results of an analysis being conducted by a consultant. The district is seeking bids from four providers, including WEA Trust, which currently provides health insurance for employees, Supt. Michael Weber said.

    Also missing from the manual is salary and wage information. Weber said the district, like others throughout Wisconsin, is waiting for clarification on provisions of Act 10, also known as the state’s budget-repair law.

    Act 10 ended collective bargaining for most public employees except when it comes to wages. The law allows employees to bargain for pay increases up to the rate of inflation, or consumer price index, but there is confusion about how to determine base wages for employees, Weber said.

    The product of months of work by the board’s Personnel and Programs Committee, the manual is specific when it comes to other benefits.

    Employees will be responsible for half of their pension contributions, with the district contributing the other half.

    Salaried employees will continue to pay 13% of their health insurance premiums. The manual calls for employees who are paid an hourly wage to pay 10% of their premiums, although officials are still reviewing this contribution.    

    In several ways, specifically when it comes to pension contributions and health insurance premium payments, the manual reflects a one-year teacher contract extension approved by the board a year ago. Although the contract was approved prior to Act 10 taking effect, it complied with the provisions of the law and constituted the most significant changes to benefits in recent history. The contract expires June 30.

    The manual does not indicate whether the district will continue to offer employees a cash payment in lieu of health insurance coverage. That decision will be made based on information provided by the insurance consultant.

    Currently, employees who opt for the cash instead of coverage receive an amount equal to the district’s share of the single coverage premium, Weber said.

    For teachers, that is $7,785 a year, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

    The payment was designed in part to be  an incentive for employees whose spouses have access to insurance to cover their families under his or her health insurance policy rather than the district’s plan. With the family premium costing the district $18,960 per teacher annually, the difference between insuring the employee’s family and paying them not to have insurance is significant.

    Currently, 61 of the district’s 280 full-time employees opt for the payment in lieu of insurance, Froemming said.

    “The question is, if you didn’t offer that payment, would everyone jump on our insurance?” Froemming asked. “No, not everyone, but some undoubtedly would. No one really knows where the break-even point is.”

    The manual will maintain other insurance benefits, such as district-funded long-term disability, state group life and dental insurance. Employees must pay 13% of their dental premiums.

    The manual also maintains paid sick leave for professional employees who work at least half time. These employee will receive 10 sick days per year and may accumulate as many as 90 days of leave, although how they can use these days is regulated.

    According to the manual, upon retirement, employees will receive $100 per day of unused sick leave that can be used only to pay for dental insurance, although this provision is still being reviewed by the board.

    Professional staff members also receive two personal leave days per year, which cannot be carried over or accumulated. Employees, who do not need to specify why they are using professional days, are paid for the first day they take. They are compensated for the second day of personal leave minus $100 to compensate the district for paying a substitute teacher.

    In addition, employees are eligible for between one and five days off due to the death of a relative or friend.

    In terms of retirement, the manual reflects changes made in the last teacher contract, which increased both the minimum age and years of service employees must have to qualify for post-employment benefits. Employees must be at least 57 and have 20 years of service in the district.

    Employees who meet those requirements are eligible for continuing single or family heath insurance until they reach age 65. The district’s annual premium contribution is set at the date of retirement and the maximum insurance benefit is capped at $150,000.

    Although the manual will take effect on July 1 for teachers and support staff members, it will not pertain to custodians until 2013 because they have a year remaining on their contract.

    Weber said the board plans to work quickly to complete the employee manual.   

Port man who was pulled from wind-swept Lake Michigan dies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Sunday, 11 March 2012 00:46

A 24-year-old man who was pulled from a wind-swept Lake Michigan by Port Washington firefighters early Saturday afternoon has died, Ozaukee County Coroner John Holicek said.

Port Washington resident Peter Dougherty was pronounced dead at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Holicek said. 

Dougherty, who was wearing a life jacket, was floating about 300 yards northeast of Port Washington’s north breakwater when four firefighters in an inflatable boat pulled him out of the water, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said. Dougherty was not breathing, and firefighters administered CPR, he said. 

Authorities believe Dougherty was kayaking alone. Although rescuers did not find a kayak, Dougherty was dressed for kayaking and a vehicle and kayak carrier were found parked at the city’s south beach, Mitchell said. 

A couple who was at the lakefront reported a man in the water at about 11:45. Firefighters launched their boat around noon and reached Dougherty a short time later, Mitchell said. 

Police officers and a Department of Natural Resources conservation warden were on the breakwater and guided the rescuers to Dougherty.

According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station in Port Washington, southwest winds were gusting to more than 25 mph at the time.

Agreement offers new life for former bank PDF Print E-mail
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
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
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.”


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