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Port Washington


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.”

 
Engine noise irks Town of Port residents PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 19:11

A group of Town of Port Washington residents, frustrated by loud noise from the Briggs & Stratton testing grounds that they said interrupts their life throughout the day and night, asked the Town Board for help Monday night.

“Thursday night was the worst it’s ever been,” one woman said. “I couldn’t even sleep in my bed.”

Connie Pals, 3377 Terry La., compared the noise to a neighbor running a snowthrower at 6 a.m.

“During the day, it’s fine. Every once in a while, it’s fine,” she said. “But that’s what I get to listen to 24 hours a day, day and night.”

Pals said she has contacted Briggs & Stratton about the noise, but the company denied causing a problem, saying they don’t run engines around the clock.

“What is that noise I hear at 2 in the morning?” she asked. “I don’t feel like I’m being heard. I’m asking for your help.

“I’m thrilled to have them here in the town, but they have to work with me.”

Former town clerk Katherine Allen, who also lives on Terry Lane, said noise complaints about the testing grounds date back to the mid-1980s. At that time, she said, Simplicity Manufacturing — which was later bought by Briggs & Stratton — agreed to plant trees as a noise barrier.

“I thought at one point they weren’t going to run their tractors at night or on weekends,” she said. “Nothing’s changed, and it’s worse. It’s like an echo in my bedroom, and it’s been that way for 25 years. I like to have my windows open in summer and I can’t.”

Lucy Christopoulos, 3280 Hwy. LL, said she hasn’t heard a significant amount of noise until recently.

“I thought it was the Highway LL bridge coming down,” she said. “It’s very disturbing.”

Chuck Hamell, 3271 Bay Hill Rd., told the Town Board that the noise got worse this summer and hasn’t let up.

“I don’t know what they’re doing differently,” he said, “but it does seem worse. It does seem like it’s gotten louder. We can hear it over the air conditioning in summer. It doesn’t matter if the house is closed up.”

Town officials were sympathetic to the residents’ plight, with Building Inspector Rick Fellenz noting that town ordinances require that the noise at the lot line not exceed 85 decibels.

Town Chairman Jim Melichar said he would talk to the company to try and reach a solution, and also asked that the Plan Commission look at the town ordinances to see if they need to be beefed up to handle the situation.

“We don’t want to chase them out of the town,” he said, but the firm needs to respond to the residents’ complaints.

“Go talk to them, but we probably should contact our attorney and get him going on that, too,” Supr. Jim Rychtik said.

 
City budget plan calls for slight tax cut PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 18:51

Port spending package to be considered Nov. 15 by council would pare tax rate by 25 cents per $1,000


Port Washington residents will likely see a slight decrease in their property taxes next year, aldermen were told Tuesday.

The proposed $8.6 million 2012 budget was touted by aldermen, who said it will provide residents with the same quality services at a reduced cost — an achievement in a year when the city lost nearly $167,000 in state aid.

“Overall, it’s a very good budget in a very tough economic time,” Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee, said.

Although he does not have the city’s assessed valuation yet, City Administrator Mark Grams said he expects the $4.92 million tax levy to be raised through a tax rate of $5.78 per $1,000 valuation, 25 cents per $1,000 less than last year.

The owner of a house valued at $200,000 will pay $49.89 less in city taxes this year, he said.

However, the city removed its recycling costs from the property tax and added it as a separate charge. Once that is figured in, he said, the net tax bill will be $5.89 less than last year.

“It’s not a huge decrease, but it is a decrease,” Larson said. “In these times, it’s a big deal.”

The biggest reason the city was able to handle the loss in state aid is the fact employees will be paying 5.8% of their retirement costs and 12% of their health insurance premiums, officials said.

Police officers are not required under the state’s budget-repair law to make these contributions, but they are incorporated into the budget, Grams said, noting they will have to be negotiated in the new police contract.

The city is also benefitting from the fact its health insurance premiums are expected to decrease an estimated 3.5% Grams said.

The proposed budget eliminates the  city’s shared-ride taxi service, but that will be replaced by the Ozaukee County taxi, which Larson said should provide similar service to residents.

There will be some fee increases next year, Larson said, including those for the pool, senior center and building permits. The city’s rates are less than those charged by many other communities, he said.

But Mayor Scott Huebner questioned the need to raise rates, saying that if the city is covering its costs it should not boost the fees.

“Let’s be cautious and not follow the same path as the mediation/arbitration law,” which forced communities to boost their contract settlements based on what other municipalities settled for, Huebner said.

“We’re not looking to match (other communities),” Larson said. “We just want to be at a more responsible lower level.”

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15. The Common Council is expected to act on the budget the same night.

 
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