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Port Washington

Senior center surprise: City may buy existing site PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:08

Frustrated by stalled search for new facility, Port council wants to purchase renovated church it now leases

In an abrupt about-face, Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday said they are willing to consider buying the senior center building at 403 W. Foster St. in order to ensure the program has a home even after the lease runs out in July.

Officials said the purchase of the building could cost between $400,000 and $600,000 and, depending on negotiations, could take place by the end of the year.

Chief’s call for new Port firehouse gains some traction PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 20:16

City to budget money for study but it’s unclear whether officials favor second facility or addition

A study of the Port Washington fire station will be done next year, something Port Fire Chief Mark Mitchell has been seeking for the last several years.

But what shape that study will take has yet to be determined.

City Administrator Mark Grams said on Tuesday that the Finance and License Committee placed $15,000 in the contingency fund for a study of the fire station, but whether that will be an analysis of expansion of the current firehouse or planning for a second fire station has yet to be determined.

Mitchell has promoted a study that would examine the feasibility of building a second firehouse on the city’s west side, closer to the bulk of the community’s residential development.

That station would become the primary fire station, with the current downtown facility used as a satellite station.

The Police and Fire Commission received two bids for the study in 2014, but funds for the study haven’t been included in the city budget until now. 

Grams said members of the Finance and License Committee seem to prefer a study of the potential to expand the existing firehouse, which they believe could be a less expensive solution to the issues facing the department.

Those issues include cramped conditions at the station, inefficiencies and the fact the building has no facilities for women or paramedics.

Mitchell has also noted that the station is almost 49 years old and, while the location was ideal when it was constructed, today it is not.

Police and Fire Commission member Patty Ruth said a study is a good first step in determining how to proceed.

“We believe there is a need. We know what the situation is. The equipment just doesn’t fit in the station,” she said. “We have other issues too, a big one being response time. It’s worth having a study to look into all that.

“We understand there’s not money now for a house, but like any governing body, you have to look to the future and plan for things. Without a study, we don’t have the answers.”

Ruth said that she is open to talking with the Finance and License Committee and the Common Council about the scope of a study.

“That’s fair to figure it out,” she said. “I look forward to a conversation about that. That’s a start to looking at what our needs are.”

Grams said he expects the fire station study will be discussed by aldermen when they discuss the proposed 2017 budget, either during their review of the spending plan on Nov. 1 or before approving the document on Nov. 15. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the Nov. 15 meeting.

Port aldermen asked to keep senior center open PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 19:32

Council told by volunteer that longtime facility is critical to older adults who count on it for camaraderie, meals 

A volunteer at the Port Washington Senior Center asked aldermen Tuesday to reassure seniors that the facility will not close its doors as the city looks for alternative sites for the center.

The request by Terri Wysocki came the same night aldermen met in closed session to discuss negotiations for the purchase of the Aurora Medical Center at 1777 W. Grand Ave. for use as a senior center.

Wysocki told aldermen that a recent Ozaukee Press story that outlined the fact the city has only committeed to leasing the center on Foster Street until next July and plans for a new facility may take longer to come to fruition caused a strong reaction.

“There was a sense of panic, of ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?’” she said. “We really need some answers. We need to calm the fears of seniors.

“I’m talking about something that involves 25% of our population.”

The senior center is a vital lifeline for many older adults, Wysocki said, noting many are single and otherwise isolated.

“Seniors need to be involved in our community. Staying home alone is not an option,” she said.

While some people may scoff at the activities at the center, calling them games, they provide a valuable outlet, Wysocki added.

“Those games keep our minds sharp,” she said. “They give us the opportunity to talk to people. Many of these people have just opened up.”

The meal site, she added, provides the only meal some seniors on a fixed income get each day. They can’t afford other activities or membership in facilities such as the YMCA.

“Most of us have been taxpayers for decades,” she said.

And when they hear of the city spending millions for other projects, Wysocki said, they feel “like a forgotten generation.”

Continuing to lease the current senior center is a stopgap, but shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution, she added.

“The current building is not appropriate,” she said, noting its two bathrooms aren’t enough to accommodate a crowd, the ramp is too steep and parking in winter is “horrendous.”

City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that officials met last week with a representative of Aurora to get information to start negotiations.

But, he said, officials are waiting to get more facts before formal negotiations begin.

“They’ve given us general ideas, but we need to know more,” Grams said. “We need to get more facts.”

Aurora officials have said they would need to expand their other Port clinic before they vacate the 1777 Grand Ave. facility, but Grams said the city hasn’t been given a timeline or other information about any potential move. 

It will take time to create a new senior center, he acknowledged.

The city’s Finance and License Committee met Tuesday to work on the 2017 budget, and Grams said it includes money to lease the current center only through mid-2017.

However, he said, he expects officials  will eventually use contingency funds to continue the lease.

“I don’t think we’re going to throw them out on the street,” he said of the seniors, adding that officials want to see how things progress.

The proposed budget also includes $15,000 for the city’s share of a study that will look at the feasibility of converting the Aurora Medical Clinic into a senior center, Grams said.

The city received a $20,000 matching community development block grant for the study earlier this year, and is expected to contribute $5,000 of in-kind work toward it, Grams said.

The city is working on a request for proposals intended to find a firm to conduct the study, he added.

Chief lobbies again for 2nd firehouse PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 19:32

Mitchell asks city to fund feasibility study for anotherstation he says is needed to better serve south, west sides

Faced with serving a city whose population is growing to the west and south, Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell is renewing his call for a second firehouse.

Mitchell is requesting $15,000 to $20,000 in the 2017 budget to commission a study that would examine the feasibility for building a new fire department headquarters closer to residential developments on the west and south sides of the city and using the current downtown station as a satellite location.

Mitchell’s request is nothing new, and he’s not optimistic that it will be funded next year, but he said the need for a second firehouse only continues to grow.

“They hired me to advise them on the needs of the fire department,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, but I can’t even get out of the Finance Committee.”

City officials have said in the past they understand Mitchell’s concerns but a second firehouse is just one of many projects vying every year for a limited amount of money in increasingly tight budgets.

In 2014, the fire department solicited bids from two architectural firms for a study and needs analysis of a second firehouse. Those proposals, which put the cost of the study between $13,500 and $18,300, were shelved as officials urged the department to investigate a cooperative venture with Ozaukee County. 

At one time, officials envisioned a new firehouse and county facility on county land near the intersection of highways LL and 33 on the west side of Port Washington, but the county recently agreed to sell a significant portion of that land and talks of a shared facility have not yielded progress.

“They (county officials) saw we weren’t going in any particular direction, so they sold a lot of that land,” Mitchell said.

The problems with the current station on North Wisconsin Street are its age and size, as well as its location, he said. 

By the 1990s, the fire department had outgrown the current station, built in 1968. That left officials with a decision — build a second firehouse or add on to the current facility. They chose that latter.

“They put a Band-Aid on something that needed surgery, and it’s only gotten worse,” Mitchell said. “The addition was too small the day it was finished.”

As the department has grown in terms of services, equipment and personnel, the problems with the aging station have only been exacerbated.

“We’d never abandon this building, but we need a more modern facility in a better location,” Mitchell said.

While at one time the firehouse was more centrally located, the city’s population has since grown and stretched to the west and south, increasing the time it takes for EMTs, paramedics and firefighters to respond to emergencies, he said. 

“Our population is growing and our calls are increasing,” Mitchell said.

A second facility on the west side of the city would reduce response times and put the department in a better position to respond to requests for assistance from the Saukville Fire Department, Mitchell said.

“We’re basically a volunteer fire department,” he said. “We’re the biggest bargain in town. We’re not asking for a Taj Mahal, just a modern facility that will serve our needs and that the city can be proud of.”

List of potential bluff land buyers grows PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 19:16

At least four developers now indicate they will try to purchase city-owned parcel earmarked for mixed use

At least four developers, including Ansay Development of Port Washington, have indicated they will seek to buy 44 acres of prime bluff land owned by the City of Port just south of the We Energies power plant, officials said Tuesday.

The comments came as aldermen unanimously approved a request for proposals from developers who want to buy both the city-owned land and an adjoining 11-acre parcel owned by We Energies.

Developers can seek to acquire just the city-owned land or both parcels.

The news of interest in the city’s land was welcomed by aldermen who earlier this year were negotiating a sale to Ansay Development for a corporate campus without any competition.

When talks with Ansay stalled this summer, the city broke off negotiations and decided to market the property, which it acquired more than a decade ago when We Energies renovated its Port plant. 

Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told aldermen Tuesday that even without advertising, the city has received calls from four or five Milwaukee area developers interested in the land.

One, he said, is a construction firm and another a large consulting firm that deals with many developers.

That news wasn’t entirely unexpected, aldermen said, because the land is exceptional.

“This is a prime piece of real estate,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “People are going to jump on this. It’s an outstanding opportunity for a developer.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect, concurred.

“I think you’re going to see quite a bit of interest,” he said.

While officials have been planning to seek proposals for the city-owned property, they were surprised to discover that We Energies wanted to offer its property for development as well. 

The utility has specified that its land, which is just north of the city’s property, be used for commercial development, Tetzlaff said.

The utility is requiring that any construction on its land be completed within five years, he added.

The city’s parcel is earmarked for a mixed-use development — either a mix of commercial and residential uses or a combination of various types of residential development, according to the request for proposals.

In a nod to concerns voiced by Larson, officials agreed to add a note that any commercial development planned for the city-owned land should complement the businesses in downtown.

The request for proposals acknowledges that of the 44 acres owned by the city, only about 27-1/2 are buildable.

Development plans need to take into account the primary environmental corridors in the area and the fact that the bluff and ravines are prone to erosion, the request for proposals states.

The preferred development will provide public access to the bluff and scenic lake vistas and help connect the downtown to the Cedar Vineyard development, the request states.

Ald. Paul Neumyer said he is adamant that public beach access be provided with the development.

“I don’t want to see that (access) blocked,” he said. “I want people to be able to walk all the way to Cedar Vineyard.”

The city has worked hard to ensure the public has this right, he noted, and needs to continue that quest.

Proposals need to include a monetary offer to purchase — the land is appraised at $65,000 an acre, the request notes — as well as the costs associated with the development and the estimated final value of the project.

The request for proposals is expected to be distributed to interested developers beginning late this week.

Proposals are due in 90 days, on Jan. 6. 

A team consisting of members of the Design Review Board, Community Development Authority and Plan Commission, as well as an alderman and city staff members, would evaluate the proposals the following week, selecting as many as three finalists who would make presentations to the Common Council Jan. 18.

The council could approve a plan that night or at its next meeting.

The time schedule is aggressive, Tetzlaff said, but realistic.

“What’s the reason for being so aggressive?” Ald. Bill Driscoll asked. “Is this going to discourage anyone? This is such a prime piece of property, I want to make sure we give people enough time.”

Many communities only allow 60 days when seeking proposals, Tetzlaff said.

Grams said developers will tell the city if they believe the timeframe is too short and officials can make a decision then.

The city will market the property throughout the state and to a limited degree nationally, officials said.

A link to drone footage of the site taken by Ross Kroeger, the city’s engineering technician, will be used to give potential buyers a feel for the property, they said.

Noting that We Energies has a deadline for construction on its property, officials debated whether to impose a similar timeline for development of its land.

A deadline is important, aldermen agreed.

“It eliminates anyone buying it to sit on it for 15 years,” Driscoll said.

Aldermen agreed to specify that construction must begin within a year of purchase of the city land, with a timetable for completion of the project provided by the developer. 

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