Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 19:23
Port council approves pay increase while other local municipalities, county decide to freeze salariesCity of Port Washington department heads and employees not represented by unions will receive a 1% raise for 2010, the Common Council agreed Tuesday.
Last year, Mayor Scott Huebner vetoed the across-the-board raises, but Huebner said he will not take the same action this year.
“A 1% raise, I feel, is fine,” he said. “We cut taxes this last year, and part of the reason we were able to do that is that a lot of our department heads were out and found grant money for projects or found ways to do things at a lower cost, more efficiently.
“Maintaining that talent is a priority for the city.”
Huebner noted that when he vetoed the salary resolution last year, the city had just ended its budget year with a deficit. The city ended 2009 in the black, he added.
Unlike the city, the school district and vocational schools have increased taxes and salaries, Huebner said.
“I don’t hear anything about wage cuts from them,” he said, “and they’re killing us with taxes.”
The raises stand in marked contrast to other area communities, where department heads and nonunion workers generally are not receiving any salary increase this year.
In the villages of Saukville and Grafton, for example, salaries for nonunion employees were frozen this year.
“With the economic hardships that many residents and businesses are experiencing, the Village Board felt it was appropriate that no employees receive
increases for 2010,” Grafton Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said when the decision was made earlier this month.
Grafton employes will also pay an additional 1% of their health insurance premium, bringing the worker contribution to 7%.
Saukville negotiated no-raise contracts with its two unions and held management pay at its current level.
The Village of Fredonia generally did not increase wages this year, Clerk JoAnn Wagner said. However, employees whose salaries were less than the midpoint for their salary range and received a favorable job evaluations were given increases of 1% or less, she said.
Ozaukee County also froze the salaries of nonunion employees. Its elected officials — including the county clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, district attorney, coroner and sheriff, whose salaries are set for the length of their term — agreed to make charitable contributions in the amount of their salary increase, in effect freezing their wages.
The County Board also froze its salaries for the next term, which runs from April 2010 to April 2012.
City Administrator Mark Grams said the increase amounts to raises of between $400 and $900, noting the budget included a 1% across-the-board increase for nonunion employees this year.
The Common Council also approved a contract with the last of its unions, the clerical unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 108.
These employees will receive a 1-1/2% salary increase effective Jan. 1, 2010, another 1-1/2% increase on Dec. 31 and a 2% raise on Jan. 1, 2011.
Although the structure of the increases is different, the percentage increase over the life of the contract is about the same as the city granted its other union employees, Grams said.
The other contracts took effect last July, and they called for employees to receive no increase for the first six months, 3% on Jan. 1, 2010 and another 2% on Jan. 1, 2011, he said.
"We looked at what other settlements in the area were and comparables,” he said, as well as the city’s other contract settlements.
“In these times, I would love to have the unions get the same 1% that nonunion employees are getting,” Huebner said. “It’s tough to have a department head get a 1% raise when other employees are getting a greater increase — it’s wrong.”
But, he said, the unions wouldn’t approve such a small increase and the city stands to lose more if it takes the contract to mediation and arbitration.
The council approved both wage agreements unanimously. Ald. Dave Larson was absent.
Written by Bill Schanen IV
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:07
School Board agrees to seek Race to Top grant that could secure at least $168,000 for educational reforms
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday unanimously approved a grant application that could secure at least $168,160 in federal stimulus funding for the district.
The district is one of several school systems in the county that has applied to be part of the Race to the Top program, an American Recover and Reinvestment Act initiative that is providing $4 billion to states to promote education innovations and reforms.
States must compete for the funding, but if Wisconsin’s application is accepted, all participating school districts in the state would be guaranteed a share of the stimulus money, Supt. Michael Weber said.
Wisconsin’s share of the $4 billion stimulus package would be about $254 million. That money would be distributed to school districts based on the Title 1 federal school aid formula, which provides funding based on the number of students from low-income families.
The Port Washington-Saukville School District’s share would be at least $168,160 and could be significantly more if other districts in the state choose not to participate in the program, Weber said.
“Why wouldn’t a district participate? You would opt out if the energy and investment required to use the money was greater that the amount you’re receiving,” he said.
If Wisconsin receives funding, participating school districts have 90 days to prepare a spending plan or opt out of the program.
“We’re not committing to anything at this point,” Weber said.
In other school systems, such as the Northern Ozaukee School District in Fredonia, the decision to submit an application was not nearly as cut and dried as it was in the Port-Saukville District. The board in that district voted 6-3 Monday to apply for the funding. The Grafton School District also decided Monday to apply.
The stimulus money is intended to promote reforms in four areas — standards and assessments that prepare students for college and the workplace; creating data systems that measure student achievement and facilitate improvement in instruction; recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals; and improving low-performing schools.
“We are already doing these things and have been for a long time,” Weber said. “But this money would allow us to improve and expand what we’re doing.”
For instance, the money would allow the district to improve its new-staff mentoring program to ensure recently hired educators are as successful as possible, he said.
Funding could also be used to help implement Project Lead the Way at the high school. The science, math and technology program intended to spark student interest in engineering careers was started this year at the middle school.
“We’re running into significant challenges trying to fund the program at the high school,” Weber said.
“And overlooked sometimes are initiatives in science and mathematics at the elementary schools. Technology is a huge priority for us and this funding (Race to the Top) could help with that goal.”
Receiving the money, however, is far from certain and depends on whether Wisconsin can convince federal education officials it has a sound plan for education reform. The debate over the Milwaukee Public School System’s performance and its future leadership is central to Wisconsin’s chances of qualifying for funding, Weber said.
“The MPS issue is very significant,” he said. “The State of Wisconsin needs to be able to put together a plan to restructure MPS to help students be more successful, and to do that they’re going to have to address problems like truancy, the drop-out rate and the achievement gap.”
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 06 January 2010 19:28
Port aldermen want to make sure intergovernmental cooperation is a two-way street before OK’ing county plan
Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday tabled action sought by Ozaukee County that would have made West Main Street outside the Administration Center a one-way street.
Aldermen said they will take action on the measure when they are convinced the county will be receptive to a city proposal to make changes to the intersection of Lakeshore Road and the southern extension of Wisconsin Street next year.
City Administrator Mark Grams said initial discussions have led city officials to believe the county is not eager to embrace their proposal.
“You may want to use this (Main Street proposal) as a bargaining chip,” Grams said. “Have them give a little more consideration to the intersection we want to see there.”
Aldermen were quick to agree with his proposal.
“This is troubling after we made an effort to help them out,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said, noting the county is seeking the change to Main Street to increase parking near the Administration Center.
We’re willing to work with them on this street,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said. “Why wouldn’t they be willing to work with us? I don’t think what we’re asking is unreasonable.”
The city’s bargaining chip is a county request to convert the 100 block of West Main Street into a one-way street heading east and place angle parking on both sides of the street.
This will alleviate parking shortages experienced by the county, especially during special programs, such as immunization clinics, some University of Wisconsin Extension programs and even the annual county budget hearing, county officials said.
The proposal, which was recommended by the city’s Traffic Safety Committee, would add eight parking places to the 32 currently provided on Main Street between Wisconsin and Milwaukee streets, officials said.
The changes sought by the city involve recreating its southern gateway when Wisconsin Street is extended to the south through the We Energies property next year. The extended Wisconsin Street will largely follow the existing construction road on the utility land, intersecting Lakeshore Road near Sunset Road.
To accommodate this change, the city has proposed creating a right turn lane on Lakeshore Road that will help channel traffic onto the new Wisconsin Street. Traffic heading into Port on Division Street or turning onto Sunset Road would have to switch lanes to make those movements.
Slowing traffic on Lakeshore Road, also known as County Highway C, near Sunset Road is key to the proposal. The plan is intended to direct traffic heading to downtown and lakefront along the new Wisconsin Street instead of through a residential neighborhood, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.
“The biggest thing is slowing the traffic so they can see the directional sign and make the turn,” he said.
But to do those things, the county needs to change two of its ordinances — one to reduce the speed limit near the intersection of Lakeshore Road and the southern extension of Wisconsin Street from 40 mph to perhaps 25 mph, and the other to allow directional signs at the crossing, said Vanden Noven, who is slated to discuss the issue with the county Public Works Committee later this month.
Although no one has flat-out rejected the city’s proposal, Vanden Noven said, he’s been warned that county officials are typically reluctant to reduce the speeds on county highways and county ordinances prohibit directional signs.
The county does not seem to have an issue with the proposed layout of the intersection, Vanden Noven added.
Ald. Tom Hudson questioned why the county wouldn’t allow the signs, noting that less than a mile south of the new intersection, Ozaukee County has placed signs directing motorists to Lions Den Gorge.
“It sure seems inconsistent to me,” he said. “I don’t see any fundamental difference. Certainly the marina is a public use of the lakefront.”
Ald. Dan Becker, who is also a county supervisor, said the city and county should be willing to work together on the issue.
“I’ll personally look into it,” he said.
Vanden Noven said he believes the city and county can come to an agreement.
“I’m hopeful they’ll think one ordinance change deserves another,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances.
“I’m optimistic because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m cautious because when we broached the subject last spring it was rejected, and when I requested it again in November, it took over one month to get a response.”
Because the city delayed action on the two ordinances needed to change parking on West Main Street, aldermen will have to begin the process of altering the city ordinances all over again, Grams said. A first review of the ordinance is expected to be conducted by the Common Council on Jan. 19.
But aldermen on Tuesday did take one step toward adding long-term parking near the Administration Center. They approved an ordinance that would remove the two-hour parking limit on Milwaukee Street north of the alley behind the Administration Center, allowing long-term parking in seven or eight spots there.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 30 December 2009 18:41
Pier St. building that now houses Port Senior Center chosen for honor that will help ensure its preservation
Port Washington’s historic firehouse, which is currently home to the city’s senior center, was named to the National Register of Historic Places last month.
“It is truly a significant building with its tower,” said Port Washington Historical Society President Geri Zehren. “We’re just glad to see the building recognized for what it is — a building of historic significance and beauty.
“It’s an interesting building, and it needs to be preserved.”
City officials concurred, with administrator Mark Grams saying, “We always considered it a historic site. I think it’s one downtown building that’s been very well maintained and is worthy of this honor. It’s a unique building.”
The Port Washington Fire Engine House 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 attached 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 building is one of only two in the city designed in the Mediterranean style, officials have noted.
The so-called engine house property, which is owned by the city, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places Nov. 5. It was added to the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places in April after being nominated by the Historical Society and the Port Washington Maritime Heritage Experience.
Placement on the National Register qualifies the property for grants and rehabilitation income tax credits, but does not prohibit modifications to it. The city can make structural alterations as long as a certificate of appropriateness is obtained, officials said.
If the city were to sell the building, it would be required to attach a preservation covenant to the structure. That covenant would require additional reviews be followed if renovations were to be made or the structure razed.
It’s important to take steps to ensure historic buildings like the engine house, Zehren said.
“Port hasn’t always been good about that,” she said. “It calls for vigilance at all times.”
As an example, she cited the former grist mill on South Milwaukee Street as an example of a historic building that was razed in recent years.
She also noted the efforts of Shirley Schanen Gruen and others to preserve the king post truss bridge at Fisherman’s Park.
“Without them, would that bridge have been saved?” Zehren asked.
The Historical Society is in the process of raising the $500 needed to purchase a brass plaque for the structure denoting its entry on the National Register, Zehren said.
PORT WASHINGTON’S former firehouse, which is now home to its senior center, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Bill Schanen IV