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Port Washington


More signs of borer invasion in Port PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 17:40

Discovery of deadly ash beetle on Pier, Jackson streets confirms fear that infestation is spreading throughout area

    Three more ash trees, these on Pier and Jackson streets in downtown Port Washington, were found to be infested with the emerald ash borer Monday.

    That brings the total number of trees in Port known or suspected to be infested with the borer to roughly a dozen. About half were found atop the ravine overlooking the city’s bike path. Others are in Veterans Memorial Park and near the water filtration plant.

    “It’s clear it’s here,” Jon Crain, the city’s arborist, said.

    With the cluster of cases found in the area, it’s apparent the beetle has been here for years and has likely spread beyond that area, he said.

    “I do suspect it’s throughout the city,” Crain said. “Chances are, if we’re finding it down there, it is throughout (the city) and we’re just not seeing it yet.”

    That’s because it takes three to five years for the beetle to kill an ash tree. Many of the trees discovered recently are dead.

    The drought we’re experiencing now is a cause for concern, Crain added, noting it weakens trees.

    “The trees are really stressed out, and the borer thrives on stressed trees,” Crain said.

    The city is now developing a plan to evaluate all its ash trees, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

    “We will be evaluating them at least once a year and take down the ones showing signs of infestation as quickly as possible,” he said.

    The city shouldn’t wait until they’re dead because ash become extremely brittle when they die, Vanden Noven said.

    “The Department of Natural Resources said if a dead limb falls onto the sidewalk, it will likely shatter into a million pieces,” he said.

    In the ravine and other densely wooded or sloped areas, the city may have to let nature take its course because of the difficulty in getting to them, Vanden Noven said.

    Once the infested ash trees are cut down, the city will have to grind the wood into tiny pieces to kill any larvae and insects in it, Crain said. The ash wood chips will be kept separate and won’t be available for public use.

    The city already has a map showing the location of 1,100 ash trees planted along the streets, Vanden Noven said. Many streets in relatively new subdivisions have clusters of ash, including Bley Park Estates, Spinnaker West and the southern half of the Lake Ridge development, he said.

    Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig said his department is doing an inventory of the ash trees found in parks as well.

    In Upper Lake Park, which has already been mapped, there are 156 ash trees and 162 other species, Imig said.

    Many of those ash are in a dense cluster along the bluff and ravine, Crain said, as well as in the center green space.    

    “Throughout the parks, it’s hard to say but I’d guess there are probably thousands (of ash trees),” Crain said.

    Ash trees are so prevalent because they were considered a good tree to plant after Dutch elm disease decimated that species.

    “I think the borer is going to be a lot like Dutch elm disease, where ultimately you end up with no ash trees,” Vanden Noven said.

    “Ash is a great hardwood tree. It’s a good, durable street tree. They grow to a perfect size to provide a canopy and have a great shape.”

    Officials haven’t planted ash trees along streets or in the parks since 2005, after they learned of the devastation caused by the borer in other parts of the country.

    “From the photos I’ve seen of communities in Michigan, it’s not pretty,” Vanden Noven said. “If people want to know the value of having a tree in front of their home, they’re going to see it.

    “If you live on a street with mostly ash trees, never in your lifetime are you going to see that same canopy over the street.”

    The state has been working to find a biological solution to the borer, but it will take years before researchers know whether it is effective in this area.

    In the meantime, residents with ash trees on their property generally have two options, officials said.

    “If they have a tree that means a lot to them  I suggest getting treatment on them fast,” Crain said.

    Although not guaranteed, there are chemical treatments that can be used to try to prevent the borer from attacking trees. The most effective of these are injections into the trunk of the tree, Crain said, adding those that are put into the soil around the tree are less efficient.

    Residents can also plant other trees now to replace ash trees on their property, Vanden Noven said.

    “That way, when the ash tree does need to come down, you have a tree that’s beginning to mature to replace it,” he said. “There are lots of different species of trees, and some can grow quite rapidly.”



 
Family fun to glow on July Fourth in Port PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 17:53

Port Washington will celebrate the Fourth Of July in spectacular fashion with a day full of activities for children and adults alike.

    “Our goal is to make it a very family-friendly day that will bring people to the bandshell (in Veterans Memorial Park) and keep them there until the fireworks,” said Patti Lemkuil, chairman of the organizing committee. “We’re really excited about this year’s event.”

    Independence Day will be kicked off with a parade through downtown at 11 a.m. The parade, which features a lineup of bicycles decorated and ridden by area children, will begin on South Milwaukee Street, then head east on Grand Avenue, north on Franklin Street, east on Jackson Street and end at Veterans Memorial Park.

    Supplies for decorating bikes may be picked up at no charge at Port Washington State Bank in downtown Port.

    Immediately after the parade, there will be a salute to veterans at the bandshell.

    Youngsters will then continue their parade of bikes, with a panel of judges reviewing them as they head up a ramp onto the bandshell, where they will be announced by Mayor Tom Mlada.

    Trophies and ribbons will be awarded to youngsters.

    A watermelon-seed spitting contest, bounce house and other activities for children will be held throughout the afternoon.

    Food, beer, wine, soda and desserts will be available.     

    Interfaith Caregivers will also hold its annual ice cream social at the park during the afternoon.

    During the event, those attending may drop off old DVDs and music CDs to be sent to the troops. Hard candy is also being collected for the troops. People are asked not to drop off chocolates, because they will melt in transit.

    Live music will entertain the crowd. Throughout the afternoon, local musicians Will Pfrang, Louie Schurrer and Laura Hagen will perform.

    In the evening, Port Washington’s own Vinyl Groove and Familiar Looking Strangers, a popular band from Liverpool, England, will perform until the fireworks, which will be shot off from the coal dock.

    The Fourth of July activities are sponsored by the Port Washington Parks and Recreation Department, Port Washington State Bank and Ozaukee Press.

    Other sponsors include the Port Washington Yacht Club, Drews True Value and One Step Environmental.

 
It’s back to school for 1,150 kids on Monday PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 18:02

PW-S summer program draws a crowd of students interested in creative classes

    It’s back to school Monday for the more than 1,150 elementary and middle school students enrolled in the Port Washington-Saukville Summer School program.
   
“Enrollment is higher than normal with registrations still coming in,” said Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Arlan Galarowicz, who oversees the summer program.

    But it’s not business as usual at the school during the six-week summer session that runs mornings from June 25 through July 27. Even traditional classes like reading and math are a little more laid back, and many of the offerings are designed to make learning fun.

    For instance, courses such as engineering and design, digital photography, fishing and gardening fill up quickly. The Kitchen Capers cooking class, nature science and swimming, just to name a few, are also popular offerings.

    “The smiles on the faces of children engaged in learning during the summer are just incredible,” Galarowicz said. “I wish I could bottle those smiles and use some during the regular school year.”

    With about two-thirds of the Port Washington-Saukville School District’s elementary and middle school students enrolled in summer classes, going to school in June and July has become the thing to do, but that’s not the case in other districts, Galarowicz said.

    “We’re not a typical public school system, and this isn’t a typical summer program,” he said.

    The district owes its robust summer session, which is so large it requires a staff of about 100 teachers and other staff members, to a long history of offering both remedial and enrichment programs outside of the regular school year and a continued commitment to the summer program, Galarowicz said.

    “Summer school illustrates this district’s focus on education,” he said. “By offering a full complement of both remedial and enrichment courses, we are really trying to meet the needs of every student.”

    The summer session also gives the district the opportunity to experiment with new teaching techniques that can be incorporated into the regular school curriculum if they are successful. For instance, the middle school debuted a computer-based math course designed to better address the individual abilities of students last summer, then added it to the regular school year in fall with great results, Galarowicz said.

    Classes at Port Washington High School began Monday, June 20, for the 150 students enrolled in the summer session, Assistant Principal Dave Bernander, who coordinates the summer program, said.

    The school, which historically only offered remedial summer courses, has worked over the years to add preparatory and enrichment offerings.
And instead of six-week sessions that can be impossible for working high school students to fit into their schedules, several of the courses take the
form of one or two-week seminars.

    Among the more popular classes are those that prepare students for advanced placement classes, Bernander said.

    “A lot of kids are discovering that it’s really worth it to come in for a week and get a really good jump on courses like AP literature,” he said.

    Students can also earn credits in elective courses like art and physical education over the summer to free up their options during the regular school year.

    “When I started here, all we offered were remedial classes and kids hated it,” Bernander said. “Now we’re doing it a little differently by offering courses they need and want, and they like it.”

 
Breakthrough budget gives district some leeway at last PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 18:36

After 13 years of spending cuts, PW-S Board OKs plan that funds new positions, technology improvements

  A Port Washington-Saukville School Board that has fought for more than a decade to protect educational programs, class sizes and teaching jobs approved a 2012-13 budget Monday that will fund two new district-wide positions, an ambitious technology initiative and an energy savings improvement fund designed to pay future dividends.

    It also predicts a modest tax rate decrease.        The budget — the first in 13 years that has not required spending cuts and, in fact, calls for a $58,000 surplus — benefits from significant changes to employee benefits, federal job-creation money and the retirement of all referendum debt.

     “This is a unique budget,” Supt. Michael Weber said during Monday’s budget hearing. “This is the first time in 13 years the Administrative Council has not needed to reduce the budget because of a structural deficit.
   

“Now we have an opportunity to focus on program needs, student needs and some areas of achievement that we need to beef up for the future.”

    Although district expenses are projected to increase $745,721 (2.33%) for a total of $32.8 million next school year, the tax levy is expected to decrease $257,873 (1.82%) to $13.9 million.

    That translates to a tax rate of $9.19 per $1,000 of equalized value, a 17-cent (1.8%) decrease from this year. That means the owner of a $175,000 house would theoretically pay $29.83 less in school taxes, assuming no increase in property values. The impact of the school tax rate will vary among taxing entities within the district, depending on changes in property values.

    Director of Business Services Jim Froemming stressed that the budget is based on several assumptions and could change slightly by the time the board approves the tax levy on Oct. 29. State aid, property values and student enrollment are among the key variables, and hiring decisions that have yet to be made will impact salary and benefit costs.

    But even with changes, it’s clear that the 2012-13 budget provides the best financial outlook the district has seen in years, in part because of significant employee benefit savings.

    This is the first budget that reflects changes required by Act 10, the controversial state law that ended most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

    Shortly before that law was enacted last year, board members approved a one-year teacher contract extension, saying they needed a year to revamp benefits. Since then, the board has decided to end the district’s long relationship with WEA Trust, the health insurance provider affiliated with the state’s largest teachers union, and contract with Humana for considerably less expensive benefits due in part to higher employee and retiree deductibles and co-pays. Those as well as other changes, such as paring the cash in lieu of insurance benefit, are expected to result in a $600,000 savings to the district, Froemming said.

    Weber said that although the district has been able to use Act 10 to its advantage, it’s strong financial outlook shouldn’t be attributed to the law.

    “I get very uncomfortable when I read about how a district is in good or bad financial shape because of Act 10. There’s more to it than that,” he said. “Our key has been strong financial management long before Act 10.

    “The districts that are in the best shape under Act 10 are the ones that were in good financial shape before Act. 10.”

    The budget also benefits from $544,789 in federal grant money intended to create and retain jobs. If the district chooses to use its allocation, it must do so during the 2012-13 school year.

    Some of that money will be used to create two new positions — a district-wide math specialist and a technology education specialist.

    The math specialist will track and improve student achievement.

    The technology specialist figures into a broader technology initiative and will help teachers use computers and software to educate students.

    The district has budgeted $88,695 in salary and benefits for each position.

    Another important component of the budget is what’s missing — an annual referendum debt payment of $473,529. That debt was retired earlier this year.    

    The district will set aside just less than half that amount — $217,000 — in a new energy savings capital improvement fund. Administrators intend to contribute annually to this fund, which will be used to pay for cost-cutting improvements.

    “This is another investment in the financial stability of the district in the future,” Weber said.

    In addition to investing in personnel and energy efficiency projects, the district has budgeted for technology improvements that include the installation of wireless Internet equipment at Port Washington High School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That project is expected to cost $144,345.

    The technology initiative also includes the purchase of 90 netbooks — small laptop computers specifically designed for accessing the Internet —
and 140 Apple iPads for a pilot project in middle school math and communication classes. The district will pay $700 per netbook and $458 per iPad for a total cost of $153,000, which includes storage carts and covers for the iPads. An additional $163,720 has been budgeted for teacher training.   

 
Benefit cuts buoy budget, but wages still unsettled PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 18:37

Promising budget gives PW-S District room to negotiate pay under new law

    A Port Washington-Saukville School District that has slashed employee benefit costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars is poised now to focus on negotiating employee wages.

    Although the School Board and Port Washington-Saukville Education Association have yet to open negotiations because of confusion about the state law regulating public employee compensation, the proposed 2012-13 budget can accommodate pay increases, Supt. Michael Weber said. The board will also have to negotiate wages with the union representing secretaries and paraprofessionals.

    “We have a group of teachers stuck at step one that we need to move off there. They need to see an increase,” Weber said. “We want to continue to attract and retain strong teachers because that’s what makes the difference in the classroom.”

    The current starting salary for teachers is $36,877, Weber said.

    A hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 11, at the District Office, 100 W. Monroe St., Port Washington.

    Act 10, the controversial state law that prompted Tuesday’s failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker, stripped public employees of the right to negotiate benefits but permits them to bargain for wages. Wage increases, however, are capped at an amount not to exceed the consumer price index, which measures inflation.     

    But how wage increase caps are to be calculated and what components of raises are subject to negotiation was unclear until Tuesday, when the district received clarification on these issues, Weber said.

    The district must first calculate a base wage, then multiply it by the consumer price index, which is currently 3.16%, Weber said.

    The overall salary increase and how that increase is distributed throughout the pay scale is subject to negotiations with unions, he said.

    “We want to attract and retain the best teachers, but salary is only one component of staying power,” Weber said. “The biggest factors are job satisfaction and working environment, and we’re leaders in those areas.

    “All of this is very manageable in the proposed budget, which puts the district in very good financial shape.”

    Although Act 10 was enacted last year, it will not affect most district employees until July 1. That is because teachers, as well as secretaries and paraprofessionals, are working under contracts until June 30, when the agreements expire.

    Teachers were granted a one-year contract extension in April 2011, shortly before Act 10 was enacted. That contract contained several concessions, including a partial pay freeze that allowed increases only for educational advancements.

    Board members said the contract extension would give them a year to draft an employee handbook to replace the contract and overhaul benefits in a new post-collective bargaining era.

    Last month, the board took its most significant step in that direction by ending its long-term relationship with WEA Trust, the insurance carrier associated with the state’s largest teachers union, and giving its roughly $4.5 million worth of health insurance business to Humana.

    The change in carriers and benefits is expected to reduce the total insurance premium by $919,000 next school year. Most of that savings — at least $700,000 — is expected to be realized by the district, which pays 87% of the premium for most employees. The balance of that savings will benefit employees, most of whom pay 13% of their premiums, and retirees, whose health insurance benefits are frozen at retirement.

    Under the new insurance plan, employee premiums, which are now $100 and $200 for single and family coverage, respectively, will increase to $500 and $1,000. The new plan also introduces a $20 co-pay for office visits and increases the co-pays for urgent care and emergency room services.


    Also last month, the board reduced the benefit that pays employees cash in lieu of health insurance benefits.

    Currently, employees who opt not to be covered by the district health insurance plan receive an annual payment equal to the district’s portion of the single coverage premium, which is $8,380. Beginning July 1, employees are eligible for a cash payment of $5,400.

    The board also changed the criteria for the cash payment eligibility. Employees will have to work at least 80% of full time to qualify for the benefit, even though those who work 60% qualify for prorated health benefits. Currently, employees who work as little as 50% qualify for a prorated cash in lieu of insurance benefits.

    In addition, the cash option will be eliminated for employees whose spouses also work for the district. Currently four employees who are covered by the district insurance also receive the cash in lieu payment because their spouses are district employees.

    The board also eliminated cash in lieu of insurance payments for retired teachers and hourly workers beginning in 2013.

  

 
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