Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 17:56
Incumbent Heatwole vies for supervisor seat along with challengers Didier, Rychtik
Town of Port Washington residents will bring some new blood to the Town Board in the April 5 election when two supervisors are elected.
Incumbent Scott Heatwole and newcomers Michael Didier and James Rychtik Jr. are vying for two seats on the board.
“I’m quite delighted there is interest in the seat,” Heatwole said. “The more interest the better. I would love to see more people at meetings, too.”
Jim Melichar, who served as a supervisor for the past decade, is not seeking re-election but instead challenging Town Chairman Lee Schlenvogt for his seat. A story about that race ran in last week’s Ozaukee Press.
All three men seeking the supervisor’s seat on the board said they want to give back to the community in which they have lived for much of their lives.
One of the major challenges facing government today is dealing with ever-tightening budgets.
The town is expected to lose 37.4% of its state shared revenue and 3% of its transportation aid under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill. While the total amount is relatively small — $11,841 — it’s a significant loss in a community with an annual budget of $547,000 and a tax levy of $450,000.
“The Town of Port doesn’t have many services,” Didier noted. “You can raise fees, but that’s the same as raising taxes to me, and that’s not something I’d look to do.”
A significant amount of the town’s budget is devoted to road work, and Didier said the town should look at privatizing this service instead of automatically hiring the Ozaukee County Highway Department.
“You have to open it up for bids,” he said. “I think privatizing that might be something in the town’s future. I don’t see how the county can compete with private companies.”
The Highway Department charges the town for its actual cost to maintain roads, including snowplowing.
At a recent meeting, Didier said, he was surprised when Highway Supt. Bob Dreblow explained that plow operators earn time-and-a-half for snow removal operations that occur outside the standard 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours Mondays through Fridays. The county should adjust the workweek so these employees get time off during the day if they’re plowing early in the morning or late at night so they don’t get paid overtime, he said.
That would reduce the town’s cost significantly, he said.
Rychtik, whose sister is Town Clerk Jennifer Schlenvogt, agreed that the town should privatize road services, including snowplowing, ditch cutting and fixing culverts and downed signs.
Too often, he said, town residents are inconvenienced when roads aren’t plowed immediately and they need to get to work. With a private service, the residents may be able to get a quicker response.
“If you could do it for even a small savings, it would be worth it because residents would be happier,” Rychtik said.
Heatwole said that the township should look at all its options to contain costs, including privatizing roads.
“We’ve talked to the county and talked to them about their bills,” he said. “I think we’ll probably look at all our options, but right now we don’t have any data.”
The town is in good shape to weather the cuts in state aid, Heatwole said.
“We’ve been very responsible for a lot of years,” he said. “Our roads are in good shape.”
Because of that, the town can postpone roadwork for a few years to help conserve funds, he said.
“You wouldn’t want to do it for 10 years, but you can do it for a year or two or three,” Heatwole said.
Rychtik said the town should also explore sharing services, such as the planner and engineer with neighboring communities such as the Village of Saukville.
The town should also examine whether it truly needs the town planner to attend as many meetings as he does, Rychtik said.
“It seems like we can’t do anything in the town without the planner at the meeting,” he said.
Didier concurred, saying the town should look into having the planner attend via teleconferencing or scale back his meeting attendance, perhaps having him attend half the sessions instead of all of them.
Didier and Rychtik also said they want to see the town streamline its review and approval processes.
“They seem to over-analyze things a bit,” Didier said. “They come to the right conclusions, but it takes a long time.”
He believes strongly in property rights, Didier said, and would look at things with that perspective.
“I think we should look for reasons to say yes, not to say no,” he said.
The town should have a letter to present to people seeking approval that outlines the costs and time frame they are looking at, Rychtik said.
Although the proposed state budget would remove the recycling mandate, all three candidates said the town should continue its recycling center.
“If at any point we can recycle things, we should,” Heatwole said. “People are trained to do it, and they should.”
The town should poll its residents to make sure it’s something they value, Rychtik added.
Didier said he has attended a number of town meetings and doesn’t anticipate any major changes if he is elected.
“When all is said and done, they’re going in the right direction,” he said. “The land-use plan and zoning code seem to make sense to me.”
Rychtik said the town needs to remain business-friendly, adding that officials should visit each company in the township at least annually to touch base and see if anything can be done to help them so they remain in the community.
“I think we just need to continue to do good planning,” Heatwole said. “Give the town the best economic planning we can and make it a business-friendly place for people. We’re trying to do that and still maintain the rural character of the town.”
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 19:37
Melichar calls Schlenvogt’s elected posts in Port township, county a conflict, but Schlenvogt says they benefit community
The similarities between the two candidates for Town of Port Washington chairman are striking — both incumbent Lee Schlenvogt and challenger Jim Melichar, a town supervisor, are dairy farmers and longtime town residents. Preserving the community’s rural character is a prime concern for each of them.
Melichar said he decided to seek the chairman’s seat after a decade in office in large part because people asked him to.
“With Lee being elected to the County Board and having a lot of other priorities, I thought it would be the right time for me to step up,” he said, noting a number of residents have expressed concern about Schlenvogt’s dual role as town chairman and county supervisor.
“When you have two commitments, to the town and county, it’s difficult. I think the town needs a little separation there to do what’s right for the residents.”
His son Adam recently bought into the family farm, freeing up time that he can devote to the chairman’s job, Melichar added.
Schlenvogt, however, said the two positions complement each other.
“I think it’s an asset,” he said. “I have access to a lot of information through the county that I use to benefit the town. And it’s nice when the (town) board has a question for their county board representative, and the representative is there.”
His position on the County Board has given him the chance to hear various opinions and meet other people who can help the township, Schlenvogt said, and allows him to serve as a conduit of information to both his board and community and to other town chairmen.
Schlenvogt, a member of the county’s Farmland Preservation Committee, said the town needs to continue working on this initiative, although some proposed changes on the county level may be stymied by the state’s financial troubles.
To comply with the proposed county changes, the town needs to “tweak” its ordinance, Schlenvogt said, noting the cluster developments allowed by the town in a conservation zoning subdivision are too dense.
“I don’t know how detailed we have to get,” he said. “We need to get more information.”
Melichar, a member of the county’s Land Preservation Board, said the town carefully considered its conservation preservation ordinance before adopting it and shouldn’t change it just because the county wants it to.
“We spent seven years working on it because the county wasn’t doing anything,” he said. “I don’t want to just rewrite it.”
Local residents should have input into any changes, Melichar added.
One of the biggest challenges facing local government today is finances. The Town of Port Washington stands to lose 37.4% of its shared revenue and 3% of its transportation aid, a total of $11,841, under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget bill.
Dealing with that shortfall will be a focus for the township.
Schlenvogt said the town has few options, noting most of the services it provides — fire protection, a trash and recycling collection site and maintenance of the town hall — are fixed.
“Guess what’s left?” he said. “We just won’t be able to do as many road projects as before.”
There have been suggestions that the town consider privatizing its roadwork, particularly snowplowing. The town currently contracts with the Ozaukee County Highway Department for the work.
It’s something the Town Board should study and perhaps put to a referendum vote, Schlenvogt said.
“I really don’t feel the board should just make that choice,” he said. “There’s too much at stake. I’m not saying it’s good, and I’m not saying it’s bad. It is a big step, and there are a lot of things that need to be researched.”
The town will also look at privatizing cutting road ditches, Schlenvogt said.
“We’re going to take it slow and easy,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s right for the town.”
Melichar agreed that the town should look into the concept, both for snowplowing and road maintenance, but said it’s too early to make a decision.
“That’s something that’s going to take a lot of thinking and studying,” he said. “We should maybe take a look at it.”
The town should also work with Ozaukee County to see what its options are and whether it can help the county reduce the cost of the service, Melichar said.
He said he would also like to explore the possibility of allowing town officials who have heavy equipment to provide services to the township, such as brush cutting or removing tree limbs that fall on roads.
This work could be done at what would likely be a reduced cost and perhaps a more timely basis, Melichar said.
“There are a lot of things we should look at,” he said. “Privatizing or working with the county or partnering with other townships for services. If you think outside the box, it opens all sorts of things we haven’t considered.”
Melichar also said the town should make a point of reaching out to businesses, especially those in the Knellsville area, to ensure the community is doing all it can to retain them.
“We’ve never really sat down with the business owners to see what their needs are,” he said. “You’d hate to see them leave. They’re a big part of the town tax base.”
Both candidates said they are willing to spend the time needed to lead the town into the future without compromising all that residents treasure.
Schlenvogt pointed to his years of leadership in the town, in particular his work leading to a border agreement between the town and city of Port, and his willingness to work with residents as reasons people should vote for him.
“I just love the town,” he said. “I love politics. I love the people here. I’ve seen a lot of change, and I’ve worked hard to have the town the way it is.”
Melichar also cited his years of experience on the Town Board, his desire to take a fresh look at solutions that may not be obvious when dealing with problems and his dedication to the township.
“My focus is on the town,” he said. “I’m not looking to be on the County Board or any other political position.”
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:06
It’s official — the Highway 33 reconstruction project between Port Washington and Saukville should begin this spring.
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday signed a revised agreement with the state for the work.
“We’re less than one month away from the bid opening for the long-awaited Highway 33 project,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven told aldermen.
The city’s original contract with the state was signed in 2000, and a number of changes have occurred since then, he noted.
For example, the cost of obtaining real estate has increased tenfold. In 2000, it was estimated that the cost of obtaining real estate along the two-mile stretch would be $110,000, with the city’s share set at $12,500
Vanden Noven said.
“That was optimistic even in 2000,” he said.
Now, the entire cost of real estate acquisition is estimated at $2.5 million, with the city’s share expected to be $172,000, Vanden Noven said.
The city’s share of the entire project is $1.8 million, which includes a $142,000 credit that will be applied to the new streetlights, as well as a $605,000 landscaping credit because the city will be planting the trees along
the street, he said.
A significant portion of that money should be escrowed for median maintenance, Vanden Noven said, noting the trees will require a fair amount of care in the first few years and the city should hire a contractor to do this work.
One major change in the contract is the fact that it no longer covers work done for the Village of Saukville, Vanden Noven said. Instead, the village will have a separate agreement with the state.
That agreement was approved by the Village Board Tuesday.
The original contract required the city to pay the full cost of the highway work and obtain reimbursement from Saukville, he said. Saukville officials asked the state to separate the contracts, Vanden Noven said.
Last week, the Board of Public Works approved special assessing adjoining property owners for curb, gutter and sidewalk work along Highway 33. Preliminary figures show the assessments will range from $150 to
more than $100,000.
The largest assessment, however, is for city-owned property. Many of the highest assessments are for properties in the Town of Port Washington. These charges will be deferred until the land is annexed into the city.
A preliminary resolution on the assessments is expected to be considered by the Common Council in April or May, after bids for the work are opened and the actual costs are known.
A public hearing on the assessments will be held after that.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 20:16
Port officials look at paring sidewalk installation to help offset rising cost of improvements on city road
The success of a proposal to rebuild Lake Street to alleviate flooding in the area and beautify the area around Veterans Memorial Park in Port Washington this spring may depend on the Highway 33 reconstruction project.
That’s because the Lake Street proposal has increased significantly in price as the scope of the project has changed since it was initially considered last year, the Board of Public Works was told Tuesday.
Because the city doesn’t have other funds available, cost savings expected to be realized on the long-awaited Highway33 reconstruction might be the best way to finance the Lake Street project, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.
When the Lake Street project was conceived, the intent was to lower the road, install additional catch basins and provide an overflow spillway through the park, he said. The city received a $206,000 Community Development Block Grant to cover 60% of that cost.
But officials have since determined that the main storm sewer line must be replaced, Vanden Noven said. Plans have also been made to rebuild the public parking lot north of the American Legion hallto improve safety and aesthetics, and to add sidewalk to connect with existing walkways in the area.
The low bid for the project came in at $327,000, Vanden Noven said, leaving the city to come up with roughly $150,000 for the project.
In addition, We Energies has estimated the cost of burying the overhead wires in the area at $60,000 to $100,000, he said.
The Highway 33 project may be the most likely place to come up with the needed funds, Vanden Noven said.
That’s because the state has said bids for highway work have been coming in about 10% under budget, he said. If that occurs, about $100,000 might be available to help pay for the Lake Street project.
Bids for the Highway 33 project will be opened in April.
In addition, the city could eliminate some paths and sidewalks planned on Highway LL north of Highway 33 and on the west side of the road south of Highway 33, Vanden Noven said. That would cover much of the remaining shortfall.
The path on the east side of Highway LL south of Highway 33 should remain, officials said, because it will connect with sidewalks already in the area.
Ald. Jim Vollmar, a member of the Board of Public Works, said the city needs to decide whether the intent of the Lake Street work is to alleviate flooding or to beautify the area.
“It’s the aesthetics of this project that add to the cost,” he said. “I’m kind of torn. I would like the city to be more beautiful, but it’s a lot of money.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich, another board member, said it’s important to make the Veterans Park area aesthetically pleasing because of its prominence.
“It’s a high visibility area,” he said.
He proposed that the city eliminate the Highway LL walkways, saving an estimated $130,000, noting that these paths, which can be added in the future, don’t connect to other sidewalks.
The city should delay making a decision on burying the overhead wires until it has a better cost estimate, Ehrlich added.
But Vollmar said if the city wants to beautify the area, the wires must be buried.
“Personally, I think if we’re going to make it look beautiful, let’s go all the way,” he said.
Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the board, suggested the board consider postponing the Lake Street project until fall, when the Highway 33 project will be almost completed and the costs known. Then the city will know how much money can be diverted to Lake Street, he said.
T.P. Concrete, the low bidder on the project, may not be willing to hold its price that long, Vanden Noven said.
The board postponed action on the bid and delayed making a decision on burying the wires. Instead, it directed Vanden Noven and City Administrator Mark Grams to see if T.P. Concrete would honor its price if the project is delayed and when We Energies could give a better cost
estimate for burying the wires.
The board will hold a special meeting Tuesday, March 15, to hear the results.
The board also recommended on Tuesday that the city approve a revised contract with the state for the Highway 33 project. The initial contract for the work was approved in 2009, but since then the scope and cost of the project have changed, Vanden Noven said.
The city’s share of the project is estimated at $1.8 million, he said.
The DOT has indicated the contract must be approved by the Common Council by March 15 for the project to move forward this year, Vanden Noven said.