Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 18:45
Port officials expect more revenue if service is added but unsure it would cover required ambulance upgrade
The Port Washington ambulance department would have brought in at least $68,000 in additional revenue last year if it had a paramedic unit, Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.
But whether that amount would be enough to cover the additional cost of a paramedic program has not been determined, Mitchell said.
“We can’t make that assumption until we know what our costs are,” he said. “Whether it’s going to pay for the extra costs, we don’t know yet. It’s totally based on our service.”
That extra revenue would cover the cost of upgrading the Port department’s heart monitors to meet paramedic requirements, Mitchell said.
A feasibility study being undertaken by the department will determine what the additional costs of a paramedic program are, he said.
“The studies so far indicate it will cover the cost,” said Bruce Becker, a Police and Fire Commission member who also serves on the committee investigating the feasibility of a paramedic unit in Port.
That’s important, said commission chairman Rick Nelson.
“I think it would be a problem if we’re not cost neutral,” Nelson said. “We’d have a hard time convincing citizens or the council to bear the cost.”
The feasibility study will determine whether the additional revenue will cover the cost, Mitchell said.
“I think we just have to get reassurance this cost will not be passed on to taxpayers,” he said. “The increase in service to the patient is going to be tremendous.”
The biggest cost is likely to be the salaries for the part-time paramedics Port envisions hiring for its program, Mitchell said.
A paramedic program must be run around-the-clock, although the state will give the city two years to phase in the program, he said.
“The biggest concern is can we staff it,” Mitchell said.
The city would also need to pay the initial cost of the medications used by paramedics on calls, he said. The cost, however, would be reimbursed as patients use the medications and are billed for them.
Mitchell said the revenue estimate came from Life Quest, the firm that handles the billing for the ambulance. The firm did not look at every call the department handled but instead looked at expected fee increases when making its estimate.
Currently, the city calls the Thiensville paramedic unit when its skills are needed for a call.
From the end of 2007 through the end of 2009, the city paid Thiensville $5,300 to handle 27 so-called intercept calls for paramedic services, Mitchell said.
“That’s money we gave them that we could have kept,” he told the Police and Fire Commission recently.
This year, Port has already called Thiensville for paramedic services about a half-dozen times, he added.
When Thiensville’s paramedic unit is called, half the revenue from those calls is sent to Thiensville to cover its costs.
The city uses a set of protocols to determine when paramedics should be called. There are other times, however, when patients might also benefit from paramedic services, such as times when the patient’s condition changes en route to the hospital, Mitchell said.
“There are gray areas where we could use paramedics” he said.
If Port institutes a paramedic service, there will be paramedics on every call, Mitchell said.
“With paramedics, just the whole level of care increases,” he said. “Their level of training gets them to the point where they recognize things we can’t.”
Patients would only be billed for the paramedic services when they are required on an ambulance run, Mitchell said. That’s no different than today, he noted, because patients are billed based on the level of service required.
A patient receiving basic care for a minor injury is billed at a lower rate than those requiring more intensive care, he said.
The study committee is continuing to look into the costs and revenues associated with a paramedic unit, Mitchell said, as well as the staffing issues.
By mid-summer, he said, the department hopes to hold a public hearing on the paramedic proposal.
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 18:37
Fed up with lakefront trash, fifth-graders join forces to give Port beach, harbor a caring touch
The Port Washington lakefront has been looking a little cleaner lately, thanks to the efforts of three fifth-graders at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and their friends.
Frustrated by the mess that greeted them when they headed to the beach and harbor to feed the ducks and hang out, Johannah Mueller, Amanda Kissinger and Caitlyn Mersereau have organized the Port Harbor Cleaning Crew.
They and eight of their classmates have been meeting every Tuesday for three weeks, spending about 45 minutes to tidy the lakefront — and have fun.
“Usually, every weekend I go to the harbor with my grandma. We noticed there was a lot of trash accumulated, and some dead animals,” Caitlyn said. “I felt that maybe if we got rid of the trash, it would help.”
“We hang out there,” Johannah said. “We like to watch the ducks and feed them.”
The girls agreed they needed to do something about the mess at the lakefront. They collected trash themselves, but realized that the more people who participated, the greater their impact would be.
“We thought if they did it, they would bring other kids,” Amanda said, and the effort would be contagious.
“I felt sad because they (the fish and animals) live in that environment. We’re doing this for the environment and the community and the ducks, and we’re having fun.”
“We love the ducks,” Caitlyn said.
So one night, while having a sleepover, they created the cleaning crew. The girls drew up a set of rules, created fliers to advertise their group, wrote up permission slips for their fellow crew members to get signed by parents, and put together a schedule.
They talked to Principal Arlan Galarowicz about the concept. He reviewed their plans, gave his blessing to the effort and they then announced the club to their classmates.
They didn’t open it up to the entire fifth grade or the school right away, the girls said, because they feared that if the group got too large, the students might get too rambunctious.
The group meets at 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays at the bandshell, then heads out to clean up until 5:30 p.m. Each week they have an itinerary.
The first week, they tackled the north beach. The group filled seven smaller, grocery-store sized bags and one larger garbage bag.
The following week, they headed to the harbor. They emptied their bags in the garbage cans, then filled them again, estimating they removed about 20 bags of trash.
“We ran out of bags,” said Johannah’s mom, Kim, who accompanied the group.
This week, weather forced them to cancel their session, but they plan to expand their efforts to the downtown next week, taking the historic walking tour to learn more about their community while cleaning it. They will close their season May 25 with a pizza party.
The group’s findings range from the mundane — cans, bottles and plastic bags, which the girls said can take 1,000 years to disintegrate — to the more unusual, such as a single flip flop and half a toy gun.
They’ve found a wooden pallet, lots of shoes and gloves, lighters, matches and a Frisbee, as well as a pile of tiles.
“The people got really mad about that,” Amanda said.
They’ve also found a lot of cigarette butts, they said.
“People need to know cigarette butts are trash,” Johannah’s mother said.
Make no mistake — they may be young, but they’re serious about their mission.
“That one lady littered right in front of me,” Caitlyn said indignantly.
The rules the girls have drawn up for the group are simple, but effective. Cell phones aren’t allowed to be used unless there’s an emergency, and even then their use must be cleared with one of the leaders.
The members are to wear gloves at all times.
“If anyone sees a dead animal, they should talk to Amanda,” Johannah said.
Amanda explained, “My mom’s a funeral director. I don’t say ‘Yuck’ and run away.”
If they find glass, they are to talk to Caitlyn.
“I think glass is pretty,” Caitlyn said.
And anyone finds nests or eggs, they’re to consult with Johannah, who’s particularly interested in wildlife.
“Don’t disturb them,” she said.
The first time they cleaned up, they discovered a nest with a broken egg and trash, something the girls said made them very sad.
When they’re done with an area, they try to remind people not to trash it. When they cleaned the north beach, Caitlyn said, they wrote “Don’t litter” in the sand and “Save the Earth” on a log.
They’re considering asking the city to place a recycling bin at the beach.
While the idea of cleaning up may not be exciting to some people, these young people make it fun. The sound of giggles is a constant companion.
Caitlyn said she’s asked others how they like the club.
“They said, ‘I like it. I loved it. I can’t wait until next week,’” she said.
And the people who have seen them working are just as appreciative, they said.
“We got a lot of good comments from people, a lot of thank yous,” Johannah said.
Although the group plans to take a break over summer, they will probably start up again in fall, the girls said.
After all, Caitlyn explained, “It looked a lot different when we were done.”
THE PORT HARBOR CLEANING CREW, a group of fifth-graders from Thomas Jefferson Middle School, have made it their mission to clean up the city’s lakefront. Last week, the group tackled the shoreline near the breakwater and harbor (top photo). Amanda Kissinger (at right in top photo and in inset photo) collected not just trash but a decomposing fish. Photos by Sam Arendt
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 18:42
Patrols will crack down on residents who fail to leash, clean up after their animals
It’s a doggone shame, but irresponsible pet owners have prompted the Port Washington Police Department to begin pet patrols.
The patrols are not aimed at strays, but at owners, particularly those who don’t obey pooper-scooper and leash laws.
“It’s out of control,” Police Chief Richard Thomas said, noting the department has been logging more and more complaints from residents.
“It’s become extremely frustrating for a number of citizens, and we’re hearing about it,” he said. “We think it’s gotten to the point, going into summer, where we need to remind citizens of their responsibilities.”
On a recent weekend, he was walking along the path to the north beach and saw several piles of fresh poop there, Thomas noted.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’re a pet-friendly city, but at the same time we need to respect the rights of others and take responsibility for our pets.”
The city has done what it can to make it easy for people with pets to handle the messes that invariably result, Thomas said.
“I don’t know of any other community where they have metal containers with Baggies in the parks,” he said. “It makes it very simple to handle things.
“But there are those who violate and are making our parks and walkways unattractive. It’s also a sanitation and health risk, especially for children.”
People who allow their dogs to roam unleashed are causing safety concerns, Thomas said, noting walkers who encounter them don’t know what to expect.
“People don’t know if a dog’s going to be friendly to them or not,” he said. “You don’t know if they’re going to bite you or knock you down.”
Beginning in May and based on available staffing, members of the bike patrol will be assigned to the public areas where most complaints are logged — Interurban Trail, Upper Lake Park, Veterans Memorial Park and Rotary Park — Thomas said.
As time permits, they will also patrol the north beach, he said.
“Our focus is on the public areas where citizens walk, ride their bikes, Rollerblade and gather for recreational activities,” Thomas said.
Initially, the patrols will focus on education, he said, adding that warnings will be issued to offenders.
“Anybody observed with a dog not properly secured on a leash or not picking up after their dog will be warned,” Thomas said.
In June, officers will begin a strict enforcement campaign, citing violators, he said.
“I’m hoping this will help generate compliance,” Thomas said.
The city’s pet ordinances will be discussed in this month’s city newsletter, which is posted on the city Web site at www.ci.port-washington.wi.us, Thomas said
The ordinances prohibit people from keeping more than two dogs and two cats in any house or place of business. If a pet has a litter, it may be kept for three months.
Dogs and cats must be licensed annually, the ordinances state, and they must be leashed when on public property. They are not allowed on private property without the owner’s permission when not secured or confined in a fenced enclosure.
Owners must clean up after their pets relieve themselves, and they cannot dispose of the poop on someone else’s property, the ordinances state.
Owners cannot keep dogs that continuously bark or create a disturbance that bothers the neighborhood or people passing by, the law states.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 18:42
Aldermen ask county to support proposal that would give Port more money for serving non-libraried areas
Port Washington aldermen last week asked Ozaukee County to support a five-year library plan that would increase the amount of money the Niederkorn Library receives for providing services to residents of areas without their own libraries.
Currently, the library is reimbursed for 85% of the cost to provide services to these residents, Library Director David Nimmer said.
The proposed library plan, which would affect all libraries in Ozaukee County, would increase that reimbursement to 93% by 2015, with an eye toward eventually fully reimbursing libraries for the cost of serving people in non-libraried areas, Nimmer said.
About 21% of the library services go to residents outside the city, he said.
“That’s significant,” Nimmer said.
Most aldermen agreed, saying full reimbursement is a matter of fairness.
“Effectively, our taxpayers are carrying some of the town taxpayers,” Ald. Tom Hudson, a member of the Port Library Board, said.
“It’s kind of an inequity. We make our library available to them, and I think that’s a wonderful thing, but they only pay us 85 cents on the dollar. I don’t think that’s quite fair. Everybody should carry their share of the load.”
City Administrator Mark Grams said the Niederkorn Library is used by more residents of the non-libraried areas than any other in the county.
“We’d like to see 100% reimbursement,” he said, noting it would increase the library’s revenues by $18,000.
Although the proposed library plan only calls for a 93% reimbursement, Nimmer said, “It is a step in the right direction.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich asked why the reimbursement was not set at 100% to begin with.
When the Eastern Shores Library System was established roughly 16 years ago, the reduced reimbursement rate was a compromise intended to get enough votes to approve the system, Nimmer said.
State law requires a minimum 70% reimbursement, he added.
“At the time, it was felt that (the reduced rate was needed so) the non-libraried areas wouldn’t be hit too severely,” Nimmer said.
Ald. Dan Becker, who is also an Ozaukee County supervisor, cast the lone vote against the city’s resolution urging the county to adopt the higher reimbursement rates.
Becker said he plans to vote against the five-year library plan when it comes before the County Board for a number of reasons, including the reimbursement rate.
“I can’t support this plan. Overall, I think it’s a disadvantage to taxpayers in the county,” he said.
The increased reimbursement would result in higher taxes for residents of non-libraried areas, he added.
“I don’t want to increase taxes on anyone, especially in this economic environment,” Becker said.
But Hudson noted, increasing the reimbursement would offset city taxes paid to maintain the library.
The county has sought input from communities on the proposed library plan. The response has been mixed, with some communities favoring the reimbursement increase and others opposing it.
In its resolution to the county, Port officials noted that the tax rate for residents of non-libraried areas has decreased from 30 cents per $1,000 valuation to 24 cents in the last five years. This year, the resolution states, even if the reimbursement formula were set at 93%, the tax rate would still have decreased.
The city doesn’t provide any other service to residents outside its border without full reimbursement, officials noted.