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Port Washington

Marshfield High principal picked to lead TJMS in Port PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 19:09

Former Homestead official to replace longtime middle school chief Galarowicz  

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday selected Marshfield High School Principal Steve Sukawaty to succeed Arlan Galarowicz as principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Sukawaty, 52, a graduate of Slinger High School and former middle school teacher and guidance counselor, will begin work at the Port Washington school on July 1.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about this opportunity,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

Supt. Michael Weber said it takes a special breed of educator to work with middle school students, and the 16-member interview team is confident the district has found just such a person in Sukawaty.

“Working at the middle school level is a little different,” Weber said. “Children are growing. They’re maturing and they are excitable, so you really have to love the middle school level to work there.

“Steve’s passion has always been and continues to be at the middle school level.”

Sukawaty, who was an assistant principal at Homestead High School in Mequon from 2007 to 2012 before leaving for Marshfield,  said he’s happy to be returning to his middle school roots.

“Being around middle school kids is so revitalizing,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be returning to that level.”

Sukawaty said he’s also fortunate to be coming to the Port Washington-Saukville School District.

“Thomas Jefferson and the school district have a great reputation,” he said. “But what sealed the deal for me was my tour of the middle school. There’s just such a feeling of energy in the students and the staff.

“Mr. Galarowicz and his staff must feel really proud.”

In its recommendation to the board, the interview team, which consisted of administrators, School Board members, middle school staff members and a parent, said Sukawaty’s references praised his ability to work with others.

“All the references consistently praised Steve for his ability to get along with everyone, his passion and caring attitude toward students and his strong relationship skills,” the team wrote.

Sukawaty has a bachelor’s degree in social studies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a master’s degree in school guidance from UW-Whitewater and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

He taught middle school social studies in the Racine Unified School District and Kettle Moraine School District in Dousman and was a middle school guidance counselor at Steffen Middle School in Mequon before becoming a high school administrator.

Sukawaty said he and his wife Lisa, a special education teacher, and their daughter Nya, a fifth-grader, will move to Port Washington.

“I want to weave ourselves into the fabric of this community,” he said.

Sukawaty will replace Galarowicz, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 22 years at the helm of the middle school. 

He will join longtime Assistant Principal Liz Ferger, who did not apply for the principal job, on the school’s administrative team.

Sukawaty will be paid $110,000 a year, less than the $120,000 Galarowicz earns.

He will also be paid a stipend of $4,400 a year to oversee the district’s elementary and middle school summer school program, although the stipend will be less this year because much of the work will be finished by the time he starts his job.

“In every place I’ve worked, I’ve seen excellence,” Sukawaty said. “I know excellence when I see it, and Thomas Jefferson and the Port-Saukville District have got it.”

In just two months, $520,000 raised for St. Mary’s Church roof PDF Print E-mail
Written by MARK JAEGER   
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 18:15

Successful campaign means work on Port Washington landmark could begin as early as this summer

Just two months after being launched, officials at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Washington have announced that a drive to replace the slate roof atop the historic church has all but reached its goal.

The roof-replacement campaign has raised more than $520,000 in donations and pledges for a project expected to cost $550,000.

Parish spokesman Jim Kitzinger made the triumphant announcement Sunday at the start of Mass in the landmark church.

Kitzinger called the strong community reaction to the roof appeal “a smashing success.”

He said the money came from 250 parish families, as well as non-parishioners, businesses and foundations.

A substantial gift for the project came from the Simplicity Foundation.

Kitzinger said officials are still optimistic that the roof campaign will ultimately reach the goal of gaining support from 300 families, with the full $550,000 pledged.

With virtually all of the needed money in hand, Kitzinger said the church must now petition the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to proceed with the roof work.

If things go as expected, he said the roof replacement should begin this summer and be completed sometime this fall.

“This is a great achievement, one I never doubted, but one I never stopped praying for,” Kitzinger said.

The existing slate roof has been in place for 135 years without undergoing significant structural repair. However, it is starting to show signs of failure from weather, erosion and wear.

The need for a replacement has reached the critical stage to avoid sustaining substantial structural and plaster damage.

The new slate roof is expected to protect the building for at least 100 years.

The iconic church was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Although elated that the roof work can proceed, Kitzinger said the project “is but one step in rebuilding our physical structures to meet the needs of our new parish.”

The three Catholic churches in the Port Washington-Saukville cluster will merge into a single parish, St. John XXIII, on July 1.

City poised for Blues Factory land offer PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 18:03

Officials expect to receive formal proposal from developer of controversial lakefront project for May 3 council meeting

Port Washington City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that the Common Council could receive a formal offer to purchase a lakefront parking lot for the proposed Blues Factory by its May 3 meeting.

Aldermen have been holding regular closed sessions to discuss negotiations for the Blues Factory with Madison-based developer Christopher Long, including a session held Wednesday, April 6.

“We’re still working on it,” Grams said of the session. “We’re getting closer. It’s pretty much in their court right now.”

Grams said he does not expect the Common Council to hold a closed session on the Blues Factory negotiations during its April 19 meeting.

“If anything, it’ll be at the first meeting in May,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re shooting for.”

Grams said the Council could receive an offer for the property for consideration at the May 3 meeting, and action could be taken on the offer that night.

The Common Council has not begun work on a development agreement for the Blues Factory, he said.

The Blues Factory is a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex that would include a restaurant, banquet hall, performance space and museum marking the history of the record label in Port Washington.

Paramount Records, which is known for its blues recordings, was created by the Wisconsin Chair Co. to help sell its phonographs. When Long proposed the Blues Factory last year, he said he hoped to break ground on the development this April in order to ensure the development would be open in 2017 for the centennial of the Wisconsin Chair Co.

However, the potential sale of the north slip parking lot has proven to be controversial, with city officials touting the economic benefits of the Blues Factory and its potential as a catalyst for year-round development in downtown while some residents have questioned the wisdom of selling publicly owned lakefront land.

There are a number of issues facing the city and Long as they negotiate the potential sale of the parking lot.

Among those are likely the cost of the land, as well as $1 million in tax incremental financing incentives Long has said he will seek from the city.

The city has conducted environmental tests on the land that have shown some minimal contamination, and the question of who will remediate the property may also be an issue in negotiations.

City officials are likely also looking for ways to ensure the development will pay off for the TIF district, especially if incentives are provided for the development.

Long said last year that in addition to the incentives, the project would be funded through private equity — as much as $500,000 from accredited investors and $1 million in crowdfunding — as well as a construction loan.

Port to earmark millions to spur development PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 18:33

Council was expected to increase TIF incentives to $4 million for projects like controversial Blues Factory 

Port Washington aldermen were expected on Wednesday to double down on their commitment to use public money to finance private downtown development, increasing the amount of money allocated for developer incentives in the tax incremental financing district.

The Common Council was expected to hire Trilogy Consultants to handle administrative work to amend the TIF plan, increasing the amount of development incentives from the $750,000 originally expected to an estimated $4 million.

The city has already exceeded the $750,0000, giving $1.75 million in loans to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Port Harbour Lights retail and residential project in downtown.

Madison-based developer Christopher Long said last year he would seek $1 million in incentives for the Blues Factory, a controversial project that would convert a city-owned lakefront parking lot to a Paramount Blues-themed entertainment complex.

The city also anticipates it could be asked to provide incentives for downtown redevelopment projects earmarked by the Community Development Authority, City Administrator Mark Grams said. 

Among those are redevelopment of the former Victor’s restaurant  and Dairy Queen properties on Washington Street, and Jadair Inc. property off Milwaukee Street, he said.

While the CDA proposed redevelopment projects for these sites and several others, only the Blues Factory and a potential project on the former Victor’s restaurant site planned by Ansay Development are pending at the moment.

City officials have yet to weigh in on the Blues Factory proposal, although they are negotiating the sale of the parking lot and discussing terms that could include incentives for the project.

Grams said officials are also looking at the potential sale of a portion of the car-trailer  parking lot adjacent to the Victor’s property. He would not say whether that project could involve development incentives as well.

The $750,000 included in the TIF plan was a general guideline, Grams said — one that officials didn’t anticipate would need to be higher.

“This (TIF plan) was done six years ago, and we never anticipated any of this development,” he said.

“With multiple projects and the potential we have, we need to adjust the dollar amount.”

Because the city is looking at a substantial increase over the original plan, Grams said, its consultant said it needs to amend the TIF plan.

“Now we’re looking at different projects, and we’re looking at tripling that,” he said.

Officials are still debating how much to increase the incentive program, Grams said. It’s tricky, he said, because officials don’t know what projects are likely to be proposed over the remaining 20 years of the TIF district, how much they will increase the value of the district or what incentives may be sought by developers.

“We really need to sit down and think, ‘What do we need?’” he said. “There might be projects out there we haven’t thought of.”

Grams said the city needs to make sure it includes enough money in the amended plan for the incentive program. That’s because it only has one chance to amend the TIF plan.

Amending the plan isn’t simple, nor is it inexpensive. 

The city was expected to hire Trilogy at a cost of $10,450 to guide the project though a process that could take months.

That’s because the city isn’t the only group that needs to approve the amendment. The Joint Review Board, which includes representatives of the various taxing entities that make up the TIF — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College and a citizen — also needs to OK it. 

Development incentives, although relatively new in Port Washington — the first project to receive them was Port Harbour Lights — are a common tool used by communities to spur redevelopment.

In the Village of Grafton, for example, these incentives have been used on at least eight redevelopment projects that have increased the value of the downtown by more than $25 million, officials said several years ago.

PW-S school incumbents, challenger square off PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 30 March 2016 19:33

Board election has three candidates vying for two posts as city representatives

Making his second bid for the Port Washington-Saukville School Board in as many years, Aaron Paulin will face incumbents Kelly O’Connell-Perket and Brian Stevens in the Tuesday, April 5, election.

Veteran board member O’Connell-Perket, who was first elected to the board in 1998 and currently serves as its clerk, is seeking her seventh, three-year term.

Stevens, the board’s treasurer, was appointed in 2014 to fill a seat vacated by Jim Olson and elected last year among a field of candidates that included Paulin. He is running this year for his first full term.

The top two vote-getters in next week’s race will win seats on the board representing the City of Port Washington.

As board members, the winners of the April 5 election will face new challenges, among them overseeing a $45.6 million Port Washington High School reconstruction and renovation project and the construction of a $3.8 million addition at Dunwiddie Elementary School approved by voters a year ago.

There are also ongoing challenges that include maintaining the quality of education amid reductions in state funding for public schools.

Stevens, 47, said the board’s top priority should be managing the high school project, which is scheduled to begin in earnest next month and be completed in 2019, and the Dunwidde Elementary School work, which is slated to begin next month and be completed by the end of the year.

“I think right now completing the construction projects on time and on budget with as little disruption to education as possible needs to be our top priority,” he said. 

The board has done a good job so far of overseeing the projects, Stevens said, by hiring Bray Architects to design the improvements and CD Smith Construction Services to manage the projects. He noted that both firms not only have extensive experience with school construction but have worked on projects similar to the one at Port High that entail demolishing and rebuilding a part of the school.

O’Connell-Perket, 55, agreed that the projects are off to a good start.

“I think the public has been well informed, and any time there are questions, we get answers,” she said. 

Paulin, 37, said while it’s exciting to see a significant investment in schools, there is some concern with early cost overruns at Dunwiddie Elementary School. 

“That has caused frustration for people I’ve talked to,” he said.

School officials said they expect the project to be as much as $300,000 over budget, although they are confident that savings  from the much larger high school project will more than make up the deficit.

Paulin said he is concerned about future maintenance needs, particularly at the middle school, and school security.

“We’ll have to deal with these things, and we know we can’t go back to a referendum anytime soon,” he said. 

While voters gave the School District additional money in last year’s referendum to renovate schools, the state has done the opposite with funding for public education, which puts an emphasis on setting clear priorities, the candidates said.

“On top of the list of priorities must always be kids and the people around them that create the safety net they need to succeed,” O’Connell-Perket said. 

All three candidates agreed that a well-rounded curriculum, one that focuses on the core subjects but also offers strong music, arts and technology education programs, is important.

“If we’re going to create well-rounded students, we have to give them opportunities, and those include strong arts, music and tech-ed programs,” said Paulin, a social studies teacher at West Bend West High School.

Stevens, an engineer, said the district needs to continue its focus on the STEAM initiative, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, while maintaining its long-standing commitment to the quality of its core subjects and maintaining reasonable student-to-teacher ratios.

Another priority, Paulin said, is strengthening the relationship between the School District and its surrounding communities.

“I visited the senior center and was told that I’m the first School Board candidate to go there and show interest,” he said. “I want a chance to promote our district in the community. As a board member, it would be my responsibility to build relationships with seniors, veterans, alumni and businesses.”

O’Connell-Perket, a medical records supervisor, said those relationships already exist in many cases and it’s important to continue them. She noted the high school was able to complete its welding lab this year because of donations from area companies.

“We need to continue the wonderful relationships with our community businesses that help our district and our children,” she said. 

There are no candidates running for the School Board seat representing the towns of Grafton and Saukville, which has been vacant since Paul Krechel, who was appointed in 2014, resigned in October 2015.

Although board members represent specific areas in the School District, they are elected at large, which means district residents vote for all candidates.

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