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Port Washington


City vote to replace sirens bucks area trend PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 20:23

Port council decides to spend $22,468 to upgrade warning devices while other communities question need

    Bucking the trend of municipalities seeking to eliminate their tornado sirens, the Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday voted to replace the warning siren at its Wisconsin Street tower this fall.

    Aldermen agreed to spend $22,648 to replace one of the city’s four warning sirens, with two others to be replaced in the coming years.

    “All of them are getting old,” City Administrator Mark Grams said. “They still work, but they’re on their last toes now.”

    It’s getting hard for the city to obtain parts when the sirens need to be repaired, he said.

    The sirens are a necessary piece of the city’s infrastructure, Ald. Paul Neumyer said.

    “It’s an important warning for the populace,” he said.

    In 2011, Village of Saukville officials weighed whether it was worth upgrading their warning sirens in an age when cell phones are prevalent and offer almost immediate notification of emergencies.

    Before trustees made a decision, American Signal Corp. of Milwaukee pledged to make the improvements at no cost to the village.

    And earlier this year, when Town of Fredonia officials considered removing a malfunctioning siren in Little Kohler, noting that the replacement cost was estimated to be between $30,000 and $40,000, the company again stepped in, repairing the siren at no cost to the community.  

    In Port, there was no debate about whether to replace the emergency sirens. Officials agreed now is the time to begin repairing them, especially since American Signal has a crew in the area and offered the city a 15% discount.  

    Officials decided to replace the Wisconsin Street siren before the others, Grams said, because it is centrally located and covers a larger portion of the city than the other three.

    Two of the other sirens — one near Dunwiddie Elementary School on the city’s west side and the other near the Port Washington-Saukville School District office on Monroe Street on the north side — will be replaced in 2016 and 2017, he said, as the budget allows.

    The fourth siren, at the highway department, won’t be replaced, Grams said, noting its coverage area overlaps the others.

    The sirens are at least 20 years old, Grams said.

    “I think they’ve been up longer than I’ve been with the city,” he said.

    Even though the city is replacing the siren, residents may still hear it going off occasionally when it shouldn’t, Grams said.

    Most of the time that occurs, it’s because of wiring issues, he said.


 
Works Board urges city to cut back on brush pickup PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 19:08

Recommendation calls for paring spring, fall collecting to save money, free up crews

    Brush collection in the City of Port Washington will be a little less frequent next year if a plan recommended by the Board of Public Works is adopted by the Common Council.

    The board recommended that the city collect brush from the curb on alternate weeks in spring and fall, but retain its weekly collection during the summer.

    That will save the city almost $4,000 next year and free street department workers to do other tasks, officials said.

    “In the summer, summer employees do the work,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said, noting these employees are typically students who make $8 to $9 an hour.

    “When they go back to college, we have two full-time employees who do this work. We lose two very skilled employees who pick up brush when they could be doing many other things.

    “We’re losing a lot of productivity.”

    The alternate week pickup would occur from April 15 to May 15, and again from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1.    Weekly collection would run from May 15 to Sept. 1.

    Ald. Kevin Rudser suggested that the city collect brush only once a month and  instead open the city yard on Sundays, allowing people to drop off brush there instead.

    “I know it’s one of those things people really like,” Rudser said, but the added convenience of being able to drop off yard waste another day each week might offset any potential problems.

     But Street Commissioner Dave Ewig said that isn’t practical, since there isn’t enough room at the yard to store the volume of waste.

    Ewig said he is willing to give the proposed new schedule a shot, but noted that the service is one residents value.

    “We certainly want to make the best use of our manpower,” he said. “My only concern is, especially in spring, people do a lot of trimming and we get a lot of brush.”

    Board Chairman Craig Czarnecki reiterated the fact that residents value the pickup.

    “The only time I got an earful from someone (about city services) is from a neighbor whose brush wasn’t picked up as quickly as he thought it should be,” he said.

    If the system doesn’t work out, the city could revert back to weekly collection in 2016, board members said.


 
School district to unveil survey results Oct. 14 PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 19:27

Buildings and Grounds Committee will hold meeting to review residents’ input on options for improving facilities

    The first indication of whether Port Washington-Saukville School District residents are willing to pay for school improvements totaling between $86 and $97 million will come next week when the results of a survey completed Tuesday are presented to school officials.

    The school board’s Building and Grounds  Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, in the Port Washington High School library to review survey results presented by School Perceptions, the Slinger firm hired to poll residents.

    School officials have said the results of the survey, which was mailed to about 8,000 homes, will be a key factor in deciding whether to hold what would be the most expensive referendum in the history of the district.

    A good first step in that process was a strong response to the survey, Supt. Michael Weber said.

    More than 2,100 surveys — about 25% of those distributed —  were completed and returned.

    “School Perceptions indicated that this is the best response to a survey they have received this year,” Weber said. “The greater the response, the better and more accurate the information that will be used to decide what the next steps will be.”

    The school improvement proposal drafted by Bray Architects addresses two major needs in the district — elementary schools that are at capacity and an old, inefficient high school that dates to 1931 and has grown over the years through a series of additions.

    To address the high school needs, Bray Architects has recommended two options — create a like-new school by demolishing about 70% of the current school and rebuilding on the current site at 427 W. Jackson St. for $61 million or build a new school at a site yet to be determined for $72 million.

    Building a new Port High has not been thoroughly studied because the district does not have a school site, which school officials have noted would likely be outside the City of Port Washington.

    Bray’s plan for renovating the existing high school calls for new classrooms, science labs, an art studio, cafeteria, library and arena-style competition and auxiliary gyms separated by wrestling, weight training and fitness rooms.

    The parts of the school that would be renovated rather than rebuilt are the Washington Heights building on the north end of the school, the technology education wing to the west of it and the auditorium at the southeast end of the school.

    Plumbing, heating and electrical systems in the school would be replaced. Antiquated safety systems such as fire alarms, exit lighting and the backup generator, bathrooms that do not comply with Americans with Disabilities standards and the roof would be addressed.

    To deal with space needs at the elementary schools, Bray Architects has proposed building additions  at Lincoln and Saukville elementary schools that would include large gyms and community rooms. Existing gyms would be redesigned to provide additional classrooms and library space.

    At Dunwiddie Elementary School, an addition would be built on the north side of the building to provide a more secure entrance, community room and classrooms.

    Deferred maintenance projects would be undertaken at all elementary schools. They include the replacement of roofs, security and safety upgrades, replacement of mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, parking lot, sidewalk and playground improvements and kitchen upgrades.

    The elementary school projects are estimated to cost $25 million.

    Many of the new facilities at the elementary schools and Port High, in particular the gyms, would be designed with community use in mind to alleviate the demand for indoor recreation space.

    The survey asked residents whether they support the elementary school projects and which of the high school options, if either, they favor.

    It also asked whether residents support funding both the elementary school and high school projects at the same time, which would cost $86 or $97 million depending on the high school option, or prioritizing them.



 
Port’s online driver’s ed a first for high schools PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 18:29

PWHS offers video version of classroom instruction it believes will attract students throughout Wisconsin

    Port Washington High School wasn’t alone a decade ago when it cut driver’s education from its curriculum to save money, but it is now.

    Two weeks ago, Port High became the first high school in Wisconsin to reintroduce the classroom portion of driver’s ed in an online version open not just to its students but teenagers throughout the state.

    Administrators say the class, which is certified by both the Wisconsin departments of Public Instruction and Transportation, is just as rigorous as its classroom predecessor, far more convenient and potentially profitable for a school district that is already marketing it to soon-to-be drivers.

    “We designed this program to meet the needs of our students, but that said, there’s potential for us to also capture a portion of the driver’s-ed market in the state with this  rigorous DPI and DOT-certified course,” Jim Froemming, the district’s director of business services, said. “It’s a very attractive program, and we think it could also be lucrative for the district.”

    The district is charging $129 for the course and splitting the revenue with the program’s certified instructor, Scott Bretl, who developed the course.

    Bretl owns the Port Washington-based driver’s education franchise Just Drive, but his company is not involved in the online program. Instead, Bretl is employed by the School District to monitor and teach the course.

    In Wisconsin, online driver’s education classes must be offered by schools, which explains why Bretl approached the district with the idea of launching a web-based class.

    Currently, only a technical college in southwest Wisconsin and a Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA) offer online driver’s education classes in Wisconsin.

    Driver’s education had been part of the school curriculum until nearly 10 years ago, when the Department of Public Instruction stopped reimbursing for the cost of the program. That prompted many school systems, including the Port-Saukville District, which was faced with a $700,000 deficit at the time, to drop driver’s education.

    Now, the district’s online version is being billed as a cost effective program that capitalizes on convenience.

    Before the online class, students had to fit 30 hours of classroom instruction offered by a private provider into their schedules either after school or during the summer. They are able to take the online classes at any time and anywhere they have access to a computer and the Internet, although they will still have to complete the behind-the-wheel training, which is not offered by the district.

    “Now that all high school students have Chromebooks, they can take driver’s ed during their study halls,” Bretl said when the program was approved by the School Board in June.

    But that’s not to say the online course will be easier than the classroom alternative or that students will be able to whip through the 30-hour program in a day or two.

    The course consists of 40 sessions that are at least 45 minutes long. Students can spend more than 45 minutes on each session — an advantage, administrator say, over the classroom alternative — but not less time.

    Students can take only one course a day during the school year and two during the summer. That means that the course runs a minimum of six weeks during the school year and three weeks during the summer.

    Each class consists of an overview presented in video form by an instructor, a public service announcement, reading assignment from the Wisconsin Motorists’ Handbook and video with material that will be on a session quiz.

    Each quiz, which students must pass in order to move to the next session, will consist of 15 multiple choice questions. If students fail the quiz, they will be allowed to retake it once before they are locked out of the program. Before they are allowed to continue, the instructor must speak with their parents.

    A final test must be passed before students are given a course completion certificate and allowed to take behind-the-wheel instruction.

    “This is not going to be an easy way of taking the classroom portion of driver’s education, as this is going to take motivation and self-discipline,” Bretl says in a video introduction to the course.

    The video features 14 Port Washington High School graduates, most of them law enforcement officers, who emphasize the seriousness of driving responsibly.

    In the video, Bretl appears seated at a desk superimposed on the Port High football field and later at the Port Washington marina, and promises to feature other areas of Port and Saukville in his online lectures.

    “I did this so it’s not so boring watching me give these lectures,” he says.

    The driver’s education class can be accessed at www.pwhsonlinedriversed.com.


 
PW-S District’s $86-$97 million proposal draws quite a response PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 18:04

Hundreds of residents have already returned surveys testing support for school improvements

    The Port Washington-Saukville School District’s $86-$97 million school improvement proposal has caught the public’s attention.

    As of Tuesday morning, just four days after surveys intended to gauge public support for the proposal and what could be one of the most expensive referendums in Wisconsin began arriving in homes, 745 completed questionnaires had been returned.

    “We’ve had a huge response already,” Supt. Michael Weber told the School Board’s Building and Grounds Committee Monday.

    According to School Perceptions, the Slinger-based company hired to conduct the survey, a 10% to 20% response is considered a representative sample of district residents, Weber said.

    The district mailed roughly 8,000 surveys to residents and also e-mailed surveys to more than one-third of those residents.

    “We’re going to exceed 10% to 20%, considering we’re almost at 10% already. We could push 30%,” Weber said during an interview. “This shows that the public is very interested in this, which is what we want.”

    School officials have said repeatedly that the results of the surveys, which are due by 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, will dictate whether the board decides to hold a referendum and how much money it will seek to borrow.

    The survey is based on a study of facilities and a proposal by Bray Architects that calls for renovating and enlarging the district’s three elementary schools and building a like-new or brand-new high school.

    Demolishing about 70% of Port Washington High School and rebuilding on the current site at 427 W. Jackson St., as well as renovating and enlarging elementary schools, would cost $86 million, according to Bray Architects.

    If the projects are approved, school property taxes would increase $461 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home — roughly the average property value in the City of Port Washington — would pay an additional $922 in property taxes for years to come.

    If, however, district residents and the School Board choose the more expensive high school option — building a new school on a site that has yet to be determined — the total cost of the projects is estimated to be $97 million.

    That would increase school property taxes by $513 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $1,026 annually in taxes.

    The eight-page survey divides the projects into two groups — elementary school improvements and high school options. ­It asks residents if they support the elementary school projects and which high school option, if either, they prefer, then asks them if the elementary schools or high school project should be done first or if they should be done at the same time or not at this time.

    “Maybe residents will support doing all the projects at once, but I’d be surprised,” Matt Wolfert, president of Bray Architects, told the board last month. “Most communities typically don’t favor that.”

    Remodeling and building additions onto Lincoln and Dunwiddie elementary schools in Port Washington and Saukville Elementary School is estimated to cost $25 million.

    That would increase school property taxes by $184 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $368 in additional taxes annually for 10 years to finance the improvements.

    “The fact is, we are out of space at our elementary schools,” Weber said, adding that grades that have an unusually large number of students put pressure on already cramped schools.

     The additions at Lincoln and Saukville elementary schools would include large new gyms and community rooms. Existing gyms would be redesigned to provide additional classrooms and library space.

    At Dunwiddie Elementary School, an addition would be built on the north side of the building to provide a more secure entrance, community room and classrooms.

    Deferred maintenance projects would be undertaken at all elementary schools. They include the replacement of roofs, security and safety upgrades, replacement of mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, parking lot, sidewalk and playground improvements and kitchen upgrades.

    Many of the new facilities at the elementary schools and Port High, in particular the gyms, would be designed with community use in mind to alleviate the demand for indoor recreation space.

    The high school project would be the most expensive, and the survey asks residents for feedback on both the like-new and brand-new options.

    “The high school has been a concern going back to the 1970s, when we added the tech-ed wing and the auditorium,” Weber said. “And it continues to be the topic of conversation.”

    The like-new option, which calls for demolishing and rebuilding about 70% of the school on its current site, is estimated to cost $61 million.

    It would increase school property taxes by $277 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $554 in taxes annually for 22 years.

    The project would provide new classrooms, science labs, an art studio, cafeteria, library and arena-style competition and auxiliary gyms separated by wrestling, weight training and fitness rooms.

    The parts of the school that would be renovated rather than rebuilt are the Washington Heights building on the north end of the school, the technology education wing to the west of it and the auditorium at the southeast end of the school.

    Plumbing, heating and electrical systems in the school, which dates to 1931 and has grown over the years through a series of additions, would be replaced. Antiquated safety systems such as fire alarms, exit lighting and the backup generator, bathrooms that do not comply with Americans with Disabilities standards and the roof would be addressed.

    The other option is to build a new high school on a yet-to-be-determined site at an estimated cost of $72 million.

    This project would increase school property taxes by $329 per $100,000 of property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $659 in taxes annually for 22 years.

    The problem with this option is that the district has not identified a new site for a school, although Wolfert said the projected cost includes an estimate for land acquisition and the extension of utilities to the site.

    Last month, School Board member Sara McCutcheon asked whether the survey should give residents some indication that the district has been unable to find a new high school site in the City of Port Washington.

    Weber said that if residents favor a new school on a new site, the district would undertake a study of potential locations throughout the district, which in addition to the City of Port Washington includes portions of the village and town of Saukville and the Town of Grafton.

    Whether additional studies and planning are needed will depend in large part on the survey, which is why a strong response is important, school officials have said.

    The surveys can be filled out and mailed to the school district or taken online at a School Perceptions website.

    Each survey includes a unique code to prevent the same person from submitting multiple surveys and instructs people to call the district office if they need additional surveys, in cases, for instance, where multiple adults live at the same address.

    Weber said this week that in such cases, one person can take the survey online and the other can complete the printed survey. Although the surveys will have the same code, both will be accepted, he said.

    Members of the Building and Grounds Committee plan to review the results of the survey during either the week of Oct. 13 or Oct. 20, and discussed Monday whether to extend what officials called a “special invitation” to the public to attend that meeting or to present the results to the public at a later date or in a different way. The results will be posted on the district’s website, officials said.



 
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