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Run/walk to help pay for park railing PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 18:20

August event planned by Port-Saukville Jaycees will raise money for much-discussed lakefront safeguard

    Frustrated by the lack of a railing along the Coal Dock Park promenade, the Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees is holding its first Land Regatta Run/Walk in August, with proceeds going toward the project.

    The four-mile course will be timed, while the two-mile course will be untimed and more of a family event, race director Christina Brickner said. It will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16, during Maritime Heritage Festival.

    “It seems awesome to go on a run past the tall ships,” Brickner said.

    With the race beginning and ending in Coal Dock Park, the railing seemed like an ideal project to raise money for, she added.

    “For this inaugural event, it was an easy choice for us, especially since the majority of our members have young families,” Jaycees President Morgan Herrick said.

    “We want to ensure that this park is as safe as possible for our children to run and play, so we believe this is a great use of the event proceeds.”

    All of the proceeds this year will go toward the railing, Brickner said, adding other charitable causes will be funded in future years.

    “We will not keep a dime,” she said.  

    Jaycees members feel strongly that the railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade on the north end of the park is needed, Brickner said.

    She recalled a day last year when she was pushing a stroller as she and her children walked on the promenade.

    “The stroller rolled on its own accord toward the edge,” she said. “All it takes is one fall, one tumble, and a child will go down into the lake. And it is quite a drop.”

    She’s not completely comfortable walking too close to the edge herself, Brickner added.

    The run will also help further the goals of the city’s Waterfront Safety Advisory Committee, with the Jaycees including water safety tips in race registration packets.

    Since Coal Dock Park opened last year, the question of whether a railing should be installed along the promenade has been debated.

    Aldermen agreed earlier this year that one should be, citing the issue of safety, but installation of a railing has been postponed as officials seek funding for it.

    With an estimated cost of $200,000, the railing is not an inexpensive amenity for the park. The city has applied for a Department of Natural Resources stewardship grant that could pay as much as half the cost, but it won’t know whether it will receive any funding until late June or early July, officials said.

    “We feel confident we’ll get at least some of the money,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said Tuesday, adding officials are hoping to get at least $45,000 in grant money.

    If the city doesn’t get all the money it is seeking, it will likely reapply next year for the remainder of the funds, he said.

    The city would be expected to match that amount, and Vanden Noven said that money would likely come from funds that remain in the Coal Dock Park development budget.

    Money raised by groups such as the Jaycees and the Port Washington Woman’s Club, which has pledged $1,000 toward the railing, could also be used to make up any shortfall, Vanden Noven said.

    If the city is confident it will receive the grant money, even if that occurs over two years, it would likely install the railing in phases beginning this fall, he added.

    That would be rewarding, Brickner said, noting she is hoping to get 500 participants in the Land Regatta Run/Walk this year and build on that in the future.

    The run/walk, which will take the place of Mayor Tom Mlada’s lakeshore run, has a second purpose as well, Brickner said — raising awareness of the Jaycees, which have been in Port Washington for 65 years.

    “Most people don’t realize that,” she said. “And like any civic organization, we struggle with membership. It would be great if some people learn about us and join us.”

    The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m. for people taking part in the four-mile run, followed by the two-mile walk/run.

    Check in begins at 7:30 a.m.

    The fee for the run/walk is $20 for people ages 14 and older if they register by Aug. 2 and $25 after that date. Included in the fee is a T-shirt and, for adults, a raffle ticket for prizes that include travel, gym and a sky-diving packages.

    There is no registration fee for those ages 13 and younger. They do not receive a T-shirt.

    To register, visit www.active.com. Forms may be dropped off at BMO Harris Bank and Smith Bros. Coffeehouse, both in Port Washington, and at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville.

    For more information, visit http://jci.port-washington.org.


 
Rezoning of former farm paves way for development PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 17:10

Port council takes next step in preparing Hwy. 33 land for commercial, residential lots and baseball complex

    The former Schanen farm on Port Washington’s west side was rezoned by the Common Council on Tuesday, with areas set aside for businesses, residences and a proposed baseball complex.

    The 40-acre property at the corner of Highway 33 and Jackson Road was zoned to allow commercial lots along Highway 33, with a stormwater detention pond on the corner of Jackson Road and Highway 33, residential lots on the east side bordering Bley Park Estates and a baseball complex on the southwest portion of the property.

    Only one person objected to the rezoning.

    Don Buechler, 1782 Second Ave., questioned why the city chose to place a baseball complex on such a valuable piece of property, saying a business park would be preferred, especially in terms of tax relief.

    “It seems there is a lack of planning here,” he said.

    The complex is likely to cause parking issues, Buechler said, and light pollution in the area.

    “I don’t see this as a good thing for me, personally,” he said.

    Linda Speerbrecher, 253 Brian Ct., asked what type of homes were likely to be built on the land.

    The zoning is consistent with that in neighboring Bley Park Estates, City Planner Randy Tetzlaff said, noting it calls for single-family houses.

    The property originally was envisioned as a soccer complex, Tetzlaff noted, then as those plans fell by the wayside, the city envisioned a multi-use site with homes, commercial properties and a park.

    As time went on, Port Youth Baseball, which has been looking for additional field space, proposed using the park area as a baseball complex, Tetzlaff said.

    The baseball complex would be built on the southwest portion of the property. A concessions stand, which would include restrooms, would be located in the center of the four fields — a regulation field, intermediate-sized field and two Little League fields.

    Port Youth Baseball President Rich Stasik told the Common Council that 320 families in the area are involved in the organization, which continues to grow.

    He noted that the complex will not only have baseball facilities but also a walking trail and playground open to the public.

    “Projects like this will allow us to serve all the youths in our community for years to come,” he said. “I do feel this is a good use of the land. We’re excited about the project, not only as a family but as an organization.”

    The rezoning was approved, with Ald. Mike Ehrlich abstaining.

    Ald. Dan Becker lauded the project, noting it is compatible with neighboring land uses and provides a valuable recreational area for the community.

    “Port Youth Baseball needs these fields,” he said. “Baseball is growing in our community.”

    The complex, as well as the commercial and residential sites that adjoin it, will provide a welcoming gateway to the community, Mayor Tom Mlada said.

    “It’s something I think the community can be very proud of,” he said.



 
Bidding war allows PW-S district to slash insurance costs PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 18:22

Offers from five carriers pave way for 4% reduction in health-care premium for 2014-15 school year

    Earlier this year, Humana informed the Port Washington-Saukville School District it could expect its heath insurance premium to increase 13%— nearly double the 7.5% increase administrators had allowed for in the preliminary 2014-15 budget.

    That increase wasn’t necessarily unreasonable, the district’s consultant said, given the district’s claims experience over the last two years and industry trends, but that didn’t mean the district had to accept it.

    Humana chipped away at the increase, then earlier this month submitted a bid that instead of increasing the district’s insurance cost would cut it by 2%.

    That still wasn’t good enough to retain the district’s business.

    On Monday, the Port Washington-Saukville School Board approved a recommendation from its consultant and administrators to drop Humana as its health insurance provider and return to WEA Trust, the company it left two years ago.

    The result — a 4% decrease in health insurance costs.

    Instead of paying an additional $500,000 for health insurance, the district and its employees, who contribute between 10% and 13% to the premium, will save $176,000 next school year, officials said.    

    Several factors explain the district’s roller coaster ride through the health insurance industry, including the fact its long-term health risk outlook has improved, but the savings it was able to reap is due primarily to the number of health insurance providers who vied for the district’s $4.4 million of business, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

    “The market is very competitive right now, and that was advantageous for us,” he said.

    Five carriers bid for the district’s business, with four of those companies submitting final bids that offered to cut insurance premiums by between 1.1% and 4%.

    Working behind the scenes was Hays Companies, the employee benefit consulting firm the district hired two years ago to oversee its insurance portfolio.

    The district pays Hays $25,000 a year, and district officials said the decision to hire a consultant to represent the district’s interest in the complex realm of health insurance has paid off.

    “We are looking at several insurance carriers instead of just one, and that’s thanks to Hays,” Supt. Michael Weber told the School Board.

    Because the district was able to leverage the competitive nature of the health insurance industry, it did not have to significantly change benefits to save money, officials said.        The deductibles will remain at $500 for individual coverage and $1,000 for family coverage, although the maximum out-of-pocket costs for employees will increase from $1,000 and $2,000 for an individual and family, respectively, to $1,500 and $3,000. Office visit co-pays will also increase slightly, from $20 to $25 in network.

    WEA Trust sweetened its bid by offering a maximum 8% increase guarantee on a second year of coverage and is giving the district a $25,000 grant to promote employee wellness.




 
Waddlepalooza family fun on its way to Port PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 17:39

Downtown festival with tropical theme will help kick off summer June 13, 14

    Area residents are invited to waddle over to Coal Dock Park in Port Washington for a tropical family celebration next month.

    Waddlepalooza is the June 13 and 14 festival being organized by Peter and Kris Raymond of the Grafton Blues Association.

    It will replace the Port Harbor Family Festival, which the couple organized last year after Pirate Fest was cancelled.

    It will also be held one week later than last year’s festival, something the Raymonds hope will help ensure warmer weather.

    “Our goal is to create an exciting kick-off to summer,” Kris Raymond said. “We’ll incorporate the Jimmy Buffet atmosphere with leis and tropical hats.”

    The festival will include everything tropical, from music and food to games like coconut bowling and hula-hooping, she said. A limbo contest and sand sculpting are other possibilities.

    The festival will kick off on Friday, when music will fill the air at Coal Dock Park. The Alex Wilson Band with Jim Liban will perform at 5:30 p.m. followed by The Bel Airs at 8 p.m.

    On Saturday, there will be a wine and beer tasting from 2 to 5 p.m.

    A family area will provide a variety of children’s activities, such as a bounce house and rock-climbing wall.

    A wide variety of foods will be offered as well.

    Area nonprofit groups are being invited to set up booths at the festival to help raise funds and awareness of their causes.

    An open mic and karaoke stage will be open from noon to 3 p.m. Country music will be heard beginning at 4 p.m. when Smokin Gunz takes the stage.    

    The Boat Drunks, a tropical rock band that plays everything from original music to Buffet to Van Morrison, will be the headline act, playing at 7 p.m.

    “They play stuff everyone knows and loves and sings along to,” Raymond said.

    Despite its name, ducks won’t be a big part of Waddlepalooza — at least not this year.

    That’s because, even though the organizers intended to hold a rubber duck race in the harbor, they ran into a few snags.

    After announcing their intent to hold such an event last fall, the Department of Justice said these races constitute a lottery, which is illegal in Wisconsin, Raymond said.

    It was mid-April before Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill making it legal to hold rubber duck races, she said, and by then it was too late to organize the event.      

    “We’ve been wanting to do a duck race for years,” Raymond said. “It was really a disappointment. But mark my words — next year.”

    But the name Waddlepalooza stuck.

    “We just love the name. It’s fun,” Raymond said. “Waddle is ducks and palooza just screams fun. We’re telling people to just duck into Port for the festival.”


 
City to crack down on parkour activities PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 18:26

Officials say free-spirited sport puts children at risk, has damaged park property

    Teenagers and young adults doing parkour — a free-spirited sport in which participants flip, jump and run over, around and through urban areas while performing moves over or on man-made obstacles such as walls and buildings — have been making their mark in Port Washington.

    But they’ve been seen plying their sport at Possibility Playground while children play and their parents watch, and that has officials concerned about the safety of youngsters and damage to equipment there.

    Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said he’s been told the groups often have a spotter watching for children, but that isn’t enough.

    “Kids aren’t so easy to predict,” he said. “All it would take is a little child running in front of them and someone’s going to get hurt, possibly seriously.”

    City Administrator Mark Grams concurred, telling the Common Council last week that the teens take over the playground even as toddlers and young children are playing.

    “It’s dangerous,” Grams said. “They’re doing it and there are mothers and kids up there.”

    They have also caused damage, Grams said, noting that just two weeks ago they broke a slide in the toddler area of the playground.

    “We’re probably going to have to eat (the cost),” he told aldermen.

    Sue Mayer, general coordinator of Possibility Playground, said she’s been told the playground is popular among parkour enthusiasts in part because its rubberized surface makes landings softer and safer.

    The playground was built for young children of all abilities, not for teenagers to jump and pound on, Mayer said.

    “It’s amazing what they can do, but these structures are not built for that kind of pounding,” she said. “I’m trying to be respectful of what they’re doing, but it really worries me to have fully grown teens vaulting over our equipment.”

    Although she only recently learned what the sport was called, Mayer said, organizers have noticed damage for years that can be attributed, at least in part, to parkour.

    That includes damage to the walls and railings, broken chains on climbers intended for children who have limited mobility, and areas where the surface has bubbled due to the excessive use.

     One group of parkour enthusiasts posted a video of their time in Port on YouTube, Mayer said, and it was disconcerting to see how the youths took over the playground while children were present and the way they treated the equipment.

    “I thought, ‘This can’t continue,’” she said. “There were little kids playing there. If they run into their path, that child could be hurt seriously.

    “I understand their feeling of it being art, but at the same time they’re not being respectful of the areas where they’re doing this.”

     The slide that was damaged will cost about $900 to replace, not including the cost of installation, Mayer said, adding several adults in the park saw the group that damaged the equipment.

    It’s not just Possibility Playground that’s used by parkour enthusiasts. The YouTube video shows a group practicing moves in Rotary Park, jumping over the picnic tables and off the bandshell in Veterans Park, and doing flips on walls and stairway railings along the Harborwalk. It also shows them jumping from the tops of privately owned buildings.

    “They call it art, freedom of expression,” City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said. “I call it trespassing.”

    Hingiss said he and Eberhardt are looking at drafting up an ordinance to regulate parkour in the city.

    Current ordinances would cover some issues, such as trespassing, but may not be adequate to address the issue, he said.

    “We’re not looking to issue a bunch of tickets here,” Hingiss said. “I don’t think they intend to hurt anyone or anything. But the potential is there.”


 
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