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Port Washington

New survey map a sign of life for Cedar Vineyard PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 June 2017 20:01

Port panel OKs CSM, clearing way for subdivision, perserve land purchase

    The Port Washington Plan Commission last week approved a revised certified survey map for the proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision on Port’s southeast side — the first indication in months that the project is ready to move forward.
    It’s the last action the city needs to take before he can close on the purchase of the property, developer Tom Swarthout said.
    “We are at the conclusion of this process,” Swarthout told the commission June 15, adding he expected to complete the purchase of the property in the next two to three weeks.
    The revised site plan approved last week shows the property is 234 acres — more than the 227 acres originally specified. The difference, Swarthout said, is due to the changing lake levels.
    Immediately after Swarthout purchases the property from Waukesha State Bank, he will sell 101 acres of the most environmentally sensitive land, including Cedar Gorge, which Swarthout called the “gem” of the property, to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust — a purchase being funded through a $1 million stewardship grant from the Department of Natural Resources and $1 million from the Wisconsin Coastal Management’s coastal estuarine land conservation program.
    The 101 acres will then be transferred to Ozaukee County, which will maintain it in perpetuity.
    Swarthout, president of the Highview Group Ltd., plans to create 82 half-acre lots on the land, with a vineyard planned along Highway C and a winery on the west side of Highway C south of Stonecroft Drive.  
    Public trails along the bluff and access to the beach below are part of the proposal.
    Prospective homeowners — including Swarthout himself — have already reserved a dozen lots in the subdivision, he said.
    It’s a far cry from the intense development once envisioned for the property by VK Development.
    Swarthout said he hopes to begin work on the subdivision this year, noting he has 6,500 grapevines in refrigerated storage waiting to be planted on eight acres on the northern end of the property.
    The area will have to be graded before the vines can be planted, he noted.
    Swarthout said he also hopes to begin work on the winery, which will be built using pieces of several old barns the company has acquired, later this year, with an eye toward opening the facility in spring.
    The winery and vineyard will be run by Steve and Maria Johnson, who own Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee and Door 44 Winery in Sturgeon Bay.
    Swarthout said that while he is excited about Cedar Vineyard, he is also excited and supportive of the Prairie’s Edge subdivision planned for 44 acres just north of his project.
    “We’re completely supportive of the project to our north,” he said. “We’re really enthused about being here.”
    Mayor Tom Mlada, chairman of the Plan Commission, said he is excited about Cedar Vineyard, noting it is not just “an incredible development” because of the housing but also because of the lakefront access and environmental protections involved.
    Andrew Struck, Ozaukee County’s director of planning and parks, acknowledged that the process has been a long one, but noted that other similar purchases such as Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton have also taken some time — in part because of the review process for the grant money.
    “It does feel like it’s gone on for a long time,” he said. “When it’s a big acquisition and you have a number of partners, it does take a long time. It’s just the nature of the partnership.”

Rate surprise shaves year off borrowing plan PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 18:31

PW-S School District sells bonds at ‘amazing’ 2.97% interest rate to help finance school improvements

    Shortly after Port Washington-Saukville School District voters approved a $49.4 million referendum in April 2015, school officials worked quickly to borrow the majority of that money at an interest rate of 3.2%, believing that interest rates would not get any lower.
    They were happy this week to be wrong.
    On Monday, the district paved the way for the second round of referendum borrowing by selling $8.65 million of municipal bonds at 2.97%, an interest rate that will have a significant impact on its referendum debt payment schedule.
    “That’s pretty darn amazing,” Jim Froemming, the district’s director of business services, told the School Board, which approved the sale.
    Brian Brewer, a managing director for Baird who is advising the district, agreed that an interest rate below 3% was remarkable.
    “This is very good news for the district,” he said.
    Erring on the side of caution in 2015, Brewer initially projected an interest rate of 4.75% for the second phase of borrowing. He revised that estimate in May, calling for a rate of 3.6%.
    The rate of 2.97% means the district will pay about $8 million less in interest than initially anticipated over the duration of the total referendum debt and will shorten the repayment schedule by a year — from 25 to 24 years, Froemming said.
    The district received six bids for the bonds with interest rates that ranged from 3.38% to 2.97%, which was offered by Janney Montgomery Scott LLC.
    That there were six competitive bids, Brewer said, is credit to the district’s AA Standard and Poor’s bond rating.
    Timing was also a factor in securing the low interest rate, Froemming noted.
    “According to the economic news today, we could see a rate increase as early as Wednesday of this week,” he said Tuesday. “Who knows, we may have hit the low.”
    Because the term of any single bond issue cannot exceed 20 years, the district is borrowing the $49.4 million approved by voters in three separate bond issues, which allows it to finance the total referendum debt over 24 years to reduce the annual impact on taxpayers.
    In addition to the $33 million borrowed in 2015 and the $8.65 million approved by the board his week, the district plans to sell $7.75 million in bonds early next year.
    Of the $49.4 million being borrowed, $3.8 million paid for an addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School completed in December and $45.6 million is being spent on the ongoing renovation and reconstruction of Port Washington High School.

Chief calls on council to fund new firehouse PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 17:54

Mitchell says second station needed but Port officials make no promises

    Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell on Tuesday made another pitch for a second fire station, telling the Common Council it’s vital for public safety.
    “I think that the city isn’t doing right by many of its residents by continuing to have the Fire Department respond from one location,” Mitchell told aldermen.
    “A well-established infrastructure should be in place as more and more developments are being built out or being planned for, and a second fire station should be an important part of that infrastructure.”
    Mitchell, who was backed at the meeting by the Police and Fire Commission and about a dozen firefighters, has been actively advocating for a new fire station for years.
    The commission has also sought funding for a $13,500 feasibility study and space needs analysis for a second firehouse for the last three years.
    Aldermen placed that amount in the city’s contingency fund last year, but City Administrator Mark Grams said a decision on whether to move ahead with the study or instead look at what could be done at the current firehouse will be made later this year.
    Aldermen offered little feedback after Mitchell’s presentation, which also touched on personnel and equipment needs.
    Ald. Doug Biggs noted that the “back of napkin” estimated cost of a new firehouse and equipment replacement over the next five years totals about $6 million.
    “These aren’t small numbers we’re talking about,” he said.
    The presentation is one of a series scheduled this year to provide a long-term look at the city’s needs and budget constraints.
    There is no more important service a city can provide than  public safety, Mitchell said, and a new station is important to that mission.
    The current firehouse, which was built in 1968 and expanded in 1995, isn’t adequate any longer, he said, showing aldermen photos of equipment parked within inches of walls and virtually end-to-end in order to fit within the building.
    The building doesn’t have facilities for women, he said, noting nine of the department’s 56 members are female and two more have applied to become members.
    And it doesn’t have facilities for the many paramedics and EMTs who sometimes sleep at the station to ensure adequate coverage, Mitchell said.
    A new station would become the department headquarters, Mitchell said,  adding the existing firehouse would not be shuttered. Instead, the department would split its equipment between the two facilities so coverage would be equal.
    Mitchell’s comments were echoed by Captain Jim Langford, who said it’s not just the chief who sees the need.
    “From the firefighters’ perspective, we certainly need this as well,” he said.
    Mitchell pointed to a 2000 study by Ruekert & Mielke on the potential impact of the proposed Port Vincent development, which never materialized — that land is today earmarked for the Cedar Vineyard development — that noted the subdivision would nearly double the length of the fire protection service area.
    “We don’t have to wait for the Cedar Vineyards development to be built to see this factor,” Mitchell said, noting that parts of the Misty Ridge subdivision along Highway 32 are four miles from the existing fire station, producing the longest response times.
    Quick responses are vital, Mitchell said, noting that it’s important for firefighters to be able to attack a fire within 10 minutes to effectively limit the spread of a blaze and for EMTs to aid a patient in cardiac arrest within six to eight minutes before irreversible brain damage occurs.
    Mitchell said the new station should be located west of the railroad tracks, where much of the new development is occurring and where many of the firefighters live, and close to Highway LL.
    That, he said, would shorten response time for areas of the city that are three or more miles from the existing firehouse, potentially saving lives and property and provide needed space for equipment and personnel.
    Ald. John Sigwart suggested the former Schanen farm on the south side of Highway 33 across from the Hidden Hills subdivision as a potential site, and Ald. Mike Gasper noted that land at the intersection of highways 33 and LL owned by Ozaukee County and the State of Wisconsin could be other potential locations.
    Mitchell estimated the cost of a new station at between $3 million and $4 million.
    “The question has been ‘How do we pay for it?’” Mitchell said. “I don’t know, but other municipalities are finding the way with far less growth than we have.”
    One way to fund a station could be through impact fees on new development, he said, a tool used by other communities to repay debt incurred for facilities and equipment.
    In terms of staffing, Mitchell told aldermen that his department is currently not feeling the problem with recruitment faced by many other volunteer organizations.
    “That could change in the future,” he said, as firefighters retire or leave because of family situations.
    There are currently 56 firefighters in the department, and six new applicants are going through the system, he said.
    The department responded to 200 fire-related calls and 1,235 ambulance calls last year, he said, an increase of 101 calls from 2015. In 2006, he noted, the two services had only 843 calls.
    The ambulance service is self-sustaining, he said, with the fees paid by patients covering its operating expenses.

Parking shortage scatters trailers throughout downtown PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 17:48

Port officials search for solutions as problem of accommodating fishermen to get worse with sale of city lot

    Drive through downtown Port Washington on a weekend morning and one thing is evident — fishermen are launching their boats at the marina by the droves.
    Their trailers can be found parked throughout the downtown, a situation that has prompted the city to look at parking alternatives for these long rigs.
    Those alternatives include making changes to the marina parking lot to allow more of the trailers to park there and perhaps designating a nearby city-owned lot for marina parking, Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said.
    The parking situation is only likely to get worse in the coming month as the city closes the car-trailer lot at the east end of Washington Street to move two sewer lines — something being done so the city can sell the property for development in July, permanently ending its use as a parking lot.
    “Once that’s gone, we’re going to have to redesign the parking lot we’re now using for single cars,” Cherny said.
    But, he said, the fishermen have proven adept at finding places to park their rigs.
    “They just go where they can find parking,” he said, noting there are more than 100 spots in the marina lot. “They don’t even ask us anymore. If the lot here’s full, they just keep driving until they find a place to park.”
    There is parking available at the Ozaukee County Administration Center parking lot on weekends, Cherny said, but “they choose to go where it’s closer. It’s a question of what’s available.”
    The marina parking plan calls for the city to convert some of the single-car parking into flexible spaces, used by car-trailers in the morning, when fishing traffic is brisk, and by cars later in the day when the fishermen have left.
    “We think it would solve the problem,” Cherny said.
    The city is also looking at using a nearby city-owned lot for marina tenant parking, which would handle overflow traffic, he said.
    “Then the multi-use (marina lot) plan would work out much better,” Cherny said.
    Those changes could be implemented “very soon,” he said.
    Cherny said this year’s parking issues have been exacerbated by the fact that “fishing has been fantastic.”
    “People are bringing in their limit in an hour or two,” he said.
    And instead of fishermen going out early and then heading home, opening up parking spaces at the marina, Cherny said anglers have been going out on the lake throughout the day to take advantage of the good fishing.
    “It’s good for us,” he said, “but I know it’s tough on parking.”
    Combine the good fishing with people’s inclination to get out on the lake as soon as they can and you have a busy marina. Cherny said Tuesday there have probably been about 1,000 boats launched during the last couple weeks, and more than 300 during the Memorial Day holiday.
    People have been patient, Cherny said, adding he hasn’t heard any complaints from fishermen or residents.
    That’s likely helped by the fact police aren’t ticketing fishermen if they park their rigs in downtown, he said.
    “They (police) are being considerate of the fact we have a problem,” Cherny said.
    Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said officials have asked the department not to ticket trailers as long as they’re parked legally.
    “We’re trying to work with the fishermen,” he said. “As long as they park sensibly — they’re not blocking a driveway or crosswalk, for example — we’re not going to give them a ticket.”
    But even though parking issues have taken center stage recently, Cherny was philosophical about it.
    “If this is a problem, it’s been a problem for a long time,” he said, noting the situation has occurred frequently in recent years. “This is nothing new.”

No such thing as a free lighthouse, mayor warns PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 20:06

Although Port will not pay to acquire pierhead light, cost of repairing, maintaining it will be significant, he says

    The message from Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada last week was blunt — long-term repairs to the lighthouse will cost a significant amount of money that the city doesn’t have.
    It will take investment from the community to help make these improvements, Mlada said.
    “We have to be open about this,” he said. “This is going to have to be something the community embraces. The funding for these significant long-term (issues) is unknown.”
    Mlada gave a presentation on the lighthouse ownership and funding as part of his initiative to discuss pressing issues in the community and their budgetary impact.
    Officials are still waiting for the federal government to convey ownership of the lighthouse to the city, something Mlada said is “a very significant responsibility.”
    Short-term repairs to the structure are estimated to cost $30,000, he said, including $25,000 for replacement of the porthole windows.
    The city has about half that amount already, much of it realized through the sale of lighthouse ornaments created by John Reichert, an artist and owner of Chocolate Chisel.
    Reichert plans to continue those fundraising efforts with a special ice cream flavor and sales of lighthouse candy bars, Mlada said. While significant, these are just “chipping away” at the expenses.
    Long-term, the city needs to invest between $500,000 and $1 million to repaint the structure, Mlada said.
    Other enhancements are also envisioned, such as lighting the exterior and improving access to the interior of the structure, he said.
    “We’re going to have to figure out a way to get people into the first and second levels,” Mlada said.
    The city has also applied to have the lighthouse named to the National Register of Historic Places, he said, adding it will likely take four to six months for a decision in the matter.
    The city has established a Lighthouse Preservation Fund and plans to seek grants, private donations and other sources of funding to pay for the long and short-term work, Mlada said, but the impetus is on the community.
    “The key is anything we raise goes right back in,” he said.    
    The city has received two 18-inch-tall replicas of the lighthouse that it plans to place in cases atop donation boxes, Mlada added. One will be placed at the gateway to the breakwater that leads to the lighthouse, with funds collected daily, and the other will rotate between the Niederkorn Library and businesses in the community.
    “Every little bit adds up,” he said, noting they will provide an easy way for both tourists and residents to contribute to the cause.
    “We hope the community supports this. This is really built on fundraising,” Ald. Doug Biggs said, contrasting it with repairs to the breakwater, which the city is helping fund.
    If the community wants the city to fund the lighthouse work, he noted, something else has to give.
    “That would mean less money for roads, for the breakwater, seniors, whatever,” he said. “Tell us what your priorities really are.”

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