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City considers adding paramedic services PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 18:22

Commission agrees to study feasibility of having Port become second county community to offer specialized care

The City of Port Washington could become the second Ozaukee County community to offer paramedic services.

The Police and Fire Commission on Monday agreed to study expanding the city’s ambulance service to include paramedic services  as soon as next year.

A paramedic program, currently offered only by the Village of Thiensville, could be largely self-supporting while increasing the service provided by the Port department to area residents, city officials said.

“It’s certainly an idea worth exploring,” commission member Gina Taucher said.

“It would bring us to the next level,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said in an interview Tuesday. “Right now, it makes a lot of sense for us to consider it.

“I think it’s perfect for the city. It’s awfully nice we’ve been able to call in Thiensville’s paramedic unit, but it would be great to have paramedics here, too. We would be able to handle the northern suburbs a lot easier than Thiensville.”

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, who called Monday’s meeting a “very initial discussion,” said the time has come for the city to consider upgrading its emergency services to include paramedics.

“I think this is something the community would benefit from,” Mitchell said. “The paramedic program has proven itself since the 1970s. There is a demand for it.”

Last year, Mitchell said, the Port Washington ambulance called for aid from the Thiensville paramedics five times. Medical protocols dictate when the Thiensville paramedics are called to an emergency scene or to meet an ambulance en route to the hospital.

But the skills of a paramedic would have come in handy at other times as well, including times when a patient’s condition changes while on the way to the hospital, Mitchell said.

The Port Washington ambulance, like virtually all its counterparts in Ozaukee County, is certified as emergency medical technician-intermediate, one step below a paramedic unit.

Both EMTs and paramedics provide significant care for patients, but paramedics are able to conduct more advanced procedures and administer many more medications, including those for pain and cardiac care, Mitchell said.

Cardiac care is probably the area in which paramedics make the biggest difference, he said.

“We all know time is of the essence in these cases,” he said. “Right now, we’re basically limited to securing an airway, doing CPR and defibrillation if it’s indicated.”

Paramedics, who spend hours of training for cardiac cases, can also use medications to treat these patients, and that makes a big difference in their care, Mitchell said.

He predicted the cost of beginning a paramedic program in Port would be relatively minimal. The biggest cost in starting a program is generally the heart monitor/defibrillator, which Port already has, although  it would require a software upgrade for specific heart-pacing treatments.

Some of the medications that would be used may be expensive, but that cost would be reimbursed as the drugs are used, he said.

Staffing is often cited as a concern for departments, but Mitchell said, Port already has three EMTs who are certified paramedics and two others who are nearing the end of their training.

Even though these members have paramedic certification, they cannot operate as paramedics in Port because the ambulance service isn’t a paramedic program, he noted.

There are also a number of paramedics are looking for part-time employment to supplement their regular work on other ambulance services or who haven’t found a job in the field, Mitchell said, and Port could tap them to staff its program.

“We’ve got them knocking on our door, people looking for part-time employment. The availability of these people is incredible,” he said.

“I think we’re in a position where we could bring our level of service up and offer this.”

Staffing problems, a perennial concern for volunteer ambulance services, might actually be eased with a paramedic program, Mitchell added, because of the number of part-time people available.

Although the Thiensville department contracts with individuals to pay for their paramedic training in return for service, Mitchell said he does not think this would be necessary in Port — at least not initially.

If Port were to approve a paramedic program, Mitchell said, one paramedic and one EMT would likely be required on each ambulance run.

Although the Police and Fire Commission is expected to appoint a committee to study the potential for a paramedic program when it meets in April — a study that would likely include specific recommendations on how a program would operate — Mitchell said he envisions paramedics as paid, on-call volunteers, just as firefighters and EMTs are now.

Although the department’s policy has been to require EMTs to live in the city, nonresident paramedics could be hired with the understanding that they remain in the city while on call, Mitchell said. An area of the fire station could be modified to allow nonresident members a place to stay while on call.

A paramedic program must be approved by the state Department of Health, which requires round-the-clock coverage. When the Thiensville program began five years ago, it phased in this coverage, starting with six hours a day and working up to a full-time program over two years.

But Mitchell said with the current and anticipated staffing, the city may be able to provide round-the-clock coverage from the start.

“We might want to ease into it,” he said. “Or we may be able to start it up full-time. It just depends on availability.”

Although the department would pay the paramedics more than EMTs, that cost — as well as other costs for the program — would probably be recouped through increased fees for ambulance services, he added.

Next month, the commission will meet with LifeQuest, the private firm that handles billing and recommends fees for the city’s ambulance service, and discuss the possible economic impact of a paramedic program.

The paramedic study committee expected to be appointed in April would likely take a couple months to complete its study. Mitchell said a recommendation could come from the group as soon as June.

 
City to turn off half of Spring St. lights PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 19:29

Citing residents’ complaints that road is too bright, Port officials agree to flip switch on 16 street poles

About half the streetlights on South Spring Street will be turned off temporarily later this year as Port Washington officials ponder whether to remove these lights from the area and relocate them to the coal dock.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that it seems to be too bright there,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

He predicted that turning off the 16 lights would make that stretch of Spring Street from Portview Drive to Sunset Road a little dimmer than the stretch of road between Oakland Avenue and Portview Drive.

Right now, he said, the southern portion of the road is virtually twice as bright as the northern segment.

Last year, Vanden Noven proposed moving 16 streetlights from South Spring Street to the coal dock, where the city will need to install lights along the entrance drive and around a parking lot.

The city would have to pay to move the lights from Spring Street to the coal dock,  Vanden Noven said, adding he doesn’t know how much that would cost.

Since the city will pay to maintain the lights whether they are used on Spring Street or at the coal dock, the ongoing costs would be a wash, Vanden Noven said.

Reusing the streetlights is a viable — and green — way to light the coal dock, officials said.

“The coal dock has to be lit, so we’re not increasing our overall energy use. We’re just lighting more area at the same cost,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the board, said.

The streetlights are owned by We Energies, and the utility said it would cost $640 to turn off the 16 lights, Vanden Noven noted.

If the city decides to turn them back on again after the trial, it would cost another $640, he added.

“When I think of all the years and all the changes in lights we’ve made, and the amount of negative feedback we’ve gotten — the lights are too bright or too dim — it would be worthwhile to run a test,” Board Chairman Tom Veale said.

“If we get a lot of ‘My gosh, I can’t find my way home,’ we light them again. If we get ‘Thank God it doesn’t look like a landing strip anymore,’ we’ll leave it.

“Personally, I think it’s great — we’ll save money, save some energy and lessen the landing-strip look.”

Even while the lights are turned off for the month-long trial, Vanden Noven said, the city will continue to pay roughly $20 a month to maintain and light them. That’s because the city has a contract requiring the payment.

Board members said it only makes sense to test the lighting by disabling half the Spring Street lights before taking final action. 

“We’ve had a lot of complaints about how bright it is, so it makes sense to show everyone what it will look like on Spring Street (if the lights are removed),” Ehrlich said.

The test is likely to be scheduled late this summer or early fall, when at least part of the entrance drive to the coal dock may be constructed, Vanden Noven said.

The Common Council will be asked to approve the test before it occurs.

 
Churches join hands to fight hunger PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 18:50

Catholic parishes in Port, Saukville try to raise $17,000 for Lenten challenge to feed 100,000 needy people

Three Catholic parishes in Port Washington and Saukville have taken on a daunting Lenten challenge — raising $17,000 to buy, pack and ship 100,000 meals to needy people throughout the world.

It’s more than just a fund-raiser, said Linda Gottlieb, who is spearheading the effort on behalf of the parishes’ Human Concerns Committee.

Local volunteers are needed to pack the meals over a three-day period in April, giving area residents a hands-on way to help alleviate hunger throughout the world.

“It’s going to be a pretty amazing thing,” Gottlieb said. “To see our communities come together for something like this is wonderful.”

The parishes — St. Peter of Alcantara and St. Mary’s in Port and Immaculate Conception in Saukville — aren’t limiting their efforts to their congregations, but have asked other churches throughout the county to participate.

“I want to involve all of Ozaukee County,” Gottlieb said.

“I know we have food pantries here in Ozaukee County and there are a lot of people who are struggling. But many of us are very, very, very blessed. Just think, a $2 cup of coffee is how many meals?”

The meals, which cost 17 cents each, are a mixture of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Distributed to the needy in more than 60 countries worldwide, they are cooked with boiling water.

“In three months time, these people go from nearly dead and emaciated to plump and healthy,” Gottlieb said. “It just builds them up.

“Many of these meals go to children in schools, and for many of these children it’s their only meal.”

The project is being coordinated through Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit hunger relief organization founded in 1987. The agency has four permanent meal assembly sites and also runs mobile operations.

The agency packed 9.5 million meals at mobile sites in 2008 and was expected to make 20 million meals last year, according to its Web site.

The local effort is one of five planned in Wisconsin this spring, the Web site states.

Each Lenten season, the Human Concerns Committee selects an international effort to fund. Last year, Gottlieb said, the committee at St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s raised $2,500 during Lent and sent it to Feed My Starving Children.

Gottlieb said she became aware of the organization about four years ago after reading about it in a newspaper. She later worked a two-hour shift at the agency’s Aurora, Ill., facility packing food.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I was so moved by the experience. I can’t even describe how it felt. Two hours goes by in an instant.

“It really is an exciting thing to do.”

The local parishes have already raised almost $5,000, enough for more than 28,500 meals, Gottlieb said.

“Ten dollars here, $20 there, it all adds up,” she said. “Everybody’s pennies count. Seventeen cents can go a long way.”
 
About 550 volunteers are needed to pack the food on April 8 through 10. Three shifts will be run each day — more if the committee exceeds its fund-raising goal and can pack more meals — at Portal Industries in Grafton.

“Their facility is perfect for this,” Gottlieb said.

Volunteers can be as young as 5, although the youngest helpers will need to be supervised by an adult.

Bulk ingredients for the meals will be brought to Portal by Feed My Starving Children. There, volunteers will use premeasured scoops to pack the meals.

Fifteen volunteers can pack 4,000 meals in two hours, Gottlieb said.

At the end of each shift, the volunteers place their hands on the boxes and say a prayer for safe delivery of the food.

“In all the years they’ve operated this, there has only been two times when the shipments didn’t get where they were supposed to,” Gottlieb said.

The meals are distributed by a variety of relief organizations to the needy in countries that include Haiti, Liberia, Ghana, Columbia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Raising $17,000 and packing 100,00 meals is an ambitious goal, Gottlieb acknowledged, but it’s one she is confident can be achieved.

“If people look at their lives and think how many meals they can pay for without hurting — it’s simply amazing,” she said. “I think that once people know about this, they will respond.

“I hope God works through all of us. This can be something incredible.”

Tax-deductible contributions to the effort can be sent to St. Peter of Alcantara Parish, 1800 N. Wisconsin St., Port Washington. Checks should be made out to Feed My Starving Children.

Anyone seeking more information or who would like to volunteer their time to pack food may call Gottlieb at 284-7288  or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Port town clerk trades job for city post PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 18:23

Westerbeke will leave longtime position March 8 to begin working as deputy clerk, administrative assistant

Town of Port Washington Clerk Susan Westerbeke is resigning her post effective Monday, March 8 — the day she begins her new job as the deputy city clerk for the City of Port Washington.

“Susan is going to be greatly missed. She’s done a phenomenal job as clerk,” Town Chairman Lee Schlenvogt said Tuesday. “The city is gaining a great asset in Susan.”

The Town Board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, to discuss replacing Westerbeke, whose term doesn’t expire until next April.

“We’re going to look at all our options,” Schlenvogt said, including the potential to change the job from an elected position to an appointed post.

Westerbeke, who is completing her 11th year as town clerk, was hired as the city’s deputy clerk and administrative assistant to Administrator Mark Grams by the Common Council last week.

She is replacing Rose Rowe, who has been the city’s deputy clerk and administrative assistant for almost 27 years and is retiring on March 5.

Westerbeke will work with Rowe for a few hours a day beginning next week and full time the following week, Grams said.

She was selected from a field of about 250 applicants “from all walks of life,” Grams said. Most were from Wisconsin, he said, but others were from other states, including one from Colorado.

“I was surprised we got that many applicants,” he said. “I figured we’d get 100, 150 applications.”

Westerbeke, he said, was the most qualified applicant, with certifications as a municipal clerk and elections clerk.

“She’s basically the only one who could step in and take over,” Grams said. “She’s obviously got experience.”

Westerbeke said she has enjoyed working with the Town Board, but said the city position is a “unique opportunity” for full-time employment in her field.

“With my background, these types of positions are rarely available, so I applied,” she said, noting she had intended to seek a full-time job when her youngest child graduates from high school next year.

 
Borrowing surplus prompts city spending PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 19:48

Port officials dip into $311,000 left from 2008 loan to buy new heating, ventilation system for recreation office

Port Washington officials found themselves in an unusual position Tuesday, looking for a way to spend money instead of save it.

The city has almost $311,000 from a 2008 borrowing left in its coffers, but arbitrage rules will only allow the city to hold $215,000 of those funds after two years, a deadline that will occur in March, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

About $90,000 of the $311,000 is owed for projects done with the borrowed money, he said, leaving the city with about $6,000 to spend to get under the cap, he said.

Aldermen agreed Tuesday to use $55,500 to replace the water heater and heating, ventilating and air conditioning system at the Park and Recreation Department, a project they said is not only essential but that will ultimately save the city money.

“It (the current system) is really oversized and inefficient,” said Ald. Tom Hudson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee.

City Administrator Mark Grams was even more blunt.

“It’s failing,” he said. “That’s got to get done.”

Replacing the system is expected to significantly reduce fuel costs for the department, Hudson noted.

The Common Council agreed to buy a new HVAC system for $52,871 from J&H Heating and a new water heater for $2,675 from Greisch Plumbing and Heating.

“It’s nice to see we’re using local contractors,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said.

The rest of the money should be used to offset the cost of the city’s 2009 and 2010 capital projects, aldermen agreed.

It is unusual for the city not to spend the full amount it borrows for capital projects, Grams said.

However, the 2008 borrowing included some projects that officials decided against doing because of budget concerns, most notably the reconstruction of Portview Drive from Spring Street north to about Willow Road, Grams said.

That roadwork was projected to cost about $300,000, he said.

 Instead of doing the roadwork, the city opted to use some of the borrowed funds for items originally in its capital outlay budget, Grams said.

He noted that the city could still opt to include the Portview Drive work in its 2010 borrowing, which is also expected to include funds for the reconstruction of Chestnut and Division streets, Highway 33 from Summit Drive west to Jackson Road and a portion of Sunset Road.

 
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