Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 20:38
Officials say $45.5 million upgrade will create a facility that’s eye-catching, functional
The Port Washington-Saukville School District will unveil in two weeks designs for a $45.5 million like-new high school that officials say will be stunning in terms of both form and functionality.
Bray Architects and district work groups consisting of administrators and school board members have been refining plans to transform an aging and inefficient Port Washington High School, part of which dates to 1931, into a showcase of a school geared toward contemporary learning.
Among the most significant changes and refinements to conceptual designs are plans for a two-story library and media center on the west side of the building and a plan to retain a large part of the current gym, Supt. Michael Weber said.
The existing gym will be renovated around the existing floor to create an auxiliary, regulation-sized athletic facility that will eliminate the high school’s reliance on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School gym for some sporting events, Weber said.
It will be one of two high school gyms. The other will be an arena-like facility built on the south side of the school.
But one of the most striking and visible features of the high school will be its entrance and commons area, which will require the oldest, central part of the existing school to be demolished and rebuilt. The commons will be a gathering area large enough to accommodate events and an open cafeteria.
The commons is envisioned as a grand entryway to the school from which the new gym — described as arena-style because people will enter from above the floor and because of its wraparound seating — will be accessible to the south and the auxiliary gym and academic wings to the north.
Key to the design is the goal of grouping classrooms and other academic areas, which are currently spread throughout the sprawling building that has grown through a series of additions, in the same part of the school.
To accomplish this, a three-story academic wing will be built on the hill on the west side of the school adjacent to the existing technology education wing near what is referred to as the Washington Heights building on the far north end of the school. Both the tech-ed and Washington Heights buildings will be renovated.
“This is shaping up to be an awesome educational space for students,” Weber said. “It keeps our academic area connected to our tech-ed wing, which is a wonderfully large space for a high school our size, and the Washington Heights building.”
The new academic building will feature modern classrooms arranged to facilitate both group and individual learning and, unlike the current school, have a significant number of windows, Weber said.
“One of the themes of this entire project is the use of natural light,” he said.
New choir and band rooms will also be built. The existing music facilities, which are adjacent to the auditorium, will be used for costume storage and as dressing rooms.
Weber said the designs are still preliminary and will be tweaked as officials and architects continue to work on them.
Throughout the process, he said, a close eye has been kept on costs. The project is within budget, although the ultimate test won’t come until the work is bid early next year.
“It’s tight,” Weber said of the budget. “Construction costs have increased significantly over the last couple of months.”
Rising costs mean that the district is unlikely to be able to do additional work as officials hoped, Weber said. One of the additional projects that was envisioned was the installation of a synthetic-turf football field estimated to cost as much as $1 million.
Synthetic turf would be safer for athletes and, because it is far more durable than grass, allow the field to be used for more than just football games, administrators said.
Without money from the high school project to install the field, the district will have to look for other funding sources if the project is to be done. One option being explored by an organization formed to advocate for the approval of the referendum that paved the way for the high school project is private funding, possibly from a corporation interested in naming rights.
Bray Architects will present the high school designs to the Building and Ground Committee on Monday, Aug. 24.
Also included in the $49.4 million referendum plan approved by voters on April 7 is $3.8 million for a classroom addition at Dunwiddie Elementary School. That project is on schedule to be put out for bids in January. Construction would start later that year.
The high school project is scheduled to begin with the construction of the academic wing next year and be completed in 2019.
While that work is still months away, construction began last week at Saukville Elementary School. Funding for an addition at the school was eliminated from early referendum plans, so the district is using $80,000 from its fund balance to pay for the installation of internal walls and doors to improve school security and public access to facilities such as the gym.
The work is to be completed before school begins on Sept. 1.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 05 August 2015 20:44
Police and Fire Commission reiterates support for proposed ID requirement to drink alcohol at festivals
The Port Washington Police and Fire Commission on Monday reiterated its support for the concept of requiring wristbands for anyone drinking alcohol at festivals in the city.
This requirement would demonstrate that the city is sincere in its desire to combat underage drinking, commission members said, adding they will make a recommendation to adopt a wristband program to the Common Council next month.
“We’ll keep talking about this until we’re blue in the face,” commission member Marty Becker said. “I think we have to discuss this at every meeting until it gets done.”
The wristband program was initially suggested for use at this year’s Fish Day — the city’s largest festival — but that proposal was rejected by the city’s Finance and License Committee after the festival’s organizing committee opposed it.
Aldermen lauded the intention but questioned the logistics of the program and suggested the concept be revisited for next year.
“My thoughts are it sends a message that underage drinking and overconsumption isn’t tolerated in our city,” Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said. “I think that’s an important message.”
At this year’s Fish Day, he said, 12 people were cited for underage drinking and one nonprofit organization was cited for serving underage drinkers.
“That’s what we caught,” Hingiss said.
“If the officers caught this many, you can be sure there were four or five times more who didn’t get caught,” Becker said. “The officers can’t catch everybody.”
Hingiss said he had worked with the county’s Public Health Department on the program, which would have required people to show their identification and receive a wristband at one of several booths set up around the Fish Day grounds.
Anyone serving alcoholic beverages at the fish and chips stands would have been able to easily determine if the person purchasing drinks was old enough to do so legally, he said.
Commission member Terry Tietyen questioned whether servers at the stands are licensed bartenders. Most aren’t, he was told.
“If you’re going to have all these people serving alcohol, they should have training,” Hingiss said. “You have to be responsible.”
Becker said many of the older workers in particular serve beers without checking identifications.
“You want a beer, you get a beer,” he said.
Hingiss said he brought the concept to the Fish Day Committee last fall, and while members initially seemed receptive the proposal languished until it was too late to implement this year.
“I gave them plenty of time,” he said.
By working on a policy now, Hingiss said, that won’t happen again next year.
A number of festivals around the area used wristbands, he said, including Brat Days in Sheboygan. He said he intends to discuss the program with them before the September commission meeting to get a sense of how to best implement it.
Commission members questioned why anyone would oppose the program, saying it’s an easy way to ensure those purchasing alcohol are old enough to legally buy it.
“It’s simple — you want a beer, you need a wristband,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said.
But, Nelson cautioned, it’s a program that needs the support of everyone to work.
“If everybody’s not going to support this, it’s going to be shot down,” he said.
Commission members said they are poised to recommend to the Finance and License Committee and Common Council that the city require all festivals, not just Fish Day, implement a wristband program.
While they originally talked about requiring it only for events held on city grounds, members said they want to see it at all festivals where alcohol is served and a city permit is required.
That would include church festivals on church grounds, they said.
“We at least want them to consider it,” Nelson said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 20:19
City slowly closing in on goal of raising $1 million for additional improvements
Port Washington officials last week continued their slow but steady trek toward repairing the breakwater, accepting a $77,500 Fund for Lake Michigan grant for the entryway and applying for a $250,000 harbor assistance grant to fund work on the steel-cell portion of the structure.
The city has committed to paying $1 million for work on the steel-cell portion of the breakwater next year, and so far has raised about $600,000 in grants for the project, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
That includes $500,000 from the Waterways Commission’s recreational boating fund and $73,500 previously earmarked for a boat platform at Coal Dock Park.
The city is also applying for an additional $100,000 from the recreational boating fund, Grams said.
“If we get these, we’ll be close to that $1 million,” Grams said.
The city has several grant applications pending and should learn whether it will receive those funds next month, he added.
But the city’s efforts to pay for work on the steel-cell portion of the breakwater also suffered a blow earlier this month when the state pulled a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant it had previously awarded the city.
“They said we didn’t meet enough of their criteria,” Grams said, adding several other cities also had their grants rescinded by the state.
The city is also raising funds to improve the entry to the breakwater, including making it handicapped accessible, installing a boardwalk and fishing platform and developing a kayak launch and wetlands.
The cost of that work is estimated at $600,000, plus $100,000 for engineering, Grams said.
The city has already received a $75,000 stewardship grant for that work, he said. The Fund for Lake Michigan grant includes $75,000 for the entryway and $2,500 for the city to take part in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, he noted.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 20:24
Financing district expected to be approved by Port council will pave way for southside Cedar Vineyard development
A tax incremental financing plan that would pave the way for the Cedar Vineyard development on Port Washington’s south side and expansion of the city’s industrial park was approved last week by the Plan Commission.
No one commented on the plan during a public hearing before the commission, and it was approved unanimously.
Officials touted the fact that the TIF district is likely to pay for itself within 15 years, far sooner than initially expected.
“Even if the stars don’t align completely, it could still get paid off in less than 20 years,” Ald. Dan Becker, a member of the commission, said.
The TIF district projects include everything from the extension of utility lines to road improvements, bike paths, walking trails and money to help purchase a 101-acre nature preserve in the Cedar Vineyard subdivision.
In the industrial park, the funds would be used for utility work as well as the purchase of property — work that would not only allow for the expansion of the park but also facilitate an addition to one existing business and relocation of another.
The $7 million in improvements would help boost the value of the proposed 409-acre district by $71 million, according to a TIF study conducted by Trilogy Consulting.
The district is currently valued at $8.3 million.
City officials touted the fact that the TIF study used conservative numbers in its estimates to ensure the district can pay for itself.
For example, it used the longest development timeline and highest cost estimates for the improvements while anticipating the lowest revenue benefits, officials said.
“We’re optimistic the numbers work out,” City Administrator Mark Grams said. “The improvements in those areas will more than cover the costs.” Review Board, as well as the Common Council.
Aldermen are expected to approve the proposed district when they meet on Tuesday, Aug. 4. The Joint Review Board will then consider approval of the district on Aug. 19.
If the state then approves the TIF, the Highview Group is expected to purchase the land for the Cedar Vineyard development and begin work on the project.
The Cedar Vineyard development — the first phase of development in the district — would encompass 58 acres of residential lots, 68 acres for the vineyard and winery and 101 acres for a nature preserve.
“This is a very unique, high-quality development that would not be happening without the support of the TIF,” Christy Cramer of Trilogy Consulting told the Plan Commission. “In my opinion, it is economically feasible.”
The first phase of the plan would also include the development of six undeveloped or underdeveloped parcels in the industrial park, the plan states.
The second phase would encompass almost 105 acres in the industrial park, roughly half of which would be used for light industrial development, the plan states.
While the Cedar Vineyard portion of the TIF has gotten the most attention, Ald. Mike Ehrlich said no one should underestimate the district’s importance to the industrial park.
“This gives us the opportunity to expand our industrial park, which is sorely needed,” Ehrlich said.
If approved, Grams said, the city would likely begin planning for the infrastructure improvements for the Cedar Vineyard project, with work slated for next spring.
The Highview Group would like to begin its work on the subdivision already this fall, Grams added.