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Mother who tried to drown girl found not guilty PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 19:11

Mental illness cited in case of Town of Port woman accused of holding daughter underwater off beach

A Town of Port Washington woman who held her 10-year-old daughter underwater in Lake Michigan, nearly drowning her because she was a sinner, was found not guilty because of mental illness last week.

A psychiatric evaluation determined the  41-year-old woman, who has a long history of bipolar disorder, was suffering from religious delusions and was in a manic and psychotic state when she held her daughter underwater off the Port Washington beach Aug. 26, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams said.

Police credited the girl’s 13-year-old sister and people walking by on the beach with preventing a tragedy. The woman, who released the girl after her other daughter began screaming and passersby called police, told authorities she knew she came very close to killing the 10-year-old, who at one point was so deprived of oxygen she stopped struggling.

The woman, who worked as a clerk for the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department at the time, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and could have been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison if the judge determined she was responsible for her actions.

Mental illness cases have two phases, that first of which determines if the person committed the crime. The woman, who Ozaukee Press is not naming to protect the identity of her daughters, pleaded no contest to the charge.

The second phase determines if the person can be held responsible for her actions. Based on the psychiatric evaluation, which was not challenged by Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, Williams determined the woman lacked the capacity to realize what she was doing was wrong.

Williams referred the case to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which will recommend whether the woman should be institutionalized or remain free. A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for March 17.    

According to the criminal complaint, the 10-year-old girl told police her mother took her and her sister to the beach and told her she needed to be punished because she was a sinner.
The woman told authorities she led the 10-year-old about 20 feet off shore, pushed her underwater and knelt on her. She said she put her hands on the girl’s shoulders and held her under the water as she struggled, the complaint states.

The woman remains free in lieu of bail pending the outcome of the March 16 hearing. 

 
Riveredge helps clear marina pier clutter PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 19:17

Nature center takes up city’s offer, removes pilings that created lakefront eyesore

The Port Washington lakefront is significantly less crowded now that Riveredge Nature Center has removed many of the old piers that littered the marina parking lot.

There were only about seven piers left in the lot Monday morning, Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said.

“About 99% of them are gone,” he said. “The rest is likely to be gone in little or no time.”

The pilings that were also in the parking lot are being removed by Port Recycling, Cherny added, noting the firm is taking a load every day.

That news was welcomed Tuesday by aldermen who for the last month have complained that the debris was littering the lakefront.

“It looks much better with a lot of the debris gone,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said.

The marina contractor McMullen and Pitz was responsible for removing the old piers and pilings, Cherny said, but this was not slated to be done until the end of the marina project in spring.

However, Cherny offered the piers and pilings to anyone who wanted them and was willing to remove them from the lakefront.

Having private parties remove the piers will result in a cost savings for the contractor, not the city, Cherny said.

“But we’re benefitting by getting them out of here,” he said.

Riveredge did not take the piers for any specific project, Sanctuary Manager Don Gilmore said.

“We grabbed them on speculation because they were free,” he said.

Some of the piers will likely be used to create a bridge or walkway in a marshy area of the center, Gilmore said, while others will be used to replace existing bridges and walkways over small creeks and wet areas.

“We need to figure out how to get them there and then anchor them,” he said. “They’re not just something people can pick up and move.”

It took Riveredge volunteers two days to move all the piers, Gilmore said, estimating they took roughly 450 feet of piers.

“There’s a fair mount of work to do on them,” he said, noting there are rotted ends to cut off, bumpers and cleats to remove and deck boards to replace.

“They were well built, that’s why there’s some life left in them,” Gilmore said. “If you have to put a few bucks and some time in (to fix them up), it’s worth it.

“If we don’t use them all, maybe somebody else can actually use them.”


THE PILES OF DEBRIS that littered the marina parking lot in Port Washington just weeks ago have been depleted lately. Riveredge Nature Center took many of the old piers to use at its Town of Saukville property, and Port Recycling has claimed many of the pilings. Press file photo

 

 
Hats off to a history-loving helper PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:34

Honored by Packers for community service, Port man donates $1,000 to preservation group

Rick Smith, who has devoted countless hours to the Port Washington Historical Society and its Light Station museum, was honored as a Community Quarterback by the Green Bay Packers last week.

Smith was one of 20 residents from around the state who received awards for volunteer work during a dinner at the Legends Club inside the Lambeau Field Atrium Thursday, Jan. 21.

The Community Quarterback program, which is in its 10th year, is funded by the Packers and NFL Charities. Each winner received $1,000 for their agency.

Smith was modest when asked about the honor Monday, saying, “I think there are other people who deserve it more.”

He said he is donating $500 of his prize to the Historical Society to purchase new windows for the Light Station and the remainder to the Historical Society’s endowment fund.

Smith, who taught math and science in the Port-Saukville School District for 34 years, said he hopes the donations will inspire others to contribute to the society,  noting the group’s mission of preserving the city’s history and heritage is vitally important.

“You only know where you’re going if you know where you came from,” he said.

To say Smith is passionate about history and preservation would be an understatement.

He is an outspoken proponent of preserving historic buildings. If the Historical Society hadn’t stepped up to take over the Light Station, the 1860 lighthouse would likely have been sold and razed for development.

“You have to preserve and save what you have,” he said. “If Port’s going to continue to live off tourism, there has to be something other than the lake to bring people here.

“The Light Station right now is probably the No. 1 tourist attraction in the city. And still, there are people here who don’t know about it.

“We have to make people conscious of what we have. We have so many new people in town who don’t realize what a gem this is.”

Smith was nominated for the Community Quarterback award by Jackie Oleson, vice president of the Port Washington Historical Society.

“He’s a very giving person,” Oleson said. “As a community, it’s important to point out some of these very giving people.”

Smith was not only instrumental in obtaining, renovating and establishing the Light Station museum operated by the society, but he has been there whenever needed.

“He steps up every time we have something that needs to be done,” Oleson said.

When the society moved into its new offices, she said, “He just started dropping in to see us and pitching in.”

Smith also put together historical displays  in downtown store windows for Maritime Heritage Festival and organized a maritime museum for the festival, she said.

But Smith’s involvement doesn’t end at the Light Station or with the Historical Society, Oleson said.

“He does things people don’t even know,” she said.

He is active in his church, works with Interfaith Caregivers and helps a number of elderly people, she said.

Smith is always willing to share his knowledge of the city, Lake Michigan and its shipwrecks, she said.

He promotes the city in numerous ways, Oleson said. Last spring, he traveled to visitor’s centers from Illinois into Wisconsin and distributed materials about Port and the Light Station.


POSING OUTSIDE THE Port Washington Light Station, a historic lighthouse he helped renovate, was Rick Smith, who last week was honored by the Green Bay Packers as a Community Quarterback for his volunteer work. Smith received $1,000 from the Packers and NFL Charities, and will donate half the money to window replacement at the Light Station and the rest to the Port Washington Historical Society endowment fund. Photo by Sam Arendt

 

 
Nonunion city workers get 1% raise PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 19:23

Port council approves pay increase while other local municipalities, county decide to freeze salaries

City of Port Washington department heads and employees not represented by unions will receive a 1% raise for 2010, the Common Council agreed Tuesday.

Last year, Mayor Scott Huebner vetoed the across-the-board raises, but Huebner said he will not take the same action this year.

“A 1% raise, I feel, is fine,” he said. “We cut taxes this last year, and part of the reason we were able to do that is that a lot of our department heads were out and found grant money for projects or found ways to do things at a lower cost, more efficiently.

“Maintaining that talent is a priority for the city.”

Huebner noted that when he vetoed the salary resolution last year, the city had just ended its budget year with a deficit. The city ended 2009 in the black, he added.

Unlike the city, the school district and vocational schools have increased taxes and salaries, Huebner said.

“I don’t hear anything about wage cuts from them,” he said, “and they’re killing us with taxes.”

The raises stand in marked contrast to other area communities, where department heads and nonunion workers generally are not receiving any salary increase this year.

In the villages of Saukville and Grafton, for example, salaries for nonunion employees were frozen this year.

“With the economic hardships that many residents and businesses are experiencing, the Village Board felt it was appropriate that no employees receive
increases for 2010,” Grafton Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said when the decision was made earlier this month.  

Grafton employes will also pay an additional 1% of their health insurance premium, bringing the worker contribution to 7%.

Saukville negotiated no-raise contracts with its two unions and held management pay at its current level.

The Village of Fredonia generally did not increase wages this year, Clerk JoAnn Wagner said. However, employees whose salaries were less than the midpoint for their salary range and received a favorable job evaluations were given increases of 1% or less, she said.

Ozaukee County also froze the salaries of nonunion employees. Its elected officials — including the county clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, district attorney, coroner and sheriff, whose salaries are set for the length of their term — agreed to make charitable contributions in the amount of their salary increase, in effect freezing their wages.

The County Board also froze its salaries for the next term, which runs from April 2010 to April 2012.

City Administrator Mark Grams said the increase amounts to raises of between $400 and $900, noting the budget included  a 1% across-the-board increase for nonunion employees this year.

The Common Council also approved a contract with the last of its unions, the clerical unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 108.

These employees will receive a 1-1/2% salary increase effective Jan. 1, 2010, another 1-1/2% increase on Dec. 31 and a 2% raise on Jan. 1, 2011.

Although the structure of the increases is different, the percentage increase over the life of the contract is about the same as the city granted its other union employees, Grams said.

The other contracts took effect last July, and they called for employees to receive no increase for the first six months, 3% on Jan. 1, 2010 and another 2% on Jan. 1, 2011, he said.

"We looked at what other settlements in the area were and comparables,” he said, as well as the city’s other contract settlements.

“In these times, I would love to have the unions get the same 1% that nonunion employees are getting,” Huebner said. “It’s tough to have a department head get a 1% raise when other employees are getting a greater increase — it’s wrong.”

But, he said, the unions wouldn’t approve such a small increase and the city stands to lose more if it takes the contract to mediation and arbitration.

The council approved both wage agreements unanimously. Ald. Dave Larson was absent.
 
PW-S district to pursue stimulus funds PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 19:07

School Board agrees to seek Race to Top grant that could secure at least $168,000 for educational reforms

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday unanimously approved  a grant application that could secure at least $168,160 in federal stimulus funding for the district.

The district is one of several school systems in the county that has applied to be part of the Race to the Top program, an American Recover and Reinvestment Act initiative that is providing $4 billion to states to promote education innovations and reforms.

States must compete for the funding, but if Wisconsin’s application is accepted, all participating school districts in the state would be guaranteed a share of the stimulus money, Supt. Michael Weber said.

Wisconsin’s share of the $4 billion stimulus package would be about $254 million. That money would be distributed to school districts based on the Title 1 federal school aid formula, which provides funding based on the number of students from low-income families.

The Port Washington-Saukville School District’s share would be at least $168,160 and could be significantly more if other districts in the state choose not to participate in the program, Weber said.

“Why wouldn’t a district participate? You would opt out if the energy and investment required to use the money was greater that the amount you’re receiving,” he said.

If Wisconsin receives funding, participating school districts have 90 days to prepare a spending plan or opt out of the program.

 “We’re not committing to anything at this point,” Weber said.

In other school systems, such as the Northern Ozaukee School District in Fredonia, the decision to submit an application was not nearly as cut and dried as it was in the Port-Saukville District. The board in that district voted 6-3 Monday to apply for the funding. The Grafton School District also decided Monday to apply.

The stimulus money is intended to promote reforms in four areas — standards and assessments that prepare students for college and the workplace; creating data systems that measure student achievement and facilitate improvement in instruction; recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals; and improving low-performing schools.

“We are already doing these things and have been for a long time,” Weber said. “But this money would allow us to improve and expand what we’re doing.”

For instance, the money would allow the district to improve its new-staff mentoring program to ensure recently hired educators are as successful as possible, he said.

Funding could also be used to help implement Project Lead the Way at the high school. The science, math and technology program intended to spark student interest in engineering careers was started this year at the middle school.

“We’re running into significant challenges trying to fund the program at the high school,” Weber said.

 “And overlooked sometimes are initiatives in science and mathematics at the elementary schools. Technology is a huge priority for us and this funding (Race to the Top) could help with that goal.”

Receiving the money, however, is far from certain and depends on whether Wisconsin can convince federal education officials it has a sound plan for education reform. The debate over the Milwaukee Public School System’s performance and its future leadership is central to Wisconsin’s chances of qualifying for funding, Weber said.

“The MPS issue is very significant,” he said. “The State of Wisconsin needs to be able to put together a plan to restructure MPS to help students be more successful, and to do that they’re going to have to address problems like truancy, the drop-out rate and the achievement gap.”

 
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