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Officials clash over plan for Port parks department PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 18:19

Recommendation not to replace director angers board members worried about dearth of leadership

    Members of two Port Washington committees clashed Tuesday over how to replace outgoing Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig.
    The Personnel Committee recommended that instead of replacing Imig, the city place forester Jon Crain in charge of managing the parks and create a recreation director’s position to handle the recreation programs.
    That position would likely be filled by Recreation Supr. Kiley Schulte, members said, noting the changes would save the city as much as $50,000 next year while placing qualified candidates in jobs where they can shine.
    But two members of the Parks and Recreation Board disagreed, saying a new director is needed and any change in the organization of the department should be done with input from their panel.
    “It looks to me to be a major restructuring of park and rec. I was really surprised to see this since there were no formal discussions with the Park and Rec Board,” board member Jeff Lamont said, asking the committee to take no action until the Parks and Rec Board discussed it.
    “We think there should be a director.”
    The proposed change would diminish the park system, Parks and Recreation Board President Ron Voigt said.
    “Parks and Rec is probably the jewel of the city, and now you want to diminish it,” he said, noting that spreading the duties of one person between two doesn’t work well.
    “I’ve seen it at the county level and it works like crap,” Voigt said.
    Committee members noted that their recommendation will be brought to the Parks and Recreation Board for its consideration on Thursday, Nov. 16, and both panels comments will be taken to the Common Council for action on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
    Action needs to be taken that night because that’s when the council will approve the 2018 budget, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
    “It feels like this is being pushed through very quickly,” Lamont said, suggesting the city place funding for a director in the budget and then work with the Parks and Rec Board to determine how to replace Imig when he leaves Nov. 8. “I feel our board is not being respected.”
    Voigt concurred, saying, “It won’t change. This is set in stone. We keep getting cut back. Sooner or later, we should just put it all under (Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven) and disband the Parks and Rec Board.”
    Grams said he made the recommendation to replace Imig with Crain and Schulte. Crain’s job description was amended earlier this year to include supervising the park maintenance workers, a move the Parks and Rec Board approved, he noted, adding Crain has a degree in urban forestry and is a certified arborist.
    Schulte has been largely handling the recreation programs, Grams said, adding the city would hire an administrative assistant to help with the office work.
    While the two currently report to Imig, Grams said that under the new plan Crain would report to Vanden Noven and Schulte to Grams.  
    There are still some details to be worked out, he acknowledged, “but I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to do.”
    Lamont and Voigt said they believe Crain and Schulte are capable of handling the duties, but said they feared that the two would be spread too thin to take on all the responsibilities that Imig shoulders.
    “As a board, we’d like to have a director handling our parks and recreation,” Voigt said.
    But committee members question why, if Schulte and Crain are able to handle the positions, the city should hire another full-time person as a director.
    “Why, if you’ve got these two talented people, would I put someone ahead of Kiley?” committe member Mike Ehrlich said.
    Both Schulte and Crain said they are prepared to take on the extra duties. Crain said he’s already been considering ways to improve park maintenance and to increase coordination between the city’s forestry crew and the parks department.
    “I’m up for the challenge,” Crain said. “I know the parks need help with maintenance. I see a lot of opportunities.”
    Schulte said she, too, is “confident and excited about this position. I have a ton of goals I want to see the recreation department achieve.”
    A significant amount of coordination and communication will be required to make the situation work, they said, but they are willing to do this.
    Committee members were enthusiastic about the proposal.
    “I think this gives you both a great opportunity to excel at what you’re doing well,” Ehrlich told Crain and Schulte. “If we were to hire another parks and recreation director, I think it would be a resource waste. I think you can take this challenge, and that’s why I’m comfortable with this.

 
As promised, PW-S school taxes on the rise PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 25 October 2017 18:31

Average tax bill expected to increase by $68 to finance $49.4 million facility improvement referendum

   Port Washington-Saukville School District taxes will increase again under a 2017-18 budget and tax levy approved by the School Board Monday, but that should not come as a surprise, officials said.
    “That’s exactly what we predicted,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said, referring to the impact of the $49.4 million referendum approved by voters in April 2015.
    The otherwise flat property tax levy is being driven by a referendum debt repayment schedule that was drafted before voters approved a referendum to pay for a $3.8 million addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School and the $45.6 million renovation and reconstruction of Port Washington High School and calls for the tax rate to increase next year, then remain steady for three more years before gradually decreasing.
    The payment plan is designed to chip away at the principal early to minimize financing costs and give the district flexibility toward the end of schedule. The referendum debt is to be paid in full by 2040.
    The result this school year is a tax levy that will increase by $612,058, or 3.8%, to $16.6 million.
    The tax rate will increase by 17 cents, or 1.65%, to $10.37 per $1,000 of equalized property value. Of the $10.37 tax rate, $1.58 will be used to pay referendum debt.
    Theoretically that means that the school tax bill for a $175,000 home would increase by $68.47 when adjusted for a 2.15% increase in district property values.
    The actual impact on tax bills, however, will depend on how property values changed in the various communities within the school district. For instance, in the City of Port Washington, where property values increased the most, the school tax bill for a $175,000 home is expected to jump by $96.73. But in portions of the Village of Saukville and Town of Port Washington that are within the district, where property values decreased, the school tax bill increase is expected to be $29.06 and $10.25, respectively.
    Among other significant factors in the budget is a $683,245, or 5.1%, cut in general state aid because of a decline in enrollment last year and increasing property values.
    The aid formula is designed to provide more state funding for poorer school districts — those with less property value per student — and less aid for districts that have high property values per student.
    For instance, while the Port Washington-Saukville School District received $13.4 million in general state aid for the 2016-17 school year, the Mequon-Thiensville School District, which has a significantly higher property value, received only $2.5 million.
    While fewer students and a higher property value mean less state aid for the Port-Saukville School District, that doesn’t mean the district will have to make do with less. Instead, it means local property taxpayers will pay more and the state will pay less to fund education. This school year, local property taxes will account for 51% of the district’s revenue, while the state will contribute 47%.
    The issue for the Port-Saukville District is that the last of a series of relatively large classes has graduated. And although enrollment is strong in the primary grades, so strong that additional teachers have been hired, it may take several years for enrollment to rebound.
    That said, Froemming noted, the outlook for the district is positive. Enrollment has increased this year, which bodes well for the financial future of the district.
    “With more students this year, it stands to reason we should get more aid next year because we have more kids,” he said.
    Froemming said the substantial investment taxpayers are making in school improvements can only help drive the increase in enrollment.
    “For me, the biggest positive news overall is increasing enrollment,” he said. “All of a sudden people are seeing a new high school taking shape and improvements to Dunwiddie and they’re saying, ‘This is a community we want to live in.’”
    Working in the district’s favor in this year’s budget, the district’s health insurance premium will essentially remain flat and categorical state aid will increase by $200 per student. The increase is worth about $500,000 to the district, Froemming said.
    But this year’s budget was not without challenges, Supt. Michael Weber said. The district had to find money to add teaching positions to address increasing enrollment in its elementary schools and paraprofessionals to handle the growing demands of special education services.
    In addition, the budget includes modest raises for staff members and pay increases intended to attract and retain young teachers.

 
Longtime Port parks director to step down next month PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 18:00

Imig leaving 10-year job to become public works director in Glendale

    Port Washington Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig has resigned effective Nov. 8.
    Imig, who has been the parks and recreation director for the past 10 years, will begin his new job as director of public works for the City of Glendale less than a week later, on Monday, Nov. 13.
    “It’s a good opportunity,” Imig said. “I’m proud of my time here. I love it here. My philosophy is you leave a place better than it was when you found it, and I think I can say I did that.”
    Imig said he is proud of the many parks the city has added during his tenure, a list that includes Coal Dock Park and South Beach as well as numerous neighborhood parks.
    He’s also proud of the programs he’s been involved in, such as the community beer gardens, breakwater improvements and the Polar Express, a joint effort with the Grafton and Cedarburg recreation departments that he championed.
    It’s an idea he copied from his previous job, Imig said.
    “I thought why can’t we do it here?” he said.
    Innovative programs like that have set Imig apart from other directors, said Ron Voigt, a longtime Parks and Recreation board member.
    “He’s been very creative in the program designs, and he’s very good in coordinating with the parks and recreation departments in Cedarburg and Grafton on programs we can do together,” Voigt said, citing not only the Polar Express but also the pool superpass program.
    Imig, he said, has also made the city’s resources stretch to encompass more programs, and he’s provided the type of atmosphere in which new programs can flourish.
    Imig said he’s also proud of the many people, young and old, he’s met through recreation programs and hired as staff.
    “That’s what makes Port great, all these different connections with families and people,” he said, noting more than 100 teens are hired by the department each summer. Many come back year after year, and they keep in touch even after leaving.
    “That’s the kind of stuff where I feel like I did make a difference,” Imig said.
    But, Imig said, he hasn’t done it alone. He credited his assistants, such as Diana Verheyen, with helping him through the years.
   

 
Port High scores the hottest tickets on the planet PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 18:39

Thanks to teacher’s connections, 58 students, teachers will see ‘Hamilton’

  If you want to see “Hamilton,” be prepared to shell out hundreds, even thousands of dollars for a ticket to the hottest musical to hit Broadway in decades.
    That is, unless you attend Port Washington High School. Fifty music students plus eight teachers will have the opportunity to buy tickets to see the acclaimed hip-hop musical about American founding father Alexander Hamilton at the CICB Theater in Chicago — a Feb. 14 trip approved by the Port Washington-Saukville School Board Monday.
    The ticket price — $109 with taxes and fees included — is less than half the cost of the cheapest seat normally available in Chicago.
    So how did Port Washington High School score 58 of what Rolling Stone Magazine last year called “the toughest ticket on the planet”? Like a lot of things in the performance world, it had a lot to do with who you know, specifically who Port High Choral Director Dennis Gephart knows.
    “I have a travel agent friend and one day I told her, ‘If you ever have an opportunity to get “Hamilton” tickets, let me know,’” said Gephart, who has taken students on tours throughout the country and overseas. “She laughed at me and said, ‘You’re never going to get student prices for that show.’”
    But in July, the agent called Gephart and told him that she heard through the grapevine that a limited number of student tickets for Chicago performances would be going on sale and asked if he was interested. After clearing it with Supt. Michael Weber, Gephart told her to snatch up as many tickets as she could.
    “She talked to her contact and was told, ‘But no one even knows about this yet,’” Gephart said. “She said, ‘But I do.’”
    Last month, Gephart found out that 58 tickets had been reserved for Port Washington High School.
    “Sixty is the most any school can get, and there are lot of schools who are going to get a lot fewer if they get any,” he said.
    “This is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and getting a chance to see it will be one of those things students remember their entire lives.
    “We’re trying to inspire kids and prepare them for all the different careers involved in musicals like ‘Hamilton.’”
    Gephart didn’t have to ask twice for School Board permission to take students to Chicago for the show.
    “That our students have the opportunity to see ‘Hamilton’ is unbelievable,” School Board member Sara McCutcheon said. “I’m jealous.”
    Weber said, “I think it’s really wonderful to extend this opportunity to our students.”
    It comes as no surprise that finding chaperones doesn’t look like it will be a problem. Gephart said social studies and communications teachers will be given the opportunity to supervise the trip. And, of course, he wouldn’t miss the chance to see the groundbreaking musical.  
    “I’m excited too,” he said. “I was so pumped up when I heard we got the tickets.”
    
   

 
Port does its part for Cedar Vineyard project PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 18:05

Council inks agreement with developer who says purchase is imminent despite bank’s marketing of land

    Port Washington officials on Tuesday moved the proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision one step closer to reality by approving a developer’s agreement for the project.
    Developer Tom Swarthout of the Highview Group told aldermen that he’s nearing a deal to purchase the 240-acre parcel along Highway C, which is owned by Waukesha State Bank and as recently as last month was listed for sale.
    “We are at that endpoint,” Swarthout said. “There are nine attorneys working on this closing.”
    Swarthout, who said he’s been working on the proposal for 3-1/2 years, called it a “revolutionary” project with a plethora of green features, public access to the bluff and beach and a plan to create a publicly owned 101-acre nature preserve.
    The development would be built in three phases, Swarthout said. The 72 lots on the east side of Highway C would be built in two phases, while the third phase will include 10 lots on the west side of the road near a winery that will be built using an old barn.
    A vineyard would line the highway, creating a more rural feeling than a typical city development.
    Even the landscaping plan is unique, Swarthout said, noting many of the trees to be planted will be fruit trees clustered together rather than spread throughout the development.
    The developer’s agreement calls for the city to extend utility services from their current location on Division Street south to the development, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
    It also calls for the city to construct improvements on Highway C, including a bike path, and to build a parking lot on the west side of the highway that will be used by people visiting the winery as well as those using public paths and visiting the nature preserve, he said.
    While the parking lot will be built by the city, it will be the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the lot, he added.
    There will be restrooms in the winery that can be used by the public, Grams added.
    Streets and utilities within the subdivision will be paid for by the developer, the agreement states.
    The agreement also calls for the city to pay for one of two lift stations that will help service any developments to the south of Cedar Vineyard, he said.
    Ald. John Sigwart questioned the wisdom of having the homeowner’s association be responsible to maintain the second lift station.
    “Half the time our homeowners’ associations can’t maintain themselves,” he said.
    However, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt noted that the burden of maintaining the facility will fall not on the association but on the homeowners themselves.
    The city’s improvements, which total about $6 million, will be paid through its tax incremental financing district, Grams said, noting that a financial analysis has proven the development will cover the costs of the improvements.
    Ozaukee County, which will ultimately own the nature preserve within the development, has already signed off on the agreement, Swarthout said.
   

 
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