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Port Washington


City poised for Blues Factory land offer PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 18:03

Officials expect to receive formal proposal from developer of controversial lakefront project for May 3 council meeting

Port Washington City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that the Common Council could receive a formal offer to purchase a lakefront parking lot for the proposed Blues Factory by its May 3 meeting.

Aldermen have been holding regular closed sessions to discuss negotiations for the Blues Factory with Madison-based developer Christopher Long, including a session held Wednesday, April 6.

“We’re still working on it,” Grams said of the session. “We’re getting closer. It’s pretty much in their court right now.”

Grams said he does not expect the Common Council to hold a closed session on the Blues Factory negotiations during its April 19 meeting.

“If anything, it’ll be at the first meeting in May,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re shooting for.”

Grams said the Council could receive an offer for the property for consideration at the May 3 meeting, and action could be taken on the offer that night.

The Common Council has not begun work on a development agreement for the Blues Factory, he said.

The Blues Factory is a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex that would include a restaurant, banquet hall, performance space and museum marking the history of the record label in Port Washington.

Paramount Records, which is known for its blues recordings, was created by the Wisconsin Chair Co. to help sell its phonographs. When Long proposed the Blues Factory last year, he said he hoped to break ground on the development this April in order to ensure the development would be open in 2017 for the centennial of the Wisconsin Chair Co.

However, the potential sale of the north slip parking lot has proven to be controversial, with city officials touting the economic benefits of the Blues Factory and its potential as a catalyst for year-round development in downtown while some residents have questioned the wisdom of selling publicly owned lakefront land.

There are a number of issues facing the city and Long as they negotiate the potential sale of the parking lot.

Among those are likely the cost of the land, as well as $1 million in tax incremental financing incentives Long has said he will seek from the city.

The city has conducted environmental tests on the land that have shown some minimal contamination, and the question of who will remediate the property may also be an issue in negotiations.

City officials are likely also looking for ways to ensure the development will pay off for the TIF district, especially if incentives are provided for the development.

Long said last year that in addition to the incentives, the project would be funded through private equity — as much as $500,000 from accredited investors and $1 million in crowdfunding — as well as a construction loan.

 
Port to earmark millions to spur development PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 18:33

Council was expected to increase TIF incentives to $4 million for projects like controversial Blues Factory 

Port Washington aldermen were expected on Wednesday to double down on their commitment to use public money to finance private downtown development, increasing the amount of money allocated for developer incentives in the tax incremental financing district.

The Common Council was expected to hire Trilogy Consultants to handle administrative work to amend the TIF plan, increasing the amount of development incentives from the $750,000 originally expected to an estimated $4 million.

The city has already exceeded the $750,0000, giving $1.75 million in loans to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Port Harbour Lights retail and residential project in downtown.

Madison-based developer Christopher Long said last year he would seek $1 million in incentives for the Blues Factory, a controversial project that would convert a city-owned lakefront parking lot to a Paramount Blues-themed entertainment complex.

The city also anticipates it could be asked to provide incentives for downtown redevelopment projects earmarked by the Community Development Authority, City Administrator Mark Grams said. 

Among those are redevelopment of the former Victor’s restaurant  and Dairy Queen properties on Washington Street, and Jadair Inc. property off Milwaukee Street, he said.

While the CDA proposed redevelopment projects for these sites and several others, only the Blues Factory and a potential project on the former Victor’s restaurant site planned by Ansay Development are pending at the moment.

City officials have yet to weigh in on the Blues Factory proposal, although they are negotiating the sale of the parking lot and discussing terms that could include incentives for the project.

Grams said officials are also looking at the potential sale of a portion of the car-trailer  parking lot adjacent to the Victor’s property. He would not say whether that project could involve development incentives as well.

The $750,000 included in the TIF plan was a general guideline, Grams said — one that officials didn’t anticipate would need to be higher.

“This (TIF plan) was done six years ago, and we never anticipated any of this development,” he said.

“With multiple projects and the potential we have, we need to adjust the dollar amount.”

Because the city is looking at a substantial increase over the original plan, Grams said, its consultant said it needs to amend the TIF plan.

“Now we’re looking at different projects, and we’re looking at tripling that,” he said.

Officials are still debating how much to increase the incentive program, Grams said. It’s tricky, he said, because officials don’t know what projects are likely to be proposed over the remaining 20 years of the TIF district, how much they will increase the value of the district or what incentives may be sought by developers.

“We really need to sit down and think, ‘What do we need?’” he said. “There might be projects out there we haven’t thought of.”

Grams said the city needs to make sure it includes enough money in the amended plan for the incentive program. That’s because it only has one chance to amend the TIF plan.

Amending the plan isn’t simple, nor is it inexpensive. 

The city was expected to hire Trilogy at a cost of $10,450 to guide the project though a process that could take months.

That’s because the city isn’t the only group that needs to approve the amendment. The Joint Review Board, which includes representatives of the various taxing entities that make up the TIF — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College and a citizen — also needs to OK it. 

Development incentives, although relatively new in Port Washington — the first project to receive them was Port Harbour Lights — are a common tool used by communities to spur redevelopment.

In the Village of Grafton, for example, these incentives have been used on at least eight redevelopment projects that have increased the value of the downtown by more than $25 million, officials said several years ago.

 
PW-S school incumbents, challenger square off PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 30 March 2016 19:33

Board election has three candidates vying for two posts as city representatives

Making his second bid for the Port Washington-Saukville School Board in as many years, Aaron Paulin will face incumbents Kelly O’Connell-Perket and Brian Stevens in the Tuesday, April 5, election.

Veteran board member O’Connell-Perket, who was first elected to the board in 1998 and currently serves as its clerk, is seeking her seventh, three-year term.

Stevens, the board’s treasurer, was appointed in 2014 to fill a seat vacated by Jim Olson and elected last year among a field of candidates that included Paulin. He is running this year for his first full term.

The top two vote-getters in next week’s race will win seats on the board representing the City of Port Washington.

As board members, the winners of the April 5 election will face new challenges, among them overseeing a $45.6 million Port Washington High School reconstruction and renovation project and the construction of a $3.8 million addition at Dunwiddie Elementary School approved by voters a year ago.

There are also ongoing challenges that include maintaining the quality of education amid reductions in state funding for public schools.

Stevens, 47, said the board’s top priority should be managing the high school project, which is scheduled to begin in earnest next month and be completed in 2019, and the Dunwidde Elementary School work, which is slated to begin next month and be completed by the end of the year.

“I think right now completing the construction projects on time and on budget with as little disruption to education as possible needs to be our top priority,” he said. 

The board has done a good job so far of overseeing the projects, Stevens said, by hiring Bray Architects to design the improvements and CD Smith Construction Services to manage the projects. He noted that both firms not only have extensive experience with school construction but have worked on projects similar to the one at Port High that entail demolishing and rebuilding a part of the school.

O’Connell-Perket, 55, agreed that the projects are off to a good start.

“I think the public has been well informed, and any time there are questions, we get answers,” she said. 

Paulin, 37, said while it’s exciting to see a significant investment in schools, there is some concern with early cost overruns at Dunwiddie Elementary School. 

“That has caused frustration for people I’ve talked to,” he said.

School officials said they expect the project to be as much as $300,000 over budget, although they are confident that savings  from the much larger high school project will more than make up the deficit.

Paulin said he is concerned about future maintenance needs, particularly at the middle school, and school security.

“We’ll have to deal with these things, and we know we can’t go back to a referendum anytime soon,” he said. 

While voters gave the School District additional money in last year’s referendum to renovate schools, the state has done the opposite with funding for public education, which puts an emphasis on setting clear priorities, the candidates said.

“On top of the list of priorities must always be kids and the people around them that create the safety net they need to succeed,” O’Connell-Perket said. 

All three candidates agreed that a well-rounded curriculum, one that focuses on the core subjects but also offers strong music, arts and technology education programs, is important.

“If we’re going to create well-rounded students, we have to give them opportunities, and those include strong arts, music and tech-ed programs,” said Paulin, a social studies teacher at West Bend West High School.

Stevens, an engineer, said the district needs to continue its focus on the STEAM initiative, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, while maintaining its long-standing commitment to the quality of its core subjects and maintaining reasonable student-to-teacher ratios.

Another priority, Paulin said, is strengthening the relationship between the School District and its surrounding communities.

“I visited the senior center and was told that I’m the first School Board candidate to go there and show interest,” he said. “I want a chance to promote our district in the community. As a board member, it would be my responsibility to build relationships with seniors, veterans, alumni and businesses.”

O’Connell-Perket, a medical records supervisor, said those relationships already exist in many cases and it’s important to continue them. She noted the high school was able to complete its welding lab this year because of donations from area companies.

“We need to continue the wonderful relationships with our community businesses that help our district and our children,” she said. 

There are no candidates running for the School Board seat representing the towns of Grafton and Saukville, which has been vacant since Paul Krechel, who was appointed in 2014, resigned in October 2015.

Although board members represent specific areas in the School District, they are elected at large, which means district residents vote for all candidates.

 
Brakke is lone district candidate for principal job PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 18:30

Saukville Elementary School official among 14 applicants for middle-school position

Saukville Elementary School Principal Chad Brakke is the lone internal candidate to replace longtime Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Arlan Galarowicz, Port Washington-Saukville School Supt. Michael Weber said.

Brakke, a former Rice Lake administrator who was hired to lead the Saukville school in 2010, is among 14 candidates for the middle school job.

Liz Ferger, the middle school’s longtime assistant principal, did not apply for the position, Weber said.

“Liz will be part of the interview team and is excited to work with her new partner,” he said.

Galarowicz, the longest-serving administrator currently working in the district, announced in December he will retire at the end of the school year after 22 years at the helm at one of the district’s two largest schools.

Galarowicz, who was hired in 1993 to succeed Joe Groh, said in December that recent health problems require him to reduce stress and get more sleep, which is impossible to do as principal of an 800-student school.

“If you’re serious about education, Thomas Jefferson is the place you want to be, but I need to make a change,” said Galarowicz, who is regarded as a visionary and tireless advocate for students.

He said he intends to remain involved in education in some capacity, but not locally.

“The question for me was, do I want to continue what I’m doing and literally die on the job or do I want to leave with as much health as possible and be able to remain in education in some way?” Galarowicz said.

Administrators planned to create an interview team this week and begin screening candidates. The team is expected to make a recommendation to the School Board by May 9, Weber said.

Applicants must have three years of leadership experience, a master’s degree in education administration and a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction principal’s license.

 
City fights proposed 120-foot downtown telecom pole PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 16 March 2016 17:58

Port council quickly adopts resolution in hopes of convincing Illinois firm to construct spire elsewhere

News that an Illinois firm has proposed building a 120-foot-tall telecommunications pole in downtown Port Washington prompted aldermen to quickly adopt a resolution regulating placement of such structures.

Aldermen made few comments on the issue before unanimously approving the resolution, which would give the city some say in where these structures could be located.

Officials said they hope to work with Wisconsin Technology Networking to find a location that will accommodate both the company’s needs and minimize the impact on the community.

Tuesday’s action came after the city received what City Attorney Eric Eberhardt called a generic application to use a portion of the public right of way near the intersection of North Milwaukee and West Main streets for the tapered pole, which would be topped with a microwave dish.

Eberhardt noted the proposed structure would dwarf a standard 40-foot telephone pole, and said the city zoning code for the area limits the height of structures to 85 feet.

“A 120-foot-tall pole sitting in the right of way in the industrial park would be less dramatic than this location,” he said.

The city needs to respond to the request within 30 days, he added, or it is considered  to be approved. The city received the application on March 3.

“The clock is running,” Eberhardt told the Common Council. “It’s important that if the city is to respond to this application in a meaningful way, it act (on the resolution) this evening.”

Wisconsin Technology Networking of Schaumburg, Ill., wants to place the 40-inch diameter pole in the parkway on the north side of Main Street directly across from the Ozaukee County Administration Center and west of Poole Funeral Home.

The company wants to build the structure within the next 18 months, according to its application.

The “transport utility pole” would be used to provide high-speed, high-capacity bandwidth in order to facilitate the next generation of devices and data-driven services,” Eberhardt told aldermen, and facilitate such things as driverless and connected vehicles, remote weather stations and mobile service providers.

Under state law, telecommunications utilities have the right to place facilities in the right of way subject to “reasonable municipal regulations,” Eberhardt said.

Although the city requires contractors excavating in the right of way to obtain a permit, it has no regulations or standards set for these permits, Eberhardt said.

Those standards can take into account whether the use is contrary to public health, safety and welfare, the amount of space in the right of way that’s available, competing demands for the space, the availability of other locations for the facility and the applicability of city ordinances — such as the zoning code, he said.

“You’re going to potentially have some of those concerns,” Eberhardt said.

The city’s resolution, which outlines the city’s desire to minimize the number of obstructions and excavations in the right of way, was adapted from a Madison ordinance, he said.

 
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