Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 17:23
Port officials give cold shoulder to fire chief’s request for insurance requirement when issuing permits
Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell on Tuesday asked the Town of Port Washington board to require anyone obtaining a fireworks permit to provide an insurance waiver, saying the power behind some private fireworks shows is substantial.
Mitchell spoke in particular of a private show put on July 4 in the town, where he said the fireworks shot off didn’t look like the explosives that are offered at stands but instead appeared to be more professional pyrotechnics.
But town officials disagreed, saying that such a requirement would keep people from seeking the permits.
Town Supr. Mike Didier called the idea of an insurance requirement a “poison pill.”
“In my opinion, fireworks are as American as apple pie,” he said. “The people applying for permits are trying to be law-abiding citizens. If we require insurance, we’re just going to have people shooting them off illegally.”
In the Town of Cedarburg, where insurance is required for a fireworks permit, no one has sought the permit, Didier said, while the Town of Port issues at least four permits a year.
Most people are shooting off the fireworks they buy at stands, not professional-grade pyrotechnics, Didier added.
But Phil Bruno, who works for a fireworks company and serves as the Port fire department’s fireworks consultant, said even the fireworks sold at stands are more powerful than in the past, Bruno said.
“It’s the equivalent of a stick of dynamite,” he said. “The liability is tremendous.”
Most communities require insurance, Bruno added.
“I think you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liability if you don’t follow a couple steps that are really easy,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it (permits) than just signing a piece of paper and saying, ‘Have fun.’”
Town Chairman Jim Melichar said that when the town fashioned its fireworks permit requirements, there was a debate over whether it was even needed.
The Wisconsin Towns Association has said that if someone takes out a fireworks permit, the township is held harmless, Didier added.
However, he said, the town should amend its fireworks permit application because it does not ask the type and number of fireworks being shot off as required by the state.
In other town news, the board approved a contract with Ayres and Associates to design changes to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail bridge on Highland Road and prepare bidding documents for the work.
The project would eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road by five to six feet and making it safer for both motorists and bicyclists.
The project would also address drainage concerns and ensure an adequate shoulder on the road.
Ayres and Associates will be paid a maximum $15,000 for the work.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 18:01
Tour of cramped quarters leaves aldermen sold on need for more space but wary of potential costs
The Port Washington Fire Department began its campaign to sell the idea of a new fire station Tuesday when it hosted aldermen for a dinner and tour of the firehouse.
And after a tour of the fire station, which holds 17 vehicles packed almost door-to-door, aldermen said they understand the need for a second facility.
“Is it old? Yes. Is it cramped? Definitely,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “But it’s all going to come down to money.”
That sentiment was shared by Ald. Paul Neumyer, who noted that the need for a new firehouse has to be balanced with other priorities.
“Everything in our city is aging — our sewer lines, our roads, our buildings,” he said. “They do need more room, but it always comes down to how do we fund it. We’re well aware of the need. Now we need to figure out where we’re going with our budget.”
The city also needs to find out if Ozaukee County is interested in building a shared facility, he said.
“If we could do something with the county on Highway LL, I think that would be ideal for both of us,” Ald. Kevin Rudser said.
Police and Fire Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said the city will meet with Ozaukee County officials on July 7 to discuss a shared facility, perhaps on county land.
There are three main properties under consideration, he said. They are the former Highway LL ramp north of Highway 33, a portion of the property just north of the Justice Center — both county owned — and the former Flaherty auto dealership on Highway 32, which is privately owned.
“At first blush, it’s probably not very practical, but it’s worth looking at,” Nelson said of the Flaherty property.
The former ramp land, he said, is ideally located, but the county is concerned about giving that up because of its commercial value. And much of the Justice Center land is currently used for soccer fields, although there is a question whether a new firehouse would take up any of that property.
A new firehouse would need about five acres of land, Nelson said.
The centerpiece of Tuesday’s meeting was a tour of the fire station.
“Times have really changed,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said as he talked of the need for additional space for the fire and ambulance services and the dive team.
When the station opened in 1968, he said, firefighters rode to calls on the outside of the trucks. That’s changed, and so has the size and number of vehicles used by the department — equipment that’s stored so close together it can be difficult to open the door of one truck without striking the side of another.
The fire station was also built exclusively for firemen, Mitchell said, but today 16 members of the department are women, and the station lacks facilities for them.
Paramedics weren’t envisioned then, either, and while department members have fashioned a tiny sleeping area for them, it’s inadequate for the future, he said.
The current building is also inefficient, lacks storage space and training areas, and a new building could not only address these needs but also provide additional room for general city storage.
And with an increasing amount of rail traffic through the city, a new fire station could also help decrease response times and ensure easy access to all areas of the city in an emergency, he added.
There was talk of building a second station in the 1990s, Mitchell said, but the city instead opted to construct an addition to the existing firehouse.
“This was probably too small when they moved in,” he said.
Officials stressed that they are not considering abandoning the current firehouse, but augmenting it with a second station.
“We really need to have a nice facility for everyone,” Nelson said. “The intention would be to create a facility that we hope could meet some of Ozaukee County’s needs, too.”
A shared facility might be the best, he said, noting the county is looking at additional space for its emergency government operations. The sheriff’s department is also looking for additional storage space.
Nelson said the new firehouse might also be able to house an indoor firing range for the police department.
The fire department is currently looking into the cost of a study that would look at everything from the department’s needs to the design and cost of a new facility, Mitchell said.
Image information: PORT WASHINGTON Fire Chief Mark Mitchell (left) pointed out the close quarters in the firehouse to Ald. Dave Larson Tuesday while other officials looked on. Photo by Sam Arendt
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 16:57
Freeport concert to highlight downtown celebration that will complement traditional Independence Day events in Port
The Fourth of July will take on a festival feeling in Port Washington this year.
In addition to the traditional 11 a.m. parade, afternoon family activities in Veterans Memorial Park and fireworks at dusk, the day will feature a festival of music in downtown.
To celebrate the Freeport Music Series’ 10th anniversary, founder Bob Mittnacht decided to hold one large concert on Franklin Street instead of the traditional monthly events.
The celebration will be set up much like the annual street festival with two blocks of Franklin Street closed off to accommodate the concert.
“We wanted to do a really big show. This will be a very impressive show, a lot bigger than the typical Freeport concert,” Mittnacht said.
“We wanted to give the community something a little bigger as a thank you for everyone who’s come out and supported us all these years.”
The event will run from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m., when the fireworks are shot off.
The day begins with the hometown parade, which will travel from South Milwaukee Street to Main Street, east to Franklin Street, north to Jackson Street and then east to Veterans Memorial Park.
Following the parade, decorated bikes, wagons and scooters will be judged at the park bandshell.
Kits for decorating bikes are available at Port Washington State Bank’s downtown Port branch.
A bounce house, watermelon seed-spitting contest, music by Will Pfrang and Mackenzie Pauly, food and beverages will be featured in the park until about 2:30 p.m., when the music festival kicks off.
In addition to headliners The Smithereens and Sam Llanas, formerly of the BoDeans, the lineup will include Pfrang, Tommy Keene and Familiar Looking Strangers.
Opening the festival will be Pfrang, a Port Washington singer-songwriter who will perform at 2:30 p.m.
Pfrang has attended the Rocky Mountain Song School and Folks Festival, and has been performing throughout the area for several years.
Keene, a guitarist, singer and songwriter, will perform at 3:30 p.m.
His 1984 extended play recording garnered a four-star review in Rolling Stone magazine and was one of the year’s top independent releases. He’s recorded 10 albums and performed with Velvet Rush and on recordings by the Goo Goo Dolls.
Familiar Looking Strangers, a band hailing from Liverpool, England, will play at 5 p.m.
The band, which has performed in the area over the past couple years, is expected to release new music this year.
Llanas, who will take the stage at 6:30 p.m., is a singer, acoustic guitarist and songwriter who is known for his distinctive voice. He founded Absinthe with Milwaukee musicians Jim Eannelli and Guy Hoffman, formerly of the Violent Femmes.
He is expected to release a new studio recording, “The Whole Night Thru,” this summer.
The Smithereens, a band that was big in the 1980s and early 1990s, will be the headliner, performing from 8 p.m. until the close of the event.
The band, one of the bigger MTV groups, released its first album, “Especially for You,” in 1986. That album included “Blood and Roses” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep.”
The band’s other hits include “Only a Memory,” “House We Used to Live In,” “Drown in My Own Tears” and “A Girl Like You.”
Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the celebration.
For more information on the concert, visit www.freeportmusic.org or call the Port Washington Parks and Recreation Department at 284-5881.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 18:33
Robotics club offers to fix, engineer, make items for the public with high-tech tools
The Port Washington High School PiraTech robotics club has opened up shop for the summer and is standing by to fix, engineer and manufacture everything from lawn mower parts to patio furniture.
PiraTech Manufacturing is a summer school class that sounds like a business, and aside from the fact it can’t charge for its services, it will operate like a lot like one.
“If people need anything fixed or built, they can have students design it, then manufacture it,” said Taylor Last, a teacher in the Port High technology education department who is overseeing the summer program. “People may have a broken lawn mower bracket that needs welding, but how many people have welding equipment? We do.
“I know a lot of people who tinker in their garage but get stuck when they need a certain part like a flange and have no way to make it. We have a full machine shop.
“Or maybe someone wants a piece of outdoor patio furniture, like an end table. We can design and build it in our wood shop.”
The summer school class grew out of the desire to give members of the robotics club more design, engineering and manufacturing experience. By offering their services to the public, students can apply their skills to “real-world” projects while providing a service to the community, Last said.
“We’re looking for projects,” he said. At students’ disposal is all the equipment needed for most jobs — computer-aided design equipment and a 3-D printer, welders, a laser engraver and CNC (computer numerical control) machine.
“We’re trying to find more opportunities for robotics club members to design and produce actual products,” Last said.
Last will be the first contact for “customers,” but after that he wants students to take over and see the projects through from beginning to end.
PiraTech Manufacturing can’t charge for its services because it is a summer school class, Last said, “but we are more than willing to accept donations, and we may try to give people an idea of what the work would cost if we were charging for it.”
The donations will benefit the PiraTech robotics club, which plans to use proceeds to build a work pit complete with tool drawers and tables that they will use to service their robot during competitions.
The robotics club was formed last year at the urging of students who were intrigued by the idea of building robots that compete with machines from other schools in an arena setting at the FIRST Robotics Competition.
Administrators say the club, which complements the Port High science, technology, engineering and manufacturing initiative, has been a success, attracting nearly 30 students and nearly as many mentors — area residents who use their expertise in engineering and manufacturing to guide club members.
Last hopes the PiraTech Manufacturing class keeps robotics club members sharp over the summer. Fifteen students have registered for the summer class, which began Monday and will run for six weeks.
“We might continue the program beyond the six weeks if it’s successful,” he said.
To contact PiraTech Manufacturing about a project, call Last at 268-5688.
While the high school summer school program began this week, middle and elementary school students will report for the first day of the six-week session on Monday, June 23.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Arlan Galarowicz said he expects about 1,200 students to attend summer classes, which range from enrichment courses like fishing, sports and art to classes that reinforce subjects such as math and reading.
A new course that has proven to be extremely popular, Galarowicz said, is Kitchen Chemistry.
“If you think about it, there’s a lot of chemistry that goes into cooking,” he said. “I’m trying to show kids who are preparing to go to the high school that chemistry is nothing to be afraid of. It’s no big deal.”