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Port Washington

Officials sharpen focus on PWHS upgrade options PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 22:15

Administrators tour new, remodeled schools around state to learn what features local makeover could include

    Port Washington High School administrators and staff members are spending the summer doing their homework in preparation for the $45.6 million makeover of their school.

    On Monday, a contingent of 30 people toured new and recently remodeled schools throughout the state to get an idea of what features they want included in a like-new Port High, as well as what pitfalls to avoid.

    “We took a lot of the staff with us because it’s important for them to see what is being done in other schools. There was a lot of excitement and a lot of good ideas,” Principal Eric Burke said. “We saw a lot of things we like, but one of the key questions we had for people at these schools was what did you do that you don’t like.”

    Most notably, the group toured Sun Prairie High School, which was constructed about five years ago after voters passed a $96 million referendum, and Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, which like the proposed Port High project entailed demolishing and rebuilding parts of the school.

    Sun Prairie High School has a striking entryway and open-style cafeteria similar to what is envisioned for Port High, Burke told the school board’s Building and Grounds Committee Monday.

    The school was designed to maximize natural light with windows in every classroom.

    “That’s something we don’t have at Port High,” Burke said. “The use of natural light at both schools was really interesting.”

    He noted that classrooms at Kromrey Middle School have glass doors.

    From an academic standpoint, administrators and teachers were particularly interested in how both schools organized classrooms in pods with shared areas between them, which lend themselves to both collaborative and individual learning.

Breakwater work delayed until next year PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 20:31

Port officials agree with Army Corps’ decision postponing repairs, giving city time to apply for additional grants

    There won’t be any work done on the Port Washington breakwater this summer.

    Although city officials had anticipated work on the steel cell portion of the breakwater would be done by the Army Corps of Engineers beginning in July, Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday that this timeline has changed.

    Officials from the Corps have expressed concern that they may be unable to complete the work this year, leaving a portion of the project in limbo over the winter, Mlada said.

    “If it’s three-quarters done, there’s a feeling it may be worse than if nothing’s done,” he said.    

    That’s a real fear considering the Corps wasn’t slated to begin work until mid to late-July, and if weather delays any earlier projects their crews are working on, the Port project will be moved back, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

    “They (officials at the Corps’ Kewaunee office) feel more comfortable delaying it,” Grams said. “I think in the long run, that’s probably the best option.”

    By delaying the work, Corps officials have told the city they may be able to realize some efficiencies in the work, Mlada said.

    “There are no concerns we’re going to have any overruns,” he added.

    Grams said the city may also get a better project with the delay.

    Extending the project into next year would allow the city to apply for additional grant funds to pay for the work, Mlada said.

    “This gives us another grant cycle to seek more dollars,” he said. “The longer the Corps money is out there the longer we can leverage it.”

    The city has also checked to ensure a delay won’t cause it to lose any of the grant money it has already received, Mlada said.

    In May, the council agreed to spend as much as $280,000 of city money to pay for the $1 million in work that was to be done this year by the Army Corps.

    The remainder of the funding, $720,000, is being funded through grants.

    Grams noted that the delay will allow the city to apply for harbor assistance funds from the Department of Transportation — a program the city qualifies for because it will host the tall ship Denis Sullivan several times this summer.

    City officials have talked to DOT officials administering the program and been told the project is a good fit, Grams said, adding they were urged to apply for the funds.

    There is one other benefit to delaying the project, Mlada said.

    The original schedule would have closed the breakwater much of the summer — peak tourist season, he said.

    If the work is done next year, Corps officials have said construction could begin in May and the breakwater could be open in July, he said.

    Corps officials have assured the city that the structure is sound enough to make it through the winter relatively unscathed, Mlada added.

    “The one variable is that you’re leaving it the way it is over winter. Clearly there’s an impact,” he said. “They feel it’s stable.

    “We’ll hope and pray this winter won’t be too bad.”

    The failing condition of the breakwater has become a major concern of the city in recent years.

    Last year, the Army Corps allocated $1 million to the project — funds that were to be spent replacing the cap, or walkway. However, city officials asked that the money instead be spent replacing armor stone to protect the breakwater from strong lake waves.

    In return, the city agreed to finance the repairs to the cap this year.

    The armor stone has helped significantly over the winter, but the cap atop the structure is falling apart and allowing water inside, where it is destroying the breakwater from the inside out, officials said.

    The Army Corps work this year would have replaced the cap in the steel cell portion of the structure.

    City officials are also working on plans to improve the entry to the breakwater as well as the far east side, near the lighthouse.

Highland Drive work to begin this month PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 June 2015 22:03

Port Town Board hires firm for upgrades that will include replacing bridge

    Work on Highland Drive in the Town of Port Washington is expected to begin in the next two weeks.

    The Town Board paved the way for that work last week when officials awarded a contract for the work to Vinton Construction Co. of Manitowoc.

    The company submitted the low bid of $214,817 for the work.

    Payne and Dolan submitted a bid of $244,588 and Buteyn Peterson Construction Co. of Sheboygan bid $288,389.

    While most of the price within the bids were comparable, the difference was a location charge, Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.

    “Everything else seemed comparable,” he said. “They (Vinton) have been doing a lot of work in the city, so they have the equipment in the area.

    “They’re all reputable companies, and they submitted good bids.”

    The project is estimated to take six weeks, Melichar said, adding the contract requires it be completed by Sept. 30.

    That allows for any unexpected delays and bad weather, he said.

    Highland Drive will be closed throughout the project, although motorists will be able to get to Nisleit’s Country Inn and Town Hall.

    The road project was spurred by the fact that concrete on the Highland Road overpass is spalling and small pieces have fallen onto the trail below, prompting Ozaukee County and the town to take action to replace the structure — a large box culvert that serves as a bridge.

    The project will eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road and making it safer for both motorists and bicyclists.

    The town’s plan calls for the bridge to be replaced with a smaller, 36-inch culvert.

    The new culvert would be buried, creating an at-grade road that would be about five feet lower than the current roadway, officials said.

    The road crests in the area, making it difficult for drivers heading south to see bikers stopped along Highland Road, officials said.

    The town had budgeted $266,000 for the project, Melichar said.

    Any unexpended funds will be put toward crack filling, chip sealing and other routine road maintenance this year, he said. Any money left over will be set aside for construction on Green Bay Road next year.

City set to move forward with subdivision project PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 20:32

Port officials reaffirm commitment to Cedar Vineyard development, continue to prepare financing district

    Port Washington officials on Tuesday reiterated their support for the proposed Cedar Vineyard project, with Mayor Tom Mlada issuing a letter expressing the city’s continuing commitment to moving plans for the south-side subdivision forward.

    The city is moving ahead with the tax incremental financing district needed to pay for much of the infrastructure to support the development, having recently received final design and cost estimates for the work, City Administrator Mark Grams told the Common Council.

    “Now, I think we’re in the ballpark with the TIF financing,” he said. “We’re still fine-tuning some of the numbers.”

    The TIF district is likely to be finalized in July or August, Grams said.

    In addition, he said, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee added $33 million to the stewardship grant program — a program Gov. Scott Walker had proposed effectively ending all funding for at least the next decade.

    “How that affects our project, we don’t know,” Grams said.

    Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington, along with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, are seeking a grant to help buy 101 acres of the 227-acre Cedar Vineyard property to create a nature preserve that would encompass the edge of the bluff and Cedar Gorge.

    Shawn Graff, director of the Land Trust, and Andrew Struck of the Ozaukee County Parks and Planning Department “feel really good about our ability to procure some of those funds,” Mlada said.

    Those two components — the TIF district and commitments to buy the nature preserve land — are the major hurdles to be completed before the Highview Group can buy the land for the project, developer Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, told aldermen.

    “There’s been a lot of work done behind the scenes,” Swarthout said. “We have a financial partner in place.”

    A market study has been completed, he said, and it shows that the 73 home sites could be purchased within three years instead of the four years indicated in a preliminary analysis.

    “The market is coming back in a big way,” Swarthout said.

    Nine people have reserved lots in the subdivision even though there’s been no advertising of the project, Swarthout added. Three of the potential buyers are from out of state, he said, and the buyers span the ages, ranging from a family with an 18-month-old child to a couple in their early 70s.

    Steve and Maria Johnson, who own Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee and Door 44 Winery in Sturgeon Bay and would create the vineyard and winery that encompasses much of the Cedar Vineyard development, have told him they anticipate the Port Washington facility would generate more income — and sales tax revenue — here than in their other wineries, Swarthout said.

    “No one is more anxious to start moving dirt and close on a property,” he said.

    Once the TIF vote is taken and the county votes to commit funding for the nature preserve — something county leaders have said will occur after the TIF is approved — Highview Group will purchase the property from Waukesha State Bank.

    “We’d like to get a vote as soon as possible,” Swarthout said, adding he could envision closing on the land purchase as early as July.

    Waukesha State Bank acquired the land after foreclosing. VK Development, the previous owner, had proposed a massive development on the property more than a decade ago but never moved forward with its plans.

    The city and Swarthout were expected to update the Ozaukee County Board on the subdivision work Wednesday.

    “We’ve got a lot of people over there who support this and want to keep it moving forward,” Ald. Dan Becker, who is also a county supervisor, said. “I like that progress continues to be made, the dominoes continue to fall.”

    He noted that the county has enough sponsors of the original resolution supporting purchase of the nature preserve to pass the funding measure.

    “If you want to talk about a return on investment, there’s nothing that comes close to this,” Becker said, citing the fact the project is sensitive to the environment, ensures public access to the beach, offers high-end, low density development and will bring in significant sales tax revenue.

    “Truly, we can think of no better project to serve as a gateway to our great city,” Mlada said. “This is not your ordinary residential development.”

City set to begin marketing lakefront lot PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 17:39

Requests for proposals for Washington St. parcel resume after completion of environmental study

    The effort to sell a city-owned lakefront parking lot in downtown Port Washington will begin in earnest again next month.

    Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told the Community Development Authority last week that a request for proposals for the property off Washington Street is being finalized now that a second-phase environmental study is complete.

    Konicek Environmental, the firm that conducted the study, found “a little of this, a little bit of that,” Tetzlaff said. “It’s not alarming.”

    The firm recommended that any soil that is disturbed by construction — perhaps of a lower level — be cleaned, he said.

    But, Tetzlaff said, company officials don’t recommend that the city clean up the site.

    “Why would the city want to do something? If we don’t get a buyer, it’ll stay a parking lot,” he said.

    The amount of cleanup recommended will depend on how much excavation a buyer plans to do, Tetzlaff added.

    Because of that, Konicek recommended that the city tell potential developers of its findings and let them decide what to do, he said.

    “It’s not as big a deal (to clean a site) as it used to be,” Tetzlaff said. “It will likely be reflected in the price.”    

    A downtown redevelopment plan created last year earmarked the parking lot at the north end of the north slip for a destination development to draw people to the lakefront.

    But a number of residents opposed the city’s plan to sell the lot, saying it is invaluable lakefront property that should be kept for the public.

    Officials note that the city owns miles of lakefront land. This site, they said, offers the community the opportunity to make property available for a project that could spur redevelopment throughout the downtown.

    The plan to sell the lot seemed to be on the fast track until officials decided to conduct environmental studies on the property, which was home to industrial buildings — most notably the Wisconsin Chair Co. — for decades before it became a parking lot.

    While officials originally hoped to receive proposals from developers by June 5, Tetzlaff told the CDA Monday that the new timetable calls for the Common Council to approve the request for proposals on June 2.

    The request would then be sent out by June 5, with a presubmission meeting with developers held on June 29, Tetzlaff said. Proposals would be due Aug. 5.

    The CDA would vet the proposals and make a recommendation by Aug. 17, with the Plan Commission reviewing any preliminary plans and designs for the development on Aug. 20.

    Negotiations with the developer would be held after that, with the preliminary date for Common Council action on the sale coming on Sept. 1, Tetzlaff said.

    John Sigwart, 230 Theis St., asked the CDA if it would be willing to move the timetable up if only one developer attended the presubmission meeting, which officials have said would be mandatory.

    Developers Chris Long of Madison and Gertjan van den Broek of Port Washington have already approached the city about the land, saying they want to create a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall on the property.

    Their proposal was enthusiastically greeted by aldermen, and Sigwart noted that the duo wants to complete their development in 2017 to celebrate the centennial of the founding of Paramount Records.

    Accelerating the timetable could help them meet that goal, Sigwart said.

    This would be possible, the CDA members agreed, but they said they expect more than one developer to seek to buy the land.

    “I think it’s in the city’s best interests that there be more than one,” member Jason Wittek said.

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