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Bomb threat forces evacuation of Port middle school PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 18:52

Students moved to nearby churches after TJ receives same call that cleared schools around the country Monday

Thomas Jefferson Middle School students and most staff members were evacuated Monday after the Port Washington school received a bomb threat — the same computer-generated hoax that forced school evacuations around the country and in Great Britain, authorities said.

A school secretary answered a call at 11:40 a.m. and reported that a computer-generated voice indicated there was a bomb in the school and children would be hurt, according to the Port Washington Police Department.

“There was an indication that students were targeted, so that certainly added to the seriousness of the threat,” Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said. 

Five officers responded to the school and searched outside areas.

“We didn’t want kids walking into an ambush,” Principal Arlan Galarowicz said. “We had to make sure there weren’t people hiding in the trees and bushes waiting to hurt our students as they came out.”

Once officers determined the school grounds were safe, the school initiated an evacuation procedure it practiced in fall. Fifth and sixth-graders and their teachers walked about a block to St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, while seventh and eighth-graders and their teachers walked about three blocks to Christ the King Lutheran Church.

It was the first time the school, which has an enrollment of 775 students, was forced to evacuate because of a threat of violence, Galarowicz said.

“We practiced this in fall hoping we’d never have to use it,” he said. “You wish you wouldn’t have to worry about this sort of thing happening, but in this day and age, you have to be prepared. We were very prepared, and I’m extremely proud of our students and staff.”

Officers and custodians then conducted a room-to-room search of the school.

“Staff members accompany officers because they know the school and can recognize if something is out of place,” Hingiss said. 

Students returned to the building at 1:15 p.m.

“This is the first time in my 42-year career that I had to do this,” Galarowicz said. 

The school notified parents of the evacuation via email at about 2:10 p.m. Galarowicz said he received one complaint because parents weren’t notified as soon as the threat was received.

“When we first got the call, we really didn’t know what we were dealing with, and we didn’t want to panic kids or parents,” he said. “The last thing we needed was to have hundreds of parents trying get to school at the same time police were searching the building. We can handle making sure all our kids are safe, but I don’t think we could have handled that. It would have been a disaster.

“We sent out an email to parents as fast as we could put one together as soon as the kids were back in the building.”

Authorities reported that on Monday similar calls were made to schools elsewhere in Wisconsin and in Iowa, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, as well as in Great Britain.

Experts call these hoaxes “swatting,” and say they are often sophisticated schemes that target schools and police departments and are difficult to track down.

“The really sad thing is that because this was an automated call, we could receive another one tomorrow and would have to do the same thing,” Galarowicz said. “It is kind of a sad comment on our society.” 

 
City moves one step closer to owning lighthouse PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 17:51

Port’s application to acquire landmark backed by National Park Service panel but final approval still pending

Port Washington’s quest to own the lighthouse that is a symbol of the city took a step forward Monday when officials learned their application for the structure was approved by a National Park Service committee.

“That’s the good news,” Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday. 

The bad news, he said, is that the recommendation now has to go through three layers of the federal government.

“They’re saying the process now could take one to two years,” Mlada said, adding that officials with the Park Service have told him they have never seen a recommendation on ownership overturned as it goes through the process.

Although he conceded the additional time is discouraging, Mlada said it also gives the city time to develop a preservation and maintenance plan it can implement when it receives ownership of the lighthouse.

“This is a really important historic asset for the city,” he said. “We want to showcase it.”

The city is continuing to work on improvements to the breakwater leading to the lighthouse, Mlada added.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ work on the steel cell section of the breakwater is on schedule, he said, and is expected to be completed by June 30 — just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“It’s really going to transform the face of that structure,” Mlada said.

Work on the entrance to the breakwater will then begin in August, Mlada said, noting the city is currently seeking bids for that portion of the project.

The Common Council on Tuesday approved a $49,000 contract with Foth Infrastructure and Environment to prepare an application for a recreational boating fund grant from the Wisconsin Waterways Commission for repairs to the far east end of the breakwater.

Ron French of Foth told aldermen that the application, which is due June 1, will seek $400,000 to $600,000 from the agency, roughly 20% of the estimated $3.1 million cost for the gateway project.

As part of the submission, he said, divers on Monday will inspect the underwater portions of the east end of the breakwater.

When Ald. Doug Biggs questioned how likely the city is to receive a grant, French estimated it is 85% to 100% certain the city will get something, even if it’s not the full amount.

The city will also be submitting an application for an emergency Harbor Assistance Program grant for that portion of the breakwater, French said. 

That application will seek roughly $2.6 million for the project, he said.

Mlada said the city is seeking an emergency grant because that portion of the breakwater was considered in “failed” condition when the Army Corps of Engineers inspected it in 2013.

The goal, Mlada said, is for the city to receive enough funding that it can complete the entire breakwater project by the end of 2017.

Ald. Bill Driscoll said that it’s important for the city to continue pushing forward, noting that this final phase will also include some work on the south breakwater, which he said was in the worst shape when the Corps of Engineers inspected it.

“I think we’re pushing it with that,” he said. “It’s the only part that’s been ignored.”

 
Residents give city new ideas for upgrading Coal Dock Park PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 18:35

Brainstorming session marks start of studies into possible lakefront amenities, programs

Three years after Coal Dock Park opened, Port Washington officials are beginning to take a new look at the park with an eye toward future improvements.

About 35 people gathered at City Hall last week to begin the process, brainstorming about amenities and programs that could build on what is already there.

Their ideas ranged from the practical — bathrooms and increased parking — to the more whimsical — docking a retired coal dock boat there.

Mayor Tom Mlada said the meeting was intended to start a renewed planning process for the park.

“We need to take the initial vision for the park and build on that,” he said. “There’s so much potential there. Let’s start dreaming.”

After all, dreaming is how the park got started.

The city converted the 13-acre northern portion of the former coal dock, which many considered an eyesore, into a gem of a park and the 7-acre south dock into a bird sanctuary.

That first vision for the park, approved in 2009, was a 10-year plan that included everything from walking trails to a community center, themed interactive garden area, performance space, observation tower, deep-water docks and a floating pier.

When the park opened in 2013, the city had placed much of the basic infrastructure there, Mlada said. 

“I think the thought back then was, let’s live with it for a couple years and then see what’s needed,” he said. “We wanted to try and get a sense of how it would be used.

“Now we have to look at it and decide, where do we go from here.”

There is still some infrastructure that needs to be completed, Mlada said, including the railing along the promenade and electrical systems to support festivals and events.

But now, he said, is the time to look forward and plan again for the future.

“That was a 2020 plan. We’re halfway there,” Mlada said.

“Do you have unique family gathering areas? Do you have a bandshell? Do you have a floating pier? How do you connect the park to downtown? 

“This is the time to start going down the path.”

The city needs to consider such things as whether a building will be constructed at the park, Mlada said, noting that could be done in partnership with entities such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is considering creation of a shipwreck sanctuary between Port Washington and Two Rivers, Discovery World or Concordia University.

“The hope had been the park would become a four-season destination,” Mlada noted. “The reality is, then you would need a building.”

A bridge connecting Coal Dock Park with downtown was a consideration when the park opened, and it remained so for the group assembled last week.

But that’s an expensive project, one the city may not be able to afford for the time being, Mlada said.

“The bridge is obviously a nice idea,” he said. “From a cost standpoint, it might not be practical.

“I understand it feels like a little bit of a walk-around (to get from the park to downtown). But I do think there are cost effective ways to get the message across with signage.”

Mlada said he plans to take ideas proposed by the group last week to the Coal Dock Committee in the next month or so. 

“I think it could bring some new energy to the group,” he said, noting the committee has not met in a year or more.

 
Cedar Vineyard subdivision plan moves forward PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Thursday, 05 May 2016 20:11

Project on Port’s south side takes another step with commission’s approval of preliminary plat and zoning 

The proposed Cedar Vineyard subdivision on Port Washington’s south side took another step forward last week as the Plan Commission approved a preliminary plat and zoning for the development.

The actions are contingent on a number of things, chief among them the Highview Group — which is developing the subdivision — buying the property.

Typically, rezoning and approval of a preliminary plat would occur after a developer has acquired the land, City Planner Randy Tetzlaff said.

But in this case, the bank that is financing the development is requiring those actions occur before the developer closes on the purchase, he said.

“We cannot close without the rezoning,” Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, told the Plan Commission.

Waukesha State Bank, which currently owns the land, doesn’t want it rezoned until it is sold, Swarthout added.

The solution, he said, is to make the actions — the sale and rezoning — concurrent.

“It will all happen at the same time, within minutes,” he said.

Tetzlaff said, “We want to say the city is committed to this (subdivision). That’s why we’re doing this now.”

The plan calls for 82 single-family home sites that vary in size, as well as business zoning for a winery that will be planted in stages over five years.

Swarthout noted that the first vines have been ordered and will be delivered in early June.

The winery will have a 100-car parking lot that will also serve a 101-acre nature preserve, as well as a public restroom that can be used by customers and visitors to the preserve.

Swarthout said he plans to close the purchase soon.

“It is our intention to start construction almost immediately,” he added.

At the closing, Swarthout said, the nature preserve will in turn be purchased by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust through grants and contributions from Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington.

“We will possess the county property for minutes, then it will be turned over,” he said.

 The commission’s action was also contingent on a proper legal description being obtained for each zoning area and that it meet all state and municipal codes.

The city’s action is among the final steps needed to approve the subdivision, Tetzlaff added.

“We’re finally near the finish line,” he said.

 

 
Marshfield High principal picked to lead TJMS in Port PDF Print E-mail
Community
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 19:09

Former Homestead official to replace longtime middle school chief Galarowicz  

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday selected Marshfield High School Principal Steve Sukawaty to succeed Arlan Galarowicz as principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Sukawaty, 52, a graduate of Slinger High School and former middle school teacher and guidance counselor, will begin work at the Port Washington school on July 1.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about this opportunity,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

Supt. Michael Weber said it takes a special breed of educator to work with middle school students, and the 16-member interview team is confident the district has found just such a person in Sukawaty.

“Working at the middle school level is a little different,” Weber said. “Children are growing. They’re maturing and they are excitable, so you really have to love the middle school level to work there.

“Steve’s passion has always been and continues to be at the middle school level.”

Sukawaty, who was an assistant principal at Homestead High School in Mequon from 2007 to 2012 before leaving for Marshfield,  said he’s happy to be returning to his middle school roots.

“Being around middle school kids is so revitalizing,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be returning to that level.”

Sukawaty said he’s also fortunate to be coming to the Port Washington-Saukville School District.

“Thomas Jefferson and the school district have a great reputation,” he said. “But what sealed the deal for me was my tour of the middle school. There’s just such a feeling of energy in the students and the staff.

“Mr. Galarowicz and his staff must feel really proud.”

In its recommendation to the board, the interview team, which consisted of administrators, School Board members, middle school staff members and a parent, said Sukawaty’s references praised his ability to work with others.

“All the references consistently praised Steve for his ability to get along with everyone, his passion and caring attitude toward students and his strong relationship skills,” the team wrote.

Sukawaty has a bachelor’s degree in social studies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a master’s degree in school guidance from UW-Whitewater and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

He taught middle school social studies in the Racine Unified School District and Kettle Moraine School District in Dousman and was a middle school guidance counselor at Steffen Middle School in Mequon before becoming a high school administrator.

Sukawaty said he and his wife Lisa, a special education teacher, and their daughter Nya, a fifth-grader, will move to Port Washington.

“I want to weave ourselves into the fabric of this community,” he said.

Sukawaty will replace Galarowicz, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 22 years at the helm of the middle school. 

He will join longtime Assistant Principal Liz Ferger, who did not apply for the principal job, on the school’s administrative team.

Sukawaty will be paid $110,000 a year, less than the $120,000 Galarowicz earns.

He will also be paid a stipend of $4,400 a year to oversee the district’s elementary and middle school summer school program, although the stipend will be less this year because much of the work will be finished by the time he starts his job.

“In every place I’ve worked, I’ve seen excellence,” Sukawaty said. “I know excellence when I see it, and Thomas Jefferson and the Port-Saukville District have got it.”

 
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