Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 18:28
Aldermen praise restructured agreement they say will improve relationship between city, downtown group
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday approved an operating plan for the Business Improvement District that aldermen said will lead to better relations with Port Main Street Inc., which is funded in large part by the BID.
“I really think some real progress has been made,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “I like what I see here in the operating plan.
“What happened a few months ago with Main Street financially is unfortunate. When bad things happen, there are consequences. But I feel some time has passed. It would be nice to have some healing.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich added, “I think we can finally move on.”
Relations between the city and Main Street deteriorated after Rock the Harbor, a Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration in August that plunged the organization into debt, even though festival organizers had pledged not to use any Main Street funds for the event.
Aldermen initially called for the Main Street board to resign, and ultimately voted not to make the city’s annual $25,000 contribution to the organization in 2014.
But the proposed BID plan calls for enough oversight of Main Street that officials said they may reinstate the city contribution to the organization in the future.
“BID and Main Street are important to our city and our downtown,” Becker said. “Hopefully the city will continue to fund Main Street down the road.”
The BID operating plan calls for the organization to retain about $5,000 of the $60,000 it receives from the city through a tax on downtown properties, with the remaining money used to finance Main Street’s operations.
However, the plan also requires Main Street to address the $5,000 deficit expected at the end of 2013 and to work more closely with the BID board than it has in the past.
“The issues the council had concerns about, I think, have been addressed,” City Administrator Mark Grams said, noting the BID board is committed to keeping a close watch on Main Street’s finances and its review process is a good one.
“I think the BID board has developed a good operating plan, and I think the Main Street board has done a good job, too.”
“I’m encouraged by what I see here,” Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee, said. “I think it’s a good, solid plan.”
Had it been in place originally, Larson said, many of the issues that plagued Main Street this past year likely could have been avoided.
“I really appreciate the hard work the entire BID board has put into creating this plan. The board took to heart the
council’s concerns,” Ald. Doug Biggs, a member of the Finance and License Committee, said. “I’m very impressed by the work they did.”
Larson said the agreement paves the way for the city, BID and Main Street to work together in the future.
“We have to remember we’re all on the same page when it comes to where we want to go,” he said. “We as a council need to be part of the solution. We have the same goal of improving downtown Port Washington. I look forward to an improved relationship between all three groups.
“Thank you for keeping this thing going.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 19:28
Business district agrees to provide $55,000 for downtown group but wants to know how annual funds will be spent
The Port Washington Business Improvement District board last week approved a 2014 operating plan that continues funding for Port Main Street Inc, but with closer oversight by the BID.
“Our budget is Main Street’s budget,” President Neil Tiziani said, noting the plan calls for the BID to provide $55,000 for Main Street. “We’re not trying to meddle in your affairs. We’re not trying to dictate how you use the funds. We want to understand where the funds are going.
“We would like to play a supporting role. This, in fact, is a partnership. We’re all part of the same district. I think we can help each other. ”
But the money doesn’t come without conditions that Main Street must meet to receive the money, which will be dispersed in quarterly installments, the board agreed.
First and foremost, Main Street must maintain its agreement with the state and remain a Main Street community, members said.
“That state program is something we believe is important,” Tiziani said, especially the four subcommittees that direct much of Main Street’s actions and the volunteers who comprise them. “There are great things coming from those subcommittees.”
BID board member Brian Barber concurred, saying, “There’s no way we could replicate the amazing job Main Street has done with all the events.”
State Main Street officials agree that Port has a good program and has done great things for the community, he added.
Main Street needs to create an annual budget and strategic plan to be reviewed by the BID board by Dec. 1, the board agreed, and it must have a plan to make up for its $5,000 deficit in that budget.
“We want to make sure by the end of 2014 there is no more deficit,” Tiziani said. “I think we can do that without much difficulty. There are a lot of ways for us to get $5,000.”
Main Street must have a recruitment committee to recruit a new director in place by Dec. 1 — something Main Street officers said has already been done— and give the BID board a copy of the job description and compensation package.
BID members will be able to ask questions about the position and provide feedback, but will not play an active role in the selection or hiring process, the board agreed.
“That’s going to be the most important thing you do in the next year,” BID board member Ross Leinweber said.
The Main Street board is expected to play an active role in the group’s committees during the job search and continue this role after the new director is hired, the BID board agreed. At least one board member should serve on each subcommittee.
Each quarter, a member of one of the four subcommittees will give a report to the BID board on the group’s actions and plans.
One member of the Main Street board — it can be Scott Huebner, who is a BID board member — and the new director should present current and accurate financial statements to the BID board each month, along with progress reports, updates on volunteers and fundraising efforts, compliance with state Main Street requirements and reports on the committees and their efforts.
They will also present any funding requests, complete with information on how the money will be used and the expected benefit.
Each quarter, the BID and Main Street board should meet to discuss performance, expectations and other matters.
Huebner, who was instrumental in starting the Main Street program five years ago, said these are basic rules that should have been put in place back then.
“I think this would have been great to have from the start,” he said, adding it would have prevented some of the distrust and problems that exist between the groups.
“The intent is communication,” added BID board member Gertjan van den Broek. “Many minds are better than fewer.”
Tiziani said the BID board will serve as a bridge between the city and Main Street, providing a line of communication that will help the downtown district grow and bring the city’s annual funding contribution back.
The city’s 2014 budget does not include the annual $25,000 contribution to Main Street. Instead, the money was earmarked for economic development. That doesn’t mean the funds won’t be available if there is an initiative both groups agree on, city officials said.
The intent of the operating plan is to move past the problems that have plagued Main Street this year, BID board members said.
“One thing we have to do is move on, and this will help with that,” BID board member Wayne Chrusciel said, adding the terms of the agreement are not unusual.
Main Street is important to the entire community, Huebner added.
“Main Street is bigger than downtown,” he said. “It affects the entire city.”
The Main Street operating plan, which will be considered by the Common Council Dec. 3, was approved 6-2, with Chrusciel and Mark Schowalter dissenting.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 18:53
Port council approves $250,000 project that includes widening cluttered, unsightly path around sewage plant
Port Washington officials on Tuesday endorsed a plan to beautify the entrance to the city’s north beach and make it more accessible before next summer.
“I think this is something to get excited about,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “We’re addressing things people have talked about for years.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich agreed, calling the project “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“I think this is a great project, one we need to embrace given the lake is such an asset for us,” he said.
For years, residents have complained about the fact they had to walk a narrow path around the wastewater treatment plant to get to the north beach.
While the city can’t realistically move the plant — something Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven estimated would cost $80 million — it can make the walk more pleasant, he said.
“A $250,000 investment could potentially make a world of difference,” he said, noting the money will come from the wastewater utility’s reserve funds.
The project calls for eliminating the gate east of the parking lot near the plant and relocating the fence north of the lot.
The city would eliminate the signs and existing chain-link and barbed-wire fencing near the harborwalk.
To widen the walkway, making it accessible to people in wheelchairs and families with strollers and wagons, the city would remove the existing fence and install a decorative fence closer to the plant, widening the path by about 10 feet.
The new path would be wide enough that police could drive a squad car onto the beach in case of an emergency, Vanden Noven said.
The existing western walkway would become a secondary entrance to the beach to be used if the east path is blocked. An ornamental gate would help mark the entrance to this walkway.
The Common Council agreed to hire the Milwaukee-based firm of Clark-Dietz Engineers, which will partner with SAA Design Group, to design the improvements for $26,400.
The contract calls for a design charrette, a one-on-one meeting with “stakeholders,” such as wastewater plant employees, emergency responders and beach-goers, to be held, as well as a public information meeting.
The project is expected to go out for bids by spring so work can be done before summer, Vanden Noven said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 19:17
Works committee endorses project that calls for removing fences, expanding walkways
Port Washington’s Board of Public Works on Tuesday endorsed a plan to improve access to the north beach by beautifying and expanding the walkways leading to it.
“We should try to make access to the beach something people will enjoy, not endure,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said. “We should invite people to the beach and highlight our walkway along the lake.
“The idea is to get a move on and ideally build this before next summer.”
The current east walkway doesn’t say “Welcome to the north beach,” he said, but instead declares, “This isn’t where I should be.”
The plan calls for making the east sidewalk around the wastewater plant the main entrance to the beach by removing much of the chain link-and-barbed wire fencing, widening the walkway by 10 feet and perhaps removing the lightpoles that currently punctuate the path.
The path would be wide enough that police could drive a squad car onto the beach in case of an emergency, Vanden Noven said.
To ensure security at the wastewater treatment plant, ornamental fencing would be used, primarily on the far east and north ends of the walkway, he added.
“I think removing the prison fence will change the perspective immediately,” board member Jason Wittek said.
A direct route from the parking lot to the walkway would also be created, making it easier for people to find the sidewalk, Vanden Noven said.
The mishmash of existing signs at the south end of the walkway also would be removed.
“What a great idea,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the board, said. “Widening the path there so people don’t have to just squeeze by is a great idea.”
The existing western walkway, which is difficult to find and poorly identified, would become the secondary access, Vanden Noven said. The existing chain link-and-barbed wire fence would be moved and an ornamental gate added.
While many people have suggested that the city move the wastewater treatment plant off the lakefront, that’s cost prohibitive, Vanden Noven said, estimating the price tag at $80 million.
“For a fraction of that cost, we can maybe not disguise the plant but make it blend in better and improve access to the beach,” he said.
In 1992, when the plant was expanded, lake levels were high and there was virtually no sandy beach north of the facility, making access an afterthought at best, Vanden Noven said.
But today, there is a wide beach north of the plant. Although the city has worked to improve access to it, most recently building a public staircase from Upper Lake Park, none of the existing walkways is handicapped accessible.
“I think this is a great idea at a millifraction of the cost of moving the plant,” Mayor Tom Mlada told the board, adding the plan balances plant operations with public access to the beach. “The bang you get for your buck is profound.
“You can see the way this would be transformational. And to get it done before next summer would be huge.”
The city could tap the wastewater utility’s reserve fund for the estimated $250,000 needed for the project, Vanden Noven said.
That cost, however, does not include the cost of rebuilding a retaining wall that runs along the western path, nor the cost of painting a mural on the tanks at the treatment plant, he said.
The proposed changes would emphasize the lakefront while minimizing the effect of the wastewater treatment plant, Vanden Noven said. “This says this is a beach entrance that has access to a wastewater treatment plant (as a secondary purpose),” he said — not a plant that just happens to have a beach walkway around it.
The board recommended hiring the Milwaukee-based firm of Clark-Dietz Engineers for $26,400 to design the improvements — something the Common Council will consider when it meets Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Clark-Dietz would partner with SAA Design Group, which worked on Rotary Park, to do the work, Vanden Noven said.
The companies would consider not only the concept endorsed by the board but other designs as well, he said.
“These are just my ideas,” Vanden Noven said. “There may well be other, better ones out there.”
The contract calls for a design charrette, a one-on-one meeting with “stakeholders,” such as wastewater plant employees, emergency responders and beach-goers, to be held, as well as a public information meeting, Vanden Noven said.
According to a preliminary timetable, there would be a project kickoff meeting in early December. The design charrette could also be held in December.
Concept drawings and alternatives would be presented to the city in January, and the final project sent out for bids in February or March.
This isn’t the only measure the city would take to improve the waterfront next year.
Vanden Noven said the city plans to plant some low-growing sumacs and other plantings near the top of the bluff to screen the wastewater treatment plant from visitors parking in the lot above the facility.
Image Information: THE NARROW PATH that leads along the east side of the Port Washington wastewater treatment plant to the north beach could be replaced by a wider, more welcoming walkway by next summer if a recommendation by the Board of Public Works is approved by the Common Council next week.
Photo by Sam Arendt