Repair of Port High bleachers can’t wait for study

District will try to have failing football field stands fixed by start of season but says temporary seating may be needed

A CONTRACTOR working on a ramp for people with disabilities recently discovered that erosion has exposed and damaged the concrete supports for the bleachers on the east side of the Port Washington High School football field where home fans sit. The bleachers will likely be closed until they can be repaired. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A Port Washington-Saukville School Board committee on Monday recommended the district award a $26,000 contract for an outdoor facilities study, but one project that can’t wait for that analysis is the high school’s failing football field bleachers.

“We’ll probably have to shut the bleachers down until further notice,” Mel Nettesheim, the district’s director of business services, told the Building and Grounds Committee.

Whether repairs to the bleachers on the east side of the Port Washington High School football field, which are used by home fans, can be completed in time for the start of the season next month will depend on the extent of the work that is needed and whether a contractor is immediately available.

“Our hope is to make the  repairs so the bleachers can be used this fall, but that’s if we can find a contractor to do the work,” Nettesheim said. “That’s very hopeful. We may have to make alternative arrangements.”

Those could include erecting temporary bleachers in front of the current ones or using the bleachers on the west side to provide seating for both Port High fans and those of visiting teams, Nettesheim said.

“Maybe we’ll just play away a little more at the beginning of the season,” she said.

The problem was discovered recently when a bleacher expert designing a ramp for people with disabilities at the north end of the stands noticed that the concrete pilings that anchor the bleachers to the base of the hill behind them are exposed and in some cases failing.

“The bleachers are on a steep hill and there has been erosion that has exposed the foundation, which in some places is no longer even in the ground,” Nettesheim said.

The district is seeking proposals to both repair and replace the bleachers, and Nettesheim said she has alerted contractors to the fact the district may have a project that needs to be completed quickly.

“They (contractors) said we’d be a priority, but at the end of the day we’re at their mercy,” she said.

District officials have long talked about the need to replace the aging bleachers, which were part of a plan to overhaul outdoor Port High athletic facilities at a cost of nearly $8 million.

That plan, which became a focus of the district shortly after the approval of a $49.4 million referendum in 2015 that did not include money for outdoor athletic facilities, called for artificial turf football and baseball fields, an eight-lane running track, a new concession stand and restrooms, an access road and handicap-accessible football field bleachers.

The district was counting on the PWSSD Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit the school system, to raise the lion’s share of the money for the improvements, but that didn’t happen and the only project that was completed was the football field.

Now the district will rely on a new outdoor facilities study — one that examines the district’s outdoor spaces at all its schools — to identify and prioritize improvements.

The Building and Grounds Committee recommended Monday that the district hire Rettler Corp., a Stevens Point landscape design and architectural firm, to conduct the study, which in addition to examining all outdoor spaces in the district will also focus on the aging District Aquatic Center at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Rettler’s bid of $26,000 was less than half the cost of studies proposed by Graef and Vanderwalle & Associates, which bid $56,081 and $56,361, respectively.

“All three companies are beyond qualified,” Nettesheim said, adding that Rettler was the recommendation of the panel that interviewed the companies. That panel included Nettesheim, Port High Athletic Director Nate Hinze and Facilities and Operations Supr. Steve Gutherie.

Rettler has worked with other large school districts in the area, including Nicolet, and recently completed a comprehensive park plan for the City of Port Washington, so it is familiar with the community, Nettesheim said.

A key component of the process will be a series of community meetings at which Rettler will seek input from residents.

“That will help us determine how one need compares to another, because we may have just as much need or even more for an accessible playground at Lincoln Elementary School than we do for a new running track at the high school,” Nettesheim said.

The community meetings will likely be held in fall and the study completed in January, Nettesheim said.

The School Board will consider the recommendation to hire Rettler next month.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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