Staying Grafton strong during tough times

Chamber, village, town and school leaders underscore determined community efforts made throughout pandemic
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Adapting to the ever-changing times during the coronavirus pandemic was the main theme officials spoke about during the annual Grafton State of the Community presentation last week.

“We became experts in pivoting,” Chamber President Mary Karnitz told listeners. “2020 has been a challenging year for our community, and as we move into 2021, I hope we can find our new normal.”

The event was streamed online Wednesday, Jan. 27, and featured   presentations by Grafton School Supt. Jeff Nelson, Village President Jim Brunnquell and Town Chairman Lester Bartel.

Nelson said the Grafton School District’s mantra this year is “Stay Safe to Stay Open.” He credited his staff, teachers and families for maintaining health protocols that have allowed district schools to remain open and noted that the district’s one-to-one Google Chrome books initiative has helped maintain synchronous learning for students unable to attend class in person.

Nelson said the district allocated $770,000 in its budget to pay for new classroom technology and cleaning equipment to keep the schools operating.

Roughly 86% of the student body chose to attend school in-person, Nelson said.  Classrooms are equipped with microphones and cameras to facilitate learning for students at home.

During the pandemic, Brunnquell said, the village set up an emergency loan fund to help keep several businesses afloat.

“The idea is working with our business community to keep those businesses viable,” he said, noting a recent survey revealed  that nearly half of the businesses in the village plan to add more employees this year.

Within the last year, the village has experienced commercial growth in the Grafton Commons and residential growth in several subdivisions, Brunnquell said.

Brunnqell said the village is in the process of redeveloping vacant sites such as the former Clark gas station downtown. Although companies such as Rexnord FlatTop Conveying Solutions and Calibre Inc. ceased operations last year, village officials are working with prospective tenants to fill those business spaces, he added.

Bartel said about 60 families moved into the town in 2020 and about a dozen homes have been built.

He said business development in the town is growing, citing a proposed business-condo complex, expansion at a local storage business and a new Valvoline outlet planned along Port Washington Road.

With people staying at home during the pandemic, Bartel said, more people are utilizing local trails and parks such as Lion’s Den Gorge and the canoe launch.

Karnitz said several community events such as Ladies Night Out, Giro d’ Grafton and the Thanksgiving holiday parade that are facilitated by the Chamber were canceled this year due to safety precautions.

Although those events were called off, the Chamber was able to create a Home for the Holidays campaign that included a house-decorating contest, commemorative parade DVD and dessert cookbook.

The Chamber was able to maintain its Young Professionals networking gatherings by hosting online discussions and socially distanced get-togethers such as a parking lot ice cream party at Centennial Park in the fall.

“We made it through 2020, and we hope 2021 will be a better year for us all,” Karnitz said.

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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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