Monthly Archives: February 2012

Great Turnout At Lake Parkway Meeting … And How You Can Still Have Your Voice Heard

Update: Check out coverage from WISN and Oak Creek Patch. And the Journal Sentinel has published a story, too, with comments from a couple South Milwaukeeans.

By my count, more than 200 people attended Wednesday’s public meeting about the proposed Lake Parkway extension at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

It was a good meeting — and answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the project. Of course, more details will come if and when this project advances beyond the planning stages and into engineering and ultimately construction.

It’s a process that will “optimistically” take at least 10 years, according to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission — and more than likely 15 or more. So don’t expect to see  Highway 794 go beyond Edgerton Avenue anytime soon.

That said, it’s a worthy project and worthy of continued debate. So I credit Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik and other local leaders for driving this, even if it will soon get much harder as this project advances beyond the drawing board and on to the formal regional transportation plan.

You can learn more about the $207 millions extension plan here. Among the local impacts mentioned at Wednesday’s meeting:

  • The project would generally follow the Union Pacific Railroad tracks south of Edgerton to Highway 100, with three interchanges most directly serving South Milwaukee. Two, at Rawson and Drexel, are being planned as grade-separated (either above or below grade). The third, at College, would be a “jug handle” interchange similar to that found currently at 794 and Oklahoma Avenue.
  • The extension would reduce traffic on Highway 32 and Pennsylvania/Nicholson through South Milwaukee, eliminating the need for widening of the latter south of Rawson to Milwaukee Avenue.
  • Widening between College and Rawson is still planned for this summer and fall — work that I strongly argue is still necessary given the long-range nature of the extension project.
  • The Lake Parkway extension would be a safer road. Crash rates on the extension would be about half that of Pennsylvania, the primary arterial that would (and does) carry traffic without the project.
Public comments are still being taken on the project by March 15. You can do so by email, an online website form, mail or fax. Find details here.

Of course, I’d like to know what you think of this project. Post your comments below!

(I also wanted to share a letter of opposition from Michael Timm, a Cudahy resident and former editor of the Bay View Compass, that found its way to my email. While I support this project, Mr. Timm raises some good points against it. Food for thought …)

4 Comments

Filed under Transportation

Even More Local Headlines

Check out these headlines from around the area:

Also, County Supervisor Pat Jursik has published her new online newsletter, with items on the Lake Parkway extension, a proposed land swap involving the 128th Air Refueling Wing and Supervisor Jursik deciding to give back  more than $3,500 in unused office account funds. Check it out here.

And NOW has published a new police blotter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Headlines

South Milwaukeean Arrested In Oak Creek Armed Robbery And Other Local Headlines

A South Milwaukee man has reportedly been arrested in an alleged armed robbery last week in Oak Creek.

Check out the Oak Creek Patch story here.

And check out these other local headlines:

3 Comments

Filed under Headlines

More Local Headlines

Check out these headlines of local interest …

Also:  State Sen. Chris Larson has published a new Larson Report. The headline: “Governor Gets an Incomplete on Education Report Card.”

1 Comment

Filed under Headlines

Reminder: 794 Extension Meeting Wednesday Evening In South Milwaukee

Update: Here is a detailed story on the extension plan from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The momentum continues for the potential extension of Highway 794 (the Lake Parkway) to Highway 100 and perhaps beyond.

The topic is the subject of a public hearing and information meeting on Wednesday at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and will give citizens a chance to weigh in on whether or not the project should be put on the regional transportation plan.

Check out my previous post on this topic to learn more.

I hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Construction, Transportation

Quick Council Update

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Wednesday’s City Council meeting, as I was out of town on business.

But all of the items I have written about it in the past week passed, including the sewer rate increase and various borrowing measures.

All passed on 6-0 votes except for the TID 2 (Walmart site) borrowing, which passed 4-2.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, March 6.

Leave a comment

Filed under City Council

More Local Headlines

Catching up a bit on some recent local headlines, including a piece praising Rep. Mark Honadel’s “Wisconsin Wins” plan, a bizarre case allegedly involving a South Milwaukeean threatening a woman with a sword and an update on road work happening in Oak Creek (including the Pennsylvania/Nicholson project).

And check out these local headlines of interest from around the South Shore:

Leave a comment

Filed under Headlines

South Milwaukee Election Results: Almost A Judicial Dead Heat Locally

Challenger Carolina Stark and incumbent Nelson Phillips III have advanced to the April general election for Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge in Branch 17 — and the race was almost a tie in South Milwaukee.

Check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story here. And here are the South Milwaukee results, which showed less than 20 votes separating first and third place …

  • Nelson Phillips III: 373
  • Carolina Stark: 360
  • Christopher Lipscomb: 353

If you don’t mind sharing, who did you vote for and why?

(And check out Oak Creek Patch for their local results. Oak Creek had mayoral, aldermanic and clerk races onthe ballot Tuesday.)

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012 Elections

Borrowing On The Agenda

Declining property values have done more than affect single-family homeowners. They’ve also hurt property values in tax incremental financing districts.

In 2012, South Milwaukee is feeling the impact of those changes.

Those reductions in tax incremental district (TID) valuations – determined by the state – are why the city is looking at refinancing a portion of the existing debt ($1,535,000) for TIDs 1, 2 and 3.

The City Council will take up the refinancing issue at its meeting Wednesday night.

A TID is basically a financing tool a municipality can use to promote expansion of its tax base.

With a TID, the city borrows money to make infrastructure and other improvements to properties within that district – and pays back the money with property tax revenue generated from the higher value of the redeveloped property (the increment).

The stated goal of city leaders is to pay back that loan, “close” the TID as quickly as possible, and then get the property within the TID back on the property tax rolls, with the higher tax revenue flowing into the city, school district and other taxing bodies (vs. funding the loan).

The upshot of the refinancing action the council is considering: The length of the debt service will be extended, and it will take longer to pay off the TIDs. At the same time, the interest rate will be lower.

While this is unfortunate, the fact that we’re getting less “increment” from these properties is a reality of the economic situation we’re in. Simply, property is not worth as much now as it was five, 10, 15 years ago, something readers of this blog know all too well with the 2011 property revaluation.

This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story from 2010 explains the broader issue well – and why then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law allowing for communities to extend the length of their TIDs.

(Learn more about our TIDs at the South Milwaukee Community Development Authority website.)

And one other note: The refinancing does not at all impact the development agreement with Walmart, nor will it lessen any amount of property taxes Walmart pays. Walmart has pledged to pay the city property taxes based on a $12 million “increment” — the value of the developed property vs. its value now — through at least 2027.

This borrowing is one of several the council will consider Wednesday.

  • We will also consider a resolution for an intent to borrow funds for TID 2 projects – the environmental cleanup and related costs associated with the Walmart project. The borrowing would be for up to $1.5 million to fund the city’s potential portion of the costs to clean up its property at 222 N. Chicago Ave.
  • Another resolution calls for refinancing $1,260,000 in “callable” bonds at a lower interest rate, resulting in savings of approximately $38,000.
  • Another resolution is an intent to borrow through the Clean Water Fund program for upgrades to the city’s wastewater facility – improvements that will be partially funded through the proposed rate increase I wrote about today.

I’ll keep you posted on all of these resolutions.

4 Comments

Filed under City Council, Construction, South Milwaukee Walmart

New Look For City Website

The city has relaunched its website, and I’m glad to see it.

Check it out here. Note that the new URL is also easier to remember: www.smwi.org.

I hope you agree that it’s a big upgrade from the site the city had for years. It looks better, is much better organized and user-friendly, and contains a number of new features that make it easier to find the information you need quickly. Among them:

  • Clearer top and side navigation menus;
  • A “How do I?” feature that answers some commonly asked questions regarding city services and other resources;
  • Better front-page visibility to upcoming meetings and other “breaking news”;
  • A search function that works;
  • An improved archive of city meeting agendas and minutes;
  • An easier-to-use city directory; and
  • New pages to find out more information about your elected officials.

Congratulations to City Clerk Jim Shelenske for spearheading this project — one that, like every good website, remains a work in progress.

I was also proud to personally help launch the site, putting some of my day-job skills (developed as a communications manager at MillerCoors and former print journalist) to work. A top priority for me as an alderman has been to work to improve the way the city communicates with its residents. This blog is one fruit of that labor. The new city website is another.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Post your comments below!

Leave a comment

Filed under City Services

More On Tuesday’s Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Primary And Other Local Headlines

Oak Creek Patch has an in-depth story on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court Branch 17 race that will be on the ballot Tuesday.

Check it out here.

And check out these local headlines of interest …

Also, South Milwaukee NOW has published a new police blotter. Check it out here.

An armed robbery was also reported at an Oak Creek Mobil on Saturday.

Additionally, an armed robbery was reported at Chicago Avenue Liquor late last week, as well as a robbery at Marquette Avenue Liquor.

Police aren’t releasing a lot of information on either, and investigations into both incidents continue. Authorities are working with other police agencies who have seen similar incidents. But they believe they are separate incidents with different suspects.

I will keep you posted when I learn more.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Headlines

Council To Consider Sewer Rate Increase

The Water and Wastewater Commission has recommended a 6 percent increase in sewer rates, and the South Milwaukee City Council will vote on the measure at its meeting Wednesday night.

The proposed increase, which would be effective April 1, reflects an increase in both “fixed rates” and consumption rates. If approved, the average homeowner in the city would see their trimester bill increase $5.41, from $90.67 to $96.08.

For the year, that’s a $16.23 increase for the average homeowner.

(Rates for industrial, institutional and other users are also going up 6 percent.)

The reasons behind the increase are similar to those behind the water rate increase in 2011, although the proposed increase is much smaller. They include:

  • State-mandated facility upgrades, including a new ultraviolet disinfection system, replacement of main power distribution components, updates to the final water clarification and activated sludge processes and installation of a new emergency generator at the wastewater plant;
  • Decreased revenues due to reduced consumption, driven in large part by improved water efficiency measures;
  • Increased operational costs, including rising energy, supply and repair costs – expenses that do not decrease even as consumption decreases; and
  • Ongoing efforts to reduce inflow and infiltration into the sewer system – a contributing factor to the flooding problems of recent years. The rate increase will allow wastewater personnel to continue to locate and eliminate areas where stormwater is entering the wastewater system while also improving the overall wastewater collection system to more efficiently get sewage to the treatment plant, reducing basement backups.

I should point out that I will not be at Wednesday’s meeting, as I will be out of town on business. However, I did attend the Feb. 13 Water and Wastewater Commission meeting, where this topic was discussed, and I suspect I would support the increase.

Why? The reasons outlined above are compelling, and the percentage increase seems reasonable, especially because it’s the first one since 2007. Things indeed cost more than they did five years ago, and the reduction in consumption is a real issue for utilities across the area and country. The upgrades are also necessary to keep our treatment processes first-class.

I also look at this increase as an investment in our continued utility independence. I favor exploring consolidation in some areas of city government, but I would have a hard time supporting it for our water and wastewater facilities. These are well-run, efficient utilities that, with recent and planned upgrades, will be as strong as any in the region. So why change that?

For wastewater specifically, joining with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, our only other real alternative to delivering these services, does not appeal to me, in part because it could cost residents more. A rate study done several years ago shows South Milwaukee sewer rates compare quite favorably with other area communities. Even with the increase, we’ll still be cheaper than average – and cheaper than many communities now in MMSD.

I’ll keep you posted on this issue. In the meantime, I’d like to know what you think. Post your comments below!

10 Comments

Filed under City Services

Reminder: Voter ID In Effect Tuesday

The biggest news about Tuesday’s primary election is not necessarily what’s on the ballot — it’s the start of the new voter ID requirements.

Learn more about what you can expect on the Government Accountability Board website here.

The most basic changes: Voters must show a photo ID in order to vote beginning this year. And all voters must sign a poll list before being issued a ballot. But it’s more complicated than that. Learn more in my previous post on this.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012 Elections

There Is An Election On Tuesday …

Update: Be sure to vote in my poll on this. And here is a sample ballot.

With all of the big-name elections coming up this year — from the gubernatorial recall to the presidential election — it’s easy to forget that the spring primaries are on Tuesday.

Voters heading to the polls in South Milwaukee will see just one race on the ballot: Milwaukee County Court, Branch 17. This is because none of the incumbents running for re-election in the city have competition in 2012, and the South Milwaukee School Board race (in which three people are running for two seats) won’t require a primary.

Of course, other communities have contested primaries, including Oak Creek, which will see primary elections for mayor, clerk and alderman on the ballot.

Christopher Lipscomb Sr., Nelson Phillips III and Carolina Stark are running for the Branch 17 judgeship. Phillips is the incumbent.

And don’t forget that the City Council meeting has been rescheduled for Wednesday this week due to the election. 

2 Comments

Filed under 2012 Elections

Man Shot To Death In Cudahy

A 19-year-old Cudahy man was fatally shot at a house party early Saturday morning, and it was an “apparent homicide,” according to reports.

Check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story here. From it:

Cudahy police described the shooting as an isolated incident and said residents of the area are in no danger.

The St. Francis and South Milwaukee Police Departments and the Wisconsin State Patrol have helped in the investigation.

The last homicide in Cudahy occurred in June 2010, Poellot said.

In that incident, John Weinhold of Oak Creek was found shot to death inside a minivan. James Szuta of South Milwaukee, who told investigators he owed Weinhold money for drugs, was sentenced to life in prison last October.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime