Monthly Archives: February 2012

Larson Holding Sunday Office Hours In Oak Creek

State Sen. Chris Larson is holding open “office hours” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Falk Park pavilion in Oak Creek.

From the email blast Larson sent out:

This is your chance to talk in person about any questions, concerns or opinions you might have about our community or state. No appointment necessary. Feel free to call my office for additional information. 

You can also join me at the Bay View Winter Blast afterward. This community festival features musical entertainment, family activities, and community group stands. Winter Blast also hosts Bay View’ s only chili cook-off between multiple neighborhood restaurants.

Falk Park is at 2013 W. Rawson Ave., and Winter Blast is at the South Shore Park Pavilion.

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More Local Headlines

Check out these headlines from around South Milwaukee and the South Shore:

And congratulations to Studio One Art Glass, an outstanding stained glass retailer on 14th and Milwaukee Avenues, which won a booth award at the recent Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Show. Learn more in this story, and check out Studio One’s website here.

Additionally, state Sen. Chris Larson has published a new Larson Report. The headline: Foreclosure Funds Raided, Victims Overlooked.

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New State Post For Sullivan

Gov. Scott Walker’s newest adviser is former Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan.

Sullivan will head Walker’s office of business development, it was announced Thursday.

Check out coverage in the Journal Sentinel and the Business Journal, and here is the press release.

From the release:

Job creators from all across Wisconsin have identified a skills gap between the jobs they have available and the workers applying to fill them. Manufacturers, in particular, identify this skills gap as one of the top barriers to business growth. Similarly, our technical colleges report difficulty in filling many of their manufacturing training courses with qualified students. That’s why Governor Walker has worked closely with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Workforce Development on ongoing strategies for tackling the problem.

To help develop and drive these strategies across a variety of agencies and institutions, the Administration is utilizing the expertise of a consultant who brings a track record of private sector success and vast experience and understanding of the workforce development issues job creators look at when deciding where to grow.

As Special Consultant for Business and Workforce Development, Sullivan will be help identify barriers to business development and job growth in Wisconsin. He will focus especially on workforce, employment environment, and policy issues. He will also help identify and cultivate business prospects for expansion and relocation to Wisconsin.

Sullivan will also head up the Office of Business Development, serve as Chairman of the Council on Workforce Investment and as member of the College and Workforce Readiness Council. Sullivan is serving the state as a volunteer.

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New South Shore Y Director And Other Local Headlines

Check out these local headlines from around the South Shore:

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Oak Creek Decides To Stand Pat On Alcohol Sale Hours And Other Headlines

The Oak Creek City Council has decided against expanding the number of hours alcohol can be sold at grocery, liquor and other “off-premise” stores.

Check out the story here.

You’ll recall that the South Milwaukee City Council in December approved allowing liquor sales as early as 6 a.m.

And check out these other local headlines of note:

Also, South Milwaukee NOW has published a new police blotter. Among the incidents: a snowblower theft and broken garage window in the 200 block of north Chicago Avenue and a burglary in the 200 block of Montana Avenue.

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Valuable Cost-Benefit Analysis Or Unnecessary Paperwork?

South Milwaukee Rep. Mark Honadel has reportedly floated a bill in the Assembly that would remove requirements that the Department of Transportation engage in a cost-benefit analysis on engineering services that exceed $25,000.

The proposed measure would only require a yearly report on the cost of those services.

Learn more in this WISC-TV story. From it:

Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, wants to get rid of required cost-benefit analysis forms the DOT has to fill out on nearly every engineering project. The forms show the estimated difference between the cost of state engineers and private contractors. Honadel wants to have the DOT only do a year-end report on that comparison.

A WISC-TV investigation last year found the DOT spending millions more for outside consultants instead of state engineers, based on these forms.

Honadel said he wants to eliminate the paperwork, following up on the Governor’s Waste, Fraud and Abuse Commission report that found faults with the state’s cost-benefit analysis reporting.

“The commission discovered that these reports are time consuming, costly, have a questionable value, and significant DOT staff time is dedicated to producing between 200 and 400 reports a year,” said Honadel at an Assembly Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday.

DOT officials said they are supportive of the proposal, saying the forms now only provide them with an “educated guess” of costs.

Democratic lawmakers and others have spoken about against the bill, including Rep. Mark Pocan and Mark Klipstein, president of the State Engineering Association.

Pocan’s quote: “This bill doesn’t make fiscal sense. The Walker administration admits in the Waste, Fraud and Abuse report we spend too much money on outsourcing engineering for transportation projects. Yet, Republicans are trying to eliminate mandatory cost-benefit analysis intended to help the Department of Transportation determine if they should outsource projects in the first place.

“In 2009, an audit by the Legislative Audit Bureau proved in many instances, the state could have saved money had it utilized qualified state engineers rather than contracting out some of its engineering work. Ironically, this bill will open the door for additional costs.”

Quick aside: Honadel has also removed his support for a bill that could lead to mixed martial art fights being held in more than 1,200 towns in the state. Check out the OnMilwaukee.com story here.

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South Milwaukee Fire Captain Appointed Acting Chief

I’ve said many times that we are blessed to have a really strong command staff at the South Milwaukee Fire Department, led by our three captains: Joe Knitter, Jim Dorangrichia and John Czajkowski.

These three men have stepped up to fill the void left with the retirement of Chief Jay Behling more than a year ago, working together to run the department as the search for a new chief began and was later put on hold as consolidation talks with Cudahy and St. Francis heated up.

Now one of them — Capt. Knitter — has been appointed acting chief. The decision was announced Friday.

As I’ve written about, Capt. Knitter is very qualified for the position, and I know he will serve ably until the long-term future of the chief position is determined. When that will be is an open question, as we continue to get more clarity around the consolidation efforts. That work, the subject of an upcoming study by the Public Policy Forum, will help shape the future of our department.

Best wishes to Capt. Knitter.

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Reminder: Sign Up For Emergency Alerts On Your Mobile Phone

When the floods struck South Milwaukee in 2008 and 2010, and during our city’s water emergency a couple years ago, it would have been nice to have a way to communicate some key messages with every city resident quickly and efficiently.

We now have that ability. Last year, we instituted the South Milwaukee Emergency Alert System, which allows the city to make thousands of phone calls quickly when the situation calls for it.

Landline phones are already in our database, so there is no need to add those phones to our list. However, you can also receive emergency text updates on your mobile phones. To get this service, you must sign up.

Learn more here.

I have subscribed to the text service since we brought the alert system to South Milwaukee, and it’s worth taking the few minutes to do it. I have set it up to receive breaking weather news, too, so I now find out on my phone whenever a storm watch or warning is issued — or even a special weather statement, such as a couple about today’s late-breaking snowfall.

It’s pretty neat — and it will be invaluable whenever the next disaster strikes.

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Oak Creek To Move City Hall, Library To Delphi Site And More Local Headlines

It came down to the mayor breaking a tie vote, but the Oak Creek City Council decided to move ahead with putting its City Hall and library at the former Delphi site on Howell and Drexel Avenues.

Check out the Oak Creek Patch story here.

And check out these headlines from around the South Shore:

Also, state Sen. Chris Larson has published a new Larson Report. The headline: Republicans Focused on Saving Their Jobs, Not Yours.

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Council Backs Second Walmart Extension And Other South Milwaukee Council Meeting Highlights

Walmart now has more time to close on its South Milwaukee land purchase.

The City Council voted 6-2 Tuesday night to extend the purchase agreement with the retailer to March 15, giving Walmart additional time to seek necessary approvals for construction of its proposed 115,000 square-foot store on North Chicago Avenue.

Just one approval remains: from Union Pacific railroad. UP owns land around a railroad spur on the south end of the 3.6-acre city-owned parcel and must release its right of way for the project to move ahead.

Walmart has been seeking the approval since last fall, when the council granted the first extension on this project.

Hopefully, with this second extension, UP releases its right of way in short order, and the deal closes. But, if it doesn’t, the amendment to the purchase agreement backed by the council Tuesday includes an alternative that will allow Walmart to close by late March no matter what.

Essentially, the city has agreed to remove the railroad right of way from the land it will convey to Walmart — if UP does not grant its necessary approval prior to closing. Under that scenario, the city would keep the UP land, and then convey the right of way to Walmart once UP gives its approval.

The city has been told this OK is coming, and we’ll see. Either way, it looks like this project is finally set to move forward. It’s about time.

The delays (and subsequent extensions) have absolutely been frustrating. I expected to see dirt being moved on the site at this point … and, in hindsight, wish Walmart had secured these necessary approvals before seeking a final vote on the project last October.

Of course, I’d like your thoughts on this, so post your comments below. About 100 Walmart opponents (my estimate) also attended Tuesday’s meeting, and I thank them for avoiding the ugliness of the October meeting that saw the project initially approved.

Among the other actions taken by the council Tuesday:

  • We voted unanimously to approve secondhand dealer ordinance and funding for a fire, emergency services and dispatch consolidation study with St. Francis and Cudahy.
  • We also approved a $500 licensing fee for junk dealers, still a significant increase from its current $150, but much more sensible than the $1,000 we approved as part of the fee schedule in the fall. I blogged on this issue last week.
  • The council also voted 7-1 to make changes to the city’s sex offender ordinance. I was the one “no” vote. My concern with the mostly minor changes we agreed to: the removal of licensed day care facilities from the list of restricted properties. Currently, sex offenders can’t live within 1,000 feet of a licensed day care, and I want to keep it that way. Now, I understand the arguments for removing day cares from that list — most notably that the city can’t control where day cares open because we do not license or track them. There are also concerns about the constitutionality of an unchanged ordinance. I, however, am OK with what we have. Our ordinance is strong and reasonable and, despite all the restrictions, still allows sex offenders to live in approximately 20% of the city. That’s enough, in my mind.

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Consolidation Update: City Council Backs Funding For Public Policy Forum Study

Should South Milwaukee consolidate its fire, emergency medical and/or dispatch services with Cudahy and St. Francis?

I think it’s much too early to say. We need facts.

And that’s what the three cities are seeking in a study to be done by the Public Policy Forum.

For its part, the South Milwaukee City Council vote unanimously to authorize spending $5,000 toward our portion of the study at its meeting Tuesday night.

Check out the resolution here. From it:

… The City of South Milwaukee hereby pledges its support and authorizes $5,000 in financial assistance to participate in the Public Policy Forum’s fact-based effort to review the potential for coordinating, sharing, or consolidating fire services, EMS services, police dispatch, and/or fire dispatch services as a means of improving the cost-effectiveness and maintaining the quality of such services to the extent possible. 

St. Francis and Cudahy were expected to approve the same resolution Tuesday night.

I look forward to the results of the study and the information it will give us toward helping make this decision — one that we have to consider as we confront a $160,000 loss of paramedic revenue from the county this year (and another significant cut likely in 2013).

I continue to believe strongly that consolidation should be explored with some of our city services, especially in these economics times. At the same time, I will be hesitant to support a consolidated service that is any worse than the existing service.

In other words, if we can do it the same or better for less money, great. If not, I would have a hard time backing the change.

I’ll keep you posted.

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More On The Passing Of Coach Spaltholz

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a nice story on the legacy of former South Milwaukee football Coach Bill Spaltholz, who passed away Friday at the age of 86.

Check it out here. From it:

Like most coaches, Bill Spaltholz never completely got the game out of his system.

Years after the hall of fame football coach from South Milwaukee retired, he was still a regular at games.

“He always did enjoy football and he was always concerned with how the Rockets were doing,” said South Milwaukee football coach John Galewski, a former player and assistant coach of Spaltholz’s. …

Galewski, a 1975 South Milwaukee graduate, played running back and was a member of the Suburban Conference championship team in 1973.

Spaltholz would later hire Galewski as a junior varsity assistant coach, and Galewski spent four seasons working on Spaltholz’s staff before he retired.

“He was a great mentor,” Galewski said. “He was always willing to take time and teach things. It was just a great experience for me.”

Spaltholz’s visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. tonight at Molthen Bell & Sons in South Milwaukee. An additional visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Grace Lutheran Church in Oak Creek, followed by the funeral.

Please continue to keep the Spaltholz family and all who knew the popular coach in your prayers.

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Busy South Milwaukee Council Meeting Includes Consideration Of Walmart Extension

Walmart is back on the South Milwaukee City Council agenda on Tuesday night, as the retailer seeks a 30-day extension of the purchase agreement it has for city land for its proposed 115,000 square-foot store.

This is the second extension Walmart has sought. You’ll recall that last November the council voted to give Walmart 90 extra days to obtain necessary approvals from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Union Pacific railroad.

It has the DNR approval it needs, but the UP approval, regarding an easement for UP-owned property on the south end of the proposed development, is still outstanding.

I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of the vote … and of what happens around several other issues before the council on Tuesday, including:

  • The secondhand dealer ordinance;
  • Junk dealer license fees;
  • Changes to our sex offender ordinance; and
  • Consideration of a $5,000 expenditure to the Public Policy Forum to fund a joint study looking into the potential consolidation of South Milwaukee fire, emergency medical and dispatch services with Cudahy and St. Francis.

Here is the full agenda.

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Nice Tribute To Coach Spaltholz And More Local Headlines

The New Kid’s View blog has a nice tribute to Bill Spaltholz, the Hall of Fame football coach whose visitation is Tuesday and funeral is Wednesday.

Check it out here.

And check out these other headlines from around the South Shore:

Also, state Sen. Chris Larson has published a new Larson Report. Its headline: “Consequences of a Rushed Budget.”

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Skating Away From South Milwaukee To West Allis

Downtown South Milwaukee is losing another business.

FNF Skate Shop, an up-and-coming skateboard shop at 1203 Milwaukee Ave., has closed and will reopen later this month at 7332 W. Becher St. That’s according to a sign on the store’s door and its website.

While you may have never shopped there, this is a blow to downtown.

These are exactly the kind of destination, specialty retailers I’d love to see more of in our city center. In a big box world, it’s businesses like these that will make South Milwaukee competitive — and potentially lead the way in a downtown rebirth.

Now, we do have other businesses like this downtown, but it hurts to lose even one on that list.

What do you think? Post your comments below!

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