Help Wanted: Library Friends


Your South Milwaukee Library needs new Friends!

Interested? Mark your calendars now and attend an informal gathering to help start an exciting, new Friends of the SML from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the library, 1907 10th Ave.

Please consider stepping up to support and advocate for this community institution and its vital mission.

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Curb Appeal Awards: Submit Your Entries Now!

With the new Curb Appeal awards, the South Milwaukee Beautification Committee is looking to award South Milwaukee businesses, homeowners and civic organizations who devote extra effort to their property’s beautification, through landscaping and other street-facing efforts.

Judging criteria include utilization of color, appropriateness of architecture of the structure, originality, lawn upkeep, and decorative exterior structures. Properties also will be judged on the overall exterior appearance of their buildings.

Judging will be occur in early August, so get your nominations in!

We are accepting nominations on our Facebook page or on our online form.

Multiple entries are welcome.

More details on our city awards program here, including the new Rocketober awards this fall and the return of the Light Up South Milwaukee holiday lights awards.

Note: We decided to not hand out Patriotic Display awards, due to lack of entries. The Beautification Committee will discuss potential modifications to the program, or not continuing it, at its meeting on Monday night. 

We handed our Garden Tour “Best of Tour” award earlier this week.

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South Milwaukee Common Council Approves New Bucyrus, Downtown TID

As the sale of a large part of the former Bucyrus campus draws nearer, we continue to take real actions to enable redevelopment of the property, and other challenging parcels in and around our downtown.

The latest example: The South Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved the boundaries and project plan for Tax Incremental District No. 5, and making TID 2 a “donor TID” to potentially provide early funding for the new downtown district.

From the Milwaukee Business Journal

South Milwaukee elected officials approved a $5.7 million city funding plan to help a New York investor redevelop the campus that Caterpillar Inc. is vacating and to encourage other companies to revitalize surrounding properties.

The spending through a tax incremental financing, or TIF, district would promote an area in the heart of the community to businesses, rebuild infrastructure and potentially offer incentives to developers. Most of the properties where city officials want to encourage private investment are along Milwaukee and 10th avenues. 

The largest property in the redevelopment plan is 29 acres north of Milwaukee Avenue. That campus was the home of Bucyrus stretching back to the late 1800s. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) has operated there since acquiring Bucyrus International Inc. in 2011, but the manufacturer announced it will be out by the end of this year. Those office and production operations are moving to land Caterpillar owns north of Rawson Avenue in South Milwaukee, and to other locations, including Tucson, Ariz.

Caterpillar’s move prompted planning by the city to support redevelopment of the approximately 750,000 square feet of office and industrial buildings on the former Bucyrus campus. During that effort, New York real estate investor Reich Brothers LLC emerged to buy the property. Reich Brothers has not detailed its plans.

“We’ve got to get this right, and we’ve got to be partners in getting this right,” said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks “It’s the heart of our city. Our city grew around this campus and around Milwaukee Avenue. It’s a top priority for me.”

The city TIF plan endorsed this week offers between $560,000 and $2.17 million to redevelop the Bucyrus campus. That includes $205,000 in grants the city has already raised, or would apply for.

Reich Brothers is expected to buy the South Milwaukee property this month. It currently belongs to One Liberty Partners Inc. of New York state, which has leased it to Caterpillar. … There’s also money in the TIF district for nearby properties that have redevelopment potential. Those include the former Bucyrus Erie employees club building on 12th Street, properties at 1010 and 1012 Milwaukee Avenue and properties on 10th Avenue.

The TIF plan was approved by the Common Council on Tuesday. Before becoming official, the TIF district requires final approvals during a July 24 meeting of a Joint Review Board comprised of representatives of other local taxing districts, including Milwaukee County and the South Milwaukee School District.

That TIF district would pay off the planned city spending with property taxes generated by new development in the area. The TIF plan predicts $24.1 million in new developments between 2019 and 2034.

More details in my previous post on this … and much more to come as start redeveloping the campus and continue our work on Milwaukee Avenue and beyond.


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Check out these South Milwaukee headlines …

Also, the South Milwaukee Police Department has published its weekly crime summary on its Facebook page.

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SM Works: City Unveils New App and Online Issue Reporting System


We owe it to our residents to invest in ways to do business more efficiently and effectively — and become easier to do business with.

That is why we are proud to unveil SM Works, a new communication platform that serves as a gateway to information about South Milwaukee, quickly connecting residents and others with city services and the people who provide them.

  • You can access SM Works via an app available for download now on the Apple Store and Google Play.
  • You can also access it online here (linked from the left column of the front page of the City of South Milwaukee website).

I especially encourage you to download the app, if you own a smartphone.

So, what does SM Works do?

The biggest early win for residents is the tool’s complaint reporting capabilities. The platform (especially through the app) allows residents to more easily share issues and concerns with the city, and to view, comment on, and vote to fix problems submitted by their neighbors.

The reporting feature allows users to submit a complaint with a few clicks, from snapping a photo of the problem (a pothole, for instance), confirming the GPS location on their phone, and adding a comment before hitting “submit.” They can then track the progress of their complaint, as city workers address it.

Citizens can also create their own “watch areas” to receive notifications about issues reported around town, enabling them to follow the progress of all service requests,  not just the ones they report.

The app also provides a one-click access to other city information and other resources. For example, it provides contact information, access to the municipal code and “frequently asked questions,” and a link to the city’s events and Facebook pages.

The app also allows to push information to those who sign up, something that could be especially useful in times of emergency, and in communicating issues like road construction updates and promoting events.

This is also a win inside City Hall.

SM Works provides staff and elected officials a more streamlined and efficient workflow in handling and tracking complaints and other issues raised by residents. Gone are the days of Post-it Notes, voicemails, emails and spreadsheets to track and respond to complaints — an often hodge-podge process that can delay response time and occasionally see complaints fall through the cracks. They will be replaced by an automated system that allows departments to instantaneously connect on issues to ensure the right people are responding to issues at the right time, and there is appropriate follow-up and resolution.

In other words, this should improve our customer service.

The system also gives us real-time data to track issue trends, helping us make more informed decisions in addressing problems big and small across the city.

SM Works is part of the SeeClickFix platform, which is used by more than 300 communities across the country to “build stronger communities through transparency, collaboration, and efficiency,” according to its website. “We provide simple yet powerful request and work management technology for local governments.”

I’m proud to say South Milwaukee is now one of them.


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Beautification Committee “Best of Tour” Award: Congratulations, Brad McKendry!

Congratulations to Brad McKendry, winner of the 2018 South Milwaukee Beautification Committee Garden Tour “Best of Tour” Award!

Members of the committee and South Milwaukee Historical Society recognized Brad at a ceremony Monday night in his beautiful garden at 612 Walnut Ave.


We also congratulated our Honorable Mention award winners — the Frederick garden at 1000 Emerson and the Griffith garden at 301 Lakeview Road — and all of the Tour participants for displaying some terrific gardens this year.

The proclamation I presented said it best …



WHEREAS, the South Milwaukee Historical Society held its 10th annual Garden Tour & Art Fair on June 23, 2018, with five local homeowners showcasing their gardens;

WHEREAS, the event also featured an artisan fair, food, demonstrations and music at the South Milwaukee Historical Society; and

WHEREAS, the Garden Tour is a great way to celebrate South Milwaukee’s best outdoor spaces and support the South Milwaukee Historical Society; and

WHEREAS, each participant in the tour had truly outstanding gardens worthy of recognition;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Mayor Erik Brooks, on behalf of the South Milwaukee Beautification Committee, do hereby award the Grand Prize award to Brad McKendry, 612 Walnut Street, whose English-style garden includes a gazebo, chalet, and koi ponds, and can be enjoyed while strolling along a flagstone path. The garden was initially designed by his late wife, Peggy, and is maintained as a tribute to her.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that I, Mayor Erik Brooks, the Beautification Committee and the entire South Milwaukee Common Council do hereby extend our congratulations to Brad McKendry on his beautiful garden display, thank all of the homeowners who were part of this year’s tour, and offer our sincere appreciation to all of the volunteers who made the 2018 event a success.

In addition to the proclamation, Brad received items from the Historical Society and more than $400 in collections for the Dementia Society of America, in honor of his late wife. What a special and beautiful tribute.

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Partnering for Safer Schools: State Awards South Milwaukee School District $131,505 Safety Grant


The South Milwaukee School District is getting $131,505 from the state for safety upgrades at its schools.

The funding — to be used in a variety of ways across the district — was announced on Monday, as part of the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s continued rollout of the School Safety Grant program. Attorney General Brad Schimel and the Department of Justice announced 52 grants in all, totaling more than $3.5 million.

South Milwaukee Police Chief William Jessup was part of the press conference, reflecting the strong support the police department has provided in both assessing the needs of each school and applying for the funds. This was a very effective partnership, and I’m glad we could help in securing this important grant.

From the school district …

Dr. Rita Olson, School Board President Carol Dufek and Police Chief Bill Jessup were on hand for the official signing of the award by the Department of Justice to the School District of South Milwaukee of $131,505 which will be used for school safety upgrades throughout the School District. The grant was developed in conjunction with the South Milwaukee Police Department and will strengthen our school safety and security.

In general the grant provides for the following:

  • Shatter resistant film on glass panels
  • Door key security upgrades
  • Electronic door controls
  • Limiting public access to our students throughout the school day
  • External door replacement
  • Increased signage
  • Doors on all classrooms at Blakewood Elementary

The funding received from the State will address some upgrades, however there is more to be done as best practices in school safety and security evolves. The District is moving forward with the hire of a Security and Safety Program Manager and more investment is expected. The safety of our students is and will always be a top priority of the District.

From the state’s press release

Grant dollars are divided into two categories: the Primary School Safety Grant and Advanced School Safety Grant. DOJ’s Primary School Safety Grants focus on baseline improvements to schools, including door locks and hardening school entryways. The Advanced School Safety Grants are awarded to schools that have met minimum security thresholds. In addition to making upgrades to school buildings, one of the School Safety Grant prerequisites is providing all full-time teachers, aides, counselors, and administrators with a minimum of three hours combined training in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Trauma Informed Care/Trauma Sensitive Schools (TIC/TSS) before the end of the 2018-2019 school year; or demonstrate that staff has already received such training. …

Over the past three months, since 2017 Wisconsin Act 143 was signed into law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has consulted with numerous stakeholders in the fields of education, security, law enforcement, and mental health. These specialists, listed at the end of this press release, worked with DOJ’s own security experts to develop how the School Safety Grant Initiative will create sustainable improvements in Wisconsin schools. 

“Our $100 million School Safety Plan is helping schools across Wisconsin become more secure,” said Governor Walker. “It is important we all continue to work together to make sure every teacher, parent, and student feels safe in our schools.”

Grant applicants are required to partner with law enforcement agencies to ensure that proposed expenditures, visitor protocols, and school safety plans will be effective and provide students with the safest learning environment possible.


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