Guilty Pleas in Death of South Milwaukee 4-Year-Old

From the message from South Milwaukee Police Chief William Jessup, on the department Facebook page

On February 28, 2020, SMPD officers and SM Fire Dept. paramedics responded to a home in the 400 block of Montana Ave for an unresponsive four year-old girl, who was later pronounced deceased. Through a comprehensive investigation by numerous SMPD officers, along with help from community members, suspects were quickly located and arrested.

Further investigation and interviews led to the successful prosecution of Jerome Millen and Christina Collado. Collado has subsequently pleaded guilty to Chronic Neglect of a Child – Causing Death, and Millen has pleaded guilty to 1st Degree Reckless Homicide and two counts of Child Abuse – Intentionally Causing Harm.

While this case is tragic and horrific, we’d like to acknowledge the contributions of citizens and all of our personnel who exemplified the utmost professionalism and care in working this case. We give our deepest condolences to the family as they mourn their loss, and we hope they find peace.

Thanks to everyone on the department who worked on this tragic and difficult case. Here is the original story.

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Coronavirus Update: Meals for Kids and Seniors, Sports, Rec Programming, and More

These updates are posted on the city’s digital platforms three times each week. Click here for a more detailed update, including on “burden rate.”

From fitness to sports to programming to the arts, the community commitment from the South Milwaukee School District is easy to see.

Here is an update on some of those efforts, amid the pandemic …

  • South Milwaukee Rec Department: The department shared an update on Tuesday, August 25, including word of plans for a limited schedule of activities this fall. Details here. From it: “The physical, mental and emotional health and safety of our students and their families, coaches, advisors and staff is our highest priority. We understand that as things change, these changes will impact our participants. We will do our very best to think creatively with not only the activities and sports we will run this fall, but for those that will not run, as well. We ask for your continued patience as we determine how to address things in the best possible manner going forward. As we move thru the upcoming months, we will keep you updated as registrations open up for various programs.”
  • South Milwaukee Fitness Center: The center reopened in a limited way in July. More details here.
  • South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center: The SMPAC also announced its limited reopening plans in July, with a couple of shows already rescheduled for 2021. A couple of smaller shows are expected to be announced after Labor Day.
  • Varsity sports: The South Milwaukee School Board has endorsed Woodland Conference plans to allow, with safety precautions, for the following fall varsity sports seasons: cross country, girls swimming, girls tennis, boys and girls volleyball, and cheerleading and poms. Practices for all but volleyball are underway; it begins Sept. 8. Schedules are being finalized for all sports. Football and boys soccer will be played as part of the WIAA’s alternate season held in the spring.

You can find more details on the school reopening plan, including a list of frequently asked questions, here.

Meals for Seniors

Last week, I was happy to help distribute drive-thru meals to about 75 seniors at the Grobschmidt Senior Center. Thanks so much to Senior Center Director Sandy Quinlan and her team of volunteers for delivering this vital service for the Milwaukee County Department on Aging every weekday during the pandemic — and into next spring at least. Ensuring our seniors have the meals they need during the pandemic is obviously important. But the best part about this is the social connection between the staff and those coming through the line. This may be the only connection some seniors see in a given day these days. It’s inspiring to see, and I’m so grateful we can do this. Signup details here … https://smwi.org/covid-19-response/

Meals for Kids

From the school district … Starting September 1, South Milwaukee will once again offer meals for students. It is slightly different than the pickup procedure over the past few months. Details can be found in the graphic. I thank the school district for their continued commitment to this; it is so critical as we recognize that for some kids their only stable food source in a given day may be the meals they receive at school.

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Wanted: Poll Workers for the November 3 Election

Here is an online application.

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Working Tirelessly to Help Others in South Milwaukee: Rest in Peace, Kris Schell

Kris Schell helped thousands of people in our community as director of South Milwaukee Human Concerns for more than 17 years.

Today, we mourn her loss. Our loss.

Kris passed away on August 16 at the age of 73. From her obituary

Kristine grew-up and lived nearly all her life in her beloved South Milwaukee. She graduated from St. John’s Catholic Grade School and South Milwaukee High School. Her early adult years were focused on raising her sons and being the second mother to the Hawthorne neighborhood gang while hosting AFS exchange students from all over the world. She was Coordinator of Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for St John’s (Divine Mercy) and later Director of South Milwaukee Human Concerns. After retiring she volunteered her time at both South Milwaukee Historical Society and South Milwaukee Housing Authority.

Kris retired from Human Concerns in 2015, and I was honored to recognize her by declaring July 7, 2015, Kris Schell Day in South Milwaukee.

Her legacy lives on with the work of others at Human Concerns.

You can honor that legacy at Kris’ visitation, set for 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4. In lieu of flowers, memorials to South Milwaukee Historical Society or South Milwaukee Human Concerns in Kristine’s name are appreciated.

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Positive Sign: COVID-19 Disease Burden Declining From July Spike

From the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department …

After spiking in late July, the burden of disease rate in the City of South Milwaukee is trending downward. How is the burden rate calculated? The burden rate is calculated as the total number of cases over a 14 day period divided by population and then multiplied by 100,000 in an effort to compare equally with other municipalities.

  • August 14, 2020 Situational Briefing, including burden rate: https://bit.ly/0814SitBriefing
  • For information on where you can get tested for COVID-19 in your community, visit: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/community-testing.htm
  • The Health Department follows up on all positive, probable, and suspected cases, including contact tracing, to help limit the spread of the virus. On average, each positive confirmed case has approximately 5 contacts. If the positive case is an essential employee in a business, the number of contacts may be much higher. For more information on contact tracing, visit: https://bit.ly/SMContactTracing

While the decline in burden locally is certainly good news, we can’t let up. We must take steps to limit the spread of the virus and keep everyone safe, avoiding high-risk situations.

Mask up, and stay safe, South Milwaukee.

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South Milwaukee Fire Department Responds to Cudahy Fire, Rescues Grant Park Swimmer in Distress

It was a busy Sunday morning for South Milwaukee firefighters, who were among the first on scene of the tragic high-rise apartment fire in Cudahy while also saving a swimmer in distress near Grant Park Beach.

From the department Facebook page

At approximately 7:15 this morning, SMFD Truck 1671 and Chief 16 responded to a multi-alarm fire in the City of Cudahy for a fire on the 10th floor of the Lakeshore Towers Apartment Building.

While SMFD crews were assisting the Cudahy Fire Department with their high-rise apartment fire, additional SMFD personnel were called to Lake Michigan to rescue an exhausted swimmer that got caught up in the rip currents and was unable to make it to shore. The SMFD Rescue Boat located the swimmer, brought her aboard and returned to the SM Yacht Club where she was evaluated by EMS crews and transported to a local hospital.

Unfortunately, one person died in the fire. Details here.

To all firefighters: Thank you for all you do to keep us safe, running into fires and into rough seas to put your own lives on the line to save others.

And please keep the family and friends of the woman who passed away in your thoughts and prayers.

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2020 South Milwaukee Beautification Committee Curb Appeal Awards: And the Winners Are …

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Curb Appeal Awards … and to everyone who voted online to choose them. The engagement was terrific.

Take a tour of these homes and businesses and see for yourself!

  • 222 15th Ave.
  • 709 Sherman Ave.
  • 1301 Blake Ave.
  • 1319 Monroe Ave.
  • 2708 5th Ave.

Businesses:

Let’s not forget the Honorable Mentions!

  • 316 Hawthorne Ave.
  • 319 Marshall Ave.
  • 609 Walnut St.
  • 808 Lake Dr.
  • 1015 16th Ave.
  • 3205 7th Ave.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2020 Curb Appeal Awards, and thank you for sharing photos of all your homes and businesses with us.

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68% Voted Absentee: Here Are Your August 2020 Partisan Primary Results

Please join me in thanking our Clerk’s Office, pollworkers and the Wisconsin National Guard for their work on yesterday’s election! Check out South Milwaukee results from the 2020 August partisan primary here.

Congratulations to Issy Ramon, who I was proud to endorse in his race.

The headline, however, is absentee voting.

Of the 2,940 ballots cast, 68% of those (2,003) were absentee, continuing an amazing shift in how people vote. This began with the April pandemic election, and I’m not sure it’s going to swing back.

The Clerk’s Office is ready, and has been preparing for the increase in absentee voting since the start of the pandemic. After the spring election, we invested in three new voting machines. This gives us added capacity to process absentee ballots, which, per state law, can only be counted (run through the machines) on election day.

We redeployed staff to quickly process absentee ballot requests in the weeks leading up to the election, and then, on election day, redirected more pollworkers to that part of our election operation. We also had the help of 10 members of the Wisconsin National Guard on Tuesday, and we assigned nine of them to Central Count, processing absentee ballots.  

On to November! To request your absentee ballot for that election — or to confirm you have already requested one — visit https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/.

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2020 August Partisan Primary: It’s Election Day!

Today is Election Day! Please do your constitutional duty and vote, if you haven’t already. (Many have, absentee.)

The work of our clerk’s office has made in-person voting as safe as possible during the pandemic, and you will see those precautions in action on Tuesday. I thank them for their efforts, and all of our pollworkers, dedicated citizens bring democracy to life. Now, more than ever.

There are only two contested races on the fall 2020 primary ballot: Milwaukee County Register of Deeds on the Democratic side, and Congress on the Republican side.

I am proudly endorsing Issy Ramon in Register of Deeds primary. He has made major strides to make that office more transparent, efficient and effective, since he was appointed to the job a year ago. He deserves more time to continue those efforts.

I am on the Democrat ballot, unopposed, in the 21st Assembly race, and am looking forward to the November 3 general election. I plan to stay as mayor when I win. Details here.

Here is a sample ballot. And here are additional voting details …

  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • First District voters vote at Divine Mercy School, 695 College Ave.
  • Second District voters vote at the Divine Mercy Gathering Room, 800 Marquette Ave.
  • Third District voters vote at City Hall, 2424 15th Ave.
  • Fourth District voters vote at the Grobschmidt Senior Center, 2424 15th Ave.
  • Please remember to bring photo ID.
  • For information on voter registration, polling locations, and to request an absentee ballot for future elections, visit MyVote.

Remember, you can only vote for candidates in one party in a primary.

Check out more details on the city’s elections web page … and look for more information on local results from South Milwaukee Blog later tonight or Wednesday morning.

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Overcoming Adversity: Congratulations, South Milwaukee High School Class of 2020

Saturday was graduation day, a couple months late due to the pandemic, but no less significant, as Rockets walked the stage at two outdoor, socially distanced ceremonies at Spaltholz Field.

Congratulations to all of the graduates. who already know a thing or two about perseverance and overcoming adversity. The good news: The last few months are but just one step on the way a promising future of positive change. The opportunity to shape that future truly begins now.

Thanks to everyone who took these photos at Saturday’s ceremonies, which I pulled from Twitter and Facebook.

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Next Step to Reopening: Library Browsing Returns

Learn more on the South Milwaukee Library website and Facebook page.

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Downtown South Milwaukee Update: Openings, Projects and Progress

Taking a tour of our progress downtown …

  • New Look for Main Street. Work continues on the city’s investment in Milwaukee Avenue, and I already see a return on the streetscaping project; it has been cited by business owners who want to build on that investment with improvements to their own businesses. New sidewalk, lights and street trees are already in place or in progress, as work has shifted to west of the railroad tracks in recent weeks. Next up: Planters, bike racks and the addition of a bike lane. Details here.
  • Bucyrus Club. There continues to be significant progress made in this game-changing project, a public-private partnership between the City of South Milwaukee, Bucyrus Foundation, Skyline Catering and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum. Demo is nearly complete, and construction is expected to begin this fall. The renderings of the finished product, produced by Zimmerman Architectural Studios, are amazing. Look for those soon, and learn more about the project in the latest Bridges magazine and here. The Bucyrus Club opens next summer.
  • Wealth of opportunity. It’s hard to miss, but demo is well underway at DB Tax & Wealth, 1125 Milwaukee Ave., with the two buildings to its east now razed to make way for a more than $1 million expansion of this second-generation downtown business. Details here, and you can get project updates on their Facebook page.
  • A community gathering place. The planning effort has begun for “what’s next” on the city-owned property at 11th and Madison. The ad hoc planning committee has been chosen, and is working with Saiki Design to develop a vision for this space, informed by the community at large and city staff. Look for more details soon on how you can be a part of the conversation, and offer your ideas and feedback. Funded by a $500,000 grant by the Bucyrus Foundation, buildout is expected to begin in 2021, as we deliver a project that generations will enjoy as they head downtown for the farmers’ market, special events or just to hang out on a random Wednesday. Much more to come on this.
  • Grand opening. I was proud to officially welcome Dupree’s to South Milwaukee last Saturday. The vintage store at 1310 Milwaukee Ave. — co-owned by Jo Aiko and Joe and Natalie Gajewski — is a spinoff of another successful downtown business Barberella, and just as cool. Saturday’s opening attracted shoppers from away as Chicago and Sheboygan, and is a perfect example of the small, independent, destination businesses we are trying to attract to our city center. Learn more on its Facebook page.
  • Sausage and meats. The former Milwaukee Sausage Co. building has a new local owner — with plans to make it into a sausage and meat market of his own. More to come.
  • New restaurant, with soul. In case you missed it, South Milwaukee has a new soul food restaurant: Pot Liquor, 925 Madison Ave., the former home to Lloyd’s Lunch. Details here.
  • Kane Building. The Plan Commission heard from a developer last week with a vision for purchasing the former rooming house at 10th and Monroe Avenues and convert it apartments. More to come here, too.
  • One owner, two investments. Troy Kinunen and Kimberly Mackenzie are delivering two more projects on Milwaukee Avenue. They are renovating the home at 8th and Milwaukee Ave., and then it’s on to 1003 Milwaukee Ave., which is being reborn thanks in part to a $30,000 Bucyrus Downtown Revitalization Grant.
  • New look for Moran’s. Moran’s Pub — which saw big interior renovations in the early days of the pandemic — is getting a facade facelift too, also powered by a Bucyrus grant. Details here.
  • A new second story. Military Connection is adding a second floor and making other improvements to its already renovated space at 723 Milwaukee Ave. Work is underway, and owner Craig Luther tells me it will be completed by spring — another example of a local business owner transforming a building in our city center.

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Taste of South Milwaukee: Weekend Brunch Now at Brew Town Pub and Grill

Continuing the occasional series on the blog focused on promoting local restaurants, bars and other eating establishments.

Here is a new brunch option, being served at Brew Town Pub and Grill.

Brew Town Pub and Grill

  • Address: 1902 17th Ave.
  • Hours: Brunch available 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Phone: (414) 304-8019
  • Website: http://www.brewtownpubandgrille.com/
  • Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Brewtownpubandgrill
  • Menu: “Serving a variety of Serbian drinks and food offerings with a standard American fare to accompany in a friendly neighborhood bar and grille.” Full menu on their website, and with this post.
  • Service options: Dine in or carry out.

https://www.facebook.com/Brewtownpubandgrill

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South Milwaukee School Year to Start Virtually

The South Milwaukee School Board voted 6-1 late Wednesday night to begin the 2020-21 school year virtually.

From the district website and letter from Superintendent Jeff Weiss …

On behalf of our entire staff, I would like to thank you for your patience and understanding of the evolving situation regarding the status of school in the fall. We miss your children! Our priority is always to provide the best educational resources to you and your children.

The School Board approved a virtual start to the start of the school year for the first six weeks. The reason for this decision is based on the amount of community spread of COVID19 in our local community and Milwaukee County. We will provide an update by September 25 regarding the learning model for the second six weeks of school. (The written presentation reviewed on July 29 can be accessed here and the presentation from August 5 can be accessed here – sample Middle School schedules can be seen here.)

Thank you for your support. We are committed to providing the best environment for our students, taking into mind their physical safety and their emotional health and well-being.

I support this decision, both as mayor and as the parent of a soon-to-be seventh grader and sophomore. I, too, want students (my kids) to return to school in person, but that is simply not safe to do at this point given the trajectory of COVID-19 in South Milwaukee.

We’re already seeing the potential consequences of a return to in-person school, in places like Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia, where cases are forcing schools and districts to rethink their reopening plans, sometimes in mere hours. I fear that will repeat itself in our area, too.

The ways to reduce risk and limit spread of coronavirus are clear: wear a mask, socially distance, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands frequently, among others. We, as a community, state, and country need to do better in all of these areas. A scroll down Facebook news feeds illustrates it, and our spike in cases in July proves it. That includes me.

Until we do so, until more of us start doing our part, it’s hard to see our kids returning to school buildings, and hard to see the trajectory we’re on significantly changing anytime soon.

I hope I’m wrong — for my kids’ sake. For all our kids’ sake.

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Applications Open for New Commission: Help Ensure Equity and Inclusion in South Milwaukee

We face a generational moment, giving all of us a chance to do better when it
comes to addressing race, equality and opportunity in South Milwaukee — past,
present and future. We will seize that moment, and start with discovering what our citizens believe to be important surrounding these foundational issues.

The Common Council is considering engaging and enabling a broader community dialogue through the formation of an Equity and Inclusion Commission.

Aldermen gave “first reading” approval to forming the commission at its July meeting. Final approval will be considered at its August 18 meeting.

We are now accepting applications to join the seven-member commission (and any of our boards and commissions). To fill out the brief application, click here. The deadline to apply is Thursday, August 27.

You can learn more about the commission here, and in the draft ordinance, which defines the commission as “an advisory body to the common council and the mayor in providing comment and support regarding appropriate strategies to develop and implement activities, resources and services that promote a positive environment of equity, inclusion, and the celebration of diverse identities in the City of South Milwaukee.”

The commission will work in the following areas to discuss and bring forth goals to ensure all citizens are represented and have the same opportunities:

  1. Set and achieve goals for safety, health, education, housing, and economic mobility helping to ensure equity and inclusion of all who live, work, learn, and play in the City of South Milwaukee.
  2. Serve and represent a broad spectrum of residents, business leaders, students and employees from diverse backgrounds and all geographic areas of South Milwaukee.
  3. Promote a vibrant business, educational, and cultural community by supporting an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of diverse backgrounds.
  4. Recognize, promote, and celebrate efforts to further the advancement of equality and inclusion of diverse identities in the City of South Milwaukee.
  5. Report to the common council on the interests, needs and recommendations concerning matters of inclusion and equity in South Milwaukee.

I will be nominating Alderwoman Peggy Clark to chair the commission. She will be a strong, empathetic and consensus-building leader for this body.

And we will be working with the South Milwaukee School District in bringing forth a school representative. I look forward to having our youth be big part of the dialogue, working to make sure they grow up in a city that embraces and encourages everyone.

Census data shows South Milwaukee is more than 91% “white alone,” but that is changing, and I suspect 2020 data will show that. It’s certainly the case at South Milwaukee schools, which as of last summer were 35% non-white.

That is a good thing. We should embrace and celebrate our growing diversity, learning lessons from our our past (and what we’ve seen in recent months across the country) for a more promising, more inclusive, future.

Let’s start that journey. Join us.

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