Council Endorses Milwaukee Avenue Streetscaping Plan

The South Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday voted 7-1 to endorse the project plans and advertise for bids on a four-block streetscaping enhancement project for Milwaukee Avenue.

It’s a significant and exciting step in a multi-year effort to bring a potentially $1.8 million investment to our Main Street and help deliver a new look and feel to our city center. Next up for the council will be discussion of bids as they come in, and ultimately a vote to fund the project, which is expected to start in August, after Evening on the Avenue.

Learn more in the information shared ahead of last week’s public information meeting on the project, and in this NOW story.

I want to thank the approximately 30 people who attended last week’s meeting. It was nice to see so many people engaged in this important decision, offering their feedback and asking questions.

And a special thanks to City Engineer Kyle Vandercar for his efforts in getting this so close to the finish — starting? — line.

Much more information to come, as we continue our work to transform downtown South Milwaukee. Let’s go!

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Public Hearing Set for Water Rate Increase

From the South Milwaukee Water Utility …

The South Milwaukee Water Utility has filed an application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to increase water rates. A Public Hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. in the Public Service Commission Hearing Room, on the first floor of the Hill Farms State Office Building, 4288 Madison Yards Way, Madison, WI 53705.

Comments can be submitted for the hearing via the web, orally, written, or mailed (see attached notice above).

  • Water rates will be increasing in the near future.  The average residential user’s rate will increase approximately $12.00 per month (or $48 per trimester-billing cycle). This reflects a 38% increase.
  • The rate increase is due primarily to our required investment in a large infrastructure project, as well as increases in operating expenses (gas, electric, supplies, and personnel costs, etc.).
  • The large infrastructure project was the replacement of the clearwells that are located at the plant. The project is being constructed now and previously approved by the South Milwaukee Common Council. The Department of Natural Resources required this project as our previous clearwells were underground but current regulations require them to be above ground.
  • The rates will increase in two steps: The first step will be implemented as early as April 1, and the second step as early as August 1. The rates and implementation schedule are reviewed and determined by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), which is a state regulatory agency.
  • The last water rate increase of 3% was in 2013. PSC regulations dictate when the rates can be increased. Unfortunately, the regulations do not allow for incremental increases to avoid drastic increases.
  • With the increase, our water rates continue to remain competitive with other similar water utilities.
  • Lastly, please note this increase is in addition to a previously approved increase in the sewer rates, which has been reflected on most bills.  This increase was primarily used to fund the construction of a new lift station on North Chicago Avenue.

You can see more details on the water project here.

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2,577 Jars Donated: That’s a Lot of Peanut Butter

South Milwaukee steps up again! This time, it’s with peanut butter and other items for Human Concerns, in a drive led by the South Milwaukee Fire Department. From the department …

Thank you to everyone that donated and for the awesome support of our community partners. This unbelievable effort will help put food on the tables of those that are less fortunate, once again, confirming that there are plenty of caring, sharing, giving people in this world.

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March 19: Join Me — and the Police Chief — for Coffee with the Mayor

Update: Police Chief William Jessup will not be able to join me after all on March 19 due to a conflict, but Capt. Jill Kallay will in his place. See you then!

It’s time for another Coffee with the Mayor! And this time I’m bringing the police chief.

Join me and South Milwaukee Police Chief William Jessup from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Avenue Coffeehouse, 911 Milwaukee Ave. for an open discussion on what’s happening in South Milwaukee. There is no set agenda, and pretty much anything is fair game. So bring your questions, comments or concerns for either the chief or me, or both, and grab a drink while you’re there.

Thanks to Sara and Aaron for hosting, and for Chief Jessup in joining me!

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Join a Bicycle Ride Around South Milwaukee

I love this effort by James Davies and Forward: South Shore. Mark your calendars now for these bicycle rides around the area.

More details on Forward: South Shore on its Facebook page. Its simple purpose is to “advocate for our parks and connected, sustainable communities.” Take a bike ride to support that mission!

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A Sad End to the Interfaith Neighborhood Outreach Program

The awful news came via an email to supporters on Wednesday morning: The UNISON Interfaith Neighborhood Outreach Program’s South Shore Regional office, based at South Milwaukee’s Trinity Lutheran Church — and nine other Outreach Program offices — was closing.

The news was confirmed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This is a huge blow to hundreds of area senior citizens who rely on this agency for everything from rides to appointments to grocery delivery to yard work. My family has been a part of that work: My son mowed a senior’s lawn last summer through Interfaith, and my dad gave rides.

The program description on the UNISON website says it all …

UNISON’s Interfaith Neighborhood Outreach program engages volunteers to provide valuable one-on-one services for free to thousands of older adults (age 60+) living in Milwaukee County. This ensures our older adult neighbors remain safe, independent and connected in their community.

Without assistance, many older adults would suffer from complications of being isolated without sufficient access to food, medical care and friendship, which could result in premature placement in a long-term care community.  …

The Interfaith Neighborhood Outreach staff and our volunteers are a connection to the community for older adults. They provide information about local resources as well as these vital services:

  • Rides to medical appointments
  • Rides the grocery store and assistance shopping
  • Minor home repairs
  • Seasonal outdoor chores
  • Friendly in-home visits

Now, that’s gone, at least until Milwaukee County finds another provider of those services.

Indeed, this stems from the county’s decision to revoke nearly $2 million in funding for UNISON following the arrest of the organization’s former director for allegedly misusing funds — she has never been charged — and concerns over UNISON’s internal financial procedures, according to this Journal Sentinel story. UNISON leaders disputed the claims, and an audit showed no evidence of embezzlement.

As local Neighborhood Outreach Program leaders said in an email to supporters today …

The lack of funding had been a major concern during the past few months and we were hopeful we could find a way to continue the program. It did not happen. This does not mean the end of the program; we are hoping that the layoffs and closures will be only temporary. 

We believe funding can be restored if we can find a 501(c)3 organization to absorb our program. There are discussions in progress to move the Interfaith NOP program to a different organization. …

The good news is that the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, County Board Supervisors, donors, supporters, mayors, city health departments, community social workers and churches all support the NOP program. That means the chances are very good for a newer and stronger program to rise.

Let’s hope that comes soon.

In the meantime, I thank everyone who has helped deliver Neighborhood Outreach Program services, from the employees who did God’s work every day to the volunteers who stepped up in so many ways.

And I pray for the seniors who will now have to find help in other ways — or, as I fear, go without that help entirely.

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Think Summer, Think Beer! Beer Garden Returns to Grant Park June 19-July 7

On a cold snowy day, here is some heart-warming news: The Milwaukee County Traveling Beer Garden is returning to Grant Park this summer!

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This year, look for the beer trucks at 13 stops May 8 through Sept. 2. The Roll Out the Barrel Tour stays at each park for three weeks. The Pass Me a Pint Tour stays for two weeks. The Roll Out the Barrel tour stops will be:

  • Juneau Park, 900 N. Prospect Ave., May 8 through May 27
  • Doctors Park, 1870 E. Fox Lane, Fox Point, May 29 through June 16
  • Grant Park, 100 E. Hawthorne Ave., South Milwaukee, June 19 through July 7 
  • Lake Park, 3333 E. Kenwood Blvd., July 10 through 28
  • Greenfield Park, 2028 S. 124th St., West Allis, July 31 through Aug. 25 

The Traveling Beer Gardens are open 5 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Last call is always 9 p.m. Beers will cost $14.50 for a liter with the glass and $9.50 for a refill. Pints will cost $6.50 with the glass or $5.50 for a refill. 

The Iron Grate BBQ food truck will be open every day on the Roll Out the Barrel tour stops. 

The Beer Garden 5K run series returns with runs beginning at 6 p.m. Dates and parks include Juneau Park on May 23; Froemming Park on June 6; Grant Park on June 27; Lake Park on July 11; Bender Park on Aug. 1; and Greenfield Park on Aug. 22. The cost is $30 a race or $150 for the full series. See silvercirclesportsevents.com.

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