South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department Issues New Local Health Order Following Supreme Court Ruling

SM Health DepartmentThe South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department has joined with those in other suburban communities to issue a new local health order after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court invalidated the state’s “Safer at Home” order in a ruling on Wednesday. 

The order, effective immediately and through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, sets in motion the first phase of a larger reopening plan under development by local health officers in the last two weeks. 

It allows for the reopening of most businesses, limiting the number of people allowed inside most establishments to 25% of their capacity. Salons, barber shops and playgrounds may also reopen, with restrictions. Restaurants and bars would remain closed except for takeout and delivery. Gatherings must be limited to nine or fewer people. 

You can see the full order here.

Statement from South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Officer Jackie Ove

Our efforts to combat COVID-19 are working. We are flattening the curve,  but in Milwaukee County we continue to have a high percentage of positive cases,and more work needs to be done. The worst thing we can do is reopen too quickly and give back our progress, and potentially make a second or third wave even worse than the first. We are not ready to fully reopen in Milwaukee County, or South Milwaukee. That is why we have put in place this short-term local order. 

Statement from South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks

I fully stand behind the South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department’s new order. The actions of the Supreme Court — invalidating the order without a stay, basically throwing open the state after almost two months of being “Safer at Home” — are irresponsible and reckless. They will lead to a patchwork approach to health orders across the state, with many communities likely not enacting one at all. 

We were one of a handful of states in the country that was fully open for a time on Wednesday. Health leaders at all levels are nearly unanimous in stating the approach allowed by the court is dangerous and carries a cost of increased illness and death. A day without orders will come, and hopefully someday soon. But we are not there yet. We will reopen, the right way.

Statement from South Milwaukee Police Chief William Jessup

We thank the vast majority of people who voluntarily complied with the state’s “Safer at Home” order. We expect the same level of compliance with the new local health order. We will continue to work in concert with our Health Department to ensure orders are followed. If violations arise, law enforcement will take note and educate and inform those individuals. Enforcement has been and will be a last step.


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Streetscaping Update: Phase 2 Contract Awarded to South Milwaukee’s EK Construction

Work is ramping up on the new look of Milwaukee Avenue. 

The South Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved a $416,504 contract with locally based EK Construction LLC for Phase 2 of the project.

That work will include sidewalk removal and concrete replacement between back of curb and buildings (except curb ramp areas completed in Phase 1). Picture-frame terrace area concrete and 16-inch paver bands will be installed at new street tree planters. New trees will be purchased and installed with Phase 2, as well as bike lanes and parking stalls.

Work on phase two will continue into July. 

Streetscaping amenities like planters, benches, and bike racks will be reviewed after Phase 2 is complete and ordered for a late 2020 or spring of 2021 installation.

For now, work on Phase 1 continues, which began with installation of new LED lighting, and has included … 

  • Modification of traffic signals at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and 13th Avenue to remove signal heads from banner poles, removal of banner poles and footings, and installation of new pedestal bases and poles;
  • Installation of temporary traffic signals at 10th and Milwaukee, removal of existing traffic signal equipment, installation of a new controller, equipment, and conduit;
  • Installation of storm sewer and inlets at the Ninth and Milwaukee intersection;  
  • Removal and replacement of deteriorated curb and gutter as identified, and curb for new curb ramps, new curb on the west side of Ninth, south of Milwaukee Avenue;
  • Removal and replacement of curb and concrete pavement; and
  • Installation of new curb ramps and pavement marking for new signals, and crosswalks.

To stay up to date on the project, visit the Milwaukee Avenue streetscaping page on the city website, or become a member of the Facebook group

I’m excited to see the continued progress amid the pandemic, especially in conjunction with other major projects in our city center, like the Bucyrus Club and 11th and Madison Avenue public space. These are investments that will help reshape Main Street, and the city, for the long term.


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Go Rockets! Pete Dufek Named New South Milwaukee Football Coach

Really excited to see today’s news. Congratulations, Coach Dufek!

He replaces John Galewski, who announced his retirement after last season. I wish John nothing but the best, and he’ll be missed, but Pete is great choice, the right person to build on the foundation laid by John and others.

Go Rockets!

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Telling the South Milwaukee Story, on Film

Now is a great time to be reminded about what makes South Milwaukee, South Milwaukee — what we want to and should be famous for. 

That is why, I am proud to present “The South Milwaukee Story,” a production of Kyle Olson. Watch it here

You’ll recall that Kyle, a South Milwaukee High School graduate and now Emmy Award-winning Hollywood film director, returned home in February to shoot two short films for us: a submission for HGTV’s “Hometown Takeover” show and a marketing video that would stand the test of time in promoting our city.

He overdelivered on both, as I knew he would — in partnership with an amazing team.

We have not yet heard back from HGTV on our submission, and we have always known it would be a longshot, as we went up against thousands of submissions nationally. The real value for the city in this effort is the marketing video, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of it across our platforms in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

Check it out, and share the heck out of it. We have so much to be proud of in South Milwaukee, and this video brings it to life beautifully.

Use it to tell our story to the world!

Also, join me in thanking everyone who made this possible. It took a village to tell the story of our city, and I’ll attempt to thank them all here … 

We shot at nine different locations in less than 12 hours on that February Saturday: Moran’s Pub, Avenue Coffeehouse, Barbiere’s Italian Inn, The Barber Shop, Parkway Floral, the Muza Church, American Legion Post #27, South Milwaukee High School and the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

We talked to more than a dozen people along the way — not including a segment with the South Milwaukee Youth Basketball Club sixth-grade girls basketball team — who shared their stories about what makes our city great … and why a makeover would only make that story stronger. Thank you to everyone who joined us!

The crew was first rate, and with a distinct local flavor. Kyle and videographer Nick Koscielniak are South Milwaukee graduates who started making movies together more than a decade ago while in school — like this one.

They were joined by James Stewart, Sasa Miladinovic and Julia Beck, as well as assistant City Administrator Patrick Brever, who was invaluable in getting us from point A to point B. Local teen Austin Keller also pitched in. 

A special thanks to Ante Udovicic, who welcomed us with open arms at the school campus and expertly accommodated us. And it was great to see Kyle’s parents, Mick (a longtime former South Milwaukee police officer) and Jewel join us on the shoots. It’s easy to see where Kyle gets his Emmy award-winning passion and talent from.

Three South Milwaukeeans also supplied footage, including local photographers and videographers Julie Arnold and John Krecji. The beautiful drone footage was provided by David Ryba of Veterans Media Services. 

Editor Mitchell Stewart put this all together, and his work speaks for itself.

And, our sponsors! We could not have done this without them. 

Thanks to the City of South Milwaukee, Molthen-Bell & Son Funeral Home, Da Crusher Foundation, Moran’s Pub, DB Tax & Financial Services, the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center and Anne and Tom Frederick for their support of this economic development and community building project.

Enjoy, South Milwaukee. Be proud.


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SGNSM May 1: Meals for Kids and Seniors, Human Concerns Fundraising, Naty Turns 6, Library Opens Curbside, Chamber Bingo, and More Good News

Some more good news in South Milwaukee! And be sure to check out episode five of “Some Good News,” which dropped earlier this week.

The library is now open for curbside service! Details here.
The special edition of the new city magazine arrived in mailboxes this week, with more than 50 free ads for businesses. See the online version here, and look for the first regular edition in early summer!
The South Shore Chamber of Commerce is helping local businesses with a cool bingo game. Get a bingo by patronizing these stores — and win! Details here.


There are a lot of special birthday celebrations happening these days, and I was proud to be a small part of one last weekend, with dozens of people driving by to wish Princess Naty Santiago a happy sixth birthday, as she sat on her throne on the back of a pickup truck. Happy birthday, Naty!


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A Word on Special Events, and Safer at Home

Crusherfest 2020 is postponed, with a hope to reschedule later this year, event organizers announced this week. 

I support this decision 100%, as sad as it makes me. 

Everything that promises to make Crusherfest so special — thousands of people gathering to celebrate a local icon and all that he stood for, at one of the nation’s most unique events — are exactly why it should be postponed, to a time when we can do so safely.

I want to thank the planning committee for all of the work they have already put into this. It will pay off, when the time is right.

I echo those thoughts to organizers of other summer events. 

We have an amazing (and seemingly always growing) list of special events in South Milwaukee each summer. They are part of what makes our city, our city, and they are only as strong as the volunteers who power them.

Here is where some of them stand … 

  • Large May events — including the South Milwaukee Little League Parade and opener, Rotary Food Truck Festival and Memorial Day ceremony — are postponed or cancelled. 
  • The South Milwaukee Downtown Market is making plans to open May 28 as scheduled, but with safety measures, as advised by the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department. 
  • As to June, in addition to Crusherfest, the City of South Milwaukee is cancelling our Flag Day celebration on June 14. 

Decisions have yet to be made on large local July events, and beyond. Obviously, this is the focus of our festival season, with July 4th, Divine Mercy Fun Fest and Heritage Week activities. I and organizers of all of those events remain in close contact with the Health Department as decisions are made on their future.

I thank the volunteer organizers of these events for their patience and flexibility during their decision processes, and thank for them including health officials in conversations as they determine next steps. 

I hate that we’re being confronted with choices like this.

We absolutely know the impact these choices might have on the organizations hosting these events — and on the community that looks forward to them every year. For many, these events are huge fundraisers, and losing them for even one year is a blow. 

But the decisions made so far are the right ones. We must act in the interest of public health, recognizing that while the “Safer at Home” order may not be in place much longer, it’s likely that state and local guidance on social distancing and crowd sizes will be. 

Here is my promise, as mayor: We will not defy state orders. And we will live by the guidance of federal, state and local health leaders. We have to. 

I know there is an increasing push to reopen the economy and other aspects of normal life, and I want to see it happen as much as anyone. 

I want to see these special events happen. I want to see more businesses reopen. I want to see live sports, concerts, large family gatherings, community dinners, parades and street festivals. I want to see my kids back at school. 

And we’ll get there, together, eventually, safely. 

We have made progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The curve is flattening. But the worst thing we can do is reopen too soon and lose that momentum and give back our progress. We must remain diligent and focused on beating the virus for the long term, listening to our health experts and taking actions now to ensure we can actually hold these special events when we’re ready and when it’s safe to do so. 

This is hard on all of us. But we’re acting smartly, and doing the right thing, knowing there will be food trucks, fireworks, and festivals again.

I am excited for that day.


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Helping Where We Can: Reducing Fees for South Milwaukee Bars, Restaurants


It’s a matter of survival for some small businesses during these unprecedented times, especially our bars and restaurants. We get it, and want to help. 

That is why I was happy to see the South Milwaukee Common Council unanimously support two measures at last week to reduce license fees for bars and restaurants. 

In short, the city is reducing the cost of Class B and Class C liquor licenses to $50 each (from $100 for Class B and $500 for Class C) for the 2020-21 licensing year. We are also reducing environmental health licensing fees by 50% for restaurants. 

In both cases, the city is making up the difference with contingency funds, with the expected budget impact estimated at $27,000.

This is important to do now because those fees must be paid in coming weeks, as business owners look for ways to reduce expenses during the pandemic. This does that, and may result in more than $1,000 in savings for some bars and restaurants.  

We are supporting businesses in other ways as well, including shopping local more than ever, where we can, as a city. Also … 

  • We continue to offer basic sign printing to impacted small businesses. For more information, business owners can contact the Street Department at 414-768-8075.
  • The special edition of the “Bridges” newsletter — focused on promoting small businesses with free ad space; more than 50 took part — arrived in mailboxes in the last few days. Here is an online version. Look for the first regular edition early this summer. 
  • We’re reshaping the Economic Development page on the city website to add a number of resources for small business owners, and will continue to add updates in the days and weeks ahead.
  • And we continue to lift up local businesses through promotion via the Shop Local South Milwaukee Facebook page, and MJ Media has launched the website.

We are looking at other measures in coming weeks, and welcome ideas for how we can support our small businesses — the backbone of our local economy. Now, more than ever. 


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