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It's a ramp. It's a structure. No, it's a parking garage!

July 24, 2014

So what exactly should Lake Geneva call that four-level box that holds 300 or more cars at a time?
Is it a parking structure? Is it a parking ramp? Is it a garage or an elevated parking garage?

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Lake Geneva's mailman

July 24, 2014

He might be the most popular man in town.
In a city known for controversial figures, Mike Huml stands apart.

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Utility employee charged with theft

July 24, 2014

Robert Leber, a former Lake Geneva Utility Commission employee, was charged with misdemeanor theft on July 16 by the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.

Carstensen, Hoeft make initial court appearance

July 24, 2014

Ronald M. Carstensen, former Lake Geneva street superintendent, and Donald A. Hoeft Jr., former Lake Geneva street department foreman, both appeared in Walworth County Circuit Court on Tuesday for their initial appearance.

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Business owners seek free parking for Maxwell Street Days

July 24, 2014

Free parking is usually a somewhat ticklish issue for the city, but the Lake Geneva Parking Commission will formally ask the Lake Geneva City Council to consider free parking for Maxwell Street Days, Aug. 22 to 24 this year.
The motion for free parking, without a recommendation for or against it, was made by Alderman Bob Kordus, the council’s representative on the commission. The commission met July 16.
Roger Wolff, owner of The Bootery, asked the commission to request the free parking.
Wolff argued that the free parking would do much to boost good will in the city and perhaps even convince locals to shop downtown.
Wolff also said he realized that it will result in the loss of funds.
“But sometimes it just has to be done to improve relations,” Wolff said.
Bruce Bennett, owner of Cornerstone, also attended the meeting and added his support to Wolff’s request.
Commissioners said that, while it sounds inviting, promoting an extended weekend of free parking for persons who come to Lake Geneva to buy at downtown stores may cause problems.
It opens the door to other groups to ask for free parking, they said.
Now, the Jaycees pay for the parking spaces they close down during the Venetian Festival.
The same for the organizers of Oktoberfest.
During last year’s Maxwell Street Days, the city didn’t enforce its parking ordinances, allowing cars to remain parked in stalls while expired. But the city didn’t generally announce its no ticketing policy, either.
Many visitors to last year’s Maxwell Days paid the meters for parking.
“I think if you’re not going to issue the tickets but not tell anybody, I don’t see the benefit,” said Darien Schaefer, president of the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, an ex-officio member of the commission.
“If we had enforced it, it would have (been) something like 500 tickets,” said City Administrator Dennis Jordan.

Sylvia Martinez-Mullally, city parking director, said that what she saw in the downtown during the Fourth of July, is that people do not avoid paying for parking.
“We are collecting more from parking than from tickets,” she said.
“I think if we advertise this as free parking, people will still put money in,” said Dennis Swangstu, a commissioner.
“I think if we advertise free parking, no one will pay,” replied Martinez-Mullally.
But Swangstu said he meant advertising in local publications, not putting up banners or notices on the kiosks.
Before the city installed the parking kiosks two years ago, there was free parking during Maxwell Days.
But Kevin Fleming, a commissioner and downtown business owner, said the reason for that was because the activity along the streets made it difficult for shoppers and meter enforcement to get to the meters.
Would the chamber and the business district be willing to put up some money to cover some of the revenue loss to the city, asked Kordus. Schaefer said the chamber doesn’t have a budget for parking.
Mayor Jim Connors, also an ex-officio commission member, said the problem with free parking is that some people will “hunker down” and keep their cars parked for long times.
“The biggest problem is that you won’t have turnover in the stalls,” Connors said.
Martinez-Mullally asked whether there were days that were particularly busy for Maxwell Street Days merchants.
Wolff and Fleming said the three-day fest starts a bit slow on Friday, but it is absolutely jammed on Saturday. Some businesses also report good business on Sundays, they said.


Disc golf course opens July 26

July 24, 2014

Just in case anyone has seen those flying-saucer-like things zinging around near Dunn Field on the former Hillmoor Country Club, no the aliens aren’t landing, but the disc golf course is open....subscribers>>

Recent Lake Geneva News
Late quorum Monday
July 17, 2014

It took 30 minutes for the Lake Geneva City Council to achieve a quorum Monday.
The agenda was an easy one, primarily license renewals, permit approvals and approval of spending.
But it was unusual for the council to have to wait that long before the required six aldermen took their seats.
City Attorney Dan Draper said state law sets a city council quorum at two-thirds of its members.
Lake Geneva has eight council members, meaning its magic quorum number is six.
Missing were council members Sarah Hill, Ellyn Kehoe and Sturg Taggart.
Kehoe was excused with an injured foot.
Taggart had spent several days in the hospital with heart issues.
All eyes were on Sarah Hill’s seat, which remained empty.
Contacted early Tueday morning, Alderwoman Sarah Hill apologized for missing the meeting.

“I’m surprised they didn’t send the police over to my house,” Hill said.
Eventually, Mayor Jim Connors was able to reach Taggart by phone, and he agreed to appear for the meeting, which was convened with a quorum about 32 minutes late.
Contacted this morning, Taggart said he recently spent four days in the hospital.
“I had to leave the ambulance to get to the meeting,” he joked.
Attending the meeting gave Taggart one more opportunity to vote against horse-and-carriage rides in the downtown.
The council was asked to approve carriage parking on Wrigley Drive for Field Stone Carriage & Pony LLC, Burlington, which has operated one-horse carriages in the city for the past decade.
Although not an opponent of carriage rides per se, Taggart said he believes the slow-moving vehicles do not belong on the city’s busy streets in the business district.
Parking permission was granted on a 5 to 1 vote, with Taggart voting against.

Hill, Jordan exchange sharp words
July 17, 2014

A short but sharp exchange between a city council member and the city administrator occurred in the council chambers shortly after the Lake Geneva City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on July 7.

Extra costs delay park study
July 17, 2014

Invitations to a public response survey about Lake Geneva’s parks and open spaces will be a little late. ...subscribers>>

Ramp discussion start with money
July 17, 2014
Construction techniques were discussed and facades reviewed for a proposed downtown Lake Geneva parking structure at the first ad hoc parking structure committee meeting on July 10.The committee had its introductory meeting at city hall with consultant Steve Roloff of Arnold & O’Sheridan, consulting engineers, Brookfield. And the committee seems aiming to getting a referendum question ready for the Nov. 2 ballot, even as it prepares information for city voters.The committee’s immediate goal is to generate a project cost that the city must not exceed in building the parking ramp. Roloff said the initial cost estimate for the parking structure is $6.9 million for the project.“Don’t confuse total project costs with construction costs,” Roloff warned.It will be important to have the total project cost on the referendum ballot, he said.Of the total project cost, 80 percent would be for construction, with the remaining 20 percent set aside for fees, contingencies and unexpected problems that add to the construction costs.The proposed ramp site is what is called the Cook Street lot, behind the Geneva Theater.Roloff and Lake Geneva architect Ken Etten proposed that the committee refer to the proposed elevated parking garage as the Geneva Street Parking Ramp.The entrance and exit to the structure would be off Geneva Street, Etten said.Roloff said he wants the committee to meet three times this month, with a final referendum-ready figure prepared by July 31.The next parking committee meeting will be 2 p.m. July 24 at city hall, followed by the third meeting a week later.The 11-member ad hoc committee was named last month by Mayor Jim Connors and approved by the city council.In order to get the parking structure proposal on the ballot, the city must submit a referendum question to the county clerk’s office in early August.The drop dead cutoff is Aug. 12.But City Administrator Dennis Jordan told the Lake Geneva City Council that the question should be submitted by Aug. 7 to give the county clerk’s office an opportunity to review the question and for any revisions or corrections that might be necessary.By ordinance, any project costing more than $1.01 million must be approved by city electors.The city’s joint parking commission and public works committee recommended hiring Arnold & O’Sheridan as the engineering consultant for the parking structure at a joint meeting on June 9.Roloff, who made the presentation to the joint commission-committee meeting on behalf of Arnold & O’Sheridan, recommended creation of an ad hoc committee of interested citizens and council members to bring suggestions and recommendations for the parking structure.At the meeting, Roloff and Etten showed committee members a variety of exteriors that can make the parking structure more appealing than just some horizontal concrete levels separated by supports.Roloff said designers can camouflage the outside of the structure so it looks like a retail or office building.But those exterior touches add cost, he warned.He estimated that, depending on the additions and options the city might decide to add to the parking structure, the cost per parking stall would range from $9,700 to $19,000.Roloff said maintenance for a parking structure is about 35 cents per square foot per year.A parking ramp is more than just parking space, it also has electrical wiring and lighting, it may have an elevator and other mechanical and electronic devices that will need regular repair and replacement.Roloff said the city will have to decide on two major issues facing the proposed parking structure.The first has to do with zoning.Although downtown structures may build lot line to lot line on the front and sides, a 10-foot set back is required at the rear of the parking structure, Roloff said.He suggested the city immediately notify its zoning board of appeals about acquiring a variance.Roloff said loss of those 10 lineal feet over four levels would conceivably mean a loss of 40 parking spaces, cutting the maximum from 320 to 280.That issue does not have to be reviewed by the board of appeals immediately, but a variance will be needed if the city wants its parking structure to cover the entire 160-by-170-foot lot, Roloff said.The second issue the committee will have to decide is whether the structure will be built on site or pre-fabricated and then assembled on the site.A structure built on site, called a cast-in-place structure, means that concrete making the key components of the building is poured on-site.Cast-in-place requires work be done during the regular construction season, spring and summer, which is Lake Geneva’s prime tourist and parking season.The concrete must cure out in the open, which requires good weather, Roloff said.Prefabricated, or precast structures, have components of the building cast off site.They are then transported to the construction and fit together, Roloff said.Precast construction can be done late in the season, fall and early winter, because the concrete sections are cured inside before being shipped off for construction, he said.Alderman Bob Kordus, a committee member, said he, for one, would prefer cast in place, regardless of the disruptions it would cause for one season.Kordus said the cast-in-place was a superior construction process that resulted in a building that would last 50 years or longer with less maintenance.The city could work around the loss of the Cook Street lot for one season, he said, temporarily creating parking further out on the edges of the city and using shuttles to bring visitors into the city business district.Bathrooms were debated for about 20 minutes. Committee member Ruth Hackman said she hoped that the parking ramp would also have restrooms.But that idea ran into resistance from other committee members.While conceding that the downtown area suffers from a lack of potty facilities, committee members said that is a separate problem that the city, chamber of commerce and downtown business association will have to address.The problems with bathrooms is that they’re enclosed and complicate security at the parking structure, Roloff said. In addition, that would add the cost of plumbing to the building.He recommended against adding restrooms to the parking structure.A 45-minute tour of the parking garage site was also made following the meeting.Bob Kordus said the tour was primarily to cover surface features, such as an electrical service box, that would have an impact on the structure.
Cash flow questions in street department since coin controversy
July 10, 2014

Problems at the Lake Geneva Street Department may well have sprung from the fountain at the Riviera.

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