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A Fluid Situation: Council Could Seal Water Deal

The Waukesha Common Council will take up controversial Waukesha Business Improvement District and Lake Michigan water purchase negotiations during its meeting Tuesday night.

The Waukesha Common Council will tackle two important issues during its meeting on Tuesday: water and the Waukesha Business Improvement District’s Board of Directors.

First, it plans to discuss “recommendations to the mayor for his appointments to the BID board,” according to the agenda. Mass resignations from the board poured in during the last council meeting after accusations of bullying and harassment against a few board members came from the resigning BID executive director, Meghan Sprager.

The Common Council meeting is being held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 201 Delafield St.

Only two board members, Bill Huelsman and Natalie Walters, remain with the BID. However, because the board does not have enough members on the board, the board is “effectively dissolved at this time,” said City Administrator Edmund Henschel in a memo to the Common Council.

Without addressing the structure of the BID board, “we will be throwing the new board ‘under the bus,’” Henschel said.

While the board apparently does not exist, the BID district remains, Henschel said.

The council in the future could review the size of the 13-member board, Henschel told the council. However, the board size cannot change until after the BID’s operating plan expires on Dec. 31.

The BID board could operate with five additional members being appointed to the board, but all seven members would need to be present to hold any meetings.

“An overriding consideration is not simply creating a new board and continuing operations as usual,” Henschel said in the memo. “This will result in a continuation of controversies and provide a forum for dissent with nothing more than new faces to criticize.”

Henschel’s memo is attached to this article.

Water Contracts on Agenda

The Common Council will also meet in closed session during the meeting to discuss “negotiations for a potential agreement with Oak Creek or Racine as it relates to the City of Waukesha’s Application for Great Lakes Water.” The agenda includes possible action in open session on the negotiations.

Oak Creek is also meeting in closed session Tuesday night to discuss a possible water sale contract with Waukesha.

Waukesha is looking for a Lake Michigan community to supply the lake water to the suburban community. Waukesha will also have to build a pipeline to return the water to the Great Lakes.

Waukesha still faces a long climb to get Lake Michigan water, including approval from all Great Lakes states. But the votes Tuesday represent a significant step. Waukesha spent a year and a half in negotiations with Oak Creek and Racine. City officials also wanted to negotiate with their preferred supplier, Milwaukee, but discussions never happened.

The Waukesha Water Utility and the Waukesha Common Council met in closed session earlier this month to discuss the water sales contract, but information was not made public after that meeting.

The Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility has said providing Waukesha with Lake Michigan water could result in a rate reduction of as much as 25 percent for Oak Creek residents.

Waukesha is forced to either treat or replace its water supply by 2018 because radium levels have put the city's water supply out of legal compliance. The city's wells also face problems with declining water quality due to arsenic and saltwater and with a limited groundwater supply.

Ron Kading October 02, 2012 at 03:05 PM
This was sent to all members of the Common Council and the Mayor, On the agenda for October 2,2012 is an item under new business. This is item F which calls for discussion and possible action from the closed door session regarding the water negotiations with Oak Creek. I am asking all of you to do all the discussing you want. However, until all the facts of these negotiations are made public and the citizens of Waukesha have had a chance to discuss them with all of you, you table any further action. We need to know what our costs are going to be BEFORE the Council takes action, not AFTER. Your decision will have the greatest impact on our city and its future. The citizens need and deserve a chance to express their views.
Steve Edlund October 02, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Hey Ron, I find it very interesting that SEWRPC was strong armed into performing an independent economic impact study a Milwaukee water supply would have on it's poor, elderly, and disabled. But in Waukesha where the true NEGATIVE economic a Lake Michigan water supply will have on not only the above mention but the city as a whole. I haven't seen all the statistics yet, but I rightly believe the City of Waukesha has the greatest drop in equalized valuation in the county this year. Is it any wonder? Read the story as it's written; "arsenic, saltwater, limited groundwater supply" My water utility bill came with a colorful brochure that says my drinking water in Waukesha meets all federal and state compliance for purity. As for limited groundwater supply - sure. We also have a limited supply of oil and natural gas in the US. Ron, if anyone could make a federal case for age discrimination give the one sided study performed - it's you. The common council hasn't even considered the economic damage our community has started to see and it's about to snowball out of control.
Steve Edlund October 02, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I might add that young renters will get hit in the pocketbook too.
Ron Kading October 02, 2012 at 07:48 PM
When I ran for alderman last year I repeatily questioned the costs of our water and the economic impact it WILL have on all of us, especially us seniors. Not only in our water bills, but in our property values, our ability to even sell our homes. I agree with you, it is going to snowball and then it will be too late! My concerns fell on deaf ears.

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