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Water Service Area Compromise Falls Short at Milwaukee Common Council Meeting

Milwaukee remains out of negotiations for a water sales agreement with Waukesha while Lake Michigan water sales agreements are being finalized with Oak Creek and Racine.

A Milwaukee alderman who was trying to introduce a resolution as a compromise to allow Milwaukee to begin a water sales negotiation with Waukesha fell short Tuesday.

Alderman Jim Bohl had introduced a resolution that would negate the council’s previous action that allows for Milwaukee to negotiate for Waukesha’s current water service area but excludes portions that are in the future water supply service area. However, the modified resolution, which would begin negotiations with two separate agreements, failed with one yes vote, 13 no votes and one excused vote, according to the Milwaukee Common Council’s Twitter account.

Bohl was trying to begin negotiations with two separate agreements, one for Waukesha’s current water service area and one for the city’s future water service area. Waukesha’s future water service area is set by the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission and includes property in the towns of Waukesha, Delafield and Genesee and City of Pewaukee. The Milwaukee Common Council decided earlier this month it would negotiate only with Waukesha’s current water service area.

“To have separate negotiated deals allows the City of Waukesha to proceed forward with a contingency plan in hand,” Bohl said in a news release. “In this scenario Waukesha also gets to negotiate for Milwaukee water – the best and least expensive option for them.”

Bohl described Milwaukee’s negotiation position as a “game of chicken,” according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper reports that another aldermen then described Milwaukee as a “Mack truck” and Waukesha as a “motor scooter” during Tuesday's meeting.

Waukesha is already in the middle of negotiations with Oak Creek and Racine for a potential Lake Michigan water deal. Waukesha is anticipating a water sales agreement to be finalized between Waukesha and either Oak Creek or Racine by the end of summer.

The Waukesha Water Utility warned Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last week that Milwaukee’s current stance on water negotiations would with Waukesha.

Barrett has also requested an official ruling by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about Waukesha’s future water service area.

A letter from the DNR to Duchniak states that in order to receive Lake Michigan water, the diversion has to be approved for the water supply area under state statutes.

“The department is prohibited from limiting a water supply service area based on jurisdictional boundaries, except as necessary to prevent the waters of the Great Lakes basin from being transferred to a county that lies entirely outside the Great Lakes basin,” states the letter from the DNR.

The Waukesha Common Council agreed two years ago to apply for Great Lakes water as its primary option to reduce the radium levels. The city needs approvals first from the DNR and the Wisconsin governor. Then the application advances to all the Great Lakes states, which have to also approve the application because the City of Waukesha is located just outside the Great Lakes basin. A portion of Waukesha County lies within the basin.

n to divert the water from Lake Michigan is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Waukesha is looking to pipe water from Lake Michigan; it also plans to return the water to the Great Lakes.

The first of several water rate increases because of the project has already been implemented. The Public Service Commission approved a as Waukesha looks to develop a new water source.

In addition to being under a June 2018 deadline to remove radium from the city’s water supplies, Waukesha has declining water quality and quantity in its eight deep wells and three shallow wells, which is why it is looking to purchase Lake Michigan water.

Johnny Seed July 27, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I am aware of much of the area of the Town and I am going exactly where you think I am. I am aware that the Town has caused taxpayers money through duplication of services and law suits in the past. I think that it is in the interest of both parties to combine the communities and believe that the City of Waukesha should apply some kind of incentive to residents in the town to make the switch. Whether it be free property taxes for five years or something else. The City of Waukesha uses tax incentive to bring businesses into the area why not residents. According to the towns website there are only 3382 residents with a population under 10000. There should be not problem absorbing all the areas I am familiar with. I
the 'sha guy July 27, 2012 at 09:49 PM
The bottom line is the city will not do it. As for duplication of services, the city just declined an attempt to consolidate services as it relates to shared dispatch. So you are suggesting that people who move out of the city to the town one year should then be able to get free tax incentives for 5 years to be annexed back to the city the next year? Sounds like a scam to avoid taxes for those who can afford to move.
Johnny Seed July 27, 2012 at 11:21 PM
It would apply to whoever owns the property. Another words you would be able to have no property tax for five years at your current residence if you live in the town. If you sell your house the tax break would stay with the house. Obvious after five years you would fall under the city tax rate which is higher but your Police and Fire and other service would be far superior to your current service. The cost would be high to the City and there recovery would be long but they would have less legal problems in expanding their footprint. Some of the cost could be absorbed by eliminating the lake water deal.
Paul Furrer July 28, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Gwawley, e-gads Steve, your memory is perfect! Your willingness to take people at their word - needs work. There was no reason for Waukesha to empower the three Aldermen who trekked over to Milwaukee because there were no official or unofficial discussions about a water deal, there might however, have been donuts. How do I know? Because they told me, the same way you just did. Besides, if (a very big if) the three Aldermen in question tried to strike a secret deal with Milwaukee’s leaders why did they announce they were going and how could they have failed so spectacularly. I mean really, we never even got to the table we’re so far apart. Meanwhile you and the Waukesha Citizens Accountability Board prevailed. No Milwaukee water in Waukesha.
Paul Furrer July 28, 2012 at 08:58 PM
You may be glad I remember 080457 but I’m certainly dismayed that you keep bring it. Even Mayor Scrima has dropped it (I hope). I continue to disagree with your interpretation of 080457. For instance I think that the resolution calls for “compensation payments” not “payments in lieu of taxes”. What’s the difference? Compensation goes to the Water Works; PILOTs would go to the City. I know the Milwaukee Water Works turns around pays an annual PILOT to their City. Waukesha’s Utility does the same for us. That happens whether they sell us water or not. Why would I even consider paying anything? Well, I can’t speak for anyone else but I guess it’s my sense of fair play. Milwaukeeans built their shiny new water plant with its filters and ozone bubbles and with, most importantly, no help from us. We buy into their facility to offset their up front costs. How much it costs is a mater of talks, but the principle is sound. Your link to Milwaukee Alderman Hines’2008 press release isn’t exactly the same as reading that Resolution 080457 itself (see hyperlink). But it is illuminating; Ald. Hines writes in the 8th paragraph that they didn’t follow that resolution when dealing with New Berlin. So if Milwaukee’s not worried about it why do you keep bring it up? http://dailyreporter.com/files/2009/12/water-resolution.pdf

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