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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 24, 2012 at 08:26 PM
It is time to drop the Lake Michigan plan and start working on developing other wells. The other options should use local companies to develop pipeline and wells in the area. We are only not in compliance a few months of the year these wells can run at low volume and run higher in the months that the radium compliance is an issue. We do not have to remove radium from water supplies, just reduce it reasonable levels.
Steve Edlund July 25, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Milwaukee defined the issue rightly last week by questioning why other communities added to the service area (after adoption of the 2008 compact regulations) need Lake Michigan water. Is it because of federally unacceptable radium levels in their water supply? Is it a court ordered mandate to find another supply? Is it a water shortage?
Paul Furrer July 25, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Johnny, The reason we are in compliance most of the year is because of a temporary arrangement with the DNR called - interim compliance. Basically interim compliance means that the water in our faucet is safe. We do this by blending radium tainted with non-radium waters. Unfortunately the law requires that each and every well, as it enters the system, to be compliant. That's what the June 2018 court agreement is all about, no more half stepping. Building well fields to the South and West will have their own challenges but along with filtering more of our deep wells we can be up to snuff by 2018. However, that solution doesn’t look like it will last. Thirty years or so we might be back here asking for Lake Michigan water and that expensive infrastructure will have to be scraped. People will wonder why we didn’t fix it in the first place. I’m willing to wait and look at the numbers coming out of negotiations with Racine and Oak Creek. If it’s too costly the Common Council will just kick the can down the road for our children to take care of.
Johnny Seed July 25, 2012 at 05:01 AM
I am awhere of all that, but we already know the costs will be considerably higher and the quality of water is not quite as high as Milwaukee's. I just think that it may make more sense to take a chance and delay with all the research into water treatment right now. In thirty years Waukesha may have expanded as many are assuming and the cost would be spread over more citizens bringing down the cost per capita. I believe if we add wells and treatment right now it would better serve the community. It also makes more sense to have more areas annexed into Waukesha over time that would also spread future costs. This may be more easily done by adding wells and service area.
Paul Furrer July 25, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Well Steve, politics do make strange bedfellows; Milwaukee saves the day for you! But they and you are wrong headed. The Milwaukee Common Council does not decide what the Compact says -the Compact Governor’s do that. If Milwaukee is attempting to redefine the SEWRPC vetted service area to stop our growth, it isn’t going to work. In the Application we’ve estimated possible Water Utility growth as best we can. If you or Milwaukee disagree with the numbers talk about that, but what do you and Milwaukee want the Water Utility to do with the customers that are currently outside our borders? What happens if the owner of the empty lot next to my home decides to build a house? Does Milwaukee get to say no? Do the Great Lake’s Governors? The answer is obvious. If I was a Compact Governor I wouldn’t want to see an application every time Waukesha’s border changed or a new building inside the City goes up. The purpose of the Compact is in part to ensure that water is not sold to Atlanta or Atlantis for that mater. That will not happen by approving our maximum service area map. What happens too if the Town doesn’t want to participate the approval can still go through with the understanding that property needs to be annexed into the City of Waukesha before services are provided. I’ve got no problem with that, do you?
Steve Edlund July 25, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Paul, Wisconsin was involved in the rule making process for the compact knowing Waukesha was seeking Lake Michigan water and the exception rules were written just for Waukesha. After the fact, Wakesha requested the boundries be drawn by SEWRPC. It doesn't matter what Waukesha wants, it's what Waukesha needs. To get that supposed need from the Great Lakes states, an applicant must demonstrate the need as defined by the terms of the compact. The communities added to the service area after the compact was signed do not have a need. Sounds to me like Wisconsin screwed-up the process by having SEWRPC define the boundries without consideration of what the compact requirements are. Or, perhaps it's better viewed as the DNR requirements for water service and sewerage treatment are not in alignment with the compact requirements. It's a dead end, Paul. But hey, it's only money being wasted and Waukesha is a very wealthy community to begin with.
Johnny Paycheck July 25, 2012 at 08:45 PM
There is a certain meanness in people today that didn't exist 20 or 30 years ago. From reading all the comments from Milwaukee residents on jsonline it's pretty clear that the vast majority of them are motivated by the desire to try to prevent Waukesha residents from getting access to a safe water supply. If people are that ruthless towards their neighbours and their neighbours children only 20 or 30 miles away then the world is in sad shape. In any regard Waukesha will still get it's clean safe water from Oak Creek or Racine. It will cost more but I'm sure it will taste better too.
Drive To 24 July 26, 2012 at 01:04 AM
There is indeed bad blood between the two communities. Waukesha AKA Walkersha has done little to establish regional cooperation with respect to transportation and housing. If Waukesha wants Milwaukee water or Oak Creek water ( twice the cost ) they need to clearly define their needs and boundaries. Submitting a proposal without clealy defined estimates and boundaries is DOA.
the 'sha guy July 26, 2012 at 01:31 AM
If Oak Creek and Racine are more expensive than local alternatives, then the Lake Michigan diversion will not be the most reasonable source for Waukesha. Milwaukee was originally deemed to be most reasonable because of cost. That will not be the case with an OC or Racine option and the other Great Lakes will likely agree. Looks like plan b needs to be looked at and implemented. PS. We in the Town of Waukesha don't want to be in the Waukesha Service area.
Johnny Seed July 26, 2012 at 06:21 AM
@the sha guy- so you want to cut off the 110 people in the town that are on the city water supply. I'll bet they will love you as a neighbor.
Drive To 24 July 26, 2012 at 11:31 AM
@sha : so you think your wells are just fine and dandy. Do you glow at night?
the 'sha guy July 26, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Drive, It is the rhetoric like yours that is one of the problems and scare tactics. People have been drinking Waukesha water for over 100 years with absolutely no proof of adverse effects. Waukesha is in compliance for radium on all but a few days in the summer and could completely fix the issue by installing some filters (similar to those already installed on some of their existing wells) on the non-compliant wells. If you follow the topic at all you would know that radium is only a small part of a Lake Michigan diversion. The real issue is quantity of water and land growth for the city of Waukesha and of course all of the social engineering that comes with any Milwaukee deal.
the 'sha guy July 26, 2012 at 11:58 AM
@Johnny. They are already there, but don't add me and my neighbors and force us to pay for the infrastructure for something we do not want. The town doesn't need to be saddled with threats of affordable housing as they did in New Berlin.
Paul Furrer July 26, 2012 at 12:50 PM
That's a good point Johny. Water technology advances may indeed be the answer but research will have to go toward reclamation because we can't filter what isn't there. Shallow watersheds to the South and West are renewable but the are fraught with as many legal changes and costs as Lake Michigan.
Paul Furrer July 26, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Steve if I didn't know better I'd thing you wanted us to sign on with the Milwaukee Water Works and the restrictions Milwaukee thinks are necessary under the Compact. This process is unbroken ground so there is a lot of confusion, but asking the DNR as part of the process after the Compact was signed to lock-down the Water Utility's ultimate build out is not a misstep. It was the next step. http://www.sewrpc.org/SEWRPCFiles/LandUse/LandUseData/SanitarySewerServiceAreas/great-lakes-compact-law-act227.pdf
Drive To 24 July 26, 2012 at 02:05 PM
@sha- so why would you not want to be included in the the plan? Are filters a long term solution? Do you think your wells have an endless supply of water? With respect to social engineering - yes- WALKERSHA has much to learn with respect to regional cooperation. Your God Walker and his puppets killed any hope of cooperation with respect to mass transit. Vos killed RTM which would have gone a long way to improving mass trasportation. Walkersha is the heart of republican party and everything they have done has been antiMilwaukee. It's time WALKERSHA develops some sense of cooperation with the City of Milwaukee. Stick it to Milwaukee right Sha?
the 'sha guy July 26, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Not sure where you are coming up with your convoluted thoughts. This was an issue long before Walker. In fact, their lefty Mayor Larry Nelson was a big proponent of the lake diversion. So you areYou really don't make much sense. Sorry if you think this is some sort of payback for a train, but again, you don't make much sense. I'll keep my private well in the town and you and the city can fight about lake water and trains. Keep us out of it.
Johnny Seed July 26, 2012 at 07:33 PM
@the sha guy You seem pretty intent on keeping the town seperate from the City. You should face the facts and realize that the town is so intermingled with the City that it should be one and probably will be in the near future. I see town residents using the services the City provides all the time, it is obvious the people in the town would rather live off city residents and not pay there fair share of taxes.
the 'sha guy July 26, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Your insinuation that the town will be annexed by the city of Waukesha in the near future is ridiculous. To say that one should just "face the facts" on this issue is simply foolish and shows your complete lack of understanding regarding local politics. Might one or two small areas be annexed? Sure, but the town is simply two large and the city does not have the ability to service all of these areas. The city of Waukesha is saying they don't even have enough water for their own residents going forward much less everyone else they are trying to slam into their service area. In the end, unless they get all Great Lakes governors (both democratic and republican) to sign off on their incomplete application, Waukesha will not be expanding anywhere.
Johnny Seed July 26, 2012 at 10:30 PM
the 'sha guy - The Town of Waukesha is just that local politics a basic waste of tax payer dollars by duplication of services. And since the Town of Waukesha rights were taken away in the negotiations for the area for the Town of Brookfield acquisition I can't see why it won't happen again. City trumps Town in law. Even if it didn't the benefits to combining the two for business and personal property make the most sense. It would be best for both communities. The City of Waukesha has far superior fire department and is growing while the town is shrinking. I search map of Town of Waukesha on the internet and I can't even find one.
Steve Edlund July 27, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Paul, If the city had annexed the Town BEFORE the SEWRPC forced service area, then built the infrastructure to deliver water radium tainted water to each household, those new city residents would also be under the 2018 court order and the application might be just and have a very slight chance at passage. That's not what happened. The Wisconsin DNR will be made into swiss cheese over this issue alone if it were to submit this application without having SEWRPC redraw the service area to include the areas that have needs as defined by the compact. BTW Paul, I brought Milwaukee Resolution 080457 to the council's attention 2 years ago. I also spoke with the Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines well over a year ago asking if the other communities within the new service area were required to comply with the resoultion. I'm humored by the shock over old news. The problem as others see it is Waukesha's arrogance on this issue. It's almost as if getting the water from Milwaukee is a right without a price. I keep waiting for some Waukesha Council member to suggest we annex Milwaukee. As I said before, Milwaukee knows what pipelines to Oak Creek will cost and the utility can not finance that amount, even with the proposal of tapping into the city's (Waukesha) $50 million credit. Why should they sweat? The application won't pass anyway. Maybe you not aware of this Paul, but Milwaukee's parking ticket revenue is roughly $13-$18 million per year.
the 'sha guy July 27, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Try to be at least somewhat realistic and know a little about these issues. There is no way for the city to take over the town of Waukesha from a logistical standpoint. Could they do it legally, sure, but if you think water is a fight wait until the city tries that. Your statement that you can't find a map for the town of Waukesha also shows your clear lack of understanding on the issue as it relates to how big of an area the town of Waukesha encompasses. If you knew anything about the town, you would at least know where it is. Furthermore, the logistics of servicing that large of an area with the same services provided to the city of Waukesha residents really makes your idea impractical. Waukesha has no interest in annexing large segments of the town of Waukesha, so I'm not really sure where you are even trying to go with this.
Paul Furrer July 27, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Oh Steve, You brought my attention to the infamous Milwaukee Resolution 080457 well over two years ago. It wasn't a problem then and it's not a problem now. The Waukesha Water Utility would be happy to gather the data required by that resolution for all the communities in the vicinity. To my knowledge Milwaukee voted to limit negotiations because of their interpretation of the Compact not because the 080457 data was incomplete. If they want more transportation and housing estimates they can have them. For years now your objection to 080457 (and Mayor Scrima's too) included a worry that Milwaukee would try to control our City. Well fear not, it looks like they didn't even read their own 080457 reports. I do wish you would have pointed out back in 2008 when SEWRPC refined the water service area, that Milwaukee would interpret those lines on a map as a violation of law under the Compact. It is that "news" that is shocking, news that Milwaukee doesn’t want to talk. BTW Steve, I don't remember you meeting with anyone in Milwaukee but I do remember Aldermen's Francoeur, Tortomasi and Ybarra getting publicly raked over the coals for doing so. As an elected School Board official in Waukesha were you laying the ground work for negotiations with Milwaukee? Are there any records of that meeting that I can get through a Freedom Of Information Act request?
Steve Edlund July 27, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Paul, I'm certainly glad you remember resolution 080457. I'm also sure you read it carefully. Why do you and the common council want to force Waukesha residents to pay into Milwaukee's general tax fund for Milwaukee water above and beyond the cost of the entire boondoggle? Agreement to a PILOT, payment in lieu of taxes, is required befoe negotiations can even begin. Read up: http://www.city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/ccCouncil/PDFs/15New_Berlin3__2_.pdf Re: open records - I called Alderman Hines as a Waukesha citizen who pays water bills and taxes and as a member of the Waukesha Citizens Accountability Board. Any communication unrelated to the office I hold is personal and confidential. But you already knew that as a former alderman. Right? Paul, refresh my memory; Did the 3 Alderman have an approved action item from the council appointing them as acting as spokesmen for the city when they met with Milwaukee as a delagation to discuss official business? I don't recall anything in the common council minutes approving such an action.
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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