Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Milwaukee Water Supply Will Help Waukesha Compete For Businesses, Waukesha Official Says

Waukesha sees it in its interest to sign a water sale agreement with Milwaukee that will stabilize Waukesha's long-term water supply issues and help it compete for businesses - - and it has in mind a way around the potentially- vexing "non-compete" clause that Milwaukee aldermen have said must be in a water sale contract.

This clarification on Waukesha's part was my takeaway item from an otherwise uneventful public information meeting Monday night sponsored by the Waukesha Water Utility and Common Council about the city's water supply options and application supporting its #1 choice - - a diversion of Lake Michigan water - - with Milwaukee as the preferred supplier.

Oak Creek and Racine, along with variations of ground water sources are also long-term supply options, but have been ruled out for cost and other reasons, Waukesha officials say.

One Waukesha citizen during the public Q&A session objected to the City of Milwaukee as Waukesha's potential supplier because Milwaukee officials have said they want to include in the deal a "non-compete" clause - - (a reference to that possibility as articulated by Milwaukee aldermen is here).

In fact, a majority of Milwaukee aldermen said in an April letter to newly-elected Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima that the "non-compete" clause was a necessity, and noted it had been included in an earlier water deal with New Berlin.

The text of that letter is here.

Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Daniel Duchniak responded that the more likely language - - as suggested by Waukesha Common Council President Paul Ybarra and used by a regional business organization in business recruiting parameters - - was "non-poaching."

Duchniak said the "non-poaching"wording, rather than being a negative for Waukesha as feared by the questioner "will allow us to go after those [potential] businesses."

Remember that Waukesha's Smart Growth plan calls for a 110% increase in land to be used for industrial purposes, since Waukesha has lost industry over the years, so I see a direct link between its Smart Growth plan and diversion application now in the hands of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:

Water, reliable-supplied water, is what business wants.

That was the reason that business groups lobbied for the Lake Michigan diversion plan.

I've said often on this blog that Milwaukee officials should think long and hard about selling water to Waukesha because it would help Waukesha to grow: swapping "non-poaching" with "non-compete" may ratchet down overt raiding of existing businesses - - if enforced somehow -  - but it doesn't end the issue, or address the inherent disadvantage when you have two nearby cities - - one wealthier per-capita - - in a slow-growth region that are competing for businesses and jobs.

You can argue all day long about whether growth in Waukesha helps Milwaukee, or trickles eastward, and even vice-versa  - - but given the transportation and housing disconnects between the cities, I see faster-growing Waukesha already with a recruiting advantage for jobs primarily accessible to Waukesha residents - - that Milwaukee water will only enhance.

Duchniak downplayed the fact that Waukesha's application for Great Lakes water would send it to an expanded service territory to the west and south, saying that only 15% of the new acreage was developable.

Yet remember that Milwaukee is land-locked by state law; Waukesha is not, and though Duchniak said it is incorrect to say that land in that new service territory outside Waukesha's city limits would be "gobbled up" and incorporated, it seems clear that Waukesha will be growing in those directions and that Lake Michigan water is going to be some of what fuels that expansion.

I've argued that the more Waukesha says that its application will tie water to growth, the more outside audiences may find reason to decide that one city or region's economic opportunities are not what the Great Lakes Compact is all about.

1 comment:

Max B said...

These local yokels are in so far over their heads, and are too parochial and dim-witted to realize it. They can't see how they're being used and manipulated by the larger forces in the county and region. Right now they don't recognize how LUCKY they are that the DNR is holding up their application review--giving the Junior League time and opportunity to man up the application with actual facts, not the Gee Whiz, It's Science Stuff! they've turned out.

Alderman Ybarra pops up and down in CC meetings like a third grader who has the answer and can't contain his excitement--or maybe just has to use the bathroom real urgently.