Monday, April 23, 2012

Waukesha-Milwaukee Water Discussion Still Missing Major Element

The language in Waukesha's letter to Milwaukee last week about getting Lake Michigan water negotiations underway raises lingering, basic questions about the diversion application.

The City of Waukesha tells Milwaukee in the letter - - read it here - -  (I cannot copy it) - - that the four neighboring Towns of Genesee, Waukesha, Delafield and Pewaukee which the City of Waukesha roped into its diversion application without their input via a regional planning committee water service territory map the City requested - -  (discussion and map, here) - - do not have transportation or housing plans and defer these matters to Waukesha County.

The letter directs Milwaukee officials to a Waukesha County comprehensive planning website for further details.

That is not a bureaucratic or inter-governmental diversion - - the equivalent of a voice mail system telling you to "press 1 for more options."

That is a problem for the advance of the application and has been for a long time (June, 2009): almost two years ago I said this was the biggest problem with the application - - and I stand by that today.

For one thing, the Town of Waukesha, with a large land mass included by regional planners and the City without the Town's permission or input in the application and map, has yet to give its assent to the inclusion.

And the matter has been hanging fire for a long time.

Yet, Milwaukee has reiterated for years, and is on record through a Common Council resolution signed by the Mayor - - full text here - -  that a water sale to Waukesha is conditional on a number of things, including commitments on housing, transportation and other regional socio-economic issues needed in a water sale deal that go beyond a per-gallon price for water.

How is the City of Waukesha going to meet these Milwaukee conditions if Waukesha's Town partners and their residents don't have the service infrastructure to be full partners in a regional process?

A mere letter from the City of Waukesha that says, yes, the smaller municipalities ticketed for getting Milwaukee water are institutionally incapable of meeting the water-selling city's basic cooperative conditions, but here's a website to consult at yet another level of government to consult and we're done with that part of the conversation - -  hardly addresses the language of Milwaukee resolution/city policy, to wit:
In addition, for purposes of Common Council review, the community which has applied for water service from the City of Milwaukee shall submit a written report to the aforementioned communication file indicating that the community has adopted and implemented:
D-1. A comprehensive plan pursuant to s. 66.1001, Wis. Stats., and, if the plan has not been completed, indicate the status of the community’s compliance with each of the 9 requirements which comprise s. 66.1001 (2), Wis. Stats.
D-2. A comprehensive housing plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the creation of affordable housing opportunities that have resulted in racial, age and income diversification, with data on the percentage of population in assisted and affordable housing that is age 30 or less, above age 30 and below 65, and age 65 and above.
D-3. A comprehensive public transportation plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the expansion and improvement of public transportation links between persons living in the City of Milwaukee and job opportunities in the community which has applied for water service. Such plan may include, but is not limited to, participation and inclusion in the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transportation Authority or an equivalent entity.
By the way, that afore-mentioned regional transportation authority included as an example of what the City of Milwaukee expects in a water deal is dead - -  killed recently by the pro-road-builder, transit-hating Legislature and Governor, and furthermore - - Waukesha County wanted no part of it when it was still around because it abhorred any linkage with Milwaukee.

While public funds serving car owners are continually shoveled into highway connections between the two counties, transit links for lower-income residents, or those without access to cars are minimal.

There is one privately-owned coach line connecting downtown Milwaukee to downtown Waukesha; Waukesha interests killed Milwaukee light rail which was initially planned to connect to the City of New Berlin on the two counties' border 15 years ago, cementing, if you will, the isolation of Milwaukee workers from Waukesha housing and employment.

So much for regional cooperation, or finding it at that Waukesha county planning website.

Yet the City of Waukesha letter tells the City of Milwaukee it considers its submission on the Town-and-service territory-map issue matter complete enough to get water sales' negotiations underway.

I can't see how Milwaukee would find that non-responsive response in any way adequate; how does Milwaukee sit down and talk about water sales and distribution to an area including the Town of Waukesha if the Town is not on board with the application, let alone being in the room to talk about it?

Remember, the Town asked the City of Waukesha for a seat at the table, and was rebuffed.


Anonymous said...

The Town of Waukesha has no interest in being party to a "someday you may have a need" mentality if someone's well fails. Why would they? As a community of mostly private wells they don't have the infrastructure to deliver the water and the Waukesha Water Utility Director refused to answer questions about what would happen to their septic if they did get on a Lake Michigan pipeline. Think return flow for that answer.
Property value would plummet in the Town of Waukesha if they were foolish enough to want inclusion in the service area. Without a letter from the Town saying they want in, this deal isn't going anywhere because the city can't afford it alone.

Paul Furrer said...

James, I guess you where right about the biggest problem with the Waukesha's application. I figured that "return flow" costs and engineering would be the most difficult. I didn't realize that Milwaukee didn't want to sell us water. Or that the Great Lakes' States would not want our max possible build out area in the application. As far as a bus to downtown Milwaukee from Waukesha, I use to take the Dairyland with just one stop. Sorry to hear that gone. But if we are taking County transportation Waukesha has zero without the City of Waukesha (check that I think they have several carpool vans). The City of Waukesha has mass transit, how many buses does the City of Milwaukee have?

Paul Furrer said...

Anonymous, So the Town of Waukesha has no interest? If it was my well or septic that failed I might. But fine, the Town doesn't sign on, they put up a reed wall enforced by the 8 Great Lakes' States, but that doesn't give the Town veto authority. Does the Town have interest in preventing the City from looking for water all around Vernon Marsh? Because only Utility customers pay for any water source option (with the exception of Fed or State grants) it costs the Town nothing to have lines on a map regardless of where they are drawn. Sewerpac already has those lines in place Townspeople have to join the City before they can get any City service.

Anonymous said...


People in the Town of Waukesha DO NOT WANT city services or the higher tax rates associated with them.

This is why they choose to live in the Town!

Anonymous said...

What's keeping the city from looking at shallow wells just west of the city where the shale layer ends? Maybe some affluent community worried about getting sucked dry just like someone keeps suggesting will happen to the Town if they don't cooperate?

Paul Furrer said...

Good point shallow wells in the West. The look included higher costs because of distance but deigned both Lake Michigan and a ring around Vern Marsh the West will be revisited. I get that people live in the Town for a reason, but Townspeople and business continue to join the City year after year because they need those City services and are willing to pay higher taxes to get them. Are you telling your neighbors that they have to get eight Governors' to give them permission to get those services?

Boxer said...

Paul F:

If a well or septic or both fail (within a township, T. of Waukesha or other), the homeowner always has the option of digging a deeper well** and/or putting in a mound system. Expensive? Yes. But far, far, far less expensive than paying for infrastructure to connect with the City, higher City taxes, the uncertainty of ever-increasing water rates, the being hitched forevermore with the City and the likelihood of being represented on the Common Council by a bunch of bone-headed Yes Men who never looked at any alternative and seem to be falling all over themselves to obtain invitations to the CH2M Hill and Schrieber and Associates Christmas parties. (Present company excepted, of course.) Little boys in short pants getting to play with the big boys for a day--it's pants-wetting excitement!

**Providing a certain City hasn't over-built a bunch of high capacity municipal wells that suck the groundwater, surface water and wetlands of said township dry.

Anonymous said...


Which is closer; shallow wells west of Waukesha, or a pipe line to Racine, Wisconsin?
Perhaps you need to buy a Friday addition of the Racine Journal Times.