Monday, December 5th, 2016

Facts there for all to see at water meeting

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jul 29, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Facts there for all to see at water meeting

Scrima missed chance to present better alternative to Great Lakes water

When the city gathered Tuesday night to debate the water issue again, there was an expectation of fireworks. Instead it was more like a rainy Fourth of July. Even Mayor Jeff Scrima fizzled out at the end.

The front parking lot was full but the television trucks were absent. There were still seats to be had inside the council chambers, unlike when the Common Council debated building a stadium in Frame Park.

I counted 13 people speaking directly on the water issue, with the majority in favor of continuing the application process. One resident even wanted to build two pipelines to Lake Michigan because he didn’t trust Milwaukee and he wanted to keep the rates competitive. There was hardly a “mandate” on either side of the issue.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the 75 people in attendance could hardly stay awake during yet another recitation of the facts by Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak and the staff.

Alderman Paul Furrer livened the meeting up somewhat with an interesting reading of the letter to the Department of Natural Resources. I regret to inform the alderman he probably does not have a career ahead of him reading books for audio recordings. But it was useful for the audience members to know exactly what the council was considering.

Let’s give the aldermen their due. Despite there being very little that was new in Tuesday night’s presentation, they did their best to ask the questions that Scrima, his supporters, and a few others have been asking about the water application.

The aldermen listened to their constituents who have been asking the council and the mayor to work together. On a unanimous vote, they amended the letter to keep the mayor as a point of contact for the Department of Natural Resources along with Duchniak. It’s probably a recipe for trouble.

Let’s give the staff their due. Despite having given this presentation over and over again (I don’t know why I keep taking the handouts), they did their best to answer each and every question from the aldermen. They explained why it was necessary to find an alternative source for water, and why the best option is Lake Michigan. They patiently explained to Scrima how the Public Service Commission sets utility rates in this state.

Even the city attorney was patient with his explanations to the mayor of parliamentary procedure (isn’t there a “Robert’s Rules of Order” on tape?), which brings up the night’s biggest disappointment.

During the question-and-answer portion, it was explained to the mayor that after all of the aldermen spoke he could speak by yielding the chair. When the aldermen were finished, the mayor attempted to speak on the issue, prompting the city attorney to explain it to the mayor a second time. Scrima announced that the parliamentary procedural move was “too complicated” and declined to speak.

Here was a chance for the mayor to explain to the entire city and the DNR why Waukesha should not apply for Lake Michigan water. Instead, the mayor decided it would be too hard.

I confronted him after the meeting, asking him if this meant that all of his questions were answered and that he had no further objections. The mayor told me that he had nothing left to say at the meeting after what he said during his questions of the staff, and that he would continue to speak to the press and individual constituents. He also said that there were things that he heard during closed sessions that still concerned him.

When this city debated building a new baseball stadium in Frame Park, the council’s vote effectively ended the issue despite the high passions on both sides and the record turnout at the council meeting.

The council and the rest of Waukesha deserved to hear what exactly Scrima was proposing as an alternative. Then it could have been debated and decided upon by the Common Council. That is how a responsible government is supposed to work. Instead, it looks like the mayor is just going to do his best to drag things out further.

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