Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Town gets water decision right

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Town gets water decision right

But will city get it right?

Waukesha Freeman May 23, 2013 Page A 6 OpinionUntitled

My son fell behind in reading class and found himself stuck reading a book he didn’t like for a report he didn’t want to write. When he complained again about the book, I reminded him that had he started to read the book when he was supposed to, he might have been able to switch books. Now it was too late and he was stuck with the choice he made.

The Town of Waukesha found itself in a similar situation Tuesday night. They were past the deadline for accepting the city of Waukesha’s terms to be included in the water service area.

City Administrator Ed Henschel had declared enough was enough, telling the Waukesha Freeman, “We’re moving on.”

However, the Town Board met to give it one more try, even while the city’s Common Council met to consider other matters.

Much has been made of the recent dysfunction with the town’s government. Tuesday night’s meeting was different.

As the debate began on the water issue, Supervisor Joe Banske explained his new position. After Saturday night’s information meeting, someone had asked him to take a long walk to think things over, he said. It was clear he took the advice.

Things had changed, he explained. The Department of Natural Resources was willing to allow the town’s inclusion in the city’s water service area to be contingent on the success of the city’s application for Great Lakes water. The new resolution by the town would include a provision that the town was still free to negotiate with Big Bend to be in their water service area for sewer service.

To Banske, the latter was most important, as he was concerned about development along Highway 164. He wanted his community to have options.

Supervisor Brian Fischer supplied the board with an email from 2011 from Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak that confirmed that it was not necessary for a resident to have his property annexed by the city in order to receive city water. More important to Banske, the email also confirmed that the town would still be free to pursue other sources of water.

Town Board Chairman John Marek pointed out repeatedly that 20 town properties since 1999 had been given water service by the city but were not annexed. Supervisors Banske, Michael Laska and Larry Wolf weren’t ready to believe that it wouldn’t be a requirement in the future, but Banske decided to support joining the city water service area anyway.

Banske had fought against inclusion in the water service area. But Tuesday night he found himself explaining to his friends, neighbors and supporters why he was now in favor of joining.

Banske believed that they had gotten every concession they could from the city. They had leverage in the form of possible sewer service in the south from Big Bend. He believed that the town would be able to compete with the city in attracting development and keeping it within the town’s borders.

After a thoughtful debate among the five board members, they decided in a 3-2 vote to join the city’s water service area, attaching conditions that had already been spelled out in previous correspondence with the city.

Some supporters of Banske were unhappy after the meeting, including former Town Chairman Angie Van Scyoc. I don’t expect that they’ll ever accept Banske’s reasons, but they should be proud of the way Banske and the rest of the board thoughtfully considered the town’s future. City Administrator Ed Henschel, on the other hand, announced to the Common Council Tuesday night that although the town had taken action, the city was moving on without them. As of this writing, Henschel was not even willing to consider what the town passed because it included “conditions.”

While it’s easy to understand the frustration of the city in dealing with the town on this issue, city residents should hope that their city administrator would consider the town’s action with the same level of maturity that the town showed Tuesday night.

Mayor Jeff Scrima is a religious man. Perhaps he can explain to Henschel the parable of the Prodigal Son.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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