Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Great summary of the water issue facing Waukesha


Andrew Weiland, the managing editor of BizTimes Milwaukee, has a great article on the issues concerning Waukesha’s quest for water, including what to expect from negotiations with Milwaukee:

Also in 2008, the Milwaukee Common Council passed a resolution establishing terms and conditions by which the city would provide water to neighboring communities. Those terms and conditions indicate that a community applying for water from the city of Milwaukee must provide its comprehensive plan, an affordable housing plan and public transportation plan to the city of Milwaukee. Communities applying for water must also agree to a non-compete clause with the city, with both sides promising not to try to lure businesses from the other, and the community must agree to an economic compensation provision for the city of Milwaukee.

“It allows us to ensure we are working with allies that have common regional interests, so that while we are working in partnership with the suburban communities we are not doing so at the city of Milwaukee’s expense,” said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines. “We want to ensure that Milwaukee residents’ and Milwaukee’s interests are protected.”

Those conditions are some of the things that Scrima is concerned about in seeking water from the city of Milwaukee. However, other city officials and business and community leaders say that Milwaukee and Waukesha just need to work out a mutually beneficial water deal. Otherwise, Waukesha has the option of making a water deal with Oak Creek or Racine, but the cost to get the water from those communities could be higher.

“In Wisconsin, cities are set up as separate home rule entities,” said Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas. “The bottom line is one city cannot require something as a condition unless the other city agrees to it. They’re going to have to sit down at the bargaining table.”

“The city (of Waukesha) is going to have negotiations with more than one community,” Kelley said. “All sides need to get to the negotiating table and hammer out the best deal possible.”

“It boils down to sitting down and negotiating, giving and taking and showing respect for both municipalities to establish a true partnership where both municipalities feel pleased with the agreement,” Hines said.

Milwaukee officials have no plans to pick up any of the costs of establishing water service to Waukesha. To make that point clear, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Hines and seven other Milwaukee aldermen sent a letter last month to Scrima, saying, “any and all costs related to the study, design, construction and connection of the water supply from Milwaukee to Waukesha and the return of treated water to Lake Michigan, shall be borne by Waukesha. The city of Milwaukee will not be responsible for any of these or related costs.”

Access to Milwaukee water would further enable Waukesha to expand and grow. Some Milwaukee officials are concerned that growth in Waukesha comes at Milwaukee’s expense. However, a water deal with Waukesha also could provide a much-needed revenue source for the city of Milwaukee. Those concerns will likely play a role in any water deal negotiations between Milwaukee and Waukesha.

“We do not want to be extortionists,” said Alex Runner, staff assistant for Hines. “We know Waukesha has serious needs. We want to negotiate with them in a fair way. If they don’t like the deal, they don’t have to do the deal.”


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