Jul 26, 2014

A Fluid Situation: Council Could Seal Water Deal

The Waukesha Common Council will take up controversial Waukesha Business Improvement District and Lake Michigan water purchase negotiations during its meeting Tuesday night.

A Fluid Situation: Council Could Seal Water Deal

The Waukesha Common Council will tackle two important issues during its meeting on Tuesday: water and the Waukesha Business Improvement District’s Board of Directors.

First, it plans to discuss “recommendations to the mayor for his appointments to the BID board,” according to the agenda. Mass resignations from the board poured in during the last council meeting after accusations of bullying and harassment against a few board members came from the resigning BID executive director, Meghan Sprager.

The Common Council meeting is being held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 201 Delafield St.

Only two board members, Bill Huelsman and Natalie Walters, remain with the BID. However, because the board does not have enough members on the board, the board is “effectively dissolved at this time,” said City Administrator Edmund Henschel in a memo to the Common Council.

Without addressing the structure of the BID board, “we will be throwing the new board ‘under the bus,’” Henschel said.

While the board apparently does not exist, the BID district remains, Henschel said.

The council in the future could review the size of the 13-member board, Henschel told the council. However, the board size cannot change until after the BID’s operating plan expires on Dec. 31.

The BID board could operate with five additional members being appointed to the board, but all seven members would need to be present to hold any meetings.

“An overriding consideration is not simply creating a new board and continuing operations as usual,” Henschel said in the memo. “This will result in a continuation of controversies and provide a forum for dissent with nothing more than new faces to criticize.”

Henschel’s memo is attached to this article.

    Water Contracts on Agenda

    The Common Council will also meet in closed session during the meeting to discuss “negotiations for a potential agreement with Oak Creek or Racine as it relates to the City of Waukesha’s Application for Great Lakes Water.” The agenda includes possible action in open session on the negotiations.

    Oak Creek is also meeting in closed session Tuesday night to discuss a possible water sale contract with Waukesha.

    Waukesha is looking for a Lake Michigan community to supply the lake water to the suburban community. Waukesha will also have to build a pipeline to return the water to the Great Lakes.

    Waukesha still faces a long climb to get Lake Michigan water, including approval from all Great Lakes states. But the votes Tuesday represent a significant step. Waukesha spent a year and a half in negotiations with Oak Creek and Racine. City officials also wanted to negotiate with their preferred supplier, Milwaukee, but discussions never happened.

    The Waukesha Water Utility and the Waukesha Common Council met in closed session earlier this month to discuss the water sales contract, but information was not made public after that meeting.

    The Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility has said providing Waukesha with Lake Michigan water could result in a rate reduction of as much as 25 percent for Oak Creek residents.

    Waukesha is forced to either treat or replace its water supply by 2018 because radium levels have put the city's water supply out of legal compliance. The city's wells also face problems with declining water quality due to arsenic and saltwater and with a limited groundwater supply.

    Don’t miss updates from Patch!