Shorewood goes with tax flow on sewer problems - with no assessments

Oct. 17, 2012

Shorewood - The village plans to chip in $263,000 and work with 75 property owners as part of a 2013 plan aimed at addressing a portion of the private sewer lateral issues in one area of the community.

After several hours of discussion, the Village Board on Monday voted 6-1 in favor of a private property inflow and infiltration program in the year ahead. The work will be focused in Basin 6, located on the village's northern end.

Participation from property owners will be voluntary.

Addressing inflow and infiltration has been a topic of conversation in the community since the dual torrential rains in July 2010 that resulted in numerous basement back-ups and flooded streets.

Groundwater, known as infiltration, seeps into sewer pipes through holes, cracks and other faulty connections; stormwater, or inflow, flows into sewers through roof drain downspouts, foundation drains and other mechanisms.

No-assessment approach

The village is not going to special assess property owners - an issue that drew significant discussion at this week's meeting. Addressing the laterals on 75 properties costs an estimated $526,000, and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is funding half the tab.

Trustee Ellen Eckman voted against the proposal. She expressed dismay that a special assessment was absent from this week's discussion.

"What I'm struggling with is why we're not looking at some type of shared cost with the property owners," Eckman said. "This continues to be something that's like a sore tooth. This is a big policy decision for a community like ours."

But other board members favored the idea under the assumption that the inflow and infiltration issues will improve the entire village, not just the individual properties.

"This is something that is for the public good, not the private good," Village Manager Chris Swartz said. "That's why tax money is being used. This isn't the same as a roof or driveway."

Evaluating the overall plan

While officials say they hope the inflow and infiltration work will decrease the likelihood of basement backups in the future, there is no guarantee addressing a leaky sewer lateral will full mitigate such an occurrence in the future.

"It's not going to be the ultimate fix to a person's property," Trustee Jeff Hanewall said. "I think it's extremely important people know this."

The board annually will review the private property inflow and infiltration plan. Based on preliminary projections, the village plans to work with 48 or 49 property owners annually through 2021. Annual cost estimates range from $336,000 to $343,000. MMSD grants will continue to be sought to defray the total cost.

"We're trying to get to a point where the laterals will no longer leak," Village Engineer Mustafa Emir said. "It's going to take us about nine years to get there."

In a related motion, the board on Monday voted to renew its agreement with Clark Dietz, the firm Emir is employed by, in 2013. The agreement carries a $13,910 price tag.

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