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Municipal water issue won't go away

Despite rejection, village officials look at other options

March 23, 2010

Even though residents just weeks ago overwhelmingly rejected a plan to bring in water from Brookfield to a targeted area of Elm Grove, village officials haven't given up on the idea of municipal water.

In fact, the Village Board wants to take a look at the costs involved with installing a pipe along Watertown Plank Road that could one day be used to bring water to Elm Grove.

Officials also are planning to talk to Wauwatosa again about whether that city would be willing to provide Lake Michigan water to the village.

Was it the plan?

Residents and property owners shot down, by a 6-to-1 margin, a municipal water project would have provided Brookfield water to properties along a loop around the downtown area.

However, trustees said they repeatedly heard that one of the reasons residents opposed the project was because the village would not be receiving Lake Michigan water. The high cost of the project during a recession was another deterrent for residents.

Trustees interpret the feedback as meaning residents are not against the idea of municipal water in general, just that particular plan.

Pipe eyed for future use

With that in mind, the board asked staff Monday to determine the costs associated with doing the engineering work for a pipe along Watertown Plank Road that could be installed during the reconstruction of that road next summer. Laying pipe next year for possible future use in a water project could prevent the road from having to be torn up again in a few years.

"I suggest we look at it, and in the meantime, explore Wauwatosa as an option," Trustee George Haas said.

The village attempted in 2005 to negotiate a deal with Wauwatosa to receive Lake Michigan water through the city, however, the cost was deemed too high. With a change in administration, it may be worth examining to see if a better deal could be struck, Trustee Andy Azpell said.

Village President Neil Palmer said he and village staff also are watching what's happening in Waukesha, where that city is working to receive water from Milwaukee. Depending on where that pipe is laid, it could be another way for Elm Grove to receive Lake Michigan water.

Since the Watertown Plank project is through the Department of Transportation, including the engineering of pipe in the Watertown Plank project now could give village officials more time to explore other options for bringing water to the village in the next few years without delaying the Watertown Plank project.

Grant is a possibility

In addition, the village also is applying for a state grant that would pay a portion of a water project and make the village eligible for low-interest loans through the Safe Drinking Water project.

If the village were to receive any funding, the board would need to decide whether to resend commitment letters to determine if a reduced cost would increase the level of participation, Village Manager Dave De Angelis said. Residents would return the commitment letters to the village with a yes or no vote on whether they would support the project financially.

The board took no action on the matter and will wait to see if the village is awarded the funds.

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