October 9, 2019
By Cara Spoto
Sends letter to New Berlin, urging cooperation
New Berlin — As Waukesha Water Utility officials prepare for a public hearing on their request to construct a pumping station and two nine-gallon reservoir tanks at the southeastern edge of Minooka Park, the Waukesha County Business Alliance is urging New Berlin city officials to show regional cooperation by supporting the project.
The letter, sent to the city late last month, comes as residents near the proposed site — an 8.57-acre parcel near the corner of Swartz Road and Racine Avenue — have expressed vocal opposition to the development.
Some of that outcry has continued despite the utility’s recent move to lower the water tanks by 10 feet – to 32.5 feet and 35 feet respectively — at a projected cost increase of $2 million to $5 million dollars.
The pumping station and reservoirs are a critical part of the utility’s plan to bring Lake Michigan water to businesses and households in the city of Waukesha by 2023.
In their letter, Waukesha County Business Alliance President and CEO Suzanne Kelley and Amanda Payne, the organization’s senior vice president for public policy, implore New Berlin officials to back the utility’s chosen site, noting that moving the structures to another part of the park could be more disruptive to New Berlin residents as well as the park.
“Although many of the impacts of the infrastructure needed to transport water from and back to Lake Michigan will occur outside of the city (of Waukesha), those impacts are impossible to avoid. However, Waukesha has worked diligently to lessen those impacts on the public and to provide benefits to other communities when possible,” Kelley and Payne wrote. “The fact-based reviews and political cooperation that has brought the project to this point must continue in a timely fashion, for the good of our region. We strongly urge New Berlin officials to meet with Waukesha and determine the best way to ensure approval of this pumping station moves forward, in a timely fashion, to keep this important project on track.”
Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said Tuesday that he remains confident that the utility will meet all of the conditions set forth in the conditional use permit required for the project. Plan commissions must follow a strict process when considering conditional use permits, so there is less chance of the project being rejected purely as a result of political pressure.
But he stressed that if the utility is forced to find an alternate location outside the park, it could put the utility in danger of not meeting its court-ordered requirement of having a new water supply for utility customers by the 2023 deadline.
“The county does not have an alternative location. We do not have an alternative location. We have gone through all the studies and determined the route (for the water pipeline), and we are moving forward with that process,” said Duchniak.
The public hearing on the conditional use permit is scheduled for Nov. 4 before the New Berlin Plan Commission. The commission is slated to vote on the permit when it meets in December.