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City briefs residents on water main plan

May 13, 2014

Brookfield City Hall was abuzz Tuesday night.

A public information meeting about the city's latest planned water main project drew quite a crowd along with many questions and answers.

The city plans to place water mains in the ground in the Bluemound Estates neighborhood, under Parkview Drive, Hilltop Drive and Amber Court.

The city's Water and Sewer Board voted unanimously in favor of awarding the construction contract for the project to Reeseman's Excavating. Reeseman's was the lowest of nine bidders with a bid of $1.75 million. In addition, the board was unanimous in its recommendation to levy assessments for the project. The items will now go before the Common Council next week Tuesday.

Residents in the neighborhoods affected by the project will be required by city ordinance to hook up to the municipal water main within 10 years of its completion. Construction on the project is expected to begin in early to mid-June, and Project Manager John Carlson hopes that everything will be finished by October.

The bottom line

The amount assessed to property owners in the affected areas would vary, but some assessments could be as high as $19,000, according to information presented at the meeting. Property owners would receive the bills for the project at the end of December and would be able to pay them starting Jan. 31. The city would assess a 7 percent interest rate to be compounded annually. Property owners who sell their properties after the date that city water becomes available to them would be required to pay for the connection prior to closing on the sale.

Carlson also noted that property owners would have to hire a private plumber in order to arrange for connection from their homes to the laterals from the water main that will run up to their property line.

"It's a very wide range, but that is usually about somewhere in the range of $3,000 to $6,000," Carlson said.

Officials noted that some residents put in an extra connecting pipe when city sewer was hooked up 25 years ago that could potentially now save them the extra hassel of connecting the lateral to their homes. Carlson suggested that property owners consult a private plumber about the issue.

"It's a good idea, but it didn't always work. Those sewer laterals don't always make it 25 years without being used. I think, more often than not, they do, but your plumber would have to check it out," Carlson said.

Concerned citizens

During the public information meeting held before the Water and Sewer Board's meeting, some residents expressed distaste for the project.

"Why do it? (I'm) doing well with my well, but now I'm forced to connect," Michael Harris of Elmridge Avenue said.

Judi Wisla and her husband, Richard, also protested being forced to connect to municipal water, citing their financial situation.

"The cost is awfully large. We're both retired, and we're on a fixed income. This is going to require us to delve into our savings that we would like to use on other things," Judi Wisla said.

Harris plans to call his alderman and inquire about the possibility of changing the city's ordinance. The plan to extend municipal water throughout Brookfield has been in effect since 2001.

"The common council of Brookfield, in 2001, made a decision to extend water to every property. They set the goal to make it available by 2027," Carlson said. "As time goes on, a lot of (property) buyers are saying they want to have city water. 'We don't want to mess around with a well.' It is an added value."

Carlson went on to note that municipal water is likely tested more often for harmful chemicals and pH levels than private wells, and the water is often obtained from deeper aquifers.

"Most of your wells come from a shallow aquifer, mostly in the 100 to 150 foot range. We go deeper," Carlson said. "At minimum, we're in the limestone region, which is about 400 feet deep. Several are in the sandstone area, which is about 1,200 feet (deep)."

What happens to wells?

Property owners who currently use a well will be allowed to continue to use it, but will have to connect to the new water main within 10 years. They will be allowed to continue to use their well after connecting to city water; however, the two sources cannot be cross-connected.

"The key is that the two systems are not interconnected. We call that a cross-connection. That provides an opportunity, should your private well become contaminated, for it to contaminate municipal water," City Engineer Jeffrey Chase said.

More fees will be assessed to those who use private wells, with a city permit, county inspection and a safe water sample required for those who wish to continue to use their wells. Carlson estimated the total cost of those items to be slightly less than $200.

"Any change or modification to your existing well requires a permit. Because there's now a requirement to separate your well from your current system, in the event you choose to keep your well, you have to follow the requirements," Chase said. "You'll have to modify your well, which will engage the requirement to test it."

Property owners who wish to abandon their wells are, Carlson said, looking at a bill of about $1,200 to $1,500.

Aside from a few restrictions that will apply on an individual basis to certain properties, property owners will be able to choose where they want the lateral from the water main to connect to their property. Property owners will be sent a white flag that they can place to indicate their desired connection point.

Carlson and Chase also reassured residents that driveways and culverts will be repaired and the work will not be billed to property owners.

"In general, the goal of our water main projects is to put things back the way we found (them)," Chase said.

Carlson noted that the average water bill in the city of Brookfield is $23.50 per month.

Director of Public Works Tom Grisa said that abou 75 to 80 percent of Brookfield currently has access to municipal water.

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