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Or as Common Council President Willie Hines put it “What is Water Worth?” This question has been on the minds of local officials and citizens as of late because of the City of Milwaukee approving an agreement to sell water to New Berlin.
In New Berlin the questions and complaints regarding this agreement seem to be:
- Why should New Berlin pay the $1.5 million upfront fee?
- Why isn’t Milwaukee acting regionally?
- Didn’t the Great Lakes Compact would eliminate negotiations?
In Milwaukee the questions and complaints regarding this agreement seem to be:
- Was the $1.5 million upfront fee enough to cover the potential lost economic development?
- Is selling water to a suburb who has little transit or affordable housing acting regionally?
- Does this violate the Great Lakes Compact?
NewBerlin.now blogger and Wisconsin State Senator Mary Lazich (R – New Berlin) expressed outrage over the .5 million upfront fee. They argue that it fee flies in the face of regionalism, the Great Lakes Compact, and that New Berlin should explore other options to acquire water. They even went so far as to call it “extortion”.
Time and time again, I heard Compact proponents make the case that the Compact would address the water needs of New Berlin. The conventional wisdom was that the Compact needed to be approved quickly, and if it was, New Berlin’s water woes would be taken care of. Making those arguments were city of Milwaukee officials from Mayor Tom Barrett on down. They claimed the city of Milwaukee would no longer have issues with New Berlin getting water if Wisconsin would simply okay the Compact.
In JJ Blonien’s article, “Mayor sells out citizens in $1.5 million extortion deal“, he compares the fee to extortion as well and suggests that New Berlin should look elsewhere for water.
New Berlin has options besides Milwaukee’s one-sided extortion deal. The city utility can soften New Berlin’s water to comply with EPA standards, or it can pursue water agreements with the cities of Oak Creek or Racine.
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