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Waukesha Town Hall stays in the town, but city sewer likely

DPW Board went against staff's recommendation of annexation

Sept. 10, 2013

Town Chairman John Marek did not like what he was hearing.

He was sitting inside Waukesha City Hall's Council Chambers as the city's Board of Public Works was discussing Marek's request to have Waukesha Town Hall connected to the city's sewer system.

Finding another source is needed because of the town's failing septic tank. The tank dates to 1958 and has the town spending up to $10,000 a year to pump it — sometimes twice a month. Marek added that raw sewage overflowed into the Fire Department area last fall.

"It's shot," Marek said. "And we've got an engineering report that says it's shot."

But when Marek heard at the meeting that the Department of Public Works staff recommended the Town Hall be annexed into the City of Waukesha in order to receive this service, he said that would not be an option.

"Would the town be interested in the city's sewer and water service if we have to annex Town Hall into the city? Absolutely not," Marek said. "To say that we would have to annex the Town Hall into the city would be an incredible negative political blow, and we would find another solution."

"There are other solutions to the issue."

It doesn't appear that Marek will have to look for another solution, however. While the board recommended to the Common Council that Town Hall be connected to the city's sewer service, it went against the staff's recommendation of annexing the building into the city.

Marek speaks up

Aldermen Eric Payne and Joe Pieper, two members of the Board of Public Works, said they want to have good working relationships with the town and other municipalities, and annexing its municipality building isn't good practice.

"I think we should provide sanitary service but have Town Hall remain in the town," Pieper said. "I have a hard time having another municipality's government in the City of Waukesha. I live in the City of Waukesha, and I want City Hall in the City of Waukesha. I imagine the residents of the town would feel the same way."

Marek was surprised that talk of annexation was even taking place.

"This conversation is completely contrary to the communication I had with the head of the water department (Dan Duchniak) and the city administrator up until this point," Marek said. "The letter of engagement that we have from the city is these items would be handled on a case-by-case basis. This was the understanding that we had and one of the reasons we included the entire town in the city's sewer and water service area. There was an agreement that we wouldn't have annexation."

But Director of Public Works Fred Abadi disagreed.

"Actually, I think it's very consistent with what you've heard before," said Abadi, who added it's normal practice and policy to require annexation and that there's no legal barrier against it. "It would be on a case-by-case basis."

City: annexation warranted

The reason Abadi and the city's planning department said this case warrants annexation is because of the location of Town Hall, W250 S3567 Center Road.

"The city has grown quite a bit to the south and will continue to do so, and the Town Hall is on an island, and this will only perpetuate if we don't require annexation," City Planner Jennifer Andrews said. "And, quite honestly, our services around that island are used, roads, parks, services for homes on that street, so we think it's good long-term policy to continue to require annexation." 

Some board members, like Marek, were also surprised with the concept of having Town Hall in the city.

"I know it sounds odd," said Andrews, who added there are other towns/villages that have their municipal buildings in other communities. "It's not unprecedented."

"What we would be gaining is some regularity with our borders," she added. "We have these town islands, and it doesn't provide for efficient service delivery. With snow plowing, you're stopping, starting. We're going around town islands to provide sewer and water to other properties and also, along with that, residents across from Town Hall, they're driving on city roads to go to their homes, to go shopping and to use city parks.

"They're using a multitude of city services because they're surrounded by the city, but the city sees no taxes to offset those services that we are providing by default because they're in an island around the city."

'Permanent solution'

Marek countered Andrews' statement, saying city residents use town roads "that we maintain, and we're not getting any tax benefit from any of the city residents." 

Nevertheless, with the board not agreeing to annexation, Marek was pleased with the decision.

"(Connecting with the city) is probably not the most cost-effective but the most permanent solution," Marek said. He added as a way to protect town borders in the future incorporation is something he will pursue.

The Common Council will likely take a vote on the board's recommendation at its meeting next week.

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