Officials see logic of letting property owners opt out of costly installation
When Village of Saukville officials approved the reconstruction of Linden Street, they inadvertently opened a Pandora’s box of concerns with residents.
Aside from the usual objections to special assessments designed to cover part of the cost of installing new sidewalks, the inclusion of a new sewer line with the project has brought a flurry of additional protests.
According to village ordinances, once a storm sewer is available in a neighborhood, property owners have one year to connect their sump pumps via storm laterals.
The policy was put into place as part of the village’s ongoing effort to reduce the amount of clear water sent to the wastewater treatment plant.
Several Linden Street area residents have objected that the connection order would be especially costly to them, because they do not have sump pumps.
That means those property owners face the expense of hiring a contractor to put in a lateral from the storm sewer to their homes, as well as installing a sump crock and pump to move stormwater away from their foundations.
Two of those residents attended last week’s Village Board meeting seeking exemptions from the sump connection requirement.
Linden Street resident James Jackson said a contractor told him it would cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to put in a sump system and connect it to the storm sewer.
“That’s a burden,” Jackson said.
Main Street resident Mike Gallo, whose home is on the fringe of the Linden Street project, said he faced the same connection order.
“Am I going to have to break open the basement of an 80-year-old house that has never had a problem?” Gallo asked.
He said he also received a $25,000 estimate for the required work.
“That’s not going to happen. I can’t afford that,” Gallo said.
The problem, officials noted, is the village has no authority to waive the connection requirement under the current ordinance.
That shortcoming was addressed earlier in the evening, when the Public Works Committee asked Village Attorney Gerald Antoine to craft a waiver document that would protect the village if flooding issues should occur.
Antoine told the committee the sump pump requirement has been addressed in different ways by communities.
City of Port Washington property owners with existing sump systems must connect to new storm sewers within 60 days of installation.
City properties cannot be sold unless the sump system connection requirement is met, according to Antoine.
He also pointed to a sample ordinance used in the City of New Lisbon which grants waivers on a case-by-case basis unless authorities determine a property’s clear water discharge represents a public nuisance or safety risk.
Property owners can sign a declination agreement, saying they do not want to make a connection at this time. The one-year timeline, however, remains in place.
Village officials said the current one-year window is of little value to property owners, because the cost of the work is probably going to be at its lowest when a contractor is in the area doing other installations.
Public Works Supt. Ray de Bruijn said he understood property owners not wanting to have to pay for unneeded drainage systems, but suggested the village must consider its own liability if waivers are allowed.
“If we do create a waiver system, could we have a provision that they must sign a statement that they are not sending clear water into the sanitary system?” de Bruijn asked.
Water Utility Foreman Dale Kropidlowski said video tapes showed storm water from virtually every property in the Linden Street area was leaking into the sanitary sewer line.
“I don’t think there was one home where there wasn’t clear water leaking into the system at the joints,” Kropidlowski said.
When that infiltration of storm water is eliminated with the new sanitary sewer, that excess water will have to go somewhere, officials noted.
Antoine said a site inspection could be part of the waiver process to verify there are no illegal connections.
Trustee Scott Fischer backed the waiver concept, but with some precautions.
“We’ve got to come up with something,” Fischer said. “But if we do create a waiver, we have to make sure the village isn’t going to get stuck.”
Antoine said he would draft a waiver policy to be presented at the Oct. 21 committee meeting.
If approved, the Village Board could enact the policy later that evening.