Permeable roads don’t hold water with council

Aldermen concerned about cost of pavers that reduce runoff, filter water
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The City of Port Washington probably won’t be using permeable pavers when it rebuilds Lake Street this year.

Aldermen on Tuesday were asked to approve spending $7,000 to study whether to construct the road with permeable pavers instead of asphalt, but they took no action on that question.

Instead, they asked the city staff to take another look at the use of permeable pavers, saying they want to make sure the investment is worth the money.

The cost of using permeable pavers is estimated to be as much as $200,000 more than asphalt.

Ald. Dan Benning said he wants the city staff to look at the larger issues and the potential return on investment.

“I cannot look someone in the eye and say it’s OK to spend $200,000 on a street that’s not heavily traveled by the general public,” he said.

“I’d like to see where it makes sense in our whole city, not in one small area.”

Part of the review, he added, should be whether the pavers would withstand the freeze-thaw cycle.

Ald. Jonathan Pleitner also said a more global approach is needed for the neighborhood.

“I’d like to see us study permeable pavers at a later time,” he said.

But Ald. Mike Gasper, who promoted the idea of using the pavers, said that by postponing action the council is effectively voting against using them on Lake Street.

That’s because the city is expected to seek bids for the street project next month.

Gasper noted that the analysis that aldermen were asked to approve would have given the city the answers it is seeking.

“Right now, we’re asking for the money to get a better idea of what the cost is going to be,” he said.

And without that information, Gasper said, the city staff will be looking for further information with their hands tied behind their backs.

Permeable pavers allow rain and melted snow to filter through them rather than run into the storm sewer system. The sand used in the system helps filter the water, cleaning it before it reaches the lake. 

Although they are more expensive than asphalt, Gasper said the cost difference may have been less than expected since the city would not have needed as many stormwater inlets or manholes as with asphalt.

Gasper said he proposed they be used in large part to “accentuate the neighborhood,” noting that pavers are being used in the Newport Shores project. He said he would also like to see them used throughout the marina district to help give it a distinct identity.

But without using them on Lake Street, he said, that may be a moot point.

“Why would you do it everywhere else if you don’t do it there?” he asked. 

Because the area is within the city’s tax incremental financing district, Gasper added, TIF funding likely could have defrayed the cost.

“I think that would have been a better use of TIF funds than direct payments to developers,” he said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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