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Great Lakes Article:

Suburbs propose new water deal
Suburbs would pay for new intake, pump
By Peter Rebhahn
Green Bay Press-Gazette
07/03/03


Nine suburbs seeking a drinking-water agreement with Green Bay pitched a new proposal Wednesday that could be a last attempt to save a deal more than two years in the making.

The suburbs have sweetened a previous offer to share the costs of a second Lake Michigan pipeline with the city by offering to also build and donate to the city a needed second lake water intake and pump at an estimated cost of about $14 million.

The suburbs, which operate as the Central Brown County Water Authority, would turn the new facilities over to the city following a model used by communities that join the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District.

"But we own the capacity," said authority President Len Teresinski.

The proposal would be a backup plan to a preferred plan already agreed to in principle that would use aquifer storage and recovery, a water-storage technique in which municipalities store treated drinking water underground in wells converted to storage.

In the preferred plan, which both sides agree is the cheapest, the water authority would become a wholesale customer of the Green Bay Water Utility.

Aquifer storage and recovery hasnít been approved by the state Department of Natural Resources for use in Northeastern Wisconsin, and fear that it may never pass muster with regulators has forced negotiators for the city and suburbs to create a backup plan.

Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt said the city would take a hard look at the suburbsí offer "because we have to make a decision on this by next week."

Two backup plans already introduced into talks have met with opposition. A so-called shared facilities plan in which the water authority would team with Green Bay to build a shared second pipeline but not buy water from the city is opposed by Green Bay.

In a second backup option, the water authority would pay the cost of upgrades to Green Bayís water system needed to supply the suburbs without aquifer storage and recovery and become a customer of the cityís water utility.

The water authority has rejected the contributed capital option because it determined that the plan would lead to more expensive water than the authority could provide residents from a shelved plan to build a $135 million suburbs-only Lake Michigan pipeline and water system.

Brown County Planner Mike Parmentier, a consultant to the authority, said the new wrinkle introduced Wednesday combines the "the best of both worlds" from the shared facilities and contributed capital options to overcome one of the cityís biggest concerns.

"Theyíre not giving away any ownership at all," Parmentier said. "They still own the system.

But Schmitt said the idea isnít truly new and might just as easily be called a modified shared facilities plan.

"Thatís exactly what it is, so now that weíre starting to wordsmith here, Iím just telling you that it is what it is," Schmitt said.

Under the new proposal the suburbs would also pay the $6 million additional cost needed to upgrade Green Bayís new Lake Michigan pipeline from 54 to 66 inches, and a yet-to-be-determined share of the base pipelineís $30 million cost.

Teresinski said he wasnít surprised by the cityís apparent lack of enthusiasm for the proposal. "Theyíve never looked at any of our proposals with enthusiasm," he said.

But Schmitt promised the city would give the new proposal an intensive and fair review before the city and suburbsí next negotiating session on Wednesday - a meeting that both Teresinski and Schmitt said could be a showdown.

"Next Wednesday is going to be a big day as I see it," Teresinski said.

Said Schmitt: "Itís decision time."

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