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Great Lakes Article:

Water utility: $2.5 million spent on studies
Brogan decries cost of negotiations, ASR studies
By Ray Barrington
Green Bay News-Chronicle

According to its own figures, the Green Bay Water Utility has spent nearly $2.5 million on fruitless negotiations and studies since meeting with the Central Brown County Water Authority.

The Water Commission's Finance Committee chairman, John Brogan, issued a statement saying that between negotiation fees with the Water Authority and aquifer storage and recovery study costs, the utility had spent $2,418,996. Of that, $719,112 was spent from 1998 to Aug. 1 on negotiations with the authority, which represents eight suburban communities.

Brogan said $215,995 was spent on engineering fees, $167,148 on legal fees, $295,969 on financial consultants and an estimated $40,000 on staff time. He also suggested the city was "tapping into (water utility) resources" for the money, and that the Water Commission had approved little or none of it. "That's more than chump change," he said.

Statutorily, only the water utility has the authority to spend its money on behalf city rate-payers, Brogan said.

In his role as committee chairman, Brogan told staff that any new suburban proposals would be evaluated in house, not by consultants. The commission decided to give the suburbs a chance to submit a final proposal to be decided on by Aug. 25 for a shared pipeline to bring Lake Michigan water to the suburbs. In the meantime, the commission will look at increasing its water capacity without building a pipeline.

"Considering the vagueness of this last-minute proposal and the fact that we have spent $720,000 on these fruitless negotiations, I personally will not support any more money spent on outside legal, engineering and financial consultants to evaluate the last proposal," Brogan said.

As for aquifer storage and recovery, he said, engineering and contractor costs had been $1,638,890, materials had cost $42,810 and staff time had been $18,184.

Green Bay remains interested in the use of ASR to help solve future water demand by providing large storage areas for water. But it has only tested one well, which failed after arsenic was found in the water that was stored and removed. Green Bay is testing the well again, this time with a well lining.

In addition, the suburbs have not tested any wells, in part because only one suburb, Ashwaubenon, has a well it could take out of service for testing.

"After working on ASR for almost five years and spending $1.7 million, I believe it is time for the commission to assess how much more time and money we should spend on this project," Brogan said.

He asked staff to work with consultants for projections by December of the cost to complete the current test - which ends in July - some estimates of the probability of success, and the amount of testing needed by the state Department of Natural Resources for a full ASR system.

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