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Street talk: Water Commission follows Machiavellian approach
By Tom Murphy
Green Bay News-Chronicle

Where oh where is the Green Bay Water Commission coming from in its mandates on shared potable water?

A couple of weeks ago we suggested the Commission's driving force favored the Machiavellian approach: divide and conquer. Sure enough, it happened on Aug. 25.

The self-anointed Lord Commissioner decreed that four of the eight suburbs would be invited to share the "surplus" in the upgraded city water line to Lake Michigan. A day later, Water Utility General Manager Bill Nabak was forced to cover the commissioner's traces. He backtracked, saying that idea was not cast in PVC pipe.

At the urging of the self-anointed, commissioners welcomed Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue and Howard into with its octopodous arms. Discarded were De Pere, Hobart, Lawrence and Ledgeview.

"Split 'em; let them eat cake," said commissioners, echoing their leader. The body would argue that because those four communities abut the city, hookups are easy. If Allouez or Ashwaubenon opted out, they would say, there's no way De Pere could come in without laying more pipe.


If the four "preferred" suburbs buy this latest bit of bilgewater, their governing bodies should go the way of California Gov. Gray Davis.

We trust the four forgot-me-nots will stay with the preferred four and stick together. Their costs for radium clean-up could more than offset any united front that runs a suburban-only pipe to Lake Michigan.

If the suburbs go it alone, it may be more costly for the first 10 or 15 years. But they will have a system that will last at least 75 years, at a bearable overall expense. Who knows, the city may even become a customer some day.

Without any of the suburbs, Green Bay will have little more than the current bird-in-the-hand in 20 years or so. And its worst fears - that its major customers (if there are any left) will drill their own wells when city rates rise - will come true.

At best, the Water Commission's latest machinations are patchwork. They offer a $20 million "upgrade" to its present system for 20 a 25 percent premium to the suburbs who sign on. Economics 101 says ownership supercedes renting.

Bellevue Public Works Director Ron Umentum, who was that community's first administrator (and a darn good one at that) said it best. He called the latest commission babbling a Band-Aid approach.

"I don't believe that there are four communities going along with them. I don't even know if there is one."

Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of Green Bay commissioners are inexorably wed to their fellow member and demagogic spokesperson.

It's time the eight went on their own. They owe it to their electorates and ratepayers.

Green Bay has had a generation or more (and three mayors) to resolve the issue for the betterment of the people it serves.

Water utility commissioners had more than ample time to create a metropolitan authority which, structured along the lines of total assets, would have given the city a ruling hand in all facets.

They failed.

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