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
"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
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 years...at a 25 percent premium
to the suburbs who sign on. Economics 101 says ownership
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
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.