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Suburbs: No thanks, Green Bay
A plan to sell water to half of the Water Authority members gets a thumbs down, for now
By Ray Barrington
Green Bay News-Chronicle

Green Bay's attempt to sell water to half of the communities in the Central Brown County Water Authority was spurned by the suburban water group on Wednesday.

The authority voted against the Green Bay Water Commission's offer to sell its surplus water to Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue and Howard, saying it was not in the long-term best interests of an area-wide solution.

But the authority only declined the specific offer, leaving the door open if Green Bay has any other ideas. And Ashwaubenon's water advisory committee will meet with Green Bay on Friday to gain additional information on the deal.

"We want to make it clear we're only opposed to this offer," said authority president Len Teresinski.

Green Bay, which is boosting the capacity of its pipeline to Lake Michigan, has offered to sell surplus water from the increased capacity to the four suburbs on its borders, leaving De Pere, Lawrence, Ledgeview and Hobart to use their own groundwater wells. All but Hobart would have to add treatment to meet upcoming radium standards.

The city would provide water up to its own borders; all construction after that would be paid for by the municipalities.

"It's the best offer we've seen so far," Mayor Jim Schmitt said. "They had the opportunity (before Aug. 25) to present something better and they didn't. To reject something and end up with nothing may not be the best decision."

But Allouez and De Pere voted on Tuesday to accept the authority's member purchase agreement, binding them to whatever plan the authority would come up with to supply drinking water.

The authority also voted Wednesday to ask member communities to vote on the purchase agreement by Sept. 19 to allow time for the filing of radium compliance plans, which must be in place by October. The plans would become effective at the end of 2006.

The two votes were unanimous, although Ashwaubenon continues to show interest in the Green Bay plan. Villlage President Norbert De Cleene said his village's water advisory board had received answers to 25 questions on the Green Bay deal, although it still had more it hopes to have answered Friday in a meeting with Green Bay officials.

But other communities said answering all the questions would require engineering studies by each of the suburbs - which could take months, something the authority doesn't have time to do.

In addition, they expressed concern that the amount of water available would dwindle as Green Bay needs grew. In its answers to Ashwaubenon, Green Bay said it believed it could supply average-day needs to the four communities until 2020, although it gave no details on the amount.

The authority's technical committee recommended rejecting the offer, citing concerns about the lack of redundancy in the proposal, concerns over hidden costs to the communities and the ability to meet deadlines for filing radium compliance plans.

"Most of us have our smallest pipelines at the edge of our communities," said De Pere public works director Roy Simonson. "We can't just hook up to Green Bay there; it will require additional work."

Teresinski said the Green Bay decision to boost its capacity had helped bring together the authority's members, and its offer to sell water to only four suburbs had also brought unity.

"I think Green Bay made it easier for De Pere to vote (for the purchase agreement)," he said.

Hobart has also expressed concerns about the agreement, mostly over the use of aquifer storage and recovery, the storing of treated water in underground wells.

But Howard Village President Bob Strazishar said he wanted to see the authority move forward.

"It's time to get the train back on the tracks," he said.

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