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Great Lakes Article:

Schmitt: Water firings necessary
He promises a 'creative' team will be announced next month
By Ray Barrington
Green Bay News-Chronicle
11/19/03


Mayor Jim Schmitt apologized for the way it was handled, but said the firing of the members of the Green Bay Water Commission was necessary to bring about "a long-term regional water solution."

Schmitt told the Green Bay City Council on Tuesday he had told the commission members their terms were ended in an attempt to bring new thinking to talks with the suburbs on the sale of water.

And he told the council he would have new names ready for it by Dec. 2, "and some of them may be people who are on the commission now."

He said he made the decision after a Nov. 11 presentation by the commission that, he felt, added nothing new to a possible deal.

"Both plans (presented) had been rejected" by the suburban Central Brown County Water Authority," he told the council.

He also said a missing $40 million in interest income was a concern. After he brought the issue up, the commission members said they would not be able to make their presentation to the council planned for Tuesday.

"I was very frustrated - not over the $40 million, but the lack of new ideas," Schmitt said.

"We've been doing this for three years with no progress."

He defended himself against charges he was favoring the suburbs, saying his goal was "a long-term regional water solution that protects the Green Bay rate payers."

He said the new commission would include qualified people in water, legal and personnel areas "who are creative and dedicated to a long-term plan."

"Maybe I should have handled it differently," Schmitt said, "and I apologize if I hurt any feelings. But time was of the essence."

The proposal to be submitted by the Green Bay Water Commission included three "absolute requirements:" that the suburbs purchase water at the city's bulk rate plus 25 percent; that the state Public Service Commission could not be involved in any rate deals between the city and suburbs; and that the deal be "take or pay," with the suburbs guaranteeing to pay for a required amount of water, whether used or not.

The city had offered to sell four suburbs water on that basis, with other suburbs required to treat their water separately to meet 2006 radium guidelines. The suburban water authority voted against the deal, although Ashwaubenon had expressed interest in a separate deal.

The suburbs have two other options - a $140 million separate pipeline to Lake Michigan or a slightly longer pipeline that would enable it to buy treated water from Manitowoc, with savings in building a treatment plant for a raw-water pipe offset by the cost of buying that city's water.

Along with the water commission's presentation, also removed from the council's agenda was a vote on reappointing veteran commission member John Brogan.

- The longest debate of the night followed a vote on approving an escort service license.

The council at first voted 6-5 (with Ald. Guy Zima absent) to deny approval of a license for SD Adventures. The city has a $500 fee for the services, which provide female companionship and in many cases are seen as fronts for prostitution.

But after the vote, city attorney Tim Kelley reminded the council that voting against an application that had been approved by the police could leave the city open to lawsuits.

"They are still a legal business," said Ald. Dan Haefs, who had voted against approval but changed his vote after hearing from Kelley. "They expect a fair shake. What if people don't like politicians? You still expect a fair shake from them when you knock at their door."

Ald. John Vander Leest, who said the city should not show any support for escort services, said he had many police contacts who said the services are performing illegal acts.

But Police Chief Craig Van Schyndle said he preferred the licensing system because it enabled them to keep track of those services that did apply and gave them another weapon against those that didn't. The vote was reversed and the license was approved.

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