Common Council Approves New Berlin Water Deal
This meeting included three highly debated resolutions, the “Wheel Tax”, the 9to5 direct legislation regarding sick pay, the water sale to New Berlin and the retirement of one of the most highly respected government officials. Marty Collins the outgoing Commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood Services gave a heartfelt farewell speech stating “I’m proud to be a public servant”. Then he left with some suggestions and encouraged the Common Council and city staff to promote creativity to find solutions.
When the resolution known as the “Wheel Tax” came up for discussion Alderman Jim Witkowiak offered an amendment that would cap the fee at $20 for the duration of the current Common Council. Although Alderman Michael Murphy explained that this amendment wasn’t meaningful because it could simply be overridden with a resolution in the future. Another amendment was offered by Alderman Joe Dudzik that would allow a portion of the vehicle registration fee to support street maintenance. Again it was suggested that this amendment had little value because it will be up to the budgetary process to determine that actual spending. Both of these amendments and the overall resolution passed with a veto proof majority and will no go to the Mayor for action.
The most hotly debated issue of the day was the proposed water sale and the associated intergovernmental agreement with New Berlin. Alderman Robert Bauman initially questioned the legality of the water sale saying that his concerns were “beyond the question of policy” because this transaction was outside the bounds of what the Common Council had approved in December of 2007. He questioned if the sale was proper because the original authorization to negotiate was in reference to an area of New Berlin within the current Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (“MMSD”) service area while this transaction included a portion of New Berlin that is planned to be in the MMSD service area sometime in the future. Alderman Murphy agreed that “the department made a mistake without a doubt” but that the City of Milwaukee needs to move forward with this transaction or New Berlin may find another solution.
The intergovernmental agreement with New Berlin included a non-compete clause and a $1.5 million payment to the City of Milwaukee. The non-compete clause intent was to insure that the City of Milwaukee and New Berlin don’t compete for each others companies. However this clause was amended to allow a New Berlin company to receive financial incentives to move to the City of Milwaukee as long as the company hadn’t been actively recruited. It was also debated as to whether or not the $1.5 million was the appropriate payment but as Alderman Murphy said “I recognize the pricing of water currently is inadequate”. Despite Alderman Bauman’s passionate appeals on both the legal issue and the issues regarding New Berlin’s lack of meeting the City of Milwaukee’s guidelines for water sales both files were approved and will go to the Mayor.