Saukville Village Board poised for fight over sump pump requirement, but residents fail to show
Based on a steady stream of accusatory e-mails forwarded to Village Hall regarding the Linden Street road reconstruction project, the Saukville Village Board was poised for a stormy meeting Tuesday.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the tide of public protest never materialized during the board session.
Village officials faced criticism for requiring homeowners on Linden Street and Linden Court to install sump pumps and connect them to a new storm sewer being installed with the road project.
By village ordinance, property owners are required to connect sump pumps to storm sewers within one year of the line being installed. The requirement is part of the village’s ongoing effort to reduce the amount of clear water being sent to the wastewater treatment plant.
The objections to the sump pump requirement were so prevalent from property owners who have never had flooding problems an item was included on the board agenda to allow residents a chance to voice their collective concerns.
There was even mention of a possible class-action lawsuit against the village in the matter.
One e-mail circulated to “all concerned homeowners impacted by this project” included a reminder in bold colored text that the board meeting was Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Still, no one showed up.
Senior project engineer Gerry Powell of Ruekert & Mielke did attend the meeting, armed with a three-dimensional model and a stack of colored diagrams showing how sanitary sewer laterals, storm sewers and water mains work in a typical home.
Copies of the house diagram will be sent via e-mail to residents in the construction area.
“Our experience is that sometimes it is hard for people to visualize what we are talking about. Once they can see where the water is supposed to go, they get it,” Powell said.
During a public hearing last month on special assessments related to the road project, officials showed they were willing to work with residents.
They agreed payments for sidewalk and sewer lateral work could be paid over a period as long as 10 years, depending on the cost, and gave property owners a break on the interest rate charged.
Village Administrator Dawn Wagner and Treatment Plant Supt. Ray Hartmann also met with individual residents, explaining what the road project would involve.
That one-on-one approach seemed to diffuse a lot of the criticism, officials said.
Ruekert & Mielke also prepared a three-page fact sheet addressing some of the misinformation circulating about the road and utility work.
If questions remain, residents were urged to contact Village Hall, or representatives of the project contractors, M&E Construction.
“This is one of the oldest streets in the village and I realize a lot of residents haven’t been through this process before, but they are being treated no differently than anyone else in the village,” said Village President Barb Dickmann.
“We were prepared to address the concerns of a roomful of people, but it seems the efforts of our staff to answer whatever questions were out there have made a difference.”
However, trustees were not willing to drop the Linden Street issue, entirely.
Officials spoke briefly about the possibility of creating a waiver system for homeowners who did not want to install sump pumps.
“Before that would happen, we would need something on record indemnifying the village,” Dickmann said.
Trustee Mike Gielow said that option might look appealing to property owners who want to minimize their costs, but it could have long-term negative affects on the value of their property.
“If a waiver is granted, for the rest of the life of the property there would have to be something on records explaining the owner refused to install a sump pump,” Gielow said.
“That way, some time down the road when a future owner ends up with three feet of sewage in their basement, they can’t come back to the village and say, ‘How could you let this happen?’ I think it would make that property very difficult to sell.”
The possibility of creating a waiver from the sump pump requirement was forwarded to the Public Works Committee, although the timing of that move could soon be irrelevant.
The contractor hopes to install the needed storm sewer laterals this week.