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MMSD taxes anger some Franklin residents

Property owners paying even if not receiving service

Dec. 19, 2012

Franklin - The completion of a sanitary sewer system throughout the city continues to be a bone of contention, now fueled by this year's property tax bills.

With a backdrop of a Common Council approval Tuesday to survey whether property owners on 76th Street near Ryan Road want sewer service, several property owners who use septic tanks told the aldermen that they object to being taxed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

The 2012 tax bills reflect that the entire city now is part of MMSD and therefore property owners are taxed regardless of whether they use the sanitary sewer system. The MMSD designation followed three years of negotiation, public hearings and meetings to determine if the system and its major sewer interceptor would be built.

The Ryan Creek Interceptor is a gravity-based system being built along Ryan Creek south of the intersection of 60th Street and Ryan Road to South 76th Street. Its path then follows Ryan Creek west and north to the intersection of 112th Street and Ryan Road, continuing west to existing and planned streets. It is part of the city's 2025 Comprehensive Master Plan.

Objections

"We resent paying for something that we are not using," said Pat Shawgo, 10250 W. Ryan Road. "Wisconsin Energy has gas lines running down our road. If you use propane, they don't charge for gas. We shouldn't be paying for this."

Judy Napientek, 10233 W. Ryan Road, said she was told the sewer system would not affect taxpayers.

"Our taxes are up and your credibility is very impacted," she told the Common Council members.

After the public comments, the group of objectors said the city has not sufficiently supported them in regard to issues involving MMSD.

"They did not represent us," Shawgo said. "They were afraid of the MMSD."

Mayor responds

In response to those claims, Mayor Tom Taylor said residents who have objections have the opportunity to object directly to MMSD. Property owners had an opportunity during the process to work with the city, he said, "but chose to go a different route."

He also noted that the city's claim that the system would not financially impact owners was in reference to the installation of the interceptor.

In the end, as Taylor presented in a formal statement at the meeting: "MMSD's action and decision directly expanded the district and applied the new property tax levy to these parcels. This action was outside the direct control of the city and was not approved by the city."

After the Common Council meeting, Taylor emphasized that the city pursued the Ryan Creek Interceptor and the sewer expansion because it was consistent with the city's mission to grow its tax base. He also said that city staff, as well as some aldermen, believe that older septic tanks in various locations around the city could pose a threat to the environment.

Some can't wait

While some property owners object to a growing sanitary sewer system, others are embracing it.

"Our septic tank is old and so we are looking forward to the sewer system," said Joyce Houtler, 9770 S. 76th St. "We know some people don't want it, but the city is changing. We have seen a lot of changes over the years. People have to decide whether they want to stay."

Debbi Schaefer, owner of the The Hideaway bar and restaurant, 9643 S. 76th St., said she would gladly pay the costs to hook up to the sewer system after spending between $80,000 and $90,000 to install two septic tanks in 13 years.

"We can't wait to make the switch," she said.

Current sewer costs

The cost to connect to the city's sewer lines also is significant.

City Engineer Jack Bennett said those costs in 2012 include a little more than $81 per foot of frontage and lateral for single-family homes to more than $105 per foot for commercial and industrial properties. The actual hookup to the property costs $29,000. Additionally, current sewer service charges, to be recalculated in 2013, are $34.95 per quarter.

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