Muskego — A water fight appears to be looming between the city of Muskego and the Muskego-Norway School Board.
Dismayed at the cost of hooking the planned middle school to city water, the school board wants to drill a less expensive well, instead. City officials argue the new school will be close enough to connect to city water, negating the need for a new well.
School Board President Rick Petfalski protested at last week's city public works committee, saying the nearest connection is a mile away,
The argument continues due to uncertainty over cost estimates of water hookup.
School officials' fears have now been confirmed, with the cost of getting city water nearly $1.2 million, according to the latest study figures, officials said. That's double what school officials had estimated. It's also double what they estimate a well would cost, they said.
School officials went with estimates for hooking up to city water rather than doing an expensive water study because digging a well was always a fallback plan if the city water option hit a hitch, Petfalski said.
Well to be asked
"We'll be applying for a well at the next public works committee meeting," he said. That should be Monday, Feb. 20. "We will show that we can safely supply water and fire protection" with a well," he said.
Whether a well could pump enough water for sprinklers in case a fire broke out was a serious concern of the committee last week.
To improve safety, the schools will offer to install a backup generator that could keep fire sprinklers going even in a power outage, Petfalski said. Lake Denoon Middle School operates on a well and has fire sprinklers, he said.
To ease minds," it's not required, he said.
Although the city can require developers to hook developments up to city water, school officials had no idea that the same demand would be made in this case, Petfalski said.
Surrounded by wells
Homes on three sides of the school have wells, he said. Only the Tudor Oaks Senior Living Community, S77 W12929 McShane Drive, on the school's north side is connected to city water, Petfalski said.
"Twenty neighbors are all on private wells," he said. He compared the situation to someone building a home in a subdivision where all the other homes have wells.
"You would have to lay a pipe past those 20 homes a mile down the street to hook up your house to city water," he said. The 20 homes would be allowed to hook up to the pipe at a reduced cost, he said.
City officials did not respond to telephone calls or emails asking for information on hookup rules.
Aldermen doubt whether sinking a well would save money for the district. They also expressed strong doubts that a well has adequate fire-fighting capabilities.
"If you could show me that firefighting needs are there, I would go with a well," said Alderman Neil Borgman. "But this has got to be a pretty big system," to provide water to sprinklers for 90 minutes, as the state may now require.
Providing pumps and water storage tanks might be involved beyond digging a well, he said. Plus there is upkeep for tanks and pumps, he said.
Alderman Rob Wolfe said he wants to explore the situation more. He has asked that the head of the water utility come to the next common council meeting to explain further.
"So we can be more educated to make a decision," Wolfe said.
Acknowledging that the cost difference between hooking up to city water and digging a well is great, Wolfe still noted that $1 million is a small part of a $31.3 million school project.
Alderman Kevin Kubacki, public works committee chairman, said the upcoming meeting will be more informative.
"I understand the city and school board are working out the cost of a well, the cost of the reservoirs they're going to need, the cost of fire pumps to move the water to their sprinkler system and hydrants. I'll be interested to see what those numbers turn out to be," he said.
He expressed frustration last week that the water issue was coming up at the 11th hour.
However, Petfalski said the school board requested and paid for a water study right after the committee's Nov. 21 meeting. Both he and the committee expected the results of the water study for the Dec. 19 committee meeting. However, days before that Dec. 19 meeting came a request for more information, Petfalski said.
"They hadn't even started" on the study, he said. "They absolutely delayed."