MUSKEGO — The water fight between the city of Muskego and the Muskego schools is over, with the schools being allowed a less expensive hookup to city water for the future middle school.
Muskego-Norway School Board President Rick Petfalski said a ballpark estimate for the cost to the schools is roughly $900,000, still nearly double the $500,000 cost that had been anticipated. But it is better than the $1.2 million plan the city had pushed, he said.
"If it's in the $900,000 range, I was fine with that. It's worth it to get city water," Petfalski said. "It's not worth it for $1.2 million."
Even though the settlement is hundreds of thousands of dollars more than school officials anticipated, the compromise plan can be made to work, Petfalski said.
Make it work
"We'll find a way to do it," he said. "We can't go over budget," he said, referring to the cost for the middle school specified in the middle school referendum that voters passed in April.
The original plan was to drill a well for the new school, if city water proved too expensive. That would have probably cost about $500,000, officials said. But that plan ran into opposition from city administration that insisted that the schools hook up to city water and lay a $1.2 million water main to do it.
That was one of four plans that aldermen and the architect for the schools strenuously debated, that sometimes included heated exchanges, for two hours last week.
Each plan had minuses. Toward the end of the meeting, Petfalski threw out the suggestion that the schools pay the lions share of the original plan, hooking the school up to the water main on Durham Drive. The city water utility would pay for the needed easements and it could finish the $1.2 million plan on its own.
The idea won immediate approval of the committee of the whole.
"There were healthy discussions, healthy ideas and after going down all those roads, we negotiated and came up with something conducive for all involved," Alderman Tom Kapusta said after the meeting.
"A main from Durham Drive makes a lot of sense," said Alderman Kevin Kubacki, chairman of the public works committee.
Alderman Bob Hammel said he too supports the eventual compromise, saying about the four options: "I had concerns with all of them."
Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti said that when the revised school water flow requirements came in below previous estimates, they opened the door for a single 12-inch connection at Durham Drive.
A study confirming that a hookup at Durham would actually be feasible arrived only shortly before last week's meeting, Petfalski said. However, the study also said that a loop is preferred because it would keep water flowing in case a water main breaks. Petfalski said the single connection non-loop alternative is still acceptable. In the unlikely event of a main break, the school could call off school for the day, he said. In that way, it would be like declaring a snow day.
“This was positive news for the school district," Chiaverotti said. "The school district requested this option and the council members recommended it."
"This is good for the school district and the current water utility users," Chiaverotti said.
Kubacki was less sure about that: "The city doesn't accrue a whole lot of benefit with this The city has no plans to extend water in that area."
The benefit it does get is better fire protection because fire hydrants will be installed with the new main and those living along the new main an option for city water, he said.
He agreed that it's a good thing for the schools and the city's children.
"It benefits the school by giving adequate amount of water and safe water, too," he said.
"There's benefit to both," Hammel said.
Regardless of whether the city or the schools are ahead, Kapusta said, "The schools are an integral part of the community."
2018 opening set
The Muskego-Norway School District will build a middle school on North Cape Road in the southeastern section of the city. The school is expected to open in fall 2018.
The four options under consideration from which the compromise option emerged were allowing a closer hookup to city water, cost sharing between the city and the schools, allowing the school to use a well, and allowing a well until adequate city water becomes available at which time the school would transfer ownership of the well to the city to use in its municipal water system.