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Village of Thiensville board considers sewer inspection ordinance

Change would allow staff to inspect properties without owner consent

Jan. 8, 2013

Thiensville - As the village continues its efforts to keep clear storm water discharges separate from sanitary sewer piping, officials are contemplating an ordinance that would give staff members the authority to inspect properties without obtaining owner consent.

The issue has bubbled to the surface as the village contemplates how it is going to spend grant money from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

A portion of MMSD's grant needs to go toward studies and public outreach efforts, based on the terms set in motion, but some of the money - about $184,000 - is to go directly toward improving private properties.

While the village has long had an ordinance on its books that requires property owners to address cracks in storm water or sanitary sewer piping, there has not been a mechanism in place that would give village staff the authority to inspect properties in light of owner resistance.

"This would only be used if we suspect there is something wrong," Village Administrator Dianne Robertson said of the ordinance under consideration. "We're not going to be going on every person's property."

As drafted, the ordinance would require village staff to provide advance notice of an inspection, generally between a week and a week-and-a-half.

While overall the board was amenable to the concept of inspecting properties in question, the perceived heavy-handed nature of the proposed ordinance - modeled after a similar one in Whitefish Bay - was of concern to some members.

"I'd rather have property owners be part of this, rather than have it forced," trustee Kenneth Kucharski said. "I can't imagine why people wouldn't want this done."

As an alternative, Kucharski suggested public information meetings, particularly for people with homes that might be in question.

The village targeted homes along Riverview Drive and Luisita Road as most likely to have inflow and infiltration problems, meaning sanitary sewage could be mixing with storm water, or vice versa.

But trustee Ronald Heinritz said he believed an all-encompassing look should be taken in reviewing piping throughout the village. He suggested a comprehensive program be adopted.

Andy LaFond, director of public works, said the proposed ordinance was not a pressing issue and could be held for the foreseeable future.

Trustee David Lange successfully made a motion to table the draft ordinance for the time being.

"This is information overload for my brain right now," Lange said. "I've got about 8,000 other things on my mind."

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