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Business owners tepid on municipal water

Thiensville board gets feedback from important group

March 7, 2012

Thiensville - To say the response of business owners was lukewarm would be to overstate what could be described as a tepid reaction to the idea of installing municipal water along Main Street in Thiensville.

The Village Board held a public information meeting Monday, inviting the business owners to attend. About 10 of them did come, but those within the current project area, from a point south of Willowbrook Place to a point in front of the record store at Buntrock and Main streets, didn't show much enthusiasm, largely because of cost.

One businessman outside of the proposed area, Scott Heatwole, addressed the board before the public meeting, outlining a series of problems with a well serving 180 S. Main Street and 184 to 190 South Main Street. Heatwole said the water is so hard that it has caused seven water heaters to fail in eight years. Shower heads, faucets and other water equipment in the buildings has also failed or become corroded.

Heatwole said he has spent more than $10,000 to keep water supplied to the buildings over the last five or six years.

No problem with Main Street wells

But property owners in the area where the village is considering the installation of water mains say they have no problems with their wells.

Wayne Houpt, owner of Suburban Motors, said the state tests his well and it always passes. Richard Ollman of Remington's River Inn said the economy had tested his business over the last few years and he questioned the expense of switching to public water.

Village officials believe municipal water, purchased through the Water Utility in Mequon, would add to the value of property on Main Street and help with the development of vacant sites.

Mike Rau, the manager of the Water Utility, said that public water systems improves public health, lowers fire insurance costs and eliminates some problems associated with wells. If power goes out, residents still have water under a municipal system, he said.

While the state does test well water, it does one test on a quarterly basis, Rau said. The Water Utility does that one test, plus 119 others, on a weekly basis.

Rau also said the utility has three million gallons a day of excess capacity, allowing for expansion.

Rates could be low

Village Manager Dianne Robertson said there is a window of opportunity that might not be available again. The village would borrow the money for the water main project and contribute $100,000 toward the cost. Property owners would benefit from the lowered interest rate the village would get.

The cost of the water main installation would also be decreased by the use of an abandoned sewer line that could be slip lined with a water main. Finally, Rau said the water utility is offering a pricing incentive in order to add new customers. That incentive, Robertson said, saved as much as $3,000 for each owner in the Century 3 subdivision, which added water main last year, replacing a well that showed small amounts of arsenic in tests.

Mike Dyer, a trustee for the Century 3 Water Trust, said residents are pleased with the public water.

"At the end of the day, it was about the same cost," he said. "And when we come home at night, we are no longer in the water business. The water is cleaner and we now have consistent water pressure."

Village officials plan to continue to gather information from business owners and to provide them with information about likely costs.

"We have no mad desire to put water down Main Street if the property owners don't want to hook up," said Village President Karl Hertz.

The village is also considering major repairs to Main Street, which has become a bumpy ride as the joints between pavement sections have failed.

Since it would make no sense to tear up the street to add water mains after it is repaired, the water decision must come first.

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