The expanded water-sharing and $1.5 million regional benefit agreements recently approved by the Milwaukee Common Council will do two important things: provide safe and healthy for New Berlin residents currently plagued by radium-contaminated wells and demonstrate regional cooperation on important issues.
The New Berlin Common Council is expected to vote on the agreements in the next several days, and I fully support their approval.
The water-sharing agreement is a major health and safety victory for the City of New Berlin. After being ordered by the state Department of Natural Resources to resolve the threat posed by radium-contaminated wells in the central third of our city or face substantial fines, our engineers researched a number of alternatives. Repairing the system would cost many millions of dollars, and purchasing water from Racine or Oak Creek would not be cost- or timing-effective at this point.
The agreement with the City of Milwaukee is the best combination of cost and providing New Berlin citizens with the safest, healthiest water available.
A second, separate agreement calls for the City of New Berlin to make a one-time, $1.5 million regional benefits payment to the City of Milwaukee. That payment recognizes that important issues extend beyond community borders and shows regional support for Milwaukee’s efforts to address shared Milwaukee-New Berlin concerns such as transportation, job creation and other issues.
The New Berlin Water Utility will fund the full cost of the one-time payment, and tax dollars will not be used.
I have long believed – even before the phrase "regional cooperation” became a mantra for metro Milwaukee – that suburban leaders have a role in addressing the unique challenges cities like Milwaukee face.
I have and will continue to advocate at the U.S. Conference of Mayors for initiatives that will help Milwaukee, and I remain committed to encouraging our Waukesha County legislators to look at ways we can work in unison. I am confident that communities like New Berlin and Milwaukee can find common ground on issues in addition to water, including transportation, affordable housing, job creation and more.
Our joint and successful efforts such as passage of the Great Lakes Compact and the water talks between Milwaukee and New Berlin show the good that can come from suburban and urban leaders finding ways to work cooperatively. The City of New Berlin looks forward to finalizing these agreements with the City of Milwaukee and to future positive partnerships.
Jack Chiovatero is the mayor of New Berlin.