Wauwatosa spoke with one voice Tuesday night as the Common Council unanimously voted its resolve against both alternate routes proposed for new power lines to the County Grounds.
There was not the packed house of last week, when more than 100 citizens turned out for the Community Development Committee hearing on the routes.
But even though there was no public comment period, about 20 residents of the Underwood Creek and Fisher Woods neighborhoods showed up anyway, just in solidarity and to enjoy an expected victory.
They even got a little more than they hoped for when Ald. Jacqueline Jay, who had cast the sole vote against the resolution last week, changed her mind and voted for the final resolution.
Jay asked to speak first in council and said that she had heard from many citizens "both from my district and from other districts... and I'm going to change my vote and support this motion."
Jay said she had also spoken to Ald. Dennis McBride, who introduced the measure opposing the power line routes, and had received assurances that a vote for his resolution was not a vote against needed power or greater cost – just greater consideration for the quality and value of neighborhoods.
Last week, Jay had said her opposition to the resolution was based on avoiding higher costs that would be passed on to all We Energies rate-payers. But citizens and aldermen from across Wauwatosa united on behalf of fellow residents to say "No" to the proposed routes.
Need for power not questioned
We Energies has calculated that within three years, energy demand on the current system will outstrip supply to the institutions and businesses of the County Grounds.
It engaged American Transmission Co. to study routes for bringing two additional 138,000-volt lines to the Grounds from separate sources, to ensure power to critical-need customers such as the hospitals even in a localized grid failure.
ATC proposed building either overhead power lines along Underwood Creek Parkway – the "least-cost option" – or buried lines through Fisher Woods in front of eight blocks of residences along Walnut Road.
McBride's resolution opposes both routes while at the same time supporting the need for more power on the Grounds and proposing further investigation of other, less-intrusive routes.
Ald. Don Birschel said that he and William Gonwa, a Milwaukee School of Engineering professor and strong opponent of the proposed alternatives, were studying other routes that would utilize industrial and/or transportation corridors rather than residential areas or green spaces.
"We Energies wants satisfied customers," Birschel said. "If it goes through either of these routes they're going to have one very dissatisfied customer in me."
McBride said, "We understand the need for power, we support the need for power. We're not closing our minds, we're opening a dialogue. We will get power to the County Grounds."
City Attorney Alan Kesner told the council that he had retained outside expeert counsel in November to represent the city's interests in hearings before the Public Service Commission, where the final decision on routes and siting of the power lines rests.
He said that the language of the approved resolution would provide the main guidance for himself and the outside lawyers in presenting the city's position.
ATC is expected to present its proposed alternatives to the PSC within a week, but a final decision from the state commission could take up to a year.