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Over-Cost Meinecke Sewer Project Gets Budget Hearing

With total project costs at $5 million over what city had budgeted, Finance, Public Works directors propose amended capital spending plan to close gap without increasing debt.

In what could be the last chance for public comment, the Meinecke Avenue sewer project will come before the city's Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday night to address costs that came in significantly higher – by about $5 million – than anticipated when the plan was approved and budgeted.

, the lowest was for $14.4 million to complete the first major overhaul of the flood-prone area's sewers since the neighborhood was built in the 1930s. At the time, the city's engineering department reported that the low bid was about $2 million over its estimate for what the project should cost.

With additional construction management costs of $677,488, the total project cost comes to about $15.2 million.

But the report that will be presented to committee members at 8 p.m., prepared jointly by the Public Works and Finance departments, says that only $10.3 million was allocated for the work, leaving a $5 million gap.

The department heads are recommending approval of an amended capital budget to cover the full cost of the project, but without increasing bonding capacity for the existing five-year capital program, so as to avoid adding to the city's debt service.

To accomplish that, Finance Director John Ruggini and Public Works Director Bill Porter suggest a variety of measures.

The paving portion of the project budget, which came up nearly $1 million short, would be made up in part by deferring another planned paving project on Park Avenue and advancing others.

The storm sewer portion, which showed the largest funding deficit of $3.4 million, and sanitary sewer portion, short $750,000, would be made up out of the fund balances of those two utilities, which now total $6.4 million and $2.2 million respectively.

Porter said Tuesday that most of that surplus was built up over four years as the Meinecke Avenue Project "morphed from a paving project into a comprehensive rebuild" of utilities infrastructure.

"That was money that was set aside and not spent in successive years," he said.

Porter said that spending down those fund balances now should not have an effect on other sewer upgrade projects to come.

If the Budget and Finance Committee approves the amended spending plan for Meineke, it would go to the full Common Council next Tuesday for final adoption. Public comment is not taken at full council meetings.

alt ideas needed May 30, 2012 at 12:14 AM
wow, sounds like really poor planning on the part of Wauwatosa City Council. This is what happens when you do zero sewer maintenance over the last 80 years. Not only has this been a nightmare problem for the all citizens involved, but now it is really going to cost the community big money. Thank you John Ruggini and Bill Porter - you have made Wauwatosa an undesirable place to live.
TJ Monday May 30, 2012 at 03:49 AM
A real win-lose situation. The Meineke Ave. residents cash in on getting the resale values of their homes vaulting upward. The poor souls down the line, on 90th St., get 4-6 months of heavy construction of a 20 ft. sewer line up to 25 ft. deep down the middle of their street, to which they will not be connected, and potentially losing all of their street trees, some full sized elms now rarely seen. And to add insult to injury, the 90th St. residents will have to pay for a repaving of their street 10 years earlier than needed to cover up the mess.. Also, all the residents of Wauwatosa will be paying higher water bills and taxes to pay for this. It seems only fair that the Meineke Ave. residents should have to pay something, they are the true and only beneficiaries. Yet Alderwoman Organ states that everyone in Wauwatosa is at fault, because their sewage now flows into the homes of Meineke Ave.
Jim Price May 30, 2012 at 05:01 AM
In fairness, John Ruggini and Bill Porter were both hired from outside the city just a little over a year ago and do not have any history with the long planning and approval of this project, which was OK'd and in the design phase well before they came on board. Their job now is to figure out how to pay for a project that will cost 50% more than was estimated, but they were not responsible for the estimates. This plan was budgeted before either of them was on board.
Pudge May 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Yes, TJ, the poor souls on 90th St. will be inconvenienced for 4-6 months (I'm thinking more like 12 months), but the Meinecke residents will, hopefully, get 80 years of being flood-free. You fail to acknowledge that they, too, will lose trees and be inconvienced for the same timeframe. If their property values increase, it will only be to bring them back up to what they should be now that they won't be in a flood zone. For years, former DPW director, Bill Kapple, had his head buried in the sand over this issue, and the lack of maintenance goes way back. It's an unfortunate situation that we all have to deal with. East Tosa is next.
Alfred May 30, 2012 at 01:55 PM
The infrastructure of this entire area is in need of serious help, the City of Milwaukee is in ruins which can only be cured by razing it all and starting over. Good luck trying to sell your home on 90th street.
Laura May 30, 2012 at 02:37 PM
It's sad when myopic individuals can't see the community for the trees. @Pudge you are absolutely correct that the Meinecke area homes are now well below depressed market values and can't be given away let alone sold. Meinecke will lose trees and will have the same construction issues... however there is no windfall for Meinecke homeowners... Meinecke Ave is the last area in the construction project to be completed although it's the most at-risk for flooding. Throughout the 21 years in my Meinecke home, there has NEVER been any sewer work or road construction on Meinecke Ave. Another fallacy is that the 'Meinecke' people should have done more due dilligence when buying their homes... that's tough to do when previous homeowners aren't fully disclosing sewage back-ups and flooding damage and you are moving into the area from another state and you don't know the history (and the world wide web full of information did not exist)! Even today it isn't being disclosed... a home was sold within the last month in the 2300 block of 86th St and the new owners had no idea about the flooding & they are moving from only a few streets away (Stickney Ave). I wouldn't wish the trauma of multiple flooding on anyone, but I sure wish some of the myopic individuals would walk a day in a Meinecke homeowner's shoes...
TJ Monday May 30, 2012 at 08:12 PM
There seems to be some confused Meinecke residents. No one wants to have flooded basements in their community, and 90th St. residents do sympathize.. 90th St. gets absolutely nothing but the dust, dirt, noise, vibrations, inconvenience, etc. of putting in a 20 ft. diameter sewer up their street, up to 25 ft. deep. Imagine the chaos if that ever backs up. Meinecke gets more salable homes, while 90th St. will be known as a huge sewer corridor, perhaps close to treeless.. And to top it all off, 90th St. owners have to pay for repaving their torn up streets a decade before needed, new sidewalk assessments, and losing some or all trees in front of their homes without compensation, some trees appraised by the city at $40,000. The right way to do this project would be to set up a special taxing district for the affected Meineke homes, and have the beneficiaries of the huge project work off the debt through increased taxes over the years, or special assessments.. Adequate compensation would be paid to 90th St. residents for essentially, a loss of quality of life and property. That would be the closest to a free and fair market-based solution, not the strongarm socialistic method the city has chosen. Instead, it is a bailout, similar to what provoked the tea party in its beginnings, when one group of homeowners were asked to help another set of homeowners with the costs of .home ownership. .
TJ Monday May 30, 2012 at 08:39 PM
@Pudge - The Meineke residents will get a lot in return. They are more than willing to pay the price of the destructions/destruction. So that argument falls flat. Many of those homeowners bought cheaply because of the past flooding, and this will be a windfall for them as they are suddenly flood-free and their house is desirable on the market. Downstream on 90th, there is no payoff, just payout.
Pudge May 30, 2012 at 09:53 PM
TJ-therein lies the injustice. "Imagine the chaos if that ever backs up." You'll be in the same boat, no pun intended, as the residents on Meinecke. It has been previously reported that the homeowners on 90th will not be assessed for road replacement since it was just done three years ago. Another example of poor planning on behalf of the City. And there has only been one tree reported to be valued at $30,000. I sure hope you never get terminally I'll, because I sure wouldn't want my health insurance rates going up to cover that. A special assessment on the ill is a much better solution.
TJ Monday May 30, 2012 at 11:24 PM
@Pudge - Not true about the road replacement assessment being dropped. The sidewalk repairs and alley repaving were assessed on at least part of 90th three years ago. The city engineer reports at least one tree at $40,000. Insurance has no relation to sewer infrastructure. A poor analogy to say the least. Sounds like you would agree with the federal government that homeowners with no mortgages or are current on their mortgages should help pay through their taxes on the mortgages of those who bought too much house? A good analogy.
TJ Monday May 31, 2012 at 01:29 PM
@Pudge - I will correct myself on the residents of 90th St. being required to pay for the repaving of their street after the huge sewer pipe is laid. Some owners on parts of 90th St., , north of North Ave., report that the City will not require them to pay for a repaving, as it was repaved only a few years ago. However, adding insult to injury, most of 90th St., particularly south of North Ave., will be paying thousands each for the repaving honor, ten years before needed. And what thanks do they get for this and everything else they have to endure? Just a campaign to make the 90th St. owners appear guilty of being selfish and not community spirited by you and other commenters, the Meinecke delegation and the city. Well, community begins with your nearest neighbors.
TJ Monday June 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
@Laura - You are an extreme Walker advocate in other Patch posts, yet you like bailouts from taxpayers when you stand to benefit. My impression is you are a selfish hypocrite.
Laura June 16, 2012 at 11:26 PM
@TJMonday Please point out where are you reading that I am an 'extreme" Walker advocate. I never even heard of The Patch until May 14th, 2012, and I don't remember commenting regarding Walker. You can name call me a 'selfish hypocrite" all you want because you are totally meaningless to me.

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