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Trustees Plan to Borrow $16M for Sewers This Year

The board plans to issue $16.6 million in bonds as part of its 15-year infrastructure plan that would improve sewers and fund the Mandel TIF district.

The Whitefish Bay Village Board plans to borrow $16.6 million this year as part of its 15-year capital improvement plan.

The 15-year plan approved by the board in July calls for $108 million in future bonding. This year's $16.6 million bond issuance will cause a $92 tax increase for the owner of a $400,000 home in 2014. If the board continues to borrow at the scheduled pace each year, property taxes on a $400,000 home will peak in 2021 to a $356 increase compared to the 2012 tax bill.

The board will have to make new bond issues every year, at which time it will also be able to readjust its spending priorities or alter its capital improvement plan.

This year's bond issue, which will go before the board on Feb. 18 for final approval, will also include borrowing for the Mandel apartment project. By lumping the Mandel project borrowing in with the borrowing for sewers and other infrastructure projects, the board saved $25,000 in issuance costs.

Cahill among upcoming sewer projects

Among the projects scheduled to begin this year are the village's plan to lower the north end of Cahill Park and route rain water into the Milwaukee River at Estabrook Park. The project requires $4 million in borrowing this year, including $2 million worth of work at Cahill and $2 million worth of work at Estabrook Park. 

FEMA will reimburse the village for all of the work at Cahill and Estabrook parks, as well as future storm water improvements in the 4700 blocks of Woodruff, Idlewild, Sheffield, Wildwood and Hollywood avenues - as well as in the 500-1000 block of Hampton Road. FEMA requires all of this work to be completed within three years, otherwise the village could request as many as two one-year extensions.

"Anything spent on Cahill Park or Estabrook Park on the storm water side will be reimbursed almost entirely," said Assistant Village Engineer Aaron Jahncke.

The village is also borrowing $1.47 million this year for a project that will carry storm water from the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Lydell Avenue to a box culvert on the west side of Port Washington Road near Henry Clay Road, where the water will then be carried to the Milwaukee River.

That Lancaster pipe would hook up with a larger 72-inch to 84-inch pipe on Port Washington Road, which will also be receiving storm water from Glendale pipes. Village engineers are talking with Glendale officials about sharing costs or infrastructure on this portion of the project.

Village Engineer Dan Naze said this pipe upgrade will ease the storm water burden facing residents on the west end of the village, because it will be funneling water from three different tributaries in Whitefish Bay, as well as several tributaries in Glendale.

"That's been a historic pinch point for runoff for quite a long time," Naze said.

The board will also be borrowing $2 million for a water main project on Lake Drive from Bartlett Avenue to the Shorewood border. Currently, there are two 94-year-old water mains on each side of the street, and they will be combined into one larger water main.

The village will also be borrowing $3 million for a sanitary sewer project in the southern end of the village that will require 183 homeowners to pay a total of $2.4 million for repairs to their private sanitary sewer lateral. All of the private laterals will need to be lined, and none of the laterals require complete replacement, Jahncke said. 

DPW Building Revisited

At Monday night's meeting, Village Manager Patrick DeGrave also suggested the board borrow $4.5 million for a new Department of Public Works building.

The board first discussed the idea of a new Public Works building in June. At that time, the board was not interested in the proposal, but also said it was willing to reconsider the matter in early 2013.

The DPW has operated out of its current location – a nearly 100-year-old horse barn – since 1994. The village spends about $276,000 per year in rent, which includes $51,921 in property taxes to Glendale and $91,918 in utilities. Roughly half of the utility costs are likely wasted due to lack of insulation in the barn, DeGrave said.

To avoid spending money on rent, DeGrave has proposed building a $4.1 million, 41,000-square-foot building at the southwest corner of Lydell and Fairmount Avenues. The new building could be financed by borrowing $4.4 million in bonds over the course of 20 years. By doing so, the village could use $203,000 of its annual $267,000 rental for debt payments, DeGrave said.

"Twenty years from now the building would be paid for," DeGrave said. "You could burn the mortgage, and you would be out from under the rent scenario."

Trustees Jim Roemer and Jay Miller said they would like to see a more detailed analysis of potential locations before borrowing money for a new building.

Village President Julie Siegel said she would not support a new DPW building unless it could be done without raising taxes.

"If you can show us a building where we are going to break even, I would support it," Siegel said. "But we cannot raise property taxes – even by a penny – with all of this other borrowing for sewers, streets and everything else."

The board directed DeGrave to present the resolutions authorizing the issuance of $16.6 million in bonds at the Feb. 18 meeting. The borrowing will include funds for the Mandel apartments and the sewer improvements, but not the new DPW building.

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