The very issue that prompted many of the candidates to run for two Mount Pleasant village trustee positions became a central issue in a candidate forum held at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall on Thursday.
Residents who live on Highway V are vehemently opposed to having sewer and water extended along the road because preliminary figures put some assessments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For property owners who might have to pay assessments in the low thousands, they say it’s still too much for a system they didn’t ask for and don’t need.
Sewer and water is being run along Highway V from Caledonia down to Highway 20 in Mount Pleasant as part of a development plan for Caledonia in the immediate future and for Mount Pleasant in a few years. What was supposed to be closed system would not have cost the residents on Highway V anything, but village officials say installing a gravity system instead helps prepare for future commercial development in the area. Having a gravity system means homeowners on Highway V would typically be required to hook up for both sewer and water, but Mount Pleasant trustees recently voted to change village ordinance the eliminates that requirement.
There have been public meetings where assessment estimates have been presented, but the village hasn’t actually decided how to pay for the project. Caledonia is proceeding with construction of its part of the project, however.
Ken Brown, of the Racine Taxpayers Association asked: Should the Village Board fund the Highway V project, including any part that they benefit from? Would this be fair to other village residents like those along Highway 20, who had to pay their village portion as a tax?
While none of the candidates directly answered the question, here is how candidates responded.
Anna Marie Clauson: One of the things we initially did (as a board) is to change the ordinance. The ordinance has stipulated that anyone who had access or hooked up has to pay within a year. We eliminated that from the ordinance. So there is no time frame. That was the first very basic, very simple step we did. We are concerned about the impact on the residents of Highway V. However, they do benefit and they will benefit in the future. Their property values are going to increase. The fact that they have access to municipal water and sewer is a huge benefit for them in the future.
John Hansen: The project for development is for Caledonia and not Mount Pleasant. Traditionally, infrastructure costs are paid for by the municipality and there are ways of financing this here: one would be to collect the money from Caledonia with interest, and add that to the borrowing from the TID district. You can borrow from the TID and finance the balance with the municipal bonds and recover those cost from the development that may come at a later date.
John Martini: As John said this was for Caledonia, not Mount Pleasant. And it wasn’t until Mount Pleasant stuck their nose into this thing to get an open sewer line going across Highway 20 and C that it became a problem. Caledonia was going to manage this cost now so that they can get water from Spring Street, past the old president’s property to the Interstate. Now it all becomes our problem on Highway V. So there’s no transparency, no one telling anyone anything and it was last winter that we were asked to come to a meeting here and all of a sudden city engineers are telling us that this is a done deal.
Terri Isaacson: The people on Highway V don’t need it and don’t want it. I don’t know how Anna Marie can sit here and say it’ll benefit us. We don’t even know the cost,.How would our houses will be worth more if we pay more than our houses are worth due to this development? It’s not worth it.
Rick McCluskey: It’s interesting the individual brought up the Highway 20 project. The Highway 20 project was driven by the city (of Racine) for pushing water out towards the frontage road, which is very similar to Highway V and Caledonia where they want to hook up to the intercept on Highway 20. The problem is that the issues raised on Highway 20 dealt with how they were going to be paid and that was resolved with the people on Highway 20.
That differs from Highway V right now that there has not been a decision on how to go about financing that. Staff has not brought anything to the village board for us to a review or make a decision on for us to even go back to the people of Mount Pleasant and make a decision on. We haven’t received anything to say: This is what we want to do, this is what it’s going to cost you. So anyone who is telling you that this is a done deal, that it has already been determined how much you are going to pay is not telling you the truth.
Ken Otwaska: The project for the development is for Caledonia, not Mount Pleasant. Highway V residents in Mount Pleasant never requested sewer and water services… the benefit is for Caledonia and not Mount Pleasant.
Don Schulz: The Highway 20 project is completely different from the Highway V project. Highway 20 was mandated by the village. We went out and talked to the people. We asked them for their input. We sought their input. Our goal was to bring sewer and water out to the interstate. I was on the village board at the time and I was involved with some of the negotiations. But our goal was to connect Caledonia, Mount Pleasant and Yorkville — all of the municipalities out to the west — so that they had an opportunity to reach it. Now we get Caledonia asking for the sewer, but it’s at the expense of the Highway V residents. That was not what we envisioned and that is not what we asked for. We asked for everybody to pay their fair share. And that is not being accomplished by this move.