Property owners who live on Highway V have given Mount Pleasant notice that they might consider legal action if officials go through with a sewer and water financing plan that puts residents on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Attorney Tom Devine of Hostak, Henzl & Bichler, June 29 sent a letter to village officials and trustees outlining the reasons residents object to the project as it is currently designed and the associated costs that could be borne by homeowners. He also attached four pages of documentation supporting the points made in the letter.
The point of the letter, Devine told Racine County Eye, was to outline officially what Highway V residents have said during public comment at village board meetings and some have addressed in letters to the editors of local media. More, he said decisions are expected in the coming weeks about how Mount Pleasant will finance the project, so it was important to property owners that officials be reminded where residents stand.
“We issued the letter in advance of the upcoming Finance Committee meeting where trustees will be discussing options on how to finance this project and if residents will be assessed those costs,” Devine stated. “This letter states exactly why the residents on Highway V are against any assessments for a project they don’t need and didn’t ask for.”
History of Highway V Project
At issue is a contract the villages signed in 2008 where Caledonia agreed to pay Mount Pleasant $5 million (plus interest) when and if Caledonia hooked up to the sewer connection that runs along Highway 20 out to I-94. Because the corresponding connection hadn’t been established, Caledonia wasn’t required to make any payments to Mount Pleasant.
Original designs called for the system to be closed, meaning residents would not have access and would therefore not be assessed for any of the work. The Village of Caledonia was considered the developer driving the project, so by state statute residents would not be required to pay.
An amendment to the agreement signed by both villages in August 2014, though, has outlined a combination forced (closed)/gravity system that will be open, triggering both the connection issue and the special assessments.
Trustees on June 23 were expected to repeal the ordinance that requires property owners to connect to any new sewer and water infrastructure within a year of its completion, but the action was tabled because Village President Jerry Garski said new information was forthcoming from the Highway V group.
What happens next
The new information was the letter from Devine, and Village Administrator Kurt Wahlen said village attorneys will issue a response.
“The letter gives the Village another opportunity to respond to the resident’s concerns,” he said via email. “Despite the hearings we have had, there are still some false perceptions on the matter.”
The ordinance change would have allowed residents to defer connection and any special assessments for new sewer and water lines that run past their property until one of three things occurred: sale of the property; transfer of the property; or dividing the property. During the deferment interest continues to accrue.
If members of the Finance Committee forward a recommendation to the full village board to move forward with the original plan to level a special assessment, and that measure is approved, Devine said the Highway V group will then have to decide if they want to move forward with litigation.
The Finance, Legal, License Committee meets at 9 a.m. July 15 at Village Hall, 8811 Campus Drive. Call (262) 664-7800.