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Franklin residents at odds over need for sewer

By: Kirsten Klahn//April 18, 2012//

Franklin residents at odds over need for sewer

By: Kirsten Klahn//April 18, 2012//

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Tom Benning stands Wednesday with several large concrete drain pipes that will make up the Ryan Creek Interceptor project in front of his residence along Ryan Road in Franklin. (Staff photos by Kevin Harnack)

By Kirsten Klahn

Franklin officials are considering approval of a sewer project to remedy septic failures, even though residents say there’s no such issue.

A proposed sewer extension on West Ryan Road between South 112th and 124th streets will connect to the Ryan Creek interceptor sewer, City Engineer John Bennett said.

A property owner approached the city with a petition, signed by 12 residents, Bennett said, asking for the extension allowing access to the Ryan Creek sewer. The city drew the conclusion, he said, the petition was because residents had failing septic systems.

But that isn’t why Tom Benning, a property owner on West Ryan Road, said he petitioned for the extension.  He requested the sewer line connection, he said, because when the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District eventually takes ownership of the Ryan Creek sewer, all property owners living within 1,000 feet, including Benning, will be taxed even if they aren’t using it.

The problem isn’t failing septic systems, he said, it’s the Ryan Creek sewer project and the fact that the city failed to offer residents a connection to the line they would be taxed on regardless.

“I never wanted the Ryan Creek interceptor to begin with,” Benning added. “But if we’re going to pay for it, they might as well let us use it.”

Crews install a portion of the Ryan Creek Interceptor on Wednesday along Ryan Road, just west of Loomis Road in Franklin.

Of the Ryan Creek project, Benning said, “People tried to fight it, but it was like government gone wild.”

The Franklin Common Council reviewed his petition Dec. 20, Benning said, and followed up with a letter and survey asking property owners’ opinions on the proposed sewer extension.

Common Council reviewed the survey results March 6 and decided to move forward with plans for the sewer extension, Alderman Kristen Wilhelm said. A resolution approving the project and stating it would help property owners with failing septic systems is up for consideration at the May 1 council meeting.

The wording of the resolution is a problem, Wilhelm said, because Franklin has no documentation showing septic problems in the area, she said.

“There’s no data to support this,” Wilhelm said.

But Alderman Ken Skowronski, who represents the district Ryan Creek is being built in, said many of his constituents complained about septic problems. He immediately couldn’t name anyone with a failing system, however.

The city does not have documentation showing there are failing septic systems, Bennett said, and Franklin hasn’t asked homeowners’ whether their systems are failing. But, he said, that’s the reason that makes the most sense given residents’ request for the extension.

“Why spend a minimum of $18,000 for a sewer if you don’t need it?” Bennett said. “Some of the large properties could cost between $70,000 to $80,000. It doesn’t make sense to pay that if systems aren’t failing.”

Jennifer Meyer, a homeowner on West Ryan Road, said she had no septic problems and did not want to pay for the sewer line. She said she voted “no” on the city survey and was not approached with the petition.

Ryan Road, just west of Loomis Road, is torn up Wednesday to install a portion of the Ryan Creek Interceptor in Franklin.

“I don’t need this,” Meyer said. “They’re going to bring the sewer in, charge us for the installation, and then it will cost another $20,000 to $25,000 just to hook it up my house.

“I already have an excellent water supply to begin with.”

Once the sewer extension is in, Bennett said, property owners would have to connect to the sewer within 12 months.

There will be a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. May 1, he said, to discuss the project plans and offer residents a chance to comment. After the hearing, Bennett said, the Common Council will vote on the issue.

If the resolution passes, he said, the project will begin in June.

Meyer, who was not aware of the public hearing, said she has yet to discuss the proposed sewer extension with anyone from the city.

“One day, I just received a notice telling me I’m being assessed for the project and have to pay for it,” Meyer said. “All I can say is, ‘I don’t want this.’”

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