A Franklin resident’s claim against the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for illegal taxation will go unanswered.
Jim Peterson, MMSD’s attorney, said the district is aware of the claim and its connection to the Ryan Creek interceptor project but will wait to see whether the claim turns into a lawsuit. At that point, he said, the district would have more details on which to base a response.
For now, Basil Ryan, who filed the claim against MMSD and the city of Franklin on Thursday, will have to wait. If there is no response after 120 days, Ryan could file a lawsuit.
Ryan’s lawsuit would demand MMSD refund about $191,600 in contested taxes to him and other property owners, according to information he provided. He has said the lawsuit also would demand MMSD remove hundreds of properties from its taxable area.
“If we didn’t take this action,” Ryan said, “basically, government would walk all over you.”
Ryan owns one of the about 540 Franklin properties MMSD added to its tax rolls in 2012. Taxing those properties was a term of the agreement for MMSD to buy the Ryan Creek interceptor from Franklin, according to MMSD records.
The Ryan Creek interceptor is a roughly five-mile section of sanitary sewer from 60th Street and Ryan Road to South 124th Street. Franklin paid for construction with a loan from the state’s Clean Water Fund Program, and MMSD plans to buy the sewer for about $27.5 million and 20 years of interest.
Peterson said the district followed the proper procedure by holding a public hearing in 2011 before adding the properties.
Ryan’s three-page claim, Peterson said, is vague and broad in its assertions. Ryan’s claim alleges MMSD’s and Franklin’s actions were negligent, breached a contract, amounted to misrepresentation and broke laws.
“That’s a whole chunk of law,” Peterson said. “None of those fit, but that’s just a snap reaction.”
If Ryan files a lawsuit, Peterson said, MMSD probably would challenge the validity of the proposed class of plaintiffs. To sue on behalf of the other property owners, Ryan must have a judge approve the list of people who would be included in the class.
MMSD owns some of the properties on Ryan’s list, Peterson said, and, clearly, would not participate in the class-action lawsuit.
Jesse Wesolowski, Franklin’s attorney, declined to comment on Ryan’s claim against the city.
According to state statute, Ryan said, Franklin needed to consent to MMSD taxing the properties that were a part of the Ryan Creek agreement. The city did not offer that consent, he said, which makes MMSD’s actions illegal.
“That would be the simplest solution, for the city to say we never gave consent,” Ryan said, “and if they would say that, that’s the end of the lawsuit.”
In January, Wesolowski denied that the city had to give that consent.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Aug. 16, 2013, to reflect the fact that Franklin did not receive a federal loan for the Ryan Creek Interceptor sewer project. The city received a state loan.